Wargames To Go

At long last, the interview with author and game designer, Joe Balkoski. He's been on my podcast before, when we talked about The Korean War. At that time we made plans for his return when I dove into D-Day games. Besides designing some notable games on the subject, Joe has had an entire second career (his main career, really) of writing books on the subject. It's no exaggeration to say he is the definitive expert on US 29th Infantry Division and it's actions on Omaha Beach and beyond into Normandy, the rest of France, and Europe.

I had the opportunity to interview Joe, and this time it wasn't at the end of a Skype line. This time I was able to meet him at his workplace, the home of the Maryland National Guard at Baltimore's Fifth Regiment Armory. It's right there on 29th Division Street in downtown Baltimore, and you'll hear what a fortuitous role it played in Joe's life.

With this episode, I'm wrapping up my drawn-out series on D-Day. After the Balkoski interview I talk about some battle games played that were "beyond the beachhead," covering the Battle of Mortain. As well as a few titles that don't have anything to do with D-Day at all: they're in here because my trip to Maryland/Virginia included some local sightseeing and inspired the play of these other games. I've had a little more time to think about what makes or breaks a good, short, small wargame. I'll share my thoughts, and would especially welcome any discussion on that subject.

I think in my previous episode I toyed with the idea of stopping my podcasts. I no longer think I'm going to do that. Although future Wargames To Go episodes may no longer follow the multi-episode format for a "quarter" (or so) per topic, I'll still do something. I'm still figuring out what. Right now I know I want to play a couple different Long Range Desert Group games I've acquired. Both are solitaire titles. Then it's high time I learned some basics about the Eastern Front, and what better time to try that than in winter. Maybe I want to squeeze a Bulge game in around Christmas, too. Hmmm...



If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback is always welcome.

Direct download: WGTG_16-3_D-Day_Conclusion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:13pm PDT

A solo episode this time. That interview with author and designer Joe Balkoski is still coming, but not quite yet. He's got the little matter of his own retirement and a well-deserved vacation to deal with first. Ok, no problem, I just recorded this episode to record more thoughts about a variety of D-Day games I've played. Then I get to share my own travelogue from my visit to Normandy in 2014.

Playing those games, it got me thinking about smaller wargames, in general. Every so often there's a discussion posted online (here on BGG, perhaps in the wargaming twitterspace, or something else) where a gamer asks if there are any good, shorter wargames out there. YES! There are LOTS of them. These are the games I seek out. However, they often are less well known, because for many years the hobby has focused on the beefier end of the spectrum when it comes to wargames. It's easier to find monster wargames (see? they even have a term for it) than shorter ones.

Yet the shorter ones are out there. New wargamers tiptoeing into the hobby may ask for them, but just as often it's an experienced wargamer who still wants to enjoy the hobby but cannot host weekend-long setups any longer. Weeknight Wargames is what I tried to call them. Ones you can play in 1-3 hours. Whatever they're called, they can be found. One of these days I need to make my own geeklist with suggestions. When I do, I'll link to it here.

If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo.



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

Direct download: WGTG_16-2_D-Day_Continued.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:20pm PDT

At long last I’m getting to the D-Day episodes. It may seem long to you because I skipped last month (April). But it’s a lot longer than that. I visited the Normandy beaches on vacation back in 2014. I figured I’d record a podcast about that and play some related games soon after. Then when I went to live in France from 2016-2017, I brought a number of Normandy games with me, again thinking I’d get to them. In both cases, other things took their place, and my D-Day podcast was pushed back & back. Now, though, I’m getting to do it, and synced up with the anniversary of the battle. (I always prefer to play wargames around the anniversary of their battles, because the weather outside fits the action on the map a little closer.)

In this episode I briefly mention the books & movies listed below, talk about my recent time at GMT’s Weekend at the Warehouse, then dive into the extensive geeklist of games I aspire to tackle on this subject. I never get to ALL of them, but already I’ve made more of a dent than I’d hoped. It helps that there are SO many D-Day/Normandy games to choose from. That includes some famous biggies, but also quite a number of smaller wargames, as I prefer.

There’s no historical intro to the subject this time—-I’d feel silly doing that, and assume all wargamers geeky enough to seek out my podcast already know plenty about this famous battle. I did, too, but have been very pleased to learn a lot more details that previously escaped me. Especially about the fighting in Normandy to expand the beachhead and create the breakout. Operations Goodwood, Spring, and Cobra are exciting parts of the story I knew less about before this podcast.



