2014: Opening New Fronts

wraondsnyIn the middle of 2013 I somewhat unexpectedly re-launched Brooklyn Wargaming with a new design and a renewed posting vigor. Since then, I’ve had more than 10,000 visits from readers all over the world. Together with these folks I’m sure to never know, we share a continued passion for gaming I am committed to infusing in every one of my postsings here.

My World War II Flames of War posts are clearly the favorites for visitors to the site. My FOW After Action Reports continue to garner a lot of daily views, and people in particular seem to love the Barkmann’s Corner scenario I played in July at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. More AARs and building-out my various national forces in my FOW Modelling posts will be a big part of 2014.

As for other stuff on the site, my few posts on Warfare In The Age of Reason are quickly shooting to the top of popularity. I really enjoy writing up my plays a variety of board and card games through my New Game Weekend posts, and taking a look backward at Retro Gaming The 70s & 80s often result in emails from people like me who have fond memories of hours spent at play in the past.

Looking to 2014, here’s where my focus will continue and grow on Brooklyn Wargaming and the tabletop each week.

World War II

For years, I’ve played a lot of FOW with a big focus on Western Europe. To start the year, I’ll be playing a beach landing or two as a way to prep for the 70th anniversary of D-Day this summer, and I’ve also got a handful of other historic scenarios I’ve been working-up over the past few months.

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Over Thanksgiving, my brother (another lifelong gamer like myself) handed me a copy of Antony Breevor’s Stalingrad and told me it was the best military history book he’d ever read. The highly-readable account of the vicious siege of Stalingrad has gotten my hooked on the idea of expanding my WWII gaming into the Eastern Front in the new year.

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As a first step toward this front of the war, I picked up the new FOW Desperate Measures book. While this intelligence briefing is centered on the closing months of the war battled among German and Soviet forces, there’s also a newly-released updated edition of the FOW Red Bear book which gives a broader look at the Allied forces on the Eastern Front. These resources coupled with my historical reading on Stalingrad have whet my appetite for fielding some large masses of Russian forces on the table. A couple other guys at the club in Brooklyn have already started putting together some of Stalin’s finest and I’m very much looking forward to the Eastern Front opening up my WWII gaming with some scenarios this year.

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I spent a chunk of the past year reading Rick Atkinson’s Guns At Last Light, the third book in his World War II Liberation Trilogy. The book’s focus on the D-Day landings through the campaigns in Western Europe to the fall of the Third Reich squares with the majority of my FOW gaming from the past year. Working my way back through Atkinson’s books, I’m just starting in on The Day Of Battle for Christmas. As with my new swing in interest toward the Soviets and Eastern Front, I’m looking to Atkinson’s second WWII book to fill in my knowledge on the southern European campaigns in Sicily and Italy. Whether I get some Italian troops on the table by year’s end remains to be seen, but I’m really looking to 2014 as another big year of WWII gaming and learning.

Seven Years War

I grew up in Western New York State and then lived for a period of time in Western Pennsylvania, so the French and Indian War has always lingered as an interest but has never found its way into my gaming.

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James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans and other books in his Leatherstocking Tales series have also been favorites since boyhood. These colorful stories are set within the wilderness backdrop of the colonial wars of the Americas fuel much of my love for the French and Indian War period, and my visits to historic sites like Fort Niagara and Fort Necessity have added physical understanding to the frontier conflicts of the period.

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Toward the end of 2013, a fellow club member introduced me to the Warfare In the Age Of Reason rules and the Seven Years War. While my experience gaming battles from the period have thus far had a European focus, my long-time interest in what most consider the world’s first global-scale war holds tremendous interest for me. To this end, I hope to make wargaming the Americas front with the FIW a project for the coming year. Modelling 15mm miniatures of colonists, French, British and Native Americans, along with requisite early American frontier terrain, is sure to be making an appearance here in the coming months.

World War I

While I’m on the subject of world wars, I can’t help but acknowledge the calendar and the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of World War I this coming July.keegan_first_l

My only real exposure to the war so far has been with John Keegan’s excellent The First World War. I’ve read a half-dozen of Keegan’s books, and his 1999 overview of the Great War gave me a solid introduction to a war that’s often overlooked by most Americans like myself. Clearly this is a major period in modern warfare I could stand to learn more about.

