Wargames for Christmas (via Players Aid)

Over at the Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz presents his annual list of ten interesting and innovative wargames released this year to give (or hope to get) for Christmas.

Colonial Twilight is on the list, and Red Horde 1920 gets an honourable stocking-stuffer mention!

Other games on the list that I’ve tried include GMT’s Time of Crisis and Hollandspiele’s Supply Lines of the American Revolution, a very interesting work by Tom Russell.

https://theplayersaid.com/2017/11/22/10-wargames-to-buy-your-wargamer-for-christmas-2017-edition/

Last year’s list ( Xmas Xhopping List)   had The Scheldt Campaign on it, so I must be dong something Grant likes!

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Operation Whirlwind: more historical scenario.

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Last night I put together a scenario for Operation Whirlwind with some simple rule changes to reflect the historical and operational limitations placed on both sides. OK to use for any of the game’s three or four editions. Briefly:

  • The city is divided into three divisional sectors that constrain Soviet movement and operations;
  • Hungarian Civilian and Recruit units cannot move (Recruit units represent the large numbers of semi-organized insurgents who turned out to defend their own neighbourhoods);
  • There is no Western intervention and there are no Hungarian Army units (the deserters have been subsumed into the Insurgent counter mix).

This will likely give a greater challenge to both sides, for what people tell me is already an interesting situation. Have a look! (PDF file)

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The (brief) return of Balkan Gamble

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BALKAN GAMBLE

BACK IN PRINT – only 10 copies available! (no wait, only 9 left now…8…7…6…5…4…)

(I initially made only 20 figuring they would never all sell, but they did and people have been asking for it, so I have made up another 10 copies.)

The Allied invasions of the Balkans that never happened. One of the great what-ifs of World War 2 in the Mediterranean theatre, at least to Hitler and the German High Command, was the possibility of an Allied invasion of Greece and/or Yugoslavia. The Allies knew the Germans perceived such invasions as a credible threat and created several strategic deception plans, leading the Germans to move or keep critical troop formations in northern Italy and the Balkans when they would have been much more useful somewhere else. Scenarios for 1943, 1944, 1945, and a hypothetical 1950 Soviet invasion of Yugoslavia. Uses the Autumn Mist/ Summer Lightning/ Winter Thunder system of formation activations and almost-diceless combat with mission matrix, at a larger scale: 1 week/turn; 30 km/hex; division/brigade; 17×22″ hex map and 280 double-sided counters. Many “chrome” rules to cover the fragmented human, political and physical terrain of the area.

This game has twice the map (and it’s printed on nice heavy paper) and twice the counter sheets, so the price per copy is $25 US. This includes postage. Paypal to brian.train@gmail.com. Thanks!

Space-Biff! reviews Colonial Twilight

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Image from GMT Games pre-order page, using French anti-war poster.

Daniel Thurot, aka Space-Biff!, reviews Colonial Twilight on his blog. (He also posted it on my birthday, which was yesterday, but I didn’t find out until today – but what a nice gift!)

https://spacebiff.com/2017/10/24/colonial-twilight/

He says, among many other things:

At its best, Colonial Twilight captures the high-level decision space of guerrillas and counterinsurgents alike, peeling back the layers to reveal the processes by which a war of independence is fought on both sides, and aptly illustrating the complexity that can arise when that war’s belligerents define “victory” by very different standards. Its take on war is brutal, bitter, and liable to leave both sides taking and retaking the same inches of ground many times over.

Ah yes. That’s good to hear….

He also wrote a very kind review of A Distant Plain, some time ago:

Space-Biff! reviews A Distant Plain

Many thanks!

An unexpected but very welcome comparison

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Over on Boardgamegeek.com I posted a link to the review on Armchair General (Review of Colonial Twilight in The Armchair General). In a reply to the ensuing thread, user Paul Heron wrote:

I feel I ought to point out that, while the tone of CT is certainly serious, it thankfully isn’t sanctimonious, earnest or po-faced.

In fact, a refreshing element of this game for me has been the flashes of humour in there (also to be found in some of Brian’s other designs, Ukrainian Crisis for one). For instance, the Jean Paul Sartre card with its tagline, ‘Either way, he and Albert Camus are no longer friends.’

While some may argue that humour is inappropriate in a wargame, unless the game as the whole is intended as satire (War on Terror), my view is that humour has always been a part of war, and not only as a ‘defense mechanism’ employed by soldiers and civilians.

