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Subject: Grade School Wargame Inspirations and Modifications? rss

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Eric Walters
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Chesterfield
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"...the art of manoeuvering armies...an art which none may master by the light of nature. but to which, if he is to attain success, a man must serve a long apprenticeship." -- G.F.R. Henderson
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When I attended Colonel Zadok Magruder High School and joined the Strategic Games Club, I found quite a few "homebrewed" modifications to existing wargames--and some new flavors as well. Possibly you had the same experience in grade school (and maybe even college!). Here were a few favorites:

-- Nuclear Destruction. If I recall correctly, Nuclear Destruction was heavily modified to allow for many players. We used maps of medieval Europe, of the Pacific, and other geographical places that I can't remember. Everybody got population, factories, ICBMs (could take out a factory point or a population point anywhere on the map), IRBMs (could take out same but only in a limited area (region) on the map), and ABMs (could intercept ICBMs and IRBMs before they struck. Diplomacy was a very big deal. We'd do a move a week--you'd write orders (how many more factories, ABMs, IRBMs, and ICBMs you'd build and whom you'd launch missiles against). These would be submitted to the Game Master on Friday, with results (to include very intricate and colorful CERTIFICATES OF DEATH to those countries that were "nuked," losing all their population) provided to the players on Monday.

-- The Pretzel Wars I and II. This was my own invention and I GM'ed it for two years. These were area movement strategic games with 13 players on a notional planet loosely replicating war from just before WW I to the modern day. R&D/technology investments were just as important as building factories, armies, and fleets (and eventually dreadnoughts, dirigibles, aircraft, aircraft carriers, amphibious transports and the like). Pretzel War I ran a full academic year (my junior year) with Pretzel War II running yet another year (my senior year). I also published a "newspaper" with player-written accounts with each weekly move as a form of diplomacy. In college I tried to create a hex-and-counter PBM game based on the Pretzel War world, entitled GREY DAWN, but I couldn't keep it up with all my studies.

-- The Greece Wars. This was inspired by the Pretzel Wars and involved the city states in ancient Greece. I don't remember much about the game except that I was Euboea and liked to draw diagrams of my triremes.

Other clubs that I knew played modified variants of Diplomacy and Machiavelli.

What home-brewed games did you play, what were they based on, and what did you like about them?
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Pete Belli
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One of my high school history teachers created a Middle East diplomacy game for the class. I got stuck playing the terrorist faction and still carry the emotional scars.

He was a tough Marine and an outstanding teacher.

The map was displayed on an overhead projector (That ancient technology dates me, doesn't it!) and our teacher sketched the "moves" with a grease pencil.
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Robert Wesley
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"Grade School", for myself, seemed more along up to include 'Elementary', or 'Grammar' level with its connotation. We did begin to play 'Diplomacy' even then, yet only with our neighbors as between our 2 families then there were enough as 7. Still, while nothing more beyond that ever emanated further past the basic configuration with it at the time. Before this even during the height of its T V show, for "The Rat Patrol", then my Dad with us boys built a plywood-board version of Hit the Beach That was constructed through a couple of model kits for theirs, and with "Anzio Beachhead" from Aurora, I do believe. The most fun of it all was building the kits, so, there that "were".
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Plastic Army Men behind pole and weaved branch stockades being assaulted by rocks and crude slingshots fired from Army Man Eye Level.

Second, kids organized in small units running around the neighbourhood for hours with toy guns hunting and "shooting" each other.

Third, the building of cheap model warships and destroying them with all manner of projectiles.
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Ben Delp
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A gift from my parents of one of those big National Geographic wall maps inspired "The Game". A random die roll determined your starting country. Population based upon the number of cities listed on the map translated into production points. Units were simply Land, Sea, and air, but had "AA" (best) to "C" (worst) ratings. Better units cost more, but the "AA" units were only available to certain countries. Spaces were the countries themselves; sea areas were the rectangles produced by longitude and lattitude lines on the map. Re playing, we only got as far as the country selection. The game petered out shortly thereafter, as most of us drew small third world countries (I had Nigeria, 15 cities), but one guy drew Australia (considerably more than that). It would seem the one principle we overlooked was game balance.

I think that was 8th grade. Maybe 7th.

Does that mean I'm a game designer?
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Wendell
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When I was in fourth-fifth grades I played a LOT of marbles. I'd even win marbles from other kids on the playground at lunch.

I also used my marbles to play a game which come to think of it, was kind of a wargame. I'd set up two parallel lines of the same number, using some distinctive larger marbles in the center. I don't precisely remember my "rules" but much of the action involved getting behind the enemy line to release your guys that had been taken prisoner earlier.

Also had a marble-based soccer game at the same time.
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Ocean Druen
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The first "big" game that I ever played was Axis and Allies in 6th grade. My friends and I created additional levels to the tech trees, I don't remember them all but we eventually had flying battleships and aircraft carriers.
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Jose Dias
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Little plastic soldiers.

