SPI, THE NEXT WAR (1978)

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THE NEXT WAR is a hypothetical simulation of a Warsaw Pact offensive against NATO forces in Europe in the late 1970’s. THE NEXT WAR was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1978. THE NEXT WAR is packaged in the large soap box format that SPI reserved, during this period, for its "super-sized" monster games.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

"A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent."

Winston Churchill in a speech delivered in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946
American cargo plane landing at Templehof
airport during the Berlin Airlift
Almost from the day that the Nazi High Command formally surrendered to the victorious Allies in 1945, a now politically-partitioned Germany took on a dangerous new role as a key flash point for Cold War tensions between the Eastern Bloc, dominated by the Soviet Union, and the Western Allies, under the leadership of the United States. Inevitably, given their conflicting post-war political goals — particularly as they pertained to Eastern Europe and the Balkans — relations between the western democracies and the Soviet Union steadily deteriorated. Finally, on 24 June 1948, the Soviets blockaded Berlin by closing off all rail and road access to the city in an attempt to gain complete control of the divided former German Capital. The United States, Great Britain, and other members of the British Commonwealth responded with the Berlin Airlift. At its peak, the airlift was delivering over 13,000 tons of fuel and food to the beleaguered city every day. Clearly, the cooperation between East and West that had won the Second World War was at an end. However, one positive, if indirect outcome of the Berlin Airlift was the formation, on 4 April 1949, of the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO). Faced with an embarrassing political and military failure, the Soviets finally ended the blockade on 12 May 1949. However, they did not abandon their designs on achieving control of an economically resurgent West Germany.

Fulda Gap terrain features
Originally, NATO was little more than an administrative organization composed of America and democratic Western European States, but with the outbreak of the Korean War in the early 1950’s, the military component of the organization quickly became the dominant feature of the coalition.

The Soviets, confronted with a strong and stable military alliance between Western Europe and the United States, reacted in kind; on 14 May 1955, the eight Communist Countries of the Eastern Bloc formed a military alliance of their own, known — because of the site chosen for the treaty’s formal signing — as the Warsaw Pact. Two great hostile military alliances now faced each other, one on each side of the “Iron Curtain.” Given the ongoing belligerence of the Communist leadership in the Kremlin; their ruthless suppression of the peoples of Eastern Europe, and their aggressive political adventurism in Africa and Latin America, the possibility of a Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe became, by the late 1950’s, a key feature of NATO planning as the Cold War continued.

The two most likely routes for a Soviet mechanized offensive into West Germany were obvious: the North German Plain, and the Fulda Gap. The British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) was entrusted with covering the North German Plain; while the US Vth Corps was assigned the initial defense of the Fulda Gap. If the Soviets attacked without warning, these British and American formations would have to halt the Warsaw Pact offensive long enough for reinforcements from the other NATO countries to move up to the front. Permanently arrayed against these British and American trip-wire units were mechanized divisions from the Soviet, East German, and Polish Armies. The other Warsaw Pact countries, like the supporting NATO members, would be expected to send their own additional front line and reserve units into the battle area, once hostilities actually began.

Soviet tanks supress the "Prague Spring"
 uprising in Czechoslovakia, 1968
This simple East-West divide, however, was not as uncomplicated as it appeared on its face. In actuality, both military alliances presented daunting political and military challenges to their respective operational planners. In 1966, the French formally withdrew from NATO and, although Paris continued to coordinate military planning with NATO headquarters in Brussels, the other member countries — particularly Britain, West Germany, and the United States — had serious reservations about French intentions if a Soviet attack were to come. In the East, the Russians had problems of their own. Because of the brutal Soviet suppression of popular uprisings in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, Warsaw Pact planners could not be sure of the loyalty of these nations’ military contingents should war break out; particularly if their military operations did not meet with obvious initial success. Thus, if war came again to Europe, both NATO and Soviet planners would have to worry both about the actions of their enemy and the reliability of at least some of their allies.

