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Posted on Sep 16, 2016 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

Interview with Legendary Game Designer Richard Berg

Rick Martin

by Richard Martin September 2016

Richard H. Bert

Award Winning Game Designer Richard Berg is a living legend amongst war gamers. He is one of the most prolific designers of games, if not the most prolific designer, and many of his games are considered classics. After service in the military, Berg went on to practice criminal law in the 1970s and 1980s. Holding a Bachelor of Art Degree in Asian History and a Juris Doctor Degree, Berg has brought his passion for education and history to every game he designs.

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Armchair General is honored to have been able to ask Mr. Berg a few questions about his experiences in the board games field.

1) How many games have you designed?

Richard H.Berg: Oh, around 160+ that doesn’t include the ones that never got published, of which I have around 30-40 sitting around.

2) Of all the games you have designed, what is your favorite?

RHB: That’s like asking a parent who his favorite child is. There is no possible cogent answer for this.

3) What is your least favorite of your own designs?

RHB: The ones that brought in the least money in royalties.

4) Why do you think that board war games, and board games in general, still capture the imagination of players in this age of electronic games?

RHB: Because virtually all ‘electronic’ games involve only one person. . most “boardies” are multi-player, and that means inter-action, communication, doing stuff with friends . . not just your fingers.

5) What games do you play when not designing them?

RHB: Ah, sadly, these days – like for last decade – I rarely game. Too much “Been There Done That”. I mostly read . . .read, read, and more read for entertainment. That and eat a great meal at a local food-o-rama (and I live in one of the best cities to do that).

6) You have written more classic war games than anyone else. What time period/subject matter/scale is your favorite for game designs?

RHB; I dunno. Certainly not anything after 1870ish . . .I prefer events with high levels of personal inter-action.

7) Your “Campaign in North Africa” is often described as the most detailed and most difficult to play war game of all time. Can you tell us about what went in to such a complex design?

RHB: A lot of time. My (ex) wife would yell as she passed the door of my office, “You still working on that piece of junk?” And the design is NOT complex . . . the logistics system is heavily detailed if you play it in full . . . but so is logistics in reality.

8) What do you think is the future of board war games?
RHB: More heavily focused on components: blocks, cards, lots of touchy-feely stuff. I’m not crazy about blocks; most of those games require you having to spend days pasting stickers on ‘em . . .

9) What words of advice do you have for upcoming game designers?

RHB: Get a real job. Oh, well, copy as much as you can from other works – to start off; you’ll hit your own stride soon enough. My basic premise is: Make the system fit the situation, not vice-versa.

10) What would you like to say to fans of your games?

RHB: Increase your enjoyment by buying more.

Awards won by Mr. Berg (reprinted from Wikipedia):

Charles S. Roberts Awards Winners:

• 1977 – Best Tactical Game : Terrible Swift Sword by Simulations Publications, Inc.
• 1977 – Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Wargame : War of the Rings by Simulations Publications, Inc.
• 1984 – Best Pre-20th century Game : South Mountain by West End Games
• 1987 – Charles Roberts Awards Hall of Fame
• 1988 – Best Historical or Scenario Magazine Article : S&T #119 – Forrest at Bay
• 1992 – Best Pre–World War Two Game : SPQR by GMT Games (with Mark Herman)
• 1994 – Best Pre–World War Two Game : Battles of Waterloo by GMT Games
• 1995 – Best Amateur Wargaming Magazine : Berg’s Review of Games (BROG)
• 1996 – Best Amateur Wargaming Magazine : Berg’s Review of Games (BROG)
• 1996 – Best Pre–World War Two Game : Fields of Glory by Moments in History
• 1997 – Best Amateur Wargaming Magazine : Berg’s Review of Games (BROG)
• 1998 – Best Amateur Wargaming Magazine : Berg’s Review of Games (BROG)
• 2001 – Best DTP Game : Longbow by BSO Games
• 2004 – Best DTP Game : Louisiana Tigers by BSO Games
• 2006 – Best Magazine Game : Kulikovo 1380: the Golden Horde in Against the Odds Magazine

The following is a comprehensive list of Mr. Berg’s game designs based on data from Wikipedia– I would bet that at least one of these games has a treasured spot in your game library. You can find some of these games reviewed on this website including the Men of Iron series and the Pax Romana game.

Richard Berg designed or co-designed the following:

