And into summer we go

June 1, 2010

It was a lovely weekend to visit the Shenandoah Valley; pleasant temps., good weather, long weekend.  It was great to hear and see Nighthawks flopping around in the evening, and having a Pileated Woodpecker wake me up from an after-cookout nap in the wooded backyard by yelling almost right over my head was a real treat.  Nothing really outstanding in general, but very relaxing.  Then back home, where we start the day off on the way in to work by watching a young woman take time out from her absorbing cell phone conversation to scream abuse out the window at young man who had the nerve to tap his horn when she drifted into his lane.  Back to Earth with a thud, as it were.

I’ve been re-reading Grattan’s account of his time in the (Iberian) Peninsula with the Connaught Rangers.  What an excellent book!   One of the best accounts of Napoleonic-period operations and siege and battle doings I’ve come across.  Read Oman for the overall summary of the Peninsular campaigns, and then supplement it with this and any of the other accounts he drew from.

That reminds me that I was thinking about wargames in general the other day; some games just hit the sweet spot of being both comfortable to play, and ‘realistic’ in their outcomes.  The drive for  ‘increased realism’ is a rather dangerous one, in my op., as it generally leads to decreased game enjoyment (too complicated to remember the rules, too long to perform an operation, too much micro-managing, etc.).  On the other hand, de-emphasizing realism can lead to a fun game, but often ends up just making a party game which produces wildly unrealistic results.  There aren’t too many games that hit the sweet spot in the middle; there are some, like AH’s Panzerblitz ones and SSI’s Panzer General ones that come pretty close (easy, fun games that usually end up with historically comfortable results).  Then there are some at the other end of the comfort spectrum, like Gary Grigsby’s War in Russia, which is almost (but not quite) too detailed.  I can think of only 2 games that are almost perfect, off the top of my head – the AH boardgame by John Edwards, The Russian Campaign, and the masterful computer game Rome:Total War.  Both of those games, in my experience, produce a strikingly “correct” feeling of results during play, even though the details of turn-to-turn operations may seem sometimes a bit odd.  The feeling of ‘just a little push more’ so often leads to absolute disaster (I got to live through the destruction of Army Group Center as the German side once – it’s terribly demoralizing!), and even careful play generally leads to a very historical ebb-and-flow movement of strategic boundaries.  Now I have to go find my old copy and see if I can reserve the table for a bit…