Saving Private Ryan
The Longest Day
Band of Brothers (episodes Day of Days and Carentan)
Storming Juno

D-Day, by Anthony Beevor
Parachute Infantry, by David Kenyon Webster
Six Armies in Normandy, by John Keegan
Beyond the Beachhead, by Joe Balkoski

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

Direct download: WGTG_16-1_D-Day_Introduction.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:10pm PDT

To wrap up my series on the Korean War, I've got a shorter episode featuring just me talking about the games I played. I never get to as many as I'd like--my geeklists are aspirational and for reference rather than predictive!--and the same is true of movies. Nonetheless, my exploration of this subject has been a satisfying one. I went into it not knowing much about the conflict that inaugurated the Cold War, and the defining historical event of my father's generation. Between games, books, movies, magazines, and other podcasts, I now understand considerably more.

What I enjoy most of all is that I feel like I "get" the overall narrative arc of this piece of history. There's the war itself, with its milestone events (invasion, retreat, Pusan perimeter defense, amphibious invasion to the rear at Inchon, reversal of the invasion, Chinese intervention, retreat from the Yalu and escape from Chosin...). There's also the political machinations going on from the end of WW2 to this episode.

Once again, I'm struck by how much I enjoy the old/traditional style of wargaming, with its hexmaps, ZOCs, OOBs, and reinforcement schedules. Even plain, old IGO-UGO rules systems. I recognize those systems have their limitations, but they really help me learn more about a subject. In a related way, I confirmed for myself that I don't really care for tactical systems. When they include the things that are necessary at that scale (LOS, opportunity fire, etc.), I just find that the game rules get in the way of my appreciation of the game and its depictions.





Remember to follow along & chime in on my geeklist/discussion) for all of my Korean 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 D-Day, check out its own geeklist.

Direct download: WGTG_15-3_Korean_War_Conclusion.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:05pm PDT

This quarter I finally get to tackle a subject that's been on my to-do list for years: the Korean War. I wanted to this topic because of a connection to my father, and because I previously knew so little about it. Several years ago, when I was just getting back into wargaming after a long hiatus, the military history book club run by Hungadunga here on BGG read The Coldest Winter, by David Halberstam. I was blown away by the story. As the nickname goes, the Korean War was kind of The Forgotten War for me. Except that I'd never really learned much about it in the beginning to forget. Thanks to the book and discussion here at BGG, I learned a great deal.

My dad passed away one month ago, as of the date I'm writing this blog. He didn't share my love of wargames, but he DID instill my interest in military history. We watched many PBS and History Channel programs together, as well as war movies. We talked about history and politics. The Korean War was from his era, when he served as jet engine mechanic for B-47 Stratojets in the USAF. No, those jets didn't fly in that war. They came just after. They were the United States first strategic jet bomber. The momentous first year of the Korean War coincided with my dad's senior year in high school. I'm sure he & his buddies were thinking about their futures as they heard and watched news stories about the retreat, advances, more retreats, and bitter winter fighting for the Army and Marines. A separate USAF was itself only three years old when the Korean War broke out. He went to college for a couple years, then enlisted in that new Air Force. My dad went through basic training during the war's final months, and the armistice was signed shortly after. That makes him a veteran of the Korean War era, rather than the war itself. Instead, he & his generation were the first "cold warriors" of General Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command.


My dad, Dale Johnson (1933-2018). Served in USAF 1953-57.[/center]
Consequently, besides a long list of games that cover the ground and air war in Korea, I'll also be exploring a couple titles that include the B-47. It was never deployed in combat--good thing since it had been designed for a nuclear WW3--yet there are some alt-hist games that include it. Doing that is a nice way to still include my dad in my hobby, and even share him a little with my listeners. Many of you have probably gone through something like this. In our case, we are fortunate in that it was a peaceful passing, and we had many good years together. I sure miss him, though.

The Korean War is hardly forgotten when it comes to wargames and movies, I'm finding. Although there are far fewer games on it than WW2, Napoleonics, or the ACW, there are still many great choices for me to investigate. Besides big games that I won't get to, there are smaller games covering the entire conflict, or individual battles. There are others about the air war overhead. Of course, there are several treatments of MacArthur's brilliant Inchon invasion, as well as his misjudged provocation of Communist Chinese forces. As for movies...well, this is one subject where I cannot even watch all of the choices. There are too many!

At the end of February, I plan to feature an interview with designer Joe Balkoski. I'm also starting to think about who I might get for the final Korean War episode in March. Suggestions are welcome.




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

Direct download: WGTG_15-2_Korean_War_Balkoski_interview.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:41am PDT

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 PDT