THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART II

S&T Issues #’s 37, 39, 42, 44, & 46


INTRODUCTION

The following list of magazine articles and games represents the second installment in my series of short descriptive reviews of many of the issues of S&T magazine published during the 1970s and 80s, when James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen were still at the helm of Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI).




FIVE MORE S&T PROFILES

6. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #37, SCRIMMAGE,

included a game of the same name and, like the other magazines in this series of posts, S&T #37 (Feb/Mar 1973) dates back to the “golden age” of SPI. This particular issue featured the following articles:

  • The Ardennes Offensive: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Caporetto: The Austro-German Offensive in Italy, 24 October-23 November 1917, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Simulation: SCRIMMAGE: Tactical Professional Football
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #37 Magazine Game: SCRIMMAGEis a tactical-level simulation of the combat-like dynamic inherent in the competition between two opposing professional football teams. Although it was widely-reviled when it first appeared, this title is at least modestly intriguing because of the designer’s use of tactical-level conflict game mechanics to simulate an athletic contest. However, the fact that Dunnigan never personally revisited this type of simulation topic is probably proof enough of the lack of popularity among S&T subscribers of this attempt to broaden SPI’s product line to include “sports games.” As one of my disgusted friends — who, like me, was also a regular subscriber to S&T when this issue appeared — once observed: “If I wanted a game about football, I wouldn’t get it from SPI, I’d just join a fantasy football league!” On the other hand, purely from a collector’s standpoint, this game is interesting in that it is one of only a few “sports” simulations ever published by SPI (I can only think of one other title inspired by baseball that was designed by either — I don't remember which — Irad Hardy or Richard Berg). SCRIMMAGE was designed by James F. Dunnigan and includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold style Rules Booklet

7. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #39, THE FALL OF ROME,

included a game of the same name. Content-wise, a copy of S&T #39 (Jul/Aug 1973) featured the following articles:

  • The Fall of Rome, by Albert A. Nofi
  • The Battle for Guadalcanal: 7 August 1941 – 7 February 1943, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Simulation: THE FALL OF ROME: The Barbarian Invasions, 100 – 500 A.D., by John Michael Young, with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #39 Magazine Game: THE FALL OF ROME, designed by John Michael Young, is a solitaire (or two-player) strategic level simulation of combat between the legions, auxiliaries, and other forces of the Roman Empire and various national groups of barbarian invaders that pushed against and through the Roman frontiers from approximately 100 to 500 A.D. To better simulate these long-duration historical developments, the designer makes use of an “area movement” rather than a hexagonal game map. In addition, the game is played in multi-phase game turns; each of which represents one year of real time. Not surprisingly, given the time scale and the complex nature of the historical events being simulated, each game turn is structured around a complicated set of interwoven player actions that are arranged in the following rigid sequence: the Internal Revolution Phase; the Non-Roman and Non-Loyal Roman Movement Phase; Non-Roman and Non-Loyal Roman Combat Phase; Barbarian Creation Phase; the Loyal Roman Movement Phase; Loyal Roman Combat Phase; the Legion Rebellion Phase; Control Determination Phase; Barbarian Attrition Phase; Tax Collection and Disbursement Phase; the Roman/Persian Replacement Phase; Barbarian Bribe Phase; and the Game Turn Record Phase.

I wish that it were not the case, but unfortunately, this is one of the few games designed by John Young about which I can find virtually nothing good to say. The underlying concept of this simulation is, I think, quite appealing; however, it really falls down when it comes to execution. In point of fact, because of a rushed and incomplete development process, the game — at least as originally published — is literally unplayable without the inclusion of the follow-up errata (dated 1 September 1973) that appeared in S&T #40, PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA. And even then, it requires both a lot of work and some genuine creativity on the part of dedicated players to actually make this title a moderately enjoyable gaming experience.