Rather, humour/absurdity is in an odd way one of the intrinsic elements of war (and the literature of war seems to me to confirm this), part of its troubling strangeness, what novelist J.G. Ballard called the ‘casual surrealism of war’ (which probably more often is simply weird and jarring, rather than blackly humourous).

As the son of British ex-pats living in Shanghai when the Pacific War began, Ballard spent his early teens in a Japanese internment camp. In particular his experience, in the dog days of the war, of leaving the camp and exploring the devastated and largely abandoned city, seems to have left an especially vivid impression on him, informing all his subsequent writing (only a small portion of which – his 1984 novel Empire of the Sun for instance – is explicitly about war).

Incidentally, like the jokes that Brian sneaks into his games, much of Ballard’s writing is slyly humourous – ‘guerrilla humour’ as it were, rather than the more obvious sort that bludgeons you with massive frontal assaults (War on Terror again springs to mind).

Those who know me well, know that J.G. Ballard is one of my absolute favourite writers. This guy gets me!

(oh man, can this day get any better?)

 

“A perfect modeling of chaos and terror”

Over at The Players Aid blog, Grant Kleinheinz has written a superb, very long and detailed review of his impressions of Colonial Twilight. Go read it!

https://theplayersaid.com/2017/10/24/a-perfect-modeling-of-chaos-and-terror-a-review-of-colonial-twilight-the-french-algerian-war-1954-62-from-gmt-games

The money quote:

I was really impressed with the integration of the theme into the gameplay and the care given to make sure players actually feel the consequences of their actions. As I have played the game, I have paused many times to simply think about things, either my actions during the game, the moral turpitude of the two combatants (who is the good guy? Is there even a good guy?), the purpose and meaning of it all, etc. I truly believe that this is Brian’s masterpiece, his Mona Lisa, David or Sistine Chapel as it were. The skill with which he has weaved the bitter elements of the struggle together in a playable and enjoyable way is nothing short of triumphant. And any game that can make you think about things is a good thing. Bravo, I say! Bravo.

I am so pleased with this theme that I have seen in reviews of this game… that it made people, in the course of playing the game, think about what it was they were playing at, and what relation it and they bore to the grimy historical reality.  In that sense it is not a physical simulation but an emotional simulation of the conflict, something that doesn’t always emerge in wargames (though any good wargame will create lots of excitement and suspense for the players). And I’m proud that I have been able to foster these feelings, however ambivalent, in players.

Thank you so much Grant! (And it’s my birthday too!)

Invasion Fantasies

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From The Walrus magazine, last month:

https://thewalrus.ca/when-america-declared-war-on-us/

In an excerpt from War is Here: The Vietnam War and Canadian Literature (McGill-Queen’s University Press) the writer Robert McGill discusses various “US invades Canada” novels, in the context of the Vietnam War – so his examples all date from that war or after, beginning with 1968’s Killing Ground by Bruce Powe (writing as Ellis Portal).

The last two paragraphs are telling:

That said, the fact that books such as The Red Wing SingsUSNA and Faultline 49 continue to be written, along with the fact that they’re so similar to their Vietnam War-era predecessors, indicates that US invasion narratives have a certain ongoing appeal. For one thing, they allow for the Canada-US relationship to be dealt with in a straightforward, plot-driven way, and they construe the actions necessary for the preservation of Canadian sovereignty as no more difficult or complex than the execution of various military manoeuvres. Rather than mucking about with the complicated details of America’s cultural and economic dominance, invasion scenarios reduce the problem to a single, totalizing danger that jeopardizes the entire Canadian population, and not just in terms of people’s incomes or choice of TV programs but in terms of their very lives.

Likewise, stories of a Canadian military resistance to the US continue to facilitate fantasies of a united Canada, in contrast with the ongoing reality of regional, political, and ethnic differences in the country. And as the allusions to the Vietnam War in the contemporary novels suggest, resistance stories permit their writers to express a nostalgia for a time when a vociferous nationalist movement was led, in part, by authors who could count on a considerable audience to listen to them.

I think, with certain variations, the last paragraph could also be applied to the generous assortment of “America invaded” fantasies that have appeared over the years, beginning in 1890. Though the genre of English-language “invasion literature” did start with the English, with The Battle of Dorking in 1871.

Anyhow, just putting this here to bounce War Plan Crimson, and to make mention of Mark Wightman’s Dorking title, also available from Tiny Battle.