Hello Phonicsmonkey and thank you for your time.
I want to begin this interview by saying that you have been an inspiration to me, both as a player and as an upstanding member of the .org. You were the one to set the bar for quality in the TR, both for games and for posting, you were the constant factor that was pushing the games forward and you set a stellar example of how to be a dreaded enemy and general while playing fair. The Throne Room will miss your untiring involvement, and I hope to see you more active again here after some time has passed. Now, on to the questions!
I think the first question should be, how did you get into Total War games and how did you discover Hotseat games in particular?
Well firstly let me just say how flattered I am by your kind words and how honored I am to be interviewed in this way. When I started TftTR I never expected to be featured in it!
I got into Total War games through a copy of RTW lent to me by a friend. It was, I think, the third PC game I played after getting my first computer after I left Uni (I'd always been into gaming but hadn't owned my own console or PC since I was a teenager at home with my megadrive - at Uni I mostly played playstation) and I was totally hooked after about an hour of playing. I remember spending most of the next day at work reading frogbeastegg's excellent guide which, by the way, is what brought me to the Org.
And the Org is where I found out about mods like RTR, SPQR and EB which kept me playing on and on until one day I discovered that M2TW was coming out.
I bought it on release and created my Org account so I could discuss it in the Citadel and share my experiences with other players. This led me to read AARs, which brought me to the Throne Room and hotseat games. I lurked for a while before joining one (the first Teutonic game, I stepped in to take over the Mongols after their player left) and the rest is history. Quite a lot of history actually, given that was back in 2007!
You are a most excellent general and one of my first targets when I was unfortunate enough to have you as my enemy. You were also an invaluable ally when I had you as one. Can you give the other warlords of the TR some tips on Hotseat play?
Again with the flattery! Is this an interview technique?
Well I think most of the Throne Room crowd know my playstyle and I've always tried to be open about strategy and tactics, so I risk repeating myself if I go into a lecture about hotseat best practice.
I think in general I'm quite a conservative player and I think there are many better players than I among the younger TR guys, so I'm not really in the best position to offer advice.
But one maxim I've always stuck to is never go to war alone. That way you can't get ganged up on. One of the least conducive situations to succeeding in a hotseat game is being alone against an alliance of enemies.
An extension of this idea is to do your preparation thoroughly. If you can have the war won before you strike the first blow, all the better. There's nothing more satisfying than watching an enemy realise he's isolated because you already cut a deal with all his potential allies.
And never leave an army where it can be attacked. You want to dictate the terms, when and where you fight. Even if you're going to lose, let it be in a manner if your own choosing.
Which types of HS games do you most enjoy? Which is your most memorable one and why?
I like the big grand campaign games best! Months of minor squabbles and back room deals followed by a giant world war once the sides have finally been settled on. Lots of potential for skulduggery and backstabbing, just how I like it.
My favorite game of all and in my humble opinion the best hotseat ever was Commanders of the Faithful. We had a committed group of players in a newly released mod, everyone was into role playing and no-one had really played hotseats before so everything was new.
That game had everything: secret alliances, at least two off-forum discussion groups, traitors, vassals, evil viziers, plagues, crusaders, elephants in the levant, you name it...we even had a player come back secretly with an alt account to take over the faction he had previously ruled...
The IC threads for that game were really exciting: a truly collaborative writing project inspired by our interactions in the game. As a writer I found it inspiring and unique the way my characters' lives were not mine to control. External events could force plot developments on me before I was ready for them: just like they had real independent lives. I was genuinely grief-stricken when the first Caliph An-Nasir died of the plague and I think it came through in the death story I wrote for him.
When I think of all the guys I met through that game and became friends with, it's just a roll-call of throne room greats. @barcamartin
, @Elite Ferret
, @The Lemongate
, @Ramses II CP
, @Banzai Kamikaze
(al-mustafa mubarak), @oojebus. Hope I didn't miss anyone...
Seriously, just checkout the court room and story threads for that game. That's what hotseating, and playing games on the Internet, is all about for me.
What would you consider your best, most cunning or hardest won victory?
I actually haven't won many games to be honest. Partly because I've been the admin in so many and I almost feel it's poor form for an admin to win his own game but mostly I think because I'm not actually that good! More concerned with not losing than with winning I think...
