Why I Quit Wargames (Short Version)

Once upon a time, paper wargames from Avalon Hill and SPI were, well, wargames. The world has changed but like all old farts I have NO intention of recognizing these redundant and wrong-changes.

Put it back the way it was, dad-gummit.

There’s just one thing. I quit wargames. It didn’t happen all at once, but over time I withdrew from what had been an important part of my life, until, now, I really don’t play wargames at all.

I’m out.

I’d have to say that the one thing that really sent me on my way out of the wonderful hobby of rules interpretation, erm, I mean wargaming, was my experience with what was, and is, my favorite wargame–Victory in the Pacific from Avalon Hill. This game just kicked ass. It was relatively simple yet contained a universe of strategy. Like (dast I say it?) chess it reflected far more than the sum of its parts. It was, and is, a masterpiece.

Except for this one thing…

I read these rules and determined that the game worked a certain way.

I understood that in order to capture an area (and capture the ports and bases within it) you had to control the sea areas surrounding it for two full turns. In control at the beginning. In control at the ending.

I played the game this way for quite a while, and I EVEN played it that way against my wargaming buddy, who was no rules lawyer and was, in general, an agreeable guy.

But then I attended a gaming convention in Los Angeles. I sat down to play in a tournament and I discovered that I had been misinterpreting a rule. It seems that the “official” rules interpretation went like this–to capture bases or ports one needed to control the sea around them for ONE turn.

Not two.

The thinking went like this: I “control” an area if, at the end of the turn, I “control” it. So if I control the sea area at the end of a turn, and hold it for JUST ONE MORE TURN, then the bases and ports in that area fall to me.

Yeah.

Right.

I couldn’t believe it. I still can hardly believe it. But they played it that way at the tournament and I found myself floating on a very tiny rubber raft in the middle of a very huge Pacific Ocean. I was lost and alone and feeling very much like a pilot stranded in the middle of the vast expanse of limitless water.

That was one damn realistic game.

I did research and wrote letters and tried to find out if maybe, just maybe, the gamers in Southern Cal had gotten it wrong.

Nope. That was how the game was played. I was out of luck. But I wanted no part of what I’d call “Victory in the Pacific: Stupid Version.” Playing the game in this sick and twisted way takes all the suspense out of it. It turns it into a silly dice game where strategy is relatively limited. It also swings play balance over to Japan–to such an extent that most players “bid” victory points to try to keep the game even. It’s a mess.

In my “wrong” version the game is balanced. Strategy plays a role. Both players have to fight to the bitter end and the outcome is always in doubt.

Thrills.

Chills.

Excitement.

No more. My version is wrong. My version is not correct. It’s not right.

I–pretty much–gave up on wargaming with the horrible mutation of my all-time favorite game. It wasn’t a mutation to anybody but me–me and my gaming pal were the only two nerds who played it that way, I guess–but it took what was a bright and shining game and turned it into a second-rater.

I’m sure that secretly, somewhere a mining engineer in West Virginia or a teacher in Manchester or an accountant in Sydney plays the game MY way, and enjoys it, but dare not speak its name. My style of playing Victory in the Pacific is queer. Despite being vastly superior, it’s not right.

So I quit.

Brushpainter

Well look, I already told you! I deal with the customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What is wrong with you people?

comments
  • Hmmm the fun of rules interpretation – general rule vs specific rule – wasn’t why I eventually quit or did I quit wargaming??? It could amount to silliness when the outcome of a game would hang in the balance depending upon rules interpretation or poorly written rules or rather the not too well thought out rules.
    The buddies I played with were agreeable guys though the only American would be the guy to go behind the impression of the rules to find the “holes”. Though it didn’t really matter as we would find an agreeable way to play or rather before initiating play ask round if anybody had any rules hitches like in SPI’s “Khakov” you find that a large part of the German army is out of supply beginning on game-turn two east of hexes 3413, 3513, 3612, 3713, 3812 and 3912 according to rule 11.32!
    A great pastime and something I like to ditch into every now and then most likely to rewrite the rules for AH’s “France 1940” to make the Allies having a chance of winning.
    Never played Victory in the Pacific though.

    • The Victory in the Pacific rules issue was only barely the worst rules-lawyering experience I’ve had. There was another. A wargaming buddy I’ll call “Terry” and I were playing “Battle for Germany”–a lovely game from SPI and one of their best efforts. It had a bizarre reinforcement rule where you took eliminated units and returned them to play as “replacements” (IMHO a trick intended to allow for SPI to provide fewer counters in the game by allowing recycling). We’d just gotten started when I tried to bring in some of these replacement/reinforcements and Terry explained that I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have “sufficient” eliminated units. I didn’t even know what he was talking about. It turned out that according to his interpretation, if the Soviet Union was due to receive three armies as replacements, then you needed to have at least three units in the eliminated pile–the rules stated that you needed “a sufficient number.” If you had two armies in the elim pile, you could not bring in ANY replacements/reinforcements, because two isn’t “sufficient.” I didn’t argue with him then, but in a way, it ended our friendship. I don’t think it was ever the same after that. He went on to become a highly successful attorney–believe it or not.

      • I love “Battle for Germany” the absolute genius in making both players play one allied and one German army! I don’t think the replacement rule was too off and anyway we decided that the number of replacements were the total available that turn – if you only had two in the “dead pile” those two would be available when three would be the limit.
        No wonder the guy became a successful attorney! 😀

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