While I am struggling to post the pictures of the rest of my little AAR for the Korean War I managed to put another little post...
In the last month (more or less) as far wargaming is concerned I had made three acquisitions. One is the excellent The Everlasting Glory.
I will not dwell too much on it because I intend to produce a proper review, but the game is a very interesting and well thought production by a relatively new entry on the market, Formosa force games hailing us from one of my favourite countries (as far girls and food is concerned), Taiwan. It is a bilingual game on the Second Sino-Japanese war.
The two other acquisitions were the latest issues of Battles Magazine and Agaisnt the Odds.
Very good issue of Battles. For once Charles’s article addressed a real point instead of meaningless philosophical meandering. Phil article was less effective than usual and I do not subscribe the idea that ZOC represent a single thing. It depend on scale and design intent. The review are top notch as usual with my favourite being the one on the new edition of the La Bataille de la Moscowa. In a climate were abstraction and “simplicity” seems to be ends in itself rather than just means the fact that some gamers appreciate the importance of details is refreshing. It also provide a very interesting rationale on why details are important. The review of Ted Raicer’s Case Yellow was very interesting. It echoed a lot of the point I made here earlier. While I disagree that Case Yellow has replaced Victory in the West as the benchmark on this topic I agree with the reviewer on almost everything. Another good article was the analysis of the Battle of Ascalon through 3 different game systems.
I have not yet played the game (due to my gaming time at home being sucked by Everlasting Glory!) but I enjoyed the historical article on the campaign and the battle. As far the game is concerned the map is very nice while I was not really captivated by the counters, but they look functional. I will play it when I go back home…
Forgot to mention there was also a review of mine!
The huge disappointment of this batch has been the latest issue of ATO. Not to say that it is a bad issue, but it could have been much much better. The topic this month is Boudicca (or Boadicea) revolt in ancient Britannia with a game from one of my favourite designers, Richard Berg. I am playing the game right now and it looks quite good. There are a couple of problem on scale (what the Roman auxiliary counters represent?) but the system, so far, sound good. Richard accompanying article is reasonable (I have a problem with some numbers, especially why 7 cohorts destroyed generate only 1200 casualties). Andy Nunez article on the history of Britain is interesting. He is clearly happy to discuss sources and find the funny contradictions of chroniclers. John Prados column on design and, in this case, designer’s problem with players criticizing designs even before buying them is spot on. William Stroock article on the training and development of the American Expeditionary Force under Black Jack Pershing is also very interesting. Actually it is what I like most, a well written article on a relatively obscure topic. And here the happy list end… and the awful start.
I will start with my personal pet peeve the dreadful “and the data shows… just anything Ed Heinsman want you to hear!” Again mr. Heinsman shows us that he do no understand history but really wants to make political point. He wrote an article to show us that the Pax Romana was not so peaceful and not so happy. Fine with that but to do that he distorts history, avoid to present sources for his quite unbelievable and bogus numbers (it seems mr. Heinsman has never read Hans Delbruck and his debate on reliability of ancients number) it also paints a woefully fantasy picture of the Roman Empire. But now I have reached the point where I am just hoping that column will finally go into the dustbin of awfulness and ATO will took the chance to use the space for more interesting articles, and one that did a little more fact checking about history.
Then we have a pearl of idiocy in an article where a renowned and quite bright board game (boardgame not wargame) designer explain us why he dislikes conflict simulations and why we have to stop playing them. Do not get me wrong, the article raise some interesting point, but more than half of it just show that the writer do not like wargames and did not know a lot about them.
Sam Sheik small article on Axis airpower is not too bad per se, but it is dead wrong, poorly researched and exemplifies one thing Lee Brimmicombe-Wood said about wargaming magazines long time ago. The history in them sometime is just dreadfully shallow and instead of adding food to debates it is just a rehash of popular myths. While once this was not bad and had the merit to spread historical knowledge now it is just redundant and leaves the reader with the impression of having been ripped off. I found quite puzzling that an article purported to talk about the Luftwaffe and the two Japanese air forces did not include key text like H.R. Hooton two volume history of the Luftwaffe, Hata books on Japanese aces or Peattie’s Sunburst. It would have also benefitted to have a look at some serious air combat historians like Cristopher Shores. The article would have been good 15 years ago not now. Now is plainly ridiculous. I feel difficult to understand why a small amount of pilot who actually see combat in combat made the Luftwaffe combat experienced. The same it is also true for the Japanese. As several primary sources point out the Japanese pilots in December 1941 were not so experienced as a whole and the combat veterans from China were a minority. While I agree that the small cadre of experienced flyers increased overall efficiency the actual numbers do not support the myth of a massive axis superiority. The Polish Air force did not succumb in one day and actually inflicted considerable losses on the Luftwaffe. Dutch and French pilots bleed the Luftwaffe to death to a point where its effectiveness was already in doubt before the start of the Battle of Britain. Japanese pilots inflated their victories and actual damage assessment from these elite flyers was poor. The sinking of the Prince of Wales was due to pure luck and a freak hit that disable her AA battery rather than superior efficiency. Hit percentage during the sinking of the Force Z was under 20%...
The other weak point of the article is the complete lack of understanding of then current technology. We are told two things that are completely unsupported: all German and Japanese fighters were incredibly advanced and that they made a mistake in not producing heavy bombers. Certainly the Bf-109E was an excellent aircraft like the Zero but they were not completely different from contemporary planes like the MS 406, Dewotine D520, Spitfire, Hurricanes and P-40 or F4F. Each plane had its own advantages and disadvantages, also almost every air force had more conservative design to perform specific roles. While biplane fighters are looked with contempt they did have significant advantages in 1940. At the time the fighter doctrine was still in flux debating between speed and turning radius extremes. Biplanes usually were able to outturn monoplanes. They were more manoeuvrable and required less support in term of runway. The Bf-109 for example was a pilot killer in take off and landing. The heavy bomber myth again rests on faulty premise. A closer look at heavy bombers in service in 1940 show planes that were close to useless. Even the first variants of the Boeing B-17 were bad aircrafts. The weak link was engine technology. Engines were not able to produce sufficient power to weight ratio to sustain effective medium bombers. American hopes on its heavy bomber force were a gamble on development of engine technology than anything else. When the German and Japanese medium 1940 bombers were designed they were the best trade off between speed, range and payload. Let’s face the reality only the impressive US radial engines made heavy bombers an effective weapon en masse (while the Lancaster used in line Merlin Engines the Stirling and the Halifax used Bristol Hercules radials). Even then the engines almost condemned the B-29 to the realm of colossal failures.
The article has other minor problem and compared to the previous two is not that bad, and it is also shorter. Yet it shows a problem that is becoming quite common in military history magazines, namely they lack of interesting content for long time reader, especially when the writer approaches widely researched subject with a distinct lack of knowledge. Yet it is no mean a universal trend. I will point the readers to the extremely well done historical articles accompanying Battles Magazine game for a change.