Book Review: Guerrilla Nightmare.

I’ve been playing a few games of the old (1980) Strategy and Tactics magazine game ‘Tito’ so when I saw a copy of this book for a decent price I jumped on it.

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Basically it is an operation history of the Stuka units and their time in Yugoslavia. Whilst the Stuka dive bomber is synonymous with the German’s Blitzkrieg* by 1940 and the Battle of Britain it was found to be rather vulnerable it contested air space. Whilst it did serve on the Eastern Front for many years, including as a dedicated tank hunter, it had reached its high water mark in the German opening attacks of the war.

One of these attacks was the 2 week invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941; details of which open the book’s narrative. Once the Partisan movement in Yugoslavia started to actively resist the Nazi occupiers the Stukas were deployed there to offer air support to the Germans fighting on the ground. Given the paucity of the Partisan anti- aircraft capabilities it was the ideal enviroment for the Stuka.

The books draws heavily on squadron recoreds and log books whilst it charts the deployments and notable missions of the different Stuka squadrons. A couple of chapters stoodf out: that which covered the German’s attepmts to disarm and demobilise the Italians after their 1943 capitulation and the Stuka’s role in Operation Rösselsprung, the attempt to kill Tito in 1944.

Until the end of the war the Stukas could fly with relative impunity, losses to ground fire were rare and there were also chances to continue terror bombing of civilian targets. However, as the Western Allies advanced up the Italian mainland the time came when Stukas were being engaged and shot down by the RAF, Spitfire Vcs on one occasion. Additionally the Stuka airfields were bombed as part of distractionm efforts when Italian based bomber units went north to bomb parts of Austria.

The book is rounded off with a nice selection of colour plates showing profiles for German as well as allied Axis operated aircraft. Their is also a single example in Partisan colours which would make for an interesting model (One of my 1/300 collection will end up like that probably).

Overall, this one gets my recommendation if you want to dig a bit deeper into the Yugoslavian campaign in WW2.

Cheers,

 

Pete.

 

*A problematic term given recent scholarship, it could quite easily be a blog post in itself….

Book Review: ‘The Pentagon’s Urban COIN Wargame (1966)’

It is well known that I’m a sucker for anything with COIN when it comes to games and books (and academic endeavours too) so when this book was released by John Curry’s History of Wargames Project clicky I ordered it straight away and similarly when I arrived I read it straight away…

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The book is a reprint for the archives of what is to all intents and purposes a megagame. The game that the Pentagon created was meant as a training tool to better understand urban insurgencies and to generate insights in those who may have to deal with them in the future.

The game has three sets of players: Government, insurgents and general population, the latter being split by socio- economic class. Initially the insurgents are hidden within the general population and are unknown to the Government, in a similar manner the Government has players hidden within the general population that are unknown to either the general population or the insurgents.

Play is split into 24hr long cycles with a day/night phase in which players have to do assigned task in certain parts of the city (such as go to work to get paid) or to keep up appearances if they are undercover. The game ends when certain victory conditions have been met; interestingly the general population can ‘win’ by increasing their personal wealth and backing the winning side on the final turn. The final turn not being announced in advance.

 

Being a serious military game there was a lot of record keeping built in. Players were expected to keep an accurate record of their locations visited within a turn, so it could be analysed later.

 

Although I’ve designed/ run a couple of games now and played/ controlled in many others I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert, but a few things do jump out at me. The insurgency is rather generic: given the era that the game came from it is assumed that the insurgencies is a communist one (the historical examples that are cited the majority are) or at least a war of national liberation that is using communist ideology to achieve that. Whilst more background would help player engagement and immersion with the setting and roleplaying opportunities it would also frame the responses of the government especially with how to approach ‘carrot’ rather than ‘stick’ responses to insurgent demands. It was interesting to see that there was a role for the press within the game; although this was referred to tangentially rather than explicitly.  The control forms seem like a lot of work to do and whilst they track the location of the player it doesn’t record the most important aspect: that of the social interactions of that player. It would be through such interactions that opinions would be formed and alliances made, especially for those players making up the general population.

 

One thing that really intrigued me was a comment in the introduction that a copy of these rules was found in Paddy Griffths’ own archive; for it was he who started megagaming as a recreational hobby (and then taken forward by Jim Wallman). Is the game the genesis of the modern hobby as we know it? Time and some more archive work may yet tell us….

I am tempted to try and get a game organised to try this out with a few players- I think 20 players would be a manageable number to recruit and test the game out properly.

 

Cheers,

 

Pete.