Multiplayer Wargames

I’m part of a local gaming group that has four, maybe five, members whom I would consider to be primarily wargamers and three or four others that are “wargame friendly”. In the past we’ve been able to get together to play things like EuroFront, Sword of Rome, The Napoleonic Wars, and a few other multiplayer games over a weekend or a few weeknights. Unfortunately these gatherings have been few and far between and organized in such a way that, for a lot of us, the very first experience playing the game was the big event itself.

In order to resolve the “few and far between” aspect of the problem we’ve decided that we’re going to get together every other month for a wargaming weekend. The host, specific weekend and play times, and the game to be played are all figured out well in advance so that everyone has a chance to prepare. We also try to have one or two learning sessions where we’ll play a small scenario from the game so that everyone is going in with at least some experience with it.

That’s the plan anyway…

We had our initial get together a few weekends ago and it worked out pretty well. Three of us played the It Never Snows campaign game over a two day span and two of us got together the week before to play through one of the smaller scenarios. For the next event, which will take place in late August, we’re going to be playing Flying Colors – specifically the two larger Trafalgar scenarios found in C3i #20. I’ve read through the Flying Colors rules and from what I make of it so far is that it appears to be a simple enough game that looks like it will work well for group play. Should be fun and it looks like we may have five players participating.

Of course I’m already thinking about what our options are for the game after that. So far our process for selecting games has been for each person to propose a few games and we discuss and debate from there. The only real requirements for game selection are that the rules are available online and that the game can handle multiple players without too much work. It seems to be a workable system and unless some issues come up we’ll keep using it.

Since we’re also trying to introduce a few newer players to the wonderful world of wargaming, we’re initially staying away from some of the more complicated stuff – which explains our two choices so far. Eventually I envision a group of us gathered around the table playing La Bataille de la Moscowa using the full regs. Doubtful that will ever happen, but if all goes as planned, we will eventually move on up to some of the more complicated stuff. The question is what?

There have been a couple suggestions from the GBACW series, Three Days of Gettysburg and Dead of Winter, which I think would work out rather well. Each player can be assigned a corps (or two), not a lot of down time with the chit pull activation, and a few of us have plenty of experience with the system to help the newbies along. My only issue with TDoG is that during the first day there aren’t a lot of forces on the map initially, which could lead to some pretty bored players. Anyone out there have any experience playing this with multiple players?

Another suggestion has been None but Heroes which uses The Gamers’ Line of Battle rules. Again, it would be easy enough to split up the forces and it doesn’t have the problem of not having a lot of forces on the map initially. My worry about this game is the order system. I really, really, like the way the order system works, the problem is that it is possible that someone will get stuck with a command that never gets to carry out any orders. The idea behind these gaming weekends is to get people playing and sitting around failing to take on orders for an entire game would really suck. I’m sure there are easy enough ways to work around that, but then you’re kind of breaking the whole point of the system.

Of course, being that I’m an OCS fanatic, various OCS suggestions have been made as well. Thinking about it though, other than playing something like Case Blue, or Guderian’s Blitzkrieg, which games in the series would make for a good multiplayer, weekend event? If we know we have three players Sicily is an obvious choice. Korea, which is my favorite OCS game, is almost strictly two player. I just can’t think of a good way to split the forces in that one. Burma might work well as a three or four player game though as the campaign is really just like two or three separate actions on one map.

Der Weltkrieg has also crossed my mind. I don’t have experience playing any of the games in the system multiplayer, but I can’t imagine it would be too hard to come up with something, especially as units are generally assigned to specific armies at the start. First thing that jumps out to me is the Tannenberg & Galicia combo. Western Front would be doable as well, although it might be a little cramped with three or four players around a single map.

So any suggestions out there? We’re looking for bigger games that have rules available online and can be played with multiple people without too much extra work. Hex & Counter, non-CDGs games would be preferred, but if you have a suggestion outside of those parameters that you think would work well I’d love to hear it. Hell, these meetings may be the only way I actually get to try something like Here I Stand or Virgin Queen, so I won’t rule anything out.

10 thoughts on “Multiplayer Wargames

  1. Multiplayers are a nice intro tool because there’s way less pressure to win. It’s a team effort.

    Unfortunately I won’t be much help on suggestions. Though I’m tempted by your praise if Korea to pre order it, even though the topic is not one of my tops.

    I’m curious why Korea wouldn’t make for a good multiplayer?

