When people ask me the secret of my success, I like to say, “Wargames – you can never play too many wargames.”
I don’t say this as just a grognard, a veteran wargamer. I say this as a student of everything that wargaming can teach a person: strategy, history, proficiency with probability and estimation, a grasp of complex rules and an understanding that sometimes you just have to roll the dice – alea iacta est.
My introduction to wargames came in 1980, at age 5, when my brother taught me to play Metagaming‘s G.E.V. I was too young to fully grasp the rules, but my addiction was immediate. At age 6, I taught myself division so that I could figure out the combat ratios on my own, and by 7 I was the proud owner of a collection of games like Sticks and Stones, Invasion of the Air-Eaters and, of course, the classic OGRE.
My love affair with wargames influenced me to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and join its Wargames Club. At “wargames,” as we called it, teams of cadets would spend weekends battling through complex tabletop games such as Command Decision and Spearhead and pondering esoteric arguments of military theory or game mechanics. The grognards I met at West Point are still some of my best friends, and one even joined me here at The Escapist a few years back.
After West Point, I turned to wargame design, co-creating a World War II rules supplement, Blaze Across the Sands, and the modern warfare tabletop rules for Modern Spearhead. Bundled into my admissions packet, this arcane design work helped persuade the powers that be to let me into Harvard Law School. And the design work, and the degree, gave me the credibility I needed to start the game media business I run today. A little luck helped, too, no doubt – but as a wargamer I’ve grown comfortable with the role of chance in life.
Of course, the form of wargames has changed over the last 30 years; and like many grognards, I have now largely put away my miniatures and hex maps and embraced digital armies and 3-D graphics. But my love affair with wargames remains, as has my gratitude for the good things wargaming has brought me. It is with great pleasure, then, that I introduce this week’s issue of The Escapist, dedicated to the first, and most important, genre of gaming ever invented.
In “Wargaming Through the Ages,” Greg Tito shows how gaming originated with the simulation of war. In “The Agony of Defeat,” Rob Zacny explains why the cold simulations of wargames are more honest than any war story. In “The New Basic Training,” Shawn Williams discusses how military games have changed how young soldiers treat war – but now how war treats young soldiers. And in “A View from the Trenches,” Jim Rossignol looks at how an obscure Russian videogame is a testament to unsung acts of heroism.
Enjoy Issue 226, “The Front.”
Publisher, The Escapist