Wednesday, December 20, 2017

An Old Friend Gets a Make-Over...

...and a day out on the gaming table.
The 2016 version
In 1995 The Gamers published the second Operational Combat Series game, Tunisia.  After the high counter density found in the first game in the series, Guderian's Blitzkrieg and my attempts at solitaire play, the "lighter" Tunisia was much appreciated.  Of all of the games in the OCS stable, Tunisia is likely the one I have most played.  While it may have been the most played, none of the OCS games have seen action on my gaming table in about twenty years.
The original 1995 version
Fast forward to 2016.  Multi-Man Publishing published a remake of the 1995 OCS classic Tunisia game entitled, Tunisia II.  Graphically, the components maintain the same look and feel as the original with, perhaps, some improvements as expected with the passage of twenty years in publishing advancements.  Still, the new Tunisian II reminds me very much of my old friend, Tunisia.
Map sample via VASSAL
Counter sample
Twenty years is a long time to have a stack of series games lay dormant without play.  Even though I still add games to the game shelf, getting them onto the table has been a chore.  My focus definitely shifted away from the hex and counter wargame variety to gaming with miniatures but a surge of nostalgia has me reaching for some of my old (and new) wargames.

Tunisia II is one such game. While I have been hinting for a long time at getting the game on the table, that time finally arrived.  Since my impression of the OCS series is that it represents one of the finest models of WWII operational combat designed, I have long wanted to give the fellas a taste of the OCS system.  What better entry than Tunisia II with its very low counter density at the beginning of the Race to Tunis scenario?

That day of reckoning finally arrived.  Scott had a free half day so a introductory game was scheduled.  After a couple of days of punching and clipping counters, reading the rules, becoming reacquainted to the charts and tables, sorting counters, and setting up the game, I was more or less ready.  My recent study of the system has reinforced my notion of how well crafted the OCS system is even after more than twenty-five years of service.  Of course, the rules now stand at Version 4.2 rather than 1.0 but after twenty-five years, the system ought to hum like a well-oiled machine.

We set to work on the game.  While my play was quite rusty with many a rule look up, we managed to get through four or five turns in about three hours.  One memory that came back to me was that a single turn in OCS can consume a lot of time.  With an interactive turn sequence, both players remain engaged throughout the turn.  In the "old" days, some twenty years ago, an FtF gaming session would consist of only one turn.  Games would be in progress for weeks at a time.  Each of us maintained a separate game set up to ponder and plan our next moves until we could next meet.  The planning and anticipation of outwitting an opponent even before meeting to play the turn was great fun.

This exercise has reignited a passion for these games that has been smoldering for twenty years.  I would enjoy getting in much more practice and study to improve my skills in conducting WWII operations using the OCS model.  Even if this effort only results in getting some of my long-neglected games back into a semi-regular rotation, it will be worth the time spent.  When FtF is not possible, VASSAL can step in as substitute.  With VASSAL,time and space become less of a constraint than it posed two decades ago.  Another exploratory game (one of GMT's 1914 series) is in progress via VASSAL.  I have found it to be great fun and an efficient method in learning a new system.  These operational-level wargames provide a perspective difficult to reproduce on the gaming table with miniatures.  Both methods have a place in a wargamer's toolkit.  With luck, Scott will be a willing OCS participant in the future.

22 comments:

  1. Sometimes just simply the grandness of scope of a game such as this, is exactly what is needed and as you say difficult to find in other places.

    I have always avoided Vassal as I know I would never get off it and the extra keyboard / mouse activity would tip my RSI from mild to aggravated.!

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    1. Exactly right, Norm! We need to use the correct tool for the job. Measured use of VASSAL you might find very enjoyable.

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  2. Looks like a fun game, I remember lots of SPI games with lots of counters back in the early 80s, lots of fun, lots of time!
    Best Iain

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    1. It is a fun game but complex. The system is well-suited to operational WWII combat. Hex and counter wargames do seem to have a longer playing time than wargaming with miniatures. I wonder why that is?

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  3. Excellent topic. I have been feeling the strong pull of my board game collection (some old and classic, and some new). I was just talking about this with a few associates. The time may be right to take a (small) leap.

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    1. I often feel a strong pull back into board wargaming too. A mix is good. Take that small leap, Ed, and let us know how it progresses.

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  4. It is always good to reconnect with "old friends". I recently did a simoilar thing with an old wargames book that had been buried at the bottom of the study cupboard - hours were lost leafing through its pages.

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    1. Mark, you ought not leave me hanging. What was the old book you pulled down from the shelf and dusted off?

