« Project Orion at the Guggenheim, teaser | Main | It's about time »

March 05, 2007

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Scott Raun

There is a social aspect of table-top gaming that computer gaming doesn't have. And I miss it. I still get to play Advanced Civilization once or twice a year - mostly because I organize it, usually on a holiday Monday or its corresponding Sunday.

I think that table-top gaming is going to have a resurgence of popularity in another 10-20 years. The thing that has been killing it in my circle of friends is time - we all got lives, and we can't reliably get together once a week or twice a month to spend all day playing a game. (That's the other draw of computer games - not only can you pick the number of opponents, you can do it whenever you want to.) However, when we retire! A number of my friends have commented that we should plan on retiring to geographically convenient locations, and having weekly (or several times/week!) gaming sessions. We might not start at Noon and run until Midnight, but we'll probably have the space to leave a game up, and plan on having the same game going several meetings in a row.

Carlos

I come up with three reasons for this type of decline: demographic meltdown, technological obsolescence, or played out creatively. (Some overlap.)

I'm going to play devil's advocate: was tabletop wargaming played out? In terms of game play, how much innovation was there through time? To my outsider's eye, it looks like rapid convergence to a repetitive positional game, buoyed by the historical narrative, the more interesting ones allowing bluffing or role-playing, or having subtle or unusual grids.

(I used to love the Civilization/Sim/Crawford computer strategy games. But resource allocation plus tech trees on an unmotivated map hasn't done it for me in years, despite the advances in eye candy.)

What was the last really influential tabletop wargame? Hm. Harpoon was a miniatures game before it migrated to the computer. Cosmic Encounter is more science fictiony, and of course its spawn are all those trading card games.

It might be... Risk. The high-fructose corn syrup of tabletop wargames. And French.

Doug M.

Scott, the "got lives" aspect has limited explanatory power. A healthy hobby recruits new blood. Yes, 40 year olds have much less time than 20 yos, but then why aren't the 20 yos playing Third Reich?

It does touch on a piece of the answer, which is demographic... tabletop wargamers seem to be disproportionately drawn from the Baby Boom and the first half of Gen X. Born between 1945 and 1970, let's say. Why? I really don't know. But as those 1960s kids got jobs and wives and children, they dropped out, and there were no Carter Babies coming in to replace them.

The possibility of retirement gamers is intriguing. I think we'll find out soon -- like, in the next five or ten years -- as that first wave of Boomer gamers starts retiring. I'm skeptical, but it is a neat idea.

Note that the RPGers would be just a step behind. The 25 year old who was playing the D&D box set in 1977 is now starting his last decade in the workforce. I have a vivid mental image of a bunch of seventyish guys sitting around a table with dice and miniatures; I'm not sure if I'd be delighted or appalled.

More in a bit --


Doug M.

Errol

Steve Jackson commented (in a Con discussion) on the level of complexity (for boardgames) that we find acceptable. Games he happily learnt and enjoyed 20 years ago no longer have an attraction. People in general have a different set of expectations about games and leisure. It's not just that technology has made other ways of playing games possible, but we have different attitudes towards spending our spare time.

Syd Webb

Doug's spot on with his observation that the 'classic' board wargamers are almost all date-of-birth 1970 or older.

When I look at my daughter, her cousins and the 15-35 year olds known to me I see different gaming patterns as alluded to in the passage of mine Doug quoted. Specifically:
- fluffy German games from designers such as Reiner Knizia
- computer games
- collectable card games
- role-playing games.

Doug is spot-on with his observation of the interaction around a board game - how computer Kingmaker can't match the original. But ISTM that if you want to have human interaction in a gaming context then the fluffy games allow that without all players having to grapple with the complexity of a monster game. [In addition it's no fun for most players to be involved in a game that takes 30 hours to play when it's clear after the 5th hour that they're losing.]

One thing that strikes me about the Young People's games is that they are either quick to play or easy to pack away. Grognards like me have games rooms or double garages where our monster games can be left set up until the next Monday night. The Young People don't have the need for such dedicated space for their hobbies.

