Wargames To Go

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about smaller wargames
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WGTG 3 - English Civil War and more (with Charles Vasey)

Mark Johnson
United States
Santa Clarita
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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
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

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

Board Game: Unhappy King Charles!
Board Game: Cruel Necessity
Board Game: Winceby
Board Game: Fairfax's Revenge: the battle of Langport 1645
Board Game: Naseby: The End of a Reign
Board Game: Cromwell's Victory: The Battle of Marston Moor

This is a long episode. If you want to skip ahead, here are some approximate timestamps within the recording you can jump to:

0:00 - My intro, poll results, BGG.con attendance, etc.
0:15 - Vasey interview pt 1 (background, his games)
0:51 - Vasey interview pt 1 (ECW)
1:51 - Cruel Necessity report
1:58 - Unhappy King Charles report
2:06 - Winceby report
2:13 - Langport & Naseby report (TCS series)
2:28 - Cromwell's Victory report
2:33 - Roberto Chiavini interview
2:49 - Other wargaming recaps (Monitor v Merrimack, Salvo, Caesar XL, Gettysburg [Wallace])
2:58 - Flowers of the Forest report
3:03 - Vasey interview pt 2 (Flowers of the Forest)

Ok, I bit off more than I can chew. whistle

I've been doing my other podcast for nearly a decade, and those listeners know I've occasionally had a long hiatus between episodes while life intervened (work, kids, whatever). That's true about the gap between WGTG 2 and this new episode, but there's something else, too. I'd turned the episode into a giant project for myself. It felt like I was writing a term paper. That's because the subject of wargaming is so deep, so worthy of study & analysis. However, I also want to get the episodes out in a more timely manner (quarterly, let's say), so I need to set my sights a little lower. I'm learning.

As long promised, this is my episode focusing on battles of the English Civil War(s). I was motivated to jump into this topic for two main reasons:

1. I didn't really know anything about it, so stood to learn a great deal
2. The history podcast Revolutions, by Mike "History of Rome podcast" Duncan covered this subject in its first series

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

"Charles Vasey"
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Roberto Chiavini
Although I initially thought I didn't own any games on this subject, I did have a couple on the shelf, acquired several more, and played another via VASSAL. That took some time, but is what I wanted to do in order to learn. I also did some reading, but that was primarily Wikipedia & skimming a library book. I watched the dramatic film Cromwell, and several documentaries available on YouTube (see Links, below). Best of all, I managed to score two interviews with game designers on these (& other) topics. This episode includes a written interview with Roberto Chiavini, and an extended audio interview with Charles Vasey. The latter is the wonderful centerpiece of this episode. Plus, I always want to include some brief comments about my earlier poll, the other (non-ECW) wargames I've played, and upcoming plans.

So, you see? I managed to stuff a WHOLE LOT into this episode. Too much, probably. But as I say, I'm getting the hang of what I want to do with WGTG. Episode 4 will be smaller in scope, and quicker to publication, a promise I'm making to you & me both!

The games I played were Unhappy King Charles!, Winceby, Fairfax's Revenge: the battle of Langport 1645, Naseby: The End of a Reign, Cromwell's Victory: The Battle of Marston Moor, and Cruel Necessity. So you see that I have two strategic level games and three battle games (grand tactical level, I suppose). Along the way, that touches five game systems (CDGs, Markham's Royalists & Roundheads, Roberto Chiovani's TCS, SPI's 30YQ Quad, and States of Siege). Even at that, I'm obviously missing a major series of games on this topic, Ben Hull/GMT's Musket & Pike game, This Accursed Civil War.

Under the circumstances, I thought it best to get into the Vasey interview right away, since that's the centerpiece of this episode. Charles Vasey is someone I've observed with quite a bit of interest for a long while. His game design paradigm is notably different from most designers, and from most of the games I play, frankly. If you haven't read any of Charles' writings about chaos in (war)gaming, you absolutely should. Fascinating. Of course I wanted to interview Charles about his card-driven strategic level English Civil War game, Unhappy King Charles!. However, we also spoke about the history more generally, as well as Charles' other games such as The King's War, Chariot Lords, The 2010 Election, and Tsushima. Plus The Flowers of the Forest, one of his earlier games that was recently given a nice, new edition in Battles magazine.

Since it took me so long to get this episode out, a few other wargames NOT related to the ECW worked their way onto my table during this same time. There's Vasey's The Flowers of the Forest, but also Martin Wallace's euro-wargame hybrid Gettysburg (not much of a euro, as I'll discuss), Monitor vs Merrimack: Battle of Hampton Roads, 1862, Caesar XL,and Salvo!.

