Sunday Summary – Now You See Me…. @ADragoons @bigboardgaming @gmtgames @compassgamesllc @MultiManPub @JimDietz1 @Bublublock #Wargame #Boardgame #TravellerRPG #Books

Although I have “appeared” a few times on the Mentioned in Dispatches podcast at the Armchair Dragoons the past few seasons this past week was the first time I “appeared” on Kev’s Big Board Gaming Channel. As in I literally “appeared” on a live stream. Kev is a great host and it was a good time. I’m not sure what sort of impression I’m making on people as I’m just out to convey my love for the hobby. If you have a chance please drop by and take 45 minutes to watch and hopefully get some inspiration to play something.

Wargaming

My next “Reading to Wargame” series started with my comments on Antony Beevor’s The Battle of Arnhem book. Check back next week to see how it influenced my play of Mark Simonitch’s Holland ’44: Operation Market-Garden from GMT Games.

This was a good week for wargame arrivals. Three new titles are in the RockyMountainNavy house and in various at various stages of learning:

As I was waiting for the new titles to arrive I used a random number generator to select a game from my collection to play. Thus, Mississippi Banzai (XTR Corp, 1990) landed on the gaming table. This “alternate history” game envisions a Stalingrad-like offensive around St Louis in a 1948 as Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany face off in a conquered United States. More thoughts forthcoming soon.

Boardgaming

My Kickstarter copy of Supercharged by Jim Dietz is on the mail. I’m looking forward to getting it in ouse this week and not-so-secretly hope the RockyMountainNavy Boys and myself get it to the table in a renewed weekend Game Night.

With North Korea making news this week I hope you all have read my comments on Daniel Bullock’s No Motherland Without: North Korea in Crisis and Cold War (Compass Games, 2021) that was published by the Armchair Dragoons. I think the whole world is wondering which Missile Test Event Card Kim Jong Un might play next.

Books

With the arrival of Kido Butai in the house I looked at my Midway collection of books. Not wanting to rehash my read of the 2005 Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully I instead picked up Dallas Woodbury Isom’s Midway Inquest: Why the Japanese Lost the Battle of Midway also from 2007. Written in some ways as a counter to Shattered Sword, I ended up focusing on Appendix D which is the “rules” for a “war game” Isom uses in Chapter 10 of his book. Thoughts forthcoming.

Rocky Reads for #Wargame – The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II by Antony Beevor (Viking, 2018)

BLUF

A narrative focused on personal stories of hardship and suffering that accompanies war. This is a story of human tragedy more than a recounting of a military disaster.

A Bridge Too Far

When I was in high school in the 1980’s the video rental fad was full-bore. One of the movies I remember renting is A Bridge Too Far originally released in 1977 with an all-star cast. That movie, based on a book by Cornelius Ryan (who also did The Longest Day) formed my earliest “knowledge” of Operation Market-Garden. As a wargamer, I studied played other World War II airborne operations in games like Air Assault on Crete/Invasion of Malta 1942 (Avalon Hill, 1977) but in all my forty years I’ve never looked at Market-Garden. That is, until I found Antony Beevor’s The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II (Viking, 2018) in a bargain books store.

Narrate Me a Story

The Battle of Arnhem is written in a very narrative style that Beevor is famous for. For the historian in me this style of book is a bit challenging because I want to see the sources. Putting that aside, I found the early chapters of the book that concern the planning for the operation deeply disturbing. The incredible combination of intelligence failure, group-think and personal hubris that came together is astounding and Beevor shows it all.

The battle scenes in The Battle of Arnhem are also intensely personal. This is another Beevor-like trademark; he digs into the very personal side of a conflict and shows it to you, warts and all. Sometimes it is hard to remember that the Battle of Arnhem is talking about a huge multi-divisional operation as it focuses on some very small, personal moments.

The Battle of Arnhem also gives us the perspective of the Germans and especially the Dutch – both civilians and the Resistance. This latter is a perspective I was not very cognizant of and welcomed reading about here.

At the end of the day, The Battle of Arnhem is more a collection of human-suffering stories than a strict military history. Beevor seemingly lets his early criticism of Field Marshal Montgomery also be his conclusion. It’s hard to tell because this book, which starts out talking about the battle, ends by only talking about the people. Those stories are important to hear, but if you are looking for a book on the history of Operation Market-Garden then you need to look elsewhere.

Wargame Application

In anticipation of reading The Battle of Arnhem, I picked up a copy of Mark Simontitch’s Holland ’44: Operation Market Garden, September 1944 (GMT Games, 2017). I laid out the map while reading the book and eventually set up the game. This was very helpful as the maps in The Battle of Arnhem book are actually not very useful.

As far as playing the game and reading the book I see two possible approaches. You can try to play “pure” as in play before reading to avoid introducing any bias into your decisions from the book. Or you might want to read the early chapters and then play out the operation, followed by reading how the actual battle went and comparing your results to history. A word of warning here; the intensely personal focus of so many parts of The Battle of Arnhem is in some ways mismatched with Holland ’44 which is an operational-level wargame with a focus around the battalion-level. There is also no real Dutch Resistance portrayed in Holland ’44.

Citation

Beevor, Antony, The Battle of Arnhem: The Deadliest Airborne Operation of World War II, New York: Viking, 2018.

#RockyReads for #Wargame – Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor (Viking Press, 1998)

BLUF

Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor is two books in one – the first is a political and military treatment of the events leading up to the Operation Uranus and the second is the story of the very human tragedy of the encirclement of the German Sixth Army.

A Real Wargamer’s Book

Why do you play wargames? Personally, I play wargames to engage with the history and gain a better understanding and appreciation of a topic. For me, the first part of Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor is very much a book that I use to play a wargame. The first part of Stalingrad is a military-oriented treatment of the political, and especially military, situation and events from the end of 1941 through the German offensive that reached Stalingrad in September 1942 and continuing through the Soviet counteroffensive that cut off Paulus’ Sixth Army in November 1942. I can use this part of Stalingrad to better understand the historical flow of events and see what I might of done different when playing a wargame like The Dark Valley: The East Front Campaign, 1941-45 by designer Ted Raicer from GMT Games. I can even use it to better understand the situation as presented in David Thompson’s Pavlov’s House: The Battle of Stalingrad from Dan Verssen Games.

The second half of Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 inevitably follows the military activity, but that is not the main focus. Antony Beevor pivots from a story of the military action into the immense human tragedy that befell the German defenders of Stalingrad and, to not so much a lesser extent, the surrounding Soviets.

Arguably, the second half of Stalingrad is more important to wargamers than the first. It is very easy for wargamers to push counters or tokens or little minis around a map and forget that those are humans. It’s exhilarating to roll a natural 12 on a Combat Results Table and get that “DE – Defender Eliminated” result. It means nothing more than removing that little piece of cardboard from the map and casually throwing it into the “dead” pile, all while pumping your fist and smirking at your opponent.

Reality is not so fun. In Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 author Antony Beevor reminds us, no, shouts at us that we must face the terrible human cost of war.

Yes, we play war GAMES for fun, but at the same time we need to remember that our “fun” is a depiction of war far removed from the brutal reality. Sometimes we need to learn that lesson and a wargame is not always the right vehicle. Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1941-1943 is the right vehicle to remind us of the brutality and horror of war.

Wargame Application

Read it. Read it so you better understand what the CRT really means.

Citation

Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, New York: Viking, 1998.