And firm agreement with Doug's point that CCGs, computer-games and RPGs are different media from hex-games and miniatures - just as books are a different medium from film. But a genre - such as science fiction - can be delivered through either media. ISTM that miniatures, hex-games, CCGs, fluffies and computer wargames are all in a genre of competitive, rules-based mind-games.

[I'm less sure about RPGs. Rules-based mind-games, yes. But competitive like the others?]

Doug M.

"I'm going to play devil's advocate: was tabletop wargaming played out? In terms of game play, how much innovation was there through time? To my outsider's eye, it looks like rapid convergence to a repetitive positional game..."

I don't think so. Yes, there was a sameness to a lot of the games: hex grid, CRT, little cardboard counters. But even that still allowed for a vast amount of chrome; and there were plenty of games exploring play-spaces outside of that realm. Civilization, for instance, combined Risk-like movement of pieces on a board with complicated card trading and highly contingent building of a stack of attributes. Kingmaker had you playing a group of nobles trying to grab a royal heir and push him onto the throne. Republic of Rome required all players to cooperate (or Rome fell, causing everyone to lose). No, I don't think variety was the problem.

Also -- how much variety does a genre really need? Chess? Bridge? Hearts? Backgammon, for goodness' sake. (Here in Armenia, they still play backgammon _without the doubling cube_. Agh.)

Or, to bring it closer to home... computer games have pretty clearly sifted out into a handful of phyla: first person shooters, strategy games, sims. And, frankly, one FPS looks a lot like another to my outsider's eye. But people are still buying and playing them. Perhaps the rapid technological advances are compensating for the lack of equivalent advance in storyline or gameplay... I dunno. But I'm not seeing lack of innovation hurting that medium, or at least not yet.

"What was the last really influential tabletop wargame?"

Is that the right question, though? I don't think the genre is dying because it lacks influential games; I think it lacks influential games because it's dying.

Also, distinguish influential and popular. Settlers of Catan is a very successful game, but it's not really influential outside of its own group of successor games. Other hand, the Velvet Underground... or, in the RPG world, My Life With Master or similar games from the Forge.

"Risk. The high-fructose corn syrup of tabletop wargames."

Heh. But no. Risk is really a board game. It stands in relation to wargames as a lungfish does to the dinosaurs... i.e., sibling to their ancestors, and much more primitive, but still around.


Doug M.

Andrew R.

I think that Doug's spot-on on the generational thing. I'm 30, which puts me a few years younger than Doug and Carlos--growing up, my geek friends tended to RPG's rather than war games (though I was rather late into gaming myself). What formed my notion of fun nerd all day passtime was the RPG, and when, many years in, I encountered people seriously into wargaming, I wasn't really able to get into it because my mental habits had already been formed.

OTOH, my nerd friends in those formative years were citizens of Angleton, TX and then Marines, so I'm not sure how those groups map on to North American culture as a whole.

Noel Maurer

A few of my friends and I went through an RPG phase in the early 1980s, which included an attempt at wargaming. (It never went beyond one abandoned attempt to play World in Flames.)

We kept it a deep dark secret from the rest of our peer group, however, and we abandoned it by age 16. The exception, if you want to call it that, was the Illuminati card game. That game, however, lent itself to the copious use of alcohol and other stupefacients, which does, I believe, put it into a different category than your typical RPG or wargame. It was also so hilariously stupid that you could play it in public with no fear of mockery.

I was under the impression that this was normal: RPG/wargaming is a geeky adolescent pursuit, abandoned once automobiles, sex, and serious academic research become accessible.

I would have thought, therefore, that players of wargames (even back in 1995) were an extremely small subset of the male population of 25-year-olds.

In other words, I'm not sure that this particular genre was ever particularly alive. A comparison with videogames seems strange; sort of like comparing ultimate frisbee to basketball. One is a fringe pursuit that's become fringier, the other was a mainstream thing from its creation and has only become even more prevalent.

Doug, Carlos, is this characterization incorrect? I admit to strong observer bias.

Luke

Hmm.

I'm a few years younger than Andrew, at 22. I was aware of the White Wolf RPGs and stuff. I'll freely admit that the most popular thing--if such a phrase can be used--was Magic the Gathering, rather than any RPG.

