Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts
Showing posts with label World War II. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2013

Heroes of Normandie: Bridging the Gap Between Euro, Rpg-er, and Grognard?

The vast majority of the gaming I participate in on a regular basis is role playing, Euro, or Ameri-treasure. I own a large number of role playing games, and I get to play many of them with my gaming group. I have a sizable Euro and Ameri-treasure collection and am often able to convince my regular gaming group to pause our campaigns to play a quick game of MUNCHKIN, GLOOM, or CATAN. This means I get to play a lot of wonderful games...and yet all this gaming doesn't sate my gaming appetite. You see, I am cursed with a voracious and insatiable ludographic desire to play games from all genre/classifications. In addition to the game genres above, I love miniatures gaming and microscopic chit based monster wargames. It's not hard to find people to play miniature games with, though they do have to be willing to tolerate my "primer gray" armies.

It is nigh impossible to find people who have the time and interest to play microscopic chit based wargames -- even of the less than monster variety.

This is why so many of the chit based wargames include a "solitaire" rating on the side of the box. A lot of us GMT, MMP, DECISION, and old AH and SPI gamers have to be willing to play many of these games ourselves. This is because the chit based wargame can be an intimidating beast. The games often focus heavily on simulation -- accurately portraying a historical event -- instead of playability and that can lead to some extremely complex rules. Check out the rule book for A WORLD AT WAR, which comes in at 192 pages, and you get a small glimpse of what I mean.  Avalon Hill's ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER is similarly intimidating, but the old SQUAD LEADER -- with it's programmed learning system -- is less so.

The other disadvantage that some of these games have is that they are often not very graphically appealing. This has changed over the past decade, but a look at some of the classics of the simulation genre with their abstract unit notations can be off-putting as well.

These limitations led to the near death of the wargaming hobby in the early 90s, but innovations in graphic design and rules have led to growth in the field so that the hobby is now fairly stable. Stable, but for those of us who love it still to small.  This is why "crossover" games are so important.  These are games that fall within the wargame milieu, while also appealing to other gamers. Games like MEMOIR '44 and BATTLELORE (both using the Command & Colors system) are great examples of this kind of game. These two games have simpler rules that appeal to the Eurogamer, while still having customizeability, expandability, and rich enough mechanics to satisfy the wargamer itch. There are other games that cross the Eurogamer/Wargamer line, and there are those that cross the RPG/Wargamer line.  Games like DUST TACTICS have some appeal to RPG gamers and incorporate wargame elements -- though they push players over more toward miniatures gaming than wargaming. If one views DESCENT by FFG as a skirmish game -- which I do -- it too has some crossover appeal.

There aren't many games that try to have Euro/RPG/Wargamer appeal, and it looks like the French Designers at Devil Pig Games are trying to do exactly that with their current Kickstarter campaign "Heroes of Normandie." The game looks like a simple to play Euro/Wargame crossover, and the addition of the ACHTUNG CTHULHU! inspired Cthulhu expansion "Shadows Over Normandy" it looks like they are trying to get the whole trifecta involved.

I'm not surprised that it is a French company that would be among the first to try to come up with a game that crosses all three genre.  The French wargame seen is huge and the wargame magazine BATTLES is one of the best in the business. There is a strong French RPG industry that has seen some of its games, like IN NOMINE, imported to the United States -- though I'm still waiting for C.O.P.S. to find its way to our shores. And Eurogames are exploding in France as they are in the rest of the world.

The Devil Pigs Games crew seem to be leveraging all of the attributes that contribute to the robust wargaming industry in France and bringing them over to an internationally distributed game.  One look at one of the insert wargames in BATTLES magazine, or at the games advertised in the magazine, and you can see that the French gaming industry is doing some amazing things graphically and thematically with their games. HEROES OF NORMANDIE looks to be no exception.  Have a look at these game play videos to see what I mean.  The graphics on the pieces are wonderful, and the statistics on the pieces appear to be easy to understand.  This looks to be a wonderful game.

If only I had an unlimited supply of money.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Remembering World War II -- Playing a Game to Better Understand the Terror of War

On September 1, 1939 the German army invaded Poland, an action which signaled the official beginning of the Second World War. A little more than a week before this invasion, on August 23rd 1939, the Soviet Union and the Nazis signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact -- also known as the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. In addition to articulating an agreement of non-agression, the Pact included terms for the territorial and political rearrangement of the countries of Eastern Europe. To quote the relevant articles:

Article I. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II. In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San.

The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish States and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.

In any event both Governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.

Article III. With regard to Southeastern Europe attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinteredness in these areas.

This agreement enabled the Nazis to invade Poland without fear of a Soviet reaction, so long as they kept to the pre-determined territorial rearrangements. The document's legacy extends beyond providing the Nazis the confidence to begin an attack against Poland, it created the basis for geographical lines and political struggles that would endure throughout the Cold War.

When one thinks of the Second World War, one often focuses on the struggles of the "Great Powers" engaged in the global conflict. There is a great abundance of historical resources available about the Battle of Stalingrad, The Battle of the Bulge, and the invasion at Normandy. What is often overlooked when remembering the Second World War are the struggles of weaker forces battling for independence from the larger powers. We don't often read about the Lithuanian June Uprising or the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. When it comes to games about the era, these events are almost completely overlooked. It is easy to find wargames covering The Battle of the Bulge. In fact, it is a joke that every wargame designer must at some time design a "Bulge Game" -- a fact that led Steve Jackson to design One Page Bulge. There are some excellent wargames covering the Battle of Stalingrad and the battles between the Nazis and Soviets on the Eastern Front. But even games that simulate battles on the smallest level, games like Squad Leader, often overlook these important struggles.

Thankfully, Jason Morningstar has written a game that powerfully captures the spirit of freedom and the tragic costs of war exemplified in these battles for liberation. Morningstar's Grey Ranks is a game that simulates the 63 days of the Warsaw Uprising -- in particular the actions of child soldiers. As Morningstar puts it:

In this game, you will assume the role of a young Polish partisan before, during, and after the disastrous 1944 Uprising against the Germans. Together with your friends, you'll create the story of a group of teens who fight to free their city, one of the countless Grey Ranks "crews" that take up arms. Your characters -- child soldiers -- will have all the faults and enthusiasms of youth. Across sixty days of armed rebellion, they will grow up fast -- or die.

The game uses a chapter structure which enforces an adherence to the real events of the uprising and which forces players to make increasingly difficult decisions. The game also includes several quotes from Hans Frank, the man who was the Governor General of occupied Poland. Grey Ranks is a narrative driven game system that creates powerful stories and focuses on an often overlooked part of the Second World War. Though the game focuses on the struggles of child soldiers during the 1944 Uprising, one can see how its system might be expanded to look at other similar struggles as well.

For a look at Lithuania's struggles, I recommend Darius Udrys' Road to Freedom (embedded below). His film covers more than the Second World War, but the multimedia presentation is worth the viewing.