Wargames To Go

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about smaller wargames

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Wargames To Go 18 - Doolittle, Pavlov, and Sledgehammer

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

No episode geeklist this time, just the three games below




I'll be attending Origins Game Fair this year (June 2019) in Columbus. I've been there before, but only in the 80s & 90s, so I'm sure it's substantially different now. I'll be there Thursday-Sunday, including participating on a panel of wargame podcasters/YouTubers/bloggers Sunday morning. That's listed in the program as shown below. I think it's free, and I hope any WGTG listeners still around that morning will stop by. I don't have anything else in particular planned for Origins. Just want to see the thing, play some boardgames, and enjoy some relaxation. Drop me a note on Twitter or geekmail if you like.

Armchair Dragoons Presents Wargaming Media: State of Play
This panel featuring wargaming media personalities will discuss the current “Golden Age” of board wargaming and what can be done to ensure its survival.
Location: GCCC - Apods - A210
Date: Sunday 6/16/2019 10am (2 hours)





Here's another one-off podcast. I thought last episodes exploration of solitaire games was an exception to my normal wargaming--and it is--but here I am again to discuss three different solo wargames. I swear I'll get to more WW2 East Front explorations sooner or later, but right now I wanted to drop this episode about some other games: Doolittle Raid, Pavlov's House, and Utmost Savagery. The games are all about WW2 topics, and all solitaire systems, but in other respects they're quite different. Their solo rules are completely different, as a matter of fact.

Of course, Pavlov's House, being about a location in the Battle of Stalingrad, relates to my Eastern Front exploration, albeit at a different scale. Last time I had designer David Thompson on the podcast to talk about the process of wargame design. Now I got to see how one of his games actually worked. The Doolittle Raid is different, something I heard my father & grandfather talk about growing up. They both served in the USAF/USAAF and I grew up with stories of America's famous air exploits. My buddy Brian suspected this game was right up my alley after he'd enjoyed it, so at a GMT Weekend at the Warehouse I bought a copy. As for Utmost Savagery, my interest was sparked by reading Eugene Sledge's outstanding WW2 memoir, which was adapted into the HBO series The Pacific. The Battle of Peleliu plays a central role in that narrative. A look through my collection revealed that I already owned a game on that topic, part of a dual-game within Against The Odds magazine.

It all makes for an unusual collection of titles to discuss together, as well as books & films to take in.




Movies & Video
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Destination Tokyo
Pearl Harbor (just the end has Doolittle's Raid)
Enemy at the Gates
The Pacific (HBO) (episodes 5-7 are about Peleliu)
Sands of War (WW2 military short film about the Desert Training Center)


Books
Target Tokyo, by James M. Scott
Enemy At The Gates, by William Craig
With The Old Breed, by Eugene Sledge


My Twitter videos about the games
Doolittle Raid
Pavlov's House
Utmost Savagery

Other
Geeklist of Award-Winning Magazine Games

Next I'm really going to start playing more WW2 East Front games. Besides Pavlov, I've already played Battle for Moscow and No Retreat. I have many more titles to explore which are listed on a geeklist.

If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.

-Mark




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Wargames To Go 17 - Long Range Desert Group (with David Thompson)

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Here's something I haven't done in a while: a one-off podcast. In other words, this isn't the start of a multi-episode, multi-month exploration of one battle/war. Instead, this is a single episode about (mostly) a single topic, WW2's Long Range Desert Group. I vaguely remembered hearing something about history, then earlier this year the French wargaming magazine Vae Victis featured the LRDG in their issue game. It was a small, solitaire design, and I tweeted about how I was intrigued. A friend recommended a book to read about it, and soon I discovered another solitaire game on it. That was enough for me--it sounded like the makings of a podcast episode.


This episode also features an interview with wargame designer David Thompson. He created Pavlov's House and has Castle Itter coming up next, both published by DVG. As you'll hear, he's got some other games on the way from other publishers, too. In fact, his interview is primarily about what it's like to get a wargame published, particularly the part about pitching a project to a publisher. He's researching the LRDG himself for a project, so the interview was perfect timing.