At least in the schools I attended in that period--UChicago's grade school, so, the largest collection of ugly smart kids anywhere-Magic superseded Pogs as an absurdly popular fad. Mind, as Noel notes, this isn't exactly the population at large and is a really different trend than video games.

Straddling the nerd-jock divide here, Halo was the most popular activity at Northwestern's frat row during daylight hours, and was only improved with vodka. At the same time, I can think of lots of nerds who were plugged into that. So, yeah, I think Noel's right, at least regarding fringe v. mainstream for wargames.

Luke

Carlos

At least in the northern Midwest, wargaming was a hobby for serious, reasonably presentable, educated young men in the counter-counterculture from about 1960 through maybe 1980. There were hobby shops in the whistlestop college towns, and it wasn't considered any weirder than building model railroads or having a gun collection in one's basement. Eccentric, a little, but not a sign of Comic Book Guy social decay. A college prof at Carleton might invite like-minded students over for a evening of Kingmaker, Dave Brubeck, and w/e/e/d/ Scotch. I gather something similar happened at Northeast colleges.

In terms of subculture appeal, it wasn't geek, nor nerd, but grind. As a result, James Dunnigan is now on CNN regularly.

Still, it's not a coincidence that this region became a seedbed for the development of fantasy role-playing games.

Carlos

Addendum: I'm going to guess that the social niche I described above has been filled by poker. System, strategy, stakes. Beer and pretzels, or blood. More random, less narrative; more players, less stigma.

And poker will ebb in turn, although probably to a higher support level than before. Still, even popular card games can fade away. Who plays whist?

Noel Maurer

Carlos,

I did not realize that. Grind, not geek ... that makes sense. James Dunnigan --- who is not a serious strategic analyst, although some of his "Dirty Little Secrets" books are entertaining --- makes a good test of the hypothesis.

When did the first recognizable modern wargames come out? There seems to be something qualitatively different about trying to accurately simulate history, rather than merely stylize an abstract game. (In other words, Risk and Diplomacy don't seem to me to be wargames.) So when did they appear, and why did they appear then and not, say, in 1870?

Mike R.


I think my personal experiences match up with your thoughts.

I got invited to a war-gaming group from a friend of a friend, and every single one of them was 45+. It was a fun group and you're right that it is nothing like playing over the computer. I had a good time, but eventually I drifted away. Just couldn't make the time commitments, and haven't really missed it, so the mean age of that group went up a decade or so.

I am curious weather the late boomers / early Gen X folk will be playing RPGs and Tabletops at the retirement centers. I've spent time at retirement centers, so put me down in the "delighted" at the idea as I think those places need all the mental stimulation they can get.

I do strongly disagree that Diplomacy is better as play-by-e-mail than as a tabletop game. I just don't see that at all. For me, the social aspect of gaming has always been the most important, and going from room to room talking with people, making deals, begging, cajoling, and then rushing to get the final orders in . . . it just doesn't have the same rush over e-mail that it does in real life. When I played an e-mail game and France backstabbed me after e-mailing me that he wouldn't, I was annoyed. In a face-to-face game when Germany backstabbed me after we had talked long and hard about how we were going to kick Russia's ass, I was _pissed_.

I’ve been meaning to set up a “high stakes” diplomacy game sometime. Everyone has to put in $150 in the pot, and one winner will walk away with $1000 ($50 to the impartial ref). Problem is, I think there might be an unacceptable risk of violence in such a game.

Cheers,
Mike

Mike R.

I think my personal experiences match up with your thoughts.

I got invited to a war-gaming group from a friend of a friend, and every single one of them was 45+. It was a fun group and you're right that it is nothing like playing over the computer. I had a good time, but eventually I drifted away. Just couldn't make the time commitments, and haven't really missed it, so the mean age of that group went up a decade or so.

I am curious weather the late boomers / early Gen X folk will be playing RPGs and Tabletops at the retirement centers. I've spent time at retirement centers, so put me down in the "delighted" at the idea as I think those places need all the mental stimulation they can get.

