You knew it as soon as you got halfway through the game--this thing is a "dog" and you never wanted to play it again. For me, my first one was Avalon Hill's KRIEGSPIEL. It was a traumatic experience for a teenager brought up on the glories of PANZERBLITZ and could a wargame company do this to me? But there were more to come....

Which ones are yours? Why?

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Whoa, I disagree big time. I find Fighting Sail far more enjoyable than WSIM. I would have agreed had you mentioned Frigate, which I didn't think was any better than WSIM. Fighting Sail just struck me as a great game, one of my favorites.
Sequels. My interests were at the tactical level. And there were some good games, but after one or two titles, there always seemed to be clunkers. Ambush! and the modules were good, though the quality dropped off, the Marine knock-off Battle Hymn was ok, and it had an alright follow-up module in Leatherneck, but then they got greedy with Open Fire, a solo tank game that was dreadful, and then a two-player version of Ambush! called Shellshock that was also pretty bad, instead of just concentrating on more add-ons for an already well-established basic game system that was already popular and for which a fan base had already been generated and willing to buy more missions.

The problem was worse in PC games, where technological leaps meant that sequels were actually just remakes that sucked the fun out of the games in favour of making them prettier - M-1 Tank Platoon and its boring sequel (I second Jim Werbaneth's comment on "boring" being a sin) being the best example, Red Baron being another. Though Red Baron is a hardware sim rather than tactical game (M-1 was a hybrid of both).

For the most part, I look at my collection of 20th Century themed tactical level board games - and I'm reasonably sure I have 99% of all the ones published before 2000 - and I don't see a lot of duds. Trenchfoot, maybe - picture a scenario briefing telling you about the actions of an entire army corps, and then fighting the battle out with 7 or 8 men on a map a couple hundred yards wide...

Tobruk might count, too, but in their case, the remakes got better. Certainly the maps had nowhere to go but up...Tapio took a diamond in the rough and made something out of it, and had the balls to take on the ASL monolith.

In the shadow of ASL, its amazing there are still people trying to compete (Tobruk, of course, was released a year before the original Squad Leader, and Avalon Hill really had no interest in supporting it after SL's success, and one can't blame them) - if that's what they're doing. Which they're probably not, just looking at new ways to approach Second World War tactical combat. Panzer Grenadier and the Tactical Combat Series (i.e. GD'40, GD'41, etc.) Are these duds? I guess we should be thankful there are publishers still willing to take risks and commit resources to find new ways of approaching old problems. I think ASL is far from perfect - if we run into a few dogs along the way of finding something better, in an arena or level of interest, well, so be it.
Oh, I can't count TOBRUK (original edition) as a dog. I loved that game. I just stopped playing and can't go back to it now. ADVANCED TOBRUK SYSTEM is far better and deserves repeated play...and I can't imagine being tired of it (burned out on it, maybe, but never tired of it).

Canine Candidates for 20th Century tactical board wargames include the following:


Not that every single one of these were S&T magazine games!

GDW's FIRST BATTLE series never did much for me, although SANDS OF WAR and its expansion was the best of the lot.

I too am glad there are those who aren't content with letting the state of art lay with older games, ASL included (and I'll admit I'm a grognard for that game). Oh yes-- ASL is far from perfect (I can hear my ASL buddies scream "heretic! burn him!"); it's basically a Sgt Rock comic book RPG in a board game format, in my mind--very detailed, very addictive, but still has far too many RPG tendencies. It's definitely not realistic (whatever that means!), although it sure feels that way!
I'm not sure I would count anything about ASL as a dog. But there is one installment in the series that never should have been published, and that's GI: Anvil of Victory. Avalon Hill was already committed to the ASL concept when it came out, and playing GI with its rules laid on top of Crescendo of Doom, Cross of Iron and the original Squad Leader was a chore. Working with all those rules sets was the kind of mental exercise that ASL's standardization was supposed to overcome.

It would have been a lot better had Avalon Hill ditched GI: Anvil of Victory before publication, put those resources into ASL, and published Yanks much earlier, perhaps right after Beyond Valor. As it was, GI: Anvil of Victory was the last in its evolutionary line.
Now that you mention it, I've always felt there was no need for anything beyond Cross of Iron. SL came into its own with the COI rules for mechanized, and the complicated bypass movement and 1/2 squads were not ruining the flow of the game. Really, I still remember one turn at the Con's going over 5 hours with ASL. Give me a break!

Much more fun with COI and a tank leader....,
Agree on all of that except OCTOBER WAR, which I thought was pretty smart and have kept and still take out for a run on occasion.

pax, smn
I did a really positive retrospective on October War a few years back in Line of Departure, and I definitely agree that it was a good game.
I have to agree with Kreigspiel -- it was my first inkling that not every new game would be better simply because it was new. Another game I loved to hate was AH's Luftwaffe. It was not that it was a bad game per se but rather that you could see that with just a few more months of design work, it could have become a classic. Still, it encouraged me to play with writing my own rules to try to simulate the operational factors that the air force commanders would have faced.
Don, have you had a go at the new Luftwaffe from Decision? I wonder if the changes in it are in line with what you'd like to see.
Is France '40 a "bowser"? I just bought it and I hope it's not a bad game!!
The AH classic? No way, that's a good game, IMHO.
Thanks, Lewis! I guess i'll hang on to it!!


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