Fifty Articles – An “Oriskany” Retrospective

May 9, 2016 by crew

One of the best things about Beasts of War is the level of engagement and interaction they offer their community. Members can even submit articles, and the team will work with contributors to help bring their work to on-line fruition. Needless to say, over the last two years I’ve taken full advantage of this great collaborative policy.

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This was hard to believe, but when we finished our recent series on the American Revolution, I realized the last part was the 49th article I’d published on Beasts of War. Surely I had to do something special for the “Big Fifty.” What better way to mark this milestone than a retrospective on the publishing done so far on this amazing website?

1. The Four Levels of Wargaming

It all started about twenty one months ago, when a Weekender segment happened to mentioned how wargaming in the Pacific Theatre of World War II wasn’t quite as fun as European-based games. I dropped one of those “wall of text” posts in the thread about how a Pacific battle could be fun if handled on the “operational level.”

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Warren asked if I could send a PM on the subject. I did so, expanding on how certain battles that might not be engaging on a particular level might be fun at a different level. Warren asked if I would be interested in writing an article series on these “levels,” and the “Four Levels of Wargaming” was born.

2. Wargaming in the Pacific

Next up was an article series about how wargames in the Pacific theatre differed from games set in Europe or Russia. We looked at the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theatre, the South Pacific Theatre under General Douglas MacArthur, and the Central Pacific Theatre under Admiral Chester Nimitz.

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It’s great to see the Pacific War getting more attention these days. Care must be taken, however, because battles in this war were driven by dramatically different factors like battlefield size, troop densities, firepower concentrations, and tech levels. Just stamping a “Pacific” label on a game designed for Europe may lead to a lacklustre experience.

3. Star Wars Pocket Models

Almost by accident, I happened to wind up with a large collection of Star Wars “Pocket Models,” a trading card game originally published by WizKids. Not really a card game fan, I came up with a rules set by which these great little pocket models could be used in a more tactical table top wargame.

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By the time the series was done, we’d presented battles on Hoth, Geonosis, and Endor. We discussed how to run parallel games in space and on the ground, and even created a whole new class of units in the form of infantry squads, elite ARC troopers, Force-wielding Jedi, and even Mandalorian mercenaries.

4. Battle of the Bulge

Published in December 2014 and January 2015, this series was timed to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

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Played with Axis & Allies 15mm Miniatures and the Avalon Hill classic “Panzer Leader,” the series walked through twelve of the key battles of this campaign, still the largest land battle in American history.

5. World War 2.5

I next took a turn into alternative history with World War 2.5. Here, we speculated what might have happened if the tensions between the Allies of World War II had boiled over (as many feared at the time) into a shooting war between the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union. It was basically WW III with late WW II weaponry.

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We not only played out the battles on the tactical tabletop with Ironfist Publishing’s great “Battlegroup” system (still the best WW2 miniatures game out there, in my opinion), but also on a custom-designed “campaign map” operation-scale game that allowed players to command the whole front from the perspective of a four-star general.

6. Worldwide D-Day Challenge

For the next project I would work on, I took on a partner. The Worldwide D-Day Challenge saw Chris Goddard (@chrisg) and I put together a global campaign, with gaming groups around the world playing parts of the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. We even had an epic game at the Bolt Action Boot Camp, recreating Pegasus Bridge!

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In all we had thirty one players in nineteen groups (some groups shared players), in eight countries. Most of our games were played on June 6th, 2015, marking the 71st anniversary of the event. Results were tracked live in the forums, making us all “battlefield generals” that day, grimly tracking events until it came our turn to hurl ourselves into the breach.

7. The Desert War

Next up, we headed to the sun-baked sands of legend for a look at the Desert War during World War II.

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Starting earlier than most people do when reviewing this campaign, we looked at the British vs. Italian battles in East Africa in August 1940, and didn’t let up until the final Axis surrender in Tunisia in May 1943.

8. Modern Wargaming: Ukraine

Taking a break from World War II, the next series headed towards much more modern history, the recent conflict in the Ukraine. Using Force-on-Force and a heavily-updated version of Panzer Leader, I explored this conflict as fairly as I could from both sides, bringing “historical” gaming out of dusty books and into the “CNN-now” of the present.

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Running wargames from conflicts this recent admittedly makes some people uncomfortable, and we had no shortage of (welcome) opinion in the comment threads. But we also had plenty of gamers who welcomed the idea of games this immediate, relevant, and “meaningful.

9. Naval Collaborations

I then decided to get my feet wet in the waters of naval warfare (pun totally intended, I regret nothing).

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Seeking to expand the number of contributors for Beasts of War, I worked with Simon Stokes (BoW @broadsword) to present his pair of articles on cruiser actions in World War 2, focusing on the Pacific battles in the Solomon Islands.

10. Anatomy of an Air Compressor

Always hoping to stretch the range of contributor content on Beasts of War, our next project saw us collaborate with Tim Chubb (BoW @nakchak) for a look at air compressors.

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With more and more hobbyists exploring the great possibilities of air brushes, it seemed only fitting to take a detailed look at this vital component of airbrush painting.

11. Force-on-Force

Nothing beats working with someone who’s truly passionate about the subject matter in hand. Such was the case with Darren Oliver (BoW @unclejimmy) when we started working on a series for Force-on-Force, a miniatures game for modern tactical combat by Ambush Alley Games and Osprey Publishing.

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This four-part article series didn’t focus on any conflict in particular, but instead zeroed in on the game system itself. We discussed the features that made Force-on-Force different from other tabletop games, what made it “modern,” and the range of support materials that have been published for the incredible system.

12. The American Revolution

The latest article series I’ve presented on Beasts of War was another collaborative venture undertaken with Chris Goddard (BoW @chrisg) … a five-part monster of a project on the American War of Independence. With over sixty photos, this was definitely the most lavishly illustrated (and researched) project I’ve worked on so far.

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We did our best to present the war from both the Patriot and Crown perspective, and also looked at the gaming this conflict in four distinct levels of wargaming (almost bringing us full-circle to the very first series presented almost two years ago). Of course we couldn’t cover everything, but we hope we shed some light on this amazing conflict.

A Big Thank You

Of course, no retrospective like this could possibly be complete with a gargantuan truckload of thanks. First off, thanks so much to all the collaborators who helped me expand the breadth of topics, especially helpful for a guy who only seriously started miniature gaming two years ago.

Secondly, no amount of thanks will ever be enough to Warren, Lloyd, Justin, Ben, John, Lance, Tom, and everyone on the Beasts of War team who’ve allowed and helped me publish all these materials on the site. I’d like to particularly thank Ben Shaw for all the help (and patience) he’s provided as my editor in the course of all these series.

And finally, I have to thank all the readers who’ve slogged through not only this article, but the forty-nine before it. Your support, comments, nominations during the 2015 Beast of War Annual Awards, all have given immense inspiration to continue producing out this content. I certainly couldn’t have done it without you!

Thanks once again, and here’s looking forward to another fifty articles!

By James Johnson

If you would like to write for Beasts of War then please contact us at ben@beastsofwar.com for more information!

"Surely I had to do something special for the “Big Fifty.” What better way to mark this milestone than a retrospective on the publishing done so far on this amazing website?"

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"The latest article series I’ve presented on Beasts of War was another collaborative venture undertaken with Chris Goddard (BoW @chrisg), a five-part monster of a project on the American War of Independence..."