I do strongly disagree that Diplomacy is better as play-by-e-mail than as a tabletop game. I just don't see that at all. For me, the social aspect of gaming has always been the most important, and going from room to room talking with people, making deals, begging, cajoling, and then rushing to get the final orders in . . . it just doesn't have the same rush over e-mail that it does in real life. When I played an e-mail game and France backstabbed me after e-mailing me that he wouldn't, I was annoyed. In a face-to-face game when Germany backstabbed me after we had talked long and hard about how we were going to kick Russia's ass, I was _pissed_.

I’ve been meaning to set up a “high stakes” diplomacy game sometime. Everyone has to put in $150 in the pot, and one winner will walk away with $1000 ($50 to the impartial ref). Problem is, I think there might be an unacceptable risk of violence in such a game.

Cheers,
Mike

James Bodi

No-one I knew growing up played the board war games. Computer games and D&D were it. There was a weird hybrid called Tanktics that required both a computer (well, a Trash-80) and a board. Anyone else play it?

It wasn't until lawschool that I had a roomie who played Ogre and Axis and Allies It was rumoured that the profs had a group that re-did Waterloo with miniatures, and those guys were in their late 50's even then.

Carlos

Noel, a guy named Charles Roberts can be fairly credited to inventing the modern board wargame, Tactics, in 1952. He sold a few thousand copies mail-order out of his garage in Avalon, Maryland. (This became Avalon Hill, now part of Hasbro.) Tactics II, which introduced the infamous combat results table, and Gettysburg, the first historical board wargame, came out in 1958, although the 1958 version of Gettysburg still had elements of miniatures wargaming.

(Roberts hoped that his wargames would be useful for educating soldiers -- he had wanted to be a professional soldier himself -- but nearly missed the burgeoning hobbyist market.)

There's no reason why board wargames couldn't have been invented in the 1870s -- the original Kriegsspiel was invented in the 1820s -- other than the relatively primitive nature of themed board games of that time. (Picture a Victorian version of the game of Life, or that creepy moralistic version of Chutes and Ladders. They date from that period.) In terms of game play, they were usually race games: first person to the end of a linear track wins! Not much different from Candy Land.

Carlos

Also, I know Doug has read A Farewell to Hexes by Greg Costikyan, but many of you might not have. "Wargaming is not quite extinct, no; but all that remains are the reflex twitches of a still-warm corpse." Mind the ax.

The Pure Product of America: Carlos, why are you so interested in these bizarre games? You've never played them.

Honestly? I don't know. A convergence of interests in simulation and subculture taxonomy, I guess.

Noel Maurer

Thanks again, Carlos.

Aside: I'd forgotten about Ogre. I have vague memories of playing that one quite a lot in junior high school. Boom, kaboom, easy rules, much more fun than chess. For some reason, though, it doesn't classify as "war game" in my brain.

The New York City High School Math Teacher

My exposure to boardgaming and/or RPGing:

Risk - Age 10
Diplomacy - 11
D&D - 11

Then a long dry spell while I worked through adolescence and arrived in University, where, for a social maladapt with nothing better to do on a Friday, there was ambrosia!

I remember getting my directory to Fall campus events, in the July before opening day, and getting all excited because *there* *was* *a* *club* *for* *gamers*. I call many of the people I met there then close friends now. Shout out to my Lake District Homies!

But. I haven't indulged in the hobby since an episode four years ago, and really intensively since 2001, when, coincidentally I moved away from University milieu.

Not that I didn't enjoy gaming - (dude, you can't launch shuttles when you're tractor beamed rule G13.33 - except seeking weapons - oh) - but I enjoyed it more for the social interaction than for the game. Growing up and getting a life meant social interaction in venues that didn't involve cardboard and plastic props, nor the post-game audit of used energy allocation forms (from which the recriminations flowed like whiine.)

I agree, Doug, it's not the same. Starfleet Command is nothing like SFB; Europa Universalis II is nothing like Advanced Civilization. And I have never played computer MPG's. But the time when I could take a Romulan TKR against Pete's Kzin BC and play until sunset in Taipei - that's so over. I'm over thirty. I'm married. I have responsibilities that preclude spending unmetered guy hours with paper product bubbelmeises.

(Every Friday night for 8 freaking years. Dude. Every single Friday night. "Sorry, I can't go to Zinck's at 10. _I'm busy_." *Busy*. Yeesh.)

