John Prados is an author and analyst of national security based in Washington, DC. He is the author of about thirty books and many articles on topics of current importance, presidential studies, international security; and diplomatic, intelligence, or military history.
Third Reich was the first “monster” wargame that my friends and I played back in the early days of my wargaming past. I remember having a sleepover birthday party in middle school, maybe 1981 or 1982, where we played what was likely Rise and Decline of the Third Reich: 2nd Edition (1976). It was an epic game; I don’t think we played 24 hours like the game is rated for but we started Saturday after lunch and finished (gave up?) around 5am Sunday morning after something like 16 hours of playing with a break for dinner/cake/presents—none of which I remember…but I remember the game.
Given John’s affinity for intelligence studies it is no surprise that another game of his,Bodyguard Overlord (Spearhead Games, 1994) is in my collection. Click the title right there to see my thoughts. TL:DR a game that was probably ahead of its time.
Mr. Prados is a senior fellow with the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C. The author of numerous books and articles, he is also among the “Old Guard” of gaming, having designed numerous board games. In terms of disclosure, it should be noted that Mr. Prados has published games with Avalon Hill Game Company, Simulations Publications, Game Designers’ Workshop, TSR Hobbies, Operational Studies Group, Clash of Arms, Avalanche Press, GMT Games, Decision Games, Against the Odds, and Harper & Row, among others.
John Prados Biography at The Naval History Magazine (online)
As previously warned about, not much gaming due to limited time and space.Then again, this is the time of the year I gladly give up game time on the family dining table for festive meals prepared by Mrs. RockyMountainNavy!
Winter Wargaming Series
The RockyMountainNavy War Chest Winter Wargaming Series continued this weekend with me facing off against RockyMountainNavy T again. War Chest, by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson (AEG, 2018) has become a go-to game for RMN T and myself to fill in the after-dinner time before watching sports or a movie. We use the draft system to pick our forces and this week was another interesting match-up:
RMN T – Marshal, Berserkers, Footmen, Crossbowmen
RMN – Royal Guards, Warrior Priests, Lancers, Archers
This was a hard-fought battle that lasted a full hour of play. I ended the game with just two coins in my bag but controlled five of my six needed areas before my last unit was killed. This game once again saw RMN T use the Marshal to order forces from a distance. We also had lots of change-of-initiative as we both leaned hard into using that rule to give ourselves back-to-back turns. For myself I think I used the Royal Guards more wisely than I have before. RMN T is now ahead 2-1 in our War Chest Winter Gaming Series with many more match-ups to surely come!
With RockyMountainNavy Jr. home for the holiday the Boys and myself got a play of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Z-Man Games, 2022) in on Thanksgiving Night. We played on Padawan-level (3 missions) since it was RMN Jr.’s first play but we will play at least at Jedi Knight-level (4 missions) in the future because we never felt pressured. It also helped that RMN Jr. built a squad right from the beginning that was highly suited to the two at-start missions shown…
Holiday Sales/Black Friday/Small Business Saturday
I tried to order a game from the Lock n’ Load Publishing sale but couldn’t. Seems that whenever I try to place an order the shipping selection is lost. Same error on iOS, MacOS, and Windows devices in different browsers. (Sigh.) Guess the Interwebs Gods are telling me I spent too much already…
Am in the midst of a reading/research review of my library on the 1982 South Atlantic Campaign. Plenty of books but too few wargames. Detailed post in the future…
The day after Black Friday I stalked the tables at my FLGS, Huzzah Hobbies in Loudon, VA in support of Small Business Saturday. I was a bit surprised to find a Hollandspiele boardgame, The Field of the Cloth of Gold (designer Amabel Holland, 2020). Hollandspiele games are usually print-on-demand via Blue Panther and I had not previously seen a copy of any Hollandspiele game in this store. The game is still in shrink and I’m not sure if the shop ordered a few copies or if it was a consignment of sorts but it was 50% off (plus “Mil-D” – military discount) so I’m not complaining. I also found the game Flag Dash (PieceKeeper Games, 2016) on the $1 table so I picked that one up to add to the gifting collection of games.
Gaming darkness. Have to take RockyMountainNavy Jr. back to college (whole day roundtrip driving). Have one more overseas business trip before Christmas (week on the road). Sister-in-law still occupying gaming space (ongoing for another five weeks).
What’s so unthinkable? Not only the situation, but the potential for nuclear use. Here is the kicker from the abstract:
The dissertation concludes that Kim could decide to threaten nuclear weapon use against the PRC and actually use them if the PRC is not deterred, seeking to avoid a substantial PRC intervention in the DPRK. Furthermore, as the DPRK develops survivable capabilities to manage escalation against nuclear-power adversaries, Kim may become more confident that he could threaten nuclear weapon use and execute it in a limited but very deliberate manner.
Thinking the Unthinkable, abstract
For a wargamer looking at how to depict this potential conflict, there is plenty of good information between the covers of Thinking the Unthinkable. Research Question 1: Conventional Military Balance Assessment compares the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces in the Northern Theater Command to the KPA forces in the Rear Echelon; i.e. along the DPRK-PRC border.
