Avalon Hill Game company's title Stalingrad is a game I have always found to be well... comfortable. Like a pair of old shoes, or a favorite shirt that simply helps you relax when slipping them on. From set up to teardown of this old classic I always find myself engaged, thoughtful, and yes calm. Not an easy feat considering the hectic state of the world these days or the title's theme. It is for this reason above many others that Stalingrad has hit my table time and time again over the last 30 years.
Every board game enthusiast has at least one game which they hold dear to their heart. A title which, upon spying the box on their shelf or even an image on the internet conjures up fond memories of sessions or opponents. For me the power and poetry of these recollections is very important, for they bring grace, and a small measure of happiness to an otherwise mundane and dark world. And though, with age, the faces of friends long since past have begun to fade, the good spirit remains waiting but for a trigger to be released.
Queen of the Celts is the third installment of Avalanche Press' tactical war games set in the Roman Period aptly named Rome at War. This version focuses on the invasion and subjugation of Britain by the empire. What caught my attention with this rather small game was two things; 1st the price I paid for it on Ebay, a paltry $6.00 US, and second the tragic tale of Boudicca Queen of the Iceni tribe, which has long been of interest to me.
Revolutions and conflicts which are inspired by a desire for freedom from tyranny, spiced up with a bit of revenge hold a special place in my heart thus, I knew I had to pick this game up.
I recently bought a copy of Blitzkrieg (circa 1965) on EBay simply to add it to my growing collection of board games. Having played this game but once way back in 1977 the purchase was not stimulated by any nostalgic devotion to this old classic. For, by the time my childhood friend Glen and I sat down with a borrowed copy, we had already become veterans of the war gaming genre. We had fought across the deserts of North Africa, smashed the British lines at Waterloo, and pushed Alexander the Great back at the battle of Gaugamela.
Neither one of us had much hope that Blitzkrieg, a fictional representation of warfare between two countries (Great Blue and Big Red), would stir us to greatness once again. In that, we were correct, for the lack of historical backdrop quieted my inspiration and I was forced into a mechanical situation in which I did not feel invested in the outcome. Without the chance to change history, my imagination was dulled, my drive quieted. So I bought this title simply because it is one you have to own if you are an old Grognard like me.
Recently I was in a game shop with a couple of friends, Valerie and Mike, and found myself feeling really old. While having a conversation with a rather large fellow about a miniature war game he liked to play I asked him if he had ever tried any Avalon Hill games. Much to my surprise he had no idea what I was talking about, and when he said and I quote: "was that after Mech warrior?" I felt like I was going to cry. How could anyone not know about such great games as Afrika Korps, Squad Leader, or Panzer Blitz? But there before me stood a mountain of passive ignorance, sporting a look that spoke of quiet amusement as I tried to explain what strategic war games used to be before he was glint in his mother's eye.
Al Butler and Mike McKenney are not professional review experts by any stretch, but they do know what they like in a game.