Mon, 29 June 2015
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.)