Movies & Video
Sea of Sand
Lost in Libya: In Search of the LRDG
Battlestorm Lite - LRDG (3 parts including Moore's March)


Books
Sand , Wind, and War, by Ralph Alger Bagnold
Incident at Jebel Sherif, by Kuno Gross, Roberto Chiarvetto, Brendan O'Carroll
Killing Rommel, by Steven Pressfield


Discussions
Long Range Desert Group versus aircraft


Next I'm going to start playing some WW2 East Front games. It's an enormous topic, one of the centerpieces of our hobby. My knowledge about it is fairly limited, but I'm learning a bunch already. Also, I've naturally got quite a number of wargames on the topic already. With a subject this large, there are several smaller options out there, just like I prefer. I'm starting with Frank Chadwick's introductory classic, Battle for Moscow. I've started a geeklist about with these games, too.

If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.





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Sat Feb 16, 2019 5:37 pm
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Wargames To Go 16.3 - D-Day (Conclusion, with Balkoski interview)

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At long last, the interview with author and game designer, Joe Balkoski. He's been on my podcast before, when we talked about The Korean War. At that time we made plans for his return when I dove into D-Day games. Besides designing some notable games on the subject, Joe has had an entire second career (his main career, really) of writing books on the subject. It's no exaggeration to say he is the definitive expert on US 29th Infantry Division and it's actions on Omaha Beach and beyond into Normandy, the rest of France, and Europe.





I had the opportunity to interview Joe, and this time it wasn't at the end of a Skype line. This time I was able to meet him at his workplace, the home of the Maryland National Guard at Baltimore's Fifth Regiment Armory. It's right there on 29th Division Street in downtown Baltimore, and you'll hear what a fortuitous role it played in Joe's life.

With this episode, I'm wrapping up my drawn-out series on D-Day. After the Balkoski interview I talk about some battle games played that were "beyond the beachhead," covering the Battle of Mortain. As well as a few titles that don't have anything to do with D-Day at all: they're in here because my trip to Maryland/Virginia included some local sightseeing and inspired the play of these other games. I've had a little more time to think about what makes or breaks a good, short, small wargame. I'll share my thoughts, and would especially welcome any discussion on that subject.


I think in my previous episode I toyed with the idea of stopping my podcasts. I no longer think I'm going to do that. Although future Wargames To Go episodes may no longer follow the multi-episode format for a "quarter" (or so) per topic, I'll still do something. I'm still figuring out what. Right now I know I want to play a couple different Long Range Desert Group games I've acquired. Both are solitaire titles. Then it's high time I learned some basics about the Eastern Front, and what better time to try that than in winter. Maybe I want to squeeze a Bulge game in around Christmas, too. Hmmm...


-Mark



If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback is always welcome.




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Wargames To Go 16.2 - D-Day (Continued)

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A solo episode this time. That interview with author and designer Joe Balkoski is still coming, but not quite yet. He's got the little matter of his own retirement and a well-deserved vacation to deal with first. Ok, no problem, I just recorded this episode to record more thoughts about a variety of D-Day games I've played. Then I get to share my own travelogue from my visit to Normandy in 2014.

Playing those games, it got me thinking about smaller wargames, in general. Every so often there's a discussion posted online (here on BGG, perhaps in the wargaming twitterspace, or something else) where a gamer asks if there are any good, shorter wargames out there. YES! There are LOTS of them. These are the games I seek out. However, they often are less well known, because for many years the hobby has focused on the beefier end of the spectrum when it comes to wargames. It's easier to find monster wargames (see? they even have a term for it) than shorter ones.

Yet the shorter ones are out there. New wargamers tiptoeing into the hobby may ask for them, but just as often it's an experienced wargamer who still wants to enjoy the hobby but cannot host weekend-long setups any longer. Weeknight Wargames is what I tried to call them. Ones you can play in 1-3 hours. Whatever they're called, they can be found. One of these days I need to make my own geeklist with suggestions. When I do, I'll link to it here.

If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo.







-Mark



Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.




