Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bitter Woods and the upgrading dilemma

One aspect of this new "golden age" for wargaming is the plethora of reprints and reissues that have been appearing.

In some cases when a newer edition comes out it's possible to just upgrade some components so it's not too hard of a decision to make. For example the new edition of Columbia's War of 1812 only needs new stickers as a minimum (the rules can be downloaded).

More often, though, the changes are extensive enough to require purchase of a whole new game. Some recent examples include War at Sea, The Russian Campaign, Napoleon, Third Reich, For the People and others.

So the dilemma is, if one already owns an earlier edition, should one lay out the money for the new edition?

On the one hand, if perfectly satisfied with the old version, and most likely to just play the game with friends, and have a limited budget (who doesn't?) there's some reason for not upgrading.

On the other hand, it's likely that, in the larger gaming world, the new edition will become the standard at game conventions, will be the only one that gets supported for rules questions, errata and new variants, and will be the one that new opponents will want to play. So there's ample reason to upgrade.

There's still that budget issue, though. Games are a luxury expense and trying to justify to the significant other that you might want to buy a brand-new copy of a game you already have makes a tough sell even tougher. And even if there's no significant other to consult, there's your little wallet angel to placate. It's easier to justify buying something new than a new copy of an old game, even to yourself. And the new editions usually aren't cheap.

So in some cases, I've decided to pass on the opportunity to upgrade. I don't plan to get the new War at Sea and I dropped out of the Third Reich cycle a while back. While tempted, I didn't get the new EastFront II and its buddy games, even though I really do like the system. But I don't have a likely opponent for that system and if I'm going to play a big block game it'll probably be Europe Engulfed.

Yet I went ahead and bought the new Deluxe edition of Bitter Woods, despite the fact I wasn't actually all that thrilled with the first, Avalon Hill edition.

That 1998 AH version was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed very undeveloped and incomplete, and shortly it became clear why when Avalon Hill was sold. But it was also clear here was a good game there, if it just got the right treatment, so I was willing to give the L2 folks a shot. I wanted to have at least one good solid hex-and-counter grognard-style wargame that was new enough to get new opponents even though my tastes were changing overall in the direction of more block- and figure-based designs.

And the new edition doesn't disappoint. While pricey, in every way it's a big improvement over the AH version. The large counters and larger hexes are a boon for older players like myself. The rules are chock full of great chrome stuff and there are a large number of player aids, too.

Still, there's more coming out than the budget can bear and it's getting more and more important to pick my fights and a lot of otherwise worthy updates and upgrades aren't going to make the cut as time goes on.

My advice to others considering upgrades is to seriously consider what a new eidtion will do for you. If you think it will breathe new life into an old game you play within your established ganing circle or enhance your chances of adding to that cirlce then an upgrade ought to be considered. If you plan to play at game conventions, tournaments or online an upgrade is close to mandatory.

But if the game's been gathering dust on the shelf anyway, then there's porbably no need to buy a new copy.

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