Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I've mentioned that I play Epic:Armageddon, a table-top wargame using small figures to stand in for army units. It's part of a very broad category of games that try to recreate the experience of war. These range from highly abstract games like go and chess, to the old "hex and counter" games like PanzerBlitz and Squad Leader, to figures on tables games like Epic, to modern computer games like Call to Duty. There are even role-playing and card games that try to capture the strategy and conflict of war.

I got started with "hex and counter" games back around high school. These are games where a map or board of some terrain or actual location are overlaid with a grid of hexes. The players have small cardstock squares to stand in for the units they will play. Games came with a booklet of rules, sometimes small and sometimes as long as a novel. Charts and tables covered conflict resolution, the actual working out of fighting between units. But in my late twenties I fell away from it all.

Thanks to Mark, I got back into all this at the start of the year. We now regularly play Epic, and I've gotten a renewed interest in the old wargames. But I've also gotten into the newer, so-called "German" games, which aren't about conflict or war, but are much friendlier and more social. The games are much smarter and more adult than the usual boxed game like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit, while keeping the friendly, social, "let's play a game" atmosphere.

All of this is to set the stage for this article about "hex and counter" wargaming. It's a bit more pessimistic than I think is called for, but it's a good overview of the old board games.

True, kids today are into the computerised versions, which allow for first-person, immersive, play with realistic graphics standing in for the imagination the old board games required. I think there's room for a hybrid game style that hasn't appeared yet. It may even already be out there; I don't know, as I don't play console or PC games. All I know is Civilisation and Age of Empires. I know that Sid Meier had a PC version of the Battle of Gettysburg, where you directed units across a field and the computer handled the conflict resolution.

Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with old-style wargaming, this article is a good overview.

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