Solitary Soundings

Musings of a solitary gamer. "The advantage of conversation is such that, for want of company, a man had better talk to a post than let his thoughts lie smoking and smothering." (Jeremy Collier) Comments welcome.
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My Wargaming Vacation

United States
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Games are not movies or stories; they're vehicles for creative decision making.
"Desire makes everything blossom; possession makes everything wither and fade." (Marcel Proust)
Have you read my GeekList "Story of My Wargaming Life"? While on vacation these past few weeks, I did my best to extend the story to here and now. Illness and other factors got in the way, but I managed to get a few things done in spite of that. Not nearly as much as I'd have liked, but a few things.

I started out with Lee vs. Grant, a game I had set up when my vacation started (about four weeks ago). It's a very good game, and it plays well solitaire. I found it an interesting gaming experience. In fact, I liked it so much that I went beyond the first basic-game (intro) scenario and played all six. Each one took less than an hour anyway; those scenarios are just lead-ins to the main game. I stopped short of tackling the advanced game, though--not because I was finished, but mainly because I wanted to play other games. I don't expect to get back to Lee vs Grant anytime soon, however. I found it a little abstract--maybe the wrong scale for me. I seem to get the most enjoyment out of tactical-level wargames.

I next learned and played Hornet Leader: Carrier Air Operations. Maybe because I had such high expectations for it, I ended up disappointed. For a game with individual aircraft, pilots with names and character profiles, AA guns, and all, it sure felt abstract to me! I guess it's basically an operational-level game that just happens to have those tactical-looking elements. I probably wouldn't be satisfied with it unless it put me in the cockpit, so to speak. The last air-combat game I played was Mustangs, and I liked it a lot better; I'd play that again. I may give HL:CAO another try, since I invested so much in it, but I can't say I'm excited about it.

Another problem for me with HL:CAO, I think, is that it has some RPG elements--pilots gaining experience, suffering stress, leveling up, and all that. It's an aspect of gaming I've never been able to get into. I resented it in games like Firepower, Gunslinger, Ambush!, and Runebound (Second Edition). It's optional in some of those games, mandatory in others. It just doesn't work for me, though I'm not sure I can articulate why. I suppose it's why I probably won't stick with Magic Realm after having already made some progress in learning that complicated game. I simply do not care about individual characters and their personal stories. Video games like X-COM: UFO Defense didn't hold my interest for long either, before I got fed up with having to equip and manipulate every individual character. It's weird, though: I like manipulating individual warplanes in Mustangs and individual ships in The Ironclads, and I don't mind the individualized leaders and heroes in Lock 'n Load. But when a game zooms in too close to individual soldiers, it's a total turn-off to me. It seems to become more of a personal story and less of a military exercise. I'm only interested in wargames as military exercises. Or as slices of history brought to life on my tabletop.

After HL:CAO, I ended up playing Arnhem. It's a small enough game that I decided to bring it along on my trip to California, where I'd meet up with my old friend Lenny, whom I hadn't seen in about twenty years. He and I got into wargaming together, formed a club together, went to wargaming conventions together ... And I thought he might get a kick out of at least seeing a wargame after all these years. Heck, we might even decide to play this one. So, to prepare for that eventuality, I read the rules and then marked the backs of the unit-counters according to setup position or turn of arrival. After getting that far, I figured I might as well play the game. So I did.

I remembered it being a great game, but I played it only once or twice, in 1979. Now it looked and felt different than I'd remembered. But it was a good game and not too hard to learn, so I figured Lenny might actually play it, and I packed it into my suitcase. As it turned out, I was only able to spend a few hours at Lenny's house. We looked over the game, he showed me his copy of Origins of World War II (which he'd never played and doesn't remember where he got). I mentioned Origins of World War I to him, and he said he'd be more interested in that. I noticed he was into a book on WWI too. It had always been a strong interest of his. I gave him an old Avalon Hill flyer from 1969 (well, it said the prices expired in 1969, anyway). And then I forgot to pick up the Arnhem game when I left, so he owns that now too.

While I liked Arnhem, I wasn't thrilled with it. I believe that, somewhere along the line (maybe in my SL/ASL years), I got strongly pulled toward the tactical end of the spectrum. Nowadays it's rare for me to get excited about any non-tactical wargame. There are exceptions, though. I loved A House Divided every time I played. That leads me to believe I might like The Civil War too: I have it on a shelf, but I've never tried it yet. I also liked The Battle of the Bulge (maybe just because it was my first historical wargame and it brings back memories from forty-odd years ago.

I like Lock 'n Load. I like Mustangs. And I think I like The Ironclads. Land, air, or sea--it's all good as long as it's ultra-tactical without any (or too many) RPG elements. And then it seems I also like some grand-strategy games and certain operational-level games. But I dislike, or am indifferent toward, more of those than I like.

Next on my list, now that my vacation is over, is Ironclads. I left a scenario up on the table when I left for California; and it's ready for me now that I'm back. I found a nice little scenario where two Union ships are making a surprise raid on a disabled Confederate ironclad, and they'll have to run a few shore batteries to get to their target, which can fire its guns and turn, though it can't move otherwise. Should be interesting, and I think it'll play well solitaire.

So, there you have it--what wargaming I was able to fit into my four vacation weeks. Starting tomorrow morning, back to business as usual.
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