The English Civil War was a tangential field of battle for The Thirty Years War, the one in which Protestants and Catholics decided to settle their minor differences by totally destroying Germany. This travelling horror show, surely a low point in mankind’s inhumanity to itself, was also the Dawn of Modern Warfare. At Breitenfeld, in 1632, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, one of history’s great military geniuses, unveiled an army and a tactical system so fast and deadly that, after they’d figured out what had hit them, his opponents took virtually no time at all in adapting and adopting. Gustavus’ army had contained a large number of Scots, who, upon returning to England, lost similarly little time in letting everyone know what was happening. The results of all these changes were quickly put on display a decade later when the English decided to emulate their continental brethren and bash each other into oblivion. As is their wont, the Brits did produce some rip-roaring battles, led by some remarkably dense commanders (a situation the English seem to have trademarked, pace Marlborough). And now we lucky gamers can start reliving those glorious days of gore.
Legendary game designer Richard Berg has passed away at age 76. A true giant in the field of war game design, winner of 15 Charles S. Roberts awards, the war game equivalent of Oscars, he authored over a hundred games, each one bearing the unique twists that made each of his games come alive. He was a skilled and witty writer making reading his game manuals a treat. He was noted for his acerbic wit. He designed the game Campaign for North Africa, perhaps the most complicated war game ever designed, for example it had a rule for enhanced water consumption by Italian troops due to their fondness for pasta. I have owned it, and only people serving life would ever have time to play it. He was questioned about play balance in the game. He said he couldn’t imagine more than a handful of people ever playing it through to completion, and if they complained about play balance he would respond that they must have been playing it wrong and they should try again. Go here to his sadly defunct blog to get a taste of the man.
My bride and I met him once, and he was a consummate gentleman. For years he wrote Berg’s Review of Games, the past issues of which are a treasured part of my war games collection. A fellow lawyer, he specialized in criminal law. An Army veteran, he liked making self deprecating comments about his two years of service. I will miss him. Richard, I hope you are now being commissioned by Saint Peter to make games in the Kingdom of Love Eternal.