THE FALL OF ROME offers six scenarios: Scenario One (starts in 67 A.D.) lasts fifteen game turns; Scenario Two (247 A.D.) runs for thirteen turns; the Third scenario (260 A.D.) is fifteen game turns long; Scenario Four (332 A.D.) runs for twelve game turns; Scenario Five (420 A.D.) is twelve turns long; and Scenario Six (starts in 530 A.D.) covers the period of the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire and lasts for twenty game turns. THE FALL OF ROME includes the following game components:

  • One 17” x 22” area movement Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Replacement Track, Combat Results Table, Legion Rebellion Table, Barbarian Creation Table, Internal Revolution Probability Table, Internal Revolution results Table, and Barbarian Creation Frequency Table incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” brochure-fold set of Game Rules (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)


8. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #42, THE EAST IS RED,

included a game of the same name. S&T #42 (Jan/Feb 1974) contained the following articles:

  • The East is Red: The Potential for Sino-Soviet Conflict, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Napoleon at Waterloo: 18 June 1815, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Simulation: THE EAST IS RED: The Sino-Soviet War
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • For Your Eyes Only, by The Editors
  • Feedback Questions, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #42 Magazine Game: THE EAST IS RED is a corps/division level simulation — based on the popular KURSK Game System — of a hypothetical war between the Soviet Union and China, sometime in the late 1970’s. This title, besides being a nice little players’ game, is also interesting in that it represents (along with the 1973 game, NATO) one of the first of SPI’s numerous forays into the simulation realm of possible warfare in the near future. The game was designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond Simonsen. THE EAST IS RED offers four different scenarios (each 10 turns long): M+1 Current Readiness; M+1 Full Readiness; M+30 Current Readiness; and M+30 Full Readiness. In addition, the game also proposes two optional (what if?) rules: North Korean Intervention; and Soviet Strategic (nuclear) Strike.

The game mechanics of THE EAST IS RED are below average in complexity; this, plus the fact that the game is fast-moving and action-packed, makes it an excellent choice as a “beer and pretzels” game. In keeping with the game’s uncluttered design, the rules are clearly-written, short, and easy to learn; also, all of the game’s scenarios are only 10 turns long. Even better, the game system is familiar and the piece density is low; thus, besides being a fun title for experienced players, it makes an excellent introductory game. As an added bonus, it even plays surprisingly well as a solitaire game. THE EAST IS RED includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Combat Results Table, and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11” map-fold style Rules Booklet


9. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #44, TANK!

This issue also dates from the “golden age” of SPI and included a game with the same title. S&T #44 (May/June 1974) featured the following articles:

  • Tank! A Weapons System Survey, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Sea War in the Age of Sail: 1650-1830, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: TANK! Armored Combat in the 20th Century, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Pass in Review
  • Feedback Questions, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #44 Magazine Game: TANK! Armored Combat in the 20th Century, designed by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond A. Simonsen (graphics), is a two-player tactical level simulation of armored warfare from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. TANK! is played using an interactive simultaneous movement/combat system in which players plot the movement and opportunity fire missions of their units prior to the start of every game turn. Each game turn follows a set sequence of two action phases: the Plotting Phase, and the Execution Phase. The Execution Phase is further divided into five operational segments: the Panic Segment; the Initial Facing Segment; the Direct Fire Segment; the Movement [and Execution of Triggered Opportunity Fire] Segment; and the Final Facing Segment. Frustratingly, the designer mentions neither the time scale nor the map scale of the game. As an odd little note: this title is modestly interesting because, as a one-time marketing experiment, SPI offered an expansion kit (for the basic magazine game) to anyone who was intrigued enough by the original design to send the publisher a self-addressed, stamped envelope to offset the cost of mailing the expansion kit back to the interested customer. TANK! includes the following components:
  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Target Aspects and Scatter Directional Pattern Charts incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8¾” x 11” map-fold set of TANK! Rules
  • One 10¾” x 11” back-printed Game Chart (with Terrain Effects Key, Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Tables, Spotting Table, Weapons Characteristics Chart, Scenario OOB Chart, and Scenario Instructions)

10. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #46, COMBINED ARMS,

included a game with the same title. S&T #46 (Sept/Oct 1974) features these articles:
  • Combined Arms: Combat Operations in the 20th Century, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Patrol: Modern Infantry Tactics, 1914-74, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: COMBINED ARMS: Combat Operations, 1939-70’s, by James F. Dunnigan, with graphics by Redmond A.
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, Sid Sackson
  • Footnotes, Everybody
  • Players Notes, Simonsen & Young
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei
S&T #46 Magazine Game: COMBINED ARMS: Combat Operations, 1939-70’s was designed by James F. Dunnigan, with graphic design by Redmond A. Simonsen. It is a two-player tactical (battalion/company) level simulation of the development of integrated, combined arms (infantry/armor/artillery) tactics from World War II to the 1970’s. The game map is an abstract representation of typical (western) European terrain and each map hex is scaled at 300 meters from side to side. COMBINED ARMS is played in game turns; and each game turn is equal to one hour of real time. Furthermore, a single game turn is divided into two symmetrical player turns, and each player turn is executed in the following rigid sequence of player actions: Command Control Determination Phase; Movement/Reinforcement Phase; Combat Phase; Disruption Removal Phase; and the Interdiction Removal Phase. Once both players have completed the preceding set of game actions turns, the turn record marker is advanced one space, and the next game turn begins. The actual mechanics of play for COMBINED ARMS, by today’s standards, are comparatively simple. Stacking is not permitted, except when mounting or dismounting infantry from vehicles; friendly units may, however, pass through each others’ hexes without penalty. As is typical with most tactical-level games, there are no supply requirements for infantry and armored units; artillery, however, is an exception: artillery units expend adjacent “artillery supply” when executing “rapid” fire missions. Another interesting feature of this game system is that, unlike some tactical simulations, combat units in COMBINED ARMS exert zones of control (ZOCs) into the surrounding hexes; further, these ZOCs are further divided into two classes: a Primary (adjacent) ZOC and a Secondary (extended range) zone of control. Trucks and armored carriers exert ZOCs only when transporting infantry units. The combat rules, unlike those governing supply, are fairly detailed. Combat between enemy units can take one of three forms: fire (ranged attacks); assault (adjacent infantry and mechanized infantry attacks); and air strikes. In addition to regular attacks conducted during the combat phase of a player turn, “overrun” attacks may be performed by armored vehicles, assault guns, and either mounted (armored carriers) or dismounted infantry. Truck-mounted infantry may not perform overruns because trucks are not permitted to enter an enemy ZOC, at all. It should also be noted that “overruns” represent a special form of combat that is performed only during the movement phase of a player turn. There are only four types of terrain in COMBINED ARMS: clear, rough category #1 and #2, and rivers. Finally, in order to simulate the challenges of coordinating the actions of different units during tactical combat, the game also includes detailed command and control rules.

Victory in COMBINED ARMS is based on the physical occupation or control, by one side or the other, of specific map hexes; for this reason, casualties are irrelevant except in so far as they affect a combatant’s ability to satisfy the specific geographical requirements for that side’s victory.

COMBINED ARMS offers six scenarios that examine tactical combat from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. These scenarios are, in order of appearance: Introductory Scenario Nr. 1 (hypothetical action in Russia, 24 April, 1944 — 16 game turns); Scenario No. 2 (the Defense of the Vistula Bridges along the Line Tczew, 2 September, 1939 — 12 turns); Scenario No. 3 (Prochorovka, 12 July, 1943 — 12 game turns); Scenario No. 4 (Arrancourt Tank Battle, 19 September, 1944 — 6 turns); Scenario No. 5 (Battle of the Chinese Farm, 15 October, 1973 — 8 game turns); and Scenario No. 6 (Heartbreak Ridge, 13 September, 1951 — 16 turns). The individual scenarios are all reasonably interesting; however, the nice feature about this sort of highly-abstracted game system is that it is relatively easy for players to design their own scenarios once they become bored with those presented by the game’s publisher. COMBINED ARMS includes the following components:
  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions and Players’ Notes incorporated)
  • Two 8½” x 11” identical back-printed Player Aid Cards (with assorted Combat Results Tables, Scenario Unit Values Charts, Terrain Keys, and Terrain Effects Charts incorporated)