It'd be nice to have the opportunity once in a while to pick up the old hobby - but really, I'd like to play with my old friends. And they're scattered to the ends of the Earth, like me, and they are also letting the hobby go. And that just... happens.

Sir Francis Burdett

so said Noel: I was under the impression that this was normal: RPG/wargaming is a geeky adolescent pursuit, abandoned once automobiles, sex, and [tedious but necessary matters that sadly often have nothing to do with automobiles and sex] become accessible.


I am quite used to being an outsider

No less than to the "Gaming" community.

But my outsider view maps pretty well onto what Noel described. But perhaps more with of the pointing and the laughing and the biting thrown in.

I have never played a Wargame, I have never played a Role Playing Game. One might mark this down to my almost pathological shyness, but I am not sure if I have even been in the same house where someone was playing a desktop war or role playing game.

But more to the point I do not think growing up I was never in the same neighborhood as someone playing these games.

There was no likelihood of finding any gamers in any elementary or middle school I attended.

“Gaming” was not as widely available a pursuit outside of the middle-class as gamers might think. It was not a hobby that all young people were even exposed to.

Now if you think I might also be making a regional observation, I am not. There were gamers even in Augusta, Georgia, just not in our part of town. Once week I would be bused over to one of the schools across town and attended classes with kids who did play D&D.


Why would gaming and gamers not also be widely distributed outside the confines of the middle class? The materials to play such games are not expensive are they?

Francis "pickrick" Burdett

I've got it!!

an entry level game that could have hooked the southern white working class into gaming


Lester Maddox: The Gathering

Carlos

Frankie, the prices escalated. Gaming supplies in general are expensive, and the pricing structure for supplements can be quite predatory. With board wargames, it was thought that demand was inelastic. Costikyan mentions one outcome in his article, but there are others.

Even after the dust settled, there's still a price differential. Settlers of Catan, perhaps the most famous of those fluffy German games Mr. Webb mentions above, costs three times as much as a basic Monopoly or Scrabble set. The rules are much less complex than Monopoly's, while the game play is much richer, and it's a family favorite in Europe. But it's a yuppie commodity in the States.

While I myself would love to see a trading card game based on Southern politicians -- Doug has seen my Kennedy assassination set -- I'd think that Southern white working class piety would be against games which depended strongly on cards or dice. Why not just put the Devil on the cover with a naked woman?

claudia

"Southern white working class piety"? Hum. D&D has actually done tolerably well in the South -- better than you'd expect, given the economics and geography. (By which I mean that New Yorkers are likely to have more disposable income than Alabamans, and are also likely to be closer to a gaming store.) AFAICT, southerners play D&D at roughly the same rate per capita as their northern cousins.

Very tentative guess: if piety pushes in one direction, the military presence shoves in the other. Anywhere you have a military base, you have a dozen D&D campaigns. (And probably a few of the surviving wargamers, too.)

Carlos, wargames were pricey -- you're right that inelasticity was assumed -- but they weren't /that/ expensive. Especially if you divided the price into the number of hours you got out of them. Third Reich cost about $40 in 1980, but it could keep you and two or three friends busy for many, many evenings. It was cheaper than stamps or model trains.


Doug M.

Doug M.

"from which the recriminations flowed like whiine."

We had names for these. IMS "the recrimination phase" and "the justification phase" were two of them.

Half the fun! "Dude, I had to attack Malta. Was I supposed to let Deutsche Afrika Korp starve so that you could invade Greece?"

"I'm over thirty. I'm married. I have responsibilities that preclude spending unmetered guy hours with paper product bubbelmeises."

Oh sure. Throw a kid or two into the mix and this becomes just impossible, like levitation or time travel.

(Yet one does find time for hobbies. Witness this blog!)


"Every Friday night for 8 freaking years. Dude. Every single Friday night."

It was more like three years for me, but yes.

No regrets.


Doug M.

Martin Wisse

I never had the opportunity to play wargames, or role playing games or anything else: I Was The Only Geek In Town.

Also Netherlands: not that geek friendly until relatively recently, never had the same kind of geek counterculture as the US had, apart from perhaps Amsterdam.

