Friday, August 21, 2020

Asymmetric Warfare

I'm not sheepish about admitting that I've never been a wargamer. Growing up, I knew a lot of wargamers, like the father and older brother of a childhood friend, but I wasn't one myself. Of course, all the hobby stores I frequented – including chain stores like Toys "R" Us – sold Avalon Hill and SPI bookcase games, but, until I was in high school, I never had much opportunity to play any of them (and, even then, my experiences were quite limited). 

I consider this a serious lacuna in my gaming education. That's why I've long been looking for ways to correct this – and in recent months I have. Last summer, I got back in touch with a couple of friends of mine whom I hadn't seen in years. One of them is fairly experienced wargamer, with a sizable collection of games, both classics of the genre and more recent designs. Recent events in the world have given us all a surprisingly amount of free time and we decided to use some of it wargaming each week.

Naturally, we're not playing these games face-to-face. Instead, we're making use of VASSAL, a virtual tabletop created for wargamers (specifically Advanced Squad Leader). VASSAL has proven surprisingly easy to use, not to mention fun. Based on my friend's recommendation, we began my education with GMT's Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar. Partly this was done because it's a period of history I know a bit about and partly because Falling Sky is an entry in GMT's COIN series, which my friend thought would appeal to me.

COIN is a contraction of counter insurgency and the games in the series are notable for having three or more dissimilar factions in contention with one another. A very good article at another site described them very well: 

COIN can be described as multi-factional guerrilla wargames with a simple area control system that is driven by actions and objectives that are often unique for each faction. Bolted on to this is a card-driven historical event system; the result is simplistic, asymmetrical progression with a historical narrative. With four players the military environment has a political layer of oversight that drives player interaction, sub-optimal decisions, and tense tactical trade-offs. Even your so-called friends can pose a direct threat to your efforts through corruption, cultural patronage, or shady business practices.

I greatly enjoyed both the design of Falling Sky and my experience playing it. As an introduction to the world of contemporary wargame design, it could not have been better (well, maybe if I'd have won!). We'll soon be continuing my education with another COIN game, Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection before, I hope, playing some older games. I have decades' worth of catching up to do.

1 comment:

  1. I have a friend who started getting serious about Warhammer 40k around this time last year. Then, reading some stuff from osr folks getting more into the hobby, I've begun to consider checking out wargames as well. I'd be interested to hear more about what you discover.