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Jim Ransom
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By my count, 54 of the top 100 wargames were published in the last 5 years. Sure, there are some relatively ancient games that have been highly rated. But the list is clearly biased to the newer games.

SO. Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects? Or could it simply be a case of the older games not getting played by the newer crop of wargamers?

Edit: So my 7th grade English teacher doesn't haunt me for bad grammar.
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Hunga Dunga
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I'm in favor of overrating games because they're new and shiny.
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David Millette
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jpr755 wrote:
By my count, 54 of the top 100 wargames were published in the last 5 years. Sure, there are some relatively ancient games that have been highly rated. but the list is clearly biased to the newer games.

SO. Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects? Or could it simply be a case of the older games not getting played by the newer crop or wargamers?


In my opinion the games they are coming out with today are just flat out better than yesteryears. Maybe not so much 5 years ago, but 10, 15, or 20 progressively so. Component-wise there's no question that they are better today then ever...
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jpr755 wrote:
By my count, 54 of the top 100 wargames were published in the last 5 years. Sure, there are some relatively ancient games that have been highly rated. but the list is clearly biased to the newer games.

SO. Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects? Or could it simply be a case of the older games not getting played by the newer crop or wargamers?


Design technology has allowed games to explore new mechanics to play games. But there is also an unquenchable thirst for the latest and greatest among many, and not just regarding wargames.

So, it's a little bit of both, IMHO.
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Jim Ransom
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mille1212 wrote:
jpr755 wrote:
By my count, 54 of the top 100 wargames were published in the last 5 years. Sure, there are some relatively ancient games that have been highly rated. but the list is clearly biased to the newer games.

SO. Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects? Or could it simply be a case of the older games not getting played by the newer crop or wargamers?


In my opinion the games they are coming out with today are just flat out better than yesteryears. Maybe not so much 5 years ago, but 10, 15, or 20 progressively so. Component-wise there's no question that they are better today then ever...


I hear you David. But are we too enamored with the quality of the components? Not saying it's not important, but isn't the gameplay the main thing?
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Lucius Cornelius
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Wargame, as a species, continues to evolve through random mutation and geek selection, which of course doesn't necessarily mean getting "better" since wargamers' expectation is also increasing to cancel out the improvements in terms of "satisfaction". (Red Queen Effect anyone?)
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Brian Morris
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I think competition has helped a great deal. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market. Monopolies stifle innovation. Today the market is spread out amongst GMT, MMP, Avalanche and others and those wargame publishers compete as well against non wargame publishers like Z-Man, Fantasy Flight and Rio Grande for our gaming dollar. Competition is pretty high at the moment which means publishers have to publish strong games with quality components in order to compete. So I don't buy that it's just a case of "cult of the new". I think the games today are much better than 20 years ago because the companies have to produce quality if they are going to stay in business.
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David Millette
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jpr755 wrote:
mille1212 wrote:
jpr755 wrote:
By my count, 54 of the top 100 wargames were published in the last 5 years. Sure, there are some relatively ancient games that have been highly rated. but the list is clearly biased to the newer games.

SO. Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects? Or could it simply be a case of the older games not getting played by the newer crop or wargamers?


In my opinion the games they are coming out with today are just flat out better than yesteryears. Maybe not so much 5 years ago, but 10, 15, or 20 progressively so. Component-wise there's no question that they are better today then ever...


I hear you David. But are we too enamored with the quality of the components? Not saying it's not important, but isn't the gameplay the main thing?


Yes, the gameplay is most definitely the top priority.

But, all things being equal I'll take a 3/4" counter over a 1/2 inch counter, a 1" counter over a 3/4. I'll take a richly detailed mounted map over a paper map with less detail, etc. etc.

The rulebooks have come a long way too in my opinion. Lots more examples, better organized and better explained, more options for playing solitaire and what not... Maybe not in every case, but overall that's my general impression.

