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Subject: Why Do Some Wargamers Say They Are Emotionally Connected to Certain Wargames? rss

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Eric Walters
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On Captain Lion's weekly wargame chat (https://www.appear.in/bigboard every Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m., Eastern Local time) for 19 December 2015, the group talked about old wargames and wargamers who still have an emotional connection to them. You can listen to the summary/synopsis of this at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsfelyWavTQ on YouTube.

While I didn't make the session this time, MJ Lyons talked in his summary/synopsis about this phenomenon, as he intellectually appreciates wargames but doesn't have an emotional connection to them the way some members of the "old guard" do.

I've created a geek list so that those who are emotionally connected to specific wargame titles can tell the rest which ones they are and why. You can find that geek list here: https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/201457/emotional-connecti...

But this list only provides individual stories. It might be worthwhile to have a place to talk about this phenomena in general, about the collective who feel that sort of connection to a few of their games.

Do you know wargamers who are emotionally invested or connected to their wargames? Why do you think that is--can a generalization be made? If you think it's a bunch of hogwash/poppycock, then what is happening with such wargame players that would make them feel this way?
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I'm not sure I understand the question, mostly because I have a few games in my collection which I will never part with just because of the memories I have of playing them.

It's not so much so much the game that I have a connection to as much as it is the person who I played the game with, the game represents those memories.

Sure, the game is just old beat up cardboard and paper, but I wouldn't ever replace it.
Gun to my head, I think I would still want to keep a few cards and chits just to always have something to remember those times.
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Eric Walters
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In the video chat summary, MJ Lyons seems to confine this phenomenon to older wargamers, those who have playing a very long time. And the games they feel such an emotional connection to are some of the earliest titles we recognize as commercial board wargames. There may be others who feel this way about newer titles who are much younger, and I'm hoping the geek list will capture some of that.

But I can believe that there are some gamers who grew up playing in the 1960s, in the days when Avalon Hill dominated the genre. They had few titles available and thus devoted a lot of time to playing a handful they preferred.

Based on my interactions with those folks back in the early 1970s when I was learning to play wargames, I'd put forward two hypotheses--neither necessarily stands alone. They are just generalizations of my observations and impressions. Both could be true simultaneously.

Hypothesis #1: We Few, We Happy Few. Let's face it, discovering wargaming was a life changer back in the 1960s. There wasn't anything really like it beyond the classic games of strategy like Chess or Go. Games that purported to "Put YOU in command" played to a lot of ardent teenage male fantasies. This was a realm of challenge that seemed unique and one demanding mastery. But most of all, there weren't many who did this as a hobby--it was arcane, it was--as Jim Dinnigan famously put it--a past-time for the overeducated. So those games took on a far greater degree of importance to these players. One could talk about strategy, tactics, and military history like a professional (or at least one could think so!). Reading military history in depth informed game play and fed ideas for variants in The General or the many club fanzines. If you learned to play a particular game well, could relate the history to the design (and the design to the history), and published variants on it, you had invested a lot of mental and sweat equity. Some of those early players were known as experts on those games they did not design and became instrumental in improving them (e.g., Tom Oleson and Avalon Hill's Anzio as perhaps the best known example, although I'd leave it to him to say whether he was/still is emotionally attached to that title).

Hypothesis #2: We Are the Champions...of the World! I've listened to Don Greenwood talk about playing games hundreds of times. It's rare these days for gamers to do that--and the ones that do are very well known in the small niche community that plays such games competitively. There's a reason why those Avalon Hill classics players at the conventions/tournaments look as old as they do. Once one has mastered something to such a high level of expertise, why stop playing it? One has become part of the game (some names can't help but be associated with specific titles...Jonathan Lockwood with 1776, Bruno Sinigaglio with a number of titles--old and new--on The Battle of the Bulge). And it's not hard to say that the game has become part of the one who plays it to that level. There is a life commitment there--how can that not involve an emotional connection?

