A Guest Post by Bob Goddard

Back in January of this year, I announced that, among other changes to the future content of “Map and Counters”, I planned to begin adding an occasional “guest post” to accompany my own regular stream of game-related ramblings. Unfortunately, prospective contributors have been slow to come forward with their projects; something, by the way, that I understand completely: writing, after all, is hard work. This, I suppose, also explains why most of the early independent wargaming magazines had so much trouble coming up with new content, issue after issue. In any case, after a few months, I put this idea aside in the hope that it could be revisited later.

Enter Bob Goddard. Several days ago, Bob contacted me to see if I would be interested in publishing a “reminiscence” piece that he was writing about his very first wargame, AFRIKA KORPS. After a couple of email exchanges and a review of his finished essay, I happily took him up on his offer. Bob’s post is a brief and nostalgic tribute to a venerable old game that, in its day, was instrumental in first drawing many of us into the hobby of conflict simulations. There is, for those of us who have been in the hobby as long or longer than Bob, very little that is either new or unusual about his recollections. But that, I think, is actually the writer’s point: his memories are all familiar or at least evocative of similar episodes experienced by most of us in the course of our many years playing wargames. Also, Bob’s description of his interchange with a fellow gamer located halfway around the world is, I think, a perfect reminder of the special connection that exists, even to this day, among the hobby’s grognards wherever they are found. – JCB III

My first wargame was AFRIKA KORPS. I bought it at a local department store for $5 on Sunday, February 7, 1971. I skipped school the next day to learn how to play it. I still have the game – or what is left of it. The surviving pieces have endured hundreds of hours of playing time, at least ten changes of address and long, lonely stretches at the bottom of game stacks, squashed and neglected, but never forgotten.

There have been periods of revival and rebirth. In the eighties, I played several AK PBM games, as evidenced by the penned-in grid mark on the map board and notations on the Time Record Chart. In the nineties, a friend created the entire order of battle for the war in North Africa 1940-43, complete with homemade AK style counters. We only used these pieces a couple of times, but I still have them. Along the way, I got a new set of counters, new rules and just recently, a new map board.

And then there is the game box. The box is now in pieces, and these have been glued to a sturdy mailing carton in order to protect the whole shebang much as you would to preserve an important historical document.

Each revival has been an experience thick with nostalgia. As I would open the box and examine the components, I would always rediscover some extra game related item I had forgotten about: an AFRIKA KORPS PBM pad, an old Avalon Hill General with an Afrika Korps Series Replay, the homemade map extension eastward to Cairo and westward to Tripoli and Tunis. It was always fun to just to look and reminisce.

"Bob" and "Dad"  permanently inscribed
on the Time Record Sheet.  Looks like I took Rommel.
The most recent rebirth occurred in early 2011. This latest episode was prompted by my plans to attend the WBC and enter the AFRIKA KORPS Tournament. Two things came to my attention when I lifted the remnants of the box lid. First, I noticed on the original Time Record Sheet there were two games with the notations “Bob” and “Dad” scrawled in my 13 year old printing (in ink!). My father was my first opponent for AFRIKA KORPS. He was a WWII Army Air Corps veteran and had served in the New Guinea, as well as the Philippines and Okinawa campaigns. He really did not have any interest in these games; he was just spending time with his youngest son. It is funny, because for years I remembered only playing one game of AK with my father.

The second thing I saw was a map board that was less than presentable. It was stained in a several areas and marred by the aforementioned grid markings. In addition, the eastern quarter had separated from the rest of the board. There was just not enough charm here to make up for its abysmal condition. I needed a new map board.

I posted on that I was looking to purchase a new AFRIKA KORPS map board. While you can get a complete player’s copy of the game at Consim Marketplace or on eBay for $20-$25, I just wanted the board.

One person responded. Here is the email he sent me:

Hi Bob

My name is Gary Vesper. I am an 'old grognard' and I have been playing wargames since the early '70's also. Man, those were the days - no job, played games all weekend every weekend - good old days, huh?

AH always had a special place with me - the games weren't the best historically-wise but then who cared? We had lots of fun.

I have a spare Afrika Korps Board. It’s in great shape. My son (who I converted to wargames from Xbox) has a complete copy with the third edition rules, etc. and somehow I have this spare board. I might be able to find some counters/rules if you want them. Alas, the box has departed this world.

Anyway, it’s yours, just let me know where to send it.

Cheers mate

Gary Vesper

West to Tunis, the homemade mapboard extension.
I offered to pay Gary for the board and the shipping (Gary lives in Australia), but he insisted that I accept it as a gift “from one grognard helping another.” I accepted Gary’s generous offer and promised to “pay it forward” to another gamer when the opportunity presented itself.

With Gary’s board, I now have a presentable copy of AK for WBC. I’ve since changed my mind about entering the tourney, but I still plan on bringing the game with me to this year’s WBC Convention and will play it in the open gaming area. I promised Gary I would send photos of his board in action at WBC.

