Saturday, 26 October 2019

Back to the Future or 2019 The Year I Returned to Tabletop Wargaming

It’s late October and I thought the right time to provide an update and y whereabouts. I just realised my last post is from May this year, some of you may wonder if I’m still life (which I am, as you can see). The truth is that I followed my own advice from late last year of “doing it as and when” and not getting worried of setting targets or goals to publish in the blog.
So what I’ve been up to? Well, I can say that it’s been of a back to the future of sorts year: very little playing with minis and a lot with tabletop wargames.
Fist a ittle bit of context and history Unlike many of the anglo-saxon wargamers, my first steps in the hobby were not with little toy soldiers or the Donald Featherson’s book (totally unknown in Spain the 70s) but with boxed wargames in the very early 80s.
Given my interest for history and particularly 2nd World War history, my late father found like the perfect Xmas gift for me in December 1980 in the form of wargame: Panzerblitz (followd soon after by the sister game Panzerleader). It was like a revelation from heaven and the start of my long standing interest in the hobby. I played with my brother and collected close to 30 Avalon Hill and Victory Games products.
In the mid 80s I was cofounder of Club Dragón in Madrid and my interests started to widen towards the games with minis, initially fantasy games (WFB) and very soon historical games in the Ancient and 2nd World War period.
Gradually I abandoned tabletop wargamers and haven’t literally again played a single game since AH went through the financial drain in the late 90s and was sold to Hasbro.
This has completely reversed this year. I coincided with a very active small group of wargamers that gather every Friday afternoon. Coincidentally, we have moved the office of my company from the suburbs to new premises centrally located and 10 minutes walking from the club in late January… so all stars aligned.

As some of you know, I have a special interest in Market Garden) and had read very good reviews on Simonitch’s Holland ´44. The group at my club lend me a copy, got immediately hooked with the system and the map, and they proposed to play a campaign game to test the rules.
Since then, the only possible direction was forwards and upwards. I play now in addition to most Sundays, at least 2 or three Friday afternoons per month. The wargaming group is really active and the level of camaraderie is outstanding in terms of sharing games, online resources and mentoring.
Holland ’44 has been a revelation and the first possible option for my reéntre in tabletop. The rules mechanics are simple and the game accurately reflects the challenges faced by both Allied and Germans in the real campaign. Logistics is the key for the Allied in a race against time to link with the 1st Airborne Division there in the north.
Despite an overwhelming superiority of forces, the Allied never have enough troops to cover the flanks, maintain the narrow road corridor open, push northward and capture key bridges  before being blown up by the Germans.
At the other side of the hill, the German player must be constantly fighting in quite inferior odds and sacrificing units, looking to hook as many Allied forces and retard the advance towards the north, while finding weak spots in the extended logistic line and trying to destroy the elite (and brave) British paratroopers landing in the Arnhem outskirts.
You can read as many books on the campaign as you may like (and I have read a lot) but it’s been only after playing the game that I have been able to grasp the strategic challenges posed and the opportunity represented by this bold operation represented for the Allied forces in 1944. Furthermore, it came to confirm that it was not such an (let me use the word) “idiotic” idea of Montgomery, as many post-war historians have been describing Market Garden. If you are curious, the Allied won by a very low margin when a bridge was deployed across the Rhein river west of Oosterbek and enough British units of the XXX Corps crossed to set a firm foothold 
After Holland 44 and considering the investment made in learning the rules mechanics, we played Simonitch’s France 40. Another truly great-great game, an outstanding design. The Allied have no chance to stop the German onslaught but he can trade time and space to build a defensive line that would jeopardize the German effort to encircle the mass of the Allied army. In this case the German won but just in the nick of time, in the very last turn of the game and thanks to some very good dice numbers (guess: I was playing the Allied side).
So Simonitch has been a revelation, but not only. I have also get in depth with one of the best ever Napoleonic wargames design: the OSG system. First game played was my other very favourite campaign, The Hundred Days, acting on the French side (Lobau’s Corps). Note, this was not a “Waterloo” game but a complete operational game covering the whole campaign from the moment the French troops arrived to the banks of the Sambre.
As in the case of Market Garden, this is an excellent way to understand the challenges faced by Napoleon as well as the opportunity to destroy piecemeal the Allied armies, widely scattered along the Low Countries… which we duly did and entered Brussels by June 19th.
Other game played this year was Liberty Roads, covering the campaign in North-western Europe from Normandy to the Reich borders. I must admit that this game, at division level) failed to convince me.
I also got recently introduced to the Lock and Load system. This is a nice set of skirmish combat rules covering from the 2nd World War to modern times, with a lot of potential for playing short scenarios and solo games at home. I bought the first box (Heroes of Normandy) but must admit that at this game scale I much more prefer Chain of Command.
And last but not least, on Sunday I will play my first area-based game Monty’s Gamble, published by Multi Man Publishing (MMP). Therefore back to Market Garden with a very different system and this time playing on the German side. Good opportunity also to compare first hand both MMP and GMT’s Simonitch game.
This is in addition to have been playing a lot of Commands and ColorsNapoleonics, a system that I have been using for several years now. But 2019 has been the year of La Grande Battle system. A dedicated group of six games have been playing many of the major Napoleonic battles, including Waterloo twice, Austerlitz, Aspern Essling, Salamanca or Borodino.
The LGB format makes a complete different game to the usual one-to-one game… and it’s much more exciting. The drawback is that you need to gather between 4 and 6 players to make it work, but believe me it’s worth trying.

Waterloo at La Grande Battle Size


  1. Sounds like you've had a great year so far? Good to see you back on the blog as well.

  2. Good to see you back. Any wargaming is good gaming! I too did a lot of boardgaming before miniatures so am a bit jealous :-)

  3. Very, very good to see you back, Benito, and blogging (although I know you've been present on Twitter also). The boardgames look great, and I know from the small number I have that the GMT Games are always very well produced. Great news about your very active group of wargamers - hobby life is always fun with like-minded friends around! Very best regards!

  4. Many moons ago I started out with AH's France 1940. Played those type games til college when I was introduced to historical minis. I still play boardgames on occasion.