P500 Prognostication – a look down the road at GMT

By Colonel (Retired) Bill Gray 11 May 2017 2

While primarily a tabletop gamer, hex and counter wargames are part of my DNA. In fact I was introduced to wargaming thru the venue of a little trinket called Panzerblitz, one of the takeaways from a campus visit to the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. From that point I was hooked, and pewter be damned, I still play them today. Obviously I use them as a tabletop resource, operational games such as Kevin Zucker’s Napoleonic series as miniature wargame campaign templates for example, and other games for historical research as well. Let’s face it, not everyone lives close enough to the US Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle Barracks, PA to grab all the uber detailed maps of the battle of Mukden out of the British translation of the German official history of the Russo-Japanese War.

Yet too often we forget that these publications in many cases are simply good games. I don’t do World War II on the tabletop, but I still love the SPI/Avalon Hill boardgame France 1940. Don’t do modern stuff either, but I still hold the game NATO as not only a classic, but just a very fun game to play. Seriously, you gotta love any game that says to simulate nuclear warfare, soak the paper map in lighter fluid and grab a match. Same for the magazine game East is Red.

Pavia Map Arquebusier fm GMT

The P500 Production Process

Yet in that regard and for many reasons, traditional board and counter based wargaming seems to have been on a decline over the past several years, and a Renaissance to reverse the trend has yet to occur. There are still some large firms kicking out such games and one of them is GMT Games, a firm that uses a unique business model to stave off the economic wolves at the door. Called P500, the process is simple. GMT announces plans to design and produce a game, sharing as many particulars as can be shared. Then they accept pre-orders for the game at a discounted price. Once the game has 500 pre-orders (P500, get it?) the game moves forward to final design and publication. The spectacular graphics for which GMT has gained particular recognition are a given.

GMT has quite a few that have made the final cut right now, and here is a large sampling of those coming out sure to be of interest to most serious wargamers, regardless of genre. There are a few surprises hidden away, so please do take a look! Afterwards, I’ll comment just a skosh on the trends this compilation might convey. Details (if known) are given as game type, scale and current orders to date, as well as P500/Regular Retail Price.

Games on the Horizon

MBT BAOR Challenger Data Card fm GMT

MBT (Main Battle Tank) Series:A tactical hex and counter wargame of modern warfare, such as the Soviet invasion of Europe. Two new expansion modules are coming out, BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) covering British forces with 616 orders, price $ 45/ $65 US and Bundeswehr FRG, covering Federal German forces with 619 orders and same price as BAOR.

Command & Colors Series: Very popular, this is a simple, battle level, card driven series which uses a map with separate terrain tiles to recreate various historical engagement areas, and blocks to represent various units and unit types. Command & Colors Medieval is a complete new sub category in the series with 928 orders costing $ 50/ $ 75 US.

Paths of Glory Series: This is another card driven system, a strategic World War I series using counters and a point to point map. Next up is Illusions of Glory which covers the Great War on the Eastern Front 1914 – 1918. It has 809 orders and costs $ 42/ $ 65 US.

Great Battles of History Series (GBOH): A tactical, fairly complex hex and counter series covering the battles of the ancient world, almost like playing miniatures with cardboard. The next publication out is Battles of the Warrior Queen: Boudicca’s Revolt against Rome, with 727 orders costing $ 14/ $ 20 US.

Men of Iron Series: This is sorta GBOH for the medieval world thru at least the early Renaissance. Volume IV of this series is Arquebus: the Battles for Northern Italy 1495 – 1544. There are 776 units presold at a price of $ 45/ $ 65 US.

COIN (Counter Insurgency) Series: It actually surprises me that this subject has gained popularity, but the fact that several new new titles are coming out simultaneously says a lot. This is another card driven, area map, wooden block type game, but this time simulating guerilla or asymmetric warfare at an operational level. The base game in each era is needed to play expansion modules, with new products including Gandhi: the Decolonization of British India with 945 orders costing $ 56/ $ 81 US, Invierna Cubano: Castro’s Counterinsurgency ExpansionModule at 1283 orders for $ 19/ $ 28 US, Colonial Twilight: the French-Algerian War with 1416 orders costing $ 52/ $ 75 US, Pendragon: the Fall of Roman Britain with 2036 orders at $ 65/ $ 95 US and the Ariovistus Falling Sky Expansion (Caesar in Gaul) with 1277 orders for $ 25/ $ 38 US.

Next War Poland Map fm GMT

Next War Series: This series is a fairly complex, brigade level, hex and counter game series covering possible future warfare such as an Indo-Pakistani conflict or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. There are two additions to the series coming out including Next War: Poland (Russia vs NATO, of which Poland is a member) sporting 1013 orders to date with a cost of $ 59/ $ 89 US and a Next War Supplement providing extra rules and counters for all the games in the series. It has 851 orders so far and will cost $ 14/ $ 20 US. Think of these offerings as sorta mini-monster games.

There are other series games coming out as well as reprints of existing products and compilations (like the Musket & Pike Dual Pack) of previously produced games as well, but my editor does have a limit as to how much I can write. There are also several P500 games that are not part of any series, again far too numerous to mention all, but here are a couple that peaked my interest. The first is At Any Cost: Metz 1870, a brigade level hex and counter game on the Franco-Prussian War costing $ 35/ $ 50 US with 736 preorders, one soon to be mine. The other is Gallipoli 1915: Churchill’s Greatest Gamble covering the first several days of that ill-advised operation at the half battalion and battery level. It’s a traditional hex and counter monster game running $ 69/ $ 105 US with 616 preorders so far.

At All Costs Metz 1870 fm GMT2

To see more upcoming titles, surf over to the P500 Webpage and peruse for a while.

Concluding Excursus

As I put this list together it soon became evident that I was dealing with something far more profound, not to mention surprising. First are the games that I did not include above. There were several games that were science fiction or – ding! – not really wargaming related at all. Here I am talking about a product line that that includes 1960: the Making of the President or Welcome to Centerville, a management game on the growth of a small town. Hmmm, something’s amiss here, and I think I like it.

Then on the formal wargaming side I noted several P500 proposals were additions to already established and popular series such as Great Battles of History or Men of Iron, a concept that potentially reduces overall costs because key components have already been designed and need be only duplicated. I also noticed a number of proposed games that used blocks for units with point to point or area movement maps. And finally I noticed that the traditional go to topic of World War II really wasn’t getting the orders I expected or that happened in the past. Instead that honor went to the new COIN series and indeed, Pendragon: the Fall of Roman Britain was the top vote getter of any game presented, regardless of genre. Quite frankly, 2000 copies of anything in this hobby is an unqualified success, and this game pulled over that number in preorders!

What all this seems to suggest is that the decline in this wing of the wargaming hobby can be managed and reversed, with GMT providing at least one template for success. The key seems to be diversification, and by that I mean producing other than wargames, using other than hexes and counters as a game’s baseline to provide a more unique and original experience, and finally branching out into more esoteric eras and styles of military history vice yet another redo of World War II’s Eastern Front.

A friend who owned the old Standard Bearer Hobby Shop told me one time that he branched out into fantasy and scifi to make the money to support his passion, historical wargaming. That well may be the case here but regardless; it seems to be working so competitors take note, learn and duplicate. While too soon to tell, the Renaissance may well have arrived.

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