Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Wargame Wednesday - Catching Up on Years of Neglect


I used to play board wargames, also known as hex-and-counter wargames, quite a bit. Panzerblitz was my first - like it was for so many people - and from there I moved into Panzer Leader and then Squad Leader. Star Fleet Battles also entered my life around this time along with Starfire and Car Wars and Ogre so it was not just historical games. This was the early 80's so Avalon Hill reigned supreme in this arena with SPI, Steve Jackson, Yaquinto (Ironclads! Mythology! Swashbuckler!), and Task Force all in the mix as well. 

Over time Squad Leader became Advanced Squad Leader and squeezed out most other historical games for us. SPI was bought out by TSR and then many of it's main people started Victory Games and cranked out a whole lot of interesting things like the "Fleet" games, Ambush, and Tokyo Express among many others. Battletech entered the mix as something much easier to put together and play compared to SFB and ASL. Miniatures became more of a thing during this time thanks to Battlesystem and Warhammer Fantasy and, yes, Battletech and SFB too. Now many RPG's were being played as well but we were in junior high and high school and just had so much more time that it was easy to work in all three parts of the "triad" - RPGs, miniature games, and board wargaming. I never felt like these things were competing with each other for our time.

As time went on - though I did not notice it - the board wargames began to be squeezed out. Now things were still fine in the first part of the 90's but as we all grew up, moved out, got full time jobs, and started families our game time did thin out. RPGs maintained their primary place when we could get together as a big group. Miniatures, mainly 40K and Epic with a sprinkling of Battletech dominated the two-man gatherings. The boardgames dried up almost completely other than the occasional 6+ players game of Civilization or Twilight Imperium. Avalon Hill died, Victory Games died, Task Force died, and Steve Jackson went heavily into GURPS and then Munchkin and it felt like I didn't know any of the remaining players and didn't care a ton for what they were putting out.

About 10-15 years ago I got exposed to some of the new games at the time and it was a revelation. Card-driven games, more area-movement games, impulse-type turn sequences instead of rigid I-go-you-go systems ... there was a ton of good, interesting stuff happening. So I did step back in, picking up and playing Command & Colors, Combat Commander, and some older games I had loved like Ambush and Battle Hymn. I also dove into Federation Commander for a while and tried to make that a recurring thing again. 

After a year or two this faded though I did keep a very irregular C&C Ancients game going with Blaster for years and I did pay more attention to what was going on in the business taking the GMT newsletter email etc. I just didn't get to play a whole lot so I didn't keep up all that closely or buy much of anything. 

This past year though ... I started looking into Battletech again  - with all the Kickstarter noise coming from them how could I not? So There are new Battletech products on my shelf for the first time in years. That helped to get things rolling. I also started looking into games that matched up with whatever history I was reading at the time and realized I had missed a lot of good games. So I resolved to start rebuilding the wargame collection driven largely by what looked good and had decent reviews. For example, I watched "A Bridge Too Far" for the first time in years and ended up with multiple games on Operation Market-Garden. There are a lot of games on this section of the war so I tried to focus on 3 or 4 that seemed to cover it well ... perhaps 5.

I always had a lot of fun playing WW2 tactical games starting with Squad Leader and I still had the Combat Commander sets but there has been an explosion of this kind of game so I have been stepping into as many of them as possible - Old School Tactical, Band of Brothers, Conflict of Heroes, The Last Hundred Yards ... there are a lot to choose from. I also decided to rebuild my ASL collection (sold off in the 90's) and I've done a pretty thorough job there. I even branched out into the more recent ASL starter sets to help me re-learn the finer points of the game. 

So that's what prompted me to start this as a regular thing - I plan on stepping back into this part of the hobby and I plan to post my notes here as I do. Who knows, someone out there may be in a similar situation - "how is this new game different from Squad Leader?" Well, that's the kind of thing I can talk about here. More to come ...