DESCRIPTION

THE NEXT WAR: Modern Conflict in Europe is a hypothetical (quasi-historical) simulation, at the brigade/division level, of a major military conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact for possession of what was then West Germany, and by extension, for political control of the rest of Western Europe. The scope of the game is enormous. Units from sixteen different countries are present in the counter mix. The game maps cover a battle space that extends from the northern tip of Denmark, through Germany and Austria, to Northern Italy; in addition, they display fourteen different types of militarily significant terrain. The game’s design includes virtually every significant aspect of 1970’s warfare that was known (at least to the general public) at the time of the game's publication. THE NEXT WAR is a land-sea-air simulation, but the rules for the land war, as might be expected, form the core of this complex game design. Many of the rules for the land game are familiar: step reduction, headquarters-based supply, movement modes for combat units, limited intelligence, and unit break-down and build-up, to name only a few.

One unusual design feature of THE NEXT WAR — at least for its time — is that combat is treated as a function of movement, and occurs in a series of engagements during the course of the movement phase, as individual units move into contact with the enemy. In the basic “fast game” versions of the design’s shorter scenarios, air and naval operations can be dispensed with completely. However, despite the game’s emphasis on the ground war, the air and naval campaigns have not been short-changed. The elaborate subroutines for air and naval combat operations are so richly detailed, that they both can almost stand alone as independent games outside of the larger integrated simulation. The Air Game involves allocating hundreds of units to specific airfields and sectors along the front. From these airbases, the air units of the two combatants conduct a variety of different air missions, such as (but not limited to): air supremacy, CAP, air-to air, air-to-ground, air-to-naval, ground support, and air reconnaissance. The Naval Game, on the other hand, focuses only on naval operations in the Baltic Sea and Denmark Straits, and offers, in terms of maneuver tempo and combat, a completely different gaming experience from that of the air or land games.

The game turn sequence, I believe, tells players a great deal about what they should expect from THE NEXT WAR. The basic “land war” turn sequence is quite simple: Warsaw Pact Reinforcement Phase, Replacement Phase, Movement/Combat Phase; NATO Reinforcement Phase, Replacement Phase, Movement/Combat Phase; and Game Turn End Phase. This “fast game” introductory rules system allows players to gain experience with the map features and combat system before moving on to the “advanced” game. The advanced turn sequence, of course, is where all of the design and development time that went into THE NEXT WAR really shows. An "advanced" turn proceeds, as follows: Weather Phase; Joint Nuclear Planning Phase; Air Allocation Phase; Air Combat Phase; Nuclear Strike Stage (multiple phases); Warsaw Pact Land Stage (six phases); NATO Land Stage (six phases); Naval Stage (seven phases); and (game turn) End Phase. It is easy to see, after looking at the “advanced” turn sequence, that THE NEXT WAR is a big game, not only because of size, but also because of the ambitiousness of its design. Jim Dunnigan was clearly trying to push the game design envelope to the limit with this project; whether he succeeded, I leave to others to decide. What is particularly interesting for me, is that only five years separated the 1973 publication of NATO, and only four years, the 1974 publication of WAR IN THE EAST (1st ed.), from that of THE NEXT WAR. Obviously, a lot happened at SPI, and in the rest of the world of conflict simulation design, in those few short intervening years.

THE NEXT WAR offers six short scenarios, and three campaign game scenarios. The six (comparatively) short scenarios are, as follows: the Berlin Scenario (five or fewer game turns); Vienna Scenario (five or fewer game turns); Baltic Scenario (10 or fewer turns); the Fulda Scenario (10 or fewer game turns); North German Plains Scenario (12 game turns); and the Main Front Scenario (12 game turns). Each of the short scenarios focuses on a limited section of the potential NATO-Warsaw Pact front, and uses only the units assigned to that sector of the battle area. You can play any of these short scenarios as a “fast” game using just the basic rules, or as an “advanced” game, using some or all of the optional rules. The three campaign games use all of the map sections and all of the available forces of the two belligerents. The designer — as might be expected — recommends that players become thoroughly familiar with the unusual features of the game system, and with the optional rules they intend to use, before attempting any of these longer, more complex games. The three campaign game scenarios are all thirty turns long, and differ only in the readiness situation at the start of NATO-Warsaw Pact hostilities. The three campaign game scenarios are: the Sudden War Scenario (a surprise attack by Warsaw forces with no prior buildup); Spring Maneuvers Scenario (Warsaw Pact forces on maneuvers suddenly take the offensive for real); and the Tension Scenario (in which both sides mobilize, because of political tensions, in advance of hostilities).

