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Tag Archives: Industry

RIP Dr James Cobb (April 6, 1950 – January 18, 2018)

A prolific and renowned voice has left the wargaming world ~

Brant Guillory, 16 February 2018

It is rare that the chroniclers of an industry transcend the creators to make a name for themselves, becoming a ‘brand’ on par with the best talent in their field.  The best comparison might be Roger Ebert, who is as famous for his critiques of the movie industry as any filmmakers except the single-named ones (Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese, etc).

Dr James Cobb was that man for the strategy gaming world.

In his decades of writing about the wargaming world, with reviews, after-action reports, strategy guides, and even advice on using games for teaching, Dr Cobb’s meticulous detail, coupled with an accessible voice, informed and guided (tens of) thousands of purchases for strategy gamers of all stripes.

Equally adept at reviewing traditional tabletop games, miniatures wargames, and digital games – including mobile ones – each new article from his desk was greeted by fans as a must-read for their level of detail and sophistication, while also being hailed just downright enjoyable to read.  His years of experience as a player shone through in the easy way in which he was able to highlight the strengths of a game, accurately describe its shortcomings, and (most importantly) pinpoint the type of gamer most likely to enjoy a particular title, even if he personally did not.

James Cobb was a prolific writer who graced the pages of print magazines like Computer Gaming World, websites like GrogHeads.com, and outlets that planted feet in both worlds like Armchair General.  It is a testament to his work that he elevated the quality of every outlet for which he wrote, and also a mark of his nose for an intelligent and receptive audience that while churning out articles at a prodigious rate, he focused their distribution through the best outlets that strategy gaming had to offer (and yes, cue the inevitable joke about slumming it with us!).

He understood how battles could shape history and why it was important to learn their lessons.

James Zabek, Dr Cobb’s editor at several of his online outlets, noted that “James was a grognard’s grog. He believed that wargames should inform, and should do so with fidelity to history. He had a brilliant mind which was brimming with with a rare concoction that only fellow wargamers can appreciate: history, war, and the written word. He understood how battles could shape history and why it was important to learn their lessons. As his editor for many years I was privileged to see first-hand not only how well he understood history, but also how well he was able to communicate it. The reviews he turned in were focused like a laser on how well a game held up as an instrument for learning, and his writing was a joy to read and edit. Editors commonly have a few tweaks and corrections for any article. James wrote in the rarefied air of writers who were able to turn in articles that required no changes.”

Dr Cobb was born in April of 1950, within days of his beloved wife.  He was educated both in the US and in Germany, graduating from the university in Marburg, to go with his PhD in German Literature earned stateside.  It would come as no surprise that his line forum monikers bore a distinct Prussian flavor – Bismarck here at GrogHeads and other outlets, but Moltke on some as well.  Dr Cobb was hospitalized with a severe case of the flu in mid-January, and passed away shortly later.  His wife Angela tragically followed him to the afterlife within the week.

As word of Dr Cobb’s passing spread, several online threads sprang up at some of the larger strategy gaming sites to share their thoughts and condolences, including here at GrogHeads.  It should be clear from outpouring of both shock and support that no one saw this coming, and Dr Cobb’s contributions to the strategy gaming community will be sorely missed.

Godspeed, James, and one day we’ll share a drink on Fiddler’s Green.


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A Look Back at 2017 from GrogHeads

2017 – What hath we wrought?

It’s been an eventful year here at GrogHeads.

We’ve expanded almost everything we do – more articles, more pictures in our articles, more traffic in the forums, more podcasts, more events at Origins, waaaaay more games to give away at Origins, more advertising partners to help us keep the lights on, more video features, and more members of our forums.

But none of that does much for us without you, the reader, to join us for the ride, and for that we are the most thankful. Our readership stats have gone up aross every metric: clicks, reads, time on the site, and reach with our social media.

So what’s coming next year?

Well, we’ve got a handful of things to work on. First, we’re going to updating some of our merchandise options, with new shirts and new products. We’ve got a podcast series already out there, and a new video series, too, but we don’t do much with live video, and we’ll look to start experimenting with some of that.

We’ve got some ideas getting more involved in the wider gaming community, too. We already plan, sponsor, and execute a bunch of events at Origins each summer, but that really only reaches the Grogs that can make it to Origins, so we’re going to look into some plans that can help reach our Grogience where you live and play – at your FLGS and smaller conventions. We’ve got some ideas about how to tie that into our social presence, too, but that’s admittedly a bit of a science project.

