ABC RADIO Interview July 2016
GAME HISTORY: What a journey – by Andrew Rowland
In 1987 I was young, passionate and a little naïve. Work and business dominated my life. I found it difficult to relax. I was so busy trying to succeed; I was killing myself with stress. In 1988 my brother handed me a box of plastic 72 scale soldiers and said basically, "relax, concentrate on painting these fifty soldiers and get a life!"
Easier said than done! There is nothing more relaxing than painting! But, while painting fifty toy soldiers was relaxing enough, being a passionate person, after one year, I had painted two thousand soldiers and became obsessed with researching them for historical accuracies!
So. to make these figures useful for something, I began to develop a game.
This original version was square, had grass and mountain 3D terrine and was divided into hexagons. I showcased the very first version of Team Napoleon at the old "Boat House Youth Centre" in Berkeley Vale in the early 1990's where I was a Youth Worker.
In 1992 I had moved to Brisbane and wondered if there were other passionate, like-minded people with Napoleonic interests? I put a notice in a hobby store, and before I knew it, I was meeting with chaps from all over the city who also had a love for Napoleonic History.
It was there that I met Peter Cross; not only a soft spoken friendly gentleman, but a history buff and avid Napoleonic wargamer. Peter was also one of the finest miniature figurine painters I have ever met. Many of the current Team Napoleon figures have been painted by Peter Cross, which add immense artistic and historical value to the game.
In Peter's garage, was a double table tennis table laid out complete with terrain, villages and thousands of individually painted soldiers. Along with members of a previously formed tabletop wargame club, we would fight through historical based battles or campaigns via a complicated rule system called Empire, by the Emperor's Press. Games sometimes took months to play or resolve.
I remember with much embarrassment, losing the Battle of London to the French after allowing the French to cross the English Channel! Sacrilege!
Although Peter taught me a lot about history, I did not always have the same patience for such drawn-out gameplay. So, what did I do? I began to redesign my old square hexagon game from the late 1980's into a turn based game that could be played over a few hours, or at most, half a day, to speed things up.
By 1993 I had the first prototype of this game ready, which you can see in the first pictures in the gallery. This was a square European Napoleonic map coloured with coloured sands and varnished all over. It was quite good, and I had calved small ships out of balsa wood to use on it with plastic soldiers. A bit like Risk in brightness, but only more extensive, complicated, detailed in gameplay, more elements to the game and the map just of Europe.
The spark came later in 1993 when another friend, when playing the game, said to me, "Hey, this would be great for corporate training team building game!" The penny dropped. At that stage, I had been a manager of a small business, a retail manager, a state candidate for a major political party; and was at that time, the coordinator of a small Non-Government NGO in the Logan district of Brisbane.
I realised this gave me some foundation experience to offer. What was exciting to me was, my three great loves, History, Art and Team Sports, could be married together to create something that was quite an innovative business idea.
Moving back to Sydney, in 1994, I enrolled in a NEIS Small Business Certificate Course to assist me in my new small business dreams. It was there the game evolved into a round table version, set on wooden trestles with a curtain around it. This version of the game had greatly evolved from the square version with much-improved gameplay and historical resemblance.
I took my design and artistic ability (a family trait), teamed with some friends who had the carpentry skills, and together we brought my vision into reality; the first tabletop round table was born.
The original game was called "Alliance", later to be called "Empire Alliance" evolving to be called "Team Napoleon" to compliment my business name of Teamplaying.
In 1996, the third prototype table was completed, which was the masterpiece of them all (an expensive!). This table was a fully custom-made Tasman Oak Games Table, complete with ten game drawers with brass features, with over one thousand two hundred individually designed hand-painted playing pieces.
This table took a considerable effort to complete, with the input historians, sculptures, custom furniture makers, game players, museums; most notably The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum in central Copenhagen, Denmark who provided the uniform plates for my own range of Danish figurines called Battalion Figurines which now adorn the table.
The final result was a true work of art, and I was awarded the NEIS Innovative Business Award on the Central Coast. As a corporate training tool, the table attracted business from all over the Central Coast and cities of Sydney and Newcastle, also featuring prominently at Big Boys Toys exhibitions, in newspapers and via Radio TalkBack.
