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September 19, 2020

Chess And Dress Thread [NaCly Dog}

Oregon Muse always mentions that his posts are open to other games besides chess. I will touch on the Golden Age of Board Wargames, which I define as 1965-1982. For more details and depth, various Wikipedia articles are good resources, as is an article on the business of wargaming from Greg Costikyan: SPI Died for Your Sins.

These pictures are from a variety of different Comic Conventions, which have many participants in costume. Our own Anna Puma provided one picture, but she is probably not in any of the pictures. Probably.








Unlike the abstract game chess, wargames try to simulate conflict with varying degrees of realism. War games had existed for military use since Prussian times. The US Navy at the Naval War College made extensive use of games to examine a future conflict with Japan in the 1920s-1930s. It was an investment in the intellectual growth of naval officers. But wargames were not available to the general public.

The game Gettysburg, published in 1958, was the first modern commercial game about a historical battle. More games were published in subsequent years, and a hobby was born. The land game titles ranged from Waterloo, D-Day, Stalingrad, Africa Corps, to Blitzkrieg. Naval games included Bismarck, Midway, and Jutland. Richthofen’s War covered WWI air battles.

These games, with simple mechanics and easy to learn rules, may not have been realistic or historically accurate, but they were easy to play and a lot of fun. That was the Avalon Hill trademark.


The best selling wargame of all time was PanzerBlitz. It was a completely different game from those before. It involved small units fighting over a small area in Russia, in a short time. Each game turn was 6 minutes. The technical detail was amazing and it was history you could see and change. Tanks, infantry, cavalry, crew-serviced weapons, and artillery of all types were represented. There were many scenarios available, and with the counters present in the game, you could read a history book, get an order of battle, pick the right counters, and come up with a new scenario.

Another publisher, SPI, went for more realism, with more complex games on an amazing number of conflicts from Ancient Egypt all the way to battles in space. They became the center of the wargaming hobby, with 30K subscribers and an inner core of 1K lifetime subscribers. These individuals bought 100s of games each, and started conventions to play others. The company was a technical innovator, spreading the hobby.

Playing wargames taught history, planning, and analysis. They act as time machines. What ifs were at the heart of the gaming experience. The past could be changed in a game. Future war possibilities could be examined. For example, the possibility of war between NATO and the USSR in the 1980s-1990s spawned many games.

The end of the hobby as a common pastime was when SPI went under in 1982. Their business execution was poor. They were sold for pennies on the dollar to another company that was a minority creditor. That company did not honor existing subscriptions. Just like that, sales collapsed.

Wargames continued to evolve, up to the mega games of GDW and GRD, with large playing maps covering all of Europe in WWII at 16 miles per hex, thousands of counters, and rule books over 100 pages long. An Eastern Front game would cover an entire back room and take years to play. But the numbers of games sold were small.

Board wargames never recovered from pissing off the core of the hobby, the dedicated players.



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posted by Open Blogger at 05:30 PM

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