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

James Dunnigan's THE NEXT WAR — or, as one of my regular opponent's quickly took to calling it, PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN meets TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD — is an ambitious, even hubristic attempt by the prolific head of SPI to reproduce, in game form, a 1970's era military clash between the Warsaw pact and NATO that, thankfully, never actually occurred. As such, it attempts to include virtually every military component that — it was thought, at the time — would be relevant to air-ground-sea combat operations if the Cold War had suddenly turned "hot". Needless-to-say, with design goals like these, it was probably inevitable that the actual game, whatever its final form, would be somewhat controversial within the gaming community. And this has pretty much been the case ever since the game first appeared way back in 1978.

Among the many monster game players who, after giving Dunnigan's take on continent-wide modern warfare a try, decided that they didn't like his game design, three criticisms tended to recur with surprising consistency: first, they pointed out that the ground combat CRT was both asymmetrical and counter intuitive (it sometimes made sense, for example, to attack at lower rather than at higher odds); second, the rules integrating air-ground operations were cumbersome, while those for naval operations were downright unworkable; and third, whatever its other virtues, the basic architecture of the game — once the fighting actually started in earnest — quickly tended to be swamped by a "tidal wave" of different (and confusing) die-roll modifiers.

Dunnigan's new monster game, however, was not without its defenders. Thus, those players who really liked the game (and I count myself in this category), although quick to acknowledge the validity of some of THE NEXT WAR'S playability problems, responded to the critics by pointing out that the game's "positives" far outweighed its "negatives". Yes, the CRT sometimes seemed counter intuitive, but so what? THE NEXT WAR was not the first SPI game to make use of non-linear combat results, and most certainly would not be the last. And certainly the integration of air-ground-sea operations in the game was, at times, disappointingly complicated if not actually "clunky"; still, with practice, the air-ground subroutines could be made to work together relatively well; and even the naval subroutine (and in this instance, I know whereof I speak) — with a little bit of effort and creativity on the part of the players — could be integrated fairly well into the overall dynamic of the game. The third playability problem — that the large number of die roll "modifiers" required to compute combat outcomes was excessive and needlessly cumbersome — was probably the one criticism that was most difficult to refute. Yet, even in this case, the argument could be made (and often was) that this was more a matter of degree than of substance; and that a similar criticism had earlier been leveled at Richard Berg's TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD (1976) without markedly affecting the game's appeal to those gamers genuinely interested in a highly-detailed tactical treatment of the "Battle of Gettysburg". So why should the player response to this game be any different?

One interesting idea to emerge — at least in some gaming circles — during the years that followed the initial release of THE NEXT WAR, was for (truly ambitious) players to graft key elements from the rules package of Mark Herman's excellent, if highly derivative, GULF STRIKE (1983, 1988, and 1990) onto the basic platform of the older Dunnigan design. Because of the obvious connection between the two games, I thought at the time that this might well be a workable idea; however, for my own part, such a project seemed then (and still does, three decades later) like it would probably be more trouble than it would actually be worth.

Visually, THE NEXT WAR, when it is laid out and set up for play, is an awesome game to behold. The maps are — thanks to the indefatigable Redmond Simonsen — both chock full of information and yet still attractive to the eye. The game charts and tables are easy-to-use, if a bit utilitarian. And the two thousand plus counters, although back-printed in the typical SPI matte-finish style, are both readable and colorful enough to be interesting. The rule book, at over thirty pages of relatively small print, is admittedly a slog the first couple of times through; nonetheless, it is generally well-organized, and, with a bit of practice, players can usually find a "sought after" rules case comparatively quickly. One particularly nice feature of the game package is the extensive Order of Battle information for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact forces that has been included. In the opinion of at least one of my gaming friends back when the game first appeared, the research incorporated into the OoB work, alone, was worth the price of the game.

Visual appeal and size, of course, will only take a design so far when it comes to its value, both as a game and as a simulation. The graphic presentation, and the sheer scale of the game, however, are not the only elements that — to my mind, at least — make this title a "winner". In addition, the texture and historical richness of the overall game system also make this ground-breaking design a worthwhile title for any player interested in modern (post-World War II) combat operations.

