Issue 71 (Spring/Summer 2012)


Across the Delaware: A Review of Washington's Crossing
by Jim Werbaneth

A Question of Execution: Promise, Success and Failure in SPI's Red Sun Rising
by Jim Werbaneth

Red Sun Rising Naval Displays
by Jim Werbaneth

Before the Gates of Paris: The Pivotal Battle of the Great War, in We Shall Fight on the Marne
by Jim Werbaneth

Desert Twilight for the Panzerblitz System: Understanding Avalon Hill's The Arab-Israeli Wars
by Jim Werbaneth


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The Bully Pulpit

by Jim Werbaneth

This issue of Line of Departure marks a return to normal patterns in one big way. The previous two were theme issues, looking at modern tactics and then World War II on the Eastern Front. Issue 71 goes back to the more common approach of giving readers a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. There will be more theme magazines, just not this time around. Instead, Issue 71 covers a range of subjects from the American Revolution through modern warfare, on the tactical, operational and strategic levels. As I said, a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I envision Issue 72 covering multiple subjects and scales too.

Issue 71 addresses some neglected subjects too. The American Revolution is under represented in wargaming, and so is the Russo-Japanese War, even though each was a decisive conflict. For that matter one could say that World War I does not generate the designs that it should.

Further, through my work as the developer for Turning Point Simulations, I’ve become a little more conscious about what constitutes a truly, historically decisive battle or campaign. The Battle of the Marne, covered here through an article on We Will Fight on the Marne, is one such battle, per the TPS list. The campaign of Trenton and Princeton is not on the list, but the American Revolution is represented by an upcoming TPS game on the Battle of Saratoga. My personal view is that the Russo-Japanese War was another decisive conflict, confirming the rot setting into the Russian Empire, and demonstrating that Japan was ready for prime time on the world stage. Then, if one has to pick a turning point within that war, Tsushima is the clear candidate.

As I wrote in Issue 70, most decisive battles require a follow-up victory to ratify their consequences fully. Sta-lingrad needed its Kursk, Midway its Guadalcanal, Vicksburg its Atlanta, and eventually Saratoga demanded its Yorktown. Far less common are the battles that immediately lead to immediate, strategic victory in the overall conflict; leading directly to the Geneva accords in 1954, Dien Bien Phu ranks as one of the most important of these, seeing the end of French rule in Indochina, and the rise of an independent, Communist Vietnam. Similarly, Napoleon’s return to power ended with his defeat at Waterloo, and the Allied pursuit to Paris.

There are two types of games not covered in this issue, though their exclusion was not by design. There are no articles on magazine games, or computer games. Magazine issue games will come back, maybe as soon as Issue 72. I never intended to go three issues without addressing one; that is just the way that things worked out. Computer games are much the same too, as I would like to write about the ones that would appeal most to boardgamers, or have some overlap with cardboard titles.

Then too, I see the future of turn-based, overhead view, computer wargames to be somewhat problematical. There was a time when these ruled the game universe, especially in the nineties, with SSI, SSG, and TalonSoft especially producing them. About twenty years ago, I could go into the local Electronics Boutique or Babbage’s and find more real wargames for the personal computer than my budget could ever accommodate. Now all those publishers are gone, and for that matter so is Babbage’s, with Electronics Boutique now marketing console games more than anything else. Now, “real” computer wargames amount to a niche in the market, if not an outright ghetto.

At the same time, I see the field about to undertake another major evolution. The personal computer will not be the major platform for electronic games, especially military history-related ones, of the future. In fact, I do not see consoles in this role either. Rather, an increasing number of wargames will migrate to the tablet and smartphone. Expect to see a lot more on the Android, iPhone and iPad platforms than anyplace else. Hopefully too, this will lower prices, as new games have to conform to generally lower price structures. How can a niche product such as a turn-based wargame even get noticed among general market titles priced at a few dollars, or even less than a buck?

When this happens, I want Line of Departure to cover the new market. I already have an Android phone and a new iPad, so I have committed to the base technology. The rest is up to designers, programmers and publishers to produce the games. But they are on the way.

This is consistent with the magazine’s practice from the very beginning. Long-term readers should remember that the very first issue included an article on a computer game, Harpoon for DOS. In the next few years, the magazine addressed others, and an educational CD on World War II from the Discovery Channel. The latter was a one-time event, and thus an editorial dead end. Still, it does show that there always was a willingness to look beyond the familiar cardboard and dice.

Issue 70

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Issue 67

Issue 66