Wargames To Go

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about smaller wargames

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Wargames To Go 22.2 - Summer 2021 Magazine Games (C3i & Panzerschreck)

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Board Game: Battle for Kursk: The Tigers Are Burning, 1943
Board Game: Firebase Vietnam
Board Game: Charge of the Light Brigade: A Solitaire Wargame
Board Game: Gunfight at O.K. Corral: October 26, 1881
Board Game: The Fall of Röhm



Isn't it tiresome when a podcaster starts by apologizing it's been so long since their last episode? So I won't do that. Here's the next one.

My plans to spend the summer (now months past!) playing contemporary magazine wargames sort of worked, just more slowly and less completely than I'd originally planned. Whatever--I'm doing this for fun! The truth is, after vaccinations we were able to see some family and do some traveling that had been unavailable during the first year of the pandemic. Wargaming took a bit of a back seat, though I still got some done. Including ON a traveling vacation. (I played two of the three Panzerschreck titles on evenings while visiting Yellowstone National Park!)

This episode features me talking about multiple games in recent issues of C3i and Panzerschreck magazines. The latter is a typically obscure, niche product and series of games that most listeners probably won't know. The former, however, is almost new territory for my podcast: a contemporary release that other people are already excited about, many of them own, and a bunch will have already played. Relevance! What a concept...

I'm not really too concerned about how niche-within-a-niche my hobby is. By now you should realize that about me. Just the same, it was a nice change of pace to be playing and talking about a game, designers, and publisher that others are, too.

Thinking back, I don't know how much I talked about the games themselves. Definitely I don't do a full review. Instead, I talk about my experience and reaction to the game. Especially when I move on to the other titles in this episode, it got me thinking about the nature of these games, what makes some work for me, others not. The final game, most of all, prompts some deep thoughts about what is being simulated in a game, what the role of the player in it, and is it ok? I'm inclined to think almost anything is viable in a simulation game since we are learning more about important history through this medium, but The Fall of Röhm tested the limits of my conviction about that.

Ok.

Although I'm tying this series off before getting to a couple remaining games mentioned earlier, I still plan to work in Battles Magazine and its Storm over Madrid title sometime in my future. Whenever that happens (no promises about schedule), I'll shove it into whatever my next podcast episode is about, regardless of topic. Because Battles Magazine is really incredible and all wargamers should take notice of it.

You know, there's a good hook between that game and my expected next wargame topic. The "contemporary magazines" topic was fun, but I found that I missed the chance to dig into a single historic topic over multiple games & media, as I've done before. I'm going back to that traditional WGTG format for the next episode, at least. The subject is going to the Spanish-American War, and I've already started a geeklist for it.


Reference Material
Eastern Front of WWII animated: 1943/44 Fantastic animations of the OOB, deployments, and annotated movements of the WW2 eastern front, covering the period and scale very closely matched to the C3i game
Episode 31 of the Our Fake History podcast Great milhist summary of the Charge of the Light Brigade
Charge of the Light Brigade (1968 film) Recommended!
Tombstone (1993), Wyatt Earp (1994), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1956) Three different Hollywood depictions of the famous gunfight


-Mark

A couple mistakes/omissions when I talked about the Charge of the Light Brigade topic. Embarrassingly, I think I mentioned the Turkey on the opposing side to the Anglo-French allies. That's exactly WRONG and I should've known it. The Anglo-French were there to help Turkey oppose the Russian Empire. Second, I should've pointed out that the 1968 film I enjoyed on this topic featured some inter-scene animations in the style (drawn from?) Punch magazine. So clever!



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Sun Nov 28, 2021 5:15 am
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Wargames To Go 22.1 - Summer 2021 Magazine Games

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Board Game: 1914: Fureur à l'Est
Board Game: Steamroller: Tannenberg 1914
Board Game: Battle for Kursk: The Tigers Are Burning, 1943
Board Game: Firebase Vietnam

Board Game: Charge of the Light Brigade: A Solitaire Wargame
Board Game: Gunfight at O.K. Corral: October 26, 1881
Board Game: The Fall of Röhm
Board Game: Storm Over Madrid 1936: "Miracle of November"
Board Game: Angola 1987-1988



As mentioned in my last episode, I've decided to do something different this summer. Breaking from my usual pattern of tackling a single subject with multiple games, movies, books, etc., now I'm giving myself a break. I'm just going to have fun playing some of the recent backlog of magazine wargames. I'm sure I'll read Wikipedia articles and such to give myself some historic education about the subjects, but I'm not going to get so deep. Where there are easy info sources such as podcasts and youtube videos, I'll probably take those in, too. As long as it's all fun and doesn't take too long.

