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Wargames To Go

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about smaller wargames

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Studying up on the English Civil Wars, wargame-style

Mark Johnson
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California
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As planned, my next episode is going to be about wargaming the English Civil Wars. I've already played Winceby (in the Royalists & Roundheads System), am about to start two games of Unhappy King Charles! over Vassal, and I've punched the States of Siege game Cruel Necessity. Whew! I'm ready to go.

That's not quite all, though. Like a lot of you, I received an Print and Play game covering the ECW battle of Langport in the thank you package from Consimworld's annual fundraising drive. That game is part of a system of tactical battles of the ECW (or perhaps musket & pike, generally). I decided to buy one more from that system, on the more famous battle of Naseby.

I'm not an experienced PnP gamer, but have been curious about them for a while. These are single-sided square counters, about as easy as it gets, so I decided to give it a try. I'll get to talk about that experience in the next podcast, too.



In addition to the wargames, I'm doing the usual Wikipedia level of research, and checking out a book from the library (to skim, not read through). I've already mentioned how much I'm getting from the Revolutions podcast--in fact I'm re-listening to the ~15 episodes that cover the ECW. That broad sweep has also encouraged me to re-listen to some episodes of BBC Radio 4's In Our Time program, such as ones on the Putney Debates and Trial of King Charles. These cover the political situation more than the military, of course. There are even a few good full-length programs I've found on YouTube.

Very exciting to learn this much about something I had nearly zero knowledge about earlier. The political aspect, in particular, has strong relevancy to later actions (e.g. the American Revolution) and even events today.

Update: Now I've had a chance to get started in my first game of Unhappy King Charles, which I'm playing over Vassal. Two turns in and my Parliament forces are on their heels (as expected).

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Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:42 pm
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WGTG episode subject poll

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Here's that list of potential WGTG episodes/topics that I rambled through in episode 2. What actually happens depends more on my interest, timing, and availability more than anything else. But it's still interesting to me to see what you all think. Vote for as many as you like.


Poll
Please indicate which potential WGTG episodes sound good (or bad!) Remember that all of the choices will skew towards the lighter/shorter wargames of that type, or about that conflict.

Please write in other ideas in the comments, too.
  Great! Why not No thanks
English Civil Wars
"Vehicular" solos (B-17, Patton's Best)
D-Day
Battle of the Bulge
Roman Empire
Operational Air
North Africa (WW2)
WW1 Western Front
Waterloo
Sid Sackson "wargames"
Vietnam
Print and Play
Panzerschreck Zine games
American Revolution
Computer wargaming
Eastern Front (WW2)
Academy Games (1812, 1775)
Euro/wargame hybrids
      54 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson
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Wed Feb 5, 2014 2:33 am
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WGTG 2 - States of Siege

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Welcome to Wargames To Go, my new blog & podcast that shines a light on small wargames you can play on a weeknight, or take on a business trip.


If you need the feed address, it's http://feeds.feedburner.com/WargamesToGo


Well, shoot, that was a longer interval than I'd planned. But here, finally, is the second episode of my wargame podcast. As before, the episode features me talking about broader topics in the first half, then transitioning to discussion about individual titles in the second. In between I've got an interview with wargame designer Darin Leviloff, too.

The focus of the episode are the States of Siege family of solitaire games published by Victory Point Games. In all of these the player is assaulted from multiple sides, and can't really maneuver. Instead, you fight off the attackers as long as possible. The system has been used for subjects ranging from Imperial Japan in WW2 to a zombie horde to the French Revolution. Though they are simple and abstract (some would argue whether they're wargames at all--I say they are), the card-driven play presents a narrative that is fantastic for learning about the subject. I'm eagerly looking forward to another in this series about the English Civil War.



Speaking of the ECW, that will probably be the focus of my next episode. I'm very interested in the topic right now, having my imagination fired by Mike Duncan's excellent podcast Revolutions. Along those lines, I also describe other subjects I'm considering for upcoming podcasts. I welcome your feedback.

And speaking of feedback, I received some good emails that I share on this episode. That's something I've done from time to time on my other podcast, Boardgames To Go. I think of it as the "letters" column you'd often find in a wargame magazine or newsletter. Since some of the feedback asks a question, you can hear my answer and suggest something else to the person who wrote in.



-Mark


P.S. Want to see my crazy/incomplete top ten list of small wargames? Here it is.

1. Gettysburg (125th Anniversary edition)
2. Up Front
3. Ogre/GEV
4. Waterloo 20
5. Napoleon
6. A Few Acres of Snow
7. Battle of the Bulge
8. tbd Air Combat game
9. tbd Midway game?
10. tbd East Front game (perhaps No Retreat! The Russian Front)

P.P.S. Now I've posted a poll where you can "vote" on some of those potential podcast topics I rattled off in the first half of this episode.