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Wargames To Go 16.1 - D-Day (Introduction)

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At long last I’m getting to the D-Day episodes. It may seem long to you because I skipped last month (April). But it’s a lot longer than that. I visited the Normandy beaches on vacation back in 2014. I figured I’d record a podcast about that and play some related games soon after. Then when I went to live in France from 2016-2017, I brought a number of Normandy games with me, again thinking I’d get to them. In both cases, other things took their place, and my D-Day podcast was pushed back & back. Now, though, I’m getting to do it, and synced up with the anniversary of the battle. (I always prefer to play wargames around the anniversary of their battles, because the weather outside fits the action on the map a little closer.)

In this episode I briefly mention the books & movies listed below, talk about my recent time at GMT’s Weekend at the Warehouse, then dive into the extensive geeklist of games I aspire to tackle on this subject. I never get to ALL of them, but already I’ve made more of a dent than I’d hoped. It helps that there are SO many D-Day/Normandy games to choose from. That includes some famous biggies, but also quite a number of smaller wargames, as I prefer.

There’s no historical intro to the subject this time—-I’d feel silly doing that, and assume all wargamers geeky enough to seek out my podcast already know plenty about this famous battle. I did, too, but have been very pleased to learn a lot more details that previously escaped me. Especially about the fighting in Normandy to expand the beachhead and create the breakout. Operations Goodwood, Spring, and Cobra are exciting parts of the story I knew less about before this podcast.


-Mark


Movies
Saving Private Ryan
The Longest Day
Band of Brothers (episodes Day of Days and Carentan)
Storming Juno


Books
D-Day, by Anthony Beevor
Parachute Infantry, by David Kenyon Webster
Six Armies in Normandy, by John Keegan
Beyond the Beachhead, by Joe Balkoski


Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.




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Wargames To Go 15.3 - The Korean War (Conclusion)

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To wrap up my series on the Korean War, I've got a shorter episode featuring just me talking about the games I played. I never get to as many as I'd like--my geeklists are aspirational and for reference rather than predictive!--and the same is true of movies. Nonetheless, my exploration of this subject has been a satisfying one. I went into it not knowing much about the conflict that inaugurated the Cold War, and the defining historical event of my father's generation. Between games, books, movies, magazines, and other podcasts, I now understand considerably more.

What I enjoy most of all is that I feel like I "get" the overall narrative arc of this piece of history. There's the war itself, with its milestone events (invasion, retreat, Pusan perimeter defense, amphibious invasion to the rear at Inchon, reversal of the invasion, Chinese intervention, retreat from the Yalu and escape from Chosin...). There's also the political machinations going on from the end of WW2 to this episode.

Once again, I'm struck by how much I enjoy the old/traditional style of wargaming, with its hexmaps, ZOCs, OOBs, and reinforcement schedules. Even plain, old IGO-UGO rules systems. I recognize those systems have their limitations, but they really help me learn more about a subject. In a related way, I confirmed for myself that I don't really care for tactical systems. When they include the things that are necessary at that scale (LOS, opportunity fire, etc.), I just find that the game rules get in the way of my appreciation of the game and its depictions.


[






-Mark



Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.

And if you want to anticipate my next podcast series on D-Day, check out its own geeklist.



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Wargames To Go 15.2 - The Korean War (Joe Balkoski interview)

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Joe Balkoski

Another month into the exploration of the Korean War in wargames, movies, and books. This time I've got an interview with the designer of the definitive game on the topic, Joe Balkoski. As you know, Joe is famous for designing a lot of games, especially the Fleet series and Great Campaigns of the American Civil War. He got his professional start during SPI's glory days, and has since moved on to become a professional military historian and author. Along the way, he designed The Korean War, published by Victory Games. These days he runs the Maryland Museum of Military History in Baltimore.





Joe has been interviewed on a wargame podcast before, episode 22 of David Dockter's Guns, Dice, Butter. It's an excellent interview that touches many topics that I don't get to in my interview with Joe, so I encourage you to listen to both.



I haven't managed to play TOO many games or watch many movies about the Korean War in February, thanks in part to a 2-week vacation in the middle of the month. But I've done some, and the episode wraps up with my descriptions of them.







-Mark



Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.




