One of the many positives of this mini explosion (somewhere between a bathtub fart and an firecracker) of "hobby gaming" is that it's created a market for relatively obscure games that were out of print.
If the BGG-Effect hadn't fetishized Die Macher or Hannibal or Blackbeard (with a tip of the tri-corn hat to Johnny Depp, of course), none of those games would be available now. Before the Boardgamegeek "community" burned me with Caylus (overwhelming hype, complicated bullshit efficiency engine game), someone did a geeklist of common games among people who'd been "Geek of the Week." One of their common games was Blue Max, an 80s WWI strategy game, so I figured it must be good and straightforward.
On ebay, I bought a beat-to-shit copy, which was what was available, and it totally rocked. It has simultaneous action selection, variable powers depending on the plane you’re flying, and combat resolved via dice and a table. In short it was clunky nerd 80s shit. But I had also recently played Wings of War with one of my friends—a couple of planes, spinny cards—not only was Blue Max the same game, it was most of the expansions. For my game group the Wings of War Miniatures have become the Canvas Eagles ( the free online version of Blue Max) Miniatures because the hexes are so much easier than the card thing. The difference is that instead of picking a card, you write your move on a chart. So to both of the WWI aerial combat nerds out there who also already own a miniatures hex map: don’t buy Wings of War but get the Wings of War miniatures and use the free Canvas Eagles ruleset.
This experience led me to throw in 21st Century Toys WWII minis whenever I bought groceries at Wal-Mart. For six months I bought planes—for some reason Allied planes were more scarce—but kept buying planes, and I knew I could find a ruleset, and I did, www.warbirdsinminiature.com. It’s Blue Max/Canvas Eagles with WWII planes. Warbirds in Miniature is one of the few games I can say my group played until we were tired of it. Because we’re nerds, we had planes on antennae (rabbit ears at Wal-mart cost 8 bucks (2 planes)) to approximate altitude and 20 years of bad feeling fueling the combat, but the warbirds jag is one the best times we’ve had. It wasn’t “elegant”; there were too many charts and pencils in the way for elegance. But it was sweet, and when I (I’d been play Blue Max on youplay.it so I was totally kicking some allied ass) crashed my planes into each other and lost the battle, we yelled so loud that it woke the baby. How many times has that happened in Puerto Rico?
I also think that my age has something to do with my reaction to Blue Max (and www.warbirdsinminiature.com). This is how games are supposed to feel. It should be nerdy; it should be about talking in imagined period slang (“I’ve snuffed you, now it’s 23-skedoo”).
I had a similar experience in my first (and only) play of Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. Not the slang thing, I can’t render Latin slang, although it would probably be super-filthy. Of course I had read about the game for years, had seen it hyped on BGG as the ultimate card-driven wargame. So I had a positive attitude going in, but I also knew it was old and the rules were looong. And we made the rookie mistake about converting provinces (since that’s one of the most important rules and it’s mentioned maybe once toward the end. Even the typos are the same in the new one and the old ones.
Shout out to Valley Games—Proofread the Rules and make them better.
Despite that, it was big fun, my favorite game that I’ve played in the last year, and, like Blue Max, it’s an “old” one.
So I guess I’m an uncounted variable in Barnes’s 24-32 demographic, and maybe there are a lot of gamers like me, guys who, for whatever reason, didn’t find hobby games in the 80s, but who have the gamer gene.
I teach the 18-24 demographic, and those guys are fucking dumbasses. Seriously, they think Dave Matthews is edgy.
We might be a good market since all of these old games with new releases—blackbeard, etc.—are scratching our itches. Also we’re just as new as the as the young guys but we have a little money. And we’re not high.