I’ve been playing computer games recently. The reason is my new computer and it’s better performance. I’ve been enjoying Silent Hill 2 (very scary), Neverwinter Nights (very Dungeons & Dragons) and watched Johanna play The Longest Journey. All are rather entertaining, but still — I like board games better. Of course, no board game is as scary as Silent Hill, so there computer games snatch a small victory.
I’ve also played Combat Mission 2: Barbarossa to Berlin. Now there’s a genre where computer games are far superior. I don’t mean war games — there are plenty of good war games like Hammer of the Scots. I mean simulations.
Combat Mission is very accurate. If you, for example, shoot at a tank, there are plenty of factors involved. Of course the basic stuff as the angle of the armor plates and the hit angle and their effect to the armor penetration. Then if you hit and penetrate the armor, the effect of the different ammunition. Is it explosive or just armor piercing? If it’s just armor piercing, does the shot hit a crew member? Maybe an explosion will break the armor a bit, making a piece of armor plating inside the tank fall apart, again killing a crew member. There’s a ton of detail like that.
Grognards will love such detail, of course, but I doubt few of them would have the patience and the time to do all those calculations by hand. Computers by the virtue of their nature compute all that easily. And if you don’t mind it, you don’t have to. Proper fog of war sure beats Columbia blocks. It’s great how you can save the game and continue later. You can play against computer, if you don’t have an opponent — you can also find opponents all around the world for e-mail play. And so on — the benefits of computer simulations should be obvious.
I find there’s need for both types: high-detail simulation played with computer and simpler board games. I think board game war games should focus on easy and streamlined rules and smooth game play first and leave detailed simulation for computers.