Loyal visitors to "Map and Counters" will, I have no doubt, already be aware of the fact that it has been over a month since my last blog post. In my own defense, I have endeavored to keep up with reader comments, but these occassional entries have been the extent of my recent contributions to my blog. This has been an ongoing bother to me, particularly since one of the things that I most pride myself on (it certainly isn't my skill as a wordsmith) is my ability to crank out fresh and original material on a fairly regular basis. In any case, I thought that it might just be time for me to offer a brief, but patently self-serving explanation for this unusually long period of inactivity.

What is odd, especially given the events of this past summer, is that I have really had no significant disruptions to my schedule during the last month or so: which is to say, I have had no new health or computer issues to interfere with my blogging. In point of fact, my (admittedly lame) excuse for being so slow in publishing new posts is a simple one: in spite of my having been writing pretty steadily throughout the period in question, I have somehow managed to run afoul of a couple of my own self-imposed guidelines when it comes to posting new articles on my blog. What I mean by this is that, although I have more-or-less completed a book review on Thomas Packenham's excellent and highly readable "The Boer War", and have another piece on John Keegan's workmanlike but surprisingly affecting "The First World War" nearing the finish line, I have no plans to post either review in the near term because, as a long-standing personal rule, I never publish book reviews back-to-back. Thus, I actually do have new material to post, but it probably won't be going up for awhile. The real culprit in all this, and the main reason for my long delay, is that I have allowed myself to become completely blocked by the follow-up installment in my new set of classics-based essays, "The 'STALINGRAD' Notebook". What had appeared — at least when I started this second entry in the series — to be a relatively uncomplicated gaming retrospective on a long-time favorite of mine has grown "tribble-like" in scope and length until I have finally been forced to split it into several separate essays. That being said, I am happy to report that, barring the unforeseen, I should finally be able to wind things up with this minor opus in the next day or two.

And now for something completely different ...

One of the odd little ironies that I have encountered in my ongoing role as a blogger on wargames and wargaming is that I rarely seem anymore to have the opportunity to actually play wargames. Most of my long-time hobby friends and regular PBeM opponents seem, like me, to be bogged down most of the time with the mundane but unceasing demands of everyday life. Moreover, since I detest air travel, I seldom make the cross-country trek back to the WBC or PrezCon conventions, much as I like both events; Origins, I should note, was scratched from my personal convention list a long, long time ago. That, of course, still leaves the Consimworld Expo/Monster Con convention in Tempe; and, as I have already promised John Kranz, I expect to attend every day of the 2012 convention — although I am still undecided as to whether I will attempt to "live-blog" next year's event.

So why, it is reasonable to ask, do I bother to bring up the topic of my personal gaming or lack thereof, at all? The short answer is that, for the first time in years, I will be playing a set of PBeM STALINGRAD matches with a new opponent who is also one of my regular readers. And while it is still early days in our first game, my adversary has informed me that he hopes to post screen shots, at some point in the future, from our matches (we are playing using the Zun Tzu game platform) on the Consimworld STALINGRAD forum. Based on my previous experiences with these sorts of projects, I am only too well aware that a lot can happen to scuttle plans like these. However, if these graphics-based "After Action Reports" actually end up being posted, I will provide a link from "Map and Counters" to the hosting site along with a brief bit of commentary on each of the displayed moves. So stay tuned; I hope to have more on this project as time goes on.


  • How entirely wonderful! It would fantastic to see some expert play of this game.
    I photo blog nearly all my game play (pbem/live and solo) it adds a nice dimension to the game and helps me in fact think thru the moves, reference history books for 'what they did' and all sorts of side benefits.
    I highly recommend it. The combination of your word smithy and pictures will be compelling.

  • Joe,

    It comes when it comes. In the meantime, have fun with the Stalingrad PBeM and with whatever posting (hope, hope!) you make of it.

  • Joe,
    The beauty of RSS is I don't sweat the gaps in new material, I just relish it whenever it comes along. When your posts are ready I'm sure they will be great reading. I'm looking forward to the Stalingrad replays too; it's been decades since I pushed those counters around.

  • Greetings All:

    Thank you for your words of encouragement; they are, I assure you all, much appreciated.

    So far as the 'STALINGRAD' project is concerned. I am actually quite pleased with the direction of our first game because, whatever else happens, it illustrates one of the central themes in my next "STALINGRAD Notebook" essay; that is: that, much like the play of the Russians, two basic schools of thought have evolved to guide German offensive strategy in the game. For want of better terms, I have arbitrarily titled them the 'Blitzkrieg' or "attrition" appoach (lots of early Axis attacks with the goal of damaging the Red Army and breaking the Nemunas and Bug River lines ahead of schedule) and the more patient (and less sanguinary) "positional" or "long game" strategy. In our first game, my opponent has opted for the 'Blitzkrieg' strategy; in our follow-up match, I fully expect to pursue the "long game" approach. Hopefully, both matches should be interesting enough to make for worthwhile "AAR's".

    Best REgards, Joe

  • Good to hear everything is okay. :-) And if you ever relish an afternoon of FTF, I live in Phoenix as well ...

  • Joe

    Your fan base is still here.Heck,I don't think I'm still looked at everything on your blog fully.
    Besides I'm looking forward to your Sgrad game on Consim

  • Greetings Preston:

    Thank you for your kind words. Also, I haven't forgotten your invitation from this summer. Unfortunately, between my wife's new work schedule and the tasks that she sets for me around the house, I am not yet really getting out that much. However, I do look forward to some face-to-face play down the road, once things settle down around the old homestead.

