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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wargame Fever

Note: This entry was composed a few days before Eric posted his entry yesterday (I have a draft up on Sunday nights), so any similarities are purely coincidental.

Since August, I have gotten a lot of wargames. Considering that aside from what I get from pre-order systems I rarely buy games from the store, that typically means something like six or seven games a year. Yet I've gotten that many in the last five months, plus a few more. The titles are, in no particular order: Crusader Rex, Carthage: The First Punic War, Men of Iron, Guilford, Savannah (the last two AmRev titles), Wellington, War Without Mercy, Fire In The Sky, Days of Decision III, Operation: Michael (MMP SCS title), Down In Flames Fighter Pack #1, and the ASL Starter Kit #2. Going back even just a month or two earlier, we see Empire of the Sun and The Mighty Endeavor. Before year end (with any luck), I'll see Twilight Struggle and C&C Ancients. And, God help me, Shifting Sands may finally see the light of day shortly after the start of the year.

That's 17 titles in six months, about five times my normal purchasing. Part of this trend is that I've had a bit more income than normal in the last six months, but also because I've had a higher stress level and I tend to enjoy spending money when I'm stressed. Unfortunately, this past month I will spend around $2000 on getting a leak in my basement fixed, which was stressful, but spending the money didn't really make me feel any better at all (other than no more drip drip drip when I go to the garage).

Here's the thing: of these games, I have played The Mighty Endeavor (aborted after a few hours), Wellington (twice, only one to completion), Guilford (short game only), Crusader Rex (once), and two year or two scenarios of Empire of the Sun. That's seven total games (if I'm being extremely generous in my definition of what constitutes a "game"), hardly what I would like to be doing.

Part of the problem is opponents. This shouldn't be an issue, though, as our local group has several people at least interested in wargames, if not actually what I would call "wargamers". Chris recently posted that he wants to play Hannibal, which I have a copy of (and very happy I bought this title when I did). Eric, Chuck, Mike, Tim, Michael, George, Chris, and at least a few others have been directly involved in playing wargames, even if it was a multi-player title like Successors, Sword of Rome, or Napoleonic Wars. There's another retired guy who lives in the area who has expressed interest, although he's across town and actually in a different state (although that's not such a big deal as it might seem when you live right on the border). Eric tells me there's yet another guy who lives in the area who is interested in the AmRev series at the very least.

So maybe it's time. Of the above games, I'm guessing that at least ten of them are playable in an evening, with perhaps another 15 titles (at least) in my collection that meet this criteria, so time shouldn't be a factor. If anything, it's all about (as Chuck says) "getting the pass" to play on a weekend. Again, this is less of a problem for me, at least lately, but it is a problem when you want to find an opponent.

Space definitely is, at least at my house where one of my other expensive hobbies (in this case, computer-based music) takes up any space that might otherwise be devoted to a long-term game table. For all intensive purposes, this means that the only long term space I have is the dining room table, which is used only when I host our group's sessions and when we have people over for dinner, which is about three times a year. Theoretically, this space should be available more often than it is, but my wife likes to have a fairly tidy house and our Domestic Goddesses try to dust around it on Thursdays. I'm certainly not leaving a game set up for more than a couple of days in this space, and even then, the table isn't that big (Europe Engulfed's map just fits on it, with one or more of the leaves extended you can fit the spare units and tables as well).

I've done a lot of pbem gaming in the last several years, but to be honest the euro titles just aren't the same (as we've all said before, it's the company rather than the game, although i admit we might as well play a good game rather than a loser). When I was a wage slave, pbem games were the thing that kept me sane much of the time, plus I had a PC at work that I could run Cyberboard on. I can run it using Virtual PC on my Mac, and they finally enabled the scroll wheel in VPC so that it's not quite as painful to get around the map as it used to be. The truth is, though, that when I play by e-mail, I wake up at three in the morning thinking about the game, and I really prefer not doing that. That, and taking a year to play one game of Hannibal tends to get old after a while.

I have tried to get a wargaming night into the schedule with my regular group, but it was largely poo-poo'ed (then suggested again by Mike a few months later!) The fact there is that if I'm going to play games with this group at large, I really prefer the dynamic that Euros bring, with minimal rules look ups and maximum fun. Still, as I've said, there are several opponents to be had, it's just a matter of scheduling (not a minor issue).

Maybe the answer is to reach out to the non-group gamers that I'm aware of and start making it a priority to game with them. Especially the retired guy, as I'm pretty open on Wednesdays. What worries me is that there won't be a good interpersonal dynamic (I have been extremely spoiled in my usual opponents, Chuck in particular is a blast to play wargames with - we had the coolest game of Barbarossa to Berlin ever at our "mini-WBC" session at Sunriver in August), and so far I prefer to avoid the risk rather than have to extricate myself from a gamer that I really don't want to game with.

I'll close by listing a few of the systems I'd really like to try out, in rough order of interest:

The Ancient World - two titles so far, one on early Rome and the other the first Punic War. This is supposed to be a great system, even if it is Berg (he tends to be a bit on the over-chromatic side). What frightens me a bit is the political rules.

The bigger block games - Europe Engulfed, Rommel in the Desert, East Front in particular. I've gotten in a few turns of RitD last August, and Chris and I tried to play a year of EE in the spring, but they all really require a full day (and I mean a full day, from 9am to 11pm) to really play. Yeah, they all have shorter scenarios, but I'd like to play more than a couple of turns.

Days of Decision - I love alternate history (the "roll your own" starting setup rules in Totaler Krieg really appeal to me), and this seems to include a lot of the flavor of WiF without requiring two ping-pong tables and several years of dedication to finish a game.

ASL - Yup, this is more of a religion than a game. I enjoyed SL back in the early 80's, and a friend and I played the first few scenarios until the hidden movement system in Scenario 4 (or D, it's been a while) flustered him so much that we left off. With the Starter Kits, this should be relatively easy to learn. Heck, I've got the official boxes from AH, plus a few Annuals/Journals, all with counters punched and trimmed and overlays carefully cut out. Given what Mike got for Journal #2 recently on eBay, I wish I hadn't "de-minted" my copy, but that's all water under the bridge.

Great Battles of History - I've got eight of these titles, including SPQR with all four add-ons (five if you count the one that ties in with Caesar). The thing that keeps me from playing these is that every game has slightly different rules, and the delta (amount of change) between games would kill me.

Panzer Grenadier - I've had the first game in this series since it came out, plus Afrika Korps. The game has always seemed to me to be not quite a finished system, a problem exacerbated by Avalanche's refusal to fix their rules other than extremely sparse errata. The rules style is a little too informal for me. However, it seems that there's a really great system there, it's just a matter of learning it. Of course, I'd really prefer not to give Avalanche more of my money because of their arrogance, which is why this is the last item on this list.

This doesn't even count the upcoming CDGs such as Twilight Struggle and Here I Stand, certainly not the games I already know and love.

As always, way too many games, way too little time.

1 Comments:

  • At 5:02 PM, Blogger dave said…

    Doug,

    I have several unplayed PzG games I am looking to unload. That way, you don't have to worry about giving AP more money. :-) Otherwise, they are headed for the RDG auction next spring.

    - d

     

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