As for me, I can say I was emotionally connected to a handful of early games (you'll see that on the associated geek list). But I never got really good at them to fit Hypothesis #2; I'm clearly within Hypothesis #1. My high school had a Chess Club but I joined the Strategic Games Club, eventually becoming its president my senior year. We played wargames and were very passionate about which ones we thought were the best (e.g., AH's Panzer Leader versus SPI's Panzer '44). But there were only a handful of us and we were seen as even more nebbishly cloistered than the Chess Club players--they had a greater air of respectability. We didn't care. We felt like we'd found an amazing secret and devoted huge energies, many hours, and great efforts to our favorite titles.
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Eddy Sterckx
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Permanent impressions.

I read a study some time ago which had investigated the phenomenon that people - in general and of any age - mostly like the music that aired when they were between 16 and 26.

The answer (simplified) was that the type of music in vogue at that age bracket made a permanent impression on people right at the age when they started to discover the world on their own. It was their music, their thing and it set them apart from both past and future generations.

This is also the age bracket when many have their first contact with this thing called wargaming - and the games they come in contact with first make a bigger impression on them than they objectively should have.

I know I'll always have a special place in my heart for Third Reich and The Russian Campaign, though I know fully well both have been surpassed by better games.
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Don Clarke
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Quote:
I know I'll always have a special place in my heart for Third Reich and The Russian Campaign, though I know fully well both have been surpassed by better games.


I know what you mean, in that OOB information and terrain representation may be more accurate, and new rules-writing and mechanical techniques have arisen, but this makes them different games not necessarily better ones. A newer game may have perceived historical and mechanical improvements but take much longer to play, for example, which might make it worse than earlier games for some players.

So I think emotional attachment to a game does not necessarily imply that the game is obsolete.
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Eddy Sterckx
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yangtze2000 wrote:

So I think emotional attachment to a game does not necessarily imply that the game is obsolete.


Of course not, but you may be more forgiving for its faults. Scratch that : you will be more forgiving for faults in things you love, that's just human.

For instance : the "C"ontact CRT result in combination with obligatory attack and those in-hex riverlines made no sense at all in The Russian Campaign. If a game came out today with that sort of thing I'd tear it a new one.
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Tom Willcockson
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My pulse will always quicken a little whenever I see a mustard color 9 factor fleet counter from Third Reich.
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Some games I find are really great at providing a narrative, and wargaming in particular is very strong in allowing people to feel they are participating in major historical events. That narrative makes for a strong emotional connection to the game.
I've played a lot of games of all genres, and I have a lot of it-was-awesome-when moments, like that time I sent a single wounded Japanese officer who ambushed and killed a squad of marines, or Ney broke the Highlander's square. The immersion level of these games is huge. But very few stories about buying all the coal and driving the price up, or building that rail line between New York and Chicago, no matter how enjoyable those games were.
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Possible not the same "connection" described above but...

My researching and playing the games that cover campaigns in which my grandfather (whom I never met) fought in are important to me. I feel I know a bit more about him and what he was going through at the time.
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whistle so, 'moi' very first 45RPM records were "martial music" followed sometime later with "Mother's little helper" etc. since 'moi' WAS! surprise
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eddy_sterckx wrote:

For instance : the "C"ontact CRT result in combination with obligatory attack and those in-hex riverlines made no sense at all in The Russian Campaign. If a game came out today with that sort of thing I'd tear it a new one.


Well I don't mind about the "Contact" Result at all, but Rivers are indeed much better represented running along hexsides.

The worst implementation I have seen of revers are in Russian Front and in Reds! The Russian Civil War 1918-1921 : the rivers are in the hexes, and you get the river defense bonus if you are in the hex/river! So only one side can get the advantage (and it's good whatever side you get attacked from). Very bizarre.
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Eddy Sterckx
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licinius wrote:
eddy_sterckx wrote:

For instance : the "C"ontact CRT result in combination with obligatory attack and those in-hex riverlines made no sense at all in The Russian Campaign. If a game came out today with that sort of thing I'd tear it a new one.


