Tactical-level board wargames are back in vogue, and miniatures are in resurgence. Axis & Allies, Flames of War, ASL, Panzer Grenadier. Board wargame grogs got their hopes up with regards to computer games in the 1980s with M-1 Tank Platoon from Microprose, a mixture of sim and tactical level game that took everything oh-so-seriously, despite the vector graphics. At the time, they didn't look half as silly as they do in hindsight.
Tactical PC wargamers then got bombarded with a lot of mostly mediocre titles (which isn't to say they weren't fun) in the 1980s and 1990s, like Muzzle Velocity and M4 and Panzer Generals, finally got to the good stuff with Close Combat, Combat Mission and Steel Panthers...
...and then all three franchises shot their bolt.
After half a dozen successful titles and versions for the military, Close Combat tried to go 3D - at least two times, with GI: Combat and Eric Young's Squad Assault. The latest release by Matrix was a rehash of the 2D material in a special edition of the Close Combat franchise.
Combat Mission - had three successful titles, then tried to reinvent itself, broaden its fan base, and please everyone in sight from RTS fans to sim junkies to beer and pretzels grognards. They're still picking up the pieces over at Battlefront.
Steel Panthers - three successful games, and then ended up as not one but two freeware releases which really hadn't changed much from the original release, a fairly straight-forward IGO-UGO turn-based 2D tactical game.
The Holy Grail - the game that would become "Squad Leader on the computer" - has proved to be elusive.
On the Decline?
Multi-Man Publishing just put up a 10 scenario pack (with 3 mapboards) for their Advanced Squad Leader boardgame series up for preorder. It hit 700 credit card orders in less than 3 days. For a game with a 500 page rulebook, that you play with little cardboard pieces, in a room with some sweaty fat dude who wants to use your toilet and drop chips on your carpet. But there is obviously still appeal to this grand-daddy of all tactical games. Perhaps there will be nothing to knock it off its perch anytime soon.
The hopes of the old board gamers may not be driving the hobby anymore, but anyone who knows the difference between the two boxes pictured above still has a vested interest in the future of tactical-level PC games. Panzer Command has released its second title, and developer Erik Rutins has been busy on his own forums, at gamesquad, and other places around the internet taking notes, interacting with the gamers, and adding to his to-do list. Will he be the one to decide where the future of tactical wargaming on the PC goes? Will Panzer Command become "ASL for the computer" as some are intimating here at gamesquad's forums?
Or do we really need to have the ability for squad-sized units to be able to swim, ride horses, climb cliffs, rappel down buildings, interrogate prisoners, set fires, clear rubble, ad infinitum?
My Question To You
I finally found my first edition purple boxtop at auction, and though the contents were fourth edition, the box is pure 1st edition. What is the most prized possession in your boardgame collection? And why?