#Wargame Commentary – @littlewarstv asks “Is Historical Wargaming Dying Out?” Not in my house!

So the gentlemen at Little Wars TV seem to have stirred up a bit of controversy with their provocatively-titled episode “Is Historical Wargaming Dying Out?”

Little Wars TV

In a word – “No.”

OK, it all depends. First one is your definition of a wargame. A later Little Wars TV episode narrows their definition to “historical minatures wargames.” Using that definition the “tabletop hobby boardgame wargame” sector of the hobby is excluded. For me, I am a tabletop hobby boardgame wargamer first with very few miniatures. Coming at the problem from that perspective, I can confidently say that in my little corner of the world, and especially in the RockyMountainNavy house, “wargaming” is far from dying.

For myself, I am a huge wargamer first, boardgamer second, and roleplaying game player third. I am fortunate to be able to pass my love of gaming to the RockyMountainNavy Boys who play games with me. For the future of the hobby I rest my hopes on the youngest RMN Gamer who this year has taken to evangelizing games to his friends. I am also fortunate that Mrs. RMN believes in the power of games (although she is more boardgamer than wargamer-focused).

Further, I support the hobby through the purse – I am a large consumer of wargames. So far in 2020 I have purchased taken delivery of 53 hobby boardgaming related items, of which 23 are wargames and a further three (3) are wargame expansions. This compares to 2019 where I purchased 56 items, of which 21 were wargames, seven (7) were “waros” (hybrid wargames with strong Eurogame mechanics) and a further seven (7) expansions. I am doing my part to support the hobby by not only playing games, but by financing the industry.

(See my 2019 Wargame of the Year post here.)

The RockyMountainNavy Boys support the hobby through play. My middle boy, RockyMountainNavy T, is my usual 2-player wargame partner. The youngest RMN Gamer, now 16, started playing boardgames at age 4 and played his first “wargame” – Memoir ’44, around age 8. He actually has his own wargames – Wings of Glory (Ares Games, 2012) and Team Yankee: Hammerfall (Battlefront Miniatures, 2017).

Little Wars TV focused on historical miniature wargaming. As you can see from RMN Jr’s list, both are historical. According to BoardGameGeek I have 71 ‘miniatures’ games in my collection. Of those 71 games, 32 are historical or modern and 39 are science fiction/fantasy. Although there are more than a few good historical miniatures games, I will also say the science fiction/fantasy crowd is very good too. I see the schism in the miniatures wargames crowd between historical and sci-fi but feel it is unnecessary at best, and damaging to the hobby at worse.

To me, the two most important actions the hobby can take to keep it from ‘dying out’ is to 1) encourage ‘gateway’ or ‘foundation’ wargames and 2) control costs. Games like the Commands & Colors series, especially Memoir ’44 with a high ‘toy factor’ are both easy to learn and look good on the table yet are rich in decision space. As an added bonus, there are so many different Commands & Colors games that finding one that covers a period that appeals to potential gamers should be easy. In fact, there is even a space ship battles version!

The major drawback to wargaming is cost. Wargaming, and for that matter hobby boardgaming as a whole, are not inexpensive hobbies. Most of the wargames I bought (new) recently were in excess of $50 retail, and could reach into the low $100 range easily. That, of course, is for a single game – let’s not talk about buying expansions and the like. This cost can quickly make wargaming prohibitively expensive. For instance, RMN Jr. started out loving Wings of Glory and Team Yankee when he got their respective Starter Kits. He loved the potential – and bought a few more items. That was when he realized the price of the hobby. As a high school kid he does not have the financial wherewithal to afford the hobby. Sure, he often uses his ‘Amca’ (Short for Amma Card – or Mom’s card) and he is making his own money at work but still, miniatures wargaming takes lots of money.

Back to the original question: Is wargaming dying? No, but there are some structural challenges in the hobby that could make it difficult to remain strong into the future. On the plus side there are many potential ‘gateway’ games and, generally speaking, I think there are fewer barriers to entry as even the hardcore, SPI hex & counter grognards are more accepting of ‘alternative’ designs. That said, if the cost of the hobby continues the way it is going, then even if right games are published they may not be affordable to play. Indeed, if the cost of “pay to play” gets out of hand nothing else matters.


