The art of war(gaming)

In 1993, back when I was still in grad school, I was starting to enter the tail end of my participation in board wargaming—Avalon Hill, SPI, and the like. However, I still traded around in them off and on, and it was during this time that I stumbled across a local ad from a fellow student who was trying to unload some oldies but goodies—the AH classics D-Day and Stalingrad—and, oh by the way as an afterthought, was offering to throw in a couple of computer wargames as freebies.

Screenshot from V4V Market Garden.

Those freebies turned out to be Utah Beach and Market Garden, the first two in the “V for Victory” series released by (the long-since defunct) Three-Sixty Pacific, and I instantly fell in love with them. Sure, they were DOS games, but they came with stunning (at the time) 256-color full-screen graphics. Just beautiful. I immediately made the concerted effort to acquire the other two games in the series (Velikiye Luki and Gold-Juno-Sword), which I eventually managed to horse trade for (coincidentally, by giving up both of the aforementioned D-Day and Stalingrad as part of the deal). And for the next couple of years, I had a ball playing the four, at the almost complete expense of my mostly forgotten board wargame collection.

Now this was all back in the days just before Windows 95 was released. And with the release of Win95, tragedy: V4V and Win95 didn’t get along all that well together. And it only got worse with the subsequent releases of Windows 98 and Windows XP (the latter’s “compatibility” mode be damned). In fact, through my tours with Win95 and Win98, I actually kept a separate DOS partition around just so that I’d be able to play V4V and a couple of other old DOS-based games. But by the time XP came around, it just wasn’t worth the hassle, so I begrudgingly said goodbye to them.

I continued to putter around with computer wargames, and through the years, the complexity of the games grew, and the look of the games become more visually appealing. However, to me (and many other, it turns out), no one was able to capture the perfect level of playability that V4V gave us. HPS Simulations and their Panzer Campaign series are probably the closest, but frankly, they’re just not as clean or… well, as much plain old fun.

But down the road came a glimmer of hope: The DOSBox emulator advertised the ability to play those old DOS oldies (but goodies). But DOSBox was (and still is) in constant development, and the earlier versions of DOSBox weren’t really all that successful in bringing V4V back to life for me: the sound wouldn’t work, and the games would suddenly crash and exit for no apparent reason. So V4V stayed on the shelf, close but still too far.

Until now. Sometime on or before v0.72 of DOSBox (the most recent version as of this writing), V4V was completely brought back to life! Sound works straight out of the box, and I have yet to see the random crashes that plagued me with earlier DOSBox versions.

Screenshot from V4V Gold-Juno-Sword.

Welcome back, old friend.