The “Oriskany Century”: 100 Articles on Beasts of War

December 9, 2017 by oriskany

Well … actually it’s 103 … but who’s counting?

You knew it had to come sooner or later. After a frenzied summer, the landmark I thought we would hit sometime in mid-2018 is now behind us.

I’ve had the distinct honour, pleasure, and privilege of presenting over 100 articles to the most amazing wargaming community on the face of this planet (or any other, as far as science is aware).

It All Started So Innocently ...

In the summer of 2014, I was asked to write my first article series for Beasts of War. The topic was the “Four Levels of Wargaming,” an attempt to sketch out the differences between tactical, command tactical, operational, and strategic warfare, both in regards to actual military operations and how they pertain to wargame design.

Regardless of genre, the logic, dynamics, and mathematics of our simulated battlefields fundamentally change between a skirmish of 8-12 man squads, battalions of hundreds, divisions of thousands, or armies of millions. As you scale up, some factors drop away (like weapons ranges), and new ones arise (like diplomacy and economics).

Simply put, some wargame settings work better at some levels than at others. If a historical period or sci-fi setting or fantasy novel series just doesn’t seem to make for a good wargame, maybe try it at a different level, reviewing the conflict in a different scope. And of course, there’s always the challenge of multi-level wargaming.

Next came a tentative try at the science fiction genre and actual wargame design, with the “Star Wars Pocket Models” series. Here, we took the old Star Wars Pocket Models CCG and turned it into a tactical tabletop wargame, complete with new units, terrain, and even a home-produced .pdf rulebook.

Although the Star Wars series was successful, historical has always remained my true home and love. So in December of 2014 I was able to roll out the 70th Anniversary Battle of the Bulge series, tracking and wargaming week-by-week (sometimes day-by-day) the 1944 battles that raged in Belgium exactly 70 years before.

World War 2.5 was next. By far my biggest project to date, this series postulated a war between the Soviet Union and Western Allies almost immediately after the end of World War II. Set in 1946, it allowed us to feature equipment and units that were just coming out in 1945, and a full divisional-scale wargame of my own design.

Collaborations

In June of 2015, Chris Goddard and I collaborated on the Worldwide D-Day Challenge (WWDDC), a global campaign of linked tactical wargames set Normandy landings of 1944. In the end we had 31 players from nine countries participate, including Beasts of War at the Bolt Action Boot Camp.

With historical momentum at full steam, the next series opened the discussion on a whole new theatre that many seemed to overlook: the Desert Campaign of World War II. A five-part review that spanned the whole of World War II in the Middle East and Africa, this series received the biggest community response yet.

After three World War II-themed series, it was time to a change of pace. The next series ventured into Modern Warfare, taking on the very recent 2014-2015 Ukraine War in 20mm Force-on-Force. Modern warfare isn’t a comfortable subject for everyone, and this series did spark some interesting conversation to say the very least.

Rolling into 2016, a concerted effort was launched to try and recruit additional content contributors to the site. As a result, I had the honour to work on a series of collaborations with Simon Stokes and Rob Hutton (Naval Wargaming: Cruiser Actions), Tim Chubbs (Anatomy of an Air Compressor) and Darren Oliver (Force on Force).

The next collaboration was much larger – back with Chris Goddard on a massive five-part series on the American Revolution. This was a much larger project with whole new armies, video production, and even my first spot on the Weekender with Lloyd and Justin.

By now my profile on Beasts of War was high enough where game companies occasionally inquired about article series on their products. Such was the case with IronFist Publishing’s Battlegroup (still my favourite World War II miniature game), an article series I was able to work on with the incomparable Piers Brand.

After six months of collaborations, I was ready to strike out once more on my own, with the 75th Anniversary Series on Operation Barbarossa, the initial Axis invasion into the Soviet Union in June 1941. Using Battlegroup and PanzerBlitz, we dissected, analysed, and re-fought this gigantic offensive, easily one of the largest in military history.

The next article series saw a radical change in direction, plunging headlong into the thermonuclear sci-fi world of BattleTech. The response to this series was amazing, almost double the comment count of any other series. We also got a chance for a Q&A with Ray Arrastia, BattleTech Product Developer for Catalyst Game Labs.

After such a wild affair with sci-fi, I was half-afraid the historical community wouldn’t take me back. How wrong I was, as shown by the great reception we got for the Operation Sea Lion series. Here we examined the possibilities for a German invasion of England in the fateful summer and fall of 1940.

By the beginning of 2017, the Flames of War 4th Edition Boot Camp was coming up, and so I was asked to “return to the sands” for another look at World War II in the desert. This time we zeroed in on the Battle of El Alamein, and the engagements and equipment that would be featured in the initial roll-out of FoW 4th Edition.

Historical Editor

After the Boot Camp, I was officially brought aboard as BoW Historical Editor, with my first “assignment” being a review of the “Heroes of Limanowa” Kickstarter campaign. It was a great little game about a campaign that doesn’t enough attention, and its failure was symptomatic of so much of what is tragically wrong with wargaming today.

Eager to rebound, I lined up another 75th Anniversary Series for a different kind of World War II engagement, the epic naval Battle of Midway. Working with Hendrik Jan Seijmonsbergen, we used his wargame system (available at https://naval-war.com/) to recreate some analysis (and in some cases, new results) for this gigantic naval clash.

Early June 2017 also brought around the 50th Anniversary for the iconic 1967 Six-Day War, probably the most infamous of the Arab-Israeli Wars of 1948-2006. This was kind of a small one, and perhaps overshadowed by the Midway series a bit. Still this is the kind of anniversary you don’t want to miss.

