Well, looking back at 2014 (over 60 articles), it seems that this blog saw a lot more action than 2013 (36 articles all told). It probably had something to do with finally being finished with a degree and having more free time this year but I would also say that I got a bit deeper with my gaming experiences too. Up until this year, I’d kept the gaming scale down to short (a few hours of play time) platoon/company level (Lock ‘n Load, World at War, etc.) games with brief forays into brigade-level (Dawn’s Early Light) affairs. With my purchase of Victory Games’ The Korean War in early summer, that all changed for me.
The Korean War was really a turning point in my own gaming experience. It was the first really large-scale operational game that I had ever played and which covered an entire year of a war. I wasn’t sure how I would make the jump to this scale and scope and I was concerned that it would be too complicated. Fortunately, the learning scenarios in the game were terrific and the number of interesting decisions (just enough to make the game cool, not so many to be overwhelming) really drew me in. From there, it was a no-brainer that I had to finally sit down and play Gulf Strike, another VG game that was operational, although a bit more complex. From that point, it was all downhill to Vietnam: 1965 to 1975, where I finally reached my Waterloo after a year of game time and called it quits (I still intend to return to it some day).
I think the most important thing I’ve learned this year is to just keep putting things on the table and see what sticks despite the intimidation factor of any given game due to complexity, length of time required for play, or just the size of the map. By playing these “larger” games, I also got a new appreciation of my smaller-scale games and how nice it was to have something that could be played in a single evening session without the need for book-keeping or notes. To say my gaming habits and preferences have changed radically is not really true – but it would be fair to say that they’re becoming more diverse…even though I still haven’t brought myself to step outside the confines of modern conflict. Maybe I’ll try that next year and see how it goes.
Since it’s the end of the year then, I guess it’s fashionable to make lists. So here (in somewhat hierarchical order from good to great) are what I consider my top 5 articles from this year followed by a brief reason why they’re on there:
I don’t write many reviews but when I do, I try to be detached. Not this one. I had a long personal history with the roleplaying game, Twilight:2000, and I was cutting it no slack here as I played through it and found some ridiculous and hilarious results during the course of the game. Was I disappointed? Yeah, man. This was my teenage years at stake. After getting slightly inebriated, however, the game took me right back to the late 1980s, surrounded by high school friends on a Friday night while eating pizza and complaining about how bad the last episode of Miami Vice sucked. It was a bit like watching the movie Starship Troopers, where all you could think about for the first thirty minutes was how bad the movie was – only to realize in the last half that something wonderful is happening.
I tried…I really tried here. I dove into this campaign at a really busy time in my life. Work was exploding and I had conferences to attend overseas along with a big side project that was getting off the ground. Still, this thing sat in my game room for weeks on end as I scurried back and forth reading the rulebook on the couch and then going into the game room and moving a piece or two. Still, I sort of somehow got to the point where I could see the decisions I had made piling up and this beautiful epic narrative start to unfold before my eyes. You don’t really play Victory Games’ Vietnam…you experience it.
Gulf Strike was one of those games that sat in my gaming closet for about a year before I dared to bring it out on the table. I’d read about. I’d scanned and skimmed the rulebook. I stared at the box. Finally, I just went with it, trusting Mark Herman not to lead me astray. He did not and I found GS to be one of the best games I’ve ever played. I loved the reaction system and the way that detection works along with the overall scenario design. It doesn’t drag on and on. Decisions are made and the rules are fluid enough to handle whatever you want to do without getting bogged down in minutiae. It took a while to get the system down in my head but once you get it, you can start to appreciate the beauty of it.
I need to give a shout-out here to Mark Walker, who brought a narrative to his World at War games through “The Untold Stories” and then took things a bit further with the dual campaigns of “Counterattack”. There’s a real mystery unfolding in the pages of Counterattack and some very solid scenario design. I always felt CA never really got the love it deserved and that’s too bad. The WaW system had some new life breathed into it and Counterattack helped to keep things fresh and interesting for people who had been following the series from the start.
This was the year I fell in love with Victory Games and operational-level gaming and big campaigns. This was the game that started it all. I can’t say enough good things about The Korean War. It was based on a conflict I really knew nothing about and hadn’t really been that interested in before playing this game. The rules are easy to understand and the decisions are really interesting. The combat and movement system are like nothing I had ever seen before and the idea of activations, world tension levels, intervention, and commitment are handled so nicely that it’s a real joy to play – even for someone relatively new to wargames. If you haven’t checked this game out, I really recommend doing so. I think you’ll find it’s well worth the trouble of tracking down an older copy. I would put it on my shortlist of things to bring if stranded on a desert island.
Thanks very much for reading and I hope you have a great holiday and prosperous new year!
All the best in the new year.