A Letter From Craig Taylor

Dear Mike,

You have an interesting site and I am flattered that people are still playing the games after all these years. I thought that, since I have a little time at the moment, I might take the opportunity to reply to you with a chatty letter. I don't have much chance to communicate with the old AIR FORCE/DAUNTLESS crowd, so maybe you might want to post this on your site as some background about the game and what further adventures befell the soon-to-be 59 year old designer of said cardboard classic.

I started working on the game about 1967, while still in college, and played a very crude version of it with several of my gaming buddies there over about a two year period. In that early version of the game, basic movement was quite simple and Igo-Ugo, but, when you were ready to fire, all involved aircraft plotted a simultaneous move of up to two hexes that represented close-in evasive attempts. Later, the simultaneous evasive system was developed into the game's entire movement mechanism. We had a great time naming our pilots and planes, writing up the (often contradictory) propaganda about our duels and developing arch enemies. Chris Chandler (who later flew a gunship in Vietnam) had Tom Slick in his "Thunderbolt Grease-Slapper-Special" and fought many a one-on-one dogfight against my Herman Boring (who kept getting shot down and baling out, flying many different Me-109s and FW-190s) and Nolan Bond's Huckleberry Hashimoto, who flew a Zero named the "Emperor's Fragrant Armpit." Although I couldn't find an opponent for the next three years, I continued to work on the design very sporadically, including finding a marvelous book on World War II aircraft superchargers (you have no idea) in the Omaha Public Library. After moving to Atlanta in 1970, I started up a miniatures group (THE ATLANTA MINIATURES BATTLEGAMING SOCIETY) the following year that eventually could put up to thirty enthusiasts around a tabletop on a Saturday afternoon. Among many other periods, we started playing a miniatures version with the old Bachman plastic planes (I still have about 400 of these for WWII and about 100 more for WWI - back then you could buy one of these suckers all assembled and painted and ready to go for under $1). We mounted them on stands that allowed the aircraft to be shown in bank and climbing/diving attitudes and used markers on their bases to show altitude. With two planes per player, we sometimes had as many as 60 aircraft on the table at once. After I devised the four-plane log sheet, a multiplayer game might feature over 100 dog fighting fighters and stately bombers (run by the less-experienced players). Nirvana for a WWII flight enthusiast! Over several years, the game gradually developed into what was mechanically a very similar game to what was published by Battlelines as the AIR FORCE board game. Two weeks after the game's release, I got a letter that started with the words "You left out some aircraft, you know." Wow, somehow with all that research, I missed all those other planes! That was remedied by DAUNTLESS and the AIR FORCE/DAUNTLESS EXPANSION KIT. As you can imagine, in those pre-computer days, the original data for AIR FORCE was tediously worked up using a slide rule and even the later installments involved a digital calculator and reams of sheets of charts and graphs. This is still the version that I play - I was never impressed by the semi-circles of the Avalon Hill version, especially as it changed some of the data.

Basically, the whole AIR FORCE series went to Heritage when Battleline made the mistake of merging with them in late 1977. Steve Peek and I were only at Heritage a little over a year before we left to form Yaquinto Publications in January 1979. Heritage shortly sold the Battlelines games to Avalon Hill, where the series was redeveloped without my input (the EXPANSION KIT was never republished). Although I was assigned to answer the rules questions while at Avalon Hill from 1984 - 1994, my design connection to the games ended with the release of the AIR FORCE/DAUNTLESS EXPANSION KIT in early 1978, while at Heritage.

The Hasbro corporate lawyers kick and scream and make it difficult but a number of designs where the outside designer was paid royalties by Avalon Hill have reverted to the designers. Since I was the co-designer (with Bob Coggins - since I worked for AH, only he got any royalties for it but that was our corporate crowbar), we were able to get back our rights to the NAPLOLEON'S BATTLES miniatures rules. I was the developer on NAVAL WAR and MACHIAVELLI and did get developer royalties for those but only the designers can get those titles back - the developer has no legal standing to secure title to someone else's design. I have no legal claims to any of my other designs (there's some pretty good ones besides the AIR FORCE series - especially WOODEN SHIPS & IRON MEN and FLATTOP) that ended up with Hasbro and I'm not about to lay out cash for my own designs.

I later worked on some additional tactical air games, notably WINGS (WWI) at Yaquinto (basically a somewhat smoother version of the old AIR FORCE system). I also designed a WINGS Expansion Kit with 50 more aircraft but, alas, it has never been published. MUSTANGS (WWII fighters - as part of the simplified Smithsonian series) was one of my last designs while I was at Avalon Hill. I was also the developer on Mo Morgan's FLIGHT LEADER (jet air combat) while at Avalon Hill. I designed a campaign for the boxed computer game AIR WARRIOR II while with IMagic but that was my last foray into tactical air combat.

I left Avalon Hill in August 1994 to try my hand at computer games but left the computer industry in January 2001 after a screaming match with my boss at TalonSoft. I was very unhappy in the computer gaming industry; they don't have the remotest idea how to use a designer. Most computer games try to design themselves by osmosis from the development team personnel, their release schedules are determined by wishful thinking in their marketing departments and these facts probably go a long way to explain why 87% of all computer games lose money. Don't get me started on this!

Anyway, except for re-developing NAPOLEON'S BATTLES for republishing, I was in semi-retirement as a game designer until the spring of 2003. Then, I became a cofounder and shareholder of Lost Battalion Games. Since then, I've been very busy here (and downright happy in my poverty, in a loopy sort of way) as the developer of the BATTLELINES and BRAWLING BATTLESHIPS card games, the designer of the BATTLESHIPS IN ACTION and SERGEANTS! board games and the co-designer of the shortly-to-be-released BATTLEGROUP (with Jeff Billings) card game. Our PANZER Miniatures Rules are an extensive redesign effort by Jim Day (I developed the original PANZER, ARMOR and 88 with him at Yaquinto and IDF and MBT with him at Avalon Hill) where I had the fun of being a play tester and getting to critique someone else's rules. Maybe, someday, I'll work on another air game.

If you're interested, we do most of our sales over the web and our website is Lost Battalion Games. I have a column, the "Publisher's Corner," on the site, where you can listen to an old man bloviate about a variety of subjects.

Thanks for sharing your site.
S. Craig Taylor, Jr.

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