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Subject: Musings on the Charles S. Roberts awards rss

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Merric Blackman
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Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
(Originally posted on my blog)

Every year, the "Charles S. Roberts" awards are given to some of the best wargames published in the last year. The 2008 awards were last weekend. (Why are they the 2008 awards when it's 2009? Probably because only games & magazines published in 2008 are eligible).

I don't consider myself a wargamer, but, there's no doubt that I've been playing more and more wargames of late. I blame Randy. Since I'm fairly new to the wargaming scene, my wargames are fairly new as well. I found it somewhat surprising that I own or have played most of the winners for the 2008 awards - and I own more of them than Randy does!


Here's the list of award-winners, along with a few comments on each.

Best Pre-WW2 Board Game: Warriors of God by MMP.

Randy calls me a MMP-nut, or something of that nature, even though I have a goodly number of GMT games. He's probably basing that assessment on my purchase of this game (along with all the ASL supplements...) Warriors of God is one of those glorious games that has quite simple mechanics but plays brilliantly. Even non-wargamers should be able to pick this one up. It's a good introduction to wargames and it's very reasonably priced. (I got mine for AU$50).

Warriors of God goes back to the late middle ages. There are two scenarios in it: the Hundred-Years War between France and England, and the "Lion in Winter" scenario - the campaigns around the time of Henry II (Plantagenet) and his heir Richard Lionheart between the various provinces of France and England.

The game, while simple, is somewhat chaotic with the span of time involved meaning that your leaders die and get replaced - often by inferior ones! There's a modicum of randomness about this: no leader lasts more than six turns, but they can die after only one turn! I think it all balances out, though.

A game lasts about 4 hours. I've played this one twice with Randy, and both were very enjoyable games.

Best World War 2 era Board Game: Conflict of Heroes (Academy games)

Another game that could rightfully be called a good introduction to wargames, Conflict of Heroes has a very attractive bits - thick cardboard, including the maps - and programmed instructions to get you from knowing nothing about the game to using all the rules by the time of the later scenarios. I own this one, along with its "Swamp board" expansion.

Conflict of Heroes is a squad-level game: your pieces are squads fighting in WW2, or tanks, or guns. That sort of thing. It plays very quickly, and the rules are by no means complex - although surprises are added by the use of a deck of special cards.

For me, CoH suffers because it covers the same territory of Advanced Squad Leader and Combat Commander: Europe, both excellent - if more "serious" - games. I enjoy CoH, but with only limited time available, it doesn't come out that often. The one thing it has over CC:E is the use of tanks and other vehicles. I've played it about 5 times with Randy. Games don't take that long - the earlier ones are about 1 hours or so to play. Later, bigger scenarios would take longer, no doubt.

Best Post-WW2 era Board Game: Red Dragon Rising, the Coming War with China (Decision Games).

I hadn't heard of this one before the "Charlies". It was the included game in the magazine Strategy and Tactics #250. As that magazine is OOP, I doubt I'll be able to see this game. Anyway, it's a strategic-level game about China and the US-led alliance going at it in the modern era. (somewhere about 2008-2014).

Best Graphic Design: Conflict of Heroes

I've mentioned this one above, and, yes, the graphic design is fantastic - the bits look good, and they're of great quality.

Best Desktop Published Game: June '44 (DDH Games)

An interesting category; I don't know anything about this game. Small press games have a real problem reaching me. Neither of the suppliers I get wargames from even mentions this one. It's about the Normandy invasions in June 1944.

Best Magazine Game: Iwo Jima, Rage against the Marines (MMP)

I have this one, and it looks a blast! Getting it was actually rather expensive: it was part of MMP's first special issue of their Operations magazine - I think the magazine cost around AUD$50 or more. It included IJ, an ASL historical scenario, plus the magazine. I haven't played it yet, but it looks really interesting.

This is (like Warriors of God, above) is the work of a Japanese designer. The game comes with two maps and a screen. The main map is open and is where all the action takes place. The second map is a smaller copy of the main map and is hidden by the screen - on it, the Japanese player places all their hidden units and caves. It seems like it would be a bloody affair.

Low complexity; I need to play this with Randy one of these days. (Playing time is approx. 3 hours).

Best Professional Game Magazine: C3i magazine (GMT Games)

I've been getting this for the past year or so, and also buying back-issues. If you like GMT games, it's hard to imagine a better magazine. In addition to articles about the games, it regularly includes extra scenarios for the more popular games, including new maps and counters. There's always a SPQR scenario or two (and I love SPQR), and both Command and Colors: Ancients and Combat Commander: Europe are also regularly getting scenarios now. Fantastic value - highly recommended.

(In previous years, the Against the Odds magazine has been a multiple recipient of the award. I'm not familiar with AtO, but I think C3i has improved recently - helped by having C&C:A and CC:E to support as well!)

Best Amateur Game Magazine: Line of Departure (Jim Werbaneth)

Remember what I said about small-press publications? LoD is a quarterly publication. I, alas, don't know anything more about it save it's won the award twice before.

Best Historical/Scenario Article: two winners: Combat Commander: Variant Rules by Chad Jensen and John Foley (C3i magazine), and Flying Colours: Trafalgar Campaign by Mark Barker (C3i magazine).

I've got both the issues these appeared in. FC is a game I don't own, so no comment there. The variant rules for CC are really nice - some have already made it into the battlepacks and the design of CC, so I guess I've been using them. I haven't played CC quite enough to make it worth just deciding to include variant rules yet - I'd like to play all the scenarios I have so far first with the regular rules!

Best Game Review or Analysis Article: two winners: Empire of the Sun Opening Strategy by Mark Herman (C3i magazine), and Top 20 Games - a look back by Steve Carey (C3i magazine).

The Top 20 Games article - looking back at the top 20 GMT games as covered in C3i magazine - was the very first article I read in C3i. (My very first issue, and I love top-N lists). Yes, it covered quite a few games I play. Twilight Struggle was #2. #1? SPQR. Both are games I've played a moderate amount, and expect to play more of in the future.

I've read the EotS article, as I own that game, but it's still somewhat opaque to me as I haven't played EotS yet!

James F. Dunnigan Design Elegance Award: Uwe Eickert. (Eickhart?)

Uwe is the designer of Conflict of Heroes, and it's a brilliantly elegant design. He's a worthy winner. Of course, the fact that he's been kind enough to post on one of my session reports also commends himself to me...

So, there are the CSR awards for this year. Last year. Some year. Whatever. Quite a few of which I own and play. (I've got the sneaking suspicion that Randy currently owns none of them... no issues of C3i, and none of CoH, Warriors of God or Iwo Jima).

Now, I just have to play them more often - our regular wargame sessions have been disrupted of late!
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