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Another month, another podcast! More important, another famous subject of military history. I'm planning to get through one topic per month to maximize my subjects to study & visit during my year in Europe. I have to say, though--this month illustrated that it doesn't me dive in as deeply as I'd like. As with most of you, I don't have a ton of time to get wargames on the table, especially during the week. Even with my focus on the small titles, they still take time. Especially if they require print & play preparations, and you feel the need to round counter corners.

 




Volko Ruhnke

 


Am I supposed to root for the Gauls? As an American of Swedish ancestry, who can say? As an engineer, though, I am in awe of the Roman army.


I picked Alesia for a few reasons. I didn't want to fall into the trap of focusing exclusively on WW2 battles while living here. Going all the way back to Ancients is a good cure for that. Sure enough, I quickly found the subject as fascinating as any from WW2. There was a whole lot to learn here, as much about the Gallic society as the Roman army and one particular battle. Some of my reading was about the individual battle, and some was about the entire Gallic War. There's a hot game right now that covers that broader conflict. Though I knew I wouldn't get to it myself just now, I was pleased to interview designer Volko Ruhnke and hear some of the design features and objectives of Falling Sky.

Alesia


Frédéric Bey

also offered me a chance to see the battlefield. At least, where we THINK the battle took place. I got to see the museum there, the reconstructions of Roman fortifications, and take in the view from the hilltop where Vercingetorix may have once stood in the oppidum of Alesia. There are some competing theories among historians for the location, though, so one wargame designer made a second title with the most prominent alternative. That designer is my other interview subject for the podcast, Frédéric Bey.

 





Movies
Ugh, are you sure you want to look at these? I didn't--they look terrible.
The Gaul (2001)
Caesar the Conqueror (1962)
Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar (1999) (Ok, not history, but any Frenchman will remember Asterix if you bring up Alesia)
The Conquerors - Episode 12: Caesar - Conqueror of Gaul (a "History Channel documentary," but a pretty good one)


Books
The Gallic War by Julius Caesar
Alesia 52 BC by Nic Fields
Caesar's Legion by Stephen Dando-Collins

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

-Mark

P.S. If you want to get started on my next topic, it will be The Battle of the Bulge.

Direct download: WGTG_9_-_Alesia.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:04am PST




Hermann Luttman

 


Mark at Dunkirk


I'm sticking to my guns, getting a single-episode podcast out within a month. No more topics that span multiple months and several episodes, at least not while I'm living in Europe. I very much want to work in MORE topics in my remaining months. As someone once said, quantity has a quality all its own...



Dunkirk is a more limited topic than most or all of my previous episodes. I decided to cover it--despite my desire to get away from WW2--because it was a place I visited recently. On a hot, humid weekend in Paris, my wife & I escaped to the coast. Dunkirk was about as far north as we could get, and it allowed exploration of this other key moment in history. We saw the city, visited the museum, and walked the beach. Later I read a book and some magazines, played a few games, and watched a few movies on the topic.

 



(Of course I'm very interested in Christopher Nolan's upcoming movie, too, but that won't be seen until next summer.)


Movies
Dunkirk (1958)
Atonement
Week-End à Zuydcoote


Books
Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord

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

-Mark

Direct download: WGTG_8_Dunkirk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:17am PST


Lee Brimmicombe-Wood


As much as I've enjoyed diving in deeply to the Battle of Britain as a topic--and I certainly have--I need to wrap it up and move on. This episode closes the series out with a bang, featuring two great interviews and my final thoughts about some games & films. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood is probably the top wargame designer today who focuses on air combat games, and you'd better believe he's thought about the Battle of Britain. We talk about his Burning Blue, Wing Leader, and historical analysis of the battle itself.


James Crate


Later I talk with James Crate, a listener who helpfully contacted me after my first episode in this Battle of Britain series. James is widely read on the topic, and has many book suggestions for us. Much of his career has been as a Naval Flight Officer, operating weapon systems in the back seat of F/A-18 or other aircraft. He brings a special perspective to wargaming air combat. You may be surprised to hear about his favorite title to play.