Tanks, cannons, ruins, and fortifications made of LEGO.

And glass marbles to create havoc and destruction.

Those were the days

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Alfred Wallace
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During the first Gulf War, the thing to do at my middle school was to draw up some grandiose top-down battle scene on a piece of paper, put it on the floor on some carpet, and take turns dropping pens ("bombs") on the targets. Kind of a combination wargame-dexterity game.
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Zhe Leng
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I didn't have that talent but one of my friend is truely a genius of boardgame designing. We didn't have the concept of a boardgame back in 1980s and 1990s in China. They are called "chesses" in general. He designed most of his games during elementry school and junior high school.

The first game he desgined is loosely based on the "Three Musketeers". It is somehow similar to an advanture game, like "the lord of the rings: the advanture game". You have quests to complete and can buy some "chicken thigh" or "big chicken thigh" to heal your character between quests. Each quest has its own map and goal. I remember the first one is to break through a city gate or something. And later ones have someting like rescue the princess, storm the barrack and eventrully, of course, duel with the evil Cardinal. Very interesting and hilarious one. Use 1d6 to determine the combat result (well, it was common, but at that time we didn't know any of the games use that).

Later, as we got familiar with the fantastic war game on Family Computer called "The romance of three kindoms: the continent of the overlord" (not sure whether that's the exact name in English), he started to design strategic level war game. The first game is a inmitation of that console game of course. But later developed into the WWII themed strategic level war gamee. There are several of them.

The one I remember best is his 2nd or 3rd edition. "Official name" is the "Bumper Car World War". So in this game, everyone controls a nation and fight each other. He used the blocks from a chinese military chess game similar to Stratego as the army block. A block can "bump" (or in more wargameish words "force retreat") other army blocks for certain distance based on the combat result. If the "bumped" block cannot retreat for that distance because of the border line, natrual barrier or being blocked by another army block, it is eliminated. The map is a world map represented in square grids.

The most funny element of that game is that, the political leader of each nation is treated as a huge cannon. Its fire range is infinite (all others are only 1), but it must retreat for the distance that is between itself and the attacked block. He called it "recoil". So we can see that "Stalin" fired upon a german panzer division near Smolensk and got "recoiled" from Moscow to somewhere like Novgorod. Then "Stalin" will need to move for a few turns to get back to Mascow. Or if the player like, he can fire another shot and fly to Siberia . Very funny game.

He also had a lot of other designs like area move wargames. Too bad that we didn't know anything about real wargames and he gradually gave up his hobby in mid-1990s. But maybe he will have some new ideas after I introduce him to this area after I return to China . I'm really looking forward to that.
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Michael Dorosh
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alfredhw wrote:
During the first Gulf War, the thing to do at my middle school was to draw up some grandiose top-down battle scene on a piece of paper, put it on the floor on some carpet, and take turns dropping pens ("bombs") on the targets. Kind of a combination wargame-dexterity game.


In elementary school we would draw silhouettes of Second World War tanks and infantry in opposing ranks on paper, and then do "battle" by standing a pen on end and balancing it with one finger. The point of the pen would be balanced where the muzzle of a weapon would be. You then drove your finger down hard to the desktop, getting the pen point to trace a trajectory across No Man's Land on the paper, and strike one of the enemy soldiers, which was then scratched out. You alternated back and forth until only one man was left standing to be declared the winner.

I believe this is how George Lucas envisions modern warfare also.
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jay white
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When I was 4 or 5 I started drawing side-view "war pictures", which was more of an interactive game. The ground profile was always different and became increasingly complex as I got older: water, rivers, caves, trees, tall grass, cliffs. Then each side had a certain number of units - jets, bombers, machinegun men, bazooka men, divers (with harpoon guns), commando types (who could climb and dive) with pistols. Then, of course, tanks, and any other kind of vehicle I could draw at the time.

Each side would take turns moving (erase and redraw), and shooting / eliminating the units on the other side. Of course, there was plenty of collateral damage - exploding trees, craters, etc.

Then, when I was about 11, I found a book of contour maps in our basement, and I made a more complex game with actual ranges / rate of movement, etc. Every page of that book was used up. (The maps were of a railroad through the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, so all the battles were hit-and-run type things, or "ambush the convoy", etc. This is probably why tactical WWII scenarios about battles in Norway fascinate me - the terrain and situations are very similar to what I was making up on those maps.)

When I was twelve I saw my first wargames at the comic shop. I was completely enthralled. You could buy a game that already had rules made for you? And little pieces?

Years of solo-playing Ambush and Squad Leader followed.

After university I pulled out those old games that I loved so much, did a little research online about them, and quickly discovered VASL / VASSAL.

That was over fifteen years ago now. Is that possible? Have I been playing online for fifteen years?!?

Writing this out makes me realize how wargaming has actually been a big part of my life almost since the start. Thank goodness there's so many like-minded people to share that enjoyment with!

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