A Brief Word about Game Designers’ Workshop (GDW)

I had originally planned to post a brief introduction to GDW before I published the FALL OF FRANCE game profile last night. Unfortunately, the “Cable guy” was here most of the day, so I decided to leave it until this morning. Anyway …

The next few posts will focus on some of my favorite GDW titles. Several of these titles are probably familiar; some, on the other hand, may not be. I have decided to feature a few of the games from the “Boys from Normal”— as I and my friends used to call them — because GDW was a major creative force in the early days of gaming. They deserve a lot of credit.

For those players who are not familiar with the early GDW titles, they were well known (or notorious, in some circles) for their strikingly colorful counters, murky rules (“roll a die to resolve disputes” was their usual remedy for most rules issues), and “unfinished” looking, sometimes oddly inaccurate — Kiev somehow landed on the wrong side of the Dnieper River on the DNO map, for example — game maps. Despite their shortcomings, however, the thing about GDW that kept a lot of us coming back was that they really cared about their designs: they weren’t just going through the motions.

GDW’s meticulous work on OoB’s, and their penchant for extremely specific “unit differentiation” made their games virtually unique in the early days of the hobby. A GDW antiaircraft counter wasn’t just an AA unit, for example: it was either Wehrmacht or Luftwaffe, motorized or not, artillery or machinegun, heavy or light, and so on. The other thing that kept many of us buying their games, year after year, was the creativeness of their designers, particularly Frank Chadwick. The design ideas that they presented didn’t always work — I still have no idea how anyone could actually play the invasion game in THEIR FINEST HOUR — but they were always interesting and often very innovative.

GDW offered both small games (the 120 Series) and “monster” games, and everything in between. So here they are, a few of GDW’s early gems, I hope that you, my visitors, find these game profiles interesting.


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