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February 2018
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Syndication

Intro show about the latest topic for WGTG - the Korean War

Direct download: WGTG_15-1_Korean_War_Introduction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:25am PST


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.

Direct download: WGTG_14-3_French__Indian_War_Martin_Wallace_interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am PST

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.

Direct download: WGTG_14-2_French__Indian_War_Volko_Ruhnke_interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:18pm PST

In the final quarter of 2017 I'm concentrating on the French & Indian War. This first episode is an introduction, giving me a chance to take my listeners along for this ride in history. Perhaps you'll jump onboard and experience some of these games or movies with me.


Hand-drawn map by George Washington, accompanying a printing of the journal he kept of his 1753 expedition into the Ohio Country.


I realize that what I'm calling the French & Indian War is really the North American theater of the Seven Years War (sometimes nicknamed World War Zero), when France and England battled for global dominance throughout the newly expanding colonial world. There were conflicts in mainland Europe, too. I'm not exploring those--I'm just looking at the conflicts of Quebec, Fort William Henry, the forks of the Ohio, the siege of Louisbourg, and so on. However, my reading about the French & Indian WAR (singular) has quickly reminded me that this conflict from 1754-1763 was preceded by a few other wars between roughly the same sides: English colonies versus the French & Indian-allied forces. I have a suspicion I'll be looking into those, too.

One thing that jumped out at me when I created this subject's geeklist is how many good light/short/hybrid wargames there are on it. From Quebec 1759 (Columbia's first block wargame in 1972!) to A Few Acres of Snow or 1754 Conquest (published in 2011 & 2017, respectively), there are a bunch of great choices for wargamers like me that prefer the lighter end of our hobby. I'm still curious about larger hexmap wargames, and the famous CDG on this topic, too.


Map of Louisbourg and its artillery batteries in 1751.


In the podcast I get to talk about the games I saw & played at the recent GMT Weekend at the Warehouse event, too. This is practically in my back yard (a 3-hour drive), so I hope to continue to go to this event once or twice per year. Next month I'll also be going to BGGcon in Dallas, where I'll be playing both wargames and euros. Hope to see you there! Say hi and ask for a podcast button to display proudly!


-Mark



This 1797 engraving is based on a sketch made by Hervey Smyth, General Wolfe's aide-de-camp during the siege of Quebec. A view of the taking of Quebec, 13th September 1759.



Movies
Last of the Mohicans (1992)
Last of the Mohicans (1920) silent
Northwest Passage more about Robert's Rangers than the passage
Fort Ti I think this is on YouTube
Barry Lyndon I know this is European Seven Year War, but it's also Kubrick


 




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.

Direct download: WGTG_14-1_French__Indian_War_Intro.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:03pm PST


It's been an interesting couple months, delving into the Franco-Prussian War, including the events the led to it, and the after effects. It definitely feels like a historical pivot that transformed the Europe of Napoleon's time into the European political landscape that we still know today...and one that had such tragedy awaiting it in the 20th century. However, it wasn't a World War. It wasn't even a war that engulfed most of Europe as the Napoleonic ones had. This was contained, with neutrality and borders respected.

I have the pleasure to interview Charles Vasey again for this episode. He designed a game about one of the war's most famous battles--but one that's tricky to treat with traditional wargame design & play thinking. Although now it's easy to find his game in issue #24 of Against The Odds magazine, in the 1990s it was a DTP/PNP title, back when those took more work to find, acquire, and enjoy. Before its time! It was a great opportunity to speak with Charles about his game, and more generally about innovation in wargame design.



As usual, my ambitions to play many games on a topic exceeded my available time. That's ok. Some I played all the way through, others I set up and studied the rules, and some others I merely purchased (or already had)! I remind myself that this is my hobby, not my job. While it would be fun to keep exploring this topic, there are so many wargaming subjects I've yet to explore that I have to move on.