AFRIKA KORPS was first published fifty years ago and people are still playing it. I see no reason why it won’t be around for another fifty years. To be sure, the elder generation of wargamers – the original grognards – are aging and our numbers will eventually dwindle. Nevertheless, a good game is a good game however old it is, and as long as there are players like Gary Vesper who are willing to share their passion for the classics, a gem like AFRIKA KORPS will always have a following.
Read On



Because of a flurry of computer and other problems, I am posting this convention reminder considerably later than is my usual custom. Nonetheless, although there are only a few days remaining before this year’s “DonCon” (which runs from 30 July to 7 August), I still wanted to post some sort of event announcement before I completely ran out of time.

This year’s WBC Tournament Convention kicks off on 30 July with a host of old and new Pre-Con offerings for those dedicated attendees who plan on arriving in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a few days before the Convention’s formal start date of 1 August 2011. Among the popular titles that are now part of the regular early-bird events in this year’s Pre-Convention line-up are long-time favorites: AXIS & ALLIES, 1830, and THE AGE OF RENNAISSANCE. What these recent additions (they were first introduced last year) mean for this year’s Pre-Con players is that, because Bruno Sinigalio’s GrognardCon traditionally offers match-ups in ten different games, early arrivals will now be able to compete in eighteen different titles, days before the formal tournament schedule actually begins. [There are even rumors floating around that Bruno has lately been contemplating the possibility of adding Avalon Hill’s venerable classic, STALINGRAD, to his collection of Pre-Con offerings at some point in the near future]. All in all, if high-quality competitive play is one’s goal, both the Pre-Con and regular convention events should make for an action-packed nine days in Lancaster.

Regrettably, family and health issues will, like last year, keep me from travelling to this year’s Convention; none-the-less, I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone attending this annual summer gathering of wargamers from around the world an enjoyable and safe Convention. For those gamers who are making the trip to Lancaster for the first time, the WBC Convention — in my opinion, at least — is one of the best-run and most broadly-varied (over 100 different game events are offered each year) board game tournaments held anywhere. Moreover, after more than two decades of hands-on experience, it should probably come as no surprise that Don Greenwood’s dedicated BPA team does a great job, year after year, organizing and running this tournament convention. Because of this, I am confident that every one of the visitors attending the 2011 WBC Convention, whether for the first or for the twenty-first time, will enjoy a fabulous seven to nine days of gaming in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country. I only wish that I could be there with you; but since I cannot, good luck and good gaming to you all.

For information about this and other BPA (Boardgame Players Association) sponsored events, please visit the BPA website.
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I'm Back At Last And Ready To Resume Blogging!

For those regular visitors to "Map and Counters" who have been following my latest round of computer-related problems, I'm pleased to report that it looks like the transition from my old (and faltering) laptop to a (hopefully) more robust and durable desktop is now complete. Thanks to the tireless efforts of my wife (who had to do most of these transfers after finishing long days of her own at the office), my files have now all been successfully transferred and, barring something unforeseen, I expect to be able to resume publishing fresh material in the next day or two. Of course, after a month-long break from writing, it will be interesting to see just how quickly I can return to my previous and, time-wise at least, relatively demanding blogging routine. On the plus side, I already have a number of projects in the works so my return to the keyboard certainly won't be the challenge that it would be if I was starting out with absolutely nothing in the "idea hopper".

In a slightly different vein, it is no doubt obvious that the last few weeks have been a bit frustrating for me; therefore, I am especially grateful to those of my regular readers who have been willing to offer both thoughtful advice and more general encouragement: your help and comments have all been welcome and appreciated. In addition, I also want to extend my sincerest thanks to all of my blog's visitors (whatever their individual gaming interests) for their loyalty during this month-long publishing "dry spell". I am profoundly grateful for this support.

Finally, as noted in a previous post, my long holiday away from the computer keyboard has allowed me to revisit a number of titles that, for one reason or another, I have tended to ignore of late. The Avalon Hill "classics", STALINGRAD and WATERLOO, for example, are personal favorites of mine that, because of their age and limited appeal, I have largely skipped over in my previous essays: this is an oversight (in deference to the grognards who visit my blog) that I plan on correcting in the coming months. I also expect to offer new "game profiles" on a few more titles from Rand Game Associates (RGA) and Operational Studies Group (OSG) to compliment my regular quota of SPI, Avalon Hill, and GDW games. Moreover, my extended time at the game table has also rekindled my interest in writing a new batch of "game analysis" essays; hence, I expect to tackle at least a couple of games in this way (Dunnigan's interesting, if under-appreciated NATO being one of them) before too much more time passes. In the end, I suppose that it could be said that my hiatus away from blogging has had at least one signal benefit: it has reminded me that there are a wide-ranging collection of gaming topics about which I still have the desire to write. And given the fact that I have already published over three hundred posts on "Map and Counters", that, in and of itself, is probably no small thing.
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Or, It Never Rains, But That It Pours!