    In the meantime, as I have recently set aside some time for PBeM play, if you are familiar with the Zun Tzu game platform, I would be happy to take on another PBeM opponent using this very accessible system. Let me know your thoughts on this idea.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Greetings Kim:

    Thanks, as always, for the encouraging words.

    If I could just figure out how to wind up my latest piece on 'STALINGRAD', I would actually be in good shape. Trying to formulate a sensible conclusion currently is the sticking point; hopefully, something modestly intelligent will spring to mind, even yet. At least, one can hope!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Unfortunately, it does not appear that Zun Tzu supports Macs. (VASSAL does, but I have never used that either.) Que sera, sera. :-)

  • Greetings Preston:

    I'm disappointed but not surprised that Zun Tzu does not support "Macs". Like you I have never really been able to get excited about VASSAL (in spite of the strong endorsements of a number of my friends); I just find the game platform cumbersome to work with for some reason.

    In any case, once my schedule sorts itself out, I look forward to getting together. Face-to-face play is something that -- except for conventions -- I rarely have the opportunity to enjoy anymore.

    Best Regards, Joe

    PS: It is bad luck about Zun Tzu because, if my wife can reconfigure the game files for my current set of 'STALINGRAD' matches, readers will need to load the Zun Tzu application to actually access the various game screens.

  • I come back again and again, often rereading your posts on games. It has been great to encounter someone who can speak so definitively about these older games. Also, it is gratifying to read about your appreciation for John Young. He has always been one of my favorites.

    I set out a year ago to seek out face to face opponents here in Denver. For years I had played large and complex games via pbem, often taking years to complete them. I had forgotten the great pleasure of face to face play from my boyhood when these games were new.

    Early on in the year I ran into your Blog. While I already owned and long ago had played many of the games you discuss, they had become very much a part of my past. But, the first thing I realized was that I needed to find games that could be completed in a single sitting. Your blog has been an invaluable guide to the older games in which this was very much a primary design criteria.

    I acquired my first ftf opponent right away and started playing weekly. The first game I played was one of my old favorites, Borodino. Reading your blog helped me to decide this would be a good place to start. Since then I have played Borodino with no less than three other people for at least a half dozen plays.

    After a year of face to face gaming I have arrived at a point where I have more gaming opportunities than I can take advantage of. I now have over a half dozen opponents. It is a rare week that I do not play at least two face to face games. Occasionally I allow myself to get drawn into the newer card driven affairs, but I make it clear to my opponents that I am a hex and counter player and I strongly promote the older games. I am certain that I have played close to a hundred games over this last year. I am sure that next year, if the fates approve, I will play closer to 150 games. Most of these will be games you talk about here. For instance, in the last two months I have played four games of Leipzig, eight of La Grande Armee (1805 scenario) a couple games of Borodino and several other Napoleon at Waterloo games from the two quads, also Eylau and a game of Austerlitz.

    I am actually at the point of getting a group of wargamers to play Strategy I. These guys enjoy games like Sword of Rome and The Napoleonic Wars for group play. My hope is they will find this simple but subtle old game just as much fun.

    While I enjoy many newer games ranging from CoA La Bataille series, through the GMT Triumph and Glory/Jour de Gloire series on to Victory Point Games Napoleonic 20 series. I still more often play old SPI and Avalon Hill Games. They have an elegance and clarity often lacking in most newer games. And they are often more fun. In fact, if I made a list of twenty favorite games well over half would be from before 1976.

    Hmmm, not in any order...

    1776 (Though I favor the newer Boardgamer additions to the game) 1965 Battle of the Bulge and Guadalcanal, La Grande Armee, Musket and Pike, Borodino, At least one of the Napoleonic Quads, GDW 1815, Anzio, The Marne, Soldiers, Franco Prussian War, the Kursk series preferably...The Battle for Stalingrad and The Ardense. And I hate to say it but I absolutely adore 1914!!!! And to be honest I will complete the 20, with VPG Ancients Battles Deluxe (though I prefer the old leader rule)
    Terran Games "The Legend Begins", DG Totaler Krieg, CoA Struggle for Europe, White Death by GDW. Hmmm...I want to add Bitter Woods so I will have to kick Battle for the Ardense.

    Anyway a month rarely goes by that I don't check in to see what you have to say about something. This blog is singular, rich and endlessly satisfying to follow.

  • Greetings Lincoln:

    Thank you for your kind words; it is always nice to hear from you.

    So far as your list of favorites is concerned, I would probably concur with quite a few of your choices, although 'GUADALCANAL' -- because of the primitive concealed movement rules -- and a few others wouldn't make onto my own "Top Twenty".

    Somewhat along the same lines, I would recommend, because of your fondness for Napoleonic games, that you give 'GRENADIER' a try -- primitive graphics-wise it may be, but it actually does a better job of simulating the Napoleonic battlefield at the company level than most of the newer (far more cumbersome) tactical designs that I have tried. Granted that it seems that Mark Saha and I are probably the only reviewers in the hobby that have ever said anything good about this old Dunnigan design.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • 1965 Bulge was my very first game ever. Dad bought it for himself when I was 7. Tried playing it, way too complex. *laugh* Played it plenty in the late 70s, though. Love 1776. Thought Anzio was one of the better games I played for producing a historical end state.

  • Greetings Preston:

    Yes, the newer treatments of "The battle of the Bulge" are certainly superior when it comes to simulation value; but for sheer gaming pleasure,
    BULGE '65 was one of my favorite games though both my sophomore and junior years in college; I think I probably played the game at least once, if not more, every week. Truly a great old game -- ugly box art, though.

    Dave Williams' ANZIO is another game that players seem to either love or hate. For my own part, I started out hating it and learned, through repeated play, to love it. A very clever design that was, like '1914', probably years ahead of its time.

    Best Regards, Joe

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