Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running with the pack

Some specialization is probably unavoidable for wargamers, given the huge number of games published and the vast extent of potential topics. And I do have my fair share of relatively obscure interests such as the Spanish-American War and the battle history of the M3 Stuart tank.

But I have to admit that I do tend to run with the pack as far as my major interests in both wargaming and military history go. I have multiple games on many of the classic themes that have captured the interests of wargamers since the early days of Avalon Hill such as the Battle of the Bulge, D-Day, North Africa, the American Revolution, Midway and World War I aces.

And nowhere am I probably more of a pack runner than on the topics of Gettysburg and Waterloo. I am somewhat of a Civil War buff, but Gettysburg looms extra large in my collection of games and books even considering that. And I'm really not much of a Napoleonic fan at all -- I don't have much at all on that era.

So I even surprised myself a bit when I heard that Martin Wallace's new Gettysburg game was out and my first reaction was "Damn! And I don't even have it on preorder!"

My interest (and I'm obviously far from alone) in these two battles is hard to explain. While undoubtedly the most famous battles of their respective wars -- well-known even to the general public -- they can't be considered the most important battles of their time. And while exceptionally hard-fought, neither battle was a story of great generalship or maneuver.

But they do have drama and controversy galore and I'll admit a strange fascination with both. If I ever won the lottery I'd like nothing better than to recreate the Battle of Gettysburg from the point of view of several Gettysburg games, sort of a "series replay" between Meade and Lee, using their own words to describe the action.

I currently have the original Avalon Hill Gettysburg and the Smithsonian version. I ave SPI's quad Cemetery Hill and Columbia's block game Gettysburg: Badges of Courage. I have the hyper detailed This Hallowed Ground and the very abstract Dixie: Gettysburg. Undoubtedly the collection will soon include both Martin Wallace's Gettysburg as well as Bowen Simmons', Guns at Gettysburg.

My interest in Waterloo is just a tad less intense than Gettysburg, but it's still clearly there with more than a half-dozen games on the battle itself and a few about the whole Hundred days as well.

I don't know if it's a bad thing to run with the pack, but it's interesting to see how many variations on the theme are possible. My tastes and interests are wide, but I think it's good to have a few areas where you can plumb the depths as well.


  1. I'm surprised that you say that Gettysburg is not an important battle, although perhaps you are saying it is not THE most important battle. Didn't it have the most casualties overall and is considered by many to be the turning point? I guess you disagree on its importance?

    And again with Waterloo. Wasn't it Napoleon's last and the end for him as Emperor? Is that not important?!

  2. I too want to get hold of the Gettysburg game! It's really interesting to read about your fascination with war/battle games.

  3. In both cases there's a very good case often made that they were not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Especially in the case of Waterloo, it's hard to see how Napoleon could have ever prevailed against the coalition facing him. Even if he had crushed Wellington and Blucher, there were two even larger armies of Austrians and Russians mobilizing against him. Waterloo merely ratified the verdict of the earlier campaigns.
    Gettysburg also probably could not have changed things all that much in the grand scheme of things.
    I would not say that either battle was unimportant, just not as important as the attention they get might imply.

  4. I love too play the smithsonian gettysburg game solo.We my wife and myself just visited antitem,gettysburg,chanceslersville,wilderness,valley forge,fort morgan,Wash dc ford theater,washingtons house, madison house, jeffersons house from st louis.Really like gettysbrg battlefield 3 days there.Our guide at GB said vicksburg was NOT as important as GB because of the causalitity rates?Love your site .don