Growing a Grognard–The Seed Has Sprouted

I need to get those counters clipped, but this is a real page turner.

I need to get those counters clipped, but this is a real page turner.   

Grog • nard  (noun)  1. An old soldier 2. Someone who enjoys playing board wargames, particularly the counter-heavy strategy games from the 1970’s & 80’s. 

     I’ve probably mentioned before how my son has embraced the gaming hobby full force.  He’s all about military stuff and thus, war games are right up his alley. He’s been tearing up the iTunes App Store looking for strategy games for his iPod Touch.  I honestly think I could break out Advanced Squad Leader and he’d be, “OK Dad, infantry and armor is great, but when do we get to the Off Board Artillery rules?”

     I’m also proud to report that on the last day of school this year, he got a special Achievement in History Award from his first grade teacher.  Besides his general enthusiasm for the topic, when she needed some books to help teach the American Revolution and the Civil War, she borrowed them from his library.  And oh yeah, he does a mean impression of Sam Elliott playing Brig. General John Buford in the film Gettysburg.  “THE HIGH GROUND!”

    For me, it just keeps getting better.  We were at Barnes & Noble a couple of weekends ago and he noticed a “Tank Recognition Guide” sitting on the bargain table near the cashier’s desk.  “Hey Dad, can I get this?”  How can a dad say “No” to his little man’s interest in armoured fighting vehicles?

      He brought it in the car with him the next morning on the way to school. We had a fairly deep conversation on the various camouflage & marking schemes utilized by the German Panzer Corps in World War II.  And then he asked if he could borrow my copy of World War II magazine which I had sitting on the front seat.  I’d brought it to read over lunch but he wanted to take it to peruse during after-school daycare.  My man is 7 years old.

     So, getting back to the gaming, he’s been, shall we say, “enthusiastically reminding me” lately (I didn’t say “bugging“) that he wants to play some war games. If I had a dollar for every “Hey Dad…” But the lawn ain’t gonna cut itself, and so forth…

      We’ve played Axis & Allies a couple times, but the set-up time, playing time, and large footprint of the game led me to look for something else. Plus, I think it’s a bit too macro for both of us.  I perused Axis & Allies: Battle of the Bulge but the rules weren’t grabbing me.  I kept thinking, “I’d rather just break out Avalon Hill’s Battle of the Bulge.” It’s one of my all-time favorites, but he’s too little for that. Isn’t he?

      On the way home from work about a week ago, I stopped by my friendly neighborhood game store.  When I say “On the way home,” I really mean, “The opposite of on my way home,” but who’s keeping track besides my lovely wife? I think she’s on to me with the whole “I’ve gotta make a stop on the way home” thing.

     I figured I could find something to fit the bill among the mass of Eurogames and Warhammer.  I ended up snagging a copy of Memoir ’44 which is an impressive looking little WWII ground combat war/boardgame. Obviously this isn’t a hardcore grognard game, but my little man isn’t to that point just yet.

      We set the game up and proceeded to play Scenario #1, Pegasus Bridge.  Now obviously I know you can’t review a game after only one play, but I’m not claiming this is a review. Call it a “first impression.”

     Wow, did I hate the experience.  There’s been plenty written about the pros and cons of Memoir ’44.  Suffice it to say I fall on the con side.  Life is too short to waste time on games you don’t like and there was very little about it that I did. OK, the box is kinda cool.

      But what about Little Man? I asked him what he thought and right away he hits me with, “Well, I don’t get why I can only move certain guys only if I have a certain card and then I can’t shoot back after you shoot at me.”  And me, channeling my inner-ASL’er, was like, “I know, where’s the Defensive Fire Phase!?” We haven’t played again and I have a feeling Memoir ’44 may go on the shelf, never to be heard from again.

     I have a copy of Tide of Iron but haven’t had a chance to look at the rules. It seems kinda similar to Memoir though.  Then there’s Axis & Allies: D-Day, which I own, and Axis & Allies: Guadalcanal, which I don’t.  I’m getting desperate .  I don’t want to discourage him with my long, drawn-out search for the perfect “learning” game.  He just wants to blow up tanks and storm the Tractor Factory.

      I swear, I’m really tempted to just break out my copy of Squad Leader, and set up The Guards Counterattack.  Cut to the chase, as they say.  I pretty much know the rules by heart  and they actually make sense.  Or maybe I should just crack open ASL Starter Kit #1 and be done with it.  Plus, he can help me clip the counters.  I’ll let ya’ll know how it turns out.  Until next time…stay nerdy my friends.

It Came From The Nerd Cave recommends:
Pegasus Bridge: June, 1944 by Stephen E. Ambrose


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