Those visitors who have been following my regular ramblings on "Map and Counters" already know that computer problems forced me to temporarily stop posting new material several weeks ago. Initially, although this unwelcome setback was a bit irritating, I really did not expect to be side-lined when it came to my blogging for more than a few days or so. This assumption, unfortunately, has turned out to be wildly optimistic; mainly because, shortly after my computer decided to gasp its last, my residential air conditioner also decided to go on strike: a problem, needless-to-say, which is no trivial matter when it comes to surviving in Arizona during the summer months! That being said, I have finally resolved my air conditioning woes (more or less) and am now ready to resume my quest for a new (and more reliable) computer; however, even while I have attempted to deal with my several unexpected travails, I have not been completely idle when it comes to developing future essays for my website. Thus, I suppose that, at least in this one sense, my temporary halt in publishing has not been a total waste.

Interestingly, one benefit of not being under the constant pressure to write new material for publication is that I have had the time to visit other sites (using my wife's computer) and to participate in a number of different gaming forums. This interaction with other gamers, in turn, has encouraged me to revisit a number of titles that, for one reason or another, I have largely neglected over the last two years. A perfect example of this is Avalon Hill's venerable old classic STALINGRAD: long dismissed by most gamers in favor of newer, more historically satisfying titles, this game has none-the-less retained a small, but dedicated following among both grognards and (based on the ongoing comments at Consimworld) even a few newer players. The fact that interest in this dated but very Chess-like game seems to extend beyond the ranks of a few "old-timers" like me, Randy Heller, Ed Menzel, Lou Coutney, and Joe Angiolillo, has encouraged me to review my own copy of the game with an eye towards starting a new set of STALINGRAD Notebook entries (like those that I have already posted on AFRIKA KORPS) for those relative newcomers to the hobby willing to give this challenging old classic a fresh look.

Along with STALINGRAD, my recent break from blogging has also given me the opportunity to revisit another long-time favorite of mine, WATERLOO. I actually began a series of essays on this game a long time ago, but somehow got side-tracked and discontinued the series after posting the opening installment on the game. At long last I am ready to return to this topic and, given the tournament rules changes that are now a part of competitive play at the WBC Convention Tournament, I am hopeful that a few readers, at least, will find an examination of the grand-tactical nuances of this old title useful, or at least modestly interesting.

In addition, other essays (in various stages of completion) are waiting in the wings, ready to be published as soon as I have my new computer up and running. For example, I continue to plug away at a fairly detailed (and, hopefully, somewhat intriguing) historical narrative on wargames and wargaming. Also in the works is a discussion of the profound impact of the PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN Game System on the work of a variety of different game designers in the decades that have followed Dunnigan's ground-breaking new treatment of "armored warfare" from 1976. And, of course, I still have a piece or two left to publish on WAR IN THE EAST: a subject that, whether because of frustration or nostalgia, I seem to be incapable of letting go of, once and for all.

Finally, I am also contemplating a number of new "Game Profiles" with special attention to those designers (like Kevin Zucker, Irad Hardy, Mark Hermann, and John Hill) that I have given rather less attention to, thus far at least, than they probably deserve. This all, not surprisingly, leads to the obvious qustion: Where do things stand now? The answer, such as it is, is that my wife (bless her heart) is presently working to transfer files from my old computer to its replacement; which means that, if everything goes off without a hitch, I should finally be back up and running within a day or two. On the other hand, given my luck thus far, this process of transition could well end up taking a lot longer than either she or I currently expect!
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Here We Go Again!

Most of my regular visitors have no doubt been surprised that there have been no new posts on this site since 21 June; there're not alone, I am as disappointed and frustrated as they are. The explanation for this sudden pause, however, is probably not a surprise; to make a long story short, a few weeks ago I encountered a set of what I initially thought were minor computer problems. Because I already had several nearly-completed essays scheduled for the start of July, and because I am a firm believer in the old adage that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", I decided to take my laptop to a repair shop well in advance of the July 4th Holiday weekend with the idea of replacing my increasingly tired hard drive and, since my computer was already going to be on the work bench anyway, of adding a few other upgrades while I was at it. Unfortunately, once the technicians at the computer shop set to work, they discovered that, besides a hard drive that was on its last legs (which I already knew), my laptop also had an insideous and difficult to diagnose "mother board" problem (which I did not know). In short, my computer (with all of its hundreds of document files, etc., etc.) was on the verge of breathing its last! Because of the holiday and the repeated diagnostic tests that had to be run (my computer has recently decided to turn itself off for no apparent reason) all this took two weeks; thus, I only received this dire prognosis yesterday afternoon.

What all this really means, of course, is that, in order for me to resume blogging on a regular basis, I will have to invest in yet another computer; for what it's worth, I have now already burned through two "high end" laptops in six and a half years. In the meantime, I will be able to respond to comments and to generate a few short posts on my wife's machine, but I really have a difficult time writing on her computer because of the way that her keyboard and "mouse" are set up. That being said, it looks like my wife (she's the computer expert in the family) and I will be shopping for a new computer this weekend. Which should mean, with a bit of luck, that I should be able to resume writing by the first of next week (all those software and file transfers, after all). This time around, however, I think that I will turn my attention towards acquiring a bulkier (but more robust) desktop; given my past experiences, laptops just don't seem to be working out that well for me.

Needless-to-say, given my past luck in the "computer department", if any of you, my readers, have any thoughts on this issue, I invite you to comment or to make suggestions: hopefully, of course, before I actually take the plunge and buy another machine!
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