Monday, 27 January 2014

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer

Annual BGG and Consim World support drives

At this time of year I sit down and figure out how much money I haven't got and then I divide it up and give it away. Oh yes, I have a low threshold for the annual exercises by my favored charities (Oxfam and British Red Cross amongst them). Given the Syria problem I may well be revisiting these charities soon. On a happier note I also fall for the annual supporter drives for my favourite websites: Board Game Geek and Consim World.  

The BGG supporter drive is very worthwhile and this year I believe secured some 10,000+ donations. Apart from a warm feeling for having supported such a worthwhile cause (at least in wargame terms) you get some Geekgold (I'm not sure what you can actually spend it on) and a supporter badge on your BGG avatar. As I use BGG almost on a daily basis, a small donation every year is a great investment.

I also use Consim News on a daily basis and this year have made a donation to keep it going. I'm very pleased to say that Consim World does reward its donors most substantially. This year donors received a number of free games with Gold supporters finding the following in their e-mail:

The Battle of AP Bac by High Flying Dice Games
Anzio by Saxon Games

Braddock's Defeat by White Dog Games

Fairfax's Revenge from TCS Games

To Hell with Spain, an Infantry Attacks module from Avalanche Press
These are all print and play games and they all look pretty good. I'm a sucker for the TCS series of ECW games so Fairfax is a great addition as is Ap Bac. Good all round for supporters and for the contributing games publishers. 

At the end of the day, you have to take a balanced approach to things. I support certain charities because I believe it helps others in times of crisis. I support my board game resources because I think that society, at least the wargaming bit, would be poorer without them. I don't equate one with the other and so far can manage to do both. If I couldn't the choice would be easy, I have too many games anyway.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Ask a stupid question....(1)

Artillery in France 1914 

I have a long standing interest in the First World War and recently read a new book by Ian Senior “Home Before the Leaves Fall” (Osprey 2012). I found this a very well written and informative book that describes in a good level of detail the military events of 1914. Of particular interest is how the author describes the actions of the BEF in the context of the joint operations with the French. Whilst the BEF was not unimportant, it was a pretty minor cog in a big French machine and one which was not perhaps as reliable or useful as we might like to think. 
"75"s at the Marne
The stupid question arising from this book is about the relative weight and effectiveness of French, German and British artillery support. What caught my eye was that a standard French infantry division had only three groups of artillery each of 3 batteries of four guns i.e. 36 guns in total. Even though these are the renowned “75”s, this looked a little thin compared to equivalent German and British organisations which are both twice as big. The question therefore is, did the German army have a significant artillery advantage in 1914 over their most important opponent on the western front? 

There isn’t a short answer and a long answer is actually difficult to find. However, in researching this question I have found some really interesting material. I have recorded this and my thoughts on the matter in the attached PDF.

It has taken me over a year to reach some conclusions, the main problem being the lack of a consistent set of data covering organisations, OOBs and weapons characteristics. So it has been a frustrating journey. Nevertheless I have reached a conclusion. The evidence may not be to criminal standard but, for me, it allows a decision on the basis of balance of probability. 

So, returning to the original question therefore, did the German army have a significant artillery advantage in 1914 over their most important opponent on the western front? The simple answer is no. 
Brilliant shot of US troops using a "75" at full pelt
French forces could generate significant firepower. Divisional commanders and corps commanders could take on their equivalent German foes without major disadvantage. The key area of French disadvantage was their over reliance on one weapon type allowing neither tactical flexibility in the use of howitzers or the ability to destroy hard targets using higher calibre weapons. These problems would become more pronounced as soon as the fighting became more static and entrenchments came into play along the front. 

British forces could also compete equally with the Germans in terms of artillery support. The Germans, however, did have the full range of weapons available giving them tactical flexibility and also the tools to deal with heavy fortifications. 

Note: Having encountered some technical problems with my original post I have revisited this and upgraded the main document to PDF status. This should work OK but takes time to load. Let me know if it doesn't work.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Not the battle of the magazines!

or perhaps the battle of the not magazines

Having re-entered normal life after Xmas I find myself easily diverted and not quite ready to get into planning mode for this year. In fact I have been arsing about. However, in doing so I have stumbled across a couple of publications which are entirely new to me. Both are PDF documents and both are part of a long running series of similar publications so in my mind they are pretty much magazines.

Christmas Special 2013, Two Fat Lardies, 167pp, £6.00

2013 Christmas Special

I don't have any Lardy rules but I am familiar with IABSM and have read about Chain of Command (ChoC). So why did I get this? Well, simply because it is absolutely packed with stuff. Yes, it is largely Lard related but it contains some great material on the Spanish Civil War (army lists, tanks and improvised tanks), 76mm Shermans plus 1914 infantry tactics. This is just the stuff I'm interested in. I'm particularly pleased with the interview in the mag with Richard Clarke. On the basis of this I will be strongly considering getting ChoC. I have havered over Bolt Action and decided eventually that I want to take tactical decisions not game decisions. Until now that really has only left PBI as a contender, not being happy with Rapid Fire or FoW. So, I'm catching up on reviews on ChoC and putting on my thinking sombrero.

I understand that Summer and Christmas specials have been produced by the Lardies for some years so that will be something else to catch up on.

Simulacrum 32, 75pp, £3.51 This is an occasional board game e-zine. There is no doubt a professor of history, who, if not too busy disputing nonsense with Michael Gove, might offer some advice on how to pronounce this. Coming from the eastern area of London my natural difficulty with vowels and the letter l probably mean that I am saying something rude in Swedish.

I happened across this through Consim World. What engaged me with it is the involvement of Brian Train, game designer of some repute, and the fact that is contains a game about N Africa, Panzergruppe Afrika to be precise. The magazine is the work of John Kula, a Canadian, and obvious expert in the world of board wargames. It can only be described as eclectic, off the wall and quite mad. It contains a chronicle of wargames from 3500bc to date, some nice disputation about C G Lewin's book on the history of wargames, a brilliant photo of two top Stalinists playing a board wargame in the 1930s ((looks like Napoleon's War: The 100 Days to me), the rules for Kurt Vonnegut's GHQ game and a board game dictionary. Wacky. I haven't evaluated the game (pnp of course) but it has a really novel combat system that looks interesting.

Find this edition at worth five bucks of anyone's money.

Talking of bucks, if you go to Wargame Downloads,  which I do a lot, you will find:

1. A free game published as part of Draken Game's latest catalogue, Santa and the Goblin War, featuring evil snowmen, polar bears, elves and goblins. Nice.

2. A bargain basement ($4) copy of the original Vietnam Solitaire game, shortly to be re-issued for some money by White Dog games. This is not to knock White Dog who seem to be developing some really interesting solitaire games, (Dunkirk anyone?). Well worth watching.

3. A finally, Two Buck Games, yup, games for $2.

And another thing, if you go to Web Grognards you will find Trenches in the Tropics, a free game on the battle for Dien Bien Phu. Really nice.

Oh, by the way, who is the winner? Well, its me and you basically.  There is simply so much inventive, funny, free/cheap and interesting stuff going on that we are really lucky. 2014 is looking good so far. Hurrah.