I Started Wargaming first with Tactics II, bought for me by my sister, then my parents bought me PanzerLeader, and then I had a huge amount of cash from working at a golf course and also birthday money and I bought from a Strategy & Fantasy Shop SPI's folio "Wagram", the one map "Panzergruppe Guderian" and RHBerg's "Terrible Swift Sword".

Along with TSS, I was reading Clifford Dowdey's "Death of a Nation". A Little bit later that summer, on a family vacation, we stopped for a Second time at Gettysburg. My mother was a HUGE Abraham Lincoln Fan (she had -and I now have- a large collection of books on Lincoln and most of Catton's work published during the Centennial). So I was extremely interested in the Civil War and Lincoln . And to discover that there were GAMES I could play with to go along with all the stuff I could read !!! How Great is Life ?!?!

I have so far been to Gettysburg 13 times. Every chance I could get close to the battlefield , I would get to it. A good friend of mine was also a wargamer and became the my Vice-President of the Wargames Society. He, too, was a Gettysburg scholar. We would Generally be the opposing Supreme Commanders of whatever game we had set up and were playing.

Our Wargames Society managed to get ahold of a conference room in the school library (where we also held our weekly meetings). The FIrst Monstergame that we played was "Terrible Swift Sword". The "Operation:Typhoon". Then "Drang Nach Osten/Unentscheiden" . DNO/UNT we played until November of 41, the Germans were doing great in the North, having captured Leningrad and from south of that were doing fair (outside of Moscow, maybe could take it - FlammPanzer Vorwarts !! )to poor. (What? Kiev isn't enough?). Then one of the observers -someone NOT playing the game- managed to spill his stack of text books and obliterate the whole area south of Briansk!!! but that was okay. (Oh, he paid. Yes! He did .)

Our next choice was RHBERG's "Bloody April". And what a fine choice it was. It was my game, for the first time.

(There were ten of us Hard-Core WarGamers. We bought Monstergames and were utterly immersed in the Hobby with S&T and Moves subscriptions. We led the way and many followed. While the others would buy Wargames, they did not buy as We did. There was a difference. The others would buy a game they enjoyed or had a system they liked. Like Squad Leader or the Modern Battles Quads and other Quads. WE, on the other hand, waited for "Eric Goldberg's Kursk" because we had to have it. "NATO Division Commander"? MUST HAVE IT !!! "Highway to the Reich"....Just Get It, we'll worry about any problems later. )

Surprisingly, "Bloody April" was a major 'Breathrough Game'. Due to the huge amount of record-keeping in the system, we had to get Three-Ring Binders. For some reason this caught the fancy of many of the Society's members. There was just something about having the Large Binders and flipping through them that attracted ALOT of people. It was admittedly, impressive. And I think that the Three-Ring Binders were what most people imagined when they thought of a "Conflict Simulation" .

So...in a suprisingly easy way, we set up and began playing "Campaign for North Africa". Twelve positions per side with around Sixteen people per side (for instance each side had two Air Commanders) We xeroxed about 12 copies of the rules, huge amounts of the Records Sheets (we paid the Nun who ran the Library ten cents per copy; she loved us!) and each side had 9 Three-Ring Binders. About five of us knew the rules and we taught the rest of the players. Not well at first; we had to restart as we came to the end of the second turn (I was Commando Supremo; we, of course, started with the Campaign game on 15 September 1940). Our armies could not move and they were starting to suffer from attrition....and dying.

Okay....start over. Each Corps Commander drew up the minimum amount he needed...THAT HE HAD TO HAVE !!! and send that 'requisition form' back to the Rear-Area Commander to the Logisitics Team.

(The Logisitcs Teams' Members were what I called "The Tech-Noids. ". If they were not involved in Wargames they would be trying to 'Square The Circle' or trying for "Fermat's Last Proof". As it was , at one point a group of them came up to me and said that they needed money for a Sodium LaSER. When I asked them why they needed a Sodium LaSER, they looked at ME, like I was an Idiot and told me "Because you need a Sodium LaSER before you can get to a Potassium LaSER !".......of course.)

We Re-Started....everything going great....Second Turn....Nobody is moving. Evaporation & Spillage Problems? Nope. "Pasta Rule dealt with? Yes. "Why Aren't we Advancing?" We had all of our MINIMUMS fufilled.....no allowance for combat usage. ......"ALL Right.....Group Meeting, Everyone. Take out your rules. Now, EVERYONE!!! Let's ALL go through the Sequence of Play. First: ...." and Both Sides worked through the whole gameturn seeing what was what and what need to be done. Whereas before, each section did its thing in its own world, now Everyone understood.....well...Army Administration.

