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Subject: Case Blue, World in Flames, etc - Seriously? rss

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Kristopher
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Grognards,

I know I've posted before on the subject of Monster Grand Strategy games and my desire to learn them and become a "gronard." Maybe it's my own struggling at the simplest of wargames, or my increasingly short attention span thanks to years of video/computer games and instant gratification as to why I question sometimes.

But I recently came across Case Blue, and have seen World in Flames and other Mega Mega Mega Monsters with thousands of counters, etc.

DO these games seriously actually ever get played? More than once? Or are they simply a novelty of having the entire world domination at your fingertips?

Obviously, games of this sort don't take a weekend to play. But how can you possibly hold an interest in what you are doing in these games? Those that have played them - don't you run into the ultimate problem of micro-managing units versus an overall strategy? Or do games like this simply get played by breaking them down into the individual battles - focusing on Barbarossa or Overlord.

When is too big, too big?

--Larry---
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Warren Bruhn
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Do these games get played? Yes! But playing them generally involves being in an area with enough connected wargamers who are willing to devote a lot of time to this hobby over a long period of time.

World in Flames has been played repeatedly in my area since it was first published in 1985. Case Blue and the rest of the OCS actually does have a hard core following. I've played in some long running games of Empires in Arms, and have read about many more. I know some guys who played The War Between the States, Europa, and several other monster games. There are currently long running games of Empires in Arms, World in Flames, The Devil's Cauldron, and Where Eagles Dare being played out within 60 miles of where I live, along with some OCS games that I'm not tracking. I've even met players who have played Campaign for North Africa and didn't think it was terribly hard to play.

The question is whether the game experience of a long running game, which is really a sort of role playing experience, is worth taking time from family, business, exercise, and other competing hobbies. There is a serious time cost to committing to a big long running game. But playing 8 hours a week at shorter games is also a time commitment. The longer games give a different quality of experience.

How big is too big? Most monster gamers seem to draw the line at Campaign for North Africa. It's not actually that complex. It's just that most players don't want to track all the various kinds of strength points and different kinds of supply and move all that stuff around paper charts or spreadsheets. Too much like real work...

The rules for World in Flames were too much for me. I had to pass on an invitation to play World in Flames because the many generations of the rules, the variety of erata, and the many add-ons to the system just made my head hurt. The way all those rules are laid out didn't help either. It wasn't the size of the map, number of counters, or time commitment that caused me to pass on that experience.
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Severus Snape
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Here are my challenges for playing monster games:

1) Mood swings: I get tired of the historical topic before the game ends. I tend to match history themes with history games, and burnout can occur.

2) Time & Space considerations: These are the practical things that nag at anyone seeking the free time and the physical space for his or her "hobby." When I was younger, still at home, or home on the weekends, we had a pool table that could double as a ping-pong table. There was enough room to set up games like SPI's War in Europe in full. Unless I want to live the rest of my life as a hermit, those days are gone; but if I win the lottery and can buy a huge mansion, those days are back. Sort of.

There are some monsters for which I have the space, and others for which I wish I had the space. As for time, how much time does it take to semi-master the rulebook before one can even begin play? This relates to the next point.

3) Attention span: Have you ever spent so much time on a rulebook that by the time you were done, you were done with the game? And the game had not even started? Sometimes it seems that way. Fatigue is an issue in all my endeavours, and it impacts my attention intentions.

4) Cost: Monster games often mean monster prices. You look at them and you sigh. And you wish you had a real life afterwords, not just one spent wishing you had this game or that game.

5) Patience: You have mentioned the gazillions of counters involved in set-ups. Then there are those totally useless design concepts like those in the aforementioned War in Europe, in War between the States, etc. that have you build your forces from scratch, taking gobs of real time to figure out your economic resources so that you can decided, in WBTS if you want an infantry unit, a cavalry unit, an ironclad a zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

For what it is worth, I have played Fire in the East to completion, and intended to play Scorched Earth as a follow-up. I simplified the air rules to ground support and interdiction, more or less, and went at it. All-in-all, a great experience. I have played scenarios from several other monster games. The experience is mixed.

goo

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Bill Eldard
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Lhowser wrote:
When is too big, too big?


Everyone has his own limits. I think there are at least four factors involved.

1) Time available.