Well I don't mind about the "Contact" Result at all, but Rivers are indeed much better represented running along hexsides.


The thing is that the Russians couldn't defend along a river line because all the Germans needed to do was attack it at 1-1 odds in their second impulse. Any "C"ontact result would force the Russians to either retreat and abandon the river line at that point or counter-attack that German unit (visions of Russian soldiers jumping in rowboats and attacking Germans on the other side of the river they were defending).

The sensible alternative was to make attacking non-obligatory if the active unit didn't move in its turn, but that was not what the rules said ...
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Tyrone Newby
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Yes,because they have connection to that past life!
 
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roger miller
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I have an attachment to some of my games because I designed them, developed them or published them.
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I believe that the reasons some Wargamers are emotionally connected to certain Wargames are as individualistic as each Wargamer. To try to put those reasons in a couple or few catagories will not be all that accurate in the end. I'll use myself as an example.

I own 2 games about the Battle of Vimy Ridge [April 09-12, 1917]. My Great-Grand Father fought at that battle with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles and when I play those games I don't like to engage or endanger the 4 CMR counter. My Great-Grand Father survived the battle and the Great War, but, I don't like to risk that 1/2 inch cardboard counter that represents him.

When I was 16 years old I bought Squad Leader and Star Fleet Battles in the same summer. I played those 2 games over and over again for the next 10-15 years. Although I haven't played them in 20-25 years now, they still bring a positive emotional response from me and I do think about playing them once again in the near future.

I returned to playing my old and some new wargames late in 2014 after about a 2 decade absence. This year I played Holdfast: Russia for the first time with my 15 year old son and we both had a blast. When I think of that game, the emotional connection is quite strong as it includes a connection with my son.

So, there is an example of 1 wargamer, with 5 different games that he has an emotional connection with, for 3 different reasons why there is that emotional connection. I am sure that any other wargamer who has an emotional connection has their own individual reasons why.

Edit 1: spelling.
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Vimy145 wrote:
My Great-Grand Father fought at that battle with the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles and when I play those games I don't like to engage or endanger the 4 CMR counter. My Great-Grand Father survived the battle and the Great War, but, I don't like to risk that 1/2 inch cardboard counter that represents him.


I just now realized I never asked my grandfather what division he was in in WWII. Also never gave it a thought really when using Belgian divisions as speed bumps for oncoming panzer divisions - gotta protect the BEF and the French flank at all cost. I guess I always looked at wargames more as games and not as simulations, so my emotional attachment to them is more based on good-times-while-playing associations.
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Don Clarke
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My old dad, gawd bless 'im, served on the carrier HMS Victorious during WW2. I always get a little teary-eyed playing Victory in the Pacific. Woe betide any opponent who has the bad manners to sink her!
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I have a hard time playing Fields of Fire. Not because of the rules- I was one of those who got those down reading through twice.

Its because this game, like no other for me, engages me emotionally.
When a team dies, when I make a bad call, when I'm struggling thru the chaos, and more of my men are dying, I feel as if its real.

I can feel the physiological changes. I blame Ben Hull, and am thinking of starting a class action suit.


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I will always have an emotioanl connection to French Foreign Legion and Kingmaker. I played those with my family growing up, amongst other older wargames. THose two have provided the best memories by far however.
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TomW731 wrote:
My pulse will always quicken a little whenever I see a mustard color 9 factor fleet counter from Third Reich.


I'll always feel the same way about the 6-9 Me262 counters from Luftwaffe. They were kick-ass!
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Daniel Blumentritt
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Quote:
I know I'll always have a special place in my heart for Third Reich and The Russian Campaign, though I know fully well both have been surpassed by better games


I don't know, I think a few of the games, like Victory in the Pacific & Russian Campaign, haven't necessarily been surpassed yet.
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Mycroft Stout wrote:
I have a hard time playing Fields of Fire. Not because of the rules- I was one of those who got those down reading through twice.

