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Subject: Golden Age of Wargaming? rss

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Tanks Alot
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There are some major factors in the past 5 years that have helped people get into wargaming and spread knowledge of games. One of the toughest things for me was finding people who new how to play some of the games I didnt understand teh mechanics. Thanks to people like Joel Toppen, Mike Bertucelli, DAve Stiffler, Rob Doane, Vance Strickland, the Wargamebootcamp, and countless others who have used vassal to spread and share knowledge of these games. It used to be when a game came out you looked at the box, and the components in images on BGG, looked at the rules and tried to make sense out of them. Now you can go to youtube and see examples of play. Hear peoples opinions, see the game in action. People like Marco Arnuado have done wonderful things for the hobby.
Even facebook has been a major way to connect for many online opponents to play, share knowledge, learn, and discuss wargaming.

I truly think that the golden age is mainly due to the use of facebook, youtube, boardgamegeek, and vassal to share/connect/enjoy the hobby. For me, 6 years ago it was very difficult to get information about what a game was like before buying it.

Examples
http://www.facebook.com/HistoricalBoardGames 1500 members
http://www.youtube.com/user/marcowargamer Take a look at the views on his channel
http://www.facebook.com/groups/vassalwargamers/ 480 members
http://www.youtube.com/user/charlescab82

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Tanks Alot
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pete belli wrote:
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.

I agree 100% here too. My local area was impossible to find players at first. Using BGG, meetup and facebook, we have about 25 member in our local group. Not all active mind you but every single one was met through the use of those 3 tools
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Kev.
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Great conversation and nice history lesson!
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Jason Albert
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charlescab wrote:
I agree 100% here too. My local area was impossible to find players at first. Using BGG, meetup and facebook, we have about 25 member in our local group. Not all active mind you but every single one was met through the use of those 3 tools


Same for me. In the course of a year, I went from having a single opponent to a group of 20 or so wargamers I can contact to set something up. The vast majority being locals I met through BGG. But also, I made it a point to try to play at least as many sessions at my FLGS as in my basement. The latter may not be as comfortable or convenient, but it works. And it’s a way to put a face with our internet names and personas.
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Andy Beaton
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I would have to say the Golden Age is now.
I prefer the games of the 80's - ASL, Europa and so on - but in the old days, I had a small pool of players to play against, and if we did things wrong, or dumb, there was no one to teach us the lessons we deserved. Now, with the internet, the good old games are really being played to the limit, with a wide circle of opponents and a lot of communication of tactics and strategies that four people in isolation could have never developed on their own.
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Jason Albert
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aiabx wrote:
I would have to say the Golden Age is now.
I prefer the games of the 80's - ASL, Europa and so on - but in the old days, I had a small pool of players to play against, and if we did things wrong, or dumb, there was no one to teach us the lessons we deserved. Now, with the internet, the good old games are really being played to the limit, with a wide circle of opponents and a lot of communication of tactics and strategies that four people in isolation could have never developed on their own.


I also think it’s hard to overestimate easy access to the designers themselves. For most new wargames, and even many “old” ones, you have answers to any questions within days, if not hours. And not just yes/no answers, but often explanations of intent. For me, that not only facilitates a greater understanding and enjoyment of any given game, it builds loyalty. If I know a designer is passionate about his designs, there is a far greater chance I will be in the future -- no matter what those designs may be.
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Carl Paradis
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charlescab wrote:
pete belli wrote:
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.

I agree 100% here too. My local area was impossible to find players at first. Using BGG, meetup and facebook, we have about 25 member in our local group. Not all active mind you but every single one was met through the use of those 3 tools


Yes. Same here. In fact it allowed me to actually design games and have them published!
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Carl Paradis
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AlbertaClipper wrote:
I also think it’s hard to overestimate easy access to the designers themselves. For most new wargames, and even many “old” ones, you have answers to any questions within days, if not hours. And not just yes/no answers, but often explanations of intent. For me, that not only facilitates a greater understanding and enjoyment of any given game, it builds loyalty. If I know a designer is passionate about his designs, there is a far greater chance I will be in the future -- no matter what those designs may be.


whistle

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Carl Paradis
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ermj1986 wrote:
pete belli wrote:
Take away the internet and wargamers would be like randomly dispersed barbershop quartet enthusiasts with each guy singing alone.


True, but I prefer singing alone.


I sing very badly. surprise
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Eric Schaefer
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aiabx wrote:
I would have to say the Golden Age is now.
I prefer the games of the 80's - ASL, Europa and so on - but in the old days, I had a small pool of players to play against, and if we did things wrong, or dumb, there was no one to teach us the lessons we deserved. Now, with the internet, the good old games are really being played to the limit, with a wide circle of opponents and a lot of communication of tactics and strategies that four people in isolation could have never developed on their own.