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To get myself back into the period, I’m planning on reading Max Hasting’s Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes To War which made many top nonfiction lists at the end of 2013. I’ve only gamed WWI once with a 28mm French-German trench warfare scenario at a convention back in 2011, but there are a number of club members with miniatures from the period I may prod into using in some games this year. There are also rumors afoot that the makers of FOW are expanding into WWI just in time for this year’s anniversary, but for now I think some time with a few good books should be enough tribute from me in 2014.

And…

I can’t really tell with complete certainty where this coming year in gaming will take me. Like with most battle plans, a grand strategy can be laid out but actual events often unfold very differently in the fog of war. I can say there will be more miniatures, more scenarios and more completely fresh games to come here on Brooklyn Wargaming by New Year’s Day 2015. For now, here’s to old fronts not forgotten from 2013 and new fronts to come in 2014.

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Downloading: Zulus On The Ramparts

Living in Brooklyn and commuting back and forth to Manhattan on the subway for work each day, I wind up with a fair amount of time on my hands. I read a lot and the New York Times crossword puzzle is a daily necessity, but sometimes I like to just unwind with a game on my iPhone. I’m not a big electronic player in general, so I was glad to happen across Zulus On The Ramparts! by Victory Point games in the iTunes Store.

Over the past six years or so, Victory Point Games has cranked out dozens of board and card games covering all kinds of scenarios, eras and genres. More recently, they’ve begun releasing a few apps, and Zulus On The Ramparts! just debuted a couple months ago. The game is based on their popular boardgame of the same name from their historical “States of Siege” solitaire games line, and it is available now for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

As with the boardgame, the app inserts the player into the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. In the January of 1879 battle, a small group of maybe 150 British soldiers from the 24th Regiment of Foot successfully defended a small outpost against a massive army of thousands of Zulus. The battle was popularly dramatized in the 1964 movie “Zulu,” and I was first introduced to it in John Keegan’s “A History of Warfare.” My interest in the battle and the Anglo-Zulu War period has only grown over time, and I’m currently working toward getting a large 28mm scale wargame up and running.

The game progresses through a series of turn phases. First, a random action is chosen for a Zulu impi to move, attack, retreat, stand their ground or perform some other specific action. Each Zulu force appears on the field and then moves over the course of the game through a series of predefined oval spaces which progressively close in on the walls and barricades of the British hospital outpost. Some Zulu actions may cause extra moves or the entire Zulu force to move en masse. Since close range combat is key to a Zulu victory, the first portion of the game is spent quickly organizing and supplying the British before the inevitable attack.

A lot of information is crammed into the game map screen. The position of the Zulus is shown at their various ranges from the fortifications. At the top, the game phase is indicated. On the left side of the screen, various historic officers or more generic soldier characters stand at the ready to use their various bonuses in combat and other special actions. On the right side a running status of supplies such as water and ammo, along with other factors which will effect the outcome. The bottom of the screen displays a clock as the turns click by toward darkness as well as a link that takes you to the “barracks” screen.

On the barracks screen you manage your officers and troops, viewing their heroic abilities on virtual “cards.” Abilities range from calling up reserves, ordering the construction of barricades or distributing supplies to the troops. The barracks also contain combat actions allowing you to fire volleys from your Martini-Henry rifles with various effectiveness of range

Once actions are selected, combat is resolved through a nifty slot machine-like spinning wheel. Depending on range, the type of weapons being fired and any modifiers from heroic actions on activated officer and troop “cards,” combat outcomes are determined. After combat, new cards are randomly placed in your barracks and the next round begins with additional Zulu actions.

Like the historic battle at Rorke’s Drift, time is of the essence in Zulus At The Ramparts! and hours run by quickly on the game clock as the Zulus swarm in on the British and supplies run low. This is a really tough game in a small digital package with lots of variables to manage from turn to turn. Playing on the tiny iPhone screen makes things even harder, and there is probably significant playability to be gained in playing the game on an iPad or Android tablet.

With a few games (and losses) behind me, the game can seem frustrating at times. With that said, the difficulty of Zulus At The Ramparts! does a pretty decent job in simulating the bloody tough spot the British found themselves in on the plains of Africa on that famous 1879 day where retreat simply wasn’t an option.