A very accomplished game designer once told me his best ideas were mostly borrowed, but that he made them his own in the way he arranged and adapted them to a setting. Part of good design, he said, is knowing what works in a particular situation, and why. Good ideas keep coming around in new forms for a reason. They are borrowed, adapted and thus evolve, while the bad ones are discarded.
So it always puzzled me that computer wargames didn’t seem to have this evolving pool of good ideas. Instead, too often they were races to the bottom of some massive simulation pit, at the nadir of which was presumably an infinitely complex reality modeling engine. In retrospect, it was logical: when your platform is a supremely powerful computation device, it makes sense to make it compute as much as possible.
But nothing shakes up the status quo like a new platform that behaves like a new habitat, forcing its inhabitants to adapt or die. John Butterfield’s Battle of the Bulge feels like a game designed from the ground up for the tablet and its touchscreen*, where simple rules and clean design are ambitions instead of compromises. It’s also a fascinating example of how a hobby that once strove for superlative accuracy is willing to compromise in the name of superlative gameplay.
After the jump, dance of the wargaming masters Continue reading →