Hear Hear!

I would completely agree with this statement. I love the "classics" as well (just started up a FiTE/SE Europa game a couple of weeks ago in fact--bringing 3 new wargamers into the fold in the process), but along with the Internet, I would really credit the excellent Euro (non-wargame) titles that have come out in the last 10-15 years in helping to build up the wargaming community as those who "come up" on Euro-style games get attracted into the various wargame/strategy systems that are out there, and the new designes being developed.
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Michael Dorosh
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AlbertaClipper wrote:
aiabx wrote:
I would have to say the Golden Age is now.
I prefer the games of the 80's - ASL, Europa and so on - but in the old days, I had a small pool of players to play against, and if we did things wrong, or dumb, there was no one to teach us the lessons we deserved. Now, with the internet, the good old games are really being played to the limit, with a wide circle of opponents and a lot of communication of tactics and strategies that four people in isolation could have never developed on their own.


I also think it’s hard to overestimate easy access to the designers themselves. For most new wargames, and even many “old” ones, you have answers to any questions within days, if not hours. And not just yes/no answers, but often explanations of intent. For me, that not only facilitates a greater understanding and enjoyment of any given game, it builds loyalty. If I know a designer is passionate about his designs, there is a far greater chance I will be in the future -- no matter what those designs may be.


This works both ways; very few designers seem to have any kind of "media training" and some go beyond curmudgeonly into sociopath territory. There are more tools for publishers/developers to use in reaching their public, but again, few know how to use them effectively (twitter, facebook, email lists, websites, third party forums, etc.) I don't mean to suggest there is one perfect solution to these questions, since the situation is constantly evolving - part of the problem.

Actually, with the increased information networks, you have more and more designers, developers, publishers to the point that it seems everyone is working on something. So in some ways, you have less sharing going on because people are jealously hoarding information in order to use it for their own projects. It certainly happens among the crop of ASL third party publishers - which now can include anyone with a computer and a printer.

We may find that the "sweet spot" (if this is a Golden Age, then maybe I'm answering the question) had been reached a few years ago, with just the right number of bona fide publishers able to put out quality products and not so many desk top publishers of dubious quality, but time will tell.
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Bill Eldard
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Peso Pete wrote:
I think each person is entitled to their own interpretation of was a "Golden Age" means to them.


Certainly.

Peso Pete wrote:
I think Pete's reference to the internet and how it has allowed for a dying hobby to be reborn is an astute observation.


That speaks of "Renaissance."

Peso Pete wrote:
If we are living in a "Golden Age of Wargaming", it is because we have resources like BGG, CSW, Vassal, ACTS and a variety of other internet resources at our disposal now that we could never have dreamed of thirty years ago.


But that begs the question, will it remain the Golden Age thirty years hence when who knows what technologies and innovations will undoubtably impact the hobby?

The discussion really hinges on the definition of the term "Golden Age," and since the OP didn't establish that in this thread, everyone's interpretation is inarguably valid.

The corollary to this is the comic book industry/hobby, and specifically the super-hero genre. After a demise circa 1949, super-heroes made a resurgence beginning with the rebirth of The Flash in 1956. The publishers and fans began referring to the first appearance of the super-heroes in the '30s and '40s with almost mythical reverence as The Golden Age. This naturally led to naming that the new period The Silver Age (1956-1974), and I understand that the hobby now refers to some sort of Platinum Age (contemporary?). These terms are useful for reference in terms of timelines, but are not definitive in terms of popularity, productivity, quality, etc.
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I'd call the 60s and 70s the "heroic age" where the great names of Avalon Hill and SPI laid the foundations upon which others would build and improve. I think games today are of better quality because game design tech continues to build upon itself. Also I think consumers expect a lot more of games today than they did 30 years ago. I don't know if we are in a "golden age", because that's a term that's often applied in retrospect in a subsequent period of decline - but in that sense I hope we're not there yet.
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Chris Montgomery
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Another added lens to view this particular wargaming age (yes, I think it is a Golden One, hopefully only the beginning!) - is that the industry now has standard practices and a core of trained personnel to produce a single product, and those traditions, mechanisms and design theories have continued to expand and grow. This means that while they might make many more design mistakes (i.e. bad games) due to the large(r) number of people involved, they learn not to make those mistakes again and the senior designers and developers can now pass their knowledge on . . . within the wargaming world right now, there are at least two dozen well-known designers that design games with some regularity, and up-and-coming designers can learn of them, adapt styles to their interest, and riff and innovate off those designs.

