Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wargames, politics and ethics #2: Politics? You can run, but you can't hide

Broad-brush polemic ruffles feathers
A book I picked up on sight from a recommendation on the WW2 SS Counter Colours thread, Ronald Smelser and Edward J. Davies II's 2008 scholarly study, The Myth of the Eastern Front: the Nazi-Soviet War in American Popular Culture was going to become an article even as I first read it – avidly – over xmas last year. Researching for this series- in which The Myth of the Eastern Front was going to feature centrally, I found the military hobbyists' inevitable internet hot flushes in its wake. Inevitable? In response to an academic tome?

The biggest invasion of the
biggest war in history:
a lot there to forget
Yes, because The Myth of the Eastern Front is part analytical historical deconstruction, and part broad-brush polemic against the 'romancers'- promulgators of an idealised vision of the Wehrmacht and the SS as honourable soldiers fighting a 'Lost Cause' against the Red horde. Smelser and Davies root this mythology in the Wehrmacht's 'last campaign': the ex-generals' postwar years of networking and spin aimed at rehabilitating the image of the German armed forces on the Eastern front.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My first (and last?) game of España 1936

A long time coming
Regular readers will be well aware that I'm not a negative reviewer as a rule. It's too easy to find negativity on the web, and the first editorial decision I made way back in 2005 was that I wasn't going to contribute to it here at RD/KA!. Also, when I review anything, I've paid for it and therefore have a good reason to want to like it. Every so often though, something comes along which disappoints me sufficiently to prompt a distinct lack of enthusiasm to which I cannot but give vent. Antonio Catalán's game of the Spanish Civil War- España 1936, is a case in point. 

Dust off and dust-up

Waiting in the wings
España 1936 is a game I bought on sight when I saw it in Static Games, an FLGS: the subject of the Spanish Civil War interested me and the box ad-copy showed nice-looking components. It then joined my collection of dust-gatherers, where it stayed for a good three years. Only recently, with Liam's newfound enthusiasm for strategic boardgames, did I begin to think that I might finally get a chance to bring España 1936 to the table. My thinking was this game would serve as a useful bridge between Labyrinth and Twilight Struggle on the one hand, and games like Unhappy King Charles! on the other.

And so, on Wednesday night Liam and I sat down to have a go. Five hours later, I'd won the game, but España 1936 had lost the vote of confidence.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wargames, politics and ethics #1: Ah, that old bugbear

Reality bites
They're just games, yes?
At some time or another, many wargamers will have found themselves pondering the political and/or ethical implications of their passion for revisiting the past, present and future battlefields of the world with their maps and little counters. This reflection leads some to create boundaries and/or preferences: periods they won't game, sides they always prefer to play, and so on. For me this began in my teenage-tankie youth, when I drew a boundary at 1945. My reasons for this were twofold:
  • In the late 70s and early 80s- with Thatcher and Reagan's 'second' Cold War at its height, modern warfare was too closely linked to the spectre of global thermonuclear holocaust for it to have any appeal to me.
  • I felt uncomfortable with the idea of playing games about wars the casualties of which would be actual people living in my own time.
I abandoned this boundary as I grew older. That's not to say that I 'grew out of it', because that would be to imply that there's something immature about the choice to draw and to exercise such boundaries. I've no wish to be so insulting to others who've made these choices.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A bit of this and a bit of that

Technical problems stop the Panzers in their tracks
Just don't aim for
the window...
Badger came round last night for what was supposed to be another session of Fighting Formations and perhaps some Combat Commander. Unfortunately events were to intervene in the form of the shiny new desktop PC which I had taken delivery of just the previous day. I hadn't had time to set everything up that Thursday, so on the Friday I decided just to wait for Badger's arrival so that he could offer his assistance. It's not that I'm a complete tech-idiot or anything but there are always risks associated with transferring your old system to a new machine, so I felt it would be useful to have Badger on hand.

Just as well too it turned out.

Monday, July 04, 2011

The long dark night of the dice rolls #2: light at the end of the tunnel

Give me hexes, counters
& CRTs, goddammit!
I wrote last time about some of the highlights in recent multiplayer gaming. Today, I'm going to look back at some of the 2-player fun I've been having. When the Sunday sessions dried up I came to realise that the last couple of months of Sunday gaming had been slightly frustrating: we'd been playing too many light Euros. It's not that I don't like these games- I do; it's just that I wanted some meatier fare, with the lighter games filling their proper role, namely filler. I'm pleased to say that I've managed in the past couple of months to satisfy this desire to a significant extent.

Combat Commander
Regular readers won't be surprised that Badger and I have been keeping up our regular Combat Commander games. We've mostly being playing our way through the Combat Commander Battle Pack #3: Normandy. The scenarios start at the beginning, with Operation Deadstick- the Ox and Bucks' coup de main at the Bénouville (later Pegasus) Bridge in the early minutes of June 6th 1944; and finish at the end, with the 1st Polish Armoured Division's stand on Hill 262 ('The mace') during the battle of the Falaise pocket in late August. In between there are beaches to fight your way off of, beachhead fortifications to overcome, lots of bocage to fight your way through, villages to capture, and a couple of scenarios featuring French Resistance forces to boot.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The long dark night of the dice rolls #1: a little light relief

I mentioned last Tuesday that I've played hundreds of games during the months of my depression, nearly 600 in fact. Still getting back into the swing of things here at RD/KA! as I am, I thought I'd run through some of the highlights of that epic series of games, and cast a quick eye over some other games which I've bought recently.

Ivanhoe, Ivanhoe and yet more bloody Ivanhoe!
The impressive statistic of nearly 600 games played since last September is put in its proper context by the fact that more than half of those were games of Ivanhoe. My neighbour Liam (last seen swigging wine at Sioux's gallery launch in May last year) came round on xmas eve keen to play a game to which he'd taken an instant liking way back in October 2009. We played a 24-game session. And so began a marathon run of 325 games, all but 9 of which were played in the 6 months up to May. That's averaging 14 games/week, in a couple of sessions each week. Whew!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Changes, changes

Old habits die hard: tabletop miniatures games
"Very pretty John, but
what does it mean?"
(Damned if I know BTW)
When you're depressed you often become withdrawn to the point of being reclusive. The resulting emotional disconnection from so much of your life means that a period of depression really isn't the best time to make decisions of any consequence about your life, not least because coming out of depression means that you face putting back together everything which has been disrupted when you were down. So you could easily dispose of things or give up on activites which are really important to you because you take your depressive emotional disconnection at face value, when you're really just expressing your dread of the effort it'll take to get everything sorted out when you're feeling better.

Memories, sigh
All of which is by way of preamble to an explanation of some changes in my gaming tastes and habits which have come upon me in recent months. First and foremost is that I'm giving up tabletop miniatures gaming. This is something of a painful break, and even as I type this I'm struck by a sense of unreality, not to mention wistful nostalgia. After all, my life as a hobby gamer started nearly 40 years ago when my brother and I made up our own rules for playing proper games with our Airfix 1/72nd Napoleonic toy soldiers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Another fine mess..."

Woah, a tale of woe
Well, it was kind of a close run thing this time but here I am, back at the keyboard. There are several reasons why I almost succumbed to the urge just to disappear from the pages of RD/KA!. I'm just going to let them lie. I will however briefly explain why this particular bloglag was so long (at 9 months it's been the longest ever).

Sometimes people just won't own up...
It'll come as no surprise to my regular readers that a serious depression was to blame. Why so serious? Long story short: a home support worker who'd been visiting me for some 4 years took the huff with me one day and indulged in some unprofessional behaviour. The next time we met he manipulated me into withdrawing from the support service against my will. With hindsight I realised that saving his job was surely his primary motivation for being such a shit. We'd talked often of the difficult funding situation in his workplace and of how staff were worried about their jobs. So I think he feared a black mark if I was to ask for him to be replaced, which would've led to questions being asked about why I no longer wished to work with him (which I didn't, naturally enough).