Board Game: Monitor vs Merrimack: Battle of Hampton Roads, 1862
Board Game: Salvo!
Board Game: Caesar XL
Board Game: Gettysburg
Board Game: The Flowers of the Forest


How much order versus chaos do you prefer in your wargaming?
Godlike knowledge, deterministic combat (e.g. Napoleon's Triumph)
Known map/units/reinforcements, probabilistic combat (e.g. Afrika Korps)
Uncertainty in activations, random events, or turn duration (e.g. Across 5 Aprils)
Event table or cards, friendly unit activations (e.g. Card Driven Games (CDGs))
Local commander independence (e.g. The Flowers of the Forest)
      67 answers
Poll created by MarkEJohnson

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

My VASSAL game of UKC, while I still had a chance!

I made rookie mistakes during Unhappy King Charles, but still had a couple shots at salvaging the game by bring Charles to battle. Unfortunately, despite winning those battles, I couldn't capture the king. Eventually he beat me back to just London and some towns to the east. A losing game, but a very enjoyable one.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Cruel Necessity, partially set up (or taking down, I don't recall)

As you know from episode 2 of this podcast, I enjoy several of the States of Siege series games. Combined with my new interest in the English Civil Wars, this new title should be a lock, right? Well, it wasn't for me. Not entirely. There's a LOT going on, which should please most people. After all, a "lot" in a States of Siege game is still very manageable compared to other big wargames. Also, it's really the only game I played that covers ALL of the English Civil Wars, as well as the political challenges & backdrop throughout. Sure, it's abstracted, but it still takes on more scope than other games here.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Royalist dragoons take aim at Cromwell's cavalry wing

Winceby had some good parts, notably the command system and real feeling of those dragoons, but the wristage in the combat system (and the command system, actually), combined with the uninspiring graphics (counters ok, map a big disappointment) means I won't be returning to this one. I wouldn't completely rule out other Royalists & Roundhead games, though.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Langport doesn't look like much, either, but the system played smoothly, and the single-sided, DIY/PNP counters worked well enough

I suppose the TCS games that I played could be called the "action movies" of the games I played, with simple rules and rapid fighting. But like better action movies, there was enough historical simulation that was recognizable from the research I'd done that it was good. Plus, some of the other games in the series look nicer.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Naseby uses similar rules & counters, but a much nicer map

Here you can see the whole setup. The chit-pull coffee cup for activations, simple charts, attractive map, and clear counters. This is the setup for the battle, with Parliament's forces in the foreground, on a low ridge. Infantry in the center, cavalry on the wings. That's Cromwell's group on the right, while on the other hill across the battlefield, Rupert's first-class cavalry waits on THEIR right wing.

From gallery of MarkEJohnson

My own replacement counters since I've misplaced the originals! They worked.

I read somewhere that Cromwell's Victory was from the SPI/TSR transition period for S&T, when a game designed & developed by the original wargame company was ultimately produced and released by the new owners.


Reference material
Revolutions podcast
YouTube: English Civil War - Cromwell
YouTube: English Civil War - Blood on Our Hands
YouTube: Battlefield Britain - Naseby
YouTube: Oliver Cromwell - King Killer
English Civil Wars on Wikipedia
In Our Time - The Trial of Charles I
Cromwell (film)
Vasey on Chaos in Gaming

English Civil War games discussed
Unhappy King Charles
Cruel Necessity
Winceby (Royalists & Roundheads system)
Fairfax's Revenge: the battle of Langport 1645
Naseby: The End of a Reign
Cromwell's Victory: The Battle of Marston Moor

Charles Vasey's games discussed
Unhappy King Charles
The King's War
Deathride: Mars-la-Tour 1870
Chariot Lords
The 2010 Election (and see Rick Heli's writeup)
The Flowers of the Forest

Roberto Chiavini's games discussed
I Obey: The Campaign of Bezzecca 1866
Innocence Lost: First Bull Run 1861
TCS English Civil War series
Edgehill: Dawning of the Revolution
Naseby: The End of a Reign
Montebello: First Step to Freedom
Acies Edizioni's games
Wargame Downloads.com
CSW 2014 Donation Drive, featuring Langport
Legion Wargames' games
High Flying Dice's games
Sports Replays titles by Roberto
TCS Thirty Years War series
TCS Battles of the Middle Ages System
Age of Dante (Postcards from Tuscany series)
Gliders from the Sky: The Fall of Eben Emael
Prussia Rising: The Franco-Prussian War
Christmas in Hell: the battle of Ortona
Maria Theresa
Souls of the Brave: the Epic of the Alamo

Other games discussed
Monitor vs Merrimack: Battle of Hampton Roads
Gettysburg (Martin Wallace)
The Flowers of the Forest
Caesar XL

From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson
From gallery of MarkEJohnson

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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