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Subject: Newbie advice rss

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Nick M
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Pennsylvania
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Hi, a newbie here looking for wisdom or a gentle shove in the direction of the relevant FAQ page.

I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of computer wargames, and my games have piqued the interest of an older relative who I think would be better able to enjoy a table top game. His area of interest is WWII Pacific, so I went to the local game shop and got a copy of Flat Top. I wasn't sure what to get and it was literally the first thing I saw going in the store, so it wasn't until I got it home that I saw "Complexity: 10/10" and "Contains 1200 pieces" and started reading the rule book.

I think we can handle the game mechanics, maybe not quickly or with 100% accuracy, but I realize that I have no idea how to handle the actual physical pieces. So, can somebody run me through the general considerations for setting up a complex game?

A big table is obviously the first step, and I've got one of those.

Should I get an organizer for the pieces, like a tackle box or drawer insert?

Should I photocopy the game forms or use the originals or print the .pdf alternatives people post on this site?

Should I tape down the map?

How many hours can I expect to put into playing a complete scenario?

Is there a way to put away an unfinished game between sessions?

Was this a big mistake?

Thanks
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Jeff
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Skepticist wrote:

Should I get an organizer for the pieces, like a tackle box or drawer insert?


Yeah, I would recommend you pick up a couple of counter trays. Most game stores, both online and local, sell them for about 2 bucks each.

Skepticist wrote:

Should I photocopy the game forms or use the originals or print the .pdf alternatives people post on this site?


I'm not sure exactly what this involves, but unless you have to write on it or something, the originals should be fine.

Skepticist wrote:

Should I tape down the map?


That's probably not good for the map, and it might not keep it flat, either. Most wargamers end up buying a couple pieces of plexiglass to put over their games. For a cheaper alternative, you can use the clear plastic part of a poster frame just as well.

Skepticist wrote:

How many hours can I expect to put into playing a complete scenario?


I don't know enough about the game to say, but the first time will probably take a lot longer as you constantly reference the rules.

Skepticist wrote:

Is there a way to put away an unfinished game between sessions?


Unfortunately, no. I mean, it might be possible, but it would probably take almost as long as the actual playing to note where all the pieces go.

Skepticist wrote:

Was this a big mistake?


Probably not. But if you're overwhelmed, don't give up on wargaming altogether. There are a lot of games that are significantly less complex, and they might serve as a better introduction.

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Hunga Dunga
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Talk about diving off the deep end! surprise

My recommendation would be to keep Flat Top in the closet for a while (games get better with age), and pick up an easier and shorter Pacific Theatre game, like Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945
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Todd Pytel
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Hungadunga wrote:
My recommendation would be to keep Flat Top in the closet for a while (games get better with age), and pick up an easier and shorter Pacific Theatre game, like Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945

I'd recommend the same game, except that it's no longer in print and getting pretty expensive secondhand. Unfortunately, the War in the Pacific is one of the harder conflicts to game well, precisely because of all the difficulties of carrier warfare and the incredible importance of that to the outcomes in the theater. Perhaps a moldy oldy like Midway would be a good, cheap place to start? I'm sure there are other good possibilities as well - I don't have a lot of experience in this area.
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Hunga Dunga
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There's also the current issue of World at War from Strategy and Tactics Press, that comes with an update to the old SPI Solomon Campaign.
 
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John Di Ponio
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Hungadunga wrote:
My recommendation would be to keep Flat Top in the closet for a while (games get better with age), and pick up an easier and shorter Pacific Theatre game, like Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945


I agree with this pick. The rules can be confusing if you read too much into them. Other great games you could handle are both GMT titles: Empire of the Sun and Asia Engulfed.

DO use storage trays and try to lable the compartments...makes organizing and finding troops WAY easier. For large amounts of counters, Black & Decker makes a nice tray storage box that runs about $10-$12 at Home Depot.

NEVER tape the map!! Use thin plexiglass sheets....much easier on the maps! You can also frame the map on a metal backing and hang it...putting the counters on magnetic counter holders....this solves the storage problem and looks nice on the wall.

Another 'storage in between sessions' is to do what I have done in the past....make a table with pullies at the corners and when the session is done....hoist it to the ceiling. It is all in YOUR preference and space avaliable for undisturbed game surfaces!


The length of complex scenarios is tied directly to the complecity of the game! I have had large scale battles in some games last 8 to 10 hours and others last 100+ hours over months. This is not to say that the 100+ hour game is grinding and hard to play....there are just more options and thinking involved (which is what I realy like sometimes).

Is it a mistake? DEFINATELY NOT!!!! If you enjoy computer war games such as those from Battlefront or Matrix Games, you will enjoy hex and counter games!!
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Kent Reuber
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I'm surprised you found a copy of Flat Top--it's been out of print for years. If one or both of you isn't an experienced board wargamer, this probably isn't a good purchase. I'd suggest a game like Pacific Victory. It's a block game with only about 10 pages of rules. The rules are online at http://columbiagames.com/ so you can check them out and see if it pleases.
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Gregory Wong
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Skepticist wrote:

Should I get an organizer for the pieces, like a tackle box or drawer insert?

Counter trays are highly recommended. GMT and Chessex sell them. I prefer the ones by GMT, but your mileage may vary. You can also use Plano boxes.