Links

Revolutions podcast
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast
WGTG folder on Consimworld








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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Fri Jan 31, 2014 4:41 pm
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Drive for Moscow, CC:E, States of Siege

Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
California
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I think I mentioned on the podcast that I'm a big fan of Shenandoah Studios' Battle of the Bulge. I've played it since day one, and just participated in their tournament. I thought I was doing ok, but apparently not when I saw the final standings. I was always able to reach the Meuse as the Axis, never able to prevent that as the Allies. I guess the guys that did well in the tournament were able to mount a better defense.

Now Shenandoah has released its second iOS wargame, Drive on Moscow. (Not in the BGG/VGG database?!) It was an immediate, automatic purchase for me, though I've all done so far is play the tutorial, lose to the AI, and challenge one guy to an online match. If anyone else wants to play a game with me, my Game Center ID is BoardgamesToGo. I don't know much about the eastern front (subject of a future podcast), so am going to learn a lot while I play this game.

Just to show I'm not limited to iOS and solo wargaming, my buddy Greg came over this week so that we could play a wargame in person. Greg's less of a wargamer than I am, but wants to explore them more. I gave him several options I thought we could manage on a weeknight, and he picked Combat Commander: Europe. We've both owned it for a while, but never played. As it was, we played Scenario #2 (Hedgerows), and got a number of rules wrong. It was slow-going at first, the rapidly accelerated. I won as the Americans by destroying his units to the surrender limit...but we did make those mistakes. So it's taken with a grain of salt. Both of us have played Up Front before, and the comparisons are striking. (I own the original but am also one of the infamous Kickstarter campaign backers--a whole nother story.)

The podcast I'll be recording next is about several States of Siege games. In my first episode all of the games shared a subject, the Battle of Gettysburg. Now I'm focusing on a system of games from a single publisher. I doubt that all of my episodes will have so focused a theme to them, but it is the way I've been planning them (e.g. Bulge, WW1, tactical scale, Vietnam games, and so on). The prominent feature of the SOS games is that they're strictly solo games. Of course you can play any solo game as a team with your buddy, but it's still a solo wargame. Oddly enough (or not?), even though much of my wargaming is solo, I don't normally limit myself to games designed for one player. In fact, I often find playing both sides of a "regular" wargame more satisfying.


In the first podcast you heard me say I got my wargaming start with microgames such as Ogre/G.E.V. and Starfire. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for these little, sometimes minimalist productions. They fit my budget as a kid, and often they were small enough in scope to play in a reasonable time. They never took up much space. When I got on the Internet in the mid-90s, one of the first things I did was create a website intended as a database for microgames, trying to copy what web-grognards did for the larger hobby. All that is a long way of saying that I like what States of Siege publisher Victory Point Games is doing. I've picked up quite a few of their games by now, and look forward to playing & discussing them on future podcasts.
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Tue Nov 26, 2013 9:44 pm
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WGTG 1 - Intro & Gettysburg

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Welcome to Wargames To Go, my new blog & podcast that shines a light on small wargames you can play on a weeknight, or take on a business trip.


If you need the feed address, it's http://feeds.feedburner.com/WargamesToGo




After eight years and 138 episodes of my Boardgames To Go podcast (about euros), I've decided to add a companion podcast that focuses on wargaming. Very unimaginatively, I'm calling it Wargames To Go. Longtime listeners of BGTG know that my interest in wargames would occasionally leak into that podcast. I started in this hobby with wargaming back in 1979, with little science fiction microgames like Ogre/GEV and Starfire, but also some historic titles from Avalon Hill (Richtofen's War, Air Force). What can I say? I was in junior high school at the time, and my interests were Star Wars and fighter planes. In fact, the same little hobby store where I'd gone for years to get Revell and Monogram plastic kits was where I found a small pile of wargames. I looked at the flimsy SPI flat packs there (Winter War caught my eye), but I never bought anyway. For one, they were out of my budget. For another, it it didn't fly it wasn't history that interested me. Later, a larger toy store came to town, and it had shelves & shelves of beautiful Avalon Hill bookcase games. Many times I pulled Napoleon or Panzer Leader off the shelf, but it would take years before I matured into a greater appreciation for history.


Although the next fifteen years were filled with RPGs and CCGs, followed by twenty years of German-style eurogames, I never lost my interest in wargames. I played them from time to time, and bought more when I found bargains (especially on old Strategy & Tactics or Command magazines). Most important, my interest in history expanded greatly during this time. The Internet brought consim-l, ebay, web-grognards, Wikipedia, history podcasts, and countless other sources to rekindle my interest in military history and wargaming.

