Interview with Tim Kulinski

Tim Kulinski is known as the author of the Legends of the High Seas rules for Warhammer Historical. The game is based on the golden age of piracy. Unfortunatelly it is out of print, but at my local gaming club there are the lucky few who own a copy and an exiting campaign is raging.

Tim kindly agreed to do an interview, so here goes;

  • Tim, the Legends of the High Seas rules were released in 2008. But I am sure you were active in gaming before that time. How did you enter the world of wargaming?

 Well, I entered wargaming at a very young age of about ten or so. I went to vist my Aunt and Uncle in Columbus Ohio one summer after they both graduated from Ohio State University. My Uncle took me out on a Saturday morning and we made two very important stops. One was at the college book store to buy me a copy of the Hobbit, by JRR Tolken, then afterwards we went to a meeting room to watch a game. I thought it was going to be to watch a Ohio state football game, but it turned out to be a huge game of Jutland, which was being played with waterlined ship models that were scratch built. That was the first time I actually saw models being used for a wargame. I was surprised to see college age guys pushing around models on the floor and rolling dice. Ever since then I was hooked and later that summer I got my first Dungeons & Dragons red box game set and that was all she wrote!

  • As we can read in the foreword of the book you were inspired by pirate movies to actually write the ruleset. For those unlucky chaps out there who do not own a copy, could you give us a rundown on how the rules came about?

As I mentioned (in the book’s foreword), I came out of the movies after seeing the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Curse of the Black Pearl. Now I have always loved Pirates, I used to watch the old Earl Flynn movies with my father on Sunday mornings. We as a family also visited Disneyland a couple of times a year since we lived in Southern California and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was always my favortite. I also spent ten years working at Disneyland as a ride operator and visited the ride many times. Sadly I was never trained on the ride I loved, everything else, but not the Pirates ride.

After seeing the movie, I went home and started to look at what it would take to write a set of rules. At the time, I was very active with Warhammer Ancients Battles (WAB) and a good friend I game with (Tom Opalka) was working with GW Historicals as a proof reader and playtester for many of the WAB supplements. Also at that time I was playing lots of Lord of the Rings from GW and it dawned on me that the rules would be a perfect fit. Shortly after this, GW Historical released Legends of the Old West by Mark Latham. At the time of release, the manager at GW Historicals (Rob Broom) told Tom that they were looking for other titles to expand the Historical line. Tom mentioned that I started working on a set of rules and Rob told Tom to check out what I had done. Well, Tom had play tested what I wrote and told Rob that I had a good concept and he may want to discuss with me what I was doing.

So after a couple of emails with Rob Broom, I had to write up a propasal for the game. A little known fact was at the time I wrote the propasal, I was actually going to do either a Pirate game, or a Samurai game. But since GW did not have Samurai figures, I went with Pirates. My proposal was to write the rules and that GW could use the plastic Men at arms figures for pirates. Rob Broom liked the idea and gave me the green light to start writing. You can see the Pirates in the book in the back, made out of all GW plastics that were used in the play testing and are the only figures painted by me in the whole book.

  • The rules are based on the original game system by Rick Priestly, one of the big names in games design. Which game system was used as a basis? I have found references to the Lord of the Rings system and aspects of the Necromunda campaign system for instance.
    And how did you proceed with altering and adding rules to implement them into you ideas? (or viceversa)

 Its funny, GW always stated that the rules are based on something that Rick Priestly did, but to be honest, the only thing that Rick did was write Warhammer, he was not the author for Lord of the Rings, which the game is heavily based on, he just has his name on it. Alessio Cavatorre is the credit author.

So as I said, LotHS is based off of Lord of the Rings and Legends of the Old West. It also uses the campaign system from GWs Necromunda and some elements of Mordheim. So as you go through the book you will see very common rules from all of the systems, but Lord ofthe Rings is the main contribting system.