In addition to these two features, I talk about two final films and four more games (actually six more, if you include the two above that are mentioned in the interviews--if you listen you can hear me looking up Bag The Hun after James suggests it!). I think that's the right number. In truth, this process has taken so long that I'm kind of losing track. For the next episode, I'm going to be trying something different. As long as I'm living in France, I have the opportunity to visit fantastic sites for military history. It's only natural for me to want to explore them in wargames, and talk about that exploration on the podcast. But at my usual pace, I'd get to only one or two more topics during my next nine months over here. That's not enough! Topics like D-Day and Bulge are ones I definitely COULD dive into this deeply again, but for the next several months I'm going to try to aim for more breadth, less depth. A few weeks ago I visited the beach (and museum) at Dunkirk, and that's a great example for next time. I've got two films, one book, and three games on that topic. Manageable, right? We'll see...




Movies
Angles One Five
First Light

Books (special thanks to James Crate for these detailed recommendations)
Battle of Britain: A Day-by-day Chronicle, 10 July - 31 October 1940 by Patrick Bishop – As it says, gives a half page to a few pages on each day depending on activity. But there are numerous sidebars and asides that cover everything from personalities to tactics to underreported events. There is also a fair helping of brief first person accounts and after action reports of the day described. Fun to read one day at a time starting in July to “follow along” with the Battle. Get it in hard back (nicely illustrated in color).
The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the Battle of Britain by Stephen Bungay – Comprehensive, opinionated, well researched. If you read the notes, a great deal of the air combat analysis comes from the works of author Mike Spick whose books on air combat tactics are all recommended.
How the Spitfire Won the Battle of Britain by Dilip Sarkar – The author has an excellent understanding of the Spitfire and her pilots. A great deal of technical and tactical detail including a discussion of Luftwaffe bomber tactics which is under covered in other works. Challenges many assumptions about the share of the workload between the Hurricane and Spitfire. Highly recommended and available on Kindle. Beyond the Battle of Britain, all of Mr. Sarkar’s books on the Spitfire and its pilots are highly recommended.
Invasion, 1940: The Truth About the Battle of Britain and What Stopped Hitler by Derek Robinson - Challenges a lot of the assumptions about the invasion threat in 1940. There is a wide range of opinion on this book from revisionist cash grab to insightful reappraisal. If nothing else he is asking good questions and forcing the reader to reconsider or defend previously held beliefs. Available on Kindle and recommended.
Luftwaffe Fighters and Bombers: The Battle of Britain by Chris Goss – First-hand accounts by numerous Luftwaffe fighter and bomber pilots. A lot of detail from “the other side” not available anywhere else.
Spitfire on my Tail by Ulrich Steinhilper – Ulrich describes his missions as a fighter pilot before and during the Battle until being shot down and captured over England in October 1940. Great insight into the inner workings and organization of a Luftwaffe 109 squadron during 1940.

For first person accounts and flat out entertaining reading James recommends all of the following available on Kindle:
- Fighter Pilot by Paul Richey
- Fighter Boys: The Battle of Britain, 1940 by Patrick Bishop
- Arise To Conquer by Wing Commander Ian Gleed DSO DFC
- Ten Fighter Boys by W/C Athol & S/L Hubert
- Gun Button To Fire by Tom Neil
- First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies above Britain by Geoffrey Wellum

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

-Mark

 

Direct download: WGTG_7-3_Battle_of_Britain_The_Hardest_Day.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:02am PST

I'm not sure why I called this episode Adlertag. I guess it's to bookend my discussion & exploration of the Battle of Britain. Last time was just the intro, but by now I've started. Hence, the Eagle Day reference. You can bet that episode 7.3 will be The Hardest Day, and that will be that. It took me so long to get to this one because I've been distracted. I played games, read books, watched movies, and recorded two great interviews that you'll hear. (Plus a third interview I'm saving for 7.3.) And then...I found out I'm moving to France. This is a temporary reassignment for work, a very exciting opportunity for my wife & I (kids are in college, staying here), and it's meant that my free time evaporated due to preparations. Those are mostly finished now, and I had a window of opportunity to finish the recording & editing for this podcast. Whew!