    • Good point on using the multiplayer team thing to intro people into the system. We have a good mixture of wargamer experience in the group, so it shouldn’t be a problem teaming up a newbie with someone. I think it will also come in handy when we move onto some of the more difficult games as there won’t be a ton of pressure on the newer guys to absorb all of the rules.

      Korea is just an awesome game but I think it would be difficult to split the forces in a way that would keep everyone involved. It’s not very counter dense and at times there are very little counters at all for one side or the other (the North Koreans get pretty beat up on the UN drive up north, almost to the point of non-existence!).

      I missed out on Korea when it was still in print originally because I wasn’t interested in the topic either. When I finally got to the point of wanting to pick up a copy I had to trade away my unpunched TDC for it (totally worth it). My advice would be that if you ever think you’d be interested in getting a copy, do it while the getting is good (or wait until after the pre-order hits and see if you can find a used older version going for cheap).

  2. JK. Another option is two copies of the same game with 4 players. We have had a blast with Side by Side play thrus of SPII, Yom Kippur, and others.

    Other key factors to enjoyment I think are the understanding of the historical situation, understanding the terrain you will fight on, units and capabilities you have to work with, as well as how the mechanics and turn sequence gel together to provide the “flow” or essence of a game.

    We have started allowing a good 30-45 minutes to review maps, review opening moves, and apportionment of reinforcements. That has made a big difference for some of the folks that play in our group.

    • I like the idea of playing two copies for compare/contrast reasons with discussion during and after play. I think doing a side-by-side play through of two different games covering the same topic (as seen on here before) would be great as well. I’m still trying to work out a way to do a compare and contrast thing with ‘The Schlieffen Plan’ and ‘Drive on Paris’.

      One of the ideas behind picking a game quickly in our process is to allow everyone to prepare in any way that they see fit. For me it allows me to do the types of things you mention and it also allows us to get in a few practice type games if we feel the need (or just for fun). One idea that I’ve been toying with is to have a quick get together the night before we actually start playing so that everyone can peruse the initial setup and toy with some opening move ideas.

      • Good ideas!!. Pre playing I have challenges with. Simpler games, I get a little annoyed when folks ‘pre play’ the entire game to get an edge, but for more complex games I appreciate it, though full play thrus immediately prior still tweak me a bit. I like to ‘explore together’..kinda gay but what ya know. If I am wanting to learn a game or teaching a game, that is very different than a 4 person play thru.

        I’d like to see our group have more time to prepare and be ‘ready to play’, one of us (often me) is usually cramming last minute.

        2 titles the same or two titles that are on the same topic are always great to see unfold. We did that No Retreat thing…that sure was different. Yet Yom Kippur ended up almost identical except for very different reasons. SPII was polar opposites.

        Getting together the night b4 is ideal! One day I’d love to host a campaign like TCS GD 42 or TBL or THG. Some thing big, leave it setup over time, and watch it unfold. NONE of the GUYS here want anything to do with OCS. ;(

      • I don’t think I’d have an issue with people playing the selected game ahead of time, if that floats their boat, as we’re not that competitive of a group. Even the most competitive player we have is more than willing to offer insights and suggestions to others during play. It’s more about the experience and having fun than anything else.

        Hosting a longer campaign game of something would be fun. Not sure how our group would pull it off as it would be hard for everyone to get together on a regular, timely basis. I feel your pain when it comes to OCS – not a lot of love for it in our group.

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  4. I like how you are spacing out the game weekends. I have been involved in multiplayer sessions where we got together once a week and I found that difficult at times. I then found it icky when I realized that I really hated the game itself. Then it all became a chore which I eventually bowed out of. So, having the players get a little experience with the game prior to the “big weekend” is a great idea.

    As for recommendations, your notion to have people playing / not sitting is probably a valid one. Depends somewhat on the temperament of the individuals in your group I suppose. I like watching games unfold as much as playing them. I think that big dumb games are a good bet for monsters. That is, those without complex rules. Monsters, though, can have a lot of down time. As for non-monsters, I have heard great things about Napoleon’s Triumph in multiplayer mode. I wonder how something like Eastfront would work out?

    • We’ve actually played Napoleon’s Triumph in multiplayer mode and none of us were overly impressed, but I think a lot of it had to do with the lack of overall experience we had with the game in the first place. We’ve also played EuroFront as a group, but again, there was no prep involved, so while the experience was still pretty fun, it wasn’t as good as I think it could have been.

      I agree with the “big dumb monster” approach. INS worked really well!

  5. How about “Strike of the Eagle” by Academy Games? Looks great for a 4 player game that I am still trying to get together to play with my group.

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