Charles mentioned that there didn't used to be very much literature about the FP War in the English language, but this has changed in the past twenty years. That has enabled a flowering of good games on the subject, too. As for the film, though, the pickings are still slim. On the other hand, that obscurity led me to find different films & formats that were interesting discoveries in themselves.



I think you'll hear in this episode how I'm coming to embrace the fact that the games themselves are a jumping-off point for me for a topic. It was where I started, and the hobby remains the core of my historical interest. However, as I've gotten back into wargaming for the past several years, I'm realizing that I'm energized by learning and thinking about these topics for a few months, exploring them through various "media" (wargames, movies), considering their impact on world history, and then moving on to another subject. Very rewarding.

-Mark

P.S. The first weekend in October I'll be at GMT's Weekend at the Warehouse event in Hanford, California. Later in November I'm returning to BGGcon in Dallas, Texas. If any listeners go to either of these events, too, please track me down and let me know. I'd love to hear what you think. (I may be part of a podcaster panel discussion at BGGcon, too. Details are still being worked out.) I'll have buttons/badges for both of my podcasts that you can pin to your shirt, game bag, or whatever.


Movies (as listed before, plus...)
Bismarck (also on YouTube)


Books
A Day of Battle by David Ascoli

 




Jump onto my geeklist/discussion) for the next subject of my podcast, the French & Indian War. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.

Direct download: WGTG_13-2_Franco-Prussian_War_Conclusion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm PST

Now that I'm back for good and getting a handle on things, I want to try returning to an earlier "format" I had for the podcast. That is, a small series of shorter episodes on each topic while I'm exploring it. That way, I don't excite my listeners about a topic just as I'm leaving it behind (the way it happens with those longer, mega-episodes). I did this a few times before, and I'm trying it again. I'd appreciate feedback on this approach.


My one "leftover" topic from my time living in France is the Franco-Prussian War. Twelve months ago I took several games on this topic with me overseas, but I didn't get to them until I moved back home. That's not to say that I didn't see a few sites that relate to the war in some way, or didn't think about it while I was there. I did. However, the games I'm just getting to.

The FP War is one of those topics I only had the slimmest of notions about before I became a historical wargamer. I knew the approximate time period, that it led to German taking the territory, and that this also led to the hostilities of World War One. I supposed I'd heard of the Paris Commune, but its connection to the FP War was very fuzzy in my mind. Well, as I always love about this hobby & podcast project, I'm now learning a lot more. Peeling back another layer of the onion of history, since there are always so many connections to events before & after.

The games I'm just getting to, and there are several good ones (large & small) that you may want to explore with me. Books, magazines, podcasts are well underway. Movies...well that's a tough one. In my podcast I forgot to mention Fall of Eagles, a BBC miniseries(?) from the 1970s that includes some of the important diplomatic events. But films that actually cover the war are proving nearly impossible to identify and locate. If you've got suggestions, please let me know.


-Mark




Movies
Fall of Eagles (also on YouTube!)
La Commune (Paris, 1871)
1864 not even FP War, but the Second Schleswig War between Prussia & Denmark is pretty close
1871 just discovered this is on Amazon Prime
New Babylon silent from from Soviet Union, available on YouTube
Last Cartridges A historical artifact in itself! An 1897 one-minute silent from from Georges Méliès
Field of Honour

I'm also still looking for more films associated the FP War and Paris Commune as identified on Wikipedia.


Books
The Fall of Paris by Alistair Horne


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

Direct download: WGTG_13-1_Franco-Prussian_War_Introduction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:39pm PST




While living & working in France I tried to do a couple things with this podcast. One was to focus on topics that were most relevant to my new surroundings. The other was to post smaller shows every month. Well, I succeeded at one of those goals. This episode is long overdue, but it's most assuredly about a French topic: the Hundred Years War fought across much of the country against the Kingdom of England during the years 1337-1453.