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Wargames To Go 15.1 - The Korean War (Introduction)

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This quarter I finally get to tackle a subject that's been on my to-do list for years: the Korean War. I wanted to this topic because of a connection to my father, and because I previously knew so little about it. Several years ago, when I was just getting back into wargaming after a long hiatus, the military history book club run by Hungadunga here on BGG read The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam. I was blown away by the story. As the nickname goes, the Korean War was kind of The Forgotten War for me. Except that I'd never really learned much about it in the beginning to forget. Thanks to the book and discussion here at BGG, I learned a great deal.


1st Marine Division at Chosin
Colorized photo from mediadrumworld.com

My dad passed away one month ago, as of the date I'm writing this blog. He didn't share my love of wargames, but he DID instill my interest in military history. We watched many PBS and History Channel programs together, as well as war movies. We talked about history and politics. The Korean War was from his era, when he served as jet engine mechanic for B-47 Stratojets in the USAF. No, those jets didn't fly in that war. They came just after. They were the United States first strategic jet bomber. The momentous first year of the Korean War coincided with my dad's senior year in high school. I'm sure he & his buddies were thinking about their futures as they heard and watched news stories about the retreat, advances, more retreats, and bitter winter fighting for the Army and Marines. A separate USAF was itself only three years old when the Korean War broke out. He went to college for a couple years, then enlisted in that new Air Force. My dad went through basic training during the war's final months, and the armistice was signed shortly after. That makes him a veteran of the Korean War era, rather than the war itself. Instead, he & his generation were the first "cold warriors" of General Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command.


My dad, Dale Johnson (1933-2018). Served in USAF 1953-57.

Consequently, besides a long list of games that cover the ground and air war in Korea, I'll also be exploring a couple titles that include the B-47. It was never deployed in combat--good thing since it had been designed for a nuclear WW3--yet there are some alt-hist games that include it. Doing that is a nice way to still include my dad in my hobby, and even share him a little with my listeners. Many of you have probably gone through something like this. In our case, we are fortunate in that it was a peaceful passing, and we had many good years together. I sure miss him, though.


Check out the amazing back & forth swings in territory during the first year of the war.
Historical animation by EmperorTigerstar


The Korean War is hardly forgotten when it comes to wargames and movies, I'm finding. Although there are far fewer games on it than WW2, Napoleonics, or the ACW, there are still many great choices for me to investigate. Besides big games that I won't get to, there are smaller games covering the entire conflict, or individual battles. There are others about the air war overhead. Of course, there are several treatments of MacArthur's brilliant Inchon invasion, as well as his misjudged provocation of Communist Chinese forces. As for movies...well, this is one subject where I cannot even watch all of the choices. There are too many!


At the end of February, I plan to feature an interview with designer Joe Balkoski. I'm also starting to think about who I might get for the final Korean War episode in March. Suggestions are welcome.






-Mark


Movies
Pork Chop Hill
The Steel Helmet
The Manchurian Candidate
Tae Guk Gi (The Brotherhood of War)
Men in War
Operation Chromite
M*A*S*H
Strategic Air Command
The Hunters
The Red Scarf
Battle Hymn
The Bridges at Toko-Ri


Books
The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam
The Hunters, by James Salter

Other
Korean War Podcast
When Diplomacy Fails podcast

Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.




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Wargames To Go 14.3 - French & Indian War (Conclusion)

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This month's episode brings my French & Indian War topic to a close. As always, it's been very rewarding to dig a bit deeper into a piece of history I thought I knew something about...only to find more layers and connections to the past & present. Even though my time living in Paris is six months behind me, I knew that picking this topic would be a great transition from my somewhat deliberate French-focused outlook of 2016-2017 into the broader world again. That's exactly how it worked. In learning about the F&I War, I chose to focus on the New France part of that story, particular the two centuries of history that came before the Fall of Quebec. I guess you could say I was focusing the "F" in the F&I War. I only scratched the surface of the "I" part. Not surprisingly, the political and cultural history of the native peoples in this region--and their ever-adapting interaction with the arriving Europeans--is a topic all unto itself. Frankly, that's the sort of story that can sometimes be told better by a sophisticated euro, since it involves so much more than military subjects. As far as I know, there isn't a game on that topic, though Mound Builders may be the closest. I own that, and look forward to playing it sometime.