Skepticist wrote:

Should I photocopy the game forms or use the originals or print the .pdf alternatives people post on this site?

That depends. Are you trying to maintain a pristine copy in case you want to sell it later? If so, then use a copy or a PDF. If not, then go ahead and use the game forms. If I recall, they come on pads, so you have multiple copies. If you play this game often enough that you look like you're going to run out, then make copies or use a PDF.

Skepticist wrote:

Should I tape down the map?

For Flat Top? No. I own Flat Top, and if I recall, the map is mounted. You shouldn't need to tape it down. Many wargamers invest in a sheet of plexiglass. You can either get these at Home Depot, Tap Plastics, or you can buy a large poster frame. Lay the plexiglass over the map, and then put your pieces on top of the plexiglass. The initial expense of a sheet of plexiglass might strike you as a bit high, but you can use it for all of your wargames that have unmounted or warping mapboards.

Skepticist wrote:

Is there a way to put away an unfinished game between sessions?


One guy built a "Frankentable" which is a table that he lowers from the ceiling. He can put his unfinished game on that and raise it when not playing. That's pretty excessive. With Flat Top, you should be able to record the positions and status of all of the units and then box the game up.

Skepticist wrote:

Was this a big mistake?

Thanks


Flat Top is not the easiest game for a newbie. The complexity rating of 10 out of 10 is inflated in my opinion, but it's not an introductory game. I'm sure others will chime in with their recommendations. My recommendation is to find someone who has actually played the game before, and hook up with him. Learning from a patient and experienced player will go a long way toward helping you enjoy the experience. If your friend is a newbie, the two of you could hook up with an experienced player as a team. One of you could be in charge of the navy and the other could be in charge of the army, for example. Look for clubs in your area, and post request for players on gaming forums such as Consimworld and here on BGG.

Good luck.
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Chris Montgomery
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If you're both new, put Flat Top away. Too complex for new wargamers.

I'm not sure what types of computer games you've been playing, but if they are WWII related...

... And you want a WWII intro infantry tactics game...

Get TIDE OF IRON... expensive ($80 for base game), but easy, fun to play, and looks great. Or try CONFLICT OF HEROES, which is fun, but its hex-and-counter, not miniatures like Tide of Iron, and a little more complex. Or, for a quick, small game, try ASL Starter Kit 1, if it's still out there to buy. Even more complex, but with fewer pieces.

... If you want a WWII intro operational level game...

Get ROMMEL IN THE DESERT, which is a relatively easy game simulating (you guessed it) the battle between the Brits and the Nazis in N. Africa. Great fun. It's a concealed block game, so you know where the enemy is, but not what forces he has there. If a concealed wargame like that doesn't appeal to you, try A VICTORY LOST if you can find it. Failing that, see what other's have to suggest, since I don't play lots of operational level stuff...

Chris Montgomery
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Bill Lawson
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I say play the game. You have it already and you a had a few good ideas and plenty of tips here for plexiglass and counter trays.I have never played it but I haven't found a wargame yet I couldn't play if I was interested enough.If it becomes to much and it might, put it away and try something else .It will be a great learning experience.
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Mark Luta
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I agree with the minority here: Play Flat Top, if the subject matter interests you! I taught myself to play Third Reich when I was 13, it was my first game and it took a while, but I never thought it was 'too complicated.' If you understand what is being simulated, the rules to a complex wargame tend to make sense (for one so well-designed as Flat Top, in any event.

Personally, I actually have more difficulty with keeping straight the rules for simpler wargames, where the degree of abstraction is such something is simply done one way because that is the rule, yet from a historical simulation standpoint, it could as easily be done another. Where the rules focus heavily on simulation, what should be done is generally clear based on one's knowledge of the campaign. Misapplying some rule in a simpler game often has a huge impact on the game, while missing a rule in a more complex simulation is generally minor in overall effect--just put the mistake down to 'fog or war' or some such, and go on with the campaign!

I think it does a great disservice to tell people a game is 'too complicated' for them. It may be appropriate to warn the game under consideration is a complex historical simulation which assumes a fairly good knowledge of the era being simulated to grasp, but there are many neophytes I have played with who are perfectly capable of starting right in with a game such as Flat Top, Third Reich, Struggle of Nations. And there are many experienced gamers who would probably never be able to understand or play those games well.
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Nick M
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Wow, thanks everyone for the advice, words of support, and suggestions for alternate games.

I'm plunging in. I found craft organizers at Target for six bucks, a little deep for the counters and less than 100% safe against pieces sliding from one compartment to the other while in transit, but now home to the mostly sorted pieces. I even started labeling the compartments with enlarged photocopies of the pieces.

I negotiated a several month lease of the table in the office (also home to my wife's closet), made belligerent diplomatic overtones towards my prospective opponent, and conducted a brief command post exercise by setting up and putting away most of one small scenario.

Most importantly, and only after 30 agonizing minutes of baffled sorting through the box and flipping through the manual, I found the Combat Result Table hidden cleverly on the reverse side of the Base Hit Table.

I'll let you know if anything interesting happens.
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Mark Luta
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Well, just go through a few turns step by step, rules open as you play, and it will all work out fine...At least, for one side!
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