The Death of Hex-based Wargames

Hotel Tango to Paul Manning for finding this article about the death of the hex and die-cut-counter wargame.  In this telling, “TSR shot wargaming in the head.”  You may recall TSR as the company that sold Dungeons and Dragons.  This article seems to suggest that it was incompetence on the part of TSR.  Paul, who brought this to my attention, seems suspicious that it was a murder, a purposeful effort by one gaming sub-culture to eliminate a rival sub-culture.  Who knows?

A young Humble Author (right) playing the Germans in AFRIKA KORPS on the living room floor.

All I know is that I owe my career in national security issues to wargaming.  I bought my first wargame, Afrika Korps, at the Frederick and Nelson’s department store in my hometown.  Sigh.  Little did I know that even as I was buying that game, the entire industry was starting its slide into oblivion.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 12:41 AM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] a frustrated wargamer, these books struck me as interesting, so I did a little poking around.  […]

  2. I see we are contemporaries!

    I was looking at AH Battle of the Bulge in Weinstocks about the same time you were picking up AK at Frederick and Nelson’s!

    I remember my mother saying that the game wasn’t what I thought it was. While she stopped that purchase, I nevertheless ran into a couple of friends that got me started on AH. I also ran across a Strategy & Tactics ad in Scale Modeler near the end of Chris Wagner’s era, so I was a subscriber at the end of his era, through the Dunnigan era and into the beginning of the TSR S&T era.

    Have you seen Jim and Al (Nofi) continuing their modern work over at ? Jim’s by-lines link to his personal site which has a lot of good history from our era. I’m also catching up with my AF-PAK reading at Strategy Page.

    There’s something about the way our gaming past taught us to look at military things in a quantified way that is different from the mainstream. Being unsatisfied with what I could get in the media on the sitrep, I decided to explore Strategy Page again. Was I ever amazed at how far behind I was by relying on mainstream media!

    So, I’m catching up on a couple of years of Jim’s column (still called Dirty Little Secrets). With all the negativity in the mainstream press, it’s good to read some more positive analysis.

    It’s nice to see Jim and Al still in the field, as well as seeing yourself. At 54 I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and when I read about their work, or yours, I wonder what might have been if I had stayed in the field. At the time, I saw gaming as a hobby not worthy of a career choice. Now I wonder if my background is more suited to this kind of work. With the demise of gaming, you, Jim, and Al have taken the logical step to move into current events analysis and defense consulting. I know I would have been eminently better off had I kept my resources – besides all the years of S&T and the included games, I had a fairly large library of books, too.

    Well, we predict the demise of hex gaming prematurely. It is still there, in a small niche like it always was, with a few websites and a few publishers of board games. I have to say that as much as I got into computers, I rejected computer gaming because board gaming is so much more educational and illustrative.

    Best wishes in your work,


  3. Just ran across this looking for a rule set for my old copy of A-H’s
    Kriegspiel. The SPI story sounds eerily similar to the story of Ashton-Tate and dBase III which I recentl read in “In Search of Stupidity.” A great book about how not to run a software company, but the mistakes are clearly present in many oter industries.

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