Martin Wisse

I never had the opportunity to play wargames, or role playing games or anything else: I Was The Only Geek In Town.

Also Netherlands: not that geek friendly until relatively recently, never had the same kind of geek counterculture as the US had, apart from perhaps Amsterdam.

Martin Wisse

I never had the opportunity to play wargames, or role playing games or anything else: I Was The Only Geek In Town.

Also Netherlands: not that geek friendly until relatively recently, never had the same kind of geek counterculture as the US had, apart from perhaps Amsterdam.

Doug (not Muir)

Carlos, thanks for the link to the Costikyan essay. I read it last week when I was supposed to be doing other things, and as a business case study and a something poli-sci-like exercise in path dependence, it's pretty darn good.

His argument -- that for boxes & hexes there was SPI and then there was everyone else in the hobby -- fits with my recollection. (I came in through the side door marked Metagaming: I picked up Ogre as a wee lad, played Traveller before I played D&D, and spent many many high school lunch periods gleefully slinging Nuclear War cards around the table. "Draw Skippy and get 25 million!") The overwhelming dominance of one company, and its apparent gutting before it could spawn rivals is a key reason why there weren't Carter babies getting into the hobby in the early '90s.

Costikyan also points out the roccoco complexity of later games. Advanced Squad Leader anyone?

The entry-level games didn't really progress to the hex & CRT things anymore, either. You could go up a little in complexity from kids' games to things like Axis & Allies (and the two other good games in that run, both of whose names escape me, but one was something like Invasion USA and the other was set in Japan), but that didn't really go anywhere. Then early '90s is all card-trading game time, and there's no path from that into the simulations we know and miss.

So those are reasonable hypotheses why the next generation didn't pick it up.

On the other hand, Costikyan clearly wants to cast TSR as the villain, while I can't help but think that if the hobby was that healthy to begin with, the demise of one company should not have been enough to do it in.

Still, my only two hex games to have survived all the moves to date is an unplayed copy of Fire in the East, Europa Game 1 and an equally unplayed TSR reprint of an SPI Waterloo game. Not sure what that says.

Ok, since the people who have read all the way to the end of this comment are clearly my target demographic, anyone here played an Avalon Hill game called Titan? The subtitle is "The Monster Slugathon." It is a fiendishly fractal game; the rules are pretty simple as these things go, but the wheels-within-wheels aspect is devilish.

Doug (not Muir)

Carlos, thanks for the link to the Costikyan essay. I read it last week when I was supposed to be doing other things, and as a business case study and a something poli-sci-like exercise in path dependence, it's pretty darn good.

His argument -- that for boxes & hexes there was SPI and then there was everyone else in the hobby -- fits with my recollection. (I came in through the side door marked Metagaming: I picked up Ogre as a wee lad, played Traveller before I played D&D, and spent many many high school lunch periods gleefully slinging Nuclear War cards around the table. "Draw Skippy and get 25 million!") The overwhelming dominance of one company, and its apparent gutting before it could spawn rivals is a key reason why there weren't Carter babies getting into the hobby in the early '90s.

Costikyan also points out the roccoco complexity of later games. Advanced Squad Leader anyone?

The entry-level games didn't really progress to the hex & CRT things anymore, either. You could go up a little in complexity from kids' games to things like Axis & Allies (and the two other good games in that run, both of whose names escape me, but one was something like Invasion USA and the other was set in Japan), but that didn't really go anywhere. Then early '90s is all card-trading game time, and there's no path from that into the simulations we know and miss.

So those are reasonable hypotheses why the next generation didn't pick it up.

On the other hand, Costikyan clearly wants to cast TSR as the villain, while I can't help but think that if the hobby was that healthy to begin with, the demise of one company should not have been enough to do it in.

Still, my only two hex games to have survived all the moves to date is an unplayed copy of Fire in the East, Europa Game 1 and an equally unplayed TSR reprint of an SPI Waterloo game. Not sure what that says.

Ok, since the people who have read all the way to the end of this comment are clearly my target demographic, anyone here played an Avalon Hill game called Titan? The subtitle is "The Monster Slugathon." It is a fiendishly fractal game; the rules are pretty simple as these things go, but the wheels-within-wheels aspect is devilish.