One thing I'm keeping going is a geeklist for this episode. It's got all of the magazine games pictured above, listed in the order I think I'll get to them. As I play them, I tend to post a few photos, as well as a link to short (~1 minute) twitter videos of them on the table.

As of this writing, I've actually recorded some thoughts about the first two games played, both on the WW1 Eastern Front in 1914. I may save those for everything to be rolled up into a single, large podcast episode...or else I may space them out as little "mini-episodes" over the summer.

Reference Material
The Seminal Catastrophe podcast episodes 17-20 are about WW1 Eastern Front, plus the excellent Supplemental episodes


-Mark

Postscript (Nov 26, 2021): I ended up posting the first episode in this mini "series" shortly after the above post, and later will be posting one more (episode 22.2) to close this out.




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Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:29 pm
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Wargames To Go 21.2 - Vietnam War (part 2) - Huế

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Board Game: A Week In Hell: The Battle of Hue
Board Game: Hue
Board Game: The Battle of Hue!
Board Game: Block by Block: The Battle of Huế, 1968



Turns out Vietnam is just too big of a subject for a pair of podcast episodes. I decided to limit part 2 to just the Battle of Huế, saving more games & history for a future exploration. There are several reasons this battle is so well-represented in wargaming. In some ways it's the Bulge/Waterloo/Gettysburg of Vietnam. By reading Bowden's book on the subject and rewatching Full Metal Jacket, I felt I had a decent understanding of the history as-examined by four smaller games. Then I came across a wonderful "then & now" YouTube doc that also helped bring everything to life. I've never had the opportunity to visit Vietnam myself, but this looks like an amazing city.

As usual, no sooner did I finish recording that I realized a few mistakes and omissions. First of all, I glossed over the fighting that happened within the city of Paris. How could I do that? One of my favorite places in the world? Well, it certainly wasn't leveled or suffered too many horrors of house-to-house fighting, not like other cities in other wars. But there definitely were tanks and soldiers exchanging fire, as described in the book & film, Is Paris Burning?

Next, I neglected to mention a couple more films about Vietnam that I watched. Sort of. I mean, I definitely watched them...they're just 'sort of' about Vietnam. I couldn't bring myself to watch Apocalypse Now again, so I watched the highly respected documentary about its creation, Hearts of Darkness. Honestly, it drove me kind of crazy. I'm a cinephile and enjoy so many challenging & creative films, but the self-importance behind this film & filmmaker gets in my way. Perhaps if it didn't relate to a vital bit of military and national history (of at least two nations), I could forgive its excesses. But I can't.

And then there's The Deer Hunter. Oof, more of that self-importance, combined with even less respect for the historical setting. I know it isn't ABOUT the Vietnam War, but neither is it inconsequential to the story. It's a deliberate falsification to tell an excruciating myth. I really hated this one. This year (2021) I love the films Nomadland and The Sound of Metal, both nominated for Oscar's Best Picture. So I've got no issue with tough stories of human existentialism. But spare me The Deer Hunter, ugh.

One experience that was better was reading The Sympathizer. This is a completely fictional book about the Vietnam War, one that won the Pulitzer just a few years ago. It tells the story of three Vietnamese friends who grew up in that country, one who became an ardent fighter for the South, another who became a devout agent of the Communists, and one in the middle, a mole for the communists operating within the ARVN. The unnamed protagonist and source of the book's title is the third person. The story has a lot to say about America's confusion with this country and period, too. Not military story, but an amazing human lens through which to examine our shared history. Guess it won that literary award for a reason, huh?

Finally, when I talked about the magazine games I was looking forward to tackling next, I thought the Vae Victis game was about Algeria. Nope, it's Angola. Very different setting and conflict. I've got it now. Remember, these French wargame magazines have English translations of the rules, and all of their recent issues have a standardized small format of 108 diecut counters and an A3 (about 11x17") map size. Perfect for me! Lately I've been using Google Translate to read the accompanying historical article for the issue game. That's not necessary, of course--you can do just as well to read a Wikipedia article--but I like the opportunity to learn/struggle-through some French language.