2) Opponent availability

3) Space available

4) Fuss:fun ratio

The last one is directly tied to game complexity and downtime. For many, complexity is fun, and heavy bookkeeping and downtime are unimportant. Forty or more pages of rules is not a problem. For others (like myself), it's key.

My fuss:fun ratio happens to be rather low by wargamer standards. I've been involved in two multiplayer games of War in Europe; once in '76, and again in '07. In neither case was the game played to completion though several of the players had played games of WiE to completion prior and since. In both games, I felt there was too much downtime and was glad when they ended early.
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Bill Lawson
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Eldard wrote:
Lhowser wrote:
When is too big, too big?


Everyone has his own limits. I think there are at least four factors involved.

1) Time available.

2) Opponent availability

3) Space available

4) Fuss:fun ratio



These are definitely the 4 most important factors.

The internet , skype, and vassal have taken care of 2 and 3 for me.
I can always find opponents now days by looking around online. Playing online (vassal) takes care of the space issue. Using skype to talk with the other players increases the fun to fuss ratio and makes it almost as good as being there.
I have played a couple games of Guderian's Blitzkrieg II to completion and one long running game of GBII combined with Case Blue. I have finished an entire game of The Great War in Europe: Deluxe Edition. These are just an example of the monster games I've been able to play online. Monster games are far easier to organize and stick with using the tools available now days (vassal, skype) especially for us guys that are pretty much isolated from near by opponents.
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My schedule rarely permits the enjoyment of monster games and I haven't gotten into the whole Skype, Vassal movement. So I did the next best thing, I married a gal that loves military history and welcomes light to medium war games on a regular basis... devil

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Richard Seeley
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When is too big, too big?

I would say the game "It" would qualify as too big. "It" was a spoof in The General magazine about the ultimate monster game. "It" was all of WW2 fought on a scale of each counter represented one person. I do not recall the map scale but the Astro Dome was where it was going to be played.
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Justin Hoffman
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agrognard wrote:


When is too big, too big?

I would say the game "It" would qualify as too big. "It" was a spoof in The General magazine about the ultimate monster game. "It" was all of WW2 fought on a scale of each counter represented one person. I do not recall the map scale but the Astro Dome was where it was going to be played.


And then they published The Longest Day, so I figures that "spoof" should be considered a preview article instead.


For me, I bought a monster table to leave games set-up. I've had some use out of it but not as much as I would have liked to date because of the rulebook problem mentioned above.

It's not that the rules are too long, or even too complicated at an individual level. It's that, once I've waded through all of it and figured out how some of the more intricate (or inane) rules interact, I'm worn out on the game. Home Before the Leaves Fall was my first really bad case of this. I just couldn't bring myself to set the damned thing up once I got through the rules because I couldn't see the payoff being as great as the work involved getting there.

What I'm trying to do now is to walk through rules using a vassal Cyberboard module , so I can just set up little example problems and see rules "at play" without going through the full set-up. It's not a bad way of doing it.

Now, for "do these games get played...with a live opponent", I can't really say more than Billy does above. He's one of the most passionate advocates of VASSAL+ventrilo/skype and I think he's spot on. I see a lot of posts in various threads around here where people think VASSAL is PBEM only; while that's true for Cyberboard, VASSAL allows you to get a group together and play the game live. You can save a file of the gamestate at any point and pick it up from that point at some later date. THAT, I think, has done more for making monsters viable *games*, not just collectors items. I buy the cardboard because I believe it's the right thing to do even when I know with 99% certainty that I'm going to be playing the game solely using VASSSAL.

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Warren Bruhn
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bentlarsen wrote:


3) Attention span: Have you ever spent so much time on a rulebook that by the time you were done, you were done with the game? And the game had not even started?...

4) Cost: Monster games often mean monster prices. You look at them and you sigh...



3) Then again, learning a dozen new shorter games each year for only a couple of plays each can also be fatiguing. One of my friends decided that his time was better spent learning a system game such as OCS or GTS rather than learning single games such as The Longest Day or Campaign for North Africa. He figured his mental energy expended would have a better payoff if he could then play other games in a series.

4) Cost compared to what other hobbies? Dropping $200 once a year on a monster game doesn't seem like much compared with the following hobbies:
a) horses
b) poker
c) model railroading
d) restoring classic cars
e) wargaming with miniatures

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Oscar Oliver
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Some people does not have time, money, space or brain to play a WiF. It's not pretty, for us that we have, to make fun of them.

