Wargames To Go










March 2018
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Timestamps (approximate)

   8:37 - Ted Raicer interview

  59:18 - Books & Films

1:12:30 - Games

1:32:11 - Visiting the battlefields


I sort of did it to myself again, aspiring to play more games and learn more about the subject matter of this episode. I swear I'm getting calibrated on myself, though, and have big plans to think smaller next time.


Historic anniversaries in wargaming are appealing to me, because the occasion often leads to the some of hobby community focusing on the same topic. It gets discussed online, good games are suggested, and sometimes there are even new books & documentaries that become available. That was certainly true for 2014's centennial of the start of World War 1. I jumped in, finally reading Barbara Tuchman's famous Guns of August (well, it was an unabridged audiobook), listening to podcasts, watching several dramatic films & documentaries, and playing several wargames. Plus, I was lucky enough to visit some of these battlegrounds on a vacation last summer, which I discuss at the end.

When wargamers think of WW1, they probably think of designer Ted Raicer and his many games on the subject. Although Ted's games are typically much larger than the small ones I prefer personally, I still had to try at least one of Ted's games. Even better, Ted was willing to be interviewed for my podcast! We talk about the hobby, but what I really wanted from him was his insight as a historian about The Great War. 

I can't speak highly enough about The Guns of August. It's a Pulitzer-winning classic of history and literature for a reason. It's that good. I certainly thought so, anyway. It taught me a lot about this period in history. So did Joe Miranda's companion magazine article  in Strategy & Tactics to his game, Reinforce the Right! I really appreciate the connection between wargame and history that is most exemplified in our hobby's magazine articles.

Returning to something I first planned for this podcast, I tried to see a number of films that relate to the subject. Unlike with the games I played, here I was a bit looser about the particular period of the war depicted. Though my gaming focus was just on the western front in 1914, in films I took in the entire war, the "over the top" hellscapes of 1916-17, and even some theaters away from France. Some of these films are well-known, others less so. I was helped by a foreign film series put on by my local community college. I'm so glad that introduced me to La Grande Illusion, for example. (Less thrilled with Oh! What a Lovely War.)

Besides the dramatic films, there were three outstanding documentaries I viewed, as well. The Guns of August was a doc I never knew existed as a companion to the book. The other two were outstanding works from BBC. 

As for the games I played, they're mostly smaller offerings. That's always my preference, and was easy to find more than enough games to choose from. Too many, in fact. Before and during my "research phase" I used a geeklist to list & comment on the games I played, or why I wasn't getting to some others.

The games I played were Paths of Glory, 1914: Opening Moves, We Shall Fight on the Marne, La fleur au fusil, août 1914, Reinforce the Right!, France 1914, and Over the Top! Mons. Some of these games are lighter (some of them quite light/small), but not all of them. This is another aspect of the podcast I'm starting to figure out--just focusing on the games that are best for me. But how could I have skipped Paths of Glory?! I couldn't. (I forgot to discuss one more tiny wargame I tried, ATO's postcard game Fateful Days. It was too minimalist, even for me.)

Finally I wrap up with some description of the WW1 sites I've been fortunate enough to visit. In 2012 I went to Verdun and the surrounding area, while in 2014 I went to the Marne and saw different sites. Both visits were very moving. Here are a few photos. (By the way, on the podcast I say that the best preserved/restored WW1 trenches are in Ypres, but I misspoke--they're at Vimy Ridge.)


Direct download: WGTG_4_-_2015-06-04_-_Western_Front_1914.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:23pm PST

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

"Charles Vasey"

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! WincebyFairfax's Revenge: the battle of Langport 1645Naseby: The End of a ReignCromwell'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 WarChariot LordsThe 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, 1862Caesar XL,and Salvo!.

Direct download: WGTG_3_-_2014-10-06_-_English_Civil_War.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:52am PST

Well, shoot, that was a longer interval than I'd planned. But here, finally, is the second episode of my wargame podcast. As before, the episode features me talking about broader topics in the first half, then transitioning to discussion about individual titles in the second. In between I've got an interview with wargame designer Darin Leviloff, too.

The focus of the episode are the [url=http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamefamily/3245/victory-point-games-states-of-siege-series]States of Siege[/url] family of solitaire games published by [company=8007]Victory Point Games[/company]. In all of these the player is assaulted from multiple sides, and can't really maneuver. Instead, you fight off the attackers as long as possible. The system has been used for subjects ranging from Imperial Japan in WW2 to a zombie horde to the French Revolution. Though they are simple and abstract (some would argue whether they're wargames at all--I say they are), the card-driven play presents a narrative that is fantastic for learning about the subject. I'm eagerly looking forward to another in this series about the English Civil War.

Speaking of the ECW, that will probably be the focus of my next episode. I'm very interested in the topic right now, having my imagination fired by Mike Duncan's excellent podcast [url=http://www.revolutionspodcast.com/]Revolutions[/url]. Along those lines, I also describe other subjects I'm considering for upcoming podcasts. I welcome your feedback.

And speaking of feedback, I received some good emails that I share on this episode. That's something I've done from time to time on my other podcast, [url=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/1215]Boardgames To Go[/url]. I think of it as the "letters" column you'd often find in a wargame magazine or newsletter. Since some of the feedback asks a question, you can hear my answer and suggest something else to the person who wrote in.

Direct download: WGTG_2_-_2014-01-29_-_States_of_Siege.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:33am PST

The first episode of my first podcast about smaller wargames, I spend some time introducing myself and my wargame interests, then proceed to cover three different games about the battle of Gettysburg.

Direct download: WGTG_1_-_2013-07-16_-_Intro__Gettysburg.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:34pm PST