Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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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.
P.S. Here are a couple twitter videos I did for some of the Hue games I played.
• Hue 1968
• The Sympathizer
• Full Metal Jacket
• Battle of Huế Then & Now youtube series (there are 6 parts)
Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about smaller wargames
05 Apr 2021
- [+] Dice rolls