...


Ok, before you shot... it's just a joke from the fool.
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Severus Snape
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
bentlarsen wrote:


3) Attention span: Have you ever spent so much time on a rulebook that by the time you were done, you were done with the game? And the game had not even started?...

4) Cost: Monster games often mean monster prices. You look at them and you sigh...



3) Then again, learning a dozen new shorter games each year for only a couple of plays each can also be fatiguing. One of my friends decided that his time was better spent learning a system game such as OCS or GTS rather than learning single games such as The Longest Day or Campaign for North Africa. He figured his mental energy expended would have a better payoff if he could then play other games in a series.

4) Cost compared to what other hobbies? Dropping $200 once a year on a monster game doesn't seem like much compared with the following hobbies:
a) horses
b) poker
c) model railroading
d) restoring classic cars
e) wargaming with miniatures



Warren, you raise good points in number 3. I would like to take a game like Home Before the Leaves Fall (if I could figure out the rules) or Wacht Am Rhein II and play them in full for an extended period of time. It would be reliving the Fire in the East experience of one game for several months.

As to number 4, it is a personal choice as to what one considers too much for anything on which a person spends his or her money. I guess I am starting to creep more closely to God than I am to my wargames, and I wonder, more than sometimes, about the need "ante up" in the game of life outside of games. But this is directed at me, not anyone else.

goo

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Steve Trauth
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Actual play in monster gaming for me for the past decade has normally meant a computer game- which I suppose is relevant in that they can be made bigger than any boardgame.

For example. about a month ago I put together a map for a game on the Atlanta campaign that runs from Rocky Face Ridge to south of Atlanta (which runs north to south at 1377 hexes (of which scale out to 125 yards per hex). It also isn't the largest map in this particular series that I have seen.

The point though is that titles of this sort of scale are comprised of scenarios.

I reckon though that the main point is -like anything they aren't for everyone.
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Lhowser wrote:
When is too big, too big?


For everyone it can be different. My limit is three or four three-hour evening sessions so maybe 12 hours maximum. Do you really want to have the realisation after two hours play that you have made a big mistake and take another eight hours for it to be resolved?
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To Warren's point:

For years, I played all of the subscription gmaes. I played lots of new games every year. After I stopped reviewing them for Fire and Movement and Moves, I played World in Flames.

For the past two decades, I've pretty much played WIFFE as far as wargames go the great majority of time.

Both experiences can be rewarding. I doubt I would have dedicated myself to WIFFE if I hadn't played 100 games or so before then - but WIFFE was my favorite, and I stuck with it.

And yes, it gets played more than once! You ahve to remember that experienced players (of WIFFE, not'general wargame expereicned) will play the game twice as fast as the first few games. I've played about 3 - 5 games/year and many many ofthe smaller scenarios.
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Gordon Reynolds
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Lhowser wrote:
Grognards,

I know I've posted before on the subject of Monster Grand Strategy games and my desire to learn them and become a "gronard." Maybe it's my own struggling at the simplest of wargames, or my increasingly short attention span thanks to years of video/computer games and instant gratification as to why I question sometimes.

But I recently came across Case Blue, and have seen World in Flames and other Mega Mega Mega Monsters with thousands of counters, etc.

DO these games seriously actually ever get played? More than once? Or are they simply a novelty of having the entire world domination at your fingertips?

Obviously, games of this sort don't take a weekend to play. But how can you possibly hold an interest in what you are doing in these games? Those that have played them - don't you run into the ultimate problem of micro-managing units versus an overall strategy? Or do games like this simply get played by breaking them down into the individual battles - focusing on Barbarossa or Overlord.

When is too big, too big?

--Larry---

to each his own.
seriously.
I play what I like to play. There is a market for these games obviously.
Live and let live I say and don't knock what't not for you.
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"Grognard" is a state of mind my young apprentice and not a stamp in a passport, playing a monster doesn't make you a Grognard.

To add to the many voices above, I regularly play WiF and with some experience gamers you could squeeze in a game in an intense week no problems. Its epic but its not just an "experience" game. There are a ton of "game" in there as well with lots of meaningful decisions to be made. The counter density is pretty low for a monster wargame which is an added bonus. I much rather F2F as the games tend to be much much faster.

