Excuses, Excuses ...

It has been more than a month and a half since my last post; which, to be sure, is not that long in geological terms, but is an eternity in the electronic world of instant "online" communications. Not unexpectedly, my protracted silence has led more than a few of my long-time visitors to inquire after my current and future plans for "Map and Counters". This is not an unreasonable question, particularly given my personal tendency towards loquaciousness. To those concerned readers who actually went to the trouble of contacting me, I can only say: I have not run out of either enthusiasm or ideas when it comes to writing about wargames and wargaming; in fact, I have been intermittently plugging away on fresh articles for my blog even if I have not been posting any new essays.

At the same time, however, I have also been exceedingly busy with a couple of other hobby-related projects. Thus, just to be clear, this latest pause in the flow of freshly-minted material to "Map and Counters" is not the result — as it has sometimes been in the past — of either computer or health problems at this end. Instead, it is a direct consequence of my resumption, starting in December, of a fairly demanding schedule of competitive PBeM gaming. This play-oriented "sabbatical" away from the daily grind of blogging has, I must confess, been immensely enjoyable; but it has also meant that my written output has suffered noticeably (if temporarily) as a direct result. On the other hand, if one chooses to make the baldly self-serving argument (and I do) that for an individual — in this case, me — to write intelligently about gaming and game-related topics then it not only makes sense, but it is essential for that person to stay actively engaged in the hobby. Moreover, there is another, more immediate reason for my renewed interest in competitive gaming, one that is independent of the requirements of my blog; and that is this: I have decided to attend each and every day of this year's Consimworld Expo (June 25th to July 1st) in Tempe, Arizona, and also the World Boardgaming Championships Convention (including the PreCon, July 27th to August 5th) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and not to put too fine a point on it, since I am going to incur the not inconsiderable expense of attending these two events, it is my strong preference that I not be humbled at the gaming table when I do. That being said, I believe that having chosen to make the well-nigh back-to-back treks to Tempe and then to Lancaster, it only makes sense that I get some serious gaming practice under my belt with a few of my favorite titles before the "start dates" for these two conventions actually roll around. In any case, that is my excuse for neglecting my blog; and, thin as it is, I'm sticking to it.

In the Works

Excuses for my long silence aside, I should note that, despite the heavy demands on my time that my recent return to tournament (versus purely recreational) gaming has imposed, I have, nonetheless, not been completely idle when it comes to developing fresh material for my blog. To that end, what follows is a short — and I hope reassuring — catalog of some of the topics that should, sooner or later, find their way onto the pages of "Map and Counters".

Game Profiles

Currently, I am working on a review of SPI's THE NEXT WAR (1978), and have plans — in spite of the extra work that detailed descriptions of multi-title "quadri-games" tend to entail — to also post profiles on BLUE & GRAY (1975), MODERN BATTLES II (1977), and Four Battles of ARMY GROUP SOUTH (1979). In addition, I am toying with the idea of finally doing a piece on one of my favorite, if under-appreciated, GDW titles: NARVIK (1974). And, although I have already featured a couple of Kevin Zucker's game designs in previous articles in "Map and Counters", I plan to look back at a number of this talented and prolific designer's other (early) Napoleonic games during the coming year. It is even possible that — at some point in the not too distant future — I might, at long last, profile a few of the almost forgotten (and largely unloved) Rand games that, for one reason or another, I have hitherto ignored.

Game Analysis and 'Think Pieces'

Along with the usual compliment of game profiles, reprintable player aids, suggested "rules changes", convention announcements, and occasional bits of hobby news, I also intend — in the months ahead — to finally get around to posting a few new essays devoted to game analysis. First on this list will probably be SPI's NATO (1973), followed, at a decent interval, by my long-delayed second installment on Avalon Hill's "classic" game (and a personal favorite of mine),WATERLOO (1962). In the months to come, this list will gradually be expanded to include analytical discussions of additional titles — some simple, some more complex — from a variety of past and present publishers. Moreover, along with articles on game strategies and tactics, I also plan to publish a pair of pieces — both of which are already in the works — on the effective (and economical) use of D6-based low-odds attacks in STALINGRAD (1963); and on some little-known, but useful tactical approaches that can be used by the German "underdog" to improve Axis prospects for victory in this half-century old Avalon Hill treatment of the Russo-German War, 1941-45.

After Action Reports (AARs) and Series Replays

Graphic move-by-move reproductions of real-world games is a category of post that, with only a few exceptions, I have tended to avoid up until now. The problem — at least for someone with my negligible computer skills — has been that most of my attempts to display individual game moves, when transferred from the computer monitor to the blog page, seem to always lose something in translation. Thus, my "bare bones" publishing requirement — that the illustrations for my blog posts be clear, easily understandable, and interesting to the eye — has, despite my best efforts, previously gone pretty much unmet when it comes to these types of articles. Recently, however, a possible solution to this "quality control" problem may finally have presented itself: enter the free and widely-available medium of the "online" gaming platform. VASSAL, Cyberboard, Aide de Camp (and ADC2) have all been around for awhile, and each of these three "online" game engines has its own group of (sometimes passionate) supporters; for my purposes, however, I have decided (for reasons that I will not go into now) to launch my first test of this new — for me, at least — technique for illustrating AARs on my blog using the ZunTzu game platform. Moreover, as it turns out, I just happen to have the perfect game with which to conduct this experiment: my own recently completed first round match in the 50th Anniversary STALINGRAD PBeM Tournament. And while this first test case may not present my readers with a lot of "nail-biting" suspense, it does (at only six and a half game turns) have the virtue of being comparatively short. It has two additional benefits, as well: first, the move-by-move screenshots are already finished and safely stored in their own file folder; and second, I am presently about half way through the writing of this piece, which means that, unless something unexpected comes up during the next few days, it should be completed and ready to publish within a week or so.

