Wargaming Baby Steps
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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I seem to love the idea of wargames more than I actually like wargames. I love the idea of resource management, technology development, and tactical combat. Problem is, there comes a point in time when wargames cease to be a game for me and playing them becomes a chore or history lesson.

What follows is my admittedly limited experience with wargames thus far, listing what I've liked, disliked or flat-out stopped me in my tracks. I've included star ratings (out of "5") for components, rules clarity, realism, complexity and overall appeal to better illustrate my interests. Any help or guidance for a "next step" would be greatly appreciated.

Hopefully this list can be a good way for those interested in wargames to progress to increasingly more difficult and rewarding titles without becoming too frustrated.
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1. Board Game: Risk [Average Rating:5.58 Overall Rank:14501]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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I imagine this is where a lot of us got started. "Risk" takes a lot of heat but it does succeed in inspiring the next generation of l'il wargamers. "Risk" can ignite a kid's imagination with armies conquering the world, making sure you didn't over-reach yourself, and what territories were more challenging to hold on to.

"Remember, never get involved in land war in Asia."

Significant if only as a springboard to future games.

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2. Board Game: Axis & Allies [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1184]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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Ah, the game that ruined me for all other wargames.

As a kid with a surplus of time to spend on the complete consumption of a single game, this ruled my life for a few years. At the age of 11 I thought this game had everything: distinct economies and resources for each individual nation, mind-blowing components, co-operative gameplay, technology development, characteristic unit combat.

Then we played it to death. In doing so, the game continued to reveal it's flaws. Where were paratroops? Artillery? Why didn't the game start in 1939? Where were the French and Italians? Why were the combat values for all the units generic? Why did the strategies seem so scripted?

I think I've been looking for "Advanced Axis & Allies" ever since.

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3. Board Game: The War Game: World War II [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:7497]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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Anyone wanna tackle this one for me?

How much does it cost, $400.00? Is there an installment payment plan?

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4. Board Game: Rise and Decline of the Third Reich [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1424]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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I bought "Third Reich" because it seemed to add everything I was looking for. Saved up, dropped the cash, got it home, broke it open, popped the chits and opened the rulebook. A few pages into the rules and this happened:

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=HY-03vYYAjA

It languished on my shelf for years until I traded it away to a local game store for credit...

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5. Board Game: Hitler's War [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:3763]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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Well, I thought "One-Third Reich" would be more my speed...

It had all the awesome elements I was looking for without the brain-busting minutiae of it's big brother. Now the war started right from the invasion of Poland. I had fluid armies with Axis minor allies, national morale, anti-sub warfare,leaders, partisans and a slew of other innovations.

So why don't I ever play it?

Is it because the "programmed" rules end up counteracting each other and causing confusion? The official errata for the game seems incomplete? There are mis-prints on the game board? Or do I just miss the little plastic tanks?

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6. Board Game: Europe Engulfed [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:888]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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The pendulum swings back to the complex side of things.

Honestly, I think this is a very good game but it just goes too far to suit my needs. I consider the rule book to be a pretty hard slog but I know it isn't as complicated or dated as "Third Reich".

I need someone to teach this thing to me or provide a few transcribed turns to read to get me in the flow. Everytime I re-tackle the rulebook it's like dramamine with an index.

This one is pretty close.

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7. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:117] [Average Rating:7.54 Unranked]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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Let me be upfront here: I love "Memoir '44" for what it is. It's a game I play to convince myself that I love wargames. I'm not laboring under any false convictions here; I know that grognards look at games like this with barely restrained contempt.

And I understand why. "ASL" is a four-course banquet and "Memoir '44" is like a burger and fries.

I like the trappings of "Memoir '44" (the figs, terrain boards, card-based actions) but even I can admit that it's more game than wargame.

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8. Board Game: Tide of Iron [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:582]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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This is as close a fit as I've seen to what I'm looking for.

I can teach this game to others, it's meatier than "Memoir '44", and it appeals to my (blatantly obvious)toy factor leanings.

I just wish the rule book was a bit better than it is. I don't regard "Tide of Iron" as particularly complicated but the rulebook doesn't help.

It's been awhile since I played. Have they clarified the LOS/elevation rules yet?

