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When I think of “old school” wargames, I conjure up fond memories of playing Panzer Leader on a tiny table in a friend’s home when we were in junior high school. At the time this experience was entirely new to me, and the idea of moving beyond the toys in our Guns of Navarone playsets to an “adult” game of WWII warfare with hexes and units felt almost taboo, and therefore irresistible. Bleeding through the combat on the map board was a realism that couldn’t be denied. It was if the futures of real men inside the cardboard pieces hung in the balance while two undisciplined 13-year-olds determined their fates.
But “old school” is more than just reminiscence; it’s also a label that recalls a method of playing wargames, and it surely means different things to different people. To me, generally, “old school” means square counters on a board filled with hexagons. But it also means “zones of control.” It means an odds-ratio combat system. It means I move all my units, and then you move all of yours. It means scenarios that finish in days, instead of hours. It means gamers with hair...