Doug Adams
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I'm super excited to interview designer Ben Knight, who may not have been on anyone else's wargame podcast yet. Ben designed a game I discussed in my first Wargames To Go episode, the double-blind game about Across the Potomac. I would've been happy to hear him discuss anything, including that old Command Magazine game, but what I really was after was a talk about his Battle of Britain game, London's Burning. He tells some stories about its development, and I think it provides a window into his approach as a designer. Good stuff. Some day I'll play his Victory at Midway and perhaps I can have him back on the show then.

Besides the designer of London's Burning, I interview another fan of the game, my friend Doug Adams. Doug denies he's a wargamer, but I know otherwise. Doug is someone I've known online for 20 years...but we've never met or even spoken to each other before this interview. He's in Australia, and I'm in California (until I'm in France!).




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

 


Movies
Battle of Britain
First of the Few
Mrs. Miniver
The One That Got Away
Reach for the Sky
Piece of Cake



-Mark

P.S. Time to fess up--if my voice sounds funny when I say "Ben Knight," it's because in post-production I kept saying the name of another wargame designer, Ben Hull. Oops! Had to fix that. The recording was made in a variety of settings, some outside, some over dodgy Skype connections. I pieced it all together like Doctor Frankenstein, and I hope the end result is good enough. I thought it was.

Direct download: WGTG_7-2_Battle_of_Britain_Adlertag.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:04pm PST

Time for a new series! I've already started into several games, movies, and books about the Battle of Britain, and this intro podcast will catch you up with my plans. It's an audio version of the discussion thread and geeklist detailing the explorations I'm doing with this topic.

Also, up front I wanted to point out that I'll be heading to GMT's warehouse weekend event in a few days. If you'll also be there and listen to my podcast, look me up! At least say high and get yourself a podcast listener button. I'll have them onhand for both of my podcasts. As of this writing, I think I've got games lined up for Wild Blue Yonder, Liberty or Death, War in the Wind, and Fading Glory. I'd love to try Hitler's Reich, and may have already told my friends I'd give Talon a try. Between those plans, and some inevitable fillers, I bet I'm already over-subscribed for the weekend! I'm really looking forward to it.

-Mark

 

Direct download: WGTG_7-1_Battle_of_Britain_Introduction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:29pm PST

With this episode, I'm wrapping up my exploration of the opening of WW2 in the Pacific. What started with Pearl Harbor and a vacation to Hawaii expanded into an education via games, films, and books about the many offensives launched by Imperial Japan on that fateful day.

It opens with my interview of friend & wargame designer/developer, Steve Carey. Steve won the Charles S. Roberts award for We Must Tell The Emperor, his small-format solo game about the entire Pacific war--which I discussed in episode 2. (He won the award a second time for an analysis article in C3i magazine.)

Then I go on to discuss a bunch of games I played on these topics, followed by movies, books, and even some sites visited.

 

-Mark

Direct download: WGTG_6-4_A_Month_of_Infamy_Philippines_Wake_Singapore.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:20am PST

Even though this podcast series is covering ALL the offensives Imperial Japan launched in December 1941, most of first think of the raid on Pearl Harbor. It was the impetus for me to start learning about all of these other offensives, too. In this "chapter" episode, I'll cover my own visit to Pearl Harbor, books & films that relate to the infamous event, and a few games, too. 

