One of the greatest problems with wargames is the perfect knowledge issue. I see the entire battlefield while you also see the entire battlefield. The fog of war is, for the most part, non-existent. Card Driven Games add a new element as you may not know what abilities your opponent has or whether or not he can activate a unit. PC games are able to act as a moderator, a referee of sorts, and give you that blind issue. But still, you are (usually) an omnipotent commander who relays orders.
Lately I’ve been working on a few new games that are pushing my strategy gaming boundaries. Yes, the Decisive Campaigns Barbarossa campaign is done. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I binge played through to the end of the war. I had a few sudden breakthroughs and, well, I kind of ended the war. So I took a brief hiatus, played a few less groggy games, and at the same time beefed up my boardgame collection. Like, seriously beefed it up.
But first, Command.
Rimworld In-Process Review
I’m a sucker for a game where I can lay the groundwork and watch the chaos run. In years past I loved making a stable SimCity and then watching as it slowly grew from one disaster to the next. The pace was nice, it was my pace, I could control the growth, and at some level, the chaos.
Lately I’ve been thinking about wargames. Particularly the design of wargames, not so much layout, but how we actually receive the information from the game. I’ve realized that a great deal of what we deal with today is simply an effort to use the hex-and-counter of the 1970’s and 1960’s. Is this ideal or is it just a relic from when the granularity of the information was relegated to cardboard?
First it’s a matter of scale. At the top end we have a game like Risk that models scale on an almost continental level. Russia for example is one space. The United States is two spaces. Maneuvering of any sort is out of the question, you’re shifting assets on a global scale. Who cares if you can envelop that flank, it’s abstracted in the scale.
My son asked me, “Dad, why do you like to play games with guys in grey jackets fighting guys in brown jackets?”
Which I thought was pretty observant for a 6 six year old. And I really didn’t have much of an answer. So I explained it that he likes to play trains, I like to play wargames. Simple enough I guess, but it kind of stuck with me.
Total War : Warhammer drops you into a realm of magical and martial violence without much of a tutorial on how these units actually fight. That Orc warband should be easy, those undead should die, hell, the little orange bar says so. Then, lo-and-behold you get stomped.
Well we’ve got some options. Lets go over the hows and the whys of using your formations.
2016 Strategy Games
How exactly are Strategy Games doing? How many people are actually playing these games, right now? This very moment? Steamspy and SteamDB both offer us some unique insights. All in all, it’s pretty good. Plus we’ll look at some of last years titles, and then on to the niche of niches, Grognard games! Yes, people actually play them! (Just not many)
We’ll be looking specifically at how many people are actually playing these games every day. For some games we can actually see how many people own them, however other developers have chosen to have this information hidden so it’s not fair to compare as a metric.
All tables come from SteamDB.com which are derived from Steam’s API.
The track is a monstrosity, each section is roughly three foot by three foot, dense MDF, routered lines and copper wires. At each joint is a meticulous melding of wood and slots. I’m staring at the largest slot car racing track I’ve ever seen. Sweat pours off of us as each piece is carefully positioned into a basement. The man overseeing it all, John, is in his early 60’s, a bit plump, and man, he’s really into slot cars.
I’m, well, not. We work side by side for hours but never really seem to click. This guy is into his slot cars, like REALLY into them. So after awhile we talk about the disconnect. Why am I not into them?
Decisive Campaigns : Barbarossa is VRDesigns take on the War in the East. Actually, it’s not, it’s just Barbarossa. That’s a huge distinction we need to get out of the way right now.
This is not War in the East.
This is a different game on the Eastern Front. It models not only the movement of troops and supplies as we’d come to expect but more interestingly it models the political in-fighting and clash of personalities that nearly crippled the German Army in 1941. I recently read Brian Fugate’s book on Barbarossa and I was amazed at how often the Germans almost tantrumed themselves right out of the war. Literally like a bunch of angry school children. There were egos, prejudices, and of course rivalries.
Recently I’ve taken an interest in some board games made by a company called GMT Games. They specialize in niche, almost bespoke, historically accurate boardgames. This isn’t Settlers of Catan or Carcassonne but an attempt to model a conflict or situation in as accurate a way as possible.