Lest you think that Thinking the Unthinkable is a staid retread of just a conventional force match-up, Research Question 2: Limited Focused Conventional Strike Options and Limited Nuclear Use Strike Options, when taken in conjunction with Research Question 3: DPRK’s Nuclear Threat Towards the PRC, should make it clear that this in what many previously thought of as “unthinkable.”
As much as I salute Diana Myers for writing this dissertation, especially given her thesis advisor was Dr. Bruce Bennett, a very highly respected scholar of Korean defense studies, in many ways Thinking the Unthinkable is almost a “mirror image” of the limited nuclear use issues that the U.S. and ROK face with the DPRK. Sure, the two main protagonist are different, but the problems to be faced are remarkably similar.
Does that make Thinking the Unthinkable any less worthy of your time? Actually, no.
Thinking the Unthinkable can be a valuable resource for wargame practitioners and hobby wargamers alike. There is plenty of good information here to start building orders of battle or scenarios with. That assumes, of course, you want to play with “nuclear fire.”
Few wargames deal with nuclear warfighting, and those that do often times do so in throwaway rules (i.e. the lighter fluid rules in NATO by Victory Games comes to mind…). Even fewer wargames deal with Limited Nuclear Use (LNU) situations. Indeed, LNU is maybe better suited to a political wargame like one gets using a Matrix Game or a card-driven game (CDG) design.
Regardless of your choice of gaming, warfighting or political, Thinking the Unthinkable is a good place to start, uh, thinking about a wargame design for the DPRK versus the PRC.
RockyMountainNavy Game Night featured War Chest by Trevor Benjamin and David Thompson from Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG, 2018). We hadn’t played for a while so we took our time and really enjoyed the trash and tactics table talk. Alas, RockyMountainNavy T continues his win streak against Dad and handed me yet another defeat. Sounds bad but really it was good to play an awesome wargame that makes you think and agonize over almost every move. Also hard to beat the clicking of those hefty coins in your hand…
Speaking of the Armchair Dragoons, I am scheduled to record a podcast this coming week on “Accessories.” Look for that episode of Mentioned in Dispatchesto be out later this month.
Although my own boys are older, I am always looking out for good children’s games for Mrs. RockyMountainNavy to use with her elementary-age students—or her favorite nephew’s daughter in Korea. Thus, Tongues Out released this year from Blue Orange Games arrived. For some reason I don’t think Brant is looking for an unboxing of this one.
If you don’t already know, Marine Corps University Press offers books for free. As their website states, “As a federal government publisher, our works are free of charge, but please help us be good stewards of federal dollars and request only the books or journals you need most.” Admittedly, I already have a few of these in digits but I’m a bit old-fashioned in some ways so picked up dead-tree versions. I find physical books easier to thumb through quickly when I’m looking for a particular section.
Speaking of naval games (and I wouldn’t be RockyMountainNAVY if I didn’t), I also bit the bullet on Task Force – Carrier Battles in the Pacific from VUCA Simulations. This game appears to be a major update of the 1982 edition. The preorder discount is in effect and the publisher reports, “This game is now at the printer and will be shipped in early 2023.”
“At Sea: No arrival date yet” is how GMT Games describes Next War: Supplement #3. As the website states: “Effectively, this supplement is an upgrade kit for Next War: Poland, 1st Edition to the 2nd Edition, but, of course, it also includes goodies such as the additional counters, the ROK OoB, [Next War: Korea] new Cyber Warfare rules, and assorted other optional rules.” My gut feeling is that this game supplement could arrive before Christmas…maybe.
A game that may be closer to arrival is SUM8 by Turnup Games. They updated Kickstarter backers with this positive message on November 01, “We wanted to give you an update on where the SUM8 Classic Edition shipping is at. The boat arrived in port on Friday October 21st. We are now patiently waiting for it to clear customs and be on its way. ARC Global, our Logistics partner is in constant contact with us, and do not believe it should be held much longer. As soon as it is released and moving again we will let you know!”
I also have several books inbound from Helion Publishing on a historical topic that is a personal favorite of mine. The ones I ordered where on enough of a sale that even with shipping from the UK thrown in they were still better priced than going through Amazon. I hope that once they arrive I will have the basis for a “History to Wargame” blog series going into next year.
Not really that bad, but…challenging. With the arrival of two sisters-in-law for an extended stay, RockyMountainNavy Jr. coming home for the holidays, and two business trips in the next months, I have for the most part “lost” my gaming space (and lots gaming time) for the next 90 days. When I do get a chance to play if it’s not Game Night then I am forced to use a collapsible 4×5 low table that I can’t keep set up all the time. However, with RMN Jr. back we should get some more family gaming in so that’s not really bad…
While I keep a good list of preorders for my wargames and boardgames, I don’t do the same for roleplaying games. Maybe that’s because until recently I didn’t really have many RPG items on preorder. That’s changed a bit in the last few months with a (very) few items ordered but not yet delivered…
From Free League Publishing. Preorder via FGLS. “Coming 2022.” I have enjoyed the Year Zero Engine as it is used by Twilight: 2000 – Roleplaying the World War III That Never Was and ALIEN – The Roleplaying Game. If this is going to get here by end of 2022 it’s going to have to be quick…