wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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A History Of (Simulated) Violence

Before baseball, before rock music and other pleasures of the flesh, almost before science fiction, I was a wargamer. Today gaming is splintered into a number of subgroups: there are console gamers, PC gamers, people who fiddle with Angry Birds on their phones, card gamers, miniatures gamers (the oldest part of the gaming community) and boardgamers. Me, I was a boardgamer. I spent hours in junior high school playing PanzerBlitz and later PanzerLeader with divisions worth of counters on dozens of boards, and later moved up to SPI's War in the East, their very generic (and very HUGE) game about the Russian Front. This continued into high school, when I got a job and started buying my own games, and into community college where I was able to use other peoples' money to buy wargames. I had a brief flirtation with naval miniatures, a hangover from discovering Fletcher Pratt's wargame in the back of an old Sports Illustrated, but since I was a lousy painter and lead ships were expensive, I gave up on that; the same was true of armor miniatures.

Historical boardgaming was my thing until RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons came along, and stayed that way for quite a while, enjoying a resurgence while I was on active duty even though the hobby was beginning to crash and burn. I've linked before to Greg Costikyan's classic essay, "SPI Died For Your Sins", which describes how the premier wargaming company fumbled itself into a deep enough hole that its main competitor (D&D publisher TSR, not Avalon Hill) was able to buy it and in an utterly boneheaded move, kill the company and its reputation in one fell swoop. I've already blathered to excessive length about all this in this here LJ post and would prefer not to repeat myself...

So, now that I have time (if not space and money) on my hands, my thoughts are turning to wargames again, and it occurs to me after my misadventures playing Third World War with smitty1e last month that I have a lot of games I'm probably never going to play again. They're just too big, too complicated or both. I suppose I could go back to my monstergaming roots and spend some time at a local SF convention holed up in a conference room with Their Finest Hour, Wellington's Victory, Central America or one of the other dozen or so monstergames I still own, but first I'd have to find someone who already was familiar with the game...because the idea of trying to teach someone the Europa system from scratch makes me just want to go lay down until the feeling goes away. I mean, it was enough of a headache getting back up to speed on Third World War with smitty1e, and we were both familiar with the game...just hadn't played in twenty years or so*. Fortunately, that still leaves me with several dozen S&T issue games, stand-alone SPI games that aren't monsters, and a scattering of games from GDW, AH, Victory Games and other publishers that could theoretically be played of an evening. I just need to get them sorted out and organized, and once Plan C is in full, profitable effect, start looking for opponents.

*It wasn't quite as bad playing Empires of the Middle Ages with Mark last night, because despite its apparent complexity, EMA's basic mechanics are actually quite simple. You are applying the same routine whether you are conquering, fortifying, ruling, pillaging or doing diplomatic things, and all the other actions in the game are variations on those five actions or Grand Diplomacy, which doesn't come into play when there's just two players.
Tags: wargames, wargaming
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