Saturday, 8 May 2021

Colonial wargaming and inclusiveness

So, many wargamers are coming round to the idea that having a more diverse group of players is good for the hobby. Good. But when inclusiveness is dicussed, my impression is that wargamers mostly think about having more women and young people playing. But an important group that feels distanced from wargaming as a hobby are those that don't have a white background. And for them inclusion is harder because they don't share the historical background that white women and young white men have in common with the middle aged white wargamers.


Your chest may swell with 'Men of Harlech' when you see Zulu. But how does a non-white person view such a movie other than as a massacre of dark skinned people? And this is Zulu, which apparently stands out positively for portraying the Zulu as 'worthy opponents', whatever that may mean. Most Western and colonial movies (or popular books like Tarzan and King Solomon's Mines) don't have much time for the faceless opponents of Europe's benevolent harbingers of civilization.

And wargame rules very much copy the frames that are to be seen in the movies and history books from our youths. Titles referring to a 'dark continent', rules with individual white heroes. Their opponents may be mostly cardboard character with wornout colonial stereotypes. And often the stats for white characters will be superior for no other reason than that, well... er....

While I still love the basic idea behind the 'Science vs Pluck' rules of the Sudan wars, it highlights exactly what the problem is with 'colonial' wargaming. The imbalance in violent means is so great that only a significant cock up amongst the Europeans can offer the Mahdist opponents a chance of defeating them. But having this game with only the British side played, it also removes the choices and agency from those opponents. They have become no more than NPC zombies that charge unto their doom against the Maxim guns and Martini Henries.

Would you want to play that as if your roots lay in the Sudan? How are those of Pakistani heritage to enjoy a game about the Northwestern Frontier when the rules take the white men as the point of reference? Likewise, how would an Indian feel about a ruleset on the First Indian War of Independence rather than one about the Indian Mutiny? What is a Maori to think when all the New Zealand tribes are lumped together generically in the painting guide while the facings of each British regiment are specified in detail?

Should we not delve deeper into the question what motivated the Zulu warriors in opposing the British invasion? Why did some Native American tribes or Indian kings side with the French, others with the British, others with the Spanish, and why do they fight each other? And should we maybe seek out conflicts which aren't so one-sided?

The history of colonialism and imperialism has shown that violence was part and parcel on all levels of European expansion. Not only during conquest, but also afterwards. These actions have been rebranded as pacifications, police actions or punitive expeditions, against 'bandits', 'fanatics' and 'restive tribes'. This resulted in genocide more often than just the Bandanese, the Herero, the Tasmanians and Native Americans

If we don't look critically at how we approach these subjects on and around the table (and on social media), we will find that all talk of inclusivity will sound empty to those that we would like to reach out to.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Gaming goals - November update

After October's nadir, thing are looking better in wargaming terms.

In terms of playing, I got off the second game in our Chain of Command 29 Let's Go! campaign. The American platoon managed to take the enemy rearguard post with some difficulty as the attack was not very well planned or executed. Good thing the Germans were still hurting from their previous engagement.

Again many useful things were learned and maybe at some point in this campaign I get a feel for marshalling my resources. Until then, firepower will gave to provide the solutions.

And a game of What a Tanker, introducing three young ladies to the rules (one of whom who has helped to build some of the tanks earlier this year). By the second game they were quite good against their dads.

I played a few board games but nothing on the list.

Painting wise, this was a good month. Made a solid start on the 1672 project, with four foot units near completion, and a dragoon unit in the works. Those are planned to be finished this year. But there's still some decisions to be made about painting technique.

So far just basic colours and decided against a generic wash (ie Army Painter). Not sure I actually want to do shading/highlighting. I also experimented with painting horses in GW contrast paint, which I'm okay with. All that to save time and improve chances that I actually finish this project.

Also painted up a few Italian bunkers with French Renault turrets that a friend printed in 3D.

I finished my Yankee reinforcements for Chain of Command: extra BARs and a gun team.

In terms of projects: 1672 is on, with the painting started, but haven't done much reading or terrain building yet. The other participants are off the mark as well.

To keep you up to date on my mad scheme to cycle 4000 kms this year: I managed to get beyond 3800 kms. That means I'm in a realistic distance of making it!

Monday, 4 November 2019

Gaming goals - October update

This can be a very short post as I didn't do anything in terms of gaming goals. Yup, not one block changed colour this October. I didn't lift a brush, rolled no dice, dumped no book.

Technically I did play three games of Lost Cities, but that doesn't count.

I hardly cycled as well. Not even 200km.

The reason? Holidays and the big project still lumbering in the background.

Ten days cruising to Italy and back was awesome enough, though, and I slipped in the odd bit of (military) history. Looked upon Fortress Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz, walked the 17th century walls of Lucca and spent the night on the battlefield of Arcis-sur-Aube.



Porto Venere

There was good food, beautiful countryside...

View from the hammock

Cinque Terre

and some awesome art

Werner Bischof, Dresden 1945
Barbari Baldi poster for Lucca Games & Comics

Jeffrey Catherine Jones at Lucca Games & Comics

But November will have to be different: the 1672 project needs work for a credible outing in February. So I need to make a decision on my painting method soon.

Also, PolderCon is back on the menu (yeah, I know...). Hope to see you there on February 2nd in Utrecht !

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Gaming goals - September update

A bit more modest month in terms of gaming goals.


Started a TooFatLardies pint sized campaign on the 29th Division pushing inland from Omaha Beach after D-Day using Chain of Command. I was able to achieve my objective, mostly by whacking every German that stuck his head up. It won't be so easy next time, I'm afraid.

My 81mm mortar barrage raining down on the Germans

And later I staged two introductory games of Muskets & Tomahawks. The first I only umpired, the other we played, mostly making up our own scenario around the canoes provided by my opponent. It looked fantