Inclusiveness in Wargaming and Tastelessness

My favourite wargames magazine is Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy. For those more Facebook savvy it can be found in Facebook at @WSSMagazine. It is a magazine that I will unreservedly recommend to anyone at all interested or involved in the hobby of wargaming. Every couple of months a new issue arrives and becomes my main reading for a few days. Apart from wargame based articles from different periods of history, there are also regular columnists providing opinion pieces or generic discussions on modern wargaming. I should note now too that I am a figure gamer first but somewhat period agnostic, although I have a love of the ancient world1.

Rick Priestly, a very well know wargaming personality, for example, writes from time to time as does Richard Clarke from Two Fat Lardies. This month Richard Clarke took to task Rick Priestly’s comments in a previous issue on equality between armies in battle and therefore in wargaming. After all, if there is only 300 of you against tens of thousands of enemies you would just walk away, right? Well except for that well known case. Clarke’s discussion was written in a gentlemanly manner and is the sort of debate that fosters the expansion and improvement of the hobby.

The 6mm Camillan Roman DBA Army – figures by Baccus, painting by numbers!

However, I was disturbed in this last issue (Issue 104) with both an advertisement and an opinion piece for essentially unrelated but related reasons, if that makes sense.

The advertisement on page 21 is of the gory, painted Wild West Exodus figure of Legendary Vor Khet. The figure is of a large, ugly monster who is devouring pieces of what was clearly, recently a human figure. Perhaps I am a little old fashioned, or perhaps just old, and think that this is a level of excess that is a bridge too far to be acceptable. One thing it did do was resonated with comments in a later opinion piece in the same issue.

The opinion piece was by Chris King, whose column “The Irregular” carried a piece titled “Inclusion”. In this piece he talks about the future growth of the hobby relying on the hobby welcoming “people to the hobby, regardless of their race, their nationality, their gender, their beliefs, their abilities or any other label or lifestyle choices.”

Certainly there have been a number of what could academically be described as “misogynistic incidents” over recent years but could be better described by the less academic term of “bloody stupid behaviour by people who obviously believe the size of the object hanging between their thighs is an indication of intelligence, skill, ability and privilege”. There were a number of tweets floating around late last year if I recall correctly (or perhaps early this year) where at least one female wargamer in the UK was receiving support from a section of the wargames community as a result of issues with others.

Anthony’s left has somewhat redeemed the failure of his right.

In Australia in video games rather than more “traditional” wargames, Stephanie “Hex” Bendixsen, a presenter for many years on the Good Game, was the target of cyber bullying and doxing (doxxing?) comments, even though her gaming skill (and the fact that she could put together a coherent sentence) rated her way in excess of most of her detractors.

The 2mm division assembles

Wargaming is not a large hobby relative to other pasttimes but it seems to be a bitchy one, and for no good reason. Criticism, and not constructive criticism, is levelled at wargmers based on ridiculous items such as figure scale (6mm and 2mm gamers have heard them all); rule sets (the pro-DBx anti-DBx arguments come to mind along with the DBA 2.2 vs DBA 3.0 debates); historical vs fantasy; technical questions such as “how good was the Bismarck ” in naval circles; and so on.

Forums, arguably so 20th Century in these days of Facebook and Twitter, have become more acrimonious places generally (there are some exceptions). One whose acronym means more to me now as I have worked in IT for 45 years as a “temporary file”, is a prime example and one I gave up on 10 years ago.

It is a hobby, a pastime, to coin the dictionary definition, “an activity that someone does regularly for enjoyment rather than work; a hobby”. My work day is full of stress and pressure so what can be better than sitting down in the evening, loved ones around, a good coffee or single malt in hand, and read or prepare for a future wargame project?

My early World War 2 Soviet Battlegroup

So, I agree with Chris King’s piece in WSS. Wargaming should be inclusive, not exclusive. We should be welcoming those who want to play with little toy soldiers or boardgames with open arms, making them feel welcome and help the hobby to expand. Wargaming is a worldwide pastime now. I am writing this from Manila, Philippines (there is a Manila in Australia too – just to be clear) and there is a healthy wargame club, the Makati Marauders, about a 1km walk from where I am living currently plus a large boardgames group. I know of a healthy number of players in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India. I know gamers in Brazil and Japan. So a hobby that was originally “Britocentric2“, then became “Eurocentric3” is now truly international with games played on all continents. There must be room for everyone in the hobby, especially for those of us a little old fashioned who like to handle the games pieces rather than just shuffle images around on a screen.

Play nice in the sandpit kids!


1. I just put some random photos of wargame figures through this piece to remind folks what my pastime is
2. OK, I wasn’t sure of a term to describe something that started in England (and Germany too I guess) then spread through many parts of the Commonwealth so being a good English speaker, I just made a word up
3. OK, so I think I just made up another one 🙂

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Damn, another wargame project – Illyrians and the Great Revolt!

Yes, the bay is there – faintly visible. Invisible is the Bataan peninsula and other landmarks at the mouth of the bay

I’m sitting here, suffering with that most horrible of diseases, man ‘flu, looking out over a hazy, smoggy Manila Bay with a coffee and listening to the wireless playing Christmas Carols (it is the ‘ber months after all). I am also reading Jason Abdale’s recent work, The Great Illyrian Revolt concerning “Rome’s forgotten war in the Balkans AD 6-9” (review to come later – Mal’s review is here).

So as I am reading I am also thinking, “hmm, I am repurposing some Early Imperial Romans to DBA use, and they will make two armies”, followed by, “the Illyrian Revolt Abdale is talking about occurred just before the loss of the four legions in the Battle of Teutoburg … hmmm”.

So I started thinking, here is an excuse to buy some more wargame figures (like a wargamer needs an excuse!). Better, I can double up armies. The Illyrians are basically a loose style (Auxilia) within DBA rules so may need a little tweaking to start to get some historical balance. They also fought themselves as much as external enemies but those external enemies included Romans and Greeks so they fit well with the figures I have painted already as well as the future plans (the Peloponnesian Wars one in particular).

In addition, I could add to the Illyrians a couple of German armies for an additional enemy for the Early Imperial Romans.

Image taken from http://home.exetel.com.au/thrace/illyria.htm

As to the look of the Illyrians, I will need to do some more research, always a good thing, but I am thinking from what I have read recently, perhaps a little Thracian like, with some southern Italian, and Greek Thureophoroi rolled in. One of the neat things about the Illyrians will be the ability to raid my spares box and drag out a few of different types of figures to mix it.

The clothing colours of the Illyrians are described as broad, colourful  vertical stripes.

The illustration the the left is from the Warlords Games website, a firm who offers Illyrians in 28mm size, although they are currently out of stock.

My forces will be in 6mm size – probably from Baccus and Rapier as both those ranges are close in size. So yes, just what I need, another project. I think I will stop weighing the lead pile and simply measure the number of incomplete and unstarted projects to estimate the future lifespan of the wargamer!

Life in the Philippines – “I Sorry” Ay Sorry, joke lang!

Well, the ‘ber months are here so it is full-on Christmas. More on that later. Today I wanted to cover one commonly used English expression and one Taglish* expression generally used by all Filipinos, no matter their native tongue.

I Sorry” “Ay Sorry” — firstly, my team has corrected my poor Taglish. The correct expression is “ay sorry” rather than “I sorry”. Of course to an English speakers ears, the difference in sound between “ay” and “I” is, well, almost none. Anyway, this is said whenever someone bumps you, knocks, you drops something in front of you or generally does anything that would elicit an apology from native English speakers from the UK, Australia, New Zealand or similar. The expression is simply “I sorry”. No “I am”, “I’m”, or other form of the pronoun, just a simple “I”. The expression is simply “ay sorry”, literally “oh, sorry”. OK RJ, Kaii and the others … have I got that correct now? 🙂

“Joke lang” — When hearing the expression “joke lang” I am reminded of an old friend since passed, Bob Preller. Bob was born in Rhodesia and lived there through the civil war that resulted in the current Zimbabwe. He later travelled, married a lovely Norwegian lady and lived in Norway for the rest of his life. He was the most positive person I ever knew but he was also gifted with an acute sense of humour and the ability to make any story, no matter how unbelievable, sound believable. This got him scolded a few times by his Norwegian friends who could not tell he was joking. They explained to him,

Når du forteller en vits, må du smile slik at vi vet at det er en vits

Which translated to:

When you tell a joke you must smile so that we know it is a joke

It is similar here. At the immediate conclusion of a joke or when teasing someone playfully, you are expected to say, “joke lang”, which I guess literally means, “and it is a joke” or perhaps better, “just kidding”.


* Taglish – is the combination of Tagalog and English, both in name and in substance. It is the name given to the phenomenon where the two languages are combined into one sentence in everyday speech. It is also common to see in writing too. The earliest use of the term “Taglish” seems to date back to about 1973. There are other forms of this portmanteau, such as “Engalog” and “Tanglish” but “Taglish” appears to be the common form used these days.

Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece – A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology – Book Review

I received a heavy tome from Pen and Sword books recently and this one is a cracker. It is definitely heavy, weighing in at 1.2kgs and I think the weight is the paper stock used in printing this largely colour work. The basis of this book is a look at ancient battlefields and battles in and around Greece with reference to modern topography. All the battles covered are illustrated with a location map, satellite photographs of the area, many from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), along with any relevant ground based photographs from the authors’ collection.

The USGS maps have battlefield deployments superimposed over the them. As Dr Matthew A. Sears and Dr C. Jacob Butera note in the book’s preface, “This is a book designed for the traveller to Greece, whether the member of a tour group, the independent adventurer, or the curious scholar.” I believe that if one carries this book on tour, your excess baggage charges will increase. However if you have an interest in Ancient Battles and Battlefields or are simply curious to maximise the interesting points from a tour, then this book is worth the effort to lug around.

The book, Battles and Battlefields of Ancient Greece – A Guide to Their History, Topography and Archaeology, by C. Jacob Butera and Matthew A. Sears has been published by Pen & Sword Military. It contains 385 pages, its ISBN is 9781783831869 and it was published on 13 May 2019. It is a cracker of a volume and I have had difficulty putting it down. The writing style of the authors is readable to all and while the subject is wide reaching, the slicing and dicing of their topic has been skilfully performed.

The Introduction discusses the various periods covered by the book with explanations of the Phalanx style and type of warfare, and the armies that used them. It does not restrict itself to simply land battles either but includes some naval warfare – two notable ancient naval battles in particular. The Introduction then discusses briefly Ancient Greek and Roman Warfare, splitting the introduction into:

  • The Archaic and Classical Periods
    • The Hoplite Phalanx
    • Cavalry and Light-Armed Infantry
    • Greek Naval Warfare
  • The Hellenistic Period and Roman Middle Republic
    • The Macedonian Army
    • The Roman Manipular Legion
    • Phalanx vs Legion
  • The End of the Roman Republic
    • The Roman Army of the Late Republic
    • Roman Naval Warfare

There are photos from various museums and collections illustrating items through there as well with items such as, for example, the Lenormant Relief from the acropolis Museum depicting a trireme and its rowers. This section is then concluded with a list of Further Reading covering the topics – and unlike many book lists and bibliographies, this comes with comments. So, for example, the following entry:

Kagan, D., and Viggiano, G.F. (eds), Men of Bronze: Hoplite Warfare in Ancient Greece (Princeton, 2013). — The best resource on the debate surrounding the nature of hoplite warfare, with contributions from the leading voices in the debate

Other entries are similarly marked.

The Book is then divided into four main parts with each part covering three to seven battles for that geographic area:

  • Athens and Attica
    1. The Battle of Marathon, 490 BCE
    2. The Battle of Salamis, 480 BCE
    3. The Battle of Piraeus/Mounichia, 403 BCE
  • Boeotia and Central Greece
    1. The Battle of Thermopylae, 480 BCE
    2. The Battle of Artemisium, 480 BCE
    3. The Battle of Plataea, 479 BCE
    4. The Battle of Delium, 424 BCE
    5. The Battle of Coronea, 394 BCE
    6. The Battle of Leuctra, 371 BCE
    7. The Battles of Chaeronea, 338 and 86 BCE
  • Northern Greece
    1. The Battle of Amphipolis, 422 BCE
    2. The Battle of Cynoscephalae, 197 BCE
    3. The Battle of Pydna, 168 BCE
    4. The Battle of Pharsalus, 48 BCE
    5. The Battle of Philippi, 42 BCE
  • The Peloponnese and Western Greece
    1. The Battles of Naupactus, 429 BCE
    2. The Battle of Pylos, 425 BCE
    3. The Battles of Mantinea, 418 and 362 BCE
    4. The Battle of the Nemea River, 394 BCE
    5. The Battle of Actium, 31 BCE

Each of the battle chapters is then divided into:

  • General Map of the Battle Location on the Chapter facing page
  • Introduction — brief description of the location and the events around the battle
  • Directions to the Site — how to get there and landmarks
  • Historical Outline of the Battle — details of the battle from the primary sources and archeological studies including the USGS maps of the area of the battle with deployments and movements superimposed
  • The Battle Site Today — what the site looks like today including photographs of items of interest
  • Further Reading — this section is broken up into two main areas – Historical Sources, and Modern Sources with the Modern Sources including books and articles

Lastly the book contains a useful index.

Each chapter is about 15 to 20 pages long, a perfect length for reading over a cup of coffee or when there is an hour or so spare. With the references added however, the temptation is to read the chapter then read back in the primary sources but with a greater understanding of the topography of the battle.

The authors are both academics, Dr C. Jacob Butera is an assistant professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Dr Matthew A. Sears is an associate professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of New Brunswick in Canada.

This is a book is simply great. If you ever wanted a general reference for the battlefields of Ancient Greece, this is the one. It is a bonus that it is clearly written and well illustrated with maps, satellite photographs and photographs of items of interest remaining on the battlefield, and where each chapter identifies the primary sources for the battle as well as modern source material. Well recommended. It is also available in digital form which does lighten the physical load a little.

Images of War – M12 Gun Motor Carriage – Book Review

A few days ago I finished reading Images of War – M7 Priest – Book Review so naturally the next to move onto was the big gun, the 155mm gun propelled in the M12 Gun Motor Carriage. Like the volume on the M7 Priest, this was written by David Doyle and contains 142 pages of photographs and text of the M12, T6 Prototype and the T14 (the ISBN is 9781526743527 and it was published on 12 December 2018 by Pen and Sword Military)

The M12 development started in 1941, despite having met early opposition. The development work was based on using the M3 Medium Tank chassis and the prototype, T6, was mounting a French made M1917 155mm gun. To accommodate the large gun, it needed to be rear mounted which meant the engine had to be moved forward, to a position just behind the driving compartment.

The vehicle also required a hydraulically-operated spade at the rear to stabilise the firing position due to the gun’s recoil.

When production commenced, three different war surplus weapons were mounted depending on availability:

  • the French built M1917
  • the US built M1918
  • the M18917A1 which had a French gun tube and a US breech

As with his coverage of the M7, David Doyle has written and provided a great coverage of this vehicle with the book covering the following:

  • The T6 Prototype
  • The M12
  • The T14
  • The M12 in Combat
  • The M12 Preserved

This last chapter is quite interesting as well as if contains many close up photographs, in colour, of the restored M12 that is preserved and displayed at the US Army Field Artillery Museum, Fort Sil, Oklahoma. It has been repainted to replicate a wartime vehicle, “Adolf’s Assassin”, an M12 that was assigned to Alpha Battery, 991st Field Artillery Battalion in North-Western Europe toward the end of the Second World War.

While only 74 of these vehicles were sent to Europe (along with the M30 ammunition carrier – also illustrated), they were very successful in their combat role and really paved the way for the future of 155mm SPGs present in almost all armies during the Cold War.

As with all books in the Images of War series, there are many photographs of the vehicles highlighted. In the case of those volumes looking at one particular type of vehicle, the photographs provide so much detail useful for modellers in particular. In this case there are 61 pages of close up colour photographs making this volume a must for any serious modellers of World War 2 tracked artillery.

The images are not just of the vehicles in static positions but rather include “action shots” taken during the Second World War in particular.

Well recommended, especially for the modeller of fighting vehicles, not only for the images of the M12 but also for many photos that could provide inspiration for diorama building.

Little Wars TV – D-Day Wargame – Rommel Rules

I do love the Little Wars TV YouTube channel, the guys are like so many of my mates from various wargame clubs over the years and in different countries, where winning is not as important as the game and fun was the target of the game. Little Wars TV recently decided to re-fight the first couple of days of D-Day, given that it is the 75th anniversary this year. The re-fight was controlled using modified Rommel rules (thanks guys, I am now considering getting yet another set of rules). For previous World War 2 games they have used Fistful of TOWs.

Part 1 of the two part video covers the objectives for each side, the landings and the drive inland from the beaches.

The second part covers D+1 – where the Allies will attempt to consolidate and meet their objectives and the Germans will attempt to both prevent the Allies reaching objectives but also achieve some objectives of their own.

Well worth watching these and as I mentioned, this has reawakened my interest in trying out Rommel as a set of World War 2 wargaming rules. I would also strongly recommend a visit to the Little Wars TV website to both see what’s new and interesting, grab some free stuff and check out their other videos. Thanks guys, love your work!

Images of War – M7 Priest – Book Review

Recently I looked at the Images of War volume covering the Armour of Rommel’s Afrika Korps by Ian Baxter. in the same parcel of books from Pen and Sword Military in the Images of War series, I received a volume on the M7 Priest. This was written by David Doyle and contains 143 mostly of photographs of the M7 (the ISBN is 9781526738851 and it was published on 4 February 2019)

The M7 was the American 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage produced during World War II. This self-propelled artillery was produced in great numbers with over 4,000 of all marks produced. It was used by 16 different countries and was in service during World War II, the Korean War, the 6-day War and Yom Kippur. While most were produced over the period 1942 to 1945, they continued in service in various countries into the late 1960s.

The M7 was named “Priest” as in part it was a replacement for the British 25-pdr self-propelled gun known as the “Bishop”.

David Doyle has written and provided a great coverage of this vehicle with the book covering the following:

  • Baldwin Locomotive Works T32
  • American Locomotive Works M7
  • Federal Machine and Welder M7
  • Pressed Steel Car Company M7B1
  • Howitzer Motor Carriage M7B2
  • Field Use
  • Appendices covering:
    • Priest Contracts and Deliveries
    • General Data
    • M2A1 Howitzer Specifications
    • The Armoured Field Artillery Battalion

As with all books in the Images of War series, there are many photographs of the vehicles highlighted. In the case of those volumes looking at one particular type of vehicle, the photographs provide so much detail useful for modellers in particular.

The images are not just of the vehicles in static positions but rather include “action shots” taken during the Second World War in particular. Due to the M7 lasting in service into the 1960s there are also some terrific colour photographs of theM7 in field use.

Well recommended, especially for the modeller of fighting vehicles, not only for the images of the M7 but also for many photos that cold provide inspiration for diorama building.

 

 

 

Life in the Philippines – 15 Days to Christmas!

Well, it is in the Philippines. Today is 16 August and as such, 15 days away from the start of the Festive Season here. In the Philippines the festive season is known as the ‘ber months (September, October, November, December). This will be when the Christmas decorations go up in the stores and malls, and the playing of Christmas Carols commences in those malls – for the next four months!

It is normally around mid-October that the repeated Christmas Carols feel more like a Chinese Water Torture but then I relex and reaise that there are only 10 more weeks of Carol Singing to go!

Merry Christmas!

Images of War – the Armour of Rommel’s Afrika Korps – Book Review

Another volume in the Images of War series landed on my desk a few months back. This one covers the Armour of Rommel’s Afrika Korps by Ian Baxter. It is published by Pen & Sword Military in the Images of War series with 128 pages of rare photographs from Wartime Archives (ISBN: 9781526722393, published on 8 January 2019).

The Deutsche Afrikakorps (DAK, known simply as the Afrika Korps) was a Corp that was welded into an effective fighting machine by its general, Erwin Rommel. German troops were sent to North Africa to support, or rather prop-up, the Italian forces present in North Africa, the forces which had been bloodied to the turn of nearly 400 tanks destroyed and 130,000 troops casualties or captured by the British and Commonwealth Forces under General Richard O’Connor.

The Second World War in North Africa was a war of movement, of forces pushing forward and stretching their supply lines to the limits only to be followed by a strong counter-attack and retreat where the counter attackers move forward and stretch their supply lines. The oscillations repeated.

Rommel melded the Italian forces with the German reinforcements into an effective fighting Corps and then applied the blitzkrieg tactics that had worked so well in France to the deserts and wadis of North Africa. This continued until the eventual arrival of American forces pinned the Germans and Italians between two larger armies.

Baxter’s book covers the full range of German armoured vehicles that saw action in North Africa over the period 1941 to 1943 covering not just the panzers, and there was the full range from the Panzer I through VI, but also the Sturmartillerie equipment along with half-tracks, armoured cars, motorcycles and so on.

The book’s contents are:

  • Introduction
  • Desert Blitzkrieg, 1941
  • Attack and Retreat, 1942
  • Destruction in Tunisia, 1943
  • Appendix I – Order of Battle
  • Appendix II – Panzers Operational in Africa, 1941-1943
  • Appendix III – Heavy and Light Armoured Vehicles in North Africa, 1941-43
  • Appendix IV – Halftracks Operational in North Africa, 1941-43

The illustrations throughout the book commence with photographs of Panzerkampfwagen II (Pz.Kpfw.II) and Pz.Kpfw.III being unloaded from ships on the docks in North Africa. The background of some of these photos is also interesting, sometimes more so than the foreground for the hint of life in the German Army at the time,

The book then goes on to illustrate Pz.Kpfw.I; Pz.Kpfw.II; Pz.Kpfw.III; Pz.Kpfw.IV; Pz.Kpfw.V (Panther); and Pz.Kpfw.VI (Tiger) in service in North Africa, along with photographs of some of the personalities. What is also apparent in many of these photographs is the quantity of extra paraphernalia carried by these vehicles in the desert, strapped to the sides of vehicles. Photographs also shw vehicles that have been knocked out or are being repaired or repainted.

As well as the panzers, there are many photographs of the armoursed card, half-tracks, prime-movers and the like with the Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Sd.Kfz.231, 232, 233, 234, 234/1, 234/2, 234/3, 263); Leichter Panzerspähwagen (Sd.Kfz.221, 222, 223, 260/261); and the many variants of the halftracks, the ubiquitous Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd.Kfz.251 and 250) being illustrated. Also included are some of the artillery tractors, the Horch, Marders, motorcycles, self-propelled guns and the like.

I will admit finding the way the Order of Battle section was laid out somewhat confusing but this is a small gripe as there are many more authoritative sources of this information available to the researcher, historian, military enthusiast, wargamer or modeller.

This book would certainly be on interest to a wide spectrum of readers interested in the Second World War in North Africa and the Deutsche Afrikakorps in particular. It will certainly remain within easy reach on my bookshelves. Recommended.

Still Waiting for the Postman

Back on 8 August, in the post, Waiting for the Postman, I noted that I’d ordered some wargaming items mail order, including some board games, figures, flight deck decals and so on. I also noted that the delays in delivery are all at this end of the world.

The Navwar Ships

The ships from Navwar were cleared through customs back at the end of July. They were despatched to the delivery office, Makati Central Post Office, on 2 August 2019. It is now 12 days later and they still, apparently, have not been able to travel the 7kms from the Customs Office to the main post office in one of Metro Manila’s CBDs. Remember, these items arrived in Manila on 19 July. Still, I am patient.

The GMT Board Games Parcel

The GMT Board Games have now cleared customs yesterday, and today were, were despatched the 7kms to Makati.

I am confident that they will arrive just I am not sure exactly when.

When they do arrive, the service at Makati Central Post Office is absolutely brilliant – but I am impatient – want toys now 😉