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Okay, as much as a fan of SPI games as many of us have been since we were members of the "Young Grognards"--er--"Young Guard," we had our share of titles that just didn't cut it. Oh, we were so excited when it showed up inside issues of Strategy and Tactics or when we ripped open boxes delivered by UPS after anxiously awaiting our mail order. The shine wore off when we played them--some it wore off nearly immediately, others it took repeated playings before it did.
What were/are those games you so desperately wanted to love, but just couldn't?
I bought this with my hard-earned lawn-cutting money as the incredible box art was so seductive; it was lying there unattended at my local Brentano's bookstore. Reading the blurb on the back of the plastic flat box just made the game seem sooooo cool.... Then it got it home and devoured the rules. Set it up for a few solo run-throughs. I think it was on my third playing that the ennui set in. "Eh," I thought. Figured it would be more fun with my wargaming buddy, but it wasn't. We played three more times, eventually going nuclear just to get the game over with quickly--we just didn't care who won. Sold off the game while still in high school. The scale and treatment was too large and too abstract--just couldn't get any drama or narrative we could relate to....
My parents got this for me for Christmas one year after I'd been playing Avalon Hill's 1964 MIDWAY to death. I remember being horribly intimidated by this game--such detailed rules, lots of counters and charts. It definitely seemed to put the "simulation" into Simulations Publications Incorporated! Bravely me and my high school wargaming buddy taught ourselves the rules and spent entire weekends trying to play it. The Vietnam and Korea scenarios weren't all that interesting; the Norwegian Sea Cold War stuff versus the Soviet Navy was a bit better. But the real deal was playing the WWII Midway and Solomons carrier battles that were in the game. And here was where the game just "shorted to ground." The operational search mechanisms and carrier operations seemed to work okay--but the tactical strike resolution just didn't seem to work all that well. On top of that, the game was a lot of WORK to play! With some rules/systems tweaking, this game probably would have seen a lot more play when I was older and could better appreciate it. But I was just a high schooler and it seemed to be just too much. Felt at the time this gal was simply out of my league/above my head. I only sold it a few years ago--and it was hard to part with. I knew, though, given the other carrier games out there, I'd never attempt to play it again.
HERESY ALERT--I know I'll be treading on someone's favorite games here, but one wargamer's treasure is another's trash, so bear with me. I'd played WACHT AM RHEIN as a college student during the summer at the University of Central Florida wargames club. While I wasn't jazzed with the game for various reasons (I got dragged into it), I did like the system well enough. So I was pretty eager to get my hands on this title. Wasn't jazzed about some of the counter color choices (for the Brits in particular) and thought the map--for as big as it was--sure seemed to be lacking in detail (and accuracy in some cases, given the smooth "inner elbow" coastline between Utah and Omaha beaches, but I persisted in playing some of the scenarios. They weren't too bad. As slow and as much of a dicefest as the initial landings were, it was pretty novel. But then my buddies and I tried the campaign game. And it just wouldn't work. The Germans would get hosed every time--and relatively quickly. Allied air, naval gunfire, and attritional ground offensives would wear the Germans down to the point where they could not maintain a continuous line of defense and then the breakthrough would happen--game over. We ended up playing LONGEST DAY with some of the more interesting variant options instead and had more fun. Sigh. Sold my copy of this game--which was still in excellent shape--to an Australian not too long ago. Haven't missed it one bit. So much wanted to love this game--and didn't.
I never would have ordered/bought this game voluntarily but it showed up in an issue of Strategy and Tactics magazine. The map and especially the counters were quite colorful and so I got intrigued. I was a high schooler and didn't know any of the history of this; after reading the article in the magazine, I was keen to try out the game. Me and my wargame club buddies gave it a try. One of my friends was so inspired that he created his own game, PLOT TO ASSASSINATE WALTERS (I was the President of our high school Strategic Games Club), complete with a humorous fictionalized "history" of my untimely demise. But otherwise, the game just seemed too abstract for us. The Abwehr recruiting/SS counterintelligence/anti-sabotage mechanic was sort of interesting, but we didn't yet appreciate the personalities shown in the game at that young age and the coup sequence just seemed so hokey to us. Worst of all, we had a hard time figuring out the strategies for either side--we simply pushed counters and rolled dice. It was a diversion, but it didn't last. But I was prepared to really get into this game after reading about the plot and enjoying the gorgeous game components--it just never came together...sigh....
Another issue game, featuring a new tactical armor system. What's not to love? Apparently, a lot. This was actually a "test run" of a system that would eventually be refined into something similar for the MECH WAR 2 modern tactical warfare package/system. This magazine game had three scenarios--one in the desert, one late war situation with the Soviets against the Germans, and the U.S. against the Germans at Arracourt. The Arracourt situation was the best out of all of them; even then, the system felt a bit clunky and unfinished. The other two scenarios were simply boring given the lack of terrain and maneuver room. We played the smaller scenarios just once and gave the Arracourt situation more time, but ulitimately neither the game system nor the situations themselves captured one's imagination.
This one took a long time for the shine to wear off. After all, the article was so full of depth and the SPI "Divisional Series" still seemed so new and exciting. We were even willing to forgive the fact that the Allies would lose in the historical situation. When the AH version of the game came out, we loved playing with the hard-backed map, shiny counters, and those wonderful OOB variant cards. We played the hell out of this game. But with each playing, the fun was less and less. Like the addicts we were, we couldn't understand why and tried to play more and more--but got none of the intensity our first "hit" of the game provided. Eventually, this too got packed up and accumulated dust in the closet. I confess I would pull it down now and again to teach new wargamers (I always played the historical scenario and gave the noob the Germans). With all the other games on the topic, I don't miss this title one iota...kinda sad, really. Map and Counters blog has a marvelous piece on the AH edition--and why our love affair with the game was so short and ill-fated.
Well we are together on MOST of these! LOL! Good call on the warning for Atlantic Wall, though! :) As always, nicely done, Eric!
The dog of them all must be Armada. Just about the only attempt at this subject. Totally unplayable even with the pages and pages of errata. The best you would be able to do with it is use the map and counters and make up your own rules (they couldn't be as bad as the originals!!
If you're interested, TPS is going to publish a game on the subject, probably at the same scale but with better mechanics and execution, in a year or two.
Thanks for that Jim, I'll keep a look out. I'm a sucker for obscure events and periods of history. As for SPI in general, they brought us loads of stuff when really only AH were the only other company. Their turnover was so fast that they were bound to get things wrong now and again. They were groundbreakers in many ways, not least with the PGG series which introduced us to Mech movement (what do you mean my turn isn't over yet? I'm sure I've already moved that unit?). Cobra is still one of my favourite Normandy Breakout games.