The optional rules included with THE NEXT WAR are so numerous and detailed that it would take an additional page, just to catalog them. Suffice to say that if SPI could glean, from unclassified sources, the characteristics of a new weapons system, operational doctrine, or special combat capability, then those militarily-relevant factors probably found their way into the rules for THE NEXT WAR. It goes without saying that, for many gamers, all this information and the operational detail that it inevitably adds to the design's basic rules architecture means that actually mastering the game system — with its many phases and subroutines — is a bit of a chore. But, I submit that, for those who are genuinely interested in modern military affairs, it is a chore that is well worth undertaking. THE NEXT WAR may not be the perfect simulation of large-scale conventional (and possibly tactical nuclear) European warfare in the late 20th century, but — in my view, at least — it still does a surprisingly good job of "delivering the goods", both as a simulation and as a game. And considering that this SPI monster was first published thirty-four years ago, that is pretty impressive, in and of itself.

Clearly, given the sheer volume of simulation detail that it contains and its complexity, this Dunnigan opus is most definitely not a game for the novice or, for that matter, even for the casual player. However, I can think of no better, more comprehensive simulation of large-scale, 1970’s combat operations in Europe than THE NEXT WAR. For this reason, if for no other, (and it should be noted that it is actually a "blast" to play) I consider it to be a must own for those gamers with a serious interest in recent contemporary history, or for those with an abiding curiosity about what a conflict between the Warsaw Pact and NATO might have looked like, had it actually occurred.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 days per game turn (land game); 4 hours per game turn (naval game)
  • Map Scale: 14 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: battalion/regiment/brigade/division, air squadron, individual ships, naval flotillas
  • Unit Types: army/corps headquarters, division base, mechanized infantry, armor, airborne infantry, air mobile infantry, alpine (mountain) infantry, marines, armored cavalry, special forces, assault engineers, field force, artillery, surface-to-surface missile, fixed ADA (SAM), mobile ADA (SAM), electronic warfare, railroad regiment, front supply head, fighter aircraft, bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, transport, attack helicopter, transport helicopter, PT boats, mine layers, minesweepers, submarines, destroyers, guided missile cruisers, naval air, and information markers
  • Number of Players: two (teams highly recommended)
  • Complexity: above average/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: low
  • Average Playing Time: 6-200 + hours (depending on scenario, and assuming experienced players)

Game Components:

  • Three 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Turn Record Track, Terrain Key, Die Modification Record, Movement Point Expenditure Track, NATO Airbase Holding Boxes, NATO Task Force Boxes, Port Boxes, Warsaw Pact Airbase Holding Boxes, and Warsaw Pact Task Force Boxes incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” hexagonal grid Map Extension (with Naval Turn Record Track incorporated)
  • One 8¼” x 10½” hexagonal grid Map Extension (with Off Map Movement Tracks incorporated)
  • 2400 back-printed ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet
  • One 8½” x 11” Scenario and Situation Briefing Booklet (with Scenario Instructions, Different National OoB’s, Movement Point Costs Charts, Land Combat Results Tables, Weather Tables, Positive Air-to-Air Combat Results Tables, Zero Air-to-Air Combat Results Tables, Negative Air-to-Air Combat Results Tables, Nuclear Combat Results Tables, Nuclear Contamination Tables, FLAK Combat Results Tables, FLAK Suppression Tables, Naval Movement Costs Charts, Naval Combat Results Tables, Air-to-Ground Combat Results Tables, Sweep Results Tables, Special Forces Vertical Assault Tables, Special Forces Assault Tables, Mine Results Tables, and Air Superiority Level Tables incorporated)
  • One 17” x 22” perforated (for separation) NATO and Warsaw Pact Air Allocation Display
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (August 7, 1978)
  • Two small six-sided Dice
  • Two 8¾” x 11½” flat 20 compartment plastic storage Trays with clear plastic covers
  • One SPI 9” x 11¾” x 4” soapbox style cardboard Game Box
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REGISTRATION FOR CONSIMWORLD EXPO 2012/MONSTERGAME.CON XII IS NOW OPEN

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This year, the Cardboard Wars in Tempe, Arizona will begin on June 25th and run through July 1st, 2012


Last year, as long-time visitors to "Map and Counters" may remember, a lack of advance planning and unexpected health problems conspired to keep me from actively participating in the many exciting events that were offered By Kranz and company at the 2011 Consimworld Expo. Thus, instead of a week of non-stop wargaming, designer seminars, play test sessions, and other hobby-related activities, I ended up having to settle for a couple of hours — spread over three different days — spent mainly quietly observing others (the lucky sods) having a great time. Needless-to-say, this experience left me both disappointed and frustrated, and I vowed that, come next year, I would not allow my CSW Expo 2012 convention plans to be derailed as those for 2011 had been.