Still, I got an allied victory in the first Britannia game by betraying the Celtic alliance at the last minute. That was enjoyable, if a bit cheap.
My allied victory in the CotF game was probably the hardest fought. The way that war raged across the levant and Anatolia with the whole region changing hands a couple of times and being ravaged by plague before we finally got the upper hand over the Romans, that was tough and there were many points at which it could have gone the other way.
But the most satisfying result is probably my second place in the Teutonic hotseat, the Frozen North, because as the Mongols it was just so unlikely. I made a series of good decisions at the right time in that game which overturned my natural disadvantage. Plus it was a lot of fun betraying everyone I allied with one by one.
We all know you have Baby Monkey to think of now, but do you expect to join in at least one new game? Anything in particular that you fancy or has caught your attention?
I'm thinking I'll probably take part in more RPGs than hotseats in the future, partly because hotseats have become less role play focused and partly because I have more time on the Internet than at my gaming computer, so I can participate in an RPG while I'm on the road for work or on a mobile device when I'm out and about.
I'd probably join the RTW RPG TheKing is planning if I hadn't put my copy of the game into storage when we moved out of our house recently. I would definitely join the TWS2 RPG we were planning if it ever got off the ground. And definitely a R2TW RPG once that game comes out.
As for hotseats I'd be most likely to join something big and with lots of RP, like that Europa game Hurin is running.
Speaking of Baby Monkey, what is the little angel's name? How is she adapting to being the Caliph's daughter and heiress to his empire?
I'm preternaturally terrified of posting personal details on the public Internet, so I'll answer a slightly different question instead which is what would she be called if I really were the Caliph.
I've always thought the arabic name Jamilah, which means 'beautiful', quite lovely somshe'd probably be called that.
Right now she's not that interested in my empire, which is probably sensible given it will likely be conquered by one of you lot before she has a chance to enjoy it.
If I may pry a bit more into your life, what are your long-term plans? Do they include a return of the Caliph from his self-imposed exile from court?
My long term plans don't include the Throne Room at this point, which is one of the reasons I stepped down as moderator and have semi-retired. I've just got too much going in in RL right now to think about it. I think I'll be around the place pretty regularly though, just keeping an eye on thing and looking out for old faces to say hi to.
Back to hotseats and the rich history of the TR, is there anything that you feel is unfinished? Any idea of yours that did not have time to see the light of day?
I always wanted to host the first EB2 hotseat but that mod just never came out. I hope there's still enough of a player base for it when it does get released, to give justice to all the hard work that team has put in.
Otherwise I feel like I never quite executed the Wrath of the Khan idea properly, despite two attempts. The first one was a continuation of the CotF game, so it had all that rich lore behind it to make it meaningful, but the Mongols in BC1.05 were unintentionally overpowered and e just didn't stand a chance against them. I remember how we rejoiced when we took out a single army of theirs!
The second one, which is ongoing, is unbalanced in the other direction in my view. I haven't played it perfectly at all, but I'd like it to be that the Mongols don't have to in order to have a realistic chance of winning. If anything it should be the non-Mongols who sweat, even though there are more of them.
Regarding the Throne Room, from your perspective - how has it developed over the years. Where does it's future lie as a community?
It's hard to say because it's going to depend on what direction the new TW games go in terms of multiplayer campaigns. It's only really M2TW where you can play a multiplayer campaign with more than one other player and where you don't have to be online together.
TWS2 introduced a different kind of MP campaign but it doesn't require a forum, except if you want to post an AAR like Zim and I did with Mod vs Mod.
Unless CA change direction on that with their next game, and I don't think there's any indication they'll do that, then I think hotseats will slowly die out as people stop playing M2TW. When you think about it it's amazing that so many people still play a five year old game which is so buggy and unbalanced!
Maybe the TR will become more focused on RPGs and AARs, the way it used to be. Maybe succession games will come back? Or something entirely new.
And finally, what would be your words towards the newer players that have come and will continue to join the Throne Room?
Stick around, don't be afraid to propose or even host a game, role play and tell stories because it enriches the experience for you and everyone else....and explore the rest of the Org, there are a lot of nice people here.