35 episodes

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames.

Wargames To Go Mark Johnson

    • Leisure
    • 4.5 • 30 Ratings

Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames.

    Wargames To Go 21.2 - Vietnam Battle of Hue

    Wargames To Go 21.2 - Vietnam Battle of Hue

    Episode geeklist

    Turns out Vietnam is just too big of a subject for a pair of podcast episodes. I decided to limit part 2 to just the Battle of Huế, saving more games & history for a future exploration. There are several reasons this battle is so well-represented in wargaming. In some ways it's the Bulge/Waterloo/Gettysburg of Vietnam. By reading Bowden's book on the subject and rewatching Full Metal Jacket, I felt I had a decent understanding of the history as-examined by four smaller games. Then I came across a wonderful "then & now" YouTube doc that also helped bring everything to life. I've never had the opportunity to visit Vietnam myself, but this looks like an amazing city.

    As usual, no sooner did I finish recording that I realized a few mistakes and omissions. First of all, I glossed over the fighting that happened within the city of Paris. How could I do that? One of my favorite places in the world? Well, it certainly wasn't leveled or suffered too many horrors of house-to-house fighting, not like other cities in other wars. But there definitely were tanks and soldiers exchanging fire, as described in the book & film, Is Paris Burning?

    Next, I neglected to mention a couple more films about Vietnam that I watched. Sort of. I mean, I definitely watched them...they're just 'sort of' about Vietnam. I couldn't bring myself to watch Apocalypse Now again, so I watched the highly respected documentary about its creation, Hearts of Darkness. Honestly, it drove me kind of crazy. I'm a cinephile and enjoy so many challenging & creative films, but the self-importance behind this film & filmmaker gets in my way. Perhaps if it didn't relate to a vital bit of military and national history (of at least two nations), I could forgive its excesses. But I can't.

    And then there's The Deer Hunter. Oof, more of that self-importance, combined with even less respect for the historical setting. I know it isn't ABOUT the Vietnam War, but neither is it inconsequential to the story. It's a deliberate falsification to tell an excruciating myth. I really hated this one. This year (2021) I love the films Nomadland and The Sound of Metal, both nominated for Oscar's Best Picture. So I've got no issue with tough stories of human existentialism. But spare me The Deer Hunter, ugh.

    One experience that was better was reading The Sympathizer. This is a completely fictional book about the Vietnam War, one that won the Pulitzer just a few years ago. It tells the story of three Vietnamese friends who grew up in that country, one who became an ardent fighter for the South, another who became a devout agent of the Communists, and one in the middle, a mole for the communists operating within the ARVN. The unnamed protagonist and source of the book's title is the third person. The story has a lot to say about America's confusion with this country and period, too. Not military story, but an amazing human lens through which to examine our shared history. Guess it won that literary award for a reason, huh?

    Finally, when I talked about the magazine games I was looking forward to tackling next, I thought the Vae Victis game was about Algeria. Nope, it's Angola. Very different setting and conflict. I've got it now. Remember, these French wargame magazines have English translations of the rules, and all of their recent issues have a standardized small format of 108 diecut counters and an A3 (about 11x17") map size. Perfect for me! Lately I've been using Google Translate to read the accompanying historical article for the issue game. That's not necessary, of course--you can do just as well to read a Wikipedia article--but I like the opportunity to learn/struggle-through some French language.


    P.S. Here are a couple twitter videos I did for some of the Hue games I played.


    • 51 min
    Wargames To Go 21.1 - Vietnam War (part 1)

    Wargames To Go 21.1 - Vietnam War (part 1)

    Episode geeklist

    My next exploration through smaller wargames is about the Vietnam War. This is something that was almost contemporary when I first started wargaming (1979), so that was too close. I stayed away for years, just as I'm not ready to play simulations about our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now. I need some historical distance in order to process & understand what's going on.

    Unlike some other topics I've tackled, there are a LOT of books, games, and movies about this subject. Just knowing I'd eventually want to get into it, I acquired a game here, a game there over the years...and it turned into a large list (see link, above).

    • A Bright Shining Lie
    • Pleiku
    • Chickenhawk
    • Tet Offensive (S&T Quarterly
    • Hue 1968
    • Nam Moi

    • The Vietnam War (Burns/Novick doc)
    • A Face of War
    • Sir! No Sir!
    • Last Days in Vietnam
    • Hearts and Minds
    • We Were Soldiers
    • Hamburger Hill
    • The Green Berets
    • Platoon
    • Apocalypse Now
    • The Deer Hunter
    • Full Metal Jacket
    • Da 5 Bloods

    This was Part 1, and there will definitely be another part. I need to get to all(?) of those other battle-scale games, especially the ones about the Battle of Hue. Is there someone I should seek out to join me on the podcast? I'm open to suggestions.