The Victory of Montcalm's Troops at Carillon by Henry Alexander Ogden
(images from Wikipedia)

As for the military history, though, there are many good games on the topic. Typically, I played only a fraction of what I considered when I constructed this episode's geeklist. That's ok--I enjoyed the ones I got to, and will have future opportunities to play some that I missed. (I still wish there was a playably short version of the Battle of Quiberon Bay, though.)


The Battle of Quiberon Bay, 20 November 1759 by Dominic Serres
(images from Wikipedia)

A feature of this episode is my interview with designer Martin Wallace. Probably best known for Age of Steam, Brass, and London, you can tell right there that he's not your average eurogame designer. He's his own thing. Martin's games have always had a heavy dose of history, often political and economic history. It should be no surprise that his designer's eye looks over topics of military history, too. He's now designed a fair number of wargames, all of them innovative and worth a look. His designs don't come from a hex & counter system, a COIN system, or indeed any established system at all. A few of them share common rule systems, but most are unique. Though it's a problematic term (because no one knows exactly what it means), they are often euro-wargame hybrids. Which is right up my alley. When Martin's A Few Acres of Snow was released in 2011, it took a new game design mechanism called deckbuilding and applied to a very specific subject, the French & Indian War. For me, it was love at first sight, and I've never looked back. What a thrill to be able to talk to Martin about it, as well as his general thoughts about wargaming.


Sculptures of James Wolfe and Marquis de Montcalm by Louis-Philippe Hébert in front of Parliament Building (Quebec)
(images from Wikipedia)


Since this is the final episode in the series, I wrap up by talking about the F&I War games I actually played, books, podcasts, and movies. Then it's time to move on to the subject for the next quarter, and planned three monthly episodes: the Korean War.

-Mark


Movies
Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Last of the Mohicans (1920) silent
Northwest Passage more about Robert's Rangers than the passage

Books
George Washington: The Forge of Experience, 1732-1775, by James Thomas Flexner
THE CHRONICLES OF CANADA: Volume II - The Rise of New France, edited by George M. Wrong, H. H. Langton
Montcalm and Wolfe by Francis Parkman
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Other
Iroquois History and Legends Podcast
Thread: Why did New France have so few settlers?
Thread: Montcalm's early successes

Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my French & Indian War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.

And if you want to anticipate my next podcast series on the Korean War, check out its own geeklist.



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Wargames To Go 14.2 - French & Indian War (Volko Ruhnke interview)

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Two months in and I'm really liking this new schedule of a quarter per topic. Those 90 days feel like enough time to dig into a subject, but also to keep moving so that I get to explore several throughout the year. I'll stick with this for the foreseeable future, and in this episode I share what some of my future topics will likely be.


Plan of Fort Carillon in 1758

The main feature of this episode is another interview with designer Volko Ruhnke. I say "another" because he was on my podcast a year ago to talk about Alesia, while this time he's on to talk about the French & Indian War. Though he's probably best known now as the originator of the COIN system, Volko's first published design was a CDG, Wilderness War. We get to talk about that, as well as an entirely new game system he's working on. I don't know if this is a "scoop" or what because I had not heard of this before, and cannot find anything else about it online. Enjoy! Volko tells about this new system in the context of describing the time he had playtesting games at San Diego's wargaming convention, SDHistCon. I missed going this year...maybe I should make it a priority in 2018?


Wargaming at BGG.con

One of the reasons I didn't make it was that I went to another gaming convention in November, Boardgamegeek's BGGcon. This was my fourth time, having been to the very first (2005), and then three of the past few years (just missed when I lived in France--2016). Although primarily a eurogame event, I'd say perhaps 10% of the gaming is wargaming. Since BGGcon is such a large event (2500+ people over 4+ days), even 10% is quite a bit of wargaming. I did some of that this time, too.


A plan of Fort William Henry, published in 1765

I've got one more designer interview planned for the final F&I War episode, next month in December. At that time I'll also recap the games & movies I've enjoyed. Then we'll put a bow on 2017 and look forward to the new year.

-Mark




Fort Oswego






Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my French & Indian War explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.




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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:19 am
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