Interview with Tom Anders
GLN: Hello Tom Anders - for some better known as GalakStarscraper! For those who might not be familiar with your name, could you explain to us who you are?
Tom: I'm a life long player of board and strategy games. I started one of the early Blood Bowl fansites that specialized in storing information on Blood Bowl history, variants and house rules. I helped co-program the Play-By-Mail software for Blood Bowl. I eventually was invited to join the BBRC and through a series of events I ended up being solely responsible for writing the rules for LRB 5.0 for a period of one year. I worked as a computer program/statistician for an auditing firm for 18 years and now am president of a Impact! Miniatures, a small board game and pewter miniatures manufacturer.
GLN: How did you come into contact with the Blood Bowl game?
Tom: A league was started at Fantasy Games in South Bend, Indiana, USA (www.chaosmailorder.com) and my buddies who played Magic the Gathering with me invited me to join. I joined with a Vampire team and this was my introduction to Blood Bowl.
GLN: How has the passion for this game influenced your life?
Tom: A lot of time spent on it. I spent thousands of hours working on what became the CRP rules for Blood Bowl for GW. I'm a moderator for a couple different Blood Bowl forums. Working on Blood Bowl and seeing areas that were not allowed to be changed caused me to think there had to be a way to do things differently. These factors have both had a lot of effect on my life.
GLN: What would you consider your favourite team to play personally?
Tom: It's a tie for me. My favourite teams are Halfings and Slann by a large margin. Both are more difficult teams to win with and I enjoy the challenge. I've had a lot of influence for the rules for Halflings in the current ruleset and the rules for the Slann were ones that I wrote, so I feel like a lot of me went into both teams.
GLN: How much Blood Bowl do you get to play these days?
Tom: Mostly tournaments. I played in a two-day tournament in early April and have another two day I'm attending in early July. My current job keeps me very busy but I enjoy taking time out to meet up with players at any tournament I can attend.
GLN: How do you spend your time besides Blood Bowl?
Tom: The vast majority of my time is spent working on making Impact! Miniatures better either through working on new miniatures or rules for new games. Other than the significant time I spent with my wife and two sons, the other item I spend time on is hybridizing daylilies. I hope in summer 2011 to open my own online store to sell them (Galak's Gardens). It's a peaceful hobby and good exercise and there are times I need to get more of both of those.
GLN: How did you come to work for Games Workshop as the person most responsible for the LRB 5 and CRP rules?
Tom: It really was a matter of being the person on the BBRC who had the time and energy and patience to do so. In the beginning it was only Ian Williams (Doubleskulls), Jervis Johnson, and myself really working on the rules for the first year. Then Jervis was required to work on other projects and it was just Ian and I. After two months Ian had to quit due to family commitments and Jervis offered to either make what we had final and call it good or allow me full control for another year of work. I knew the rules were not ready yet to be LRB 5.0 so I stayed with it. Between LRB 5.0 and CRP it was the full four coach members of the BBRC working on the rules which we presented yearly to show Jervis what we were working on once we have 100% agreement between ourselves and get his approval.
GLN: What changes compared to LRB 4 are you most satisfied with? Why is that rule change so important?
Tom: I have three!
1) Getting rid of the rule of aging and replacing it with greater on-pitch death and retirement was a huge change that I like. Aging sucked all the fun out of one of the best parts of the game: new skill rolls. So I'm glad we got rid of off-pitch death.
2) The Norse team redo. The current Norse roster was one that I worked up so I'm glad to see it made it through testing. The old Norse roster was too cookie cutter when we also had the same with the Amazon team and it needed to be changed to get rid of the cookie cutter and give it more power in later league play.
3) Inducements. While they may not be perfect they are so much better than the Handicap table which did so little to give the underdog any odds to win that I'm glad Inducements became part of the game.
GLN: If you could turn back the clock, would you have done it all again? And are there things you would have done differently along the way?
Tom: Yes. I would now up front that I was doing it to make the game better and not for GW at all. But even with how badly GW treated everyone who worked on the CRP rules, it was good work that made the game better and I'm glad we did it. The only two things I would have done differently I think, would have been to convince Jervis to repackage the Khemri miniatures as an Undead alternative and delete the Khemri team from the game somehow. I also would have really found a way to convince Jervis to leave the Bank rules in for CRP instead of deleting them and adding in the Petty Cash rules that Jervis wrote that are just really inelegant rules (and in fact time is showing that they have issues that the Bank rules didn't).
GLN: As of the end of December, you are no longer member of the BBRC and therefore no longer involved with Games Worshop and the rules behind Blood Bowl. Do you regret ending this period in your life?
Tom: No. I like the CRP rules - and GW posted them so for me the work was done. I hope Blood Bowl rules don't change for another decade or more. I have better things to work on now and have a lot more time to design games now for my own company as I put GW's needs ahead of my own for the whole time I worked to help them (including taking vacation days from my previous job to hit deadlines that Jervis gave me for submissions). So I don't regret that period being over - especially since our work is now official.
GLN: The CRP document which has been uploaded by Games Worshop is not exactly like the one you handed in. In the original document there was a lot of background information, correct? What did we miss? Will this information ever be seen by the community in some form?
Tom: "Almost" all of the background work and 'Did You Know?'s were in LRB 5.0 which is still posted on GW's website. The Cyanide forums have a link to LRB 5.0 so if you want to have all the background we worked on just get a copy of LRB 5.0 before it disappears. I've seen some incredible looking homemade books that folks have printed out mixing the background information from LRB 5.0 with the CRP rules so it is still possible to make a great looking rulebook for yourself that has all the background information that GW ignorantly deleted.
GLN: How would you describe your current feelings towards Games Workshop?
Tom: I think GW is a company that owns the rights to an incredible game that they don't deserve to own. They have no concept of how to develop fans or to nurture free advertising and fan support when there are so many companies out there that do it right (like Blizzard for example). I think GW is run by legal without any benefit of common sense from marketing tempering them. I think GW's business model is the gold standard for what not to do with a gaming company. They have profits and are publicly traded... Awesome for them... They sold their gamer souls to make it happen.
GLN: There have been many positive, but also many negative reactions to the LRB 5+ rules. How do you deal with the negative reactions? What would you want to say to those LRB 4 fans that aren't willing enough to give the newer rules a chance?
Tom: I spent many years listening the negatives and at this point the negative reactions bother me not at all. Most of the folks who negatively receive the CRP rules are because they believe that they have earned the right to crush new teams just because they have a team they've played for 20 games or because they want to foul their way to a win. Those are differences in views of what the game should be and if that is what they want, then they just are not going to get it. As for LRB 4 fans that are not in one of the two above camps: my comment would be that the races are now more balanced and the games are more interesting when every match comes with a built in attempt to give the underdog a 1 in 3 chance to pull off a win. Dying on the pitch is always more fun than dying from a skill roll (from forced retirement). Those would be my comments on why to give it a chance.
GLN: Do you ever grow tired of Blood Bowl?
Tom: No, I don't ... It's a great game and I still enjoy playing it whenever I can or thinking about ways to make it better. I still check four different Blood Bowl forums every day to stay connected on what is going on with the Blood Bowl community.
This interview is continued on Page 5