Its because this game, like no other for me, engages me emotionally.
When a team dies, when I make a bad call, when I'm struggling thru the chaos, and more of my men are dying, I feel as if its real.

I can feel the physiological changes
. I blame Ben Hull, and am thinking of starting a class action suit.

I had a similar experience playing Patton's Best way back when. I got overconfident, foolishly forgot my artillery preparation and bang, my tank was up in smoke before I knew it. I lost 2 crew that day and had to stop playing I was so shocked. I've never had a wargaming experience like it before or since.
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David Janik-Jones
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Up Front. My boys have promised to cremate me with a beat-up sniper card I have from my second copy I wore out 15 years ago. That game was a revelation to me, and still is after nearly 2,500 recorded plays.
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Robert Stuart
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It's the way we humans are constructed: we get emotionally attached to things, even if we're intellectually engaged in them. Even mathematicians and physicsts get emotionally connected to equations. In fact, what distinguishes the greatest books on mathematics from the not-so-great, is the obvious emotional attachment of the author which accompanies the rigor of the exposition.

But back to wargames. I get emotionally attached to wargames for two reasons: my personal experience with the game, and my appreciation of it.

Some games I will always have an emotional connection with because of the fond memories I have playing them in my teens. Examples are D-Day, Waterloo, Afrika Korps and that incomparable gem, The Battle of the Bulge.

Other games are just so well crafted that that creates an emotional attachment. Examples for me are Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia, 1776, Rommel in the Desert, Road to the Rhine and Napoleon: The Waterloo Campaign, 1815 among older games, and Battles of the Bulge: Celles, Death Ride: Hafid Ridge, Ardennes '44, FAB: The Bulge, Bitter Woods: Designer Edition, A Victory Lost: Crisis in Ukraine 1942-1943, Bonaparte at Marengo, Napoleon's Triumph, Band of Brothers: Ghost Panzer, Lost Battles, France '40, Ukraine '43, and Enemy Action: Ardennes among more recent titles. (Hmm -- there sure are a lot them. And a lot of Bulge games among them. And there are more which I own which would probably join the list once I've played them a few times. Perhaps games really are getting better -- or perhaps they're just getting more numerous!)
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Some board wargames that have elements of roleplaying in them can certainly drive emotional attachments. The outstanding example I can relate is when SPI's Air War: Modern Tactical Air Combat came out. Its rules for aces were far and away the best I'd ever seen--and we all wanted to earn "Super Honcho" status.

In my college, we had Navy and Air Force ROTC and some of the wargamers in that bunch loved to play air combat maneuvering scenarios. Of course, the AFROTC cadets would take Air Force aircraft and the NROTC guys would take Navy ones. Often they'd play against each other with somebody taking the Communist aircraft from the Korean or Vietnam War. Sometimes they'd even do USN versus USAF matchups!

But I remember one AFROTC player who managed to earn the coveted "Super Honcho" status as his personal pilot rating. He was playing a scenario where he was representing Randy "Duke" Cunningham and "Willie" Driscoll--a Navy aircrew--in an F-4J against Colonel Tomb (I think he was in a MiG-19). Instead of playing with the pilot ratings in the scenario, they agreed to use their personal ratings instead. The communist player got a good close-in position for a gun engagement as the F-4J overshot and had a really, REALLY lucky roll, shooting it down. The whole room heard the yelling and stopped their games to watch what was happening. The "Super Honcho" blew on his dice for his ejection roll. His face was white and sweaty; he was visibly shaken. He nervously tossed them with a hiss and...failed. His pilot was dead; he lost his personal "Super Honcho" status. He unceremoniously stalked out the room and never played the game again. Much later he blamed the result on the fact that he was roleplaying a Navy pilot and never should have done that.

I'd say he had an emotional connection to his personal pilot in that game, and thus to Air War: Modern Tactical Air Combat itself.

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