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Re: [GZG] Game designer Charles S Roberts passes

From: Ken Hall <khall39@y...>
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2010 16:04:20 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [GZG] Game designer Charles S Roberts passes

Gzg-l mailing list once played a
few games of PanzerBlitz and Panzer Leader using the Squad Leader turn
sequence. I probably did violence thereby to the designer's intent, but
it made a pretty interesting game.

One thing PanzerBlitz/Panzer Leader got right is the scale: the company
as the tactical quantum of mechanized industrial warfare. I didn't
realize that until much later, when I started reading more serious
operational histories. The game maybe could have used HQ units, and some
sort of reaction phase letting the non-turn player move and fight a
reserve company or two from a battalion whose other fighting companies
were under attack, provided the parent BN HQ wasn't destroyed or cut


--- On Thu, 9/2/10, Allan Goodall <> wrote:

From: Allan Goodall <>
Subject: Re: [GZG] Game designer Charles S Roberts passes
Date: Thursday, September 2, 2010, 5:08 PM

On Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 11:10 PM, Tom B <> wrote:

My first experiences in this line were with some games I'd have to go
look in my closet at the folks place even to name now. I now Air War
figured into the mix and I think it was AH.
Nope. Air War was SPI.

  I had fun with some of those games, back int he day when all you
could find in the local hobby store was some early Grenadier D&D minis
(like the fat knight in plate mail and the peasant with padded armour
and a pole arm - how useful for dungeoneering....). I recall 3rd Reich
as well, always wishing I had secured a copy. AH and SPI did a lot of
good work with these sorts of games. 

3rd Reich was AH. I had a copy. Tried to play it solitaire a few times,
but never completed a game. They came out with an advanced version in
the early 90s.

My first AH game I received when I turned 13. It was Panzer Leader. I
still have it, along with the 1940 add-on that I mail ordered for. I
picked up a used copy of Panerblitz about 8 years later (even though it
predated PL by about 3 years).

I still haul PL out every now and again, usually as a nostalgia thing.
There are no command and control rules to speak of, but it still plays
reasonably well. There's a Canadian scenario that's a bitch to win as
the Canadians...


Contrast this with the chit-pusher zones. Each table was two (generally
older men) battling it out in one-on-one style combat over a board with
chits. Their focus was intense, like chess masters. They also radiated a
casual antipathy for anyone that might distract them from their focus,
even quiet spectators. The whole place had a combative, bitter feel to
it. It was quiet, but just radiated a vastly anti-social vibe. 

At GenCon, I didn't see many miniatures events being played. I remember
a decade ago we had something like 24 GZG events with games running in
the evening. Not so these days. Most of the miniatures games seemed to
be things like Dust Tactics, with pretty figures and introductory rules.
(Not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's what you're into.)

On the board game side, I didn't see very many wargames. In fact, I
don't recall seeing any "chit" wargames at GenCon at all. I saw
Diplomacy, Tide of Iron, Memoir '44 and Battlelore (the last three could
almost be miniatures games) but no hardcore wargames. The rest were
generally Eurogames (Settlers and the like) or Fantasy Flight (Death
Angel, Twilight Imperium).

Interestingly, the gamers were all pretty positive about their games and
happy when someone stopped by to ask questions. The ones who looked like
they were having the most fun, though, were the folks playing on the
half dozen or so Crokinole boards that were available in the "board game
library" room.

 Chit-games tended to have more rigid rules with stodgy layout and
formal grammar. Have you went back and read any old AH game rules and
compared them to rules from a modern board-based wargame? No comparison!

Worse, go back and read some of the SPI rules. *shudder*

AH's rules started off not bad. Read Panzer Leader, Richthofen's War or
Luftwaffe. They aren't hard to read. By the late 70s that had changed.
The rule book for Magic Realm was so bad they ended up releasing a
redone rulebook. I still shake a little at the prospect of reading the
first sections of Gunslinger or Up Front, and neither are particularly
difficult games.

Last weekend we played our first game of the Great Campaigns of the
American Civil War series (these were AH games prior to the Hasbro
buy-out, now Multi-Man Publishing). 24 pages of rules, which is huge for
me these days. However, they didn't seem all that bad. Certainly not
what I feared. 

Now, compare that to the game I'm learning right now, Combat Commander
by GMT. Full colour rule book with plenty of examples and lots of
pictures to break up the text. It looks more like a Eurogame rule book
than a wargame.

One thing I hated about the GCACW Standard Rules was a lack of an index.
WTF??? Luckily, you can download them for free. I resorted to doing a
search of the PDF.

Free downloadable rules are a huge benefit. Both of us were able to
learn the rules simultaneously, and I had a copy printed off so both of
us had a rule book during play.

 There is no one on your team. Win or lose, you are the only one to
blame. And there isn't a lot to look at, so there isn't even an
aesthete's joy of miniatures gaming. 

While true of most chit games, not true of all of them. One of the
things that makes the old Gunslinger game a classic is that it's
multi-player and most scenarios are over in 45 minutes (or less).

And some of the more recent games are very pretty. The GCACW maps are
some of the best ever produced or a wargame. The chits in Combat
Commander are very attractive, coupled to good looking maps. CC is a
card game, primarily, and the cards are full colour and appealing.


Yes, I started back in "Basic D&D" or "Blackmoor" (the little book) and
in AH wargames. But that age is passed and I don't regret it. The few
times we do hall out the old games, we recall how clunky the mechanics
are (even for group games) and how far games design has come (or tastes
have evolved). 

AH had a number of non-wargames, though, that are classics. One of the
reasons Hasbro bought AH was to get Acquire, the AH "business" game.
And, of course, there's Civilization and Advanced Civilization that
inspired Sid Meir and a whole computer game series.

I don't recall the AH games being altogether clunky, at least not the
ones that I still have. The pre-mid 70s games were pretty lean, rules
wise. My two favourites (the aforementioned Gunslinger and Up Front)
played much better than they read.

By around 1982, AH was starting to experiment with better rules
presentations. FirePower's basic mechanics are taught on 4 pages. The
advanced rules are in a bigger book, but you could cherry pick the
rules. They used the same approach in several games in that era.

SPI, on the other hand, oh boy... 
Q: Anyone know where the name Avalon Hill came from? I admit to being

One of Indy's links explains it.


Allan Goodall  

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