Its not for everyone, factors mentioned such as time, space, attention span, interest are all limiting factors. Only disagreement here is the cost: I think monsters wargames, for those that are actually interested and playing them, are the best-bang-for-the-dollar you could spend. I think I've got more than 2400 hours out of WiF over the years. I am just getting into OCS, having played Burma and Baltic Gap recently and will be breaking out Enemy at the Gates next in preparation for a full game of Guderian's Blitzkrieg II. Really looking forward to it. I am hoping to get myself a copy of DAK next and then buy a copy of Case Blue.

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usrlocal wrote:
Most monsters have great scenarios that are quite playable in terms of space and time commitments.


I don't see a point to such though - beyond preparing
for the real event. Far better to play a game designed
for that smaller experience, with less effort (and expense)
put into providing the whole monster.

The reason for these is to get the whole feel.
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Warren Bruhn wrote:
Do these games get played? Yes! But playing them generally involves being in an area with enough connected wargamers who are willing to devote a lot of time to this hobby over a long period of time.


A good number of us like to solo as well. Maybe in preference to opposed
play.
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Enrico Viglino
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bentlarsen wrote:
Here are my challenges for playing monster games:

1) Mood swings: I get tired of the historical topic before the game ends. I tend to match history themes with history games, and burnout can occur.




Tell me about it. For me, most big games reach these points
where I want to clean the whole thing up. For good or ill though,
I almost always muddle my way through. And it's not all negative -
often interest returns as I'm playing; something of a wave effect.
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Darrell Hanning
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I'm currently coming to grips with Wacht am Rhein II. The smaller scenarios, in this case, are intended to familiarize the newcomer with the system, before tossing him into the shark-infested waters of the full-blown Ardennes offensive. And it's a good thing, too.

But as something of a contrast to what the OP seems to have for a perspective, I'm beginning to wonder what I need the "smaller" wargames for. After all, I'm in my fifties, and I have nine, other monster games I want to tackle, after WaR. I can easily see each of these taking six months or more on my table - maybe a lot more. It's got to where I'm much more excited about the scope of the monster games, than I am about the smaller wargames. And sticking with a single rules system for months on end certainly has its advantages.
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*looks at watch*
*looka towards Arlington*

He'll be here, sooner or later!!
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DarrellKH wrote:


But as something of a contrast to what the OP seems to have for a perspective, I'm beginning to wonder what I need the "smaller" wargames for. After all, I'm in my fifties, and I have nine, other monster games I want to tackle, after WaR. I can easily see each of these taking six months or more on my table - maybe a lot more. It's got to where I'm much more excited about the scope of the monster games, than I am about the smaller wargames. And sticking with a single rules system for months on end certainly has its advantages.



I definitely question the little games that I'll probably play once
or twice in my life. But, it's nice to have SOME smaller games -
at least to break up the monsters with. Then there's coverage. If you
want to explore different eras at many levels, you really need
to have more than just monsters. Small battles make lousy monster games,
IMO.
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Darrell Hanning
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I'm not so much worried about coverage, or analyzing a given battle from differing levels of operation - not, at least, as some type of systematic approach. I own a lot of tactical games, and have played them off and on, but what gets me energized, anymore, are the games with great scope.

I'm not likely to get rid of anything, and I reserve the right to change my mind, but for now at least, I keep thinking about getting all the big games to the table .And I know which ones, and why I want to play them.

At this point, "smaller" game for me means Trial of Strength.
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For me, the big 'why' involves operational games. Yeah,
I can enjoy them, but they're simply not at the same level
of interest. Especially when I look to WWII. All the same, I'm
finding myself wanting to do more of the OCS stuff. I figure
if anything can get me excited about that scale/time it's these.

But I've got a big problem being excited about just about anything.
It's really tough for me to say that since I'm MORE excited about
other periods/scales, I shan't play much in some. Sometimes I regret
that I'm no longer immortal.
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Warren Bruhn
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DarrellKH wrote:

At this point, "smaller" game for me means Trial of Strength.


My "smaller" games are:
Gunslinger
No Peace Without Spain!
Paths of Glory
Pax Britannica
The Civil War

But I'll play other "smaller" games that my friends want to play.
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