#Wargame Wednesday – My Wargame News Feeds

A post on Twitter aksed me where I get my wargame news from. I don’t have any real secrets to share; rather, I just try to bring some discipline to my social media.

Armchair Dragoons

My number 1 go-to place for news compiler is Brant and Armchair Dragoons. His regular #TuesdayNewsday columns are a great compilation of wargame-focused news.

Click for link

Twitter

Mountain_Navy on Twitter

My number 2 go-to place for wargame news is Twitter. I work hard to curate my wargame list to deliver news and wargame-related postings I want to see while eliminating much of that other, mostly negative, trash that constantly flames Twitter. Here I will share a secret, or at least some insight into how I (subjectively) curate content in Twitter.

I actually have four levels of list for Twitter. The first group is wargamers I follow. I want the content from these wargamers pushed to me automatically. The problem is there is good and great content out there and to both into my timeline clobbers it and makes separating the “wheat from chaff” difficult. So I curate.

A second group of wargamers I curate is kept on my Wargame list but NOT followed. This is a pull list…I have to make the decision and take the time during the day to look at this list. One can move between my following and wargame list pretty regularly; if I feel a user is straying away from wargaming content (like maybe being too involved with their favorite sports team) I unfollow but keep them on the wargame list for a while. If over time I see them getting “more wargame” they can always be put back on the follow list.

Every once in a while I review my followers to see if they need to go on my following or wargame list. I try to be generous; if you followed me and have a feed with at least some wargame content I will likely put you on the list at the very least. It’s also possible you might end up on another list of mine; I have History and Military Wonk and the like that one might find a home on. Minis and plastic modelers often end up on my Hobby list.

The third group of wargamers I curate are those I mute. Maybe you said something that annoyed me. You’re entitled to your opinion but I want to keep my feed free of content that I don’t enjoy—I don’t want to doomscroll. Sometimes these muted accounts show back up in my timeline as a muted feed when other wargamers like or retweet or quote them. That can kick off a round of reappraisal and, if I feel like it, a return to the list or following.

The fourth list of wargamers are accounts I block. There are a few out there. What they did to deserve being blocked is a very personal judgement. I’ll say I don’t use the block button lightly; it is far more likely I’ll simply mute the account for a while (a cooling off period for both of us). Honestly, most of the content I block is not necessarily from a wargamer but more often something they liked or retweeted that offended me. I am occasionally surprised by the wargamers who have blocked me. I usually don’t autoblock back…they have their reasons and I although I may not understand I respect them.

BoardGameGeek

I heavily use the subscription feature on BGG. I am subscribed to almost every game in my collection and many families—series if you will—of wargames too. I used to subscribe to companies but found it cluttered my feed too much. I also focus on some key wargame designers. I also follow a few guilds and some key geeklists.

You can view the Wargame Domain on BGG through the Dashboard. I personally find it “meh” in terms of content delivered and would much rather go through my subscriptions list.

CONSIMWORLD

I will say that the CONSIMWORLD News feed is a good compilation…just not always timely. Like BGG, I try to subscribe to the different wargames I own on CSW. Here I do subscribe to company feeds. I have a login to CSW-Social but I can’t figure out how to make it work for me in terms of content delivered.

Company Websites

Where available, I’m signed up for newsletters or whatever news feed many wargamer companies push from their websites. I use a separate wargame email account so Mrs RMN doesn’t have to sort through my wargamer mailings to get to the important family emails.

Kickstarter

A newsfeed I see more useful these days is Kickstarter. Over time I have backed more projects or favorited others. When content producers post updates I get the news. It’s pleasantly surprising how much info is conveyed in this manner. Actually, there is at least one wargame company I love that is terrible at updating their website but great at publicizing themselves via Kickstarter. I’ll take what I can get…

Podcasts

I have a curated list of wargame/boardgame podcasts that I subscribe to, but I only listen during my commute which means I don’t often go back to check the links or otherwise explore any news they relate. Of course, if there is one podcast you listen to it should be Mentioned in Dispatches. That is, if you can occasionally suffer my ramblings…

WordPress Reader

This blog is hosted through WordPress which does have a Reader feature. It’s there and I subscribe to some fellow gaming blogs but I find the selection rather sparse and marginally (very marginally) useful for wargame product news (better Mr. Train?).

