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Monday, June 5, 2017

Vassal and GMT Games

For those who don't know, GMT is the company responsible for the absolutely amazing Commands & Colors: Ancients (of which I have a copy) and Talon which has shown up at Castalia House on more than a few occasions.

They're also known for a series of "COIN" counterinsurgency games such as Cuba Libre, Liberty or Death, On a Distant Plain, and Fire in the Lake. I haven't had a chance to play these yet, but everything I've heard is phenomenal.

Finally, they're known for quality parts and components.

Here's a problem - a lot of their games are out of print. You'll see the status for Space Empires 4x, Commands & Colors, and Talon as being on the P500 list, and not slated for reprint yet.

So, I'm perfectly willing to sink a few hundred dollars into Talon, SE4x, and pending a couple playthroughs, on Cuba Libre, etc., but I can't buy the games without selling a few organs because they're basically unavailable.

Unlike some, it doesn't bother me much. Why?

This is a company that has stayed in business for decades, and puts out high quality games, and I cannot help but think that this policy of "don't print a game until we know people are interested" has something to do with it. Also, sometimes they print stuff just because - my understanding is the first of the COIN series never crossed the threshold but the company believed in it anyway - and it's since justified that choice.

Of course, for some of us, it means that if we want to playtest a game first, especially if we don't hear about it until after the first run has sold out, we're stuck. Though, since every game of theirs I've played has been uniformly excellent, I'm sure with a little more budget and storage space I'd be dropping cash on more hex boards than I can count on. And if I don't like it, I'm sure someone will take it off my hands to break even.

Finally though, it allows something I've noticed that is rare in current boardgames - and yes, I'm specifically looking at Amarillo Design (Federation Commander, Star Fleet Battles) and Fantasy Flight - a set of high quality, endorsed Vassal and cyberboard modules for many of their games (Like C&C) and full downloadable rules. By contrast, Fantasy Flight deliberately has the modules crippled so you need to have the actual game on hand to refer to critical components.


  1. Don't forget they are responsible for Twilight Struggle, the game that dominated every top list forever.

    1. I just bought the online/steam version - and that's the one I'm interested in that can't find a VASSAL module for.

      That said, I like the online version, the allowance for solitaire play, and am willing to throw $10 at them for all of the extra work involved

  2. "Yes" to your comments relative to Amarillo Design and Fantasy Flight, especially after reading Bradford Walker's most recent "Retreat" posting here.

    If you can bring gamers together with a tool that lets them play (relatively) at will, you will begin to own the field. Enter, Vassal. And if they happen to enjoy your rule set/board of play/boxed game/RPG, then you win, and they pay you for it.

  3. It's like that old joke about "pick two" - get consistently awesome games , from a company with a viable long-term business model that's customer friendly and actually POINTS you to the vassal modules/cyberboard modules, and be able to buy them at whim.