Graeme

A later article by Costikyan about Grognard Capture gives an explanation for the increasing complexity in rules that lead to Advanced Squad Leader. I'm wondering if a similar sort of excessive fan-service may also have caused the decline in written SF.

I've observed the simultaneous disappearance of the hex game and the tabletop RPG here in Canberra, where the local convention CanCon was one of Australia's biggest in both areas when I arrived in 89. This year, almost everything was miniatures wargames and CCGs. I wonder why the miniatures games survived while the hex games didn't? The collectable aspect?

The New York City Math Teacher

Doug (Not Muir) - yep. Swamp stack in the mountains - oh, you have a dragon in that stack? - Damn, he keeps dropping chum and chaff to survive, and he makes me *fight* them! - FOUND THE TITAN STACK, GUYS!

Old friend Chris tried to apply the Titan rules and map to the surfaces of an icosahedron (which he built). New terrain types (SavannahThe counters had little magnetic stickies. 'Course, it didn't work that well, being twice the size of a medicine ball. Conversation starter for most of a year, though.

Syd Webb

Ok, since the people who have read all the way to the end of this comment are clearly my target demographic, anyone here played an Avalon Hill game called Titan? The subtitle is "The Monster Slugathon." It is a fiendishly fractal game; the rules are pretty simple as these things go, but the wheels-within-wheels aspect is devilish.

There are still gamers in Canberra playing Titan, although these days they're more likely to be playing the German fluffy Powergrid

I burnt out playing Titan in Hobart one evening with a group of gamers back in the late '80s and not getting to the end game until around 7:00 the next morning. Wasn't willing to go through that again.

Carlos

Re the grognard capture article: Curt Schilling owns the rights to Advanced Squad Leader?! They have a special shrine at the Baseball Hall of Fame to his blood-stained red sock. I think there are special pilgrimage buses from Boston. (Sorry, Noel.)

Carlos

Doug Not Muir, I did a bit of Googling, and it seems there's a Java version of Titan called Colossus:

http://colossus.sourceforge.net/

and some links to Titan via this site:

http://www.morgud.com/interests/titan/

Doug Not-Not Muir, you might want to delete some of the repeat posts.

Doug (Not Muir)

Sorry about the extra posts; I got an ambiguous response from the blog the first time.

Thank you Carlos for the Titan links. I think. If the java version is any good, it may take surgery to separate me from the Mac.

NYCMT, I never went that far. Though I did dream up another recruiting tree. It added tigers, so that someone who was so inclined could have a group of lions and tigers and (war)bears. Oh my. It added a fourth basic (Goblins, 4-3), which recruited Crocodiles (7-2) or with three got you a Gorgon in the swamp. Further up, it fiddled with the rules of tower recruiting, such that two Gorgons or two Manticores could recruit a Golen (12-2) in the tower. At the very top, two Gorgons got an Efreet (8-4, flying) in the mountains, two Manticores (4-4, flying, rangestrike) got a Yeti (10-3) in the Tundra. The Colossus was relegated to Tundra only, while in the mountains, two Dragons or two Efreet recruited a Roc (13-3, flying. In the mountains, two Rocs, or in the tundra two Colossi recruit a Storm King (15-3, rangestrike). Some of the other relationships and native terrain were juggled too.

I know, too much time on my hands. It made the whole recruiting tree more symmetrical. On the other hand, we never play-tested it much. On the other other hand, I tend to think it's the asymmetries that are one of Titan's underestimated strengths.

Noel Maurer

Grrrrrr. Evil man, evil evil man.

And updating things, am I scared of the superball, or ultraball, or ballball, or whatever it is that the new guy throws? I am not.

But I appreciate the apology, Carlos, and understand why it needed to be mentioned in context.

Thank God for March Madness.

The New York City High School Math Teacher

Chris is an odd bird. Tops used to sell donuts in an 18x box stenciled to look like a yellow bus.
We were stopped one June afternoon, doing 75 through Indian reservation country just east of Chautauqua, and Chris offered the kind officer a snack:

"Officer, would you like to take a ride on the donut bus?"

That was one long day.
(We were driving to Columbus, Ohio. Home of I cringe Origins. I attended '95, '96, '97, '99, '00.)