YouTube

I subscribe to several wargame/boardgame related feeds. I actually don’t get many chances to watch videos; it just isn’t a priority source of entertainment, much less information, for me. I know that some game companies regularly use a weekly video feed to deliver news and updates…I’ll let Brant spend the time watching and pick out the best and compile it for me.

FaceBook

Nope. Just nope.

What about you?

If you are a follower of mine and don’t see yourself on a list please don’t be offended. Like I said, I review my settings every once in a while. In recent months I actually made some effort to reduce my social media time and focus on other activities which means I don’t always get around to reviewing. Also, don’t take it personally if you move between lists. Above all else be understanding; don’t be that one gamer who DM’d me after I unfollowed them and ranted about how I hurt their feelings. If you’re that fragile and view your world through the lens of Twitter likes and followers, well, you just might have some issues—and not being on my wargame list is probably the least of them.

#Wargame Wednesday – The bottom of the bottom according to @BoardGameGeek

The other day I was looking at a new arrival wargame and exploring where on the BoardGameGeek rankings of War Games it sat. In a bit of a careless moment I accidentally hit the “War Game Rank” header and resorted by lowest to highest rankings. I was a bit surprised to see a game I own ranked very near the “top” of the new page. I scrolled down a bit and found a few more. Which got me thinking; do I really have that many turkeys in my wargame collection? Let’s look at my “Bottom Eight” and see what we discover. Why eight? Because, surprisingly, that is the number of titles I have in the last group of 100 BGG ranked War Games 3387-3486.[Edit – I actually have nine but one is not noted as part of my collection though it is].

Let me be clear about something up front. I firmly believe that BoardGameGeek ratings and rankings of wargames are very suspect. I use BGG to manage my collection and not to rank or rate titles. I further believe that in the early days of BGG, and to a lesser extent today, there was/is an anti-wargame bias within the BGG community writ large. I believe this bias derives from early times when BGG postured itself as a Eurogame-centric website and relished in trashing, uh, Ameritrash games. This is despite the fact the BGG glossary goes out of its way to say wargames are NOT Ameritrash, but in a somewhat condescending manner.

“Ameritrash games also do not include traditional wargames. These tend to focus on history and detail to a level that would probably not appeal to the typical Ameritrash gamer.”

BoardGameGeek Glossary entry for “Ameritrash”

In more recent years, “crossover” wargames, or wargames that are recognized as combining Eurogame mechanics with wargame themes—sometimes called a “waro”—have somewhat reduced the bias but at its heart BGG started anti-wargame and remains so. Additionally, the algorithms used to derive BGG ratings and ranking are a trade secret which only serve to further obfuscate just how games are rated and ranked. If there is one thing the past year+ of COVID taught me, and hopefully many others, it’s that statistics are easy to manipulate. Like they say, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” 

Here are the “Bottom Eight” wargames in my collection as ranked by BoardGameGeek (note that this is amongst NUMERICALLY ranked games; there are 104 pages for over 10,000 wargames listed on BGG with the majority having no numerical ranking):

-8 / BGG War Game 3395 / Risk Transformers: Cybertron Battle Edition (2007)

“You mean a war game, like Risk” can barely be applied to this title. Bought for the RockyMountainNavy Boys who were into the IP at the time. They never liked it. Absolutely deserves to be at the bottom.

Courtesy BGG user @Meander

-7 / BGG War Game 3411 / Supremacy: The Game of Superpowers (1984)

The market and high levels of abstraction always put me, and apparently many others, off on this game yet somehow it stays dear to my heart. Looking back, I wonder if Supremacy was trying to be a “waro” before people understood what a waro was. I understand that updated versions exist. I often wonder what the game could become if a good developer had worked it, then or even now.

Courtesy BGG user @Debate

-6 / BGG War Game 3431 / Operation Cannibal (1996)

In the past few years I rediscovered this game on my shelf when I went looking for games using the chit pull mechanism. It’s clunky and not-so-elegant but serviceable as a wargame. Part of the low ranking may be subject matter; the Battle of Arakan in Burma is not well known.

Courtesy BGG user @PAYDIRT

-5 / BGG War Game 3449 / Tactics II (1973)

I’m already on record as saying this game deserves more respect. I have to wonder if that anti-wargame BGG bias is found in this ranking. Then again, many wargamers themselves seem to race to dismiss TACTICS II so why should I be surprised?

