Issue 73 (Spring/Summer 2013)
Turning Point in the Central Pacific: Saipan
1944 Takes the Panzer Grenadier System to the Marianas
by Jim Werbaneth
The Forgotten Triumph: A Review of Defeat Into Victory, From Against the Odds Magazine
by Jim Werbaneth
Throwing Large Rocks Into Space: Space Combat and Genocide in Double Star
by Jim Werbaneth
Free-For-All on Ancient Seas: Simulating Naval Battles in the Classical Era with Trireme
by Jim Werbaneth
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by Jim Werbaneth
Line of Departure is back, after what I admit is too long of an interval. I probably could have published this a few weeks ago, but decided that it was more important to do the issue right, rather than just to put a magazine on the street for its own sake. So I took a little more time.
The winter was the nexus of a crisis, to borrow a phrase from Blue Öyster Cult. It started with a major change of workload at my major day job, as the powers that be decided to increase the student load for full-time instructors. One of the leading reasons was the federal budget sequester, and the threatened end of tuition assistance for military students. My employer made a decision to vastly increase the workload for the full-time faculty to make sure that we made our quotas. Unfortunately not much thought went into what this meant for those instructors, and as a result I was kept working, without a day off, from Christmas to the end of June. Plus, there were many nights in which I didn’t finish my work until after midnight.
The good part is that that’s over now. In addition, I was recently in a meeting in which we were assured that this would never happen again, ever. I just hope that they’re serious, as none of the educational equivalent of an accelerated assault turned out good for anyone, at any level, on any level.
At the same time, I did the most adult thing I have ever done, in my entire life. At long last, I bought a house. I’m in the same general area, about six miles north of where I grew up. I saved for a long time, working up to three jobs at a time for a while. I was finally able to make an offer on a place around Christmas, and closed on January 25.
This means a lot to me for obvious reasons, and that includes wargaming and Line of Departure. Previously, I was in part of the house where I grew up, and thus my library and game collection were not well organized, to put it mildly. I had games on shelves in the game room and my bedroom, but also in the attic, in the back of a closet, and in file cabinets. I knew where everything was, but that was not due to any system.
Now there is one. All of my boxed wargames, and all of my computer games, are assembled in the game room. All of the magazine games are in my home office. As a result, games that I haven’t opened, and in some cases so much as seen, in years are now prominently displayed and at hand. Thus not only will I be playing these old games, I will be writing about them too, and you can count on them being treated in the pages of Line of Departure.
For example, since the introduction of Advanced Squad Leader, my old copies of Squad Leader, Cross of Iron, Crescendo of Doom, and G.I.: Anvil of Victory were stuffed in the back of my bedroom closet, minus their maps. They were kept with my Advanced Squad Leader stuff. Today though, all are in the Avalon Hill/Victory Games shelves in my game room. This brings up a question: Why not cover them in Line of Departure? These were excellent games when they came out, and in my opinion Cross of Iron and Crescendo of Doom are especially good yet today. It is not as though Advanced Squad Leader came out, and the faces melted off those earlier games. From the very beginning, one of the central principles of Line of Departure has been that just because a game is superseded does not mean that it loses its quality, or all of its appeal.
When I moved, one of the first priorities was setting up the game collection and library; that was right up there with the computers and televisions, and immediately ahead of integrating the stereo with the game room TV and Blu Ray player. I still don’t have all of my furniture, and six months after the move, there are still some boxes in what will be the living room. You can tell what is really important.
Yet there is one more advantage to the new setup. My previous game space was a cobbled together from the family game room, but part was also my office, inherited from my dad. My new game space is a bit smaller, and has an L-shape, due to the intrusion of the laundry room in the back. However, it is much more specialized as a game space, with a television and stereo. Just about everything else is devoted to games, and the space to play them. Thus I expect to be able to set up more and bigger tables, facilitating bigger games. It has been a long while since I was able to set up something as big as Gulf Strike, Pacific War, or World in Flames. Now there is room for these, and perhaps even larger titles.
This is not just good news for me; it is news for you the readers, as this raises the probability that larger games will find their way into the pages of the magazine. I’ll still have room to set up something smaller alongside, so a monster game will not have to be a home-dominating obsession, and will leave room for something smaller. That includes design and development projects, especially for the Turning Point Simulations line to which I remain committed.
All of the work so far has taken a lot of time, at the same time that I was bearing a student load that might drive others to a meth habit (for the record I’m too cheap for hard drugs). As stated too, it’s not done by any means either.
With this big change in my life, there were things that I had to give up. Travel is the biggest. Besides the shortage of time, let’s face it, mortgage payments and other extras such as food and utilities tend to eat into essential expenses, such as airline tickets and beer. This year is the first since 2009 in which I had no major trips ― No Florida, no New York City, and what I miss most of all, no Europe. I did not attend any academic conferences nor go on vacation. Instead I stayed in what my former colleagues and I in the First National Bank used to call Porchville.
I even had to take a break from graduate school, not taking any courses from the end of January onward. Fortunately I am able to return in September, enrolling in a class on World War II in the Pacific. Thus while I might be behind my self-imposed schedule to earn my second Masters degree, it will happen.
All the while, I was working on Line of Departure when I could. As soon as I had the game room set up into some working order, and the wireless network was working, I wrote this issue’s article on Double Star. This is significant for a couple of reasons. The first is that I haven’t covered very many GDW games over the years, despite that company’s importance to wargaming through the seventies and eighties particularly. Secondly, this marks the return of science fiction gaming to the pages of Line of Departure. In the early years, it was a lot more common, but later it sort of faded away in favor of historical games.
I do intend for this to be something other than an isolated case. I really am interested in returning science fiction, and for that matter, fantasy games to the magazine. This is not unprecedented, as over the years Line of Departure has carried articles on the likes of Starship Troopers, Sorcerer and even Warhammer 40K. These will not dominate the magazine, nor can readers expect to see them in every edition. Not unless there is a huge outcry for them, which I don’t really expect. At the same time, I don’t expect to hear a major outcry against them, especially among older readers.
There was a time when these were accepted as part of wargaming’s mainstream, especially during the so-called Golden Age. In fact, in my estimation at least, it is one of the things that made the seventies and early eighties such a great one for our hobby. There was an acceptance of more speculative topics, one could outside the lines of historicity without suffering in reputation or self-esteem. In my view, the main reason this changed was the rise of Dungeons & Dragons; borne on its popularity, hordes of board wargamers left their hobby for fantasy roleplaying. As a result, the remaining board wargamers saw fantasy and, connected with it, science fiction, as the enemy. Further, that lead to a degree if jealousy, with historical boardgamers resenting the success of the new genre.
Over the years I committed a lot of sins, but I don’t believe that these are among them. In consequence, Line of Departure has not been a totally historically purist publication.
In addition, the last two issues indicated a couple of other adjustments. One is a recommitment to supplemental material for games. This starts with scenarios, and moves on to optional rules, variants, and player’s aids. Once again, this is little new, and marks a return to original principles as much as anything else. Likewise, after a short absence, magazine games are once again part of the coverage.
That is how things stand now. Line of Departure is back.
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