The thing is...I've never been one for the BIG wargames. Definitely not the monsters. I hear stories about games with maps covering multiple tables that are played over an entire weekend. Or else they stay out in someone's basement and a group of friends plays every week for months. I'm sure the depth of experience those wargames offer is something special, but it's just not for me. I guess I still like those old microgames, only on more historic topics. I can throw Waterloo 20 in my bag when traveling and play it one night in my hotel room. Or I can invite a friend over and we'll play Afrika Korps in an afternoon, still with time to have dinner with our families.

With that in mind, this blog & podcast is going to focus on these smaller wargames. There are already other great podcasts that focus on the monsters. Also, the podcast is more of an "audio blog" than a "show," meaning I don't have news or interviews. Instead, I have my own experiences & observations with these games.

==============================


To kick off my first show, I talk about three Battle of Gettysburg games. That's the best place to start for two reasons. First, this summer was the 150th anniversary of this landmark battle, the largest ever fought in the western hemisphere. I'm not the only wargamer who appreciates the extra significance of playing a simulation on such an anniversary. Some of it is as simple as understanding the weather, the heat or cold, the light or dark, that would've happened during the actual event. In the case of Gettysburg, fought during the sweltering temperatures & humidity of a Pennsylvania summer, it's amazing to think of the extreme fatigue (and heat stroke?) those soldiers must have experienced.



Second, Gettysburg represents a turning point for me, personally. As a California kid, I didn't grow up with battlefields to visit, and all of those historic wars seemed far away and old fashioned. Then the summer before my sophomore year in high school--a couple years after I'd discovered science fiction wargames--my family & I took a trip to the east coast. We saw New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC in the traditional, whirlwind tour. In between the last two we swung over to the Gettysburg battlefield. I'm certain I wasn't very interested in anything about the American Civil War, but it was still vacation in a new place. When we got there, it was about the same time of year as the battle...and it was pouring buckets of rain. Hot, summer rains were another foreign concept to a west coast kid! When the rain ended we took a car tour of the battle, with an audio cassette we rented from the visitor center. That was a transformative experience, and I suddenly "got" what was so fascinating about history. Besides the battlefield itself (and audio narrative), the other thing that made the history come alive for me was the old, Electric Map at the visitor center! This amazing piece of 1930s electric (not electronic) technology--though I guess I saw the "new" one built in the 1960s--was a wargame come to life. It really showed how the events and drama of Gettysburg could be understood by this commanding view that included troop movements, key terrain, and the clashes of battle. Wow!

So that's why Gettysburg. For the podcast, I recently played three Gettysburg games. All of them are 2-player games, but only one did I play that way--the others I just solo'd by playing both sides. I'm ok with that. All three are hex & counter wargames, but they are at different scales. The first covers the entire battlefield, the second just the famous action in the south, and the last is strategic or operational scale that covers the troop movements of the entire campaign that may not even "end up" at Gettysburg.


First is Gettysburg '88, the light wargame from Avalon Hill's American Heritage/Smithsonian series that was published in 1988 for the 125th anniversary of the battle. Though often considered too light, or at too high of a scale (divisions) for serious wargamers, it hits the sweet spot for me. Particularly when using the optional rules from The General magazine. There are many what-ifs about famous battles, and for Gettysburg a common one is to wonder if the Union hadn't held its ground on day one while reinforcements streamed in through the road network. Well, in this game I play so badly, we find out. Hint: it's quick. Photos at right could be captioned, "From bad...to worse."




Next was Harvest of Death, a Strategy & Tactics game from that mag's 3W era. I didn't even know anything about this one, but read it being recommended by experienced grognards in the discussions surrounding the anniversary. I dug through my closet and found it, and was very happy I did! This actually has some solo rules, and it plays really well. In a small package (time & space) you get to see Little Round Top, Devils Den, the Peach Orchard, the infamous wheat field and the angle. There in one of the counters is Chamberlain and his 20th Maine. Really something.




Last was another magazine wargame, this time from Command. Across the Potomac is primarily a double-blind game covering the CSA's invasion of the north, with operational troop movements from Virginia to New Jersey. If you're thinking that makes it a rather poor choice for solo play, I guess you'd be right. But again, it came highly recommended from recent discussions here on BGG, and I was drawn to the scale. Some day I'll have to play against a live opponent so we can use cavalry in an accurate way, scouting for the enemy and foraging/raiding.


-Mark




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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Wed Oct 2, 2013 10:34 pm
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Coming soon...

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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That's a Palm Pilot on the left, and a pink iPod mini on the right. Yes, I've been doing BGTG that long!
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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Thu Sep 5, 2013 4:17 am
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