Saturday, December 20, 2014


Lately, I have been perusing old posts on the Grognardia blog. One series he did was RETROSPECTIVE, where he looked back on old games. I was particularly intrigued by his reminisces about his experiences with the game in question and its influence on him. I decided that I am going to look back on the games that have had the greatest impact on my gaming history.

First in the series is one the first "real" wargames (in contrast to Risk or army men on the floor) I ever played - Afrika Korps by the much-lamented Avalon Hill.

My father was a closet wargamer. By that I mean I never saw him play with other people, but he had a small stack of Avalon Hill wargames stacked on the bookshelf (along with a copy of Wargame Campaigns!). I was probably around 10 or so when I got him to teach me how to play. We battled over the fields of Waterloo and Gettysburg (he also had Blitzkrieg but we never tried it). My favorite at the time, however, was Afrika Korps.

Being one of the early Avalon Hill games, the mechanics were quite simple. The counters represented military units and each has a movement factor and strength factor listed on it. Combat was a simple affair of adding up the strengths of the units involved, determining the odds, and rolling on a results chart. Simple stuff that even a 10-year-old could grasp.

Perusing on boardgamegeek, I noticed some complaints about balance and that was certainly my experience (the allies always won, but that could have been the result of my poor generalship). I always played the Germans and I was determined to break through to Alexandria. I would race my troops along the coastal road as rapidly as possible, but I kept getting stymied by Tobruk. Again and again, my attack would grind to a halt there. I think I may have taken it once, but I never got to Alexandria.

North Afrika.
Germans start on the left and have to take Alexandria on the right.
I may have gone down in defeat numerous times, but this game was a revelation as it opened up the world of adult wargaming to me. I realized that you could grow up and still play with soldiers in some fashion. To this day, wargaming has remained a source of intellectual exercise and an inspiration to my imagination. It is probably one of the greatest gifts my father gave to me. Thanks Dad!


  1. The first game I ever played was D-Day, owned by the brother of a friend. I was entranced. The following Christmas my parents gave me the hex-version of Gettysburg. Then Afrika Korps--that was my favorite, too, for a long, long time. I sometimes see the old AH games on sale at flea markets for a dollar or two--crazyness! They may not have been the ultimate in historical accuracy, but man were they fun! Something a lot of game designers tend to forget...

    Best regards,

    Chris Johnson

  2. Thanks for sharing Chris. It's awesome how Avalon Hill introduced so many people to this great hobby.