For decades when someone said the word "wargames" the images that came to mind were dominated by cardboard counters moving across a hexagon grid. Most purpose-built introductory wargames, from Napoleon at Waterloo, through Drive on Metz to Target: Arnhem feature a hex map, cardboard counters and usually feature "standard" wargame mechanics such as zones of control and CRTs.
But isn't that paradigm pretty much played out at this point?
The appearance and excitement over the new Waterloo game from Warfrog Games prompted me to wonder if the old hex-and-counter wargame is creatively played out. It seems like most of the innovation and excitement in the hobby over the last decade or so has been outside the hex-and-counter format.
While the sometimes feature hexes and counters, the card-driven games that are so popular now more often feature area or point-to-point maps and the very first one, We the People, did not use hexes.
While block wargames have been around nearly as long as hex-and-counter games, there's no doubt they have never been more popular, with genre-originator Columbia Games finding success with titles such as Hammer of the Scots and being joined by GMT with games such as Europe Engulfed.
Even when they use hexes, most of today's most exciting wargames such as Memoir '44 or Tide of Iron don't use counters and they certainly don't use standard wargame conventions such as zones of control or attack=defense-movement factor counters.
And some of the most innovative wargames of recent times such as Bonaparte at Marengo don't use any recognizably classic wargame mechanics at all.
There are still some hex-and-counter games coming out, but once senses that they're not really breaking any new ground and are not forming the leading edge of game design.