The time had come for another swing in a new direction, working with my friend Craig Pauls on a “Wargaming in the Fantasy Genre” series. In this series, we talk about his campaign in Battlesystem 1st Edition and also about the specific features of fantasy wargaming in general, including systems like WHFB and KoW.

Warren then asked me to fire up the historical boilers again and set course for Dunkirk. Timed to coincide with the Christopher Nolan movie about the epic 1940 evacuation, this five-part series was part of a themed week where Warren, Gerry, and myself recorded a series of interviews to go with each article.

While Dunkirk Week was still in progress, I was already working on the next “Warren-assigned” article series, this time in collaboration with Ben Collins. This was “Reviewing the ‘History’ of Team Yankee” – timed to coincide with the Red Thunder Campaign undertaken by Battlefront.

Rather than present a “review” of the game or a series of battle reports, Ben and I instead drove through the actual military factors, situation, and balances between NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the mid-1980s. We take a hard look at what World War III might have actually looked like, and deflate quite a few myths along the way.

At long last come to my most recent article series, the Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolution. Meant to line up with the 240th anniversary of the campaign’s two climactic battles, the series presented plenty of history along with 20mm wargaming that recreated many of the key battles in the summer and fall of 1777.

So three years later (and about a quarter million words) we come to the end of the story. I can’t tell you how rewarding it has been to be able to produce all this content, or how grateful I am to Warren and the whole Beasts of War team for the opportunities, support, and interviews afforded over these last three years.

Thank You

Most of all, thanks to all of you, the readers and community that have supported me so much. The opportunity to create and present these 103 articles have definitely been the highlight of my time on Beasts of War. I can’t recommend the experience enough to other potential writers out there.

From the bottom of a cranky old grognard’s heart, thank you.

Meanwhile, if you’ve got an idea for a topic and fancy picking up the writing quill, reach out to Az and see about getting lined up to produce some articles yourself! I think you’ll be amazed at how great it will make you feel.

The “Oriskany Century” Articles List

1.  Four Levels of Wargaming: Wargaming at different levels of scale and command; Tactical, Command Tactical, Operational, Strategic

2.  Wargaming in the Pacific:  What makes World War II wargaming in the Pacific different than battlefields of Europe, Russia, Africa?

3.  Making the Game Your Own: Star Wars Pocket Models: Turning the WizKids “Star Wars” Pcket Models TCG into a tactical miniatures game

4.  Battle of the Bulge 70th Anniversary:  A historical “deep dive” with a day-by-day, week-by-week, wargaming on the 70th Anniversary

5.  World War 2.5:  World War II “restarts” between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies in 1946.  “Hard” alternate history.  Includes free wargame download.

6.  World Wide D-Day Challenge:  Collaboration with Chris Goddard and BoW, replaying the Normandy campaign with a global series of wargames

7.  Desert War:  An overview of World War II wargaming in the deserts of Africa and the Middle East

8.  War in the Ukraine 2014-15:  A look at the Modern Wargaming in the Ukraine War, using Force-on-Force to examine modern asymmetrical warfare

9.  Cruiser Actions, WW2:  Collaboration with Simon Stokes and Robert Hutton on navak warfare, focusing on cruiser surface actions of World War II

10.  Anatomy of an Air Compressor: Collaboration with Nakchak on air compressors for hobby airbrushes.

11.  Force on Force: Collaboration with Darren Oliver on Force-on-Force, the wargame system for post-1945 (“modern”) conflicts

12.  American Revolution:  Collaboration with Chris Goddard on Wargaming in the American Revoltion (American War of Independence)

13.  Oriskany 50:  A retrospective on the first fifty articles

14.  Battlegroup:  A look at Battlegroup system for World War II miniatures by IronFist Publishing, photos by Piers Brand

15.  Barbarossa 75th Anniversary:  A wargaming look (Battlegroup and PanzerBlitz) at the German Invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941

16.  BattleTech:  Reviewing the FASA / Catalyst Game Labs “Battletech” sci fi wargame and universe, still one of the most successful sci-fi wargames in history

17.  Operation Sea Lion:  A “hard alternate history” look at the possibilities for a German invasion of England, 1940

18.  Sands of El Alamein:  Focus on the battles surrounding El Alamein in the Desert campaign in World War II, presented to support Flames of War 4th Edition and the Flames of War Bootcamp

19.  Heroes of the Great War:  Looking at a Kickstarter for an operational campaign game on the Eastern Front of World War I, “Heroes of Limanowa.”

20.  Midway – 75th Anniversary:  Collaboration with H.J. Seijmonsbergen, commemorating the anniversary for this pivatal naval battle in the Pacific War

21.  Six Day War - 50th Anniversary:  The 1967 Six-Day War between Israel, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan

22.  Battlesystem – Exploring the Fantasy Genre: Collaboration with Craig Pauls, using TSR’s Battlesystem 1st Edition.  A look at a new player exploring a new genre

23.  Dunkirk Week: Collaboration with Warren and Gerry, a themed week about wargaming the operations surrounding the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk in the summer of 1940

24.  The History of Team Yankee: Collaboration with Ben Collins and Dave Wheeler on the 1980s background of theoretical World War III scenarios between NATO and the Warsaw Pact

25.  Saratoga Campaign:  A focus on the 1777 Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolution, using 20mm Battlesystem 2nd Edition.

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