Welcome fellow Grognards, and if you didn’t understand that, odds are
this page won’t interest you greatly. That, and you might not know what ZOC
means. A grognard is just a very enthusiastic wargamer, and ZOC stands for "zone
of control", a feature common to wargaming.
Once upon a time before
those pesky computer games (that pretend to be wargames) arrived, and hey even
before role games, there were wargames. To my mind a wargame is something played
on a table. It meant suffering through a complex rulebook. There were no quick
start rules normally. You had to read them all. There were no tutorials either.
You were lucky to have a good index at the back of the manual.
Then you had to punch out several hundred maybe even several
thousand counters. In most cases no one counter was graphically the same. So heaven forbid
you might lose even just one. And you had to place each and everyone on the
game board or mapsheet yourself. In a lot of cases you had to place exact counters on
But that is what wargames are about. They normally recreate
actual historical battles. They require genuine strategic brilliance. At no time
is there ever any mention of hardware or software requirements (only how large a
table surface that was required). We use terms
like “play balance” and “complexity rating”, the number of players required, and
hours needed to finish a normal game. Of course they were talking about real time games. The
time was sure real to me at least. You could always tell what you opponent was
thinking, because you were looking at them. You knew what they knew, you didn’t have
to concern yourself with a lousy interface (maybe a lousy “in your face”
Messaging was instantaneous unless they had a mouthful of chips. My
sound effects were always quite good too, I have an incredible collection of
military documentaries I have running while we play. Some of us were even blessed with
the ultimate weapon, the distracting significant other (not normally considered
fair play though). Game saves were a bit rougher. You were able to only save one
game at a time (you only had one copy if you were normal). The true devotee had
a special place to make the save between games. In my case its an entire room
dedicated to that purpose (well its a small room really, ok its a large closet,
but its big enough to walk into).
So what do I play. My wargaming world revolves around
Advanced Squad Leader (and oh god is it an expensive game to acquire). My collection believe it or not, is worth more than
the best computer money can buy today in spite of what your opinions may be
(that would be currently a P4 system, doubt that detail will be relevant next
time I update my page though). ASL
is as close to real combat as you ever want to get (well you might join the
military if you need more). There is no smell of death,
but that is about all they left out.
Next on my list of games that actually get played (because
all grognards have more games than they actually play), is likely
Advanced Third Reich (known as Classic these days I think). A3R was rated a 10 in its
original version as just Third Reich. I would not want to try to rate it now
that I have added the Research Rules from newer concepts that have continued
forth from A3R. I have yet to play a better economic/political/military grand
strategy level wargame.
I am a big fan of Columbia Game's line of wooden block games.
The fog of war element is a great added bonus to the thrill of the game. Thanks
to the use of the wooden blocks units can stand upright, you are able to enjoy
limited intelligence conditions by being unable to exactly distinguish your opponents
true forces with impunity. The non historical based design Victory is perhaps one of
the most perfect games in decades. The "Front" games East/West/Mediterranean/Volga Fronts
are all that you can want in a full strategic simulation without 20,000
counters. I have the out of print Rommel in the Desert, one of the easiest games
to show a new player. They all have very nice mapsheets, and for once don't
feature hundreds and thousands of counters.
The Europa series is the height of indulgence if you can
manage the space. Fire in the East alone takes a 6’x8’ foot table surface,
and that’s just the Russian front of 1941-43. A splendid divisional level
series of games that has no real equal in scope. It's also the exact opposite of
the wooden block games. They all features thousands of counters. Only the
fanatical need apply. I have World In Flames, perhaps one of the best designs to
give you the entire war (with no locations left curiously absent), It gives you all
the theatres to run. Not for the weak of
I have the
incredibly detailed Longest Day game, which
only requires you to fight the Normandy landing through to the breakout. Its an
attrition game where you have to assume some units wont die quietly. Some
formations require the management of as many as 21 subordinate units. Again not
for the weak of heart if you can't manage lengthy fights.
Not all good games have to
be hard to play and/or learn. The one game I have with the most wear on it is
easily my copy of Up Front. A design that closely mirrors the look of ASL but is
by now means really the same. The language of the rules will all look familiar
to an ASL fan though. The game uses a special deck of cards to manage the flow
of the game. Counters are merely memory aids. There is no board per se, it is
abstracted through the play of the cards from the deck. Your forces are
represented by a separate type cards that indicate specific individuals. All in
all it is an incredibly easy game to master and can be played in a very short
time span (not a common quality in wargames). Because they are common I mention,
that it is not a collectable trading card game. Its a finite one purchase only
card employing game design.
My collection of course has
a great many other titles. Alas some that have never even been given the first
playing. I have a fine design called Pacific War. It might be the best game ever
made for playing out the war in the Pacific during the second world war.
But the game is a space hog and I have yet to give it the opportunity thus far.
I rapidly turfed my WWW3
designs as soon as the Soviet Union went down the tubes. I was lucky to be able
to sell them off when I did. They were all good games, but "what if" battles, that will
never be are not worth the effort. Alas a good many game designs from a
perspective of actual mechanics died an early death during the fall of soviet
communism. I still hold on to my Assault Series of games (not sure why though).
It could be the best thing on the market if it was reborn as a WW2 design.
At one time magazines
dedicated to wargaming were strong on the market. Things change. Even the
venerable Avalon Hill didn’t survive into the year 2000. It was bought up as a
mere add on, to Hasbro empire. It has been a long time since I saw the worth of looking
for Strategy and Tactics magazine or the General, or any other title for that
Today's wargames are assumed
to be found on computers. Scream and
rant all you want guys. I have seen
those “wargames”. Almost all are toys where you get to shoot everything in sight.
There have been some attempts to emulate historical wargames of the table top
variety. But the computer AI is almost always a mindless idiot. They make
predictable moves and are easy to sucker. Not at all like my old wargaming
friends. To date I have seen far to few designs I will recommend to those that can not find
a breathing opponent. In the Operational Art of War, the AI is particularly unforgiving and the game
is not a mouse chase experience. Steel Panthers (now in a variety of evolutions,
my favourite being the one known as Steel Panthers World at War in version 7.1) is also a fine
Squad Leader game. The AI is fairly demanding too
conversations on forums, I am beginning to wonder about wargaming's future. It
is looking like computer based wargames might have had their day. Something
massively revolutionary is required. Otherwise they will have peaked. We might
in time see the rebirth of the board game version as the preferred method of
wargaming. My opinion, but I am after all a dedicated wargamer that has been
around since it became commercially viable.