This post is from Kai Jensen, who currently works as the Production Coordinator for GMT Games, LLC. She has a background in game development, working with her late husband, game designer Chad Jensen, for 19 years on such titles as Combat Commander, Fighting Formations, and Dominant Species (as well as the rest of his games). She has worked as a proofreader and editor for GMT Games and Revolution Games through the years and has one published design of her own.
Kai holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, has worked nearly a decade in the insurance industry, 15 years in the home inspection industry, and then several more years working in commercial landscaping. None of that prepared her for working with wargamers.
Below, as part of a COI “My Favorite Card” series, Jensen talks about a particularly memorable experience with one card from Combat Commander.
Stay tuned to COI Online for more designers’ “My Favorite Card” pieces in the months ahead!
So many games to choose from, so many cards to consider… but I am sure it’s no surprise that the card I instantly thought of was from one of my late husband’s games: the simple little MOVE card from Combat Commander.
There is a bit of backstory to put my love for this card into perspective.
Flashback to around 2000: Chad had played and loved Advanced Squad Leader for many years before we got together. I had seen the vast collection of maps, scenario cards, counter trays, and the humongous binder of rules and was a bit intimidated about jumping into playing it with him. But I shared his love of gaming and history, so we dove into getting me up to speed with the game. While I was no stranger to the game over the following years, I never reached the level of immersion that he had attained.
Fast-forward to January 2005: Some time between Christmas and New Year’s, Chad’s brain had perked up the idea that was to become Combat Commander. He spent most of the month working at it day and night, as if his fingers could barely keep up with the speed his brain was pouring forth ideas. He would daily talk me through a subsystem or a change to get my feedback when I got home from work. I tried to wrap my brain around what at that point lived only in his head, but our discussions were enough to keep him moving forward. He seemed to live and breathe only for this game for nearly a month.
Near the end of the month, he started printing test components and muttering to himself over partial maps, a handful of counters, a scattering of cards on the one table in our downstairs area. And finally the day came that I arrived home from work to find him sitting calmly at the table, a full map, counters and cards laid out in front of him. No flurry of typing, nothing spewing from the overworked printer, no rapid-fire rundown of the day’s updates and ideas… just silence and a satisfied smile. I knew that look. It was game night!
As I took my place across the table, he ran me through a reminder of the current rules, explained the thinking behind the set-up as he had already done both sides so we could jump right into play, and advised that he would take the first turn as we talked through every card play.
So here’s where the MOVE card became my favorite…
He played his MOVE card, activated his units, started the first unit moving, counting off movement points and declared “Bypass movement” as the squad skirted around a building.
“Excuse me… what?”
“I’m declaring bypass movement.”
“What game are YOU playing?”
“…” <stunned silence>
A moment later, he almost fell off his chair laughing at himself. He had ASL so ingrained in his being that he forgot for a moment what he was playing!
That moment, that merry laughter, my love for the man himself, his ability to take delight in his own foibles, my connection to the game from its earliest days all came together to cement that humble little card into a special place in my heart.