Reasons why I stopped attending gaming conventions:
1) the opposite sex
2) A typology of anti-archetypical mature masculinity.
3) Too much of 2 and not enough of 1

Origins used to host a set of informal talks called "The War College" - basically 15 hours of lectures on various militaria topics a day. I went to the first one for the War College seminar, because I was a little fanboy gearhead obsessed with that crap. It's where I met David Glantz, Charles Sharp, and Lester Grau, as well as James Dunnigan and others of a number of lesser lights of the wargaming fandom.

The audience of these lectures had a fascinating composition: you had your Germanophile (let us not say SS-fanboy, oh, let us not) Nazi order of battle geek who was very well acquainted with rosters and battle honors for GD or DR. You had the lugubrious Europa-philes who sat somnolent and dozing, with the most remarkable follicular and olefactory emanation. You had the guy, like me, who signed up to spend time somewhere not doing SFB, and instead hoping to learn something. You had your R.E.Lee worshipper. Then there were the scaly, thin creeps who you couldn't buttonhole, but who asked so many inane questions. And finally, the wargame designers who hid out in the War College to get away from the fans in the dealer rooms.

I credit Glantz and Sharp with giving me a view of competent and scientific-methods based investigative military history. I specifically credit Glantz, who, while limited, is the best institutional historian of the Red Army at war in English. Because he bothered to go through the Russian Defense Ministry Archives, and actually do the backbreaking translation legwork, instead of lapping at Von Mellenthin's hind-arse.

There is so much intellectual sloth in the wargaming pantheon. So much. And as I got older, the wargames made less and less sense, particularly as I learned more real history. One got the impression that it was Punch and Judy manipulation of signifiers, without any real instructive or repertorial content. The scholarly research was much more interesting.

Aside from wargames like A3R, Krieg, WiF, Europa, Russian Front, my interests in gaming went into CCG's (magic, Jyhad) and Dip/Empires In Arms/AdvCiv/Titan/....../SFB. And they were beer and pretzels socialization enablers. Well, I played SFB, and I'm a math teacher, go figure. And now I grade papers, brew beer, and translate ephemera. Guess how I socialize now?

Gaming was a fixture of a life of juvenile leisure. Now I is growed up, and I prefer to spend my leisure doing other things. Mrs. NYCMT said, after we left a July 4 BBQ at Howard's in 2005 (Howard being an old CU gaming chum), "We went to make a party and a BBQ, and a bunch of people went off in the corner and began playing cards."

Instead of socializing and conversing with other people.

So.

Doug (not Muir)

Here's to juvenile leisure!

On the other hand, playing cards is socializing, and in some settings is an important instrument of socialization. For example, the Cajuns I worked with ages ago played a game called piedro (though I never saw it written). They played fast and hard -- whack whack whack went the cards. Figuring it our without ever asking about the rules was a big step in getting acceptance, as a city-bred college boy, in the group.

I think that one thing boardgaming did open up for me very vividly was the contingent nature of history. There are so many different ways things can work out, some of them reducing to pure chance. I think if I had only had history in a school setting, I would not have come to that appreciation as quickly, if at all.

That said, I recognized many of the subspecies you described, back from my own early-to-mid-80s conventiongoing. My own tabletop experience was strongest in RPGs, then in multiplayer games, and only then in hex-based things. Our group wore out copies of Illuminati, Nuclear War and a couple more in that category. We also had enough people that we could get full-complement games of Diplomacy or Civilization going. So there was a social element, even if it was a nearly all-guy thing. Which is not so bad, really, just as long as not all of your social outlets are single-sex.

Any thoughts on intellectual sloth and/or politics will have to await another slot of time to write comments in .

Carbonelle

There is no communication without automation - M. Gorman

I've observed my husband, playing in some MMORPG with this headset thingy on "talking" to the other members of his team. I have to remind teenagers in my "Web Safety" talks about "living with that webcam pix you up loaded forever-and-a-day"

Its only going to get better and cheaper...

Don't you think the time is nearly ripe for one gen. down the road to "rediscover" tabletop wargames, when the virtual table is a reality?

The comments to this entry are closed.