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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:55 pm 
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I've seen a few posts regarding this article at a few different boards out there on the net. I replied to one on the Wargamer.com but those dicussions there can get a little too off track, and it is a serious question, but I also think that guys that do the entire "whoa is the wargaming community" article bit can be a bit off target, as it is almost entirely based upon their perception of what the community is -and it inevitably includes a lot of assumptions and presumptions, some of which can be found in this thread as well.

I should also note that this is probably the most coverage a print only article has gotten in a long time. I do want to post in more depth on this, but really it isn't the sort of thing that just logging in and whipping up a post can do justice to. I am not buying the magazine to read this article, but I can't see how it would be much different than a multitude of other articles out there already have been.

I can say for a fact, that the author would in no way be in a position to comment on some of the things that he has chucked out there - specifically that the HPS/JTS community is dwindling. If I were to ask where this person who wrote this article got their information from, I know that I would not get a credible answer as -as far as I understand it there are no publicly available metrics on this- and in all liklihood it was produced from where the sun doesn't shine (not to put too fine of a point on it).

Now too, it would be a little bit of an oversell to claim that if (and I don't know if 'if' is true or not), the statement is claiming that this is an isolated incident. I know that if you go to large militaria shows, it is a similar refrain - 'need to introduce new interest into the hobby or it will die off (who is me, presumed)'. Or I suppose the same goes for reenactor circles, etc.

What I don't think some of you guys may recognize is the difference of level of interest that you have in this topic (in other words- Ken Burns' documentary was great -probably as good of one as I have ever seen -and I've seen some garbage too ..., but they never discuss the finer points of an OOB, what a regiment or a brigade is, command control or lack of it, who was where - or why etc), that these games cover. Mind you the Tiller games are only approaching the topic at a set scale type as well -grand tactical where a hex = about 125 yards or something like that - different games have different scales - in effect, in the Tiller games you are actually playing a massive version of a table top miniatures game - which is an entirely different animal from a rts, fps, or mmpog. I don't really know that PC Gamer or any print video game magazine is going to really address the business strategy for when to bargain bin something -- but that seems to be what this fellow did here -and I am not sure why unless it was to fill a column space that he was contracted to do.

What I am interested in - is wargaming as a hobby, I would love to see more broader scaled games as well - I think they probably have them in the works - but I can't prove it -and it is just my assumption (or wishful thinking more like :).

I want to point out that, Tiller has started to give out free games (ok, at this point 'game' not 'games' although I was told that there are more in development). I don't exactly know what more that you can do than that (Mius '43)- he has given anyone licence to upload that anywhere they want- talk about it all they want - but it sounds like to some that still isn't enough... I suppose he (Tiller) should just buy a spindle of printable disks, a printer, some cases, and sit outside a Walmart or Target and print out phyisical copies of that game or any others? I don't know - it seems a bit much to ask.

I do think this demo thing will apply to the Civil War Battles series in due course, although it is important to remember that this series is nearing its end. I don't think much time will be spent refining the AI on it -or I am pretty sure that I have read that in here from people who would be in a position to know what the company is doing - and that they want to focus on other series; which if I recall reading material from the last Tillercon, did include the Civil War. Now, granted I wasn't there - but I do recall reading about someone saying Tiller may have mentioned something about a brigade level series ... although someone might have to comb the various TCIII threads, photo albums to confirm that. IIRC it was someone saying that they thing they heard him say that --- so that isn't anything really solid to go on -but I suppose the point is more along the lines of them wanting to put a couple of series behind them and develop some new ideas.

Graphics? Hey, I create my own ... it is a little tough though when you are asking for about 10 pixelated guys in line or column to represent at times, up to 6 or 700 guys in the same formation - so I am not really sure what some people are looking for - me, I would like a more representative image, if possible... it isn't -so I suppose then it is up to each individual artist to come up with an abstraction -- who knows, maybe the 3d look may be a little too oversized ( and I need to stop that right away, as it gets me to thinking --- and I got too much stuff to do - that one just came to me, though...

Anyways, too - I think that in looking at various wargaming magazines, that the issue is -if these wargames are considered wargames, they don't get much coverage in the dedicated magazines to wargaming (such as they are). Is growing the hobby needed? I don't know .... maybe I don't even care- I think I would rather worry about playing what I have. The hobby does require some reading and dedication to wanting to learn a fair amount of detail, otherwise there is nothing at all that would make some people think that it is "interesting" -- that's what the budget-bin versions of Cossacks or whatever are for. These are a different animal.