It actually turned out to be Great Fun ! It was just IMPRESSIVE !! 'Normal' people were even stopping by to take a look. As young high school boys are, we were LOUD ! so everyone in the Cafeteria and Study Halls heard our 'weird' conversations, got a bit intrigued and saw that Huge, Gorgeous map and Counters. The sight of the Game in action was good for another ten students joining our hallowed ranks.

Eventually, we ended the game. We hadn't 'burned out' -far from it, I think we would have been playing it until 1990- but the huge amount of OTHER games were calling to us. And the Conference room was actually large enough to accomodate several 'Min-Monsters at once. "Napoleon's Last Battles", "Battle for the Ardennes", a "Double Blind Flat Top" and "Invasion:America" all at once. Those were excellent games. easily done in a week, one meeting (3:00PM to 7:30PM) and a couple study Halls and Lunch Periods. "Invasion:America" just lured people to play it. That wargame, Alone, got several people involved in the Society...despite the usual "Looks Complicated", "I dont think I can do it", just the Idea of fighting for the USA or trying to conquer it had people making the effort and investment.

And If you came to one meeting, I could get you to another. And then Yet another. "Oh, you should try this game Next!" ....I recruited and cajoled and plotted .because I wanted to play the MonsterGames the way they Really Need To Be Played ...Multi-Player. Some of the MonsterGames could be done with a minimum number of players. I bought "Korsun Pocket" from Jack Radey at Origins 1980 (along with another of my friends) and we played that as soon as we could, with four players, two per side. We also played it one time (though, not all the way through) with three -two Soviet and one German. But the major emphasis was on MULTI-PLAYER. And it actually worked alot better with the more people we could get involved. With our Two-Tiered Membership, those, like me, who were REALLY into the game, got the exceptionally layered and nuanced game, while the members who were into the Social Aspect of Gaming got to be part of a truly fun, Dynamic and Interesting activity. You could 'lose' and yet not feel like you lost.

oh how fagile some peoples young psyches are! or so we are led to believe, but then again I do know people who just simply cannot stand to lose, or appear to lose, or be anything but number one.

The way the MonsterGames were set up was that it did become a 'Team Effort' ; being unsuccessful could be mitigated in so many ways: the dice, the actual history, the general course of the game and the sheer Fun simply crowds out results. The old canard of "The Journey, itself, is the important part" came to the forefront. And yet, for myself, I got out of the game important (to me) understanding. So the whole thing, all of it, all parts, 'Worked". The Air Commanders (of course, nicknamed "The Air Heads") got to run whole Air Forces at the individual plane and pilot level, the Logistics Teams got to play around with numbers in wholly new and fascinating ways, I and my friend discovered that the Italians were stupid to take ALL of their forces into Egypt -c'mon Freakin TWELVE Leg-Infantry Divisions ?!?!?-
and we all got to see it work and work well.

(a large part of it also was due to enthusiasm. For instance, SPI decided to leave out the TO&E of three of the Italian Regular Army Divisions, the 61st, 62nd and 63rd. They did provide the 64th's. So, since we were young and unafraid, we merely assumed that SPI did not make such an error and obviously we were to use the 64th's TO&E for the other "60-Series" Divisions!! Do you remember what it felt like to have such faith ?)

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Dan, this was an incredible post and brought back a lot of similar memories for me. Had to laugh, actually--we had the same near-religious faith in SPI in those days. Nothing like playing monsters multi-player. Nothing like it.

Ever had a bad experience with one, though? Fortunately mine were relatively rare, but they did happen. I could never get ATLANTIC WALL to work. Doing the landings was fun, but once ashore, the Allies rolled and there wasn't anything the Germans could do to stop them. I'd rather play THE LONGEST DAY. Now we've got NES's THE KILLING GROUND and the OPERATION OVERLORD expansion...which I'm dying to play....

I still have fantasies of doing CAMPAIGN FOR NORTH AFRICA such as you describe (I'll remember to use Big Binders when we play) and have dreams of playing the 2nd Edition of WAR IN THE PACIFIC with those 150 tactical maps of the islands....

While I've not played it yet, Avalanche's game on ALAMEIN looks to be a good team game. Rules aren't hard, the situation is interesting in the early scenarios...graphics make you want to play the game....hmmmm....and when MMP's THE DEVIL'S CAULDRON finally hits my doorstep, I don't think I'll be able to resist it...


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