Wargaming also benefits from not being a "big money" industry - developers almost always encourage other designers to "borrow" their ideas, few suits over copyrights and patents seem to be filed, and designers freely and publicly praise works done by imitators and innovators.

It is this cadre of professionalism and wargamers continuing to be willing to buy games that will continue to grow the industry and result in more and better designs being released.

The question is, how large and successful can the hobby become before it is financially feasible to start patenting and suing over designs and game mechanics. Once the hobby is large enough that Hasbro and other big-names start to take it seriously - which may and probably will never happen - that is how to know such a period has arrived. A good case in point is GCACW, which has the Hasbro logo.

Once we reach that point, if we reach that point, there will be a period of stagnation as companies chase profits for its own sake rather than for a passion for the hobby. From that point, until new industry standards are developed to set a price upon using those mechanisms and designs, I think the hobby will stagnate again.

And I could be full of guff, anyway - I'm just theorizing. But for now, I think we are long way off from any stagnation, and I am enjoying the ride immensely.

The saturation of new games each year is so prolific I can't possibly purchase them all. I agree as other posters have stated, that the internet is a HUGE boon to the hobby. The next great innovation will be how we connect with and draw in more people who are out there, who are interested in the hobby, but are not yet hobbyists. I try to be a flag-waver for wargaming without trying to come across as too geeky.

If I had to summarize the current things that are making the hobby so great, I'd list these to start:

1. Players with enough interest and enough money, that they can purchase many (12+) titles per year (one per month).

2. Designers and developers that are self-less with their work product.

3. Companies that are directly responsive to their consumers and constantly innovate new ways to deliver products that we want.

4. The internet for providing probably the best form of communication for the disparate and geographically isolated parts of the industry: Designer-Consumer, Company-Consumer, and Player-Player.

5. Low production costs for the product, allowing for enough financial incentive for companies to produce the games.

6. An impassioned community that nearly universally attempts to promote the hobby.
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Brian Morris
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DarrellKH 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.


"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.


SPI was gone by 1982 however meaning the 80s and most of the 90s Avalon Hill was largely unchallenged. I think the loss of SPI was significant as it was the demise of SPI that left Avalon Hill pretty much alone as a publisher of wargames for about 15 years.

I remember when Avalon Hill went under. I thought the hobby was dead. However I think long term Avalon Hill's demise has been better for the hobby. In the last 10 years companies like GMT, MMP, Columbia and Fantasy Flight rise to fill the void Avalon Hill left. I don't think we'd see so many strong companies today in the market if Avalon Hill were still the 500 pound gorilla.
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Kyle Smith
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Personally as a newcomer to wargames, I can't really say the newer games are "better" exactly, but I vastly prefer them. Many of the new wargames like Twilight Struggle, Commands & Colors and Combat Commander rely less on tons and tons of chrome, and more on a strong, almost Eurogame inspired, core set of rules. They play faster, are more accessible, and to be honest, I sincerely doubt I'd be playing wargames if it weren't for them. I've attempted on numerous occasions to penetrate the rule books to what I'm lead to believe make up wargamming canon, and it's not only beyond me, but I don't think I'd enjoy it even if it weren't.
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Jim Ransom
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Maybe a point to discuss is whether wargaming is a growing or shrinking hobby. It is my perception that the number of wargamers has been declining -- not sure if that's accurate or not.

In the end, we can say we have the so-called Golden Age a-flourishin' around us, but if the gene pool is shrinking, eventually it will end.

Does anyone have data here? It really does relate to the health of our hobby.
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Michael Dorosh
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mrbeankc wrote:
SPI was gone by 1982 however meaning the 80s and most of the 90s Avalon Hill was largely unchallenged. I think the loss of SPI was significant as it was the demise of SPI that left Avalon Hill pretty much alone as a publisher of wargames for about 15 years.

I remember when Avalon Hill went under. I thought the hobby was dead. However I think long term Avalon Hill's demise has been better for the hobby. In the last 10 years companies like GMT, MMP, Columbia and Fantasy Flight rise to fill the void Avalon Hill left. I don't think we'd see so many strong companies today in the market if Avalon Hill were still the 500 pound gorilla.


Was it really a contest, though?

GDW, West End Games, TSR all produced games in that period. Was it through intention of "competing" with Avalon Hill, or just producing enjoyable games. They may not have reached smaller markets - perhaps many did not see them in that period, and a lot of people may have felt things were bleaker than they were - but those of us blessed with vibrant FLGS locally saw many good titles from the smaller companies in that era. This is when The Gamers started up, RANGER by Omega Games hit shelves, the Assault series, the 2nd edition Sniper! series. I had a lot of fun playing non-Avalon Hill stuff.
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jpr755 wrote:
Maybe a point to discuss is whether wargaming is a growing or shrinking hobby. It is my perception that the number of wargamers has been declining -- not sure if that's accurate or not.