I agree with Joe and Digglyda (to name 2 that I remember reading), Ernie as well - but the thing is - is that this involved more than just reading, but a commitment to detail. And that is what actually *is* appealing about these games. Not what some guy who needed to fill a column wrote; I seriously doubt that there are any articles that are overly concerned with the business models of other games... or when it is appropriate to budget bin them (otoh too -you do get say regular version of Game A, the bonus deluxe Game A Gold version (where the initial release gets sent to the bin, then oh I don't know ... Game A Field Marshal Final edition ever version (and the last one gets slapped in the bin...), then the Game A ok, final final ever, only available direct thru us version (then all prior sent to the bargain bin), then of course you guessed it, collection of games including the last Game A version ... etc it is in fact a business model, and it is one that since Talonsoft died off Tiller doesn't follow, so how exactly you suggest managing games that don't operate under the bargain bin model is well who knows- but I don't see how it works under the specific circumstances.

Ok, well I wrote a mile more than I firugred I would -and still left room to get to a little history of the wargaming industry - where whoa is me, the sky is falling, we got collectable card games (Magic if you will) taking up all of our shelf space and the distributors just don't want to deal with wargames- so they virtually disappeared from many shops (Hobbytown USA for one) ... the thing is - the hobby didn't die - but it adjusted.

So I suppose in effect, I don't get what the author was on about, I don't give it much credence, and really it has zip to do with actually playing the games; for a long time now I have focussed on a few series -as I really did not seem to think it worthwhile pursuing a million individual titles - - - one picks their spots and just goes with it I think.

:) Sorry for the book.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:28 am 
As a note of interest the current opinion poll question at the AotM's April Mustering thread concerns how our Members first became involved with HPS/JT games. Thus far there have been 15 votes and all are welcome to come and vote if they have a mind to. It should be interesting to see how we all first became interested in this form of online gaming.


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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:25 pm 
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AvalonHill board games created 4 different versions of the WWII German invasion.
They all had the same hexagonal pattern of different terrain maps and similar units, while movement and combat was conducted in similar ways, tending toward more complexity.
I bought them all (and many others) and enjoyed them all against various opponents.
The first one, "Stalingrad," did not consider air power or sea movement, which were added in subsequent versions. (I see no similar HPS company interest or pushes at present to create improved versions of their existing games.)
AvalonHill eventually was bankrupt and sold, I seem to remember. I remember their magazine and the conventions where tournaments were played around the USA.

My board wargaming ended with "World in Flames" which was set up for months at hard core gamers's homes and we would gather, typically 6 or 7 players, to play on weekends for an afternoon. WIF cost about $110 to $125 forty-five years ago. I bought it back when I had a fraction of assets that I now possess.
I still have WIF and the AvalonHill games...boxed up and unplayed for decades.

There is no doubt in mind that there are many thousands of could-be "grognards" out there who unfortunately have not and probably won't discover the ACW Club, HPS, TalonSoft, etc and the convenience and joys of civil war gaming.
The suggestion that older games be sold at steep discounts at appropriate outlets would be a good move. A short page advertising the ACW Club might be put in each game package.
Unfortunately, I see little company interest in improving the existing games with better maps and game mechanics.
The patches tend toward minor improvements and fixing glitches, ignoring pleas for what would seem to be easy to program into the existing games.
An example is my own request that players can assign ammo supply into specific units, similar to assigning artillery bombardments. Heavily fatigued and inferior quality units often automatically devour badly needed supplies while better units stay depleted.
I also regret buying HPS's Franklin Campaign and Mexican American War, because of the maps. I shall buy no more HPS games sight unseen no matter how much interest I have in the battles and campaigns.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 6:14 pm 
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HPS and Matrix probably have a pretty good idea how many of us are out there buying games but like most game companies they don't publish sales figures. The article I reference really didn't say anything about how many people were playing or whether it was increasing or decreasing. But they did point out certain decisions being made by the companies like HPS and Matrix which would have bad long term affects on the availability of new ACW titles.

Specifically the lack of a way for new players unfamiliar with the games to enter the market pretty much dooms us as the current players age. Back in the hay day of board games SPI made sure there were inexpensive magazine games out there to attract new players. Actually the board game industry is still limping along in spite of computers driving them down. S&T magazine still publishes but without a game in the non-subscription copy but at least its out there in Barnes & Nobles.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 6:38 pm 
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I don't really know how much more honest that you expect the company/companies to be with you. They've said time and again that what drives development (in the case of Tiller- Matrix is a different situation -as they are a publishing house for a variety of developers), is the military contracts. If you can get someone involved in the military contracts interested in your pet project, then you seem to have a chance of having it worked on. However, considering the one main contract that I know Tiller has is with the USAF -they tend to be less interested in 19th Century style linear combat systems than the local population here.

