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December 2017
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Syndication

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

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