WHO WAGES WAR?
John Owen
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The following is excerpted from the The Complete Book of Wargames. I thought it'd be fun if everyone comments below the entries, letting everyone else know exactly where they fall in this list of gamer types. To be clear, I think that the following list can be applied broadly to all gamers, not just the wargamers who were around in 1980.
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1. Board Game: The Complete Book of Wargames [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:8040]
John Owen
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Wargamers generally range from fourteen to forty years of age. Gamers generally get hooked in high school or college.

A great percentage of gaming enthusiasts are male. To a small degree, this can be ascribed to discrimination and social hostility. Mostly, though, it's the result of natural selection. Few women seem to have the interest in military history or the open competitiveness of the majority of men who indulge in the hobby. While the growth in the last few years of science-fiction and, particularly, fantasy role-playing games is reducing this inequality, the field remains a male stronghold.

The typical wargamer, if there is such an individual, is a college-educated man from a middle-class background, recently out of school, intelligent, introverted, and technologically sophisticated. He has some interest in military history, plenty of time to devote to a hobby, and willingness to try complex, challenging games.

This, however, is a gross oversimplification. For every "Joe Average" there are a hundred gamers who depart considerably from the mean. Nor is there a single, simple reason for the appeal of wargames. To get some sense of their attraction, we must examine, individually, the composition and motivations of the varied subgroups which make up the total picture.
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2. Board Game: Empire: Make History on Your Living Room Floor [Average Rating:2.85 Unranked]
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The Historian

It has been said often enough that whoever fails to learn the lessons of history is condemned to repeat its mistakes. The historian gamer uses conflict simulations as an extremely concentrated source of information to fill the gaps left by his education. By playing with the variables of tactics and strategy, reinforcement and supply, and timing and preparation, he can gain a unique insight into the crucial factors of an engagement; ideally, he comes to understand why the actual results of a battle or war came about and how they might have been altered.

For this type of person, realism is of paramount importance. If a game is not a reasonably accurate simulation of the actual events, it's worthless, in his opinion. The historian's Holy Grail is a game that will reproduce the results of a real battle - for much the same reasons. Complexity is a concern only in the sense of its appropriateness to the scale and scope of the simulated event and to the degree of the player's interest in the subject. Detail takes time but generally allows him to learn more. Balance of play matters not at all, because the player will usually be using the game in the company of only reference books and maps. He is not looking for an even contest; he's looking for information. A staunch SPI supporter, the historian type of wargamer subscribes to Strategy & Tactics but not MOVES, buys a game from a lesser company if it's well researched and detailed, but sneers at science fiction and microgames.
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3. Board Game: MINDFIELD, The Game of US Military Trivia [Average Rating:1.00 Unranked]
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The Military Enthusiast

The historian's first cousin is the military enthusiast. Nine times out of ten, this person no more wants to smell the smoke of a real battlefield than the average armchair athlete (whom he closely resembles) wishes to try running through the Steel Curtain of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But as long as no one is getting hurt, as long as things are held a safe distance from reality, the enthusiast finds the tactics and technology of war fascinating. Typically, he loves tanks and prefers tactical games: PanzerBlitz, Panzer Leader, MechWar '77, Wooden Ships & Iron Men. Where the historian is concerned only with the past, the enthusiast is as much intrigued by the possibilities of the present and future. Could NATO forces in West Germany survive an attack by the Warsaw Pact countries? How would the F-14A Tomcat do against the MiG Foxbat? What might combat on another planet be like in 150 years? The military enthusiast is concerned with realism only as it affects performance: he'll let the historian argue the minutiae of terrain and historical placement, but a King Tiger tank in PanzerBlitz had better be more powerful than a Russian T-34, and a cavalry charge across a game board should have the same effect as one in real life.
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4. Board Game: Assassin: The Final Game [Average Rating:4.64 Overall Rank:14770]
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The Assassin

Next we come to the killer gamer, the "assassin." He's the Vince Lombardi type for whom winning it the only thing. Balance is important - unless he gets to play the stronger side. In the assassin's view, a game ought to be complex enough to demonstrate his skill, but not so complicated that he has to fight the rules as well as his opponent. Realism matters only so far as it validates his victories (or, at least, does not invalidate them). When an utter lack of competition forces him to play a game by himself, his aim is to outdo the general of the past - to surpass Napoleon by dealing Wellington a crushing defeat. Within broad limits, he'll play games of any size, scale, and scope. He makes a slashing opponent in Chess, a ruthless landlord in the game of Monopoly. He goes to conventions to enter tournaments and make new victims of unsuspecting strangers. He plays for blood and considers it an insult to his manhood that women are allowed to play wargames at all.
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5. Board Game: Competition [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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The Competitor