Feature image courtesy militarymortgagecenter.com

#SPIEL18 – My ESSENtial thoughts including AuZtralia, ICECOOL, lots of Plastic Soldiers, and wars across the world

The Essen Game Fair, or International Spieltage 2018, is going on as I write this post. BoardGameGeek collected a list of around 1200 games that either debut or will be available at Essen. Like so many others I reviewed the list to see what strikes my fancy. Apparently, I am too much of a niche-gamer because my list of “Must Have” or “Interested” is very small.

I have seven games on my “Must Have” and “Interested” list. All but one are wargames or a “waro.” One is a kids game because, you know, reasons!

IMG_0071
Spiel18 My Picks via BGG.com

AuZtralia (Stronghold Games)MUST HAVE

I am not a Cthulhu Mythos fan and for that reason alone this game should not be on my list. However, this Martin Wallace-designed waro looks so interesting with its mix of multiple Eurogame mechanics (worker placement, resource collection, track laying, and action selection) combined with a semi-cooperative wargame. My preorder is already placed.

ICECOOL2 (Brain Games)MUST HAVE

The RockyMountainNavy house already owns the original ICECOOL. It is a favorite game amongst Mrs. RMN’s students (especially Little Clara). This expansion takes the possible player count to eight making it a great candidate for a Party Game.

1918: Death on the Rails (2D6.EE)Interested

Chosen mostly on the basis of the topic. Admittedly, the game does not appear to offer any really new or innovative mechanic but (hopefully) is a solid implementation of a block wargame. I have few European publishers in my collection; interested to see their perspective on wargames too.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy (Lautepelit.Fi)Interested

The original Eclipse was strongly recommended to me by Uwe Eickert of Academy Games but I never got around to picking it up. Maybe I will be better this time!

Lincoln (PSC Games)Interested

Card-based wargames are not really my thing but just maybe this one will work for me. Almost pulled the trigger during the Kickstarter campaign but several design controversies made my shy away. Still a bit reluctant to go all-in.

Radetzky: Milano 1848 (Post Scriptum) Interested

A cooperative wargame? Sounds interesting!

Wings of Glory: Tripods & Triplanes (Ares Games)Interested

Technically speaking, the RockyMountainNavy collection of Wings of Glory “belongs” to LittleRockyMountainNavy. He likes Wings of Glory over Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing because it is more historical and less tournament-based. That said, he does have an interest in the steampunk genre through games like Scythe (Stonemaier Games) or AuZtralia.

Undecided

Not shown above, I have another seven games in my “Undecided” category.

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles – Starter Set (Ares Games)

Am interested in the topic but if this is another cinematic movement system and not vector movement (more thematically correct) then I am going to pass. Have some hope since the publisher’s blurb mentions, “…unique dynamics of the battles….”

Expedition Zetta (Ion Game Design)

Topic interests. Looks thematically appropriate. Need to learn more.

Hannibal & Hamilcar (Phalanx)

Another asymmetric card game. Not sure about card games.

Normandy: The Beginning of the End (Draco Ideas)

Need to explore what the Paths to Hell system really is. Another question is, “Do I really need another WWII tactical combat system?” After all, I am already all-in on Conflict of Heroes and the Panzer (Second Edition) series.

Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games)

Looks interesting…may be suitable for family game night with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Few games out there in that 3-6 player category (with three-players key for the RockyMountainNavy Game Night).

Scorpius Freighter (AEG)

“Recruit Crew, Customize Ships, Smuggle Goods.” Sounds alot like Firefly: The Game, which I already own, only with the serial number filed off. Although thematically close it is much different graphically. Interesting, but once again I have to ask myself is another “pick up and smuggle” game worth my investment?

SHAEF (PSC Games)

Another PSC Games card-driven title. But only 2-player.

So there is my Essen. Of the 14 games here I think three or four maybe will get into the RockyMountainNavy collection within the next 12 months. Maybe.

