Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

My Number One Gaming Pet Peeve

Hi everyone!  Welcome to Jeffro’s Gaming Blog.

I’m into the sci-fi tactical wargames of the 80’s, and here you’ll find a record of my gaming experiences in addition to my miscellaneous ramblings.

My number one pet peeve about gaming is that many games get read or talked about a whole lot more than they actually get played.  I think this is the hobby’s dirtiest secret… signifying in too many cases a failure on the part of the designers or a just plain bizarre trend in the industry. 

Anyways, this blog is about working against that trend as far as I’m able.  Instead of criticising games from some sort of theoretical standpoint, I just play them and try to describe the overall experience.  You’ll find out about the total playing times for the typical game session.  You’ll hear about any rules arguments that come up.  You’ll hear about the steady fumbling process of me and my friends as we master the strategies and tactics of the games we play.  In short, you’ll hear about how we overcame the obstacles that prevented so many other people from actually playing these things!  You’ll hear in detail what’s so enjoyable (or frustrating!) about these things and what it’s really like. 

In case you’re just picking up on reading this blog, let me give you a brief summary of my discoveries.

1) Steve Jackson’s Ogre is one of the greatest wargames ever made.  It is easy to learn, quick to set up and play, and there’s a great deal of tactical variety that’s packed into this elegant little package.  This is a great game… and a perfect “first wargame.”  Playing time… usually less than an hour.  Sometimes less than a half hour.

2) Car Wars 5th edition is an attempt to make the Original Car Wars into something as quick and as playable as Ogre was.  It is fairly successful and a lot of fun, but there is no design system available for it– and that was half the fun of the original.  The big “turning keys” that come with it are great for playing at Hot Wheels scales, but playing at that size is a little more cumbersome to me.  Depending on your table, your arena may be a little cramped and road dueling may be impossible.  Playing time… usually between 1 and 2 hours.

3) I’ve recently found someone to play the classic Car Wars Compendium (second edition) game.  We’ve had a few ‘monster’ sessions so far.  The game is so flexible and well supported, you can do something completely different every time you play.  The game is of course optimized for cars and trucks… and the realism/playablity/fun seems to break down when you try to bring the focus down to the pedestrian level a little more or up to the larger military vehicles.  If you have a friend that’s really “into it”, Car Wars can be an incredible amount of fun.  Playing time… generally 2 or 3 hours.  A good monster game of several vehicles to a side can take between 6 and 10 hours and is well worth the investment.  Crazy things happen in this game… it’s always entertaining.

4) Star Fleet Battles has a higher learning curve… but one-on-one duels have a lot more tactical variety.  The price, of course, is more rules to learn and longer playing times.  I’ve wanted to master the basic tactics of this game, but just don’t get it, yet.  The Tactics manual is helpful– as is the descriptions of the Origins tournaments in Captain’s Log– but I can’t seem to find anyone that’s willing to blow my ships away until I get the hang of it.  Currently I’ve decided to put on hold my desires of mastering the Klingon, Kzinti, Gorn, and Romulan tactics… and will play the Federation from now on until I figure things out.  Playing time… at least 2 hours.  (And I dare not try the fleet battles yet!)

5) I played some Battletech when I was a kid and have considered trying it if I couldn’t find any Car Wars or SFB players in my neighborhood.  It is supported by some excellent software that lets you design your forces and print out the record sheets for them quickly.  If I never get around to playing this game more, it won’t be because I fear the possibility of any excessive preparation time. 

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