Block games differ from more traditional wargames in the sense that units are represented by blocks that have information only available on one side, visible to their owner. While this allows the opponent to see how many units are present in an area, what type of units and their respective strengths remain hidden. This creates a unique fog of war effect in the fact that one can never be certain about the strength of an opponent’s units.
I play wargames for three simple reasons: I like games, I like history, and I find warfare interesting. To that end, I like games that have some simulation value; in other words, games that portray some of the problems and decisions that real military commanders are faced with. These include the many unknowns and what Clausewitz called the fog and friction of war that obscures the battlefield. Traditional hex and counter wargames have trouble portraying this. Information is visible rather than masked, the strengths and weaknesses of units are known. As a result, gameplay can sometimes devolve into a factor counting exercise.
Block games do a lot to rectify the above problems.
- They create a real "fog" of war, so a player must try and deduce the strength of his opponent, in relative terms, allowing for a focus on objectives and priorities rather than arithmetic.
- They also allow for greater and more realistic attrition. Units that are involved in heavy combat suffer a corresponding loss in combat power, and sometimes a line of blocks on the board doesn't represent much actual strength. This leads to...
- Bluff becomes an important strategy. There's a real psychology and sense of risk taking when playing block games.
- Finally, having a group of sizable wooden blocks on the board just gives one a warm, tactile, sensation which is often missing from many traditional wargames.
At FallCon on Sunday September 30th, members of the Calgary Strategy and Wargames Group will be showcasing the best of the block game genre. Numerous examples will be available for play and we'll be happy to help with rules for specific games for those who haven't played. Popular games from Columbia Games and GMT Games like Hammer of the Scots, Napoleon 1815: The Waterloo Campaign, War of 1812, Crusader Rex, Julius Caesar, Hellenes and Rommel in the Desert will be on hand. This is a great opportunity to get introduced to this unique genre of wargame. If there's a favorite or a new block game in your collection that you'd like to learn, we ask that you bring it along so we can teach you.
Looking forward to seeing you at the convention,