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Gil C. Schmidt was born. Lucky for him and some 416 people, many of who don't seem to know it. Lives in Puerto Rico, which is convenient because he also works from there. Gil writes about dozens of real things (with relish) and dozens of imaginary things (like phantasmagoric pickles), in separate forums. Author of several books and a son, Gil gets in trouble when he's bored. Please head to the egress now.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Wargames

The store sat at the back of a “village mall,” some outré mélange of faux country-style and business rent. You literally walked into it, as the store seemed more an extension of the lobby than an actual store.

The lady in charge—one of the older ladies I bandied words with extensively—had created a store that was part women’s hobby shop, part decoration center and part wargame depot. Needlepoint and crochet kits vied with dried flowers and wicker baskets to create a visual eccentricity that was pleasing.

Up on shelves—sentinels over frippery—stood the wargames. In one of the many indications of coincidence as lubricant of the Universe, I had read about a wargame called Blitzkrieg, an abstract wargame more reminiscent of chess than simulations, pitting Red versus Blue. The next day, while going to visit one of “my ladies,” I saw the game on the high shelf, next to other boxed items of future interest.

I bought Blitzkrieg and jumped without a banzai into wargames. After wading through the rules, I went over the game with Don and we played a few times. In what was to become a defining moment, we discovered that the game essentially became a huge central-front gridlock with a desperate conclusion… so we tweaked the rules. Enter the mind of a game designer.

While others were focusing on the sci-fi randomness of Traveler and the fuzziness of Dungeons & Dragons, I jumped into the premier wargame catalogue of the day: Avalon Hill. Over the years, I bought games as diverse as Kingmaker, Machiavelli, Civilization, Circus Maximus, Alexander, Down with the King, Diplomacy, Third Reich, Storm Over Arnhem, Napoleon, Magic Realm, D-Day and Bismarck (aaaagghh!) The joy was always the same: defining an interesting game, ordering it, reading the rules, playing it once or twice and then tweaking the rules for better gameplay.

I often played alone, the only sad aspect of my love of wargames. I was not one to join a “club” or advertise my interest on scraps of paper pinned to a bulletin board. I explored the game designer’s lot of rules and strategies, seeking a balance between logic, accuracy and mental effort that would make the game more absorbing. Hours would fly by as I played scenarios over and over, trying new tactics and seeking flaws.

I learned to take apart a game’s mechanics and apply simple rules to make it work. I discovered that playability lay in keeping complexity at hand, but simplicity on the board. Naturally, I made up games, simple representations of what a game could be, and in those days before computing power at our fingertips, the games remained in embryo.

I never really pursued game design in any serious way. At most, I created games for neighborhood kids to play, and when I had the chance, introduced them into the world of wargames. It pleases me that some of the games I invented—and the memories of those days and nights playing wargames—are still brought up in conversations.

Avalon Hill is now a faded memory. Most of my collection of wargames is gone. It has been years since I played a wargame of that solitary time. Ever so often I yearn for the chance to play, to match wits across a colorful board, to battle time and again. I read about gamer clubs that revive the old AH titles and I feel the unaccostumed spearing of envy. It’s as if I had gone into mourning some 20 years ago, this extended, seldom interrupted, sadness, an emotional hollow of need that I can’t bring myself to express.

They’re only games, after all.

1 Comments:

Blogger Basket said...

Vous avez un blog très agréable et je l'aime, je vais placer un lien de retour à lui dans un de mon blogs qui égale votre contenu. Il peut prendre quelques jours mais je ferai besure pour poster un nouveau commentaire avec le lien arrière.

Merci pour est un bon blogger.

October 08, 2005 6:03 PM  

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