When I look back at gaming during my high school years, I see a wide range of passion — flight simulators, adventure games, science fiction, RPGs, and so on. Yet I don’t think any genre had a grip on me as much as empire builders and wargames — your Civilizations, your Master of Orion, and your Command H.Q.s.
What’s Command H.Q.? I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t heard of it, as this 1990 title’s fallen into relative obscurity (and never was incredibly high-profile to begin with). The best way to describe Command H.Q. is Risk meets Axis & Allies meets awesomeness. You’re basically put in charge of a faction and asked to manage a war on a large scale. So instead of micro-managing units (as we now see in RTSs), Command H.Q. was all about the big picture — what country to invade, what resources are necessary for survival, how you want to build up your armed forces, what needs protecting, and so on.
Probably the most interesting aspect of the game is that you could play wars from five different time periods: World War I, World War II, a hypothetical 1986 World War III, a very hypothetical 2023 World War IV, and a post-apocalyptic era. Each era came with its own unique challenges and limitations on types of resources and units available (i.e. no jet fighters during World War I or II).
Wikipedia calls this game “ahead of its time” and I think that is true, especially in regards to the UI and how complex the games could get. For me, the attraction was being an armchair general who could forge his own story. I know we talk about making stories (i.e. sandbox/roleplaying/player-generated content) vs. experiencing stories (theme park/scripted) a lot on these blogs, and for me, I see the upsides of both. However, every game of Command H.Q. was my own epic tale that played out in my head while the computer provided the rough outline with the action.
It’s good to see people trying to keep this game alive even today, 21 years later. I know it kept me fascinated for months during a particularly bad stretch of high school, and I’m thankful for that.