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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Emrich’

CONTRA: “Don’t be afraid of monsters!”

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

by Andreas Ludwig

a discussion on Alan Emrich’s article “The Fall and Rise of Wargaming”


PRO Alan’s article CONTRA

Well, after reading Alan’s article on the issue “what are the positive and negative factors regarding trends and developments in the wargaming/historical conflict simulation business”, I have to admit that – although I agree on the whole with his opinion -, I see some points in a different way.

First of all, the reason why we decided to reprint his article on our homepage was the simple fact that everything which is discussing this hobby and the ways how it can be brought back again into the consciousness of a wider audience is something worth supporting.

Furthermore the fact that this article was published many years ago without losing its importance today is certainly an indicator that the situation the author addressed at his time hasn’t actually changed much – as we can see nowadays, because wargaming as a hobby is still shrinking and is still what Alan used to call an “esoteric hobby“.

So the question actually is: what went wrong over the decades from those glorious days when wargaming was an intellectual challenge with millions of sold games? Or better: are the reasons mentioned by Alan actually those which caused what he calls the “decline of wargaming”?

The consumer – digging his own grave?

Alan observes two main aspects which – in his opinion – are responsible for the current situation: that wargaming is a hobby for a minority and is getting more and more expensive:

Okay, to the outsider, ASL may look somewhat esoteric...

First he states that the customers demanded a different way to purchase their games. In the early days all wargaming companies made their money through direct postal sales until the players wished to buy their games in their local stores instead. This quickly changed the cost factor because the companies were forced to react to the now longer distribution chains which eventually made the games much more expensive for the customer who was buying this stuff and who was the one financing the entire market.

The second reason is the change in the very nature of wargames, because according to Alan everything started with games with a relatively low complexity level, until these gamers wanted more realism and more detail. Since companies are usually acting in accordance to the customers’ wishes (to get their money), they started to produce more detailed and more complicated wargames and this was driven over the edge – in Alans opinion – so that a newbie, someone who never played such a game, is completely lost when reading an extensive rulebook for the first time.

Based on these two main points he now explains why it is necessary to step back in this process to give wargaming a new chance again.

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PRO: “Introductory Wargames to revive the community!!!”

Posted by Denny Koch on May 10, 2010

by Denny Koch

a discussion on Alan Emrich’s article “The Fall and Rise of Wargaming”


PRO Alan’s article
CONTRA

Despite the fact that Alan Emrich wrote his article some years ago, I think it is as relevant today as it was then – perhaps even more, because his predictions have come true by now. Especially video games and PC games, which had an explosive growth since the end of the 90’s, finished the job which was started by colorful and easy-to-play role-playing games in the 80’s: lack of new recruits is more than evident these days.

Generation videogame

If you take a close look at today’s consim scene you can easily recognize that the average age is even higher today than it was when Alan wrote his article (and even then the 28-45 year olds were the largest part of the community), while it doesn’t attract players younger than 22 years. The same people who were active in the consim scene in the early days are growing old together with their hobby, while the attraction for younger gamers is constantly diminishing. In my opinion the strongest rival in this race are attractive, spectacular videogames (for example the Call of Duty and Battlefield series), which offer more action and more of the feeling of being “within the game” than perhaps an ASL scenario – or at least this is what the unexperienced newbie may think when comparing these two. Besides this, videogames are always “introductory” and can be learned within a few minutes to a maximum of one hour by every player, no matter how unexperienced he is.

Call of Duty MW2 is one of the most intense and driving front experiences you can get in a videogame

All we can do is promise that learning a complex consim and working yourself through a monster rulebook is worth all the time and effort – because once you get a grasp on the game system, you’ll get a very deep feeling for tactical and strategical situations – deeper than any videogame can offer.

Learning the circumstances of a historical battle, about the importance of a seemingly unimportant island or hill, the importance of securing supply lines, of morale, of leadership, answering “why didn’t they do this and that” and other “what if”-questions gives very fascinating historical insights into war. This doesn’t mean that games like Call of Duty don’t deliver an “authentic” front feeling, but it’s more of a spectacular, roller-coaster, fast-food type which is intense for a few hours, but forgotten when the next game launches. It doesn’t answer any questions or give deep insights into strategical and tactical decisions and problems.

But what is this promise worth? We will get nothing but a pityful look and a patronizing comment that we could enjoy our dusted counters and pages of tables and ballistic calculations if we want to. But why should today’s youth bother with calculating the combat odds for themselves – software and videogames do this superfluous background work and all these little calculations and all what’s left for the player is the mere gaming experience and fun!

Even if you have the rare lucky moment in finding a young person interested in history who is also after simulation and authenticity and a very accurate presentation of a specific event or combat, you will have problems in fighting your “evil rival”: there is no fight, no era, no battle you won’t find in a PC based simulation. By the way, PC games offer a huge advantage over boardgame based simulations – they almost always include a multiplayer modus over the internet which replaces the face-to-face gaming which was typical for gaming groups in the 90’s.

Even fans of roleplaying games tend to switch over to the Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games which allow them to dive deep into a virtual world without wearing out their fantasy too much and without the need to read heavy rulebooks or to calculate combat effects on tables (the only exception are Live Roleplayers, but this type of RPG cannot be compared to a “boardgame” but more to Gotcha or Reenactment as contrasted to a Wargame).

What was only starting to become evident in the future – as described in Alan’s article -, has grown into a serious threat for the hobby today.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to condemn videogames, especially not realistic tactical shooters: I love to play them myself and we enjoy the cooperative Spec-Ops mode in “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2” or the Conquest mode of “Battlefield Bad Company 2” together with our friends… the point is: today’s youth – tomorrow’s wargamers – simply don’t know of the existence of different kinds of strategical and tactical gameplay, because the wargaming scene, the games, the magazines, the forums, the mailing lists etc. are not present in the eyes of the potential wargamer.

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The Rise and Fall of Wargaming

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on May 10, 2010

by Alan Emrich

PRO HFC-discussion on this article CONTRA

[Author’s note: I wrote this article a couple of years ago and just spruced it up a bit for this magazine (i.e. Fire and Movement 67, 1990). I am happy to say that some trends are improving. On the up side, games like GDW’s Blue May and 2nd Edition A House Divided are back in print again. 3W has produced Modern Naval Battles Card Game and, hopefully, will produce other card games. TSR has also produced some introductory wargames, and S&T is starting to move in a smaller, less complex direction with their games. All of these are good signs. Just to be fair though, on the down side, the prices of all these “introductory” products has continued to rise: GDW’s A House Divided is arount $22, Modern Naval Battles is around $20, an iusse of S&T is now $12.50… Well you get the idea. Even with their increased availability, the pricing is still pretty high for a Jr. High School Student, isn’t it?]


We’ve really managed to do it to ourselves since 1972. We walked down the primrose path of wargaming consumerism willingly enough, nominally “looking forward” while losing our peripheral vision. By doing what was best for us as individual wargamers, buying games with more complexity and sophisticated graphics to meet our maturing tastes in historical simulations, we’ve neglected to remember what is best for wargaming as a whole; for our hobby and the future generations of armchair generals who might come after us.

We’ve forgotten about wargaming’s roots; its very history. And about our personal roots and our personal history in wargaming! It’s a shame that, as a group, and of all people, we should be negligent of the lessons of our own hobby’s history! Because we’ve lost our perspective, because we’ve chosen to ignore or done nothing in reaction to the warning signs, much harm will come to our beloved hobby of wargaming. As if some great conspiracy were afoot, there are none by guilty parties involved. No one is innocent in this, the case of

THE SLOW MURDER OF THE WARGAMING HOBBY

Let’s establish the Historical Foundation. Think back ten, fifteen or twenty years ago when you began in this hobby (as the readership polls indicated that’s when you got started in wargaming). In those “good old” days of yesteryear, wargames were often new, exciting and different. Additionally, they were, if not always good, at least interesting games. They were made by designers for whom that wargamer was a labor of love to design and develop (of course, we complained back then, as we do now, that games never seemed to be developed enough). ‘Mere were a few real diamonds in the rough out there, and most were at bargain basement prices, packaged in envelopes or zip lock bags.

One thing you could count on fifteen years ago was a diversity of subject matter in your wargames. In those days, with a 500 copy print run, companies could (and did) sell out of even the most esoteric games imaginable! Wargame collectors know about all of these wargames from the countless smaller and “one shot” companies. Games like Jerusalem 70 AD, Ancient Conquest, A Mighty Fortress, and most of the “Avalon Hill Classics” would never see the light of day if published in 1987. (In case you haven’t noticed, Avalon Hill has cut back tremendously on the availability of their less popular era and older titles, most of which have gone “out of print”).

In those days, virtually every wargame designer was an “amateur” designer and virtually every wargame company was an “amateur” game company operated out of someone’s garage. We were much closer to the hobby then. Closer to being designers, closer to being writers, closer to the dream of starting up our own small wargame company in our copious spare time.

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Review: Totaler Krieg (DG)

Posted by Denny Koch on May 6, 2010

Game: Totaler Krieg

Publisher: Decision Games
Published in: 1999
Designers: Alan Emrich, Steve “Kos” Kosakowski
Contents: 560 mounted, full color die cut counters; 153 Strategic Option cards; 10 assorted Player Aid sheets; 2 Books (Rules, Examples, Dice of Decision, Scenarios & Notes); 2 two-sided 34″ x 22″ maps; 2 dice d6 & Storage bags
Era: World War II (ETO)

HFC Game-O-Meter: B


Our Rating (1-10):

Graphic Presentation: 8
Rules: 9
Playability: 9
Replay Value:10

Overall Rating: 9

PRO Great rules, very interesting card mechanics, smart politics system, entire PTO, what if-scenarios
CONTRA Boring box design

A massive Russian front

Introduction

“Totaler Krieg!” is a strategic-level consim designed by Alan Emrich. The game is based on the older game Krieg!” (1996) and is an interesting combination of a hex and counter consim with a card-driven mechanic, similar to Empire of the Sun. Politics, air- and naval combat are abstracted in a very elegant fashion. The game is meant to be a ‘panzer pusher’ that means it concentrates on land warfare in the entire European Theatre of War (including North Africa) and therefore it doesn’t have a detailed air and naval sub-game.

Despite the fact that the complexity level is quite high, the game itself is very accessible with a good (‘living’) rulebook. It’s possible to play the Standard Campaign (=the entire World War II), a historical campaign where the Option Cards are played in historical order, and alternative scenarios with communist Germany or czarist Russia. In addition, the game offers scenarios which are ranged from short tournament scenarios to very long and complex scenarios, for example Operation Barbarossa which depicts the war in Russia from 1941-1945.

Graphic Presentation

The game box

Unfortunately, the box design is somewhat boring – in contrast to the well designed map and attractive counter artworks and Option Cards. The card board box is large and functional, printed with some black-and-white-pictures from World War II. I would have preferred a more modern box design, this one looks somewhat retro and distracts from a very modern and very attractive game inside.

The counter artworks are clear and informative

Components

The two large maps are looking great and offer much detail, for example terrain depictions with lots of information (names of rivers, reference locations or small towns). The counters are printed with informative clear symbols and are very well done and the whole concept seems to be well-thought-out by the designers.

The same is true for the other components of the game box, such as the Force Pools and Player Aid Sheets. All important boxes, the turn track and charts are printed on the map, making it possible to play the game without ever making notes on paper or without being forced to remember any past events of the game. This allows a very comfortable and smooth gameplay and the concentration on strategies and the game itself.

Despite the boring box cover design, I really love the graphic presentation of the game.

Rules

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