Saturday, January 01, 2011

Project ETO - Initial Thoughts

One of my gaming goals for this year it to begin what I envision as a long (a decade or longer) project to study WW2 in the ETO, which includes North Africa. My study will include reading books on the subject as well as to play wargames, both at the campaign and battle levels when possible.

Here are some preliminary thoughts on how I plan to proceed, which I expect will evolve as the project moves forward.

  • The project will proceed chronologically through the war, beginning in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War and proceeding all the way to mid-1945.
  • Since many events were happening at roughly the same time (Huskey and Kursk, for instance), I may break the subjects down to a point where I can focus on one at a time.
  • My reading may include books that are larger treatments of the war, reading a chapter or two that covers the action in question. However, where possible I will try to read books that focus on the action in as much detail as I can stomach.
  • I may purchase new wargames specifically to fill in some operations, but in general my intent is to stick with the games I already own. It's a decent sized library at this point, but of course focuses on the "biggies". I will stay away from "magazine" games in general, but in some cases these are the only games on the subject that I'm aware of (Ethiopia, Greece, for example).
  • I do not plan to preset the amount of time I'm working on a given portion of the conflict, as obviously some are much larger than others. Barbarossa, for example, can be broken down into several games and it's a question of which ones I choose to play and their scale/complexity that will dictate pace.
  • I may or may not try to make this a "community" activity, encouraging others to "play along" with me and share reading and/or game suggestions. If I do, it will be run out of BGG rather than CSW or a proprietary site. I *will* create some sort of method of recording at the very least the games and books I use in my study.
  • The idea is not to *only* game a given situation, but to work in parallel with the other games I play. In other words, I'm not making this my exclusive wargaming activity.
  • I fully expect that a lot of these games will be played solitaire. The point isn't so much to make for a rich gaming experience (although that's something I'd like to do), but to complement my reading. In cases where the game rules don't work particularly well for solitaire, I will "make do" if necessary (for example, if I decide to play a CDG on the subject).
  • While tactical games may rear their heads from time to time, the point is to understand the larger picture rather than the OoB or specific tactics.
  • I am planning to focus largely on the land war, although I may include some topics as time goes on such as the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of Britain, the Allied strategic bombing campaign, etc. However, these tended to be long-term campaigns that had their own arc and stories, and unless I can focus on specific elements I will probably leave them out. The Battle of Britain is the one exception, taking place during a "lull" in the war.
  • I will largely avoid alt-history for the most part. Thus, games like Britain Stands Alone (on the Sealion plan) will probably be left out, although that game does cover the Battle of Britain. For the most part, this is about what happened, not what might have happened.
  • I have no intent of linking the games into a meta-campaign, with the results of one game affecting the next. For one thing, these will be separate games and there's no way for me to do this effectively and this isn't what I'm trying to accomplish in any regard.
As I mentioned before, my initial subject will be the Spanish Civil War. For one thing, this is a subject I know very little about, and I'm fortunate to have at least four games at present on the subject:
  • The Spanish Civil War - GMT Games (just released). A medium complexity game on the entire conflict at a counter density that I think will give good insights.
  • Arriba Espana - Firefight Games. A tiny game from a small publisher. Area map and thin cardboard counters, but I hear good things about it (and it's relatively quick). Again, the entire conflict.
  • EuroFront II - Columbia Games. This grand strategic game includes the ability to play the SCW on it's own, as did it's predecessor MedFront (which I also own). I have heard this game models the conflict at too grand a scale to be effective, but it's an option.
  • Guadalajara - MMP/The Gamers. One of the SCS titles, this game has gotten some mixed reviews as well, but it's the only game I own on a specific battle within the conflict and thus has some value.
  • I'm sure I have an ASL scenario or six laying around that covers the SCW, but as mentioned earlier tactical combat will not be a focus unless it's in a system I already am familiar with and am excited about playing.
Both a las Barricades and Crusade and Revolution are due out at some point from MMP, but I don't think they'll be published in time to be useful for this project.

As for reading, I'm hopeful that I can find books that I can put on the iPad/iPhone so that I can read them when I'm grabbing food or trapped somewhere away from the house for a period of time with little to do. The two books in the Kindle store that have caught my eye are The Battle For Spain, Antony Beevor, which looks to be a pretty crunchy read and focused largely on the political side of things, and A New International History of the Spanish Civil War by Michael Alpert, which I know nothing about other than it has a title I like. I'm planning to avoid books that focus on one element of the SCW, or that take a particular side. I'm interested in the history, and while I'm aware that the winners write history at the same time I'd like good scholarship rather than reading a book by someone with an axe to grind. If you have any suggestions, I'd be very happy to hear about them. Sadly, the new GMT game has no bibliography at all, but perhaps Guadalajara has a list that includes books concerning the entire conflict.

At some point during this period, I will also try to find a book or two on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. I have exactly one game on the subject, and although it is from a magazine (Command #4) it is well regarded and I've actually played it a bit before, although more than ten years ago. That invasion happened in 1938, so it fits in well with the "pre-war" period that I'm covering.

The next period will be about the Blitzkrieg, from Poland through the fall of France. My guess is that my pre-war study will last into June of 2011, although again I'm not making any promises. I'm not trying to do this on a schedule, and I don't have enough knowledge to be able to make one anyway that I'd have any confidence in.

While I haven't officially started a community effort, you are of course welcome to study with me. For now, I'm considering this first chunk of history to be my beta test of the project, and I expect to learn a lot about how to proceed as much as learning about the history. I will put up a GeekList at some point in the very near future where you can contribute games and books and insight if you wish, but not for at least a few days. I will put a notice on this blog when that happens.

As I've said, I expect this to last for quite some time. You may start the pool on how long this will last at your convenience!

1 comment:

Martin said...

Check out Espana 1936 - good low complexity CDG on the SCW.