Random Ruminations

It seems to be part of my nature to reflect on all my experiences--even the hobby experiences many people consider trivial. And I reflect best when I'm typing. So, here are some of my thoughts on games and gaming. Enjoy them if you can, comment if you like.
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Living (and Gaming) in the Past

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"‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
Microbadge: 2022 RPG Geek Play-by-Forum Initiative participantMicrobadge: Solitaire WargamerMicrobadge: Live and let liveMicrobadge: Civilization V fanMicrobadge: I completed the 2022 VGG challenge: played 25 video games or played for 250 hours
Often I don't get enough sleep. And I guess I'm getting older every day too. So in the evening, when day is nearly done and I have a bit of time to just relax and play a game, chances are I'll feel a little reluctant about it.

The strategy games I play typically require some commitment and planning and concentration, and I'm not up for all that. Other games--especially real-time games--call for sustained action and hand-eye coordination, and I don't want that just before bedtime either.

Then there are role-playing games or point-and-click adventures. The idea of immersing myself in a story is appealing, so I consider those games. But then I remember there's usually a lot of walking around, punctuated by bouts of fast-and-furious combat. And besides, the games run long, and I'm not ready to commit myself to anything long-term.

When I went through all this the other night, I finally settled on reinstalling and playing Civil War: 1865. It's a so-so hex-and-counter wargame originally designed for phones and small devices, apparently. Some time ago, I bought two bundles of these HexWar games, one on the American Civil War, the other on World War II tank battles.

And I enjoyed myself pretty well with that game. First I played all six or eight of the short tutorials (I'd been through them before, a fear years ago, but I wanted a refresher and like tutorials anyway). Then I got around to playing the Fort Fischer scenario. I lost, but it was still a pleasant enough experience.

Reflecting on it now, my inner judge declares it to be a mediocre game design. The maps are small, and the units are crowded onto it to the point where you have to deal with traffic jams in most every scenario. Unit stats and the combat mechanism are simplistic and poorly documented. And there's no grand scheme or carryover from one scenario to the rest, though victory is required to unlock more scenarios.

So what was it that I enjoyed, then?

Quite honestly, the game just carried me right into my (war)gaming past. I got into hex-and-counter wargames in my early teens, and they filled my life with joy back then. Yeah, I had lots of other things going on too (and a lot of growing up yet to do), but wargaming was the cat's meow to me. And my enthusiasm for it just went on and on.

Spoiled by computers, it's challenging for me to spend time setting up and playing a board wargame anymore. But the desire is still there. And the moment I start playing a historical wargame--even on my laptop--all the old feelings from my teenage years come back again. I'm thinking, Wow--this is the way it really was back then, and here I am actually experiencing it (maybe a little too cleanly and abstractly, but still . . .).

And in this HexWar game, I didn't have to make any long-term plans or stop and study anything very closely. All I had to do was start moving my units toward their objective. My cannons would fire, my infantry would advance in column and form into line, and I'd fire at the enemy until I thought a charge into melee might force a breakthrough.

In short, I was happily playing with toy soldiers in a structured way.

Moreover, I was playing with Civil War soldiers, which naturally reminded me of the board game Gettysburg and the time I started to get into ACW miniatures and all the reading about the war I've done. And even of the fifty-page term paper I wrote on the Battle of Chancellorsville back in my early college days.

Maybe, on some subtle, subconscious level, it even reminded me of a past life in the Civil War era.

In any case, it was a good way to spend a short part of the evening. Maybe I'd have been better off just going to bed, but I think I'd have been worse off playing a more difficult game like Civil War II or Ultimate General: Civil War. Those would have taxed my sleepy brain too much. And without the hex grid, they wouldn't have reminded me that much of the games I used to play.

So, I guess there's more to strategy gaming than challenging the intellect. Sometimes it can just be a fun way to go living in the past.
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