Over two months ago my assignment in France came to an end, and my wife & I returned to our home in Southern California. It was a wonderful, fantastic experience & opportunity to live over there. I had a day job, sure (one that got pretty intense near the end, which is part of why this episode is late). I had almost all weekends off, though, and we made the most of them. We went on lots of day-trips and a few overnight trips. Lots of them naturally radiated out from Paris where we lived, and that happened to correspond to the "northern theater" for the Hundred Years War. Joan of Arc is a historic figure whose path we crossed more than once. What a perfect topic for an episode! I knew very little about the topic before this exploration, and you know how drawn I am to that aspect of our hobby: learning history through wargames.

As always, the episode is a medley of discussions about the historic period, games I played about, books & movies, and famous sites visited. When another expat wargamer coincidentally tweeted that he was also playing the obscure(?) Against The Odds magazine game about the naval battle that opened the war...the same one I had on my table...I asked him to be my interview subject. Casey Nedry is an American wargamer living in another country, too, only his country is on the opposite side of the world--Japan.


Learning my lesson from the previous episode, I begin this one with a quick summary about the historic event. (In fact, I may later go back to my Spanish Civil War episode and record its own historic intro/overview.) To be honest, I'd feel a little foolish & inadequate doing this about something as well known as the Battle of the Bulge, but perhaps I should try anyway. It's good practice to boil down all of my reading & other research into a few paragraphs, and it helps to catch all of us up to the same understanding. Of course, if you think I've missed something in my overview, please let me know in the comments.

The Hundred Years War was a big deal for western civilization. It took place during (perhaps caused) a societal transformation from warlord-like feudal states and limited warfare into the earliest forms of nationalism and professional armies since the Roman era. It's part of what made England England, and it's definitely what made France France!

Joan of Arc (or Jeanne d'Arc) is a fascinating historic figure all by herself. I admit to having only a vague notion of her before this topic. I think I understood that she was a real person with real facts about her life, not so legendary as...say...Robin Hood. But I didn't really get how much of the exploits in her brief life were definitely documented. That was an eye-opener. At times it felt like our times in 2016-2017 France were crisscrossing those "The Maid of Orléans" nearly six hundred years earlier. Amazing.


-Mark

P.S. If you want to get started on my next topic, it will be the Franco-Prussian War.




Movies
Henry V (1944) with Laurence Olivier
Henry V (1989) with Kenneth Branaugh
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Joan of Arc (1999)
Joan of Arc (1948) with Ingrid Bergman
The Messenger (1999)
Timeline (2003)
Black Death (2010)
Wounded (2011)


Books
A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman
The Hundred Years' War 1337-1453 by Anne Curry
The Hundred Years War by Robin Neillands

Podcast
A History of Europe, Key Battles

Discussion Threads
Longbow "technology"
Political-military strategy of the chevauchée in 100YW

 

Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my 100YW explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.
Direct download: WGTG_12_-_Hundred_Years_War.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:58am PST

 




Javier Romero
David Gómez Relloso

I've been trying to get these episodes out every month, knowing that it's a bit too much for me. Finally the dam burst in January, making this episode a bit late. I'm still going to keep pushing, in order to fit in as many topics as I can while temporarily living in France. But this may happen again.

Originally the topic for January was going to be something else, a location I thought I'd visit around the Christmas holidays. That fell through, which was disappointing. Then my son in his twenties started talking to me about Homage To Catalonia, and the light bulb went on. By shifting my topic to the Spanish Civil War, I could learn about another important European event in world history, as well as have some great conversations with my son about that amazing book's observations. A win-win! The only downside is that my current schedule hasn't allowed me to go visit any of the battlefields or other locations of this period in Spanish history. Perhaps someday.

As usual, my ambition for the project outstripped my available time. I've since decided that these monthly topics are going to focus on one film, one book, and one game. I will hopefully go beyond that in most months, but this is a more realistic goal for me. I'll still identify more games on the geeklist, because listeners may wish to hear about other titles. Even better, you may tell me about your experiences playing the ones I;m unable to get to.