Having said that, I don't happen to think all things are equal. I think game mechanics have evolved over time for the better as well. There are a lot of interesting game mechanics that didn't exist 10, 15, 20 years ago and the industry has benefitted from these improvements in my opinion.

I'm not saying anything bad about older games. I just think the torch has been passed to a new generation of games and I think it's good for the hobby that it's done so.
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Jim Ransom
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mrbeankc wrote:
I think competition has helped a great deal. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market. Monopolies stifle innovation. Today the market is spread out amongst GMT, MMP, Avalanche and others and those wargame publishers compete as well against non wargame publishers like Z-Man, Fantasy Flight and Rio Grande for our gaming dollar. Competition is pretty high at the moment which means publishers have to publish strong games with quality components in order to compete. So I don't buy that it's just a case of "cult of the new". I think the games today are much better than 20 years ago because the companies have to produce quality if they are going to stay in business.


It's a great point Brian. But by that example, then we're all better off since we broke up Ma Bell and since we deregulated the airline industry.
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Val Ruza
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New games come and go, but ASL is forever! Umm, I may be biased.
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Jim Ransom
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Belz wrote:
New games come and go, but ASL is forever! Umm, I may be biased.


Or you may be old! laugh
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David Millette
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Belz wrote:
New games come and go, but ASL is forever! Umm, I may be biased.


ASL is actually a good example. ASL is a great game no doubt. I have the ASL starter kit #1 and I've played a few scenarios with a long time ASL player (has everything). For some reason at this stage in my life I just don't have the desire to play ASL. I am being drawn more toward learning Combat Commander (next on my list of games to learn). The large counter sizes, the large hex maps, the card play mechanics, etc. are all factoring into my decision to give that game a try. It's not about being new. It just looks more interesting to me to play. Again, my opinion only.
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Enrico Viglino
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Golden age is more than merely how good the games are.

Given that all the old games are still available, in terms
of quality of games, we are clearly in a superior place than
we were in the 70's. In terms of the number of players? In terms
of the easy entry into the hobby? I'm not so convinced.

As to the question buried in the post (rather than implied by
the thread title), I think overall the games of today ARE better -
for the most part. There are some real gems from the old days, but
in terms of breadth of coverage, innovative designs, a focus on
gameplay - I think we see nearly all categories showing real stars,
on both the heavy and light ends of the spectrum. Still, there ARE
those unsurpassed games; either they got the basic paradigm SO right
that no one can do better than remake them...or, and this applies more
to my feelings, they made innovations that somehow the current designers
aren't willing to traipse into - the type of innovations that the market
really rewards right now are of a different nature.
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It's a combination of multiple factors.

Consider that this site first came to be circa 2000, and that in the decade and change since, there's been an explosion of new wargames.

Consider also that while there are some who go back and rate older games that they may have not played in a long time, or similarly own but have not played in a while, people DO rate NEW games they play, which means that relatively speaking new games will get more (and more enthusiastic) ratings than older games.

Interestingly, there are more older wargames in the top 100 wargames than there are older games in the top 100 for the site or the top 100 for any other gaming category on the site (save possibly abstracts). This is directly a result of the lower number of total ratings that wargames receive vs. the latest greatest Essen release.

Then of course we can't ignore that modern wargames have better production values on the whole than we had from yesteryear.
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Enrico Viglino
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leroy43 wrote:


Consider also that while there are some who go back and rate older games that they may have not played in a long time, or similarly own but have not played in a while, people DO rate NEW games they play, which means that relatively speaking new games will get more (and more enthusiastic) ratings than older games.


True enough - and the lower number of ratings affects the rank significantly.
But too, it's tough to really rate a game you haven't played in a long
time. Sometimes fond memories overshadow where it really stands.
I'd say, if people ain't playing 'em anymore, that speaks strongly
enough.