2017 By The Numbers:
– Over 200 articles
– Over 150 new members
– Over 30 Interviews
– 16 GrogCast Episodes
– 16 New Videos
– 68 Origins Events
– (20 just for kids!)
– 7 Conventions Covered
– 28 T-Shirts given away

Finally, we’re going to start experimenting with some new graphics updates on the site to go along with some new (Gus!) and reborn (GARPA) columns we’ll be putting back into rotation.

As with everything we work on – these are moving targets. We’re going to try something, and if it works (The GrogCast, #TBT ads) we’ll keep doing them, and if it doesn’t (Tuesday Screenshot, How To Make It In The Game Business) we’ll cut it out.

Most importantly, though, we’re going to try to have even more fun this coming year than last year, because ultimately that’s what this is all about, right?


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Monsters of War: Learning Complex Games

How do you eat an elephant? ~

Gary Mengle, 31 July 2017

Many wargamers can hear the quiet siren’s call of the complex monster, the game with a thousand counters and 50+ pages of rules… or more. For those of us who desire simulation over competitive gameplay the song can be particularly strong. Sure, that game of For the People is enjoyable for a long afternoon, but we still thirst for the big, deep, epic, massive game that takes weeks or months and hundreds of hours to play.

 

Even so, most of us have only so much mental space to be taken up with complex rules for multiple games, which I figure is why a lot of ASL players seldom touch other games with similar depth. “Complex” doesn’t equate to “monster,” of course — and ASL is again a great example of that — but in recent years many monsters have also been complex.

Advanced Squad Leader

So how do you approach a game like that? Having learned and forgotten a number of complicated games over the years, here are some time that might help you learn the great beasts of wargaming. These won’t guarantee mastery… but learn the rules and then play, and mastery will come.

The Tuesday Interview – Steve Jackson

You know, the one with the company named after him…? ~

Avery Abernethy & Brant Guillory, 18 July 2017

Following LibertyCon, the esteemed Steve Jackson agreed to a short interview with GrogHeads.

 

First, the easy question!  What was your single most enjoyable game moment this year so far?

Had to be at LC playing one of the unannounced sneak playtest designs which I will not name for print. Everybody was involved and laughing. Great moment. I do like the chance to play with new people, and when a game clicks it’s wonderful.

 

One of our writers recently put together a big, multi-part retrospective of classic 80s-era Car Wars.  What can you tell us about the new Car Wars in Development?  What Kickstarter information can you start leaking out? 

I really can’t leak a heckuva lot. We had to set CW development aside to get the Munchkin CCG off to print. We are about to pick it up again. It already works very nicely but we want it to be faster, and the collision rule in particular could stand some polishing.

 

Tuesday Interview – Luke Hughes of Burden of Command

The main brain behind the forthcoming Burden of Command has a chat with GrogHeads ~

Brant Guillory, 11 July 2017

When I hear “Burden of Command” I start to flash back to my days as a company commander, and being buried under a pile of 15-6 investigations, dental cat-IVs, and guys who couldn’t qualify with their personal weapons.  I’m assuming the newly-announced “Burden of Command” game isn’t a game of competitive administrative duties.  Give us the thumbnail insight of what we can expect in the new game, and why this one is more focused on the ‘burden’ of command than other similar games on the marketplace?

Damn, I can run but now I can’t hide.  A real company commander, I’d love to know when and where! (ed note: nothing exciting – it was a National Guard HHC while the rest of the battalion was mobilized)

Now you are so right, real command is a lot of administrative tedium puncture by rare moments of terror.  However, maybe not such a great game. Though the game “Papers Please” might teach us differently.   What you can expect in BoC is not only the command and control decisions you associate with classic wargames (directing fire and maneuver, and the 4 F’s: find, fix, flank, and finish) but the morale oriented decisions we might associate with a classic tactical board game (ASL, Combat Commander, Band of Brothers, Fields of Fire).

Finally, and more unusually, you must take responsibility for the “preserve” decisions around the men’s physical and psychological welfare on and off the battlefield. They will look to you for the right mindset to adopt in the face of war. Novelist Karl Marlantes, who dropped out of his Rhodes Scholarship to serve as a 1st Lieutenant in Vietnam wrote “What It is Like to Go to War.” He argued that, like it or not, when you go to war you enter a spiritual journey because you are in the presence of death. You have entered the “Temple of Mars” as he so eloquently put it. Whether or not you or your superiors have prepared you for that experience, and for making life or death decisions is a different question.  But the burden will be yours, prepared or not.

In sum, leadership in BoC is “Direct, Motivate, and Preserve.” And the burdens are many.