    • 58 min
    Wargames To Go 20 - Strategic Air Command

    Wargames To Go 20 - Strategic Air Command

    Episode geeklist

    It's been a long pandemic, hasn't it? We've got a ways to go, too. During this strange time I've been working from home, wearing a mask outside, and playing some solo wargames. My regular euro-style boardgaming has dried up almost completely, albeit temporarily. Sure, I play some online versions at BoardgameArena, Yucata, special apps, and others, but it's only enough to keep connections going with my friends. I've enjoyed play-by-web and other computerized versions of boardgames for years, but that's when they were a way to get in extra games during the week. Now that they're the only boardgaming I can do, they just remind me of how much I miss sitting across from my friends on a regular game night.

    Wargames are different for me. Though once in a while I'll play a 2-player game across a (real) tabletop, normally I enjoy my wargames solo. Purpose-designed solitaire games generally take a backseat to traditional 2-player games where I just play both sides. Which means that there shouldn't be anything slowing me down now for my wargaming during the pandemic.

    "Shouldn't be." And yet, it's still been a bit sluggish. Because everything is kind of a drag now, at least for me. To be sure--lots of people have it a whole lot worse that me, so I cannot complain. My job is still going fine via remote work from home, my family is doing ok now, no one is sick... So you'd better believe I'm not seriously whining about my wargaming hobby. I'm not. It's just a little slow, that's all I can muster right now, and I expect that to continue until there's a good vaccine deployment. It'll happen eventually.

    One thing I have managed to do during all of this is get my collection a little more organized. That meant going through all of my wargames, sorting the magazines by type, and setting aside a few mini-collections on topics I want to get into. For this episode it was the Strategic Air Command (next time will be Vietnam). As I've mentioned before on my podcast, my dad served in the USAF from 1953-57, during the heady days of the Strategic Air Command. My dad passed in 2018, and though we talked often, now that he's gone I find things I wish we'd talked more about. Like his military service, and that part of his life. I know he was a J47 engine technician for the B-47 Stratojet. He served primarily at March AFB in Riverside, California (not too far from me now--we visited it together), but once deployed to Upper Heyford AFB in the UK.

    The most important part for me was that plane, his beloved B-47. Sandwiched between the behemoth B-36 Peacemaker and the famous B-52 Stratofortress/BUFF, I wondered if any wargames would include the B-47. Yes, there are some! I think I've now played most of them. This is an interesting period for wargaming, because it's all alt-hist for a nuclear WW3 that thankfully never happened. I don't normally explore alt-hist, either, but for SAC, the B-47, and Dad I'd happily make an exception.

    There are several good movies about this period, too. Probably everyone knows Dr. Strangelove, which I've seen before and was happy to see again. But I found several other good ones, and the aptly named Strategic Air Command movie with Jimmy Stewart even featured the B-47! All in all it's been an enjoyable exploration, for the games, the military history, and a way to reconnect with my dad.

    Movies & Video
    • Strategic Air Command
    • Dr. Strangelove
    • Fail Safe
    • The Arrow
    • Cold War aviation films (per Wikipedia)

    • Bomber: The Formation and Early Years of Strategic Air Command , by Phillip Meilinger

    If you're not a Twitter user, but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.


    • 54 min
    Wargames To Go 19.2 - Operation Barbarossa, part 2 (with Carl Paradis)

    Wargames To Go 19.2 - Operation Barbarossa, part 2 (with Carl Paradis)

    Episode geeklist

    Carl Paradis

    Designer Carl Paradis is featured in this episode. Of course I asked him onto the podcast to discuss his landmark Eastern Front game, No Retreat: The Russian Front. Beyond that, Carl has explored this topic in his development of Gary Graber's The Barbarossa Campaign and his own forthcoming Absolute War. That would make him an interesting designer for most wargamers--what makes him special for me is his penchant for small wargames. Even if boxed, with a large map, the counter densities he uses are low, the hexes large, the rules short. Just the sort of gaming I find most interesting, because those designs have to make bold choices & cuts in their simulation modeling.

    Now Carl is furthering this design style in his No Retreat Battles series. The first in this new series focuses on five battles from 1942: Velikiye Luki, Stalingrad, Gazala, Guadalcanal, and Dieppe (two of those are solitaire). Small maps, not too many counters...sign me up! (Literally--this game is nearing the cutoff for GMT's P500 preordering system, and one of those preorders is mine.)

    Siberian trooper Carl

    Think that a big topic like Barbarossa cannot be simulated sufficiently by a low counter density? They might not be for everybody, but take a look at Carl's interesting designs. Within the context of familiar hexmaps, cardboard counters with combat-move factors, and Combat Results Tables, he takes the epic scope of the Russian Front and does clever things with ZOCs and a counterattack system, not to mention multi-use cardplay. YouTube is full of gamers showcasing this title.

    If you're not a Twitter user, but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.


    Lex Saxonum

    La Ders de Ders

    • 1 hr 31 min
    Wargames To Go 19.1 - Operation Barbarossa (part 1), with Bruce Geryk

    Wargames To Go 19.1 - Operation Barbarossa (part 1), with Bruce Geryk

    At long last I'm posting my podcast about the Eastern Front in WW2. Except that it's not exactly that, it's Operation Barbarossa. When I started this as a subject, I really didn't know how to parse it, or what my focus would be. Over the past six months I learned to separate Stalingrad, Typhoon, the Soviet counter-invasion, and everything else that is part of so vast a topic. I learned to focus just on Barbarossa. That's a deep enough subject on its own, and I have time in my wargaming future to explore the other aspects.