Courtesy BGG user @Barteus

-4 / BGG War Game 3453 / Air War: Modern Tactical Air Combat (1983, original edition 1977)

Ambitious in that it tries to model 3D flight on a 2D board in increments of mere seconds. Way too complicated a model to easily manipulate. I at least remember playing this one—a battle between two American F-106 Delta Darts and a pair of TU-26 Backfire strategic bombers trying to get to New York. Of course, we now know the Tu-26 never existed for the TU-22 Backfire never was converted to a strategic bomber. It also showed our misunderstanding of how to employ weapon systems as we tried to “dogfight” the bombers vice standing off with those nuclear-tipped missiles and rockets hosing away at the Red intruders. Then again, we kinda realized that those nuke-armed babies were “a bad day” and tried to restrain ourselves.

Yup, restraint in a wargame. Like I said, we kinda didn’t know what we were doing. I remember driving one of the Backfires and desperately dodging the F-106s but ending up low, slow, and vertically banked mere feet off the deck. I almost made it to New York, but ultimately ran out of ideas, airspeed, and altitude short of the target.

Air War Control Chart courtesy BGG user @Mikosa

-3 / BGG War Game 3461 / Halo Interactive Strategy Game (2008)

Is this a wargame? I bought this for RockyMountainNavy Boy A who was a big HALO fan at the time. I think it got played once. You also needed a DVD player, making this a “media-assisted” game. In the RMN house that made this game difficult to play since the RMN students had TV restrictions on weekdays and limited time on weekends. Altogether not a memorable title.

Courtesy BGG user @nerdzoid

2 / BGG War Game 3465 / Foxbat & Phantom: Tactical Aerial Combat in the 1970’s (1973)

Another air warfare simulator that once again proves too complex for the game experience it delivers. More a collectable than a played game in my collection.

Air Control Sheets courtesy BGG user @Original_CorPse

[-1.5 / BGG War Game 3473 / Risk (1959)]

Not officially listed in my collection though I have a copy. The BGG tagline reads, “Will you conquer the world in this multi-player push-your-luck wargame?” I guess that is one way to look at Risk but when doing so is one unconsciously buying into that BGG anti-Ameritrash heritage?

Courtesy BGG user @Alarconte

-1 / BGG War Game 3484 / The Civil War (1991)

“Widely considered to be the most unplayable game ever published” is how the BGG tagline reads. Yes, I’ve cracked open the rule book and it’s BAD.

I think there is something to be said when only one of the bottom eight/nine has been played in the past decade. Yup, my collection has turkeys, and a few of them gobble quite loudly!

How I was shocked in my February #wargame #boardgame Month in Review

Shocking few games played…

According to my BGStats app, in February I recorded 26 plays of 21 games. This is a 60% drop in games played compared to February 2018. On the positive side, the 21 different games played is an increase over the 16 last February.

IMG_0205
February 2019 BG Stats

A major factor in the large drop was last February I played 16 games of Rhino Hero (Haba). This year there were few light family/party games played. Need to work on that; maybe trying to play a light weeknight game with the RockyMountainNavy Boys is worth the few minutes of family time spent together rather than just depending on our weekend game.

…a shocking mix of old and new…

This month I accomplished my first play of Colonial Twilight (GMT Games, 2017) which I really enjoyed. It can be a good introduction/refresher on the GMT COIN system. The RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself also went a bit retro with an awesome play of Wooden Ships & Iron Men (Avalon Hill, 1975). I also got Brave Little Belgium (Hollandspiele, 2019) to the table and really enjoyed the tight gaming situation.

Continuing on my Wargame Challenge, I kept up with the retro theme by playing Azhanti High Lightning (GDW, 1980), Car Wars (Steve Jackson Games, 1981+), and Wings (Yaquinto, 1981). As much as I liked these old games, I also got my new games to the table including designer Michael Rinella’s Counter-Attack: The Battle of Arras, 1940 (Take Aim Designs/Revolution Games, 2019) as well as The Expanse Boardgame: Doors and Corners (WizKids, 2019).

I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit this month and tried to seriously playtest a game. To the Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games) has much promise and I hope it gets published. I was also fortunate to get a day of multiple games played during a snowstorm; there are worse things than being stuck with your family! Continuing the bad weather gaming I revisited, and enjoyed, solo versions of Gravwell (Crytozoic, 2013) and Pandemic: Fall of Rome (Z-Man Games, 2018). I ended the month with a revisit to game that I had discounted a bit before; Villainous (Wonder Forge, 2018) and discovered it to be better than I remember.

