Let me get to the punch first. 2021 can take the longest of walks off the shortest of piers. – Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Seriously though, I’ve been pulling bits and pieces together for this article for months trying to gather up what 2021 was like in terms of gaming from my perspective. There’s just so much other crap that goes into writing about a year that it’s virtually impossible not to address some other issues in the form a disclaimer for folks reading this in the future, or currently, who might wonder what the hell is going on.
My experiences will not match your experiences.
COVID is not the overriding theme of this article, but you can see its gnarly little bits sprinkled about.
I don’t mix politics and gaming unless I’m very pissed and you “earned it.”
Above all else, be kind to yourself regardless of the outcomes.
In February of 2021, I needed a social media break. I was tired of keeping up with it and with what I had perceived to be an increasingly hostile place where there were just people shouting about nonsense instead of the gaming I wanted to see. A handful of voices began to dominate my feeds and I was just kind of over the lack of value it added.
I made my account private, then I spent probably a month going through and removing all ~1,500 followers I had. I didn’t follow, lurk, or participate in any social media platforms until maybe August 2021. That 6 month break was well worth it. I don’t think I would recommend nuking your followers like I did (HINT: They don’t just come back…lol).
Rebuilding the accounts I follow has been worthwhile and I’ve been more aggressive in pruning people who share content that I don’t care for/about. It’s definitely revealed the quality nature of the work that’s going on within Twitter. I’m seeing new and better content than I was previously seeing even though I’m following many of the same folks (though not nearly as many!).
I would heartily recommend rethinking your social media participation, maybe not to this extreme, but it will give you a chance in the new year to evaluate the content you like to see and what “fills your bucket” compared to just adding noise.
I sold nearly 200 titles from my collection this year and will be continuing that process into 2022. Every game I bought had a reason I bought it, but the reality is…if everything is a special baby means that virtually nothing is special. Like others, I got a little caught up in the whole completionist mindset. That left me with series of games that I had zero intention of ever playing through like games in the Avalanche Press Second World War at Sea series. I bought the Leyte Gulf game because it was an interesting topic along with Midway for the same reason. After that, I filled out just about every other title and they did nothing but take up space on the shelves.
Selling also ensured that folks who didn’t have access to long out of print games just sitting pretty on my shelves got a chance to be played. It was a good feeling to say goodbye to some of these games, especially when folks followed up to let me know that they were enjoying them.
The reality is that there’s just so many great new games coming out, that it’s OKAY to let go of the games that didn’t resonate or that are unlikely to ever see the table. I think when I was in my 30’s and collecting games I had a much bigger appetite for just how much gaming time I would have than what has panned out in reality. I had a regular gaming night with an opponent who was down to learn new games all the time. As his family got older and commitments increased, that game night became a game quarter which has become gaming maybe once every 6-8 months.
I have had limited success gaming over the Internet, largely because my schedule is a nightmare and I’m just bad at keeping up with people. Consequently, games start strong and then just slowly fall apart until we don’t finish or communicate about it again. I completely own that though and, as a result, I’ve identified a lot of games that just need to go because they’ll never get played at my house and probably will get the love they need elsewhere.
This was the year that video overtook the written word in terms of ease of contribution and participation. The efforts of folks like Dan Pancaldi, Ardwulf, Moe, Players Aid, Enrico (Calandale), Kevin Sharp, and many others for YEARS to elevate the kinds of topics that can be communicated effectively via video seemed to pay off this year in a major way. In so many other gaming venues video has always been a core service and platform. I remember back when Scott Nicholson (I think that was his name..) was creating these great boardgame reviews before Tom Vasel on BGG. It was clear these videos were a labor of love and the tech and technical hurdles were significant.
The reduction of the technical limitation went a long way. The increase in technical skill is definitely emerging within our hobby which is awesome to see.
