Tracer Rounds – The Inaugural Column

frontier wars 728x90 KS

A new weekly column ~

Brant Guillory, 4 January 2016


So it’s a new year, with an updated look in our forums, and the continuing evolution of our community overall here at GrogHeads.  And with the new year, we’re launching a few new ideas, starting with this one, a new weekly column.  I’m going to have some regular things I’ll hit each week, but first, I wanted to take a few moments and talk about where this comes from.

GHLogoTextFirst, this needs come clarifying:  I’m not “the guy that runs GrogHeads”.  There’s a partnership of several of us.  We had a few other founders who have left the team for their own personal reasons over the years, but there’s more than just me here steering the ship, and always has been.  I’m just the most visible one, because I’m the editorial content guy here, and that also translates into making sure we distribute the content through social media channels.  But anyone that thinks that les GrogHeads c’est moi is mistaken.

When we decided we wanted to include ‘front page’ content – regular columns, reviews, AARs, etc – the hope was to recapture some of the intelligent, erudite, and insightful commentary we’d previously been a part of elsewhere.  It was a high bar to shoot for, and it would be foolish to claim we’ve cleared it regularly, though not for lack of trying.  Personally, I was hoping for the front page to become the “Grantland of wargaming” which is crazy-hard to do with our budget, which consists of a handful of free games, some pocket lint, and about 11¢.  But there’s another reason why it’s so hard.

Lemme ‘splain.  No, there is too much.  Lemme sum up.

Wargamers are, as a whole, a wicked smart group.  We’re predominantly over-educated, under-challenged, well-read guys with a lot of free time on our hands and more brains than your average man on the street.  And you have to be to find the fun in the sorts of intellectual challenges we’ve chosen to pursue for entertainment.  And when you’ve got that many folks who are that smart about a topic, it stands to reason that some of them are going to share their thoughts with the public, especially in today’s age of push-button digital publishing and worldwide reach.  There are any number of excellent blogs, video review sites, and forums with long-form posts about wargames run by enthusiastic and intelligent folks who enjoy sharing their passion with anyone who happens to drive by – all for free.    And that’s what makes this so hard.  If you talk to any of those guys about writing for anyone other than themselves, one of the first questions you’ll get is “so what does it pay?”  It’s a fair question.  It’s also a tough one for us to answer, but I’ll say this: in three-plus years, I have yet to make a dime from GrogHeads.  We’ve got a handful of free games (mostly ones we’ve written about), the prestige of ownership in a fantastic community, the women in tubetops throwing themselves… uh, I may have said too much.  The point is, in a hobby as niche as ours, you can always find someone to read and somewhere to hang out with like-minded wargamers having smart discussions.

What makes wargaming so different than, say, sports, is that the ratio of “guys who picked up extra Masters degrees for fun” to “lunkheads who need velcro shoes to keep from tying their laces together” is heavily skewed in favor of the smart folks.  You can put in a quick sports-related search into Google and go 298 pages deep with sports “blogs” and “fan sites” before you find an intelligent opinion.  Do the same with a wargaming-related search and, well, you’re not going 298 pages deep.  But in the 17-odd pages you might get, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one full of idiot-screamer-whiner-types who think it’s witty to paste a hated opponent’s face into a semi-nude cheerleader’s body and try to get on TV.  Put it another way: you won’t find a lot of wargaming writers misusing there/they’re/their, because (1) they know better, and (2) they care.  Our hobby is full of intelligent, well-read, well-spoken folks, eager to share their thoughts.

But as soon as you ask someone to join you in your sandbox, the immediate – and not unjustified – question is “what’s in it for me” and the answer ought to be more than “giving the community a common place to gather and around which to coalesce” because there’s already a dozen of them.

So what the hell are we doing here?

First, GrogHeads was founded not as an editorial mouthpiece for any other organization.  (Yes, I happen to own BayonetGames, but you’ll notice a pretty limited number of articles about our stuff, eh?)  bayonetgames_circle_logoWe were founded in response to a community that needed a place to hang out.  Many of us found ourselves splitting our time across a bunch of other places, because we consumed wargaming in a variety of forms – digital and tabletop, card-driven and minis, hex-and-counter and first-person shooter, tactical and strategic, along with our other family-focused Eurogaming, our RPGs, our casual card games, and whatever else we wanted to play.  While our hobby is a niche, our enjoyment of it spread across the entire niche, and there wasn’t a digital watering hole for what Jim Zabek has repeatedly dubbed “the gaming omnivores”.  Enter GrogHeads.