The assassin's views on complexity and solitaire gaming are shared in large part by the competitor - for which reason the two types are often confused. The competitor, however, seeks a challenge more than a victory. For him, a wargame is preeminently a contest of skill. He plays Chess (or Go or Bridge, but not Monopoly), but prefers wargames because of their excitement, novelty, and absence of fixed lines of play. Balance is a game's most important quality, realism one of the least. He would rather play Waterloo than Panzergruppe Guderian. He buys fewer games than some others in the hobby, but he plays the ones he owns repeatedly.
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6. Board Game Accessory: Hobby Games: The 100 Best
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The Hobbyist

Of the bunch, the hobbyist is the collector. He subscribes to everything and, if reasonably affluent, may buy a new game every week. He has magazines that saw only one issue and games nobody else ever heard of. He'll buy a game just because its subject is obscure and unusual; yet, in his quest for the perfect wargame, he will collect seven versions of the Battle of Waterloo. He purchases games as much to look at, read, and have as he does to play them. In fact, he spends proportionately fewer of his game-related hours actually playing than anyone else. He's too busy reading, concocting variants and alternative orders of battle, trying to get letters printed in The General magazine or articles published in MOVES, and designing his own games. For him, the most important aspect of a game is its novelty - in size, scope, scale, subject, or system. He placed an order for War in the East (First Edition) as soon as it was announced and bought Squad Leader the day it appeared. Along with the historian (the only one who knows more military history), the hobbyist has traditionally constituted the bulk of SPI's target audience. He is the hobby's most vocal and visible representative.
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7. Board Game: Gamer Tycoon [Average Rating:1.92 Unranked]
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The Gamer

The gamer just likes games. He plays Clue, Diplomacy, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game, Mastermind, Ogre - almost any sort of game, as long as it's a good one. While he may be attracted by the relative realism of wargames, he cares no more about total accuracy than the competitor. Playability's the thing. He plays for enjoyment, for the fun he gets out of interacting with the system and the other players; he doesn't want to spend all day reading rules. With so many games to choose from, he doesn't want to devote his entire life to a single one, either. Long or highly involved games must be correspondingly rewarding. For the gamer, Diplomacy, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game, or Kingmaker might qualify; USN would not. He and the competitor form the traditional Avalon Hill market.
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8. Board Game: Special Agent [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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The Specialist

Finally, there's the fan, the specialist. For this kind of fanatic, only two things count about a game: subject and quality - with the latter a poor second. Games, in this case, may be only facets of his interest. Someone whose specialty was the eastern front would have volumes on Hitler's war with Russia and miniatures rules as well as board games on the subject. The fan of science fiction is almost certainly a reader - and perhaps a collector - of genre books and magazines; he subscribes to The Dragon magazine and The Space Gamer, as well as other, more esoteric journals. And, depending on his budget and the seriousness of his addiction, he might acquire Avalon Hill's Starship Troopers, SPI's StarForce 'Alpha Centauri': Interstellar Conflict in the 25th Century, and nearly everything put out by Metagaming, The Chaosium, and Automated Simulations. The most highly rated World War II game wouldn't interest him in the slightest. If he wants a game with tanks, he plays Ogre - and gets a supertank. For a "naval" engagement, he might try Starfleet Orion on someone's microcomputer. He's fascinated by the possibilities of the future, and gaming allows him to take an active, if limited, role in exploring them. In essence, it allows him to play a character in his favorite kind of story - personally destroying the Klingons, rescuing Dejah Thoris, slipping through the blockade of the oppressive Stellar Union, or giving the Bugs what's coming to them - and, perhaps, to rewrite the ending.
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9. Board Game: Jumping to Conclusions [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Now, like all generalizations, these classifications shouldn't be taken too literally. Few wargamers are perfect examples of the pure genotype. Most are a combination of several varieties: a gamer who's also a science-fiction fan, for instance, or a military enthusiast-assassin type with a special interest in naval warfare in the Age of Sail. Nonetheless, elements of these seven types can be found in just about everyone who plays wargames. The reasons behind their involvement vary from type to type and individual to individual, but the roots can be traced down to the classic duo: enjoyment and enlightenment. People play wargames for much the same reasons they read Paradise Lost, watch television, climb mountains, take flying lessons, or contemplate their navels - to enjoy themselves or to learn something. Or both.
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