Quote:
Interestingly, there are more older wargames in the top 100 wargames than there are older games in the top 100 for the site or the top 100 for any other gaming category on the site (save possibly abstracts). This is directly a result of the lower number of total ratings that wargames receive vs. the latest greatest Essen release.


Proportionally, the wargamers are more likely to be long-time gamers
though. Most of the eurogamers in the US started recently - and the
history only stretches to the 90's for them. There are probably longer
term European gamers...but the site is more heavily represented by US
players. Not sure what the demographics on the AT folks are like though.
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calandale wrote:
Proportionally, the wargamers are more likely to be long-time gamers
though. Most of the eurogamers in the US started recently - and the
history only stretches to the 90's for them. There are probably longer
term European gamers...but the site is more heavily represented by US
players. Not sure what the demographics on the AT folks are like though.

This is largely true, but the sheer volume of ratings by these newcomers drowns out any older games in the ratings.

Because of our relative time at the table, war gamers are as likely as not to have actually played some of those older games, and quite possibly recently as well!
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Brian Morris
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jpr755 wrote:
mrbeankc wrote:
I think competition has helped a great deal. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market. Monopolies stifle innovation. Today the market is spread out amongst GMT, MMP, Avalanche and others and those wargame publishers compete as well against non wargame publishers like Z-Man, Fantasy Flight and Rio Grande for our gaming dollar. Competition is pretty high at the moment which means publishers have to publish strong games with quality components in order to compete. So I don't buy that it's just a case of "cult of the new". I think the games today are much better than 20 years ago because the companies have to produce quality if they are going to stay in business.


It's a great point Brian. But by that example, then we're all better off since we broke up Ma Bell and since we deregulated the airline industry.


Remember in the 70s when a long distance was about $1 a minute. It was cheaper on the weekends when it was 70 cents a minute. When you made a long distance call it was a big deal because it cost you a pretty penny. Today we make long distance calls without giving it a second thought. That's because there's competition where there wasn't back in the 70s. We have multiple cell phone companies and cell phone manufacturers competing for our dollar. So every year the cell phones get better and the cell phone providers compete to try and provide a better deal to get customers.

The same thing works for wargames. GMT is top publisher today. They got there because of the quality of their games. Even so GMT does not nearly hold the market share that Avalon Hill did and as much as I love GMT I hope it never does because the quality of games produced today are in part due to the competition within the marketplace that rose in the aftermath of Avalon Hill's demise.
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Pete Belli
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This is the Golden Age of the internet.

Since the internet allows scattered pockets of surviving wargame players to communicate, the hobby exists in its current form.

Take away the internet and wargamers would be like randomly dispersed barbershop quartet enthusiasts with each guy singing alone.
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Components unquestionably better now.

Gameplay probably on average better. If nothing else the variety of wargame mechanics is much greater now than say 1980, which gives designers greater latitude in making their games, and gives players an even wider range of choices.

I think many games from the '70s for example could be even better if slightly reworked, with the benefit of 30+ additional years of wargame design advances.
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mrbeankc wrote:
I think competition has helped a great deal. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market.


"By the time of the buyout in 1982, SPI was selling, it is estimated, some 60-70% of all wargames in the world. Avalon Hill remained a bigger company, but only because it sold many more sports and general interest games than wargames. "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_%26_Tactics

I've seen the figures before, for the year 1976 I believe, but can't get to them from work. I'll post them when I can get to them again, but they showed that even at that point in time, AH was selling fewer wargames than SPI, and that they only provided about a third of all wargame sales, total, for that year.

Not a monopoly by any stretch.
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Jason Albert
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This is all related to the internet comment above, but beyond the common interest excitement it facilitates here and elsewhere, I think it’s also worth noting how easy it is to get a game today. If I want a game badly enough, and am willing to pay the going rate, I can have any wargame on its way to my house within a day or two. OOP is essentially a meaningless distinction. Not that trades and person-to-person sales didn’t exist in 1978, but they took a whole lot longer to set up and get in the works. Intellectual curiosity can pretty much be instantly sated.