    The centerpiece of this episode is an interview with Bruce Geryk. You know him from his Wild Weasel podcast, and you may also know him from the wargame analyses at his own website, from his Dien Bien Phu video series, or from his other podcast appearances on Three Moves Ahead and Quarter to Three. Bruce is a wargamer from way back, and he thinks deeply about the history and our hobby.

    With a subject as monumental as the Russian Front, I particularly wanted Bruce to fill in the blanks of my experience with wargame titles that make up “the canon” for the topic, and especially some of the larger games. As well as being an avid tabletop wargamer, Bruce knows computer wargames as well, and fills us in on that part of the hobby, too.

    Movies & Video
    • ThirEastern Front of WWII animated: 1941
    • The Great Patriotic War. Operation Barbarossa. Episode 1

    • Kiev 1941: Hitler's Battle for Supremacy in the East, by David Stahel
    • The First Day on the Eastern Front: Germany Invades the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941, by Craig W.H. Luther
    • Blitzkrieg: From the Ground Up, by Niklas Zetterling
    • Barbarossa: Germany's Assault on the Soviet Union, 1941-1942, by John Burtt

    If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.


    • 1 hr 54 min
    Wargames To Go 18 - Doolittle, Pavlov, and Sledgehammer

    Wargames To Go 18 - Doolittle, Pavlov, and Sledgehammer

    No episode geeklist this time, just the three games below

    I'll be attending Origins Game Fair this year (June 2019) in Columbus. I've been there before, but only in the 80s & 90s, so I'm sure it's substantially different now. I'll be there Thursday-Sunday, including participating on a panel of wargame podcasters/YouTubers/bloggers Sunday morning. That's listed in the program as shown below. I think it's free, and I hope any WGTG listeners still around that morning will stop by. I don't have anything else in particular planned for Origins. Just want to see the thing, play some boardgames, and enjoy some relaxation. Drop me a note on Twitter or
    geekmail if you like.

    Armchair Dragoons Presents Wargaming Media: State of Play
    This panel featuring wargaming media personalities will discuss the current “Golden Age” of board wargaming and what can be done to ensure its survival.
    Location: GCCC - Apods - A210
    Date: Sunday 6/16/2019 10am (2 hours)

    Here's another one-off podcast. I thought last episodes exploration of solitaire games was an exception to my normal wargaming--and it is--but here I am again to discuss three different solo wargames. I swear I'll get to more WW2 East Front explorations sooner or later, but right now I wanted to drop this episode about some other games: Doolittle Raid, Pavlov's House, and Utmost Savagery. The games are all about WW2 topics, and all solitaire systems, but in other respects they're quite different. Their solo rules are completely different, as a matter of fact.

    Of course, Pavlov's House, being about a location in the Battle of Stalingrad, relates to my Eastern Front exploration, albeit at a different scale. Last time I had designer David Thompson on the podcast to talk about the process of wargame design. Now I got to see how one of his games actually worked. The Doolittle Raid is different, something I heard my father & grandfather talk about growing up. They both served in the USAF/USAAF and I grew up with stories of America's famous air exploits. My buddy Brian suspected this game was right up my alley after he'd enjoyed it, so at a GMT Weekend at the Warehouse I bought a copy. As for Utmost Savagery, my interest was sparked by reading Eugene Sledge's outstanding WW2 memoir, which was adapted into the HBO series The Pacific. The Battle of Peleliu plays a central role in that narrative. A look through my collection revealed that I already owned a game on that topic, part of a dual-game within Against The Odds magazine.

    It all makes for an unusual collection of titles to discuss together, as well as books & films to take in.

    Movies & Video
    • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
    • Destination Tokyo
    • Pearl Harbor (just the end has Doolittle's Raid)
    • Enemy at the Gates
    • The Pacific (HBO) (episodes 5-7 are about Peleliu)
    • Sands of War (WW2 military short film about the Desert Training Center)

    • Target Tokyo, by James M. Scott
    • Enemy At The Gates, by William Craig
    • With The Old Breed, by Eugene Sledge

    My Twitter videos about the games
    • Doolittle Raid
    • Pavlov's House
    • Utmost Savagery

    • Geeklist of Award-Winning Magazine Games

    Next I'm really going to start playing more WW2 East Front games. Besides Pavlov, I've already played Battle for Moscow and No Retreat. I have many more titles to explore which are listed on a geeklist.

    If you're not a Twitter user (or don't follow me), but still want to see my photos and short videos about some wargames, just go to http://www.twitter.com/WargamesToGo. Feedback here or there is always welcome.


    • 1 hr 1 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
30 Ratings

30 Ratings

Par3sR Bad ,

Lots of good information

I've really enjoyed these podcasts. The discussion of little known facts, films, books, and exhaustive list of games on the topics has been valuable.
If you're a historical boardgamer, I really believe you'll enjoy this podcast.

PolyDoob ,

Wonderful wargame podcast

I love your work, please keep it going!

m444dave ,

My Commute Companion

Thanks for rekindling my love if war games.

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