Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dunnigan and The Drive On Metz

Charles Roberts may be the founder of modern board wargaming, but no one individual did more to expand the reach of the hobby than James F. Dunnigan. Under his leadership SPI and Strategy & Tactics magazine produced a flood of wargames tat shaped the direction of the hobby for years to come.

From a player's point of view Dunnigan's designs were definitely misses as least as often as they were hits. Dunnigan clearly came down on the realism side of the realism vs. playability debates that raged in the 70s and 80s. Still, some of his games were really quite good.

Dunnigan left active boardgame design for the most part when he left SPI just before its collapse and purchase by TSR. He found a second career as a military analyst and popular author on military affairs. He wasn't completely absent however, returning for a brief stint as editor of S&T at one point and authoring the Wargames Handbook, which is still one of the basic works about the hobby.

In the Wargames Handbook Dunnigan included a sample wargame, Drive on Metz, although not in ready-to-play format. The player would have to photocopy and cut and paste in order to actually play the game from the book. Recently, however, the game has appeared in ready-to-play formats in two venues C3I magazine and as a standalone from Victory Point Games. I recently picked up a copy of the latter edition.

As a writer Dunnigan has a pithy style, so it seems appropriate he's designed a pithy little wargame that makes his design points in the most economical way possible. With a battlefield of just 99 hexes The Drive on Metz is on the small side in the wargame universe, but more notably it includes just eight U.S. pieces and 11 German units.

In many ways the game is standard hex-and-counter wargame, with zones of control, combat and movement factor counters with NATO symbols and a simple IGO-HUGO turn sequence.

Yet clever victory point assignments, an unusual disparity in combat strength between the German and American units, a bloodless CRT and careful terrain design turn a minimalist design into an interesting little contest between quality and quantity. (In this case, the U.S. forces represent the quality and the Germans the quantity.)

The Victory Point Games version adds a few optional units and rules, but leaves the game's nature unchanged.

The Americans have enough power to do anything they want, but too few units to do everything they want. The Germans have the challenge of fighting an economy of force delaying action, trying to minimize U.S. progress while also freeing up some combat power for use elsewhere.


(Yes) For wargamers: A fun little wargame that is good for introducing the hobby to newbies.

(No) For the collector: Not rare

(Yes) For eurogamers: A great sampler of wargaming principles in a tight, inexpensive package.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Target Arnhem, so I'll definitely check this out.