Same goes for finding a face-to-face opponent. Assuming you don’t live in Hooterville, and are willing to reach out to strangers, it isn’t much of a chore. That said, I am thankful I live in a major metropolitan area with a vibrant and passionate wargaming community.
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mrbeankc wrote:
I think competition has helped a great deal. In the 70s, 80s and 90s Avalon Hill basically had a monopoly in the wargame market. Monopolies stifle innovation.


Avalon Hill had a virtual monopoly in the '60s when it's business model called for producing 2 wargames per year. AH was also producing non-wargames.

Along came Jim Dunnigan and SPI in the '70s, who showed AH that there was an undernourished market for wargames, and the competition was on. SPI easily outproduced AH each year in terms of quantity of titles.

During the '70s, other publishers sprang up, most notably GDW, but there were others. Columbia Games traces its roots back to about 1972.

So I wouldn't say that AH had a monopoly during that whole period. The competition from SPI in the '70s drove up AH's production and quality.
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Jim Ransom
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AlbertaClipper wrote:
I think it’s also worth noting how easy it is to get a game today. If I want a game badly enough, and am willing to pay the going rate, I can have any wargame on its way to my house within a day or two. OOP is essentially a meaningless distinction. Not that trades and person-to-person sales didn’t exist in 1978, but they took a whole lot longer to set up and get in the works.


This is certainly an important aspect of the age we live in. I see 3 factors working in combination to make wargaming easier and better today than back in "the good old days":

1. Games are far more accessible (through internet shopping from game companies, via BGG, or via EBay). Sometimes the moths flying out of my empty wallet make me wonder if this is a good thing or not!
2. As Pete and Roger point out, we have the internet (and this great site) to grease the skids in allowing what seems to be a shrinking population of wargamers to stay connected.
3. To expand on #2, we have tools available on the internet (Vassal, Cyberboard, etc) that allow these small pockets of survivors to continue to play.

I guess one question that comes to mind is whether we, as a community, can somehow keep our numbers up so that it pays for the game companies to continue to design and market games to us (and our successors).
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Cracky McCracken
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Quote:
Do you think this is indicative of the high quality of our games today? Or are we all just chasing (and overrating) the newest shiny objects?


Both. But i really think the internet and websites such as this one are why the hobby is so huge now.
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calandale wrote:
Golden age is more than merely how good the games are.

Given that all the old games are still available, in terms
of quality of games, we are clearly in a superior place than
we were in the 70's. In terms of the number of players? In terms
of the easy entry into the hobby? I'm not so convinced.

As to the question buried in the post (rather than implied by
the thread title), I think overall the games of today ARE better -
for the most part. There are some real gems from the old days, but
in terms of breadth of coverage, innovative designs, a focus on
gameplay - I think we see nearly all categories showing real stars,
on both the heavy and light ends of the spectrum. Still, there ARE
those unsurpassed games; either they got the basic paradigm SO right
that no one can do better than remake them...or, and this applies more
to my feelings, they made innovations that somehow the current designers
aren't willing to traipse into - the type of innovations that the market
really rewards right now are of a different nature.


That's an excellent synopsis.

Wargames are generally better today, and they should be. With Internet tools and the evolution of production methods, there would be no excuse for failing to improve. It's like comparing a Model A Ford to an SUV.

But if I may continue on the automotive analogy, what is a "golden age?" Was it the early 20th Century for automobiles, when dozens of new companies sprang up and competition drove innovation? Or is it today, when automobiles are far better in terms of performance, maintenance, safety, and comfort than they were back then? Yet, automobiles will continue to improve, so maybe maybe we haven't seen the Golden Age.

Did the Greeks of Greece's Golden Age consider themselves to be in a Golden Age?

To me, a Golden Age is the zenith of something over time -- the period between ascendency and decline.

Unless and until the hobby declines, I hestiate ascribing the term "Golden Age" to any particular period of it.
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