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    2. Actually there were two: Terry Wise's "Battle-gaming" and the Confederate High Command "Americsn Civil War Rules" both dating back to the early 1970s and both gave the same rush of nostalgia...and mention of that word always reminds me of an oft-qouted Frank Zappa-ism "It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia."

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    3. Wise's book I do not own. See it on ebay often. Is a book worthy of adding to the collection? Zappa was right...

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    4. The Wise book is not a great wargames book (ironically it was titled Battlegaming because at the time Donald Feathersone was attempting to copyright the term wargames and no publisher would touch a manuscript with the word in it), but it has great nostalgia (that word again) for me for two reasons: One because it was the first wargaming book I bought (and I suppose was my first ever overseas mail order item); two because I met Terry Wise in 1986 and bought from his bookstore Michael Howard's "The Franco-Prussian War" that started my obsession with that period.

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    5. With your backstory on the book, Battlegaming, I can see why it brings back fond memories. Featherstone attempted to copyright the term "wargaming?" That is an interesting tidbit!

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  5. It has been a long, long time since I played a hex-and-counter board wargame. I have an awful lot of them squirrelled away, here and there, for when the opportunity arrises! Some I've had since the late 80s/early90s (and haven't played them since then!) Many I have fond memories of playing and hope I'll get back to them. Others I've picked up more recently, but just never got around to playing them (YET!). More than a few of them I picked up at one time or another thinking I might be able to convert the boardgames into a campaign system for tabletop miniature battles - or at the very least a scenario generator for a series of tabletop miniature battles.

    The closest thing I've played in the last decade is Angola - which does have counters, but it's area-based (rather than hexes) and card driven. It's been really fun - we played it 3 times now (I think) and seem to get in a game around Xmas and a game around the July long weekend for the last two years (Just trying to nail down a date for playing over the upcoming holidaze).

    I've played quite a few lighter historical wargames with the family - stuff like Academy Games 1775: Rebellion and 1812: Invasion of Canada and a few others - usually card-driven, area control and cubes abstractly representing generic units. I've also played few heavier ones like GMT's COIN series (also card-driven, area control and cubes).

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    1. Hi Tim! I appreciate the detailed response on your history with historical boardgames.

      I began wargaming using hex and counter wargames a few years before you. In those early years, mine were mostly TAHGC and SPI. While I dabbled with miniatures (Airfix plastics) in the early 70s, most of my wargaming was confined to boardgaming until the early 1990s.

      I still have loads of wargames and continue to collect. As with Tunisia II, I even manage to pull them out occasionally. Like you, my plan is to one day return...

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  6. Nice idea but not something I ever had an opponent to play with ...but I can see the attraction 😀

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    1. Matt, if you have no face-to-face opponents, VASSAL could be a workable option.

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  7. I enjoyed Tunisia II so much that I set it up and ran through a few solo turns. It definitely feels like World War II combat, and I can see that players should be focused on striking at supply lines and depots, just the sort of things that actual World War II commanders focused on.

    Like you, I began with hex and counter games. I cut my teeth on Third Reich and Panzer Leader and moved on to the Civil War Brigade Series and Standard Combat Series. I only discovered miniatures gaming in the late 90, and I did not start painting my own armies until 1999-2000.

    Once my children scattered the Tunisia II counters all over the floor, I remembered why I usually do not play games that stay set up for many days. Sigh.

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    1. Scott! Very encouraged to read that you enjoyed Tunisia. Shame that your solo replay was interrupted. If you want to try OCS again, I have space to leave one set up with low risk of child intervention.

      One of the first two "real" wargames I bought was SPI's Frigate and Borodino. I sure enjoyed that game in the 70s and 80s. My grandmother used to play Borodino with me when I was a kid. Not sure what to those games. Lost over the years, I suppose. I recently grabbed Frigate off of ebay. That sure brings back memories.

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  8. I've never had the opportunity to play Tunisia or Tunisia II, but I do love the hex and counter games. I keep adding to my meager collection even though I don't have an opponent who enjoys them. I play them solo and still have fun. It is amazing how long a turn in one of these games can last, especially if you're a new or a bit rusty with the rules. Hope you'll be able to enjoy more games in the future! Now to go take a look at my games and see if I want to dust one off...

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    1. Rod, I enjoy solo play too but nothing forces you to learn new rules and develop tactics and strategies more than a real life opponent. Even if Face-to-face is not an option, opportunities abound via VASSAL. Each module typically has a number of people ready to play.

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    2. I totally agree. I've considered Vassal... but I spend too much time on the computer as it is. So I avoid it and try to spend more time at the paint desk!

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    3. In my book, time spent at the painting desk is time well-spent!

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