 

Plotting Along with Air Force (Avalon Hill Battleline Edition, 1977)

Playing Air Force (Avalon Hill Battleline Edition, 1977) for my Game of the Week culminated in a game with the RockyMountainNavy Boys on Saturday night. Although I personally rediscovered my love for Air Force this week, the Boys had a lesser reaction.

At first I imagined a basic Battle of Britain dogfight scenario with Hurricanes and Spitfires versus Me-109s. That was until Youngest RMN Boy got his hands on the Aircraft Data Cards (ADC) and found the Me-262. He absolutely wanted to fly the Schwable. He also asked about shooting down bombers. So I quickly scratch-built a scenario where a single B-17G, separated from the bomber stream but escorted by a pair of P-51D, is jumped by a pair of Me-262.

Gameplay in Air Force is “Spot-Plot-Scoot-Shoot.”  In the interest of making for an easier first scenario we bypassed the Spotting rules and got straight into the action.

Youngest RMN Boy quickly discovered that the Me-262 handles like a truck. We had randomly rolled for starting altitude with the B-17G at 20,000 ft. In Air Force, when the Me-262 is at 20,000 ft. or higher, it has no Maneuver Speed and therefore adds the Level Speed penalty for maneuvers. This made the already ponderous Me-262 even more ponderous!

6-me_262-adw1toee3wo4w0ow8ook4844o-ejcuplo1l0oo0sk8c40s8osc4-th_-622x640
Photo of Luftwaffe Me-262 being shot down by P-51 Mustang of the 8th Air Force, as seen from the P-51’s gun camera (Courtesy warhistoryonline.com)

I spent a lot of the game helping the Boys with plotting notations. The hardest part for them to envision was the aircraft Attitude, or banking.. Interestingly, Middle RMN Boy, my Autism Spectrum son, caught onto plotting faster than his brother. This may be because he is a bit of a “rigid thinker” and the predictability of the plot “clicked” with him easier than his more free-thinking brother.

The game lasted 15 turns, played out over about 90 minutes. The result was both Me-262 shot down by the B-17G, but with helpful contributions from the Mustangs. Unfortunately, in the same turn the last Me-262 was shot down, the B-17 fell too. This was in great part because the Me-262 used it’s Air-to-Air Rockets…and blasted the Flying Fortress.

12-b_24-dgghtg28jl4o4k08c8808kw48-ejcuplo1l0oo0sk8c40s8osc4-th_-640x424
A B-24 “Liberator” of the 448th Bombardment Group, shot down by R4M missiles of a Messerschmitt Me-262 (Courtesy warhistoryonline.com)

After the game, we talked about Air Force as it compares to the other air combat game the Boys know; Wings of Glory. They both agreed that the addition of aircraft attitude and altitude was a large step-up in complexity over Wings of Glory. They also agreed that the flight model in Air Force gave a better comparison of the aircraft.

Although he had trouble during the game with plotting, Youngest RMN expressed a desire to try Air Force again. Next time, he wants to fly a maneuverable FW-190! I think the next game will be better; the hardest part of the learning curve for Air Force – plotting – is now behind them.

#RPGaDay 2017 – You can game every day for a week. Describe what you’d do!

#RPGaDay August 6, 2017

First off, understand that I am a tabletop gamer. To me this includes RPGs, wargames, and family boardgames. So in a given week I play more than just RPGs.

My game week starts on Monday. This is a day where I select the games for the week and start any relevant research.

Tuesday is either #TechTuesday or #ThreatTuesday for my blog. Here I look to find interesting technology for my science-fi games or explore the "threats" in wargames.

Wednesday is #WargameWednesday. This is my day for usually a solo wargame from my grognard collection.

Thursday is #RPGThursday. This is the true prep evening for the upcoming weekend.

Friday and Saturday are for gaming with the boys. This can be an RPG session (Edge of the Empire or a FATE Accelerated game) or one of the lighter wargames like Memoir '44or a "Manual Video Games" like Wings of Glory or Tanks.

Sunday is a day of rest. If there is gaming, it is usually very casual and with Mrs. RockyMountainNavy. Something like Qwirkle or Patchwork.