In the end, we can say we have the so-called Golden Age a-flourishin' around us, but if the gene pool is shrinking, eventually it will end.

Does anyone have data here? It really does relate to the health of our hobby.
Vaguely related and probably misleading thread
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Bill Wood
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I did my bit getting my son to play....next, the two nephews (7 and 10).

AH 500 lb gorilla assessment is correct - and too go further, the same thing can be said for ASL.

I knew there was opportunity for something better - Gameform's Combat and later WEG's Soldiers felt like good alternatives, but AH's ASL made it impossible to gain traction.

Now we can see alternatives that are damned good - Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles , Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes. etc.

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Based on just my experiences at BGG Con and on the threads, I would think the number of hobbyists is growing. There are many people out there who want to play wargames, but have not discovered BGG, have not found the game companies, have not located others in their area who are also interested . . . and it all comes down to getting that person to connect with even a single point for him or her to be quickly connected with all of them.

Four years ago, I used the BGG user database to locate gamers around me and geekmail them about wanting to get some wargaming or other board gaming in - though it got off to a rough start due to not having a place to play, we now have a small core group of players that meet at least once a month for multi-player gaming and the members get together with each other for 1 v. 1 games. A new boardgame shop has opened in the next town over, and the local hobby shop that had in the past focused on RPGs, minis, and RC cars, now has a fully stocked boardgame section. A comic shop about ten miles away now has 25% of its store devoted to boardgames, and about 15% of that stock is wargames (mostly GMT and FF).

BGG Con itself continues to grow year after year.

I can't help but believe that boardgaming is growing exponentially and wargaming, if not carrying its own weight, is benefiting from the general surge in boardgame popularity.
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Wilhammer wrote:
Gameform's Combat and later WEG's Soldiers felt like good alternatives, but AH's ASL made it impossible to gain traction.


I have copies of both, and a look at the components will convince anyone of why my earlier statement about Gameform and WEG not being competition for Avalon Hill was true. They weren't even in the same league. Those games were like comparing cable access shows to a major motion picture. Both can be enjoyable, but you know the difference when one or the other comes on the television.

However, I don't buy the notion that because one product was successful, all others must suffer. If Soldiers failed to gain an audience or, to continue the metaphor, turn itself into a blockbuster trilogy, it was because it wasn't that compelling a product to begin with.

There was more than enough support for products to "get traction" at that time. Magazines like Battleplan specifically catered to small, independent titles, in order to nurture them, and they also got decent coverage in MOVES. But only if people were interested enough to write articles in the first place.
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pete belli wrote:
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.

Along those lines, the internet allows easy and very effective criticism of bad products, which forces companies to improve and maintain a higher standard.
AH made many good games, but also got away with selling their share of crap because their customers didn't have the means to effectively call them on it.
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Michael Dorosh
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Wilhammer wrote:


You must be looking at different games.... Production was as good as anything AH did, except not being mounted.



The artwork was substandard, if you really want to compare to AH.



You could have mounted that, but I don't know many people who take dime store post-cards down to custom frame shops and pay for the low-glare glass.

Avalon Hill's maps at the time were hand-painted. For example, MBT:



Quote:
Besides, who would invest using the traditional methods in a product that could not take on the Behemoth?


According to Darrell below, 3W, over 100 times.

TSR, WEG, and others, but as noted in other posts, I don't know that it was a competition at all. Niche hobbies tend to fill up with people who accumulate lots of products - you don't just buy one, you buy as many as you can, because they all interest you.

So while I agree ASL is for some a "lifestyle" game, there are plenty of ASL players who do other things. Don Greenwood himself promoted the idea, but then again, he had a pretty vested interest in doing so.

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mrbeankc wrote:
SPI was gone by 1982 however meaning the 80s and most of the 90s Avalon Hill was largely unchallenged. I think the loss of SPI was significant as it was the demise of SPI that left Avalon Hill pretty much alone as a publisher of wargames for about 15 years.


A few minutes with the BGG search engine doesn't support your assertion.

Between the years of 1982 and 1999, the following companies produced the number of wargame titles indicated:

Avalon Hill 34 (not counting ASL modules and expansions) or 56 (counting them)
Victory Games (the old SPI guys, working for Monarch Publishing) 30
West End Games 29
3W Games 119
GDW 54

So, out of just four companies, AH (without expansions and modules) sold 12.7% of the titles, or (with expansions and modules) 19% of the titles.

That might be an even lower percentage than it was in the seventies.
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