What makes for a "classic" wargame? And what wargame do you think deserves the appellation "classic?" We all know the so-called "Avalon Hill Classics" -- the original D-DAY, WATERLOO, 1965 version of BATTLE OF THE BULGE, STALINGRAD, AFRIKA KORPS. No doubt there are more.

For me, a classic wargame is one that seems to keep bringing us back to play even as the game ages. It intrigues us, it never loses its freshness, it is something of a mental and emotional obsession, if I may be allowed that characterization. For the old AH grognards, the AH Classics seem to fit that description.

Games that I remember playing with great nostalgia and fondness but wouldn't touch again don't deserve the label. Those include such titles as FRANCE: 1940, the old SPI game TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD, and AH's PANZERBLITZ and PANZERLEADER come to mind.

Even the original SQUAD LEADER has lost its luster--regrettably--now that there is ASLSK and other squad-level tactical wargames that I love to play. I'm finding that I'll probably relegate PANZERGRUPPE GUDERIAN out of "classic" status now that MMP/IGS has released A VICTORY DENIED. WOODEN SHIPS & IRON MEN has given way to Clash of Arms CLOSE ACTION (and for others, it's GMT's FLYING COLORS).

Here's my short list of "classics"--

MIDWAY (AH)
AIR ASSAULT ON CRETE (AH)
CHICKAMAUGA (SPI)
ARNHEM (SPI)
CONQUISTADOR (SPI/AH)
FREDERICK THE GREAT (SPI/AH)
1776 (AH)
STARSHIP TROOPERS (1st Ed) (AH)
RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN (Jedko/AH/L2)
BITTER WOODS (AH/L2)
NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES QUAD (SPI/DG)
ADVANCED SQUAD LEADER series (hard to believe it, but this game passed it's 25th year!)

So what do you think makes a classic--and what are your "classic" wargames?

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Comment by Eric Walters on October 29, 2009 at 10:43am
Mike, certainly I'd say some of those games that pioneered concepts could be considered classics, but I'd hesitate to say all of them. For example, I might be tempted to say Mark Herman's WE THE PEOPLE is a classic, as it seemed to start the CDG phenomenon coupled with point-to-point movement, although I'd say it was Ted Raicer's PATHS OF GLORY that got the genre really on afterburner (and I know some will disagree with that). Classic for me because I still see WE THE PEOPLE trotted out at WBC even after all these many years since it first came out. Classic for you because it started something. But then I go to the original TOBRUK by Hal Hock for AH. This was--for me--the first game I remember (I think around 1974) that took a miniatures rules approach and put into a board game format. Jim Day's designs took off from that idea and we got a whole slew of games (Yaquinto's PANZER/88/ARMOR and then AH's MBT and IDF, for example). But I can't call TOBRUK a classic game for me, even if it works for you. Because I'd never play it again. Never. Ever. No interest in it. I pull it out, sigh longingly over those mists of nostalgia fondling the charts and the counters and remembering many past games...but I can't put the "classic" label onto it. And for John K., I played the heck out of TOBRUK (my first game set is practically falling apart) until SQUAD LEADER came along...so it fits the "playing most" characterization...but I still can't call it classic. I guess for me, classic games are like classic cars--they might be old and out of date/style, but you still really want to drive them. Despite their age, there's something still timeless with an air of quality to them.
Comment by John Kantor on October 29, 2009 at 1:24am
A "classic" seems to be the games you remember playing most rather than any qualitative appellation.
Comment by Eric Walters on October 28, 2009 at 2:46pm
Hmm, Jon, by that standard I'd have to leave off a number of titles on my list (1776, ASL, CONQUISTADOR immediately come to mind). But yes, I could use a lot of the others in that capacity--MIDWAY, ARNHEM, NAP's LAST BATTLES QUAD, and RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN would work since all are relatively easy and have "name" recognition. But for the metal-heads, I really don't have anything on my list.
Comment by Jim Werbaneth on October 28, 2009 at 1:44pm
The irony is that when Panzerblitz and Panzerleader were new, the ad copy suggested that they were for experienced players only, and that novices should stay away. Sometimes the verdict of history works in mysterious ways.
Comment by Jon Compton on October 28, 2009 at 9:52am
I'd add to my definition of classics, a game that I'd use to introduce someone to the hobby. I would still use something like PB/PL to do that since they're so accessible.

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