If this website goes through a big change for 2022, it will be to create and post more video content. It’s a little intimidating because I don’t chase down opportunities to put my face on things. I have a job now that allows me a lot more evening time to do this kind of thing though, so you may see a bit more of Keith from WargameHQ.com in 2022…threat….promise? We’ll see…
Games of 2021 are In!
This was a year where a lot of folks were working from home by choice or by force. The supply chain woes created a lag that I would like to say interrupted the delivery of many games, but there were a ton of new great games that made it to consumer’s hands this year. I managed to snag the following:
Bayonets & Tomahawks
Commands & Colors: Samurai Battles
Absolute War! The Russian Front 1941-45
The Dark Summer: Normandy 1944
Storm Above the Reich
NATO: The Cold War Goes Hot – Designer Signature Edition
The Deadly Woods: The Battle of the Bulge
The Third Winter: The Battle for the Ukraine September 1943 – April 1944
The Dogs of War
Soldier’s in Postmen’s Uniforms
Dawn of Battle
Panzer’s Last Stand: Battles for Budapest, 1945
Indian Ocean Region: South China Sea – Vol. II
The Korean War: June 1950 – May 1951, Designer Signature Edition
Empire at Sunrise
Our God Was My Shield: Jackson’s Valley Campaign
Thunder at Dawn: The Battle of Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861)
The Day Was Ours: First Bull Run (July 21, 1861)
The Grass Crown
Of these, I had a chance to play…The Grass Crown. I’ll probably write up more thoughts on that game in the coming weeks as I play a few more scenarios from the different time periods the game covers, but this was an insanely productive year given the circumstances.
ASL Expansions were also definitely IN!
This year I managed to pick up a number of ASL expansions as well to round out the collection and ASL seemed to be blossoming online with a lot of new players and tons of activity on the ASL discord!
Yankee ASL Nor’easter Pack II
The Green Hell of Inor
From the Cellar: Pack 10
ASL Action Pack #17: Oktoberfest XXXV
Advanced Squad Leader: Starter Kit Bonus Pack #2
Rally Point 18: The French Army – Friend and Foe
Winter Offensive Bonus Pack #12L ASK Scenario Bonus Pack for Winter Offensive 2021
March Madness March 2021 Three Player Pack
Quick 6 IV Scenario Pack
Hazardous Movement Packs 1 & 2
Probably a few other scenario packs from smaller places I forgot to mention…lol
Those were just the ASL releases from 2021! That’s a massive number of new scenarios, some new map boards, and just a lot of tactical WW2 coming full force at a time when folks weren’t sure exactly what gaming would bring. As of the writing of this article, Winter Offensive 2022 is ON for an in-person return to action in Bowie MD!
Return to ASL
This year saw my return to the geomorphic battlefields of Advanced Squad Leader after a roughly five year hiatus. We’ll have more articles and content on the site about it, but I am honestly surprised at just how much you forget and how fast. Coming back has been this odd mix of remembering, misremembering, and feeling like I never knew rules.
I was never a good player. Don’t get me wrong here. I was approaching incompetent, but I could sit at a game night and enjoy myself and hopefully make the guy across the table feel some enjoyment in picking his teeth with the bones of my cardboard squads.
Hopes for 2022
I have a few humble gaming goals for 2022:
Downsize my wargame collection even further to better represent the games I WILL play rather than aspirational titles I HOPE to play.
Begin transitioning the site from a written word collection to a video collection.
Be more visible on social media and be more aggressive about pruning content and people from my feed that I don’t enjoy.
Go to at least one wargaming convention. As of right now, I’m scheduled to attend Winter Offensive 2022!
Play at least 12 ASL scenarios (not including those at the convention) to keep my skills sharp.
Complete my strategic European theatre of operations series which I’ve been kicking down the road for a few months now…
That’s a lot of gaming for the year and I’m looking forward to tackling it. This is a great hobby and I am excited to see what comes next – there’s just so many great games and even better people who are a part of this community. Here’s to leaving 2021 in the rear view mirror, while racing forward into 2022!