…shocking few purchases…

In February I tried to limit my spending on new games. Sure, I still purchased a few but more importantly (for me) I passed on several Kickstarter campaigns that tempted me. I also paid more attention to my existing Kickstarter and Pre-order games; in the end I will still be getting new games, but just at a more reasonable pace (and cost). Potentially I could see most of my KS/pre-order list in my hands by the end of 2019 [sure….]. On another positive note, the reduction of incoming new games has let me focus more of what I already have and explore several good titles in already possess.

…shocking blog numbers…

In mid-January I changed my blog theme to the current version and since then my views have skyrocketed. In February I logged over 5,800 views – as compared to 14,000 views in ALL OF 2018! There certainly was a bounce in views as part of the “shocking” kerfuffle I will discuss in a bit but I cannot help but notice that the new format, which is much more visually appealing, gets visitors to click around more. So to all my readers I say welcome and thanks!

…but the real Shock of the Month…

In early February, I talked about a company that was running a Kickstarter and using a game title identical to a “serious” game from a designer/humanitarian I admire. I apparently ruffled more than a few feathers and at one point was blocked by the publisher. The issue was quickly resolved and all made better. Here at the end of the month Stronghold Games has re-Kickstarted their game Aftershock: San Francisco and Venice. Give it a look!

…and my after shock.

I am very conscious that as a wargamer I am already a member of a subset of a very niche hobby. Further, as a sometime “professional” wargamer or “serious gamer” I realize that I am in an even smaller (microscopic?) subset of the wargaming subgroup. In the “shocking” kerfluffle of the month I saw too many comments that denigrated my small gaming clan. Although it admittedly seems relatively benign, the comment that upset me the most was this:

This site is a hobby game site, if someone is coming here and searching for Aftershock, likely they are looking for the Stronghold published game.

The “site” referenced is BoardGameGeek. This poor soul does not understand (nor does he seem to want to tolerate) that BoardGameGeek is used not just for gaming, but as a leading portal to all things boardgaming. This means it is used by hobbyist and “professionals.” I have been at professional wargaming/serious games conferences where the question, “Where do I find games?” is asked. Invariably, the first answer is, “BoardGameGeek.” This is a good thing; BGG serves a wide array of boardgamers, from the very playful to serious. To say it is “just” a hobby game site is ignorant at best. Possibly I am taking the “serious games” moniker a bit too seriously; but then again I am a strong proponent of gaming for fun, learning, and military planning and government policy making.

Stephen Buonocore of Stronghold Games responded with a very thoughtful post that deserves much more attention that it is getting (emphasis is mine):

All,

As has been posted here above, Rex and I have discussed all of this.

We will make a name change to our game. This will settle the issue completely, and it will make both parties happy.

Neither of us wants the negativity that has been seen throughout this, and most of all, neither of us wants any harm done to the reputation of the other.

What we do want is happiness among gamers, including of course everyone that has participated in this dialogue, whether they favored one side or the other.

This is what it is all about. We are in an industry that creates FUN. There is no other industry in the world like this. We create FUN, so that families, friends, acquaintances, strangers, and everyone, can come together and compete or cooperate across a table in a social, happy, and fun way.

Thank you to all out there for your passion and love of board games. Without all of you, this industry would not exist.

Best,
Stephen M. Buonocore
Stronghold Games

Surprisingly, the event that calmed me down the most was not Stephen’s comment but Villainous winning the The Toy of the Year Award. As much as I love BGG, listening to the comments of Mr. Francke about the 250,000 units sold in late 2018 (as compared to ~5,200 “owned” in BGG) illustrated for me that even BGG is a small portion of the hobby boardgame market. For Villainous, BGG users possibly represent as little as 2% of the players. This makes even BGG a very small niche within a niche.

Still, I cannot ignore the attitude behind some comments from the past month. I really am trying to keep Mr. Buonocore’s comments in mind but it’s hard. This was more than a simple “Ameritrash vs Eurogamer” flamewar;  it was rank intolerance of a minority sector of our hobby. Sure, it was just a few loud-mouthed a$$hats but they did a fine job of showing me a dark side of our hobby. Part of the reason I write this blog is to show my happiness with the hobby I enjoy. This month was very discouraging to do so.

I’m going to leave it there and hope for a better March.