Odds and Ends

Of course, along with everything else, I also expect to finish work on a number of other blog-related projects besides those noted above. In answer to the requests of a couple of my readers, for example, I will soon be adding a link (for download purposes) to the subject of my review of an early amateur game variant — designed by Patrick Nix and Fred Schacter — for SPI's LEIPZIG (1972), called "LEIPZIG REVISED", which (although it seems hard to believe now) I originally described in "Map and Counters" several years ago. Shortly thereafter, I plan on posting — as a small first step in my plan to celebrate this classic Napoleonic game's 50th birthday — a WATERLOO Prussian/Anglo-Allied Order of Appearance and reinforcement Track which, interestingly enough, did not appear as a magazine insert in "The General" until well over a decade after the game's initial 1962 publication. Finally, for those of my visitors who enjoy reading well-written military histories, at least two book reviews will probably find their way onto the pages of "Map and Counters" in the weeks to come: one is Orlando Figes' engrossing, although somewhat unorthodox work, "The Crimean War"; the other is Adrian Goldsworthy's richly-detailed, if occasionally ponderous biography of Caius Julius Caesar, "Caesar: Life of a Colossus".

Final Thoughts

Based on the blog-related projects that I have outlined above, it should be obvious that neither the tenor nor the substance of "Map and Counters" is going to change very much during the coming year. Obviously, there will be modest adjustments to the blog's content here and there, if for no other reason than that some editorial flexibility is necessary just to keep pace with changes in and to the hobby. Nonetheless, for the most part, the same basic types of articles that have appeared in past years will continue to occupy places of importance when it comes to future posts. One thing, however, will set 2012 apart from previous years when it comes to "Map and Counters": it will be the first year in which I will attempt to "live blog" while I am personally attending (and actively participating) in the day-to-day goings on of a week-long hobby event. How this "live-blogging" plan of mine will work out, once I am actually in the midst of the bustle and excitement of a multi-day wargaming convention, I have no idea. But this is a new approach to my self-appointed role as a wargame blogger that I at least want to try; and it is something that, for better or for worse, will definitely make a difference in the content of this summer's, versus previous summer's, posts on "Map and Counters".


  • glad your back! look forward to the narvik piece and the WATERLOO OOA esp. the "live blogging" event will be a blast! i have seen it done in other arena's and i think it will be no problem for you.

  • Greetings Brian:

    Thank you visiting and for your confidence in me.

    When it comes to "live-blogging" the CSW Expo and WBC conventions this summer, the only real concern I have is noise. When I am at the keyboard at home, I usually will not even tolerate having the radio on, much less the TV. The fact that my wife puts up with this eccentricity is more a testiment to her saintly forebearance than it is to my position in the household. In any case, it will be interesting to see how this all works out.

    Regarding GDW's NARVIK: this, for a long time, was one of my favorite World War II games from any publisher. One part of the game's appeal was undoubtedly the fact that no one else had even looked at this early Axis campaign. In addition, the "Europa-based" combined air-land-sea campaign made it both very interesting, and very challenging for both players. Call me a masochist, but I particularly liked to play the Norwegians; and, believe it or not, I actually won a number of really lop-sided victories when the German player's plans didn't go quite as well as he had expected!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Really look forward to your future writings. The short time I've been visiting I've enjoyed going back through your older articles.
    I'm amazed how many of the games you mention I've played--I guess I really did spend a lot of time pushing counters around!


  • Greetings Paul:

    Thank you for your interest.

    Ironically enough, I finally have a couple new posts ready to publish and I just discovered that the "powers that be" at Google have fiddled with my hosting service, Blogger, and that I am blocked from my site's "dashboard". Hopefully, I (read: my wife) will figure this out in the next few days, but, in the meantime, I am temporarily "off line" when it comes to new posts.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I'm the same way at work (and when playing a game at home), don't like the distractions of TV, radio or people talking across waist-high cubicle walls. I don't recall CSW being that loud last year, as most of the attendees were high-concentration geeks like the rest of us. (Until the food bar opened, then it was a herd of buffalo out the door ... ;-)

  • Greetings Preston:

    When I was younger, noise didn't seem to bother me; but now it makes it very difficult for me to think and write.

    On a somewhat different topic ...

    I'm delighted that you'll be able to make it to CSW Expo this year! Who knows, we might even have the opportunity to play a few of your old favorites (e.g., YEAR OF THE RAT, BULGE '65, etc.).

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Well it looks like great things ahead for all of us .Seems everything you mentioned I enjoy;)

  • Greetings Kim:

    I'm glad that you like what you see.

    By the way, I have already added the "LEIPZIG Revised" PDF to my original review, so it is there if you want to give it a look.

    And speaking of very old game variants, I recently came across another of these old "chestnuts", Loren Sperry's (1973) variant for AFRIKA KORPS, "Rommel: Campaign for North Africa". Oddly enough, I used to have a whole bunch of these early amateur game variants but, as I sold a substantial part of my wargame collection off on eBay, I tended to include them along with the "standard" games on which they had been based.

    Best Regards, Joe

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