I started a game test team called "Club 1815" leading to many enjoyable and addictive wargaming evenings. It was incredibly addictive!
I even was in the planning with Bob Pritchard Marketing at the time, to tour the USA, holding a corporate competition from state to state.
By 1997 I was flying high with interest from a computer games company. I I flew to the USA to discuss a board game contract with Columbia Games and all things appeared to be turning to gold.
Then a personal matter, (marriage break up) affected me deeply, and I just packed up and locked the whole game table up in storage, where it stayed until 2006. Though my passion was not dead, I still developed the components of the game. I enhanced figure collections throughout this time, began reading incessantly, researching history and reading my favourite book "The Sharp series, by Bernard Cornwall, as well as Hornblower three times through!
In 2006, I took the game out of storage briefly and had the game on display at an RSL club. But when a full set of prized playing pieces and the game rule book was stolen whilst on display, I was so discouraged and disgusted, I locked it away again. (and I installed new locks on the drawers!)
To add to this discouragement, my centrifugal casting moulds for the extensive Battalion Figurine 28mm Napoleonic range, were stolen. They had, mysteriously "disappeared" along with the person who had agreed to buy and produce them. Years of work lost! But I still have the figures at least.
A new life chapter.
In 2007, my love of history took me to Turkey where I met and fell in love with my wife, Aylin whilst on a tour of Gallipoli. I was retracing steps of my great uncle in WW1.
My "Ottoman" bride and I have since had a child together (now 10yrs). My marriage to Aylin gave me a new opportunity to pursue my dream and opportunities to travel to Europe often and conduct research for my table.
France, Belgium, England, Turkey etc. I visited some of the Napoleonic sites of my dreams, stepped aboard HMS Victory and visited Napoleon's tomb in Paris, Military museums in Istanbul! All the while, collecting and researching for my game. As my wife was just as "crafty" and obsessed in her art hobbies as me, we made a perfect match!
From then, until the 2016, I have worked on the game development, improving all aspects of the game, developing and repairing the games table, gathering more fabulous pieces from all over the world, researching everything as I went. This game has played a significant part in my three children's lives. They have many stories from "around the table".
On the 20th of July 2016, my dormant "TeamPlaying" games table came back to life in a meaningful way, in a new and by far improved fourth version of the game, now called "Team Napoleon". The tabletop game was resurrected with all the bells and whistles! Another $10,000 alone spent on a new console top for the table. It was the feature of a Napoleonic Exhibition which sparked a new round of public interest.
As a result of that Napoleonic Exhibition, I found a home for the game table to be hosted for the next three years, thanks to a new wonderful friend, Guy Wernhard. From this base, a new fabulous test team was born called "Team Napoleon". They played tested the game and tweaked it for the next three years. So much fun! And I collected new Napoleonic uniforms for every nation to add to my 1990's collection!
It was during this time I came into contact with Harry Rowland of the Australian Design Group, ADG. Now I am not sure if Harry is any distant relation, but he has a great surname, and we hit it off like family. Harry and I were in communication for a couple of years before he put my game idea under the eyes of Compass Games USA who were interested straight away and decided to run with it! A big thank you to Compass Games!
That development greatly encouraged me. It had taken some 20 years to come back to this point from the first interest in game development by Columbia Games in the late 1990's. But what matters is, you never give up on a dream! It might take a thousand little steps to climb a big mountain, but eventually, arrive at the top if you stay focused!
In 2019, I went into intense development in game design, converting every component of the game into a board game playable version. And with the aid of my good friend and Romanian Graphic Artist, Vlad Stanescu, the game became a masterpiece of art as I had envisioned!
Long nights, many skypes, hour upon hour in photoshop, research reading and writing rules… and finally. NAPOLEON'S IMPERIUM was born.
Compass Games have scheduled NAPOLEON'S IMPERIUM for release in the first quarter of 2021. I am excited!
A long journey from 1987 to 2021, but if you believe in your dream, one day it will become a reality.