SPI Simulates the ’41 Battle for Moscow in 1970, 1972 and 1978
In an earlier commentary, I offered a comparison, using previously-posted "game profiles," of two different design approaches to the Battle of Kursk produced by the same game company (SPI), but designed and published nine years apart. This time around, the reader is again referred to the subject titles' individual "game profiles" for a more detailed discussion of the specific features and design characteristics of the three games being considered. This post continues in the same vein as the earlier comparison by inviting the reader to contrast the evolving design treatments of the same game topic over time. In this case, however, eight years separate the oldest from the newest version of these three different games.
The three games that are referenced in this post were all published by Simulations Publications Inc., and all three profiles can be found posted on this site. The earliest title published in this series is THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW (1970); the next is THE MOSCOW CAMPAIGN (1972); and the last is OPERATION TYPHOON (1978). These three games all attempt to, more or less, simulate the same historical event: the last desperate German drive to capture Moscow in fall and winter of 1941. This offensive, according to Colonel General Heinz Guderian was actually Germany’s one and only chance to win the War in the East. Once this opportunity passed, there would be no other. Thus, whatever else can be said, this is a game situation of high drama.
Before discussing these three titles in more detail, however, a short narrative detour is probably in order.
For those of us who were around at the time, the decades of the 1970s and 1980s produced a number of startling changes and innovations in conflict simulations. Some of these changes, of course, were genuine improvements in game design and some were purely cosmetic. Given this fact, it is interesting to compare the differences between newer and older titles published during this era of rapid growth in the hobby. Moreover, because many game topics were revisited by different designers during this period, it is possible to contrast different simulations of the same historical subject over time. Such a comparison also allows us to ask the question: What represents progress when it comes to game design and what doesn’t? And are the newer titles, putting aside the obvious advances that time brought in graphic presentation, actually better games? Of course, once we start down this path, it is also interesting to reflect on what actually makes a good game and what makes a successful simulation; and to see if the two are often, or even ever, the same?
Different players, of course, will come up with their own answers to the preceding questions. Certainly, each of us uses a different and very personal calculus when we evaluate a specific game; thus, it is not surprising that opinions can vary so widely within the hobby. For my own part, I may be eccentric but, of the three afore-mentioned titles, my personal favorite — despite its primitive graphics, two-color map, and comparatively simple game mechanics — is THE MOSCOW CAMPAIGN, published in 1972. The other two designs are certainly interesting, and TYPHOON is, purely from a graphics standpoint, much more visually appealing; but there is still an intangible something about the ’72 version of the game that draws me to it more than the other two. Maybe it is just me, but I think that there are more than a few "forgotten gems" hidden among these old titles, if players will just take the time to look for them.
In any case, I hope that at least some of you will visit these three "game profiles" and that you will find these comparisons as interesting as I do. Further, I urge all of my readers, if you have the opportunity, to give one or more of these old titles a look. You might just be surprised at what you find.