• The Conquerors (SPI)
• Druid (West End Games, 1984)
• Julius Caesar (TSR-SPI)
• The Great Battles of Alexander (GMT)
• Juggernaut (GMT)
• SPQR (GMT, 1992)
• War Elephant (GMT, 1992)
• Consul for Rome (GMT, 1992)
• Pyrrhic Victory (GMT, 1993)
• The Great Battles of Julius Caesar (GMT)
• Africanus (GMT, 1994)
• Chicken of the Sea (GPG)
• The Great Battles of Alexander, Deluxe Edition (GMT, 1995)
• Dictator (GMT, 1995)
• Diadochoi (GMT, 1995)
• Successors (AH)
• Jugurtha (GMT, 1998)
• Phalanx (GMT)
• Caesar: The Conquest of Gaul (GMT, 1998)
• War Galley (GMT)
• Cataphract (GMT)
• Salamis (GMT)
• Veni, Vidi, Vici (GMT)
• Caratacus (GMT)
• Simple GBoH (GMT)
• Caesar in Alexandria (GMT, 2001)
• Nero (Phalanx)
• Attila (GMT)
• Tyrant (GMT)
• Ancient World, Rise of the Roman Republic (GMT)
• Zama (BSO)
• Alesia (GMT, 2004)
• Carthage (GMT)
• Pax Romana (GMT)
• Mamluk (GMT)
• Gergovia (GMT, 2007)
• The Crusades (SPI)
• Constantinople (SPI)
• Soldiers of the Queen (S&T-TSR)
• Hastings, 1066 (S&T-TSR)
• Lion of the North (GMT)
• The Battles of Waterloo (GMT)
• A Famous Victory (MiH)
• Fields of Glory (MiH)
• Rivoli 1797 (Vae Victis)
• Kingdom for a Horse (BSO)
• Devil’s Horsemen (BSO)
• Les Pyramides (Vae Victis)
• Zurich, 1799 (Vae Victis)
• Triumph & Glory (GMT)
• Simon Says (BSO)
• Risorgimento 1859 (GMT)
• The Last Raid (BSO)
• Longbow (BSO)
• The Last Crusade (BSO)
• Waterloo (Phalanx)
• The Marlborough Man (BSO)
• Medieval (GMT)
• Zulu! (BSO)
• The Prince (Phalanx)
• Borodino (GMT)
• Highlander (BSO)
• Suleiman the Magnificent (ATO)
• Men of Iron series(GMT)
• Manchu (S&T-3W)
• Shogun Triumphant (XTR)
• Samurai (GMT)
• Devil’s Horsemen (GMT)
• Sideshow(S&T-3W)
• The Campaign for North Africa (SPI)
• The Desert Fox (SPI)
• Battle for North Africa (GMT)
• June 6 (GMT)
• Greek Tragedy (BSO)
• Bitter Victory (BSO)
• Conquistador (SPI, AH)
• Vera Cruz (SPI)
• Birth of a Nation (3W)
• 13: The Colonies in Revolt (S&T-TSR)
• Blackbeard (Avalon Hill)
• Geronimo (Avalon Hill)
• Las Batallas de los Gringos (BSO)
• Line of Fire (BSO)
• Rough & Ready (S&T/Decision)
• Dillinger (BSO)
• Gringo (GMT)
• Carolina Rebels (BSO)
• Turning Point (BSO)
• Hooker and Lee (SPI)
• Terrible Swift Sword (1st Ed, SPI; 2nd Ed, TSR)
• Bloody April (SPI)
• Murfreesboro (Yaquinto)
• Corinth (SPI)
• A Gleam of Bayonets (SPI-TSR)
• South Mountain (West End Games)
• Shiloh (West End Games)
• Rebel Sabers (SPI-TSR)
• The Horse Soldiers (S&T-3W)
• The Guns of Cedar Creek (SD)
• Baton Rouge (S&T-3W)
• First Blood (SD)
• 1862 (SD)
• Dead of Winter (SD)
• Rio Grande (S&T/DG)
• 1863 (GMT)
• Chancellorsville (Clash of Arms)
• War of the Rebellion (DG)
• The Three Days of Gettysburg (GMT)
• Glory (GMT)
• River of Death (GMT)
• Confederate Rails (BSO)
• Red Badge of Courage (GMT)
• Across the Rappahannock (GMT)
• East-West (BSO)
• Louisiana Tigers (BSO)
• SPI Baseball (SPI)
• SPI Football (SPI)
• BSO Football (BSO)
• The War of the Ring (SPI)
• Gondor (SPI)
• GODZILLA: Kaiju World Wars

7 Comments

  1. “Make the system fit the situation, not vice-versa.”

    Better advice was never given–not just for game design, but for life in general. Like much other wisdom, however, it’s given lip service far more than it’s practiced!

    Whenever there’s a stark choice between simulation and “playability”, choose the former and make the players invest some mental effort, that’s what I say. Attention to historical detail is one reason you are revered by all true grognards, sir.

    Looking forward to Arquebus. Glad the royalties will go to a bon vivant who knows what to do with them! ;)

  2. I was very disappointed in this interview. While I played loved many of Mr. Berg’s games, he said very little of any consequence in the interview. I was hoping to learn more from Berg than he seemed willing to give.

    • Some interviews are easier than others. Most of the interviews I have conducted for Armchair General feature people who fully answer questions and approach the interview enthusiastically. Regrettably, this did not appear to be the case with this most recent subject. I made a choice to print what we had as opposed to not publishing it at all. Sometimes, something is better than nothing.

      • A lacklustre interview from a design who has lost his passion, which shows up in more recent efforts.

      • Wow, for some reason–being naive, I guess–I had assumed that the interview was edited down to make room for all that other stuff at the end. Or to make prolix answers succinct. So disappointing to hear that this is all he actually said to you. I feel for you: Armchair General’s journalists and readers deserve way more respect than that. Hopefully he’ll call you back and give you more, whenever he recovers.

    • > A lacklustre interview from a design who has lost his passion

      Well, he’s north of 70 years old, so perhaps a little slowing in the passion department is not all that surprising…

      Still, I’m glad to see he’s still around, so I’m glad the interview was published. He and Mark Miller were two of my designer-heroes of my youth.

  3. If Mr. Berg’s answers appear lackluster then maybe the reason may lie in his answers above – money. Perhaps Armchair General should have paid him more to insure a more interesting interview?
    Mr. Berg has had a reputation of coming across as very egotistical at times and for coming down very hard on anyone who critiques his games, even if presented in a respectful way. Now, it could come down to just catching him on a good or bad day?
    Is he a genius? Or course. He has turned out numerous masterpieces in addition to a few duds. Way more hits than misses. He is one big reason why board games did not die out during those dark days in the late 80’s and we owe him many thanks!!
    I just would hope that Mr. Berg could show a little more class and gratitude to all of us little people. We are, after all, the ones who make it possible that he is even paid “royalties” to begin with.

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  1. The One Board Wargame To Rule Them All | Mystics & Statistics - […] of friends intend to complete a game before Jake heads off to college in two years. Berg himself harbors …

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