Direct download: WGTG_6-3_A_Month_of_Infamy_Pearl_Harbor.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:29pm PST

Continuing with my new idea of releasing incremental episodes of my podcast that all deal with the same subject, here's the second one about the events of December 1941 in the Pacific. The main feature is my interview with game designer Mark Herman. At the end I decided to record my reply to the recent Bonding with Board Games/HAMTAG episode "Top 5 Wargames That Made Me the Grog I Am Today."

Ogre/GEV

Air Force

Up Front

Strategy & Tactics magazine

Panzerschreck magazine

Remember to follow along & chime in on my discussion thread (and geeklist) for all of my Month of Infamy/December 41 thoughts & explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo) and Facebook. Feedback is always welcome.

-Mark

Direct download: WGTG_6-2_-_2015-11-08_-_A_Month_of_Infamy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:47pm PST

Here's that new idea I was talking about--the first of smaller episodes that get released as I go on my exploration of a topic. Not much in the way of links & notes, as you can find those in the discussion thread and geeklist, above. I'm still figuring out how, exactly, I want to do this new format. Feedback is always welcome.

-Mark

Direct download: WGTG_6-1_-_2015-10-07_-_A_Month_of_Infamy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:08pm PST

 




Timestamps (approximate)

12:09 - Andrew Hobley interview (Bicentennial Waterloo gaming)
38:25 - Pete Belli interview (One-Minute Waterloo)
1:02:45 - Books & Films
1:19:45 - Paul Comben interview (Waterloo wargaming)
1:59:30 - Games I played




Maybe now I'm getting the hang of this, not biting off more than I can chew for the the next episode. Might be fewer films & games discussed here, though then again maybe that's not true. Regardless, this episode didn't swamp me as much as other "recent" ones have. Getting one of those episodes out every few months would work well with me, because that's about the pace that I want to explore new topics in military history.

This time I'm digging into another historical anniversary--the bicentennial of Waterloo. That happened earlier this summer, on June 18. I'd played a few Waterloo titles already, and more came after that date. I saw some films/docs, and found others. I listened to a couple audiobooks, read magazine & Wikipedia articles, and flipped through some library books.

I also interviewed some gamers. Three of them, in fact, and I think you'll enjoy their stories. I've participated in some wargame anniversaries before, but this one was different. It seemed to me there was more participation by wargamers around the world. Very fun to be a part of that! It was through reading interesting reports & opinions from other anniversary wargamers that led to these interviews. Andrew Hobley played a BUNCH of Napoleonic wargames on their bicentennials, so Waterloo was the culmination of his experience. You may have seen his fantastic session reports here on BGG. Pete Belli is an active hobbyist that a lot of people know. He's been playing for a long while, and has worked on many of his own designs, too, including One-Minute Waterloo. That's no joke--one minute. The design goal & process is interesting. Finally, Paul Comben has posted detailed analyses of several Waterloo titles over on The Boardgaming Way and The Boardgaming Life (two similar-sounding sites that are actually distinct). He shares some of his observations.







The Waterloo battlefield is another I've been fortunate to visit. This was back in 2012, part of the same trip mentioned previously that took in other sites along the Franco-German-Low Countries border. Here I am doing my impression of Sous-Lieutenant Legros, only where he had an ax I had an iPhone. (Plus, I took this photo at the wrong gate!)



-Mark

P.S. Here's what's coming up next on Wargames To Go: games, films, and books about the events of December, 1941 in the Pacific! That means Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Wake Island, and Force Z. Check out my geeklist for notes.


Links

Wargames To Go 5 - Waterloo notes Geeklist

Andrew Hobley's Bicentennial replay
Pete Belli's One-Minute Waterloo
Paul Comben's articles on The Boardgaming Way, and The Boardgaming Life


Books
Napoleon: A Life, by Andrew Roberts
Waterloo: The True Story of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles, by Bernard Cornwell
Wikipedia (Battle of Waterloo)

Films & Docs
Waterloo
Napoleon (1955)
Sean Bean on Waterloo
The Duellists


 





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Direct download: WGTG_5_-_2015-09-10_-_Waterloo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:12pm PST