-Mark

P.S. Here are a couple twitter videos I did for some of the Hue games I played.

https://twitter.com/WargamesToGo/status/1363608161488236544

https://twitter.com/WargamesToGo/status/1355247281696477184


Books
Hue 1968
The Sympathizer

Movies
Full Metal Jacket
Battle of Huế Then & Now youtube series (there are 6 parts)



-Mark


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Tue Apr 6, 2021 1:16 am
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Wargames To Go 21.1 - Vietnam War (part 1)

Mark Johnson
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My next exploration through smaller wargames is about the Vietnam War. This is something that was almost contemporary when I first started wargaming (1979), so that was too close. I stayed away for years, just as I'm not ready to play simulations about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now. I need some historical distance in order to process & understand what's going on.

Unlike some other topics I've tackled, there are a LOT of books, games, and movies about this subject. Just knowing I'd eventually want to get into it, I acquired a game here, a game there over the years...and it turned into a large list (see link, above).


Books
A Bright Shining Lie
Pleiku
Chickenhawk
Tet Offensive (S&T Quarterly
Hue 1968
Nam Moi

Movies
The Vietnam War (Burns/Novick doc)
A Face of War
Sir! No Sir!
Last Days in Vietnam
Hearts and Minds
We Were Soldiers
Hamburger Hill
The Green Berets
Platoon
Apocalypse Now
The Deer Hunter
Full Metal Jacket
Da 5 Bloods


This was Part 1, and there will definitely be another part. I need to get to all(?) of those other battle-scale games, especially the ones about the Battle of Hue. Is there someone I should seek out to join me on the podcast? I'm open to suggestions.


-Mark


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Sun Jan 17, 2021 7:25 pm
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Wargames To Go 20 - Strategic Air Command

Mark Johnson
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It's been a long pandemic, hasn't it? We've got a ways to go, too. During this strange time I've been working from home, wearing a mask outside, and playing some solo wargames. My regular euro-style boardgaming has dried up almost completely, albeit temporarily. Sure, I play some online versions at BoardgameArena, Yucata, special apps, and others, but it's only enough to keep connections going with my friends. I've enjoyed play-by-web and other computerized versions of boardgames for years, but that's when they were a way to get in extra games during the week. Now that they're the only boardgaming I can do, they just remind me of how much I miss sitting across from my friends on a regular game night.

Wargames are different for me. Though once in a while I'll play a 2-player game across a (real) tabletop, normally I enjoy my wargames solo. Purpose-designed solitaire games generally take a backseat to traditional 2-player games where I just play both sides. Which means that there shouldn't be anything slowing me down now for my wargaming during the pandemic.

"Shouldn't be." And yet, it's still been a bit sluggish. Because everything is kind of a drag now, at least for me. To be sure--lots of people have it a whole lot worse that me, so I cannot complain. My job is still going fine via remote work from home, my family is doing ok now, no one is sick... So you'd better believe I'm not seriously whining about my wargaming hobby. I'm not. It's just a little slow, that's all I can muster right now, and I expect that to continue until there's a good vaccine deployment. It'll happen eventually.

One thing I have managed to do during all of this is get my collection a little more organized. That meant going through all of my wargames, sorting the magazines by type, and setting aside a few mini-collections on topics I want to get into. For this episode it was the Strategic Air Command (next time will be Vietnam). As I've mentioned before on my podcast, my dad served in the USAF from 1953-57, during the heady days of the Strategic Air Command. My dad passed in 2018, and though we talked often, now that he's gone I find things I wish we'd talked more about. Like his military service, and that part of his life. I know he was a J47 engine technician for the B-47 Stratojet. He served primarily at March AFB in Riverside, California (not too far from me now--we visited it together), but once deployed to Upper Heyford AFB in the UK.

The most important part for me was that plane, his beloved B-47. Sandwiched between the behemoth B-36 Peacemaker and the famous B-52 Stratofortress/BUFF, I wondered if any wargames would include the B-47. Yes, there are some! I think I've now played most of them. This is an interesting period for wargaming, because it's all alt-hist for a nuclear WW3 that thankfully never happened. I don't normally explore alt-hist, either, but for SAC, the B-47, and Dad I'd happily make an exception.

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There are several good movies about this period, too. Probably everyone knows Dr. Strangelove, which I've seen before and was happy to see again. But I found several other good ones, and the aptly named Strategic Air Command movie with Jimmy Stewart even featured the B-47! All in all it's been an enjoyable exploration, for the games, the military history, and a way to reconnect with my dad.