That still doesn’t answer why I’m 900 words into a new weekly column and still going.  That one’s more personal.  For a long time – over 25 years – I’ve told folks I’m a writer.  I might be paying the bills at any point in time as a software guy, or a project manager, or teacher, or in the Army.  But I’ve always told people that I’m a writer working on any number of different projects.  But when I look back on the past few years of GrogHeads – a site on which I run the editorial content – I was shocked at how little of it was (1) mine, and (2) original, and (3) not just semi-witty quips around a bunch of Civ 5 screenshots masquerading as an AAR, or (4) the semi-weekly column of preorders that I maintain so we’ve got some continuity of content (but would love to unload, hint, hint).

So I’m picking up a weekly column.  I’m forcing myself to write.  I’m giving myself a pattern to work with, so that I’m not reinventing the wheel each week.  I’m also giving myself a pattern to work with so that you have an idea of what to look forward to (or run screaming from, I’m flexible) each week.  In the college classes that I teach, I encourage my students to find writers and columnists whose insights they enjoy and really drill down into why they enjoy reading those columns regularly.  I’m taking my own advice and shamelessly ripping off good ideas from elsewhere.  I’m also shamelessly ignoring one of the cardinal rules of writing: get an editor.  You’re going to get unfiltered thoughts, often on the first cut.  It’s not arrogance, I promise.  I’m not nearly as good at writing as I’d like to be, and I know that I’m only going to get better by writing.  But I’m also cognizant of the fact that asking someone else to edit this column every week is patently unfair to whatever unfortunate soul on which I foist that responsibility, especially since all we can afford to pay them is the pocket lint I mentioned above.  So you’re getting a weekly dose of fresh-off-the-digital page thoughts, and I hope that over the next few months they get at least slightly more coherent.

Each week, I’m starting Monday with Tracer Rounds.  It sounds kind of cool (but only “kind of” – it’s not perfect), and tracers are used to help see where you’re firing on the battlefield, so I’m hoping they help me adjust my aim, too.  The weekly rundown is going to include a mix of content, because there’s a variety of things I want to cover.  You’re going to get the “weekly soundtrack” of something I’m listening to right now, because I’m a huge music fan and love to talk music.  You’re going to get some random quote and my thoughts on it, because I love collecting aphorisms from witty people.  You’re going to get me talking about games, because, well, that’s kind of the point of GrogHeads, isn’t it.  I’m going to try not to just rehash what’s already happening on the GrogCast, because the podcast should have its own distinctive voice (and for the most part it does, thanks to Michael’s steady production hands).

So now that you’ve just waded through the worlds longest introduction to a regular column, here’s the abbreviated, inaugural shot-across-the-bow that is “Tracer Rounds”.


This week’s soundtrack:

“Anyhow” from the Tedeschi Trucks Band – a soaring vocal over Derek Trucks smooth guitar playing.  It’s operatic Southern rock in all the right ways.  It’s perfect for an open highway, and will make you long for one when you’re stuck in traffic.  And you can get it free from the band right now on their site by signing up for their newsletter.


Game that caught my eye:

7 Wonders Duel – my son and I have played this a bunch lately, and I’ll be penning a full review for GrogHeads soon.  It takes the worst part of the original 7 Wonders – the clunky two-player version – and gives it a perfect makeover into a head-to-head city-builder that legitimately plays in 30 minutes.


What I’m doing this week when I should be playing games:

Prepping for the start of the semester, as I’m teaching part-time, as well as getting in some full-time teaching applications with different organizations.  But I’ve got a backlog of games I’m hoping to start getting on the table to get reviews written soon.


Wouldn’t it be cool if…

We had a website focused on wargamers and military history and current defense affairs that was as smart and savvy and entertaining as Grantland was?  I touched on that above.  I’ll talk more about it another time.  It’s a goal I’m still hoping to get to.


This week’s quote:

“their citizens (all of them counted as such) glorified their mythology of ‘rights’…and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure.” Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

I’ve used this as my email signature for over 20 years.  I think it’s even more true today than it has been in those past 20 years.  I don’t care what side of what aisle you come from politically.  If all I ever hear out of you is an endless litany of your “rights” without any acknowledgement by you of any duties or responsibilities or basic courtesies to your fellow citizens as a member of society, then you’re going to get categorized by me as (at best) a marginal me-first life form only interested in maintaining your favored status as someone to whom the rest of us must cater regardless of your imposition on anyone else.  Good for you.  Here’s a plant to carry around to replace the oxygen you’re stealing from the rest of us.


So there it is, the first one in the books.  Will it get better?  I hope so.  Will you still be reading?  I hope so 🙂

’til next time – Bayonet 06 out!


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One Response to Tracer Rounds – The Inaugural Column

  1. Toonces says:

    Wait, this place has a front page? How did I end up here?

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