A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THIS ONGOING PROJECT

What should immediately be apparent to those visitors who have both worked their way through this list, and who have also looked at my first batch of “Also Ran” magazine descriptions, is that I have gone back and done a little back-filling when it comes to the S&T issues discussed above. Thus, while I have not relisted magazine games that I have already profiled elsewhere in this blog, I have added a few early issues that I had originally planned on ignoring completely. There are two reasons for this: first, it occurs to me that although I might personally find some of these early titles unappealing, it is possible (if not probable) that a few of my readers will disagree with my own highly subjective assessment of these games; and second, I have, upon further reflection, concluded that it might be helpful for me to provide additional information to those of my visitors who either presently collect old issues of Strategy & Tactics, or who plan on doing so at some point in the future. That being said, I have therefore decided, insofar as it is possible, to continue this series of descriptions with future posts that contain a more orderly and complete a list of magazine issues than was featured in either Part I or Part II of this project. I only hope that my readers will find this expanded treatment of S&T magazine and game descriptions useful.

Related Blog Posts

  1. THE 20 BEST S&T MAGAZINE GAMES FROM THE “GOLDEN AGE” OF SPI
    A Subjective List of My Personal Picks of the Best S&T Magazine Insert Games Published during the 1970’s and 80’s
  2. THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART I ,S&T Issues # 38, 41, 43, 45 & 48
  3. THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART II ,S&T Issues #’s 37, 39, 42, 44, & 46
  4.  THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART III , S&T Issues #’s 52, 54, 56, 58 & 59

6 comments:

  • As with the earlier list, these descriptions are terrific boons to collectors and to us older gamers who remember these titles from way back when!

    To me, THE EAST IS RED is far and away the best of this lot. SCRIMMAGE is definitely a novelty and is worth investigating for that if nothing else. I also hold John Young in high regard, but I couldn't personally include FALL OF ROME on this "also ran" list (and appreciate your honesty regarding the playability of this game). TANK! and COMBINED ARMS were just so-so in my view. They just didn't capture my imagination nor hold my attention.

  • Greetings Eric:

    Actually, we are in complete agreement about some of the more dubious titles included on this list. This is why I initially skipped over them when I compiled my first list of 'Also Rans'. However, the more that I thought about these "banished" titles, the more it seemed that I probably should go ahead and profile them (warts and all) as a service to those newer players who have never seen them before.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Combined Arms ranks as considered by many to be among the worst of the early S&T games. The unit counters were bland and map generic. I recall they had very little information on them. I believe their was a chart showing the values of the units in that scenario. It was hard to keep the values of units straight. It was never high on my list of S&T games.

  • Greetings Lew:

    Thank you for your interest and your comments; both are appreciated.

    I couldn't agree more. In fact, I made pretty much the same observation as you on Eric Walter's "All Things SPI" group forum over at Consimworld. If the truth be known, I have always believed that Dunnigan really designed COMBINED ARMS with an eye towards selling it (as he later succeeded in doing with FIREFIGHT) to the Pentagon as a training tool for the military. That -- in my view, at least -- is the only thing that actually makes sense: the bland, generic nature of the game system just doesn't seem to have enough appeal to really satisfy the typical "historical" gamer.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Never having seen the actual game, my only memory of SCRIMMAGE is a pair of photos, the first of which showed a frowning Tom Shaw of Avalon Hill standing next to a laughing Jim Dunnigan with the caption "Hi, Tom! How's KRIEGSPIEL?", the second with Tom Shaw now facing a frowning Jim Dunnigan, captioned "Fine, Jim. How's SCRIMMAGE?" It did make me curious about SCRIMMAGE, I must admit.

    SPI did try again, in 1980, with the Richard Berg SPI FOOTBALL (using teams from the 1957 NFL season). I passed on that one, though I did pick up Mr. Berg's SPI BASEBALL (also 1980). On the whole, though, I stuck with Strat-O-Matic for my tabletop baseball.

  • Greetings Eugene:

    I had forgotten about the other SPI football game; but I do seem to remember the photos of Tom Shaw and Jim Dunnigan, now that you mention them.

    The real irony of the "KRIEGSPIEL" versus "SCRIMMAGE" comparison is that, while both games were probably equally reviled among experienced gamers, "KRIEGSPIEL" -- amazingly enough -- actually made money for Avalon Hill.

    Best Regards, Joe

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