Of course, intentions are one thing, but actions are quite another; for that reason, I am happy to report that — barring some completely unforeseen occurrence — it looks like all of the necessary arrangements have now been made for me to attend the entire Consimworld event, from the first day to the last. This is particularly gratifying because this year I plan on doing something that I have never done before: "live blog" my experiences while I am actually at the convention. And if this approach works out at least moderately well at this year's CSW Expo, then I may even try it when I attend the World Boardgaming Championships Convention in Lancaster, later this summer. In the meantime, I want to invite any of my readers who are planning on attending this year's CSW Expo to look me up. Speaking for myself, I know that I would be delighted to at long last have the chance to meet some of my blog's long-time visitors, face-to-face; who knows, we may even be able to get in a "classic" game or two.

It’s hard to believe, but winter is limping to an end and it will soon be that time of year again. What time of year, you ask? Why, CSW Expo time, of course. On June 25th, the first convention arrivals will kick-off the early festivities at what will be — in my view, at least — one of the most enjoyable and unique wargaming events of the coming year: Consimworld Expo 2012. This year’s convention is the direct descendant of MonsterGame.Con which, thanks mainly to the vision and hard work of John Kranz, first opened its doors in 2001. And after more than a decade of event additions and enhancements, this once-a-year gathering has become a truly must-attend event with some of the best and most affable players from all over the country, along with some of the leading figures in simulation design, all coming together for this week-long celebration of the wargaming hobby. The CSW Expo is still hosted by John Kranz and company; and convention attendees, as they have in years past, will again meet in the heart of the Old West at the luxurious Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, in Tempe, Arizona.

The feature which really sets the CSW Expo/MonsterGame.Cons apart from other wargaming conventions is that, along with presenting its participants with a bevy of traditional game-related activities, it also opens up unique opportunities for interested convention-goers to compete face-to-face in their favorite monster game titles, both old and new. Moreover, in addition to providing attendees with a rare chance to indulge in six and a half days of non-stop monster gaming, Expo 2012 will also provide attendees with, among other things, prize tournaments, game demonstrations and play-test sessions for new titles, seminars with well-known hobby personalities, a game auction, flea markets, breakfast-meeting speakers and After Action Reports, and even door prizes. Thus, when all is said and done, participants’ options at this year’s CSW convention — whatever their individual gaming interests — will be limited only by their personal tastes, the number of hours in the day, and by their own stamina. Hence, in spite of the CSW convention’s long-time support for monster games and monster game fans, competitive play at Expo 2012 will not be focused exclusively or even predominately on “super-sized” games. And although many players do make the annual pilgrimage to the Consimworld Expo/MonsterGame.Con specifically because of the unique opportunity it affords them to actually play, rather than — as is too often the case — simply admire their favorite "super-sized" games, almost half of the Expo’s attendees will, if previous conventions are any guide, spend most, if not all, of their competitive “table time” at open-gaming in the several excellent (comfortable and well-lit) playing venues set aside specifically for this purpose.

Tempe Mission Palms
Finally, it is also probably worth noting that this summer’s gaming at the Tempe Mission Palms will not be restricted only to traditional “map and counter” conflict simulations. Quite the contrary, dozens and dozens of old and new titles (from CDG, to “block”, to Euro-style) will — as they have in years past — all be a part of this year’s CSW Expo experience. This means that the convention is both large enough and varied enough to offer players a broad menu of both conflict simulations and multi-player social gaming that — new attendees will quickly discover — should suit virtually any visitor’s taste in games. Nor is the convention aimed strictly at long-time (hard-core) participants in the hobby. Instead, players who make the trek to Arizona this coming summer will find that there are abundant opportunities for the young and not-so-young, and for both inexperienced and seasoned players to enjoy their favorite titles in a matchless gaming environment.

The CSW Expo only comes around once a year; so, if you can possibly find a way to get to Tempe during the last week of June, I strongly recommend that you do so. Of course, I may be a little biased since the convention site is only a thirty-minute drive from my house. Nonetheless, if you enjoy both congenial company and lots of gaming, I'm pretty much convinced that you won’t be able to avoid having a great time.

