Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Author of the Month: Galadrielle Allman

The recent death of Gregg Allman prompted me to go back and read Galadrielle Allman's brilliant and moving Please be with Me, about her father, Gregg's brother, Duane Allman.

(Image snaffled from same Amazon link as above)

It's a beautiful book, and one of the most wonderful, saddest things I've read. I don't know if you've ever fallen into a great book or a great movie so much that you start to live it, and find that at some point in that world you join something awful happens, and that that awful thing affects you deeply, and when you come back to that book or movie at some later point and go through the experience again you dread that moment, and sort of hope that this time, maybe, that thing won't happen, that the cup will pass, but it doesn't, and it damages you all over again, and yet in some way the whole experience is life-affirming.

Well, that's what this book is like.

I'll leave the second last word to Gregg Allman:

The last word I'll leave to Duane himself. He's on guitar here accompanying Wilson Pickett.

Anyway, next post will - I promise - be wargame related!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Facebook Fracas

The other day while browsing a facebook group devoted to boardgaming I came across a fellow relating an anecdote about a game he'd designed on 1st Alamein. He'd called it a classic of its kind, so I looked it up and had a quick read of the designer notes.

Being a New Zealander, and having had a grandfather who served in North Africa, I take an interest in the desert war. I don't game it myself, but have read a few books on it, and am proud of the reputation for gallantry won by the New Zealand Division and by the 8th Army as a whole. I was therefore a little surprised in this instance to read in the notes insinuations made about the New Zealand troops.

What started this designer off was that during the historical fighting on Ruweisat Ridge the New Zealand infantry advanced to their objectives overnight on 14th/15th July 1942. For various reasons the promised armour support never moved forward, the Kiwis were attacked from the rear by tanks from 8th Panzer Regiment, suffered heavy losses in killed, wounded and captured, and 4th Brigade was entirely destroyed.

Six days later, the same thing happened again: the New Zealand infantry advanced to the El Mreir depression, the armour failed to come up in support, and the infantry was again overrun by tanks against which they could do nothing, and the division took a further 900 casualties.

Ruwiesat Ridge from the NZ Archives.

On this, the designer wrote in his notes that:
An attack combining the New Zealand division with brigades of the 1st Armoured Division resulted in the overrunning and obliteration of 4th New Zealand (infantry) Brigade ... and accusations that the tanks had deserted the infantry on the battlefield.

I'm not sure where he got the 'accusations' reference from, but from my own reading I was aware that there had been some bitterness among the New Zealanders - particularly Kippenburger, who turned back to find the armour and urge them to get a move on - that the tanks had not come up in support.

But then, incredibly, instead of leaving the unfortunate incident there, the game designer wrote this:
(It might be remembered . . . that the "premature withdrawal" by a New Zealand battalion from its key position overlooking Maleme Airfield in 1941 . . . had been decisive to the loss of the island of Crete. Not only did Commonwealth forces then take grievous losses in ships and men in the evacuation attempt: the proud and brave people of Crete would suffer terribly under Nazi subjugation.)

I couldn't quite be sure of the intention, but in word he seemed to be saying that:

a) cowardice had been an issue for the New Zealanders on Crete;
b) that the subsequent losses from the Crete disaster were a direct result of this cowardice;
c) that the armour not coming up in support on Ruweisat Ridge was some kind of karmic payback!

I wondered if I was reading too much into it, but decided to reply to his post and query him to see if he had intended to imply what I thought he was implying.

In doing this I politely mentioned that while the Maleme airfield debacle was a terrible blunder, the New Zealanders were certainly not cowards, and that it would be nice if he would remove that implication from his notes.

Well, he wrote back.

HAH! The New Zealand troops may not have been cowards ... as we saw in the desert afterwards ... but 2 of their officers have been publicly criticised even in New Zealand for the bug-out, Aaron. The loss of the potentially decisive Allied airbase of Crete was extremely damaging. But nationalities do tend to get held responsible ... if only for deterring future wavering. Look at the South Africans' collapse at Tobruk in 1942. For your edification: link
 So the "implication" STAYS. The German paratroopers were almost out of ammunition, and they thought their last attack would be futile and suicidal ... only to find the New Zealand 5th Brigade had withdrawn. Your opposition to historical truth ... and justice ... however long after the fact ... is duly noted.

Again, I was slightly surprised by his approach, especially the final suggestion that I, someone he had no knowledge of, was opposed to historical truth and justice and that this had been duly noted!

I replied that he had misread the article he used as evidence: in it the accusation leveled at the officers in charge of the Maleme debacle was not cowardice; it was that they had misread the situation on the ground and, having been peacetime appointments, that they were out of their depth in the field. Personal bravery was not the issue (an MC and DSO with 2 bars for one of them; a VC for the other), and the article did not imply it was.

In the article, Major General Sandy Thomas brought out that the two NZ commanders made crucial mistakes, missed the chance to hold the airfield and throw back the German attack, and that the blunder was decisive in the failure of the campaign:

"The problem was the commanding officers responsible for the defence of Maleme – Andrew and Hargest – did not recognise what was happening on the ground," Mr Thomas said.

"In our first major battle [of World War II] our commanders were fighting a war which they did not understand."

This is a quite damning enough indictment from a fellow serviceman without a game designer needing to add in cowardice to spice up the narrative.

Anyway, the designer replied again, and decided to extend the accusations!

  I'm sure your official history put the best front on things it could ... or was told to ... but those officers nonetheless lost their nerve. Trying to rationalize that by claiming they just "misread" their tactical situation is a disservice to truth ... and future New Zealander battlefield performance, Aaron.
And regarding the discussion of contemporary games on another thread, we could further consider New Zealand now bugging out on Asian-Pacific nuclear deterrent (of China) solidarity, by proclaiming itself a "nuclear-free zone."
But back to World War 2, isn't it true that you "grateful" New Zealanders refused to load our transports, making our U.S. Marines do it themselves ... before they shipped out to Guadalcanal to SAVE you (and Australia)?? 😡
I did not want to get into an unseemly discussion on the topic of NZ-US relations on Facebook (or anywhere else for that matter), so I told him that he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder and that I would bid him good day.

And then with a classic little dig, he said: "Feel free to withdraw, Aaron"; implying that it's all one could expect New Zealanders to do!

Anyway, this little storm in a teacup has left me wondering how is it that an experienced and insofar as I can tell sober and respected game designer who clearly has a thing for historical truth and justice would include something so pointedly unjust and unnecessary in his designer notes, and then, when asked about it, turn it into an opportunity to cast aspersions on the character of someone he has never met and on the character of an entire country.

I know what to expect on Facebook and accept that there are people with whom one will never agree, who look at things from such entirely different viewpoints and accept such wildly different versions of the facts that it is impossible to find common ground with them on some issues.

But it was disappointing for me to find that a game designer would not be more reasonable in his responses. If in his considered opinion the New Zealanders had acted in a cowardly way on Crete, then that is his view and he has his right to it - though it would help if he would support it with relevant evidence - but to imply that the disaster elements of the NZ Division faced on Ruweisat Ridge was rough justice seemed to me to be far beyond reasonable.

Facebook is clearly not the forum to bring this kind of issue up (especially with a person who will respond in the fashion he did), but I am considering whether it's worth preparing a little essay and posting it on the game's page at boardgamegeek and consimworld. But then again, it might have the effect of giving him added oxygen, so I'll have to think about it.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Phil Sabin talk online

Phil Sabin recently posted on the Lost Battles yahoo group that one of his wargaming talks - "Wargaming as an Academic Instrument" - had been put online. I haven't had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet, but for anyone who may be interested, here is the link.

Phil is one of the great thinkers in our area of interest and I'm sure the talk it will be essential listening.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Legoland Discovery Centre, Osaka

Yesterday we took the kids off on a mission to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Osaka. It was a good day out for them, and although busy, it was a much nicer place to visit (as far as I was concerned, anyway!) than either of the Disney or the Universal Studio parks.

They had a couple of kid-friendly rides, lots of themed play areas (where you could, of course, build your own Lego creations) a dining area, and a model city.

As you'd expect, the city was particularly impressive. Here are a few shots from the day.

Idyllic scenes - until you see a kaiju  arising behind the building!

A model of the Osaka Aquarium.

More Osaka landmarks.

The modelling was spectacular, and there were various interactive activities, too.

For this Sumo bout, two players would push buttons as fast as they could until their man won (or lost). 

Osaka Castle.

More scenes.
The entry fee was fairly reasonably priced and the attractions were great for our kids at the ages they are now. Twelve year olds might find it a little boring, but for younger ones, it hit the spot.

There was also a shop with plenty of Lego sets to buy, but these were not cheap (the Death Star for US$700, anyone?!) and the style does not appeal to me as much as those glorious castle sets from my own youth ( but which we were never rich enough to own, sadly!).

So, a good day out, but if I'm honest, I was not that much of a Lego kid: my heart belonged to those Playmobil cowboys and Indians.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Roman Civil War armies review

I decided tonight for kicks to set up my Roman Civil War armies and see how they look on the new(ish) terrain tiles I've been working on now and again.

Worth a game, I reckon!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A little something in the mail...

Just had this beauty arrive in the post today and am looking forward to getting into it on the train tomorrow. His first book was very good, and this looks to be possibly even better.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Alexander: a grand tussle

And so we turn to the second game in our Lost Battles Alexander campaign. This time, Issus.

Alexander debouched onto the plain as the Persians awaited him behind the Pinarus...

... and we switch to our easy-to-see troop outlines. As before, Macedonians in red, Persians in blue.

Turn 2: the Persians advanced into their key zone so as not to take a morale hit, but left an enticing gap for Alexander himself to advance into if he was game.

It turned out he was.

Turn 3: fighting in the foothills goes the way of the Persians. Elsewhere also the fighting is fierce, with hits scored on both sides. The Greek mercenary hoplites give a particularly good account of themselves, and there is tension as the 'Favour of the Gods' marker changes hands several times during the clash.

Turn 4: Alexander's Hypaspists and Companions put the enemy in the centre left to flight, and these carry off the light infantry with them, much to the relief of the Prodromoi (who were looking decidedly shaky up in the foothills). The rest of the Persian line holds, and Parmenion is rather disappointed with his Thessalian cavalry - they have not performed as vigorously as their fame would have suggested.

Turn 5: the Persian cavalry now shatters a unit of aforementioned Thessalians, but on the Persian left the camp falls, and with Alexander around the flank and bearing down upon him, Darius - he's not rated timid for nothing - gathers his bodyguard and flees.

With the king gone no one else feels much like sticking around either, and Alexander claims the victory.

It has been a hard-fought battle. Although the Persians have lost the field they have done just enough damage to the Macedonian army to win on points, 102 to 97.

A very close game, and whoever the guy who soloed it is, he's ruing the fact that he forgot to use Alexander's ability to steal turn initiative (but we won't talk about that!).

So, after two battles, it's one win apiece. Gaugamela is calling....
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