THE GOLDEN GEEK AWARDS FROM 2007 are very interesting to me, although it has taken 12 years for me to figure out why. Recall that I challenged myself this year to play all the Golden Geek Award winners in my collection. To date I have concentrated on the Charles S Roberts (CSR) winners in my collection and am a bit behind on the the Golden Geek. This weekend I pledged to make up for it. In the process I pleasantly discovered a very interesting crossover between the wargame and hobby boardgame communities.
In 2007 there was a tie in the category Best 2-Player Game. The co-honorees were Commands & Colors: Ancients (GMT Games, 2006) and Battlelore (Days of Wonder, 2006). Battlelore also won Best Artwork/Presentation (more on that in a bit).
At first glance these winners appear to be very different. After all, one is a wargame (gasp!) and the other a strategy boardgame (although not a Euro, tsk tsk). At first I was going to play both and write up two blogs about my experiences with each.
But then I remembered that Commands & Colors: Ancients (hereafter CCA) and Battlelore (BL) are essentially the same game!
Externally, both CCA and BL they certainly look very different. CCA is a hex-n-block wargame with cards. The presentation is, if anything, a bit bland. Really now; who puts stickers on dice! BL, on the other hand, is colorful with a richly illustrated rulebook and plastic minis (and custom inked dice…although the early sets rubbed off). It’s really no wonder BL won the award for Best Artwork/Presentation.
Under the hood, though, the two games are very closely related; more so than even kissing-cousins. To begin with they both use the same Commands & Colors game engine. Not surprising given that both credit Creation & Development to the venerable Richard Borg. Both also had Pat Kurivial for Development. There is even overlap in the playtesters for each game.
That is not to say the games are identical (outside of theme, of course). The most obvious difference is magic in Battlelore. Both games are also different in how they approach components. It’s more than just the blocks vs minis. The big usability difference that jumps out at me is the use of a wargame-like Player Aid Card in CCA versus boardgame “hint” cards in BL.
Of the two, I personally like the wargame~ish Commands & Colors approach better. Then again, I am a dyed-in-the-wool grognard and am more comfortable in a wargame setting. Thus, you probably would understand my love for Compass Games’ Commands & Colors Tricorne: The American Revolution (2017). The RockyMountainNavy Boys went the other way and fully embraced Memoir ’44 (Days of Wonder, 2006) the WWII version published along at the same time a Battlelore.
Although I have my preference I will not pass on a game of M’44 or Commands & Colors with the RMN Boys. The fact that the games are so similar means the relearning-curve before a game is small; one just needs to refresh on special rules for that “setting” vice relearning an entire game system. This helps all these games get to the table more often.
At the end of the day, isn’t that the real reason to play games? Gather round a table and immerse yourself into a game. Whether your reason is to escape the grind of the week or learn a bit about history the most important part of the game is the social exchange amongst family or friends.
I doff my cap to the 2007 Golden Geek jury which showed courage by awarding a “wargame” the honor of a win outside of that category. I also respect them for giving a dual award and showing the hobby gaming community that wargames and strategy games might look different, but at heart can be very closely related. Doing so reminds us that although many might try to wall off your niche, the truth is that we are more alike then we are different. The 2007 Golden Geek jury embraced that message.
So should you.