To find out more about CSW Expo 2012/MonsterGame.Con XII, or to register online for this year’s convention, visit the website: http://expo.consimworld.com/
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TRICKS OF THE TRADE: A PLAYER'S AID FOR AVALON HILL'S 'WATERLOO'

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If it's not one thing, it's another. No sooner did I make the announcement on "Map and Counters" that I would shortly have a couple of new posts finished and ready to publish than my blog site "host", for reasons about which I am still unclear, took it upon itself to lock me out of the editing function of the "Blogger" dashboard. This meant that, not only could I not edit any of my existing posts, but I also could not access any of the unpublished essays that were currently stored on the dashboard in "draft" form. Needless-to-say, I was a tiny bit nonplussed by this unexpected and unwelcome hitch in my publishing schedule.

Fortunately, someone at the Blogger Help Forum was able to help me fix this irritating little problem and, although I am back online somewhat later than I had originally planned, I am, thankfully, finally able to resume my posting of fresh material again. And while I have other, more original essays in the "on deck circle", I thought that I would start my latest batch of new posts by publishing — in answer to a request from one of my regular readers — this rather handy (in my view, at least) WATERLOO Player Aid.


WATERLOO will mark its fiftieth birthday this year; which, to those of us who were actually around when this and other of the early Avalon Hill classics first appeared, is a sobering thought, indeed. Nonetheless, in spite of it age, its sometimes "quaint" rules (stacking limitations, for example, are based on numbers of factors, not numbers of units), and its uninspired graphics, this Charles Robert's treatment of Napoleon's ill-fated 1815 campaign still enjoys an enthusiastic following within the grognard community (me included) even now. The game's overall scale (mainly divisional level, with two hour game turns) and the problems that it presents to its players (a concentrated French army marching against an initially dispersed and outnumbered Coalition army composed of Prussian and Anglo-Allied forces) are the stuff of truly great wargaming.


Wellington and Blucher meet after the Battle of Waterloo
Unfortunately, like many of the other titles that emerged during the early days of conflict simulation design, WATERLOO is not without its faults. Putting aside, for a moment, the relatively drab (by today's standards) appearance of its unit counters and its occasionally ambiguous map design, the game's main playability problem was that, although the spaced-out turn-by-turn arrival of Prussian/Anglo-Allied (PAA) reinforcements is a key element in the game's dynamic, no easy-to-use PAA Reinforcement Track was included with the published game. This meant that, prior to play, the PAA player — with only the "itty-bitty" print on an "Order of Appearance" card to go by — had to pick his or her way through seventy-eight counters (not to mention a slew of blanks and largely useless leader units) in order to first find and then arrange the specific Coalition units that were scheduled to enter at various points on the map and on different turns, as the game progressed. Needless-to-say, because of the extra set-up time involved and the potential for mistakes, this was a royal pain. Moreover, carefully inscribing the backs of all of the PAA unit counters (an expedient which many of us who played the game regularly quickly resorted to) both with their arrival hex and their turn of entry, although modestly useful when it came to shortening set-up time, was no guarantee against reinforcement problems caused by player error or (the bane of wargamers everywhere) missing counters. In the case of my own college wargaming group, one of my friends finally became so exasperated over this issue that he laboriously created (by organizing the actual game pieces on the platten of the copy machine in the library) two "Order of Appearance" charts: one each for the PAA and for the French players. Interestingly, the charts produced by my creative friend's long-ago efforts turned out so well that — although they are now badly faded from age — I still use them to this day.

Of course, for those fans of WATERLOO who could not rely on the industry or sheer perserverence of someone like my college friend, this set-up problem (and the aforementioned others associated with the game) continued to fester untreated, year after year. That is until 1978: in that year, Avalon Hill — thanks to the yeoman efforts of Bruno Sinigaglio — in answer to player questions and complaints, at last got around to issuing a cleaned-up "Second Edition" version of the game's rules. Amazingly enough, at around the same time — better late than never, I suppose — the "Boys in Baltimore" also finally turned their attention to solving the long-running WATERLOO Order of Appearance problem by publishing a "PAA Reinforcement Track" as an insert in The General. It is a scan of that insert that I now offer in a "downloadable" form here. It is my hope that, for those players (both old and new) who still find WATERLOO as fascinating and challenging as I do, this player aid will add to their enjoyment of this great old game.

Waterloo Reinforcement Chart Play Aid PDF File

Waterloo Reinforcement Chart Play Aid PDF
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AFTER MY LATEST HOLIDAY FROM BLOGGING, I'M FINALLY BACK

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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".
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