Besides making the rules more Nautical themed, some of my ideas are the trapped rules and surrendering, the mutiny rules as well as the Captain Archtypes. I also came up with the idea to have the Non Player Crews system so that you could do random fights against other crews that were not your friends. There are more in there of course, but those are the biggies.

The ship rules, which I think are very cluncky, were co written with my friend Tim Eagling. Tim Eagling actually wrote the Warhammer Ship Battles that were in White Dwarf and online. My idea was to only use 28mm ships for Boarding actions and that for the sailing you would use smaller ships so an average player could sail them on their dining room table. But GW wanted the rules to be for 28mm ships, so my idea was pushed aside for what is in there now. Like I said, I think I could have done a better job with the rules for the ships, but GW wanted them the way they are. To be honest, I never used the rules beyong play testing. I just played all boarding actions and never used my own rules for the game, pretty ironic isn’t it.

  • The result is a solid ruleset, compiled in one softcover book. How much were you involved in the design of the book itself in terms of overall graphic design, layout, photography and such?

As for design, well not much, that was more my friend Pete Borlaces doing. In fact Pete traveled all the way from the UK to stay with me right before the book was released so we could go through it with a red pen to correct all the mistakes that were not caught. It took us two days finding mistakes, but after Pete returned, we were told that the book was already being printed and that we could do an errata for what wasn’t caught. I actually had thirteen versions of the rules checked by a local friend here, so we caught most of them during our own checks, but the GW proof readers didn’t catch the rest.

I did get to pick most of the folks that contributed figures for the book, I am a memeber of the Lead Adventures Form and I reached out to many folks that I admired to paint models for the book.

I also got to see and give helpful thoughts to many sculpters while the book was being written, companies like Black Cat Bases, Copplestone, Artizan and Black Scorpion miniatures had emails from me. That was pretty cool to see something I wrote come to life in miniature.

  • Me and my friends only started playing Legends of the High Seas about two years ago when someone mentioned ‘pirates’ and brought the book along. Since then we have scoured the internet to obtain second hand rulebooks (mostly for collector prices) and have an active campaign going.
    How was the response when the rules were initially released? Did Games Workshop Historical keep you up to date with sales and such?

Well from what i was told, GW did three runs of the book, each run being about 5000 copies, so there are a few out there. I actually have two books, one for when I play and one I keep on the shelf in new quality.

As for sales, I never heard how well it did for GW, once I wrote the book, I was pretty much out tof the picture. I did have plans to write a second book (Called Shipwrecked) but GW did not want to do a second book, not sure why though. I know that they were interested in doing other periods for the Legends line, but internal forces kept that from happening.

  • In the book we see lots of pictures with pirate themed models and ships. Also, at he end there is an extensive list of miniatures manufacturers. Did you gather information on those manufacturers when you were still playtesting the rules or did Games Workshop Historical help out with that? (I can imagine they had extensive contacts with other manufaturers throughout the hobby world).

As I mentioned above, I am a member of the Lead Adventures forum online, and being a historical gamer I was aware of lots of other companies out there. As I said while writing I had contact from some of the companies.

  • There have been, and still are, other pirate themed rulesets around. Have you tried any of these? And if so, do you tend to compare them to your own ruleset?

I have tried some of them, but for obvious reasons I like what I wrote. Recently I was asked to be part of the Blood and Plunder play test group, Mike Tunez and i have talked on the phone as well as online and LotHS actually inspired Blood and Plunder to come out. When GW Historical shut its doors, the Blood and Plunder ruleset was born! Now I just wished that those ships they are doing would have been out back when I did LotHS, they are beatiful!

So yes I do compare all the other rules to mine, I wrote LotHS not to make money, but it was the Pirate game I always wanted to play. So once I wrote it, I did not have to look for anything else, but I still do look at other Pirate rules.

  • I did a quick search on the internet to gather some more information on you considering tabletop wargaming, but there is not that much to find. Have you done any other writing/designing of tabletop games? (or working on something now.)