Most of all, I want to keep up the pattern of featuring an interview in each podcast. I find these really fascinating, and I bet they make for better listening than my voice alone the entire time. Plus, I'm usually able to hear from wargamers who are much more knowledgeable about the current topic. I already knew I had some Spanish followers on Twitter, and in record time they set me up with a joint interview of two Spanish wargame designers--Javier Romero & David Gómez Relloso--with written input from a third (Niko Eskubi, who I promise to have on a future episode, too).

You'll hear in the episode that my own explorations of the topic were complicated. I'll avoid the hyperbole of saying that my own country is veering toward fascism now. I don't actually believe that. However, it IS true that recent events have given me more cause to study this subject than ever before. Regardless of our political differences, I'm certain that all Americans want to avoid authoritarianism. We pride ourselves as a country that benefited from a clean slate from which Enlightenment thinkers were able to craft a government. Part & parcel of that Enlightenment founding is an informed population--one that reads, debates, and thinks independently. For my own part, I've felt the need to study the roots of fascism and authoritarianism, to understand why something that ends up so universally abhorred can start slowly and attract followers who simply want more order and a growing economy...but fall victim to false promises and scapegoating.

It's been an important topic, as well as one I'm happy to take a break from. I suspect I will return to it later in life.

-Mark

P.S. If you want to get started on my next topic, it will be the Hundred Years War.




Movies
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943)
The Good Fight (1984)
There Be Dragons (2011)


Books
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

 

Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my SCW explorations. If you're a wargamer on social media, follow me on Twitter (@WargamesToGo). Feedback is always welcome.
Direct download: WGTG_11_-_Spanish_Civil_War.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:50am PST




M10 Tank Destroyer
at Bastogne's Mardasson Memorial
John Butterfield

When it comes to this podcast, December means two things: a desire to replay the Bulge, and holiday busy-ness. It happens every year. This time, in 2016, I'm just as busy as ever, but the podcast commitment meant I pushed forward to play some Bulge games. Not as many as I would've liked, but enough for the episode. Besides, you've heard how the real focus of my podcasts nowadays are the interviews. I'm learning that the fast, one-month pace I'm keeping for these episodes always compresses my gaming time, but I can still get the podcast out on-time by relying on the interview. It's working.

Knowing December would probably not allow me to visit a historic location, I also picked Bulge because it's a place I've visited previously. Back in 2012 I went on a father-son trip before my son went to college, and we visited Bastogne, spent the night in Luxembourg, went to a top Bulge museum, and even saw that cheesy movie. At the time I wasn't doing a wargame podcast, but I included a whole lot about that trip in my longstanding eurogame podcast. You might want to check that out, too.

This time, though, I can still talk about another film or two, some light games I've played, and--most of all--feature an interview with designer John Butterfield. In our discussion I had a focus on his famous digital game from Shenandoah/Slitherine called Battle of the Bulge, the one that launched the Crisis in Command series. I've played a ton of it, and have enjoyed jumping back in again. Besides that title, John talks about the Bulge in general, his Enemy Action Ardennes game, and some other stories from his extensive history in the hobby. I know you'll like it.

There are a few books I've read on this venerable topic, notably Antony Beevor's Ardennes 1944. Some of the best material I read came from Strategy & Tactics magazine, along with World at War. I learned about the Premium library subscription offered by Decision Games, which lets me access the entire library of SPI/Decision's magazines (no games). Wow! What a goldmine. Along with the article index, I can quickly find which issues contain articles on Bulge/Ardennes, and read those. Danny Parker's extensive articles from 1978 were fantastic.


 



Movies
The Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Band of Brothers (2001) episodes 6 and 7 focus on the Bulge
Everyman's War (2009)
Battleground (1949)
The Big Red One (1980)
A Midnight Clear (1992)
Saints and Soldiers (2003)


Books
Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor

 

 


The steep review valleys of the Ardennes . . . and a display at Diekirch's National Museum of Military History



Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Bulge 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 Spanish Civil War.

Direct download: WGTG_10_-_Bulge.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:43pm PST

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