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The first sign you should not review wargames is…

February 28th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

Wargames get next to no respect. Even when they do get reviewed, they are either given vague reviews and middling “play it safe” scores or they are completely mangled by people who show neither the time nor patience to figure out what the hell is going on.

But if you name your site Strategy Informer, you should have some credibility on wargames, right? Well, maybe. But then you write something like this:

“The game will not make itself obvious, instead you will be required to decipher cryptic symbols long before you even get close to engaging the enemy. Some of your units look like little tanks in boxes, others look like ovals inside boxes. I personally find it laughable that a unit is represented by an oval. This is the new millennium, we can scan electronic code into living cells, surely game developers can come up with something more intuitive for a unit than an oval.”

They are called NATO symbols, dingus. Armor is traditionally represented by an oval in a box. People who understand wargames know that you don’t always use a picture of a tank.

The wargame being reviewed here is ProSim’s Star and Crescent. Which does use pictures of tanks when you zoom in very closely. But for the most part it relies on the old wargaming symbols that have always been in use in wargames.

There are many legitimate complaints that can be made about Star and Crescent. Some of them are in this review by Alex Jeffreys. But to criticize a wargame because it uses icons that have been in place in games and war maps for decades is beyond madness. It’s a sign that you are really out of your depth.


6 Comments so far ↓

  • Bruce

    Even better than that’s review is that site’s forums, where they offer up to $15 per article to write for them. Then read the response some kid wrote. It’s good times.


  • Troy Goodfellow

    Wow. That guy’s “gamming” experience with “startegy” games should put SI at the top of the industry before long.

    Seriously, my major problem with SI (and many other low end sites) is that they like everything. They overvalue anything even remotely strategic. So the evisceration of Star and Crescent was even more out of place.

    Still, for an extra five dollars here and there, I might send them my CV.

  • bruce

    The reason low-end sites like everything is that if they’re getting games for free, they don’t want to offend the PR people who send them product. They’re not on the take, or anything like that — they’re just kids who have no professional experience or notion of professional conduct. Of course, that works to the advantage of the PR people, who can take a positive quote or rating off of any site.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Oh, I’m well aware of the reason. And it’s dumb to think like that, in my opinion. And narrow minded. And very, very annoying.

    The fact that I still get friendly emails from Paradox and Slitherine generally means that they either accept that me saying bad things is part of the deal or that they have no idea who I am.

    My money is on the latter.

    And it’s probably the same with these marginal sites.

    Even a big freaking mess like Diplomacy got good reviews from reasonably reputable sources. Crown of Glory had Wargamer thrilled. Brett Todd liked Pax Romana for crying out loud. There will almost always be someone who will give a positive review. No need to sell your own credibility to give it.

  • Anonymous

    So… Your point is that a newbie strategy gamer is better served by archaic symbols of an army training and practice notation system instead of, say, a picture of a tank?

    I’d say there’s certainly a place for the NATO system as an OPTION in games. If you’re into the genre enough, then it’ll add a layer of atmosphere knowing you’re planning these battles the way they would be planned in a real command centre.

    To anyone else they’re an alienating mess on unintuitive gobbledegook they just don’t have the time to learn, when all they want to do is to have some fun.

    Sure you have to cater to the hardcore crowd, they’re the most avid buyers. But you also have to cater to the newcomers because without them, there’s no next generation of hardcore crowd.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    If memory serves, there is, in fact, an option to turn the NATO symbols into more recognizable icons. I’ll confirm that when I get home.

    But the iconography is in no way the major barrier to newbie wargamers in the ATF series. The interface is Byzantine. The movement controls take too many steps. It has more acronyms than a Derek Smart games. Sword and Crescent is part of one of the least newbie friendly wargame series ever. If I ever recommended it to a wannabe wargamer, I’d deserve to be murdered.

    But a game isn’t just for newbies. Sword and Crescent is the last and best game in the ATF series. It has a robust editor, excellent AI opponents, well-crafted scenarios and, for all its complexity, a pretty good tutorial in spite of its kluge-y manner.

    My larger point was that reviewing a wargame – especially an advanced wargame – without basic familiarity with the conventions of the form is crazy. It would be like reviewing a football game and not knowing what a touchdown is. Or reviewing a racing game and not knowing how to take a turn.