Well I am a painter/modeler first, gamer second and lastly a designer. Writing LotHS took me well over two years to write, it was and still is my baby, After I wrote it, I wanted to get on to playing it and playing other games.

Recently I wrote a ruleset called HEROIC for Winged Hussar publishing, it is very familiar ruleset but based on a D10 system. It is also a generic system for any period, I wanted something that you could use for any setting or historical period.

Currently I am working with Talon Games for the CAV Strike Operations game. I am helping them create quick start rules and will be working on a campaign system for them.

Also I have a couple of other games I am working on, but nothing set yet, one is a sci fi racing game I call Gravity One, picture Formula One or Indy cars that are hover craft and its all about racing. I am also kicking around a Zombie game that has a strong LotHS feel to it, that I may pitch to a couple of companies or will self publish (I love Zombies as much as I love Pirates!)

  • There are Facebook pages focussing on the Legends of the High Seas game where you are also part of. It must be nice to see players still using your ruleset. Do you sometimes come across stuff posted there that might inspire you to write some additional content for the game? (For example, we made some house rules on initaitive and such because we always play with at least four crews at the same time).

I love seening people still playing the game, its almost ten years old from publish date, and I try to reach out to folks to encourage them in the game I love.

I have seen other rules folks have done and I have helped out with some in the past, but really LotHS is your game now, play it how you wish. I am not one of those authors that tells folks your doing it wrong, have fun with the game and have fun playing it with your friends.

  • What part of the whole process has been the most fun for you? And do you perhaps have a funny or juicy anecdote or memory about it that you would like to share with us?

Well, the whole thing was fun but I have to say, seeing people play what I created is the best part. It proves that I am not mad and that what I do is important to people.

I shared some stories, but here is one that I always tell folks about. If you notice on the front cover, the book is dedicated to Emily Brightwell. That was my good friends daughter who at the age of 15 had to have a heart transplant. Well as you see she passed away just after her 18th birthday. My friend Robert Brightwell and I were talking about the book before it came out and he said, “You know, your name will go down in history right?” I asked why? He said, “Well all books that are printed are archived into the Library of Congress here in the states and that the UK does the same thing. So your name will live on forever.”

Well, once Emily passed away in October of 2007 and Robert asked me to speak at the funeral, well before I did, I asked Robert and his wife if I could dedicate the book to Emily? They asked why and I responed “So that Emilys name will live forever”. Needless to say it was pretty emotinal and they agreed.

Also, while I was writing the book, there was only two CD/Albums I listened to while writing. Linkin Parks Hybrid Theory and Meteora, those were the only things I listened to. For whatever reason, those two albums put me in the mood to write and when I hear any song off those albums I think of LotHS!

  • Finally, assuming that you are still an active gamer, are there any other tabletop games that you currently play that you can recommend to other players?

Yes I am still a gamer, currently in the game rotation are SAGA, Bolt Action, Shadow War, CAV Strike Operations and Frostgrave. Any of these are good games that I would recomend. Ospreys newest title from the author of Frostgrave, Ghost Archipelago has my attention since it has a focus on Pirates!

But really I play lots of games, but the games are not that important to me, its the time I spend playing with family and friends that is more important. You see, I can always earn more money, buy new toys and write new rules, but time is the one thing I can never get more of. So who I spend my time with is very important to me, so the game is not as important as the time spent playing them!

So I hope this sheds some light on my Legends of the High Seas. I am always willing to talk to folks about the game and gaming in general.


Well, that’a about it. I want to thank you Tim for the time and effort he took for us. And of course a big thank you for writing the rulesset we are still enjoying.

I am off now to the ongoing preparations for our Legends of the High Seas table on the Big Battle Day at the club in november. Make sure to come back and catch up on the progress. It is going to be a massive table with several crews playing at the same time to gather as much victory points as they can.




1 Comment

  1. Hans

    Nice article about the man behind the previous demo I did on the Dutch ‘Poldercon’ 🙂


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