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9. Board Game: Axis & Allies Miniatures [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:2390]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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What I'm about to say will make grizzled grognards weep openly: I consider this to be a fun mid-point between "Memoir '44" and "Tide of Iron".

I like the fact that all the rules are essentially on the cards and that's about it. Plus the mini-tanks are uber-cool.


***lowers head in shame*** shake

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10. Board Game: Axis & Allies: D-Day [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:2095]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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I really don't dig this game, to the point that I avoided buying "Battle of the Bulge" and "Guadalcanal".

I really don't mind using cards for turn order and such, but, damn! it's as if this game practically plays itself.

Many people say that the game is also horrendously unbalanced. I've played two games, the first the Allies had great initial sucess but concentrated too much on the western objective cities. The second game was an brutal rout when the Germans had wretched luck.

I get the impression that this game is as close to a sim of the "D-Day" invasion as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes resemble a married couple.

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11. Board Game: Hammer of the Scots [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:299]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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The shame-spiral continues.

I own it. Haven't played it yet. I picked this one up due to the great reviews, the hope that it would appeal to my girlfriend who believes "if it isn't Scottish, it's crap" and it seems relitively straightforward.

All those things are true. Yet I haven't played it. I can't call the manual daunting, but some anal-retentive rules involving wintering, border movement and combat are sprinkled in there just to put me off.

I'd love to watch someone demo this so I could introduce it to people with confidence. I know it's a whole lotta awesome just waiting there for me...

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12. Board Game: Axis & Allies: Europe [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1725]
David Pretty
Canada
Halifax
Nova Scotia
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I'm partial to this game despite the cries of it being scripted and heavily weighted towards the Germans.

I want to take this thing and cross-breed it with "Hitler's War". I'd like to add hexes, weapon development, re-set the clock to 1939, customize national units and add more chrome.

Anyone want to design and produce this for me or does it already exist?

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13. Board Game: Combat Commander: Europe [Average Rating:7.90 Overall Rank:102]
David Pretty
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Halifax
Nova Scotia
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This has come up a few times.

Is this a sane next step for someone who dug "TOI"?

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14. Board Game: Ogre [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:981]
Adrian Hague
United Kingdom
Bristol
Bristol
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RAWKET LAWNCHA!!!
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This was my first step into Wargaming. I thinks it still stands up well today as a good introduction. You have a hexmap, a small CRT, asymmetric units, etc. Expands quite nicely with the 'GEV' and 'Shockwave' suppliments too.

Aaah, happy days!

Components: (cardboard chits, paper map - but hey it is/was under ten bucks...)
Rules Clarity: (pretty straightforward)
Realism: (it is Sci-Fi after all)
Complexity: (Hex maps, ZOCs, CRT, ranged fire)
Overall: (cheap components let it down)
 
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15. Board Game: Flashpoint: Golan [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:4744]
Adrian Hague
United Kingdom
Bristol
Bristol
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... and this was my next step. I found copies of the game for sale back in the 90's at a thrift store for 99 pence each (I bought three)...

BIG mistake. Don't get me wrong - this is one heck of a game (Hermans finest, IMHO) but as a step up from OGRE - maybe not.

Took me 18 months to figure out how to play (I kid not).
It is however, the most sophisticated (not complicated - there is only one CRT that does all the work with a single dice roll) modern-era wargame out there for my money.

Components: (1/2" cardboard chits and paper maps)
Rules Clarity: (rulebook very well laid out, but reads like a paper on Transdimensional Mathemagic)
Realism: (air war is slightly abstracted)
Complexity: X 10 (Woah Nelly!)
Overall: (A state-of-the-art wargame)
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16. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:252]
David Pretty
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Halifax
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Wow. Can't believe I forgot this.

At first I was struck by just how non-lethal the front line infantry clashes were. Not like "Memoir '44" where units can get mowed down so easily.

I love this game. As much as I'm impressed by the different elements added by the fantasy pastiche I actually really dig the Medieval warfare elements the most.

Again, in the 70's and 80's a game like this probably would have been so complicated that I would have had no interest in playing it. But the quick-reference cards for weapons, movement, terrain and tactics makes this very palatable to me.

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