Welcome. This thread can act as a general catch-all for wargames discussion, recommendations, and reflections. It can also be a place to discuss history, conflict simulation, and game design theory. As well, it’s a place to ask for or recommend history books, podcasts, and articles only marginally barbwired into wargaming itself. It can connect to a wide variety of interests, and this thread has room for them. Its main theme, of course, is wargames but more generally the interaction of the hobby with the development of learning and innovation. Enjoy.
A brief personal narrative attends my introduction. I firmly believe in the value of context, particularly when embarking on introspective, wide-ranging conversation. I also believe that wargames and wargaming provide a fertile, broad, and at times deeply personal topic.
I’ve always loved learning. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and easily my favorite thing about board gaming. Because the hobby is so broad, I can learn something new basically any time I want to. But recently I became restless. I was learning arbitrarily, playing solely the inventory of other people’s game collections, hemmed in by other people’s tastes; entertained, but unfulfilled. I had homework to do. Traditionally homework is a chore, but research is awesome if you like what you’re looking up. I got caught up in it, and now, daily, I look forward to getting back to it. It’s a hobby within a hobby.
Last autumn I found my way to Matt Thrower’s column. It sparked a kind of gamer rennaissance in the sense of reviving hybernating interests and enrichment through learning. I’d grown up painting 40k miniatures while listening to Bolt Thrower’s ‘IV Crusade,’ but it never made it to the table. I didn’t have the money, the community, the exposure, or the wherewithal to stick to it. I can’t even explain it, it just sort of happened. A Dark Ages analogy is silly, but now it’s back and well-rested. I am at heart a wargamer, but I didn’t really know that until recently. I’ve come full circle. I’ve learned something I feel like I’ve always known.
When I’m learning, a feedback cycle can occur, and once that momentum is initiated, it’s pretty difficult to slow down again. The boat is in the water. Sekigahara was my ideal introduction to wargames. It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It’s asymmetrical. It’s elegant. It has so many qualities that I was craving, it was basically love at first sight and that’s not exaggeration. But at that point, I was focused on the game itself. What endeared me to it most, and truly what solidified my appreciation for wargame design as a culture, was the several pages of historical context at the back of the rulebook. I wasn’t used to game designers taking that much care in providing any backdrop at all, atmosphere reducing to disappointingly questionable flavor text. The more I looked into the genre, the more I found out about the culture of research and niche appreciations and personal approach and the innovations involved in the development of simulationist mechanics. It was amazing! It transcended intellectual curiosity puzzles and went in a completely different direction and I was enamored.
I’ve bought some other wargames since then, e.g., Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear 2ed (almost entirely because it has the solo expansion and BOY am I glad I did that), but the decision most relevant to the spirit of this thread is also the most recent. Last week I was on the fence about buying Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar. I had been hemming and hawing about exploring the COIN system, the content was interesting and the system has gotten nothing but praise, but still I was shying away from it like some balking horse. Completely unrelatedly, during some down time at work I figured I’d check out Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. What did I find there but an episode called “The Celtic Holocaust” which turned out to cover that exact conflict. I never knew the Romans built forts when they camped, or earthworks to counter height disparaties, or what a 1 pounder was or that it was so dreadfully feared. I learned all kinds of stuff! I ordered the P500 reprint of the game on hour 4 of the podcast.
I’m listening to his series on WW1 now, and it’s stoking my excitement as I look forward to receiving the centenary edition of Richard Borg’s The Great War with PSC Games. I go back and forth between reading about history and reading about wargames, each refining and expanding my search through the other, enriching the immersion that wargames are so surprisingly good at producing. War is a poignant, powerful, arresting subject with lots of conflicting emotions attached to it. That’s also one of the things that appeals to me so much about this branch of the hobby, and likely one of the main reasons I know I’ll never put it down. Fulfillment, introspection, entertainment, and freedom to roam in a truly inexhaustable field of study and play.
I’m sure you’ve encountered things like this in your own life, and have stories to tell about the positive feedback cycle that’s almost impossible to avoid when you get the boat in the water and explore in your own directions.
– Dedicated to Matt Thrower for catalyzing the sea change of how I spend my free time. And to Paul Dean whose willingness to allow us a peek through a dusty window into his youth through his moving, poetic reflections on his formative experiences inspired my desire to write this post at all.
_Edited March 17 to introduce the thread properly. Cheers.