Saturday, 15 February 2014

Does Googling while drinking beer count as serious research?

Well really, how else are you going to do it!

My adventures with Tannenberg continue and the research is going well.

I have prepared a test map based on the general East Prussia map in Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August. I'm doing this because I believe that all wargames should have direct links to the material that people actually read. If they encounter a game that has a map that is instantly recognisable to them it will enable them relate game play to history.

I generated a 13 by 9 hex map using an online programme that generated an svg file (whatever that might be). Being technically brilliant I printed it out, took it to the copy shop and got an A3 version made of the grid. I then used pencils and pens to make a map Simple!

Having said that, I will try to make a wholly electronic version but this will take me a while as I will actually have to learn how to create this on the computer. 

Unusually, I made this map very quickly and am pretty happy with how it looks. I spent some time trying to eliminate questionable areas. My only concern is with the Masurian Lakes section where the inter-lake defences need some verification. One of the issues is with Fortress Boyen and in deciding what the fortifications on the map actually represent. More in this in a later post.

In terms of research I haven't just been Googling, tempting as that may be. I have used:
  • The World War 1 Data Book: James Ellis
  • Guns of August: Barbara Tuchman
  • The Eastern Front: Norman Stone

No beer here despite misty outlook!
I think that if you are a casual reader of military history you will have come across the latter two books. The Databook is quite good on OBs but can be a bit limited. I have, of course, cast my net on the internet and found two brilliant references:
  • With the Russian Army 1914-17: Maj-Gen Alfred Knox. British Military Attache and front liaison officer. He was with Second Army at the time of Tannenberg. Great stuff from his diaries and it really captures the atmosphere of the times.
  • The Russian Campaign of 1914: N N Golovine. A professor at the Imperial General Staff College before the war and holding a variety of staff and command roles during the war this is truly brilliant. Part analysis and part polemic, this was written while the author was in the West following the Communist revolution. Careful Googling that name though, he has a long lost relative called Tatiana!
Both of these references are free on the web through the Internet Archive and US Command and General Staff College respectively.

On the OB front I've used the Nafziger collection. Getting the OB straight, designing the counter manifest and starting on the shape of the game is next on the list. There will as usual be a slight detour, this is around the nature of the fortresses in the east and the tactics of their use. Fortresses with Zeppelins?

I have settled on a  name for the game: "Under an August Sun: Battles in East Prussia 1914"

I shall now do some pointless Googling while drinking some Brains SA Gold, highly recommended.

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