Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Red Dragon Rising -- breaking from the pack

Magazine wargames are rarely well-regarded compared to their stand-alone peers.

Sometimes this is because they're simply on very obscure topics, although being on obscure topics hasn't hurt standalone games such as Hammer of the Scots, More often the quality is suspect -- compared to standalone products magazine wargames are necessarily much less play tested.

Only a handful of magazine wargames are among the top few hundred rankings on Boardgame Geek, for example -- and the long-time champ among Strategy & Tactics offerings has been Battle For Germany which was published decades ago.

So it's notable that Battle for Germany has been dethroned as the top-ranked magazine wargame by Red Dragon Rising, a game depicting a potential war between the United States and China.

The subject is certainly topical, given the ever-greater heft of China on the world stage, but that seems unlikely to explain RDR's relative popularity. No, the credit seems to lie with its using a variant of the popular War at Sea/Victory in the Pacific game system.

This is borne out with the number of playings RDR has. While not exceptional by BGG standards, the game does have 67 plays logged already, which is far above the typical for magazine wargames. These, if they get played at all, are likely see see numbers such as the ones racked up by recent titles like Barbarossa (10), Cobra (7), First Blood (19), Sea Lords (4) or Civil War in the West (1).

Whether the game represents a serious study of a potential war scenario is hard to say. There are innumerable variables which make this sort of wargame difficult to evaluate anyway, and one could argue that a high degree of abstraction makes as much sense as getting down into detailed weeds that may not be valid anyway.

But there's a lot to be said for using a fun game system like WAS/VITP is you want your what-if game to actually be played. On that ground it appears that RDR may be the most successful magazine wargame to be published in years.

1 comment:

  1. I disagree that Hammer of the Scots has an obscure topic. I'm pretty sure that Jerry Taylor cited Braveheart as an influence.