Movies & Video
Strategic Air Command
Dr. Strangelove
Fail Safe
The Arrow
Cold War aviation films (per Wikipedia)


Books
Bomber: The Formation and Early Years of Strategic Air Command , by Phillip Meilinger


If you're not a Twitter user, 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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Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:40 am
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Wargames To Go 19.2 - Operation Barbarossa (part 2), with Carl Paradis

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Board Game Designer: Carl Paradis
Carl Paradis
Designer Carl Paradis is featured in this episode. Of course I asked him onto the podcast to discuss his landmark Eastern Front game, No Retreat: The Russian Front. Beyond that, Carl has explored this topic in his development of Gary Graber's The Barbarossa Campaign and his own forthcoming Absolute War. That would make him an interesting designer for most wargamers--what makes him special for me is his penchant for small wargames. Even if boxed, with a large map, the counter densities he uses are low, the hexes large, the rules short. Just the sort of gaming I find most interesting, because those designs have to make bold choices & cuts in their simulation modeling.

Now Carl is furthering this design style in his No Retreat Battles series. The first in this new series focuses on five battles from 1942: Velikiye Luki, Stalingrad, Gazala, Guadalcanal, and Dieppe (two of those are solitaire). Small maps, not too many counters...sign me up! (Literally--this game is nearing the cutoff for GMT's P500 preordering system, and one of those preorders is mine.)

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Siberian trooper Carl

Think that a big topic like Barbarossa cannot be simulated sufficiently by a low counter density? They might not be for everybody, but take a look at Carl's interesting designs. Within the context of familiar hexmaps, cardboard counters with combat-move factors, and Combat Results Tables, he takes the epic scope of the Russian Front and does clever things with ZOCs and a counterattack system, not to mention multi-use cardplay. YouTube is full of gamers showcasing this title.

If you're not a Twitter user, 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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Thu May 7, 2020 5:44 am
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Wargames To Go 19.1 - Operation Barbarossa (part 1), with Bruce Geryk

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At long last I'm posting my podcast about the Eastern Front in WW2. Except that it's not exactly that, it's Operation Barbarossa. When I started this as a subject, I really didn't know how to parse it, or what my focus would be. Over the past six months I learned to separate Stalingrad, Typhoon, the Soviet counter-invasion, and everything else that is part of so vast a topic. I learned to focus just on Barbarossa. That's a deep enough subject on its own, and I have time in my wargaming future to explore the other aspects.

The centerpiece of this episode is an interview with Bruce Geryk. You know him from his Wild Weasel podcast, and you may also know him from the wargame analyses at his own website, from his Dien Bien Phu video series, or from his other podcast appearances on Three Moves Ahead and Quarter to Three. Bruce is a wargamer from way back, and he thinks deeply about the history and our hobby.

With a subject as monumental as the Russian Front, I particularly wanted Bruce to fill in the blanks of my experience with wargame titles that make up “the canon” for the topic, and especially some of the larger games. As well as being an avid tabletop wargamer, Bruce knows computer wargames as well, and fills us in on that part of the hobby, too.

Movies & Video
ThirEastern Front of WWII animated: 1941
The Great Patriotic War. Operation Barbarossa. Episode 1


Books
Kiev 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East, by David Stahel
The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941, by Craig W.H. Luther
Blitzkrieg: From the Ground Up, by Niklas Zetterling
Barbarossa: Germany's Assault on the Soviet Union, 1941-1942, by John Burtt


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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Mon Dec 23, 2019 12:35 am
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Wargames To Go 18 - Doolittle, Pavlov, and Sledgehammer

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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



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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)



Board Game: Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid
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Board Game: Islands of the Damned: Wake Island and Peleliu


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.

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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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Sun Jun 2, 2019 11:17 pm
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Wargames To Go 17 - Long Range Desert Group (with David Thompson)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
California
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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Board Game: Qui ose gagne
Board Game: Long Range Desert Group: Special Operations Against Rommel 1941-1942


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.

Board Game: Pavlov's House
Board Game: Castle Itter
Board Game Designer: David Thompson (I)

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)

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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http://www.WargamesToGo.com
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Microbadge: Parent of a transgender child

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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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.

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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.

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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...

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-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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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:14 am
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