You know I don't know most of your ages, but I do know my own -and I remember going into the local grocery store (in Illinois) and blowing my allowance on model sailing ships (after I had already had my fille of building the Revell USS Arizona, and Bismarck models). Pocket books were common everywhere -especially on WWII topics (mostly reprinted memoirs first published in the 50's), dime stores had a fairly large section of models ( I remember a place called Henry's in Geneva IL that had a better selection of models than most hobby shops nowadays). There were a variety of magazines and magazine formatted books that were heavy on the illustrations (I think in the UK they were by Purnell's), also Ballatine's Illustrated History books that sold for a dollar then. German aircraft models came with tail swastikas, as well as ships with actual period flags.

I bought my first wargames in a pharmacy, I also remember stacks of the things at an old toy store that had a castle as a facade (Dispensa's Castle of Toys - I think it was in Oak Brook IL -or close enough to it for govt work).

The point being, I think you guys are probably failing to see the forest for the trees when it comes to military history hobbies - and it has changed in some big ways - and it is not limited to Personal Computer games alone. SPI had more going for it than $10 S&T magazines -it also had all of that other context going for it as well.

To sum up my position I will paraphrase Kevin Costner from Field of Dreams: If they don't read, then they won't come. And they aren't reading -there is no substitute for that. The challenge is actually defining what the hobby is for you, the individual.

Edited: I may have misread the numbers and attributed someone's opinion as a quote. My mistake.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 5:54 pm 
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That is exactly what is worrying me. I just don't think the military plans to fund any simulations of the Civil War. Or, at least I hope they aren't studying the CW to develop tactics for modern war. That would be taking the addage that the military is always preparing to fight the last war to a new extreme. :lol:

What little expositure the general public gets to CW Simulation games are some pretty bad stuff put out by the History Channel on the budget shelves. I just hate to think that the last game engine on tactical simulation of Civil War combat will be locked into the year 2000 for the next century.

Fortunately there are some people out there experimenting in new directions but I can't say they have really pulled off making a new genre of CW games. Games like Scourge of War indicate there is hope but they aren't quite there yet.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:03 pm 
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I have experienced the same result in a baseball simulation game as well (APBA for Windows)-No change in the format, no graphics, no improvements but the company still chargers over $50 for a 16 year old game. The members of the APBA community continue to age (and pass) and the group size dwindles.

I remember a concept (it didn't work back in the early 90's) that postulated that a map of the entire Civil War campaign would be utilized and 2 players would move strategically across the terrain until arriving at specific location, and then a traditional hex game would be created immediately based upon geography and unit battle order, and then fought. (They actually got the game published but you could only fight first Bull Run). The game engine would consider the battle, the results and ramifications and then continue the game in strategic mode that would allow the opponents to complete the entire Civil War and declare a winner.

I think the computing power of today is close to allowing that type of engine. I think of the Empire battle series which comes close to that, including a RTS gaming event of the battles, but they can also be auto fought. I love Rome Total War.

I had always hoped Grisby would redo his old Civil War games (I hated the RTS ALL THE TIME in those games) or even the great Sid Myers would create an Epic version of the time.

The positive is that we have some great games to play and great members of the club to struggle with! History in now told on the History Channel, and most people watch the reality shows and the food networks. Not many historical students left in the US, but there still remains a strong corp of young folks who think.

Think back to when you were in school, how many of your buddies sat down and played war games? Not all that many I bet.

I do agree with Blake 100% that old games should be released not only to the Walmarts, but also to the online Steams and Impulse game engines out there.

BG Elkin
Horse Artillery/3rd Corps/((2nd Cav)/ XVI division
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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:25 pm 
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Quote:
I have experienced the same result in a baseball simulation game as well (APBA for Windows)-No change in the format, no graphics, no improvements but the company still chargers over $50 for a 16 year old game. The members of the APBA community continue to age (and pass) and the group size dwindles.


I used to have a LOT of fun with APBA, first the board game and then, later on, with the computer game. I played it quite a bit and stopped several years ago, as things seemed to get more difficult to get the game to work right.

I played the board game in the mid- 70's to the early '80's. Then the computer game from about the mid-90's to probably around 2001 or so.

Maybe it is time, again??

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:59 pm 
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Ernie, BG Elkin,

Sill playing APBA. I'm a FAR sight younger than Ernie, BG Elkington, no idea for you, but loved rolling those dice as a kid. I've been in a league doing PBEM with APBA for 10 or 12 years now, and really enjoy it. It's simple, to be sure, and would love to have it updated.

Great hobby - it led me here.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 4:26 pm 
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Lot of interesting points you bring up Bill. I would like to hear some more sometime of what Alan Emerich is doing since I have been developing my own CW game in fustration with what is available out there.

As for the Computer it makes many thing possible but also carries its own limitations. OS versions being one. Although it isn't as difficult to do a computer based as it is to do a board game. When you are working with 2D maps most of the software is free. Board games require you to have a publisher able to print the maps and counters you need. But the design of the board game is easier since you can add your game rules with a good word processor not with code.

The problem with board games is you need a face to face opponent unless your have developed your schizophrenia to a fine art. Which I believe I did during the hayday of SPI and Avalon Hill. I was recently reminded of all the problems of trying to play a board game by mail when my brother and I got Three Days at Gettysburg out and tried to figure out a way to finish one turn. Beautiful game with a beautiful simulation of Civil War combat and command control but totally unplayable except face to face or solitare.

Hopefully you are wrong in saying that the AI is the key to our games. In the area of AI especially an AI opponent I don't see major progress. Not because the computers can't do it but because the kind of development software and design time required for AI is far beyond our means. The hex based games are far more complex because of the number of possibilities than chess. Mostly I see the extremes of games like HPS that have an AI that is good enough for doing a scenario demo but useless as a real opponent. Most people who play the HPS AI to much are ruined for email play. The other end are games like Scourge of War that let the AI play most of both sides, usually poorly. Modern war games seem to do better probably due to spinoffs from military simulations.

I do highly recommend you try AGEOD's ACW. It is an excellent strategic simulation. It isn't that hard to play but it is hard to master. Partially due to complexity but also due to lack of documentation so you know what your decisions are doing. But their forum support is good and if you hunt long enough you can find the answers.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:38 am 
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Gentlemen

Interesting thread with lots of good observations. HPS and ACWGC really should try to ride on the back of the ACW Sesquicentennial -even just a minute portion of the interested population would boost customers/members enormously. A stripped down cheap entry level game in mass outlets or through Civil War Roundtables etc could well be helpful. HPS are you listening?

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 11:42 am 
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Back in 2000 I started playing Steel Panthers World at War (SPWAW) and played it for 4 years before I eventually graduated to FoF then "discovered" the ACWGC. I just recently revisited SPWAW Depot who started a club some years back and I discovered that the game is very much alive and well after all these years. They do not advertise as far as I know but they have an active forum and Modding community. Now the game has gone through improvements that were developed by private individuals ( the game code is public I think) so that might be the key to keeping the game fresh.
SPWAW is at least as old as the Battleground games and the graphics are strictly top-down and older than the HPS games. The AI is interesting enough to play but like the HPS and Battleground games, it is basically a PBEM game. In other words, the two games are the same type of turn-based game but SPWAW is thriving and it thrives because the members were able to develop enhancements to the game to keep it new. Unfortunately, we can't do that.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:04 pm 
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sstiles wrote:
Gentlemen

Interesting thread with lots of good observations. HPS and ACWGC really should try to ride on the back of the ACW Sesquicentennial -even just a minute portion of the interested population would boost customers/members enormously. A stripped down cheap entry level game in mass outlets or through Civil War Roundtables etc could well be helpful. HPS are you listening?


What would be fantastic is if JTS did a demo version of the ACW games like they did with the Panzer Campaigns. Just a short little battle with maybe an historical and what if variant to get people introduced to the engine and the period.

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:16 pm 
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SPWAW has a replay feature now but I'm not trying to push that game. If we could come up with a list of features or improvements that Tiller might consider like double- time march, observaton balloons,, etc., what-if campaigns and anything else we might come up with. The health of the game is to JT's benefit

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 Post subject: Re: Civil War Games and the Future of Wargames
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 2:00 pm 
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I was just throwing some things out. I'm sure that other features have been suggested, but dribbling them in one-at-a-time won't grab anyone's attention. what's been done lately is great but its not creating any excitement. We need an "Enhanced Version" which pretty much changes the game.

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