Saturday, March 5, 2011

The End of "Monster" Wargames?

Depending on what definition you use, I am not a so-called "grognard". I like serious games and simulations and I make no difference whether their format is a flashy immersive first/third person 3D environment or an older, turn and hexes counters on a map. However, I reckon I missed all the fun of what many have called the golden age of board-based war gaming. In other words, I have no traditional war gaming pedigree and thus I am no grognard if I measure my qualifications against that experience.

That's why I like to read and listen to those who have that experience.

One of the fellows I follow is Michael Peck, who writes for the Training and Simulation Journal. He obviously likes the computer war game format, but I suspect he has the board game experience too. In the latest print issue, he reviewed Gary Grigsby's War in the East. The byline of the review is that War in the East is among the last of monster war games.  It is a positive review, but the doomsday tone is everywhere.
For 30 years, legendary designer Gary Grigsby has been churning out classic war games with Jurassic interfaces. WITE at least progresses to the Neardenthal stage, but in a Darwinian world where e-mail is dismissed as too slow and people have the attention spans of fruit flies, this kind of intensive simulation falls somewhere between anachronistic and intimidating.
There may be a sequel to WITE, perhaps on the Western Front. But his branch of gaming, this style of gaming - one that demands time and commitment yet offers much in return - is fading. Farewell to the monsters, and the giant void they'll leave behind. 
I heard that type of tone many times (war games/flight simulators are dead), yet I hardly can keep pace with the many great offers out there. And I am very picky in what I play! In addition, for what is worth, a quick glance at the official WITE forums at Matrix Games shows a lot of youngsters playing this war game.

Maybe no genre is actually dead or dying. Maybe we are confusing these deaths with the death of long spans of leisure time?



Myk said...

Yeah maybe. I think as I've gotten older and have less leisure time the patience I have for larger games and the investment in time to learn them gets less and less.

On another note though I still think that what makes a monster is not really the depth of the order of battle but inefficiency and lack of scope with the UI. So..the solution lies in better UI design.

Great topic man!

Al said...

I've read Michael Peck before & I guess WitE prompted him to write another in a long list of "wargaming is dying" articles. Huge games like WitE never sparked my interest but I agree with Myk in that I have little time to learn yet another gaming system so I stick with those I already know & concentrate on actually playing. However, I'm glad to see some new people are enjoying WitE. There's a large diversity of wargames out there which, IMO, demonstrates that wargaming is not dying.

Anonymous said...

I have a keen interest in simulations and wargames - yet monstrosities like WITE and even the HPS titles leave me unimpressed - they are essentially only computer moderated 'hex and counter' games with all of the tedious counter pushing and game distorting abstractions imposed by turns/hexes, coupled with silly command spans.

While continuous time, fine granularity engines such as Command Ops/Airborne Assault still have some design/interface problems to work through, I suggest that they are far more suited to the simulation of war - and use the power of computers more thoroughly and effectively than just another "big" turn based hex-grid game, no matter how sophisticated.

JC said...

Thanks for your comments, gents.

Very interesting points of view. I will catch up with you latter.


Anonymous said...

A bit of topic: could you recommend a board wargame (maybe not too overly complex, so that my kids could participate) - hmm, is completely off-topic, apologies.

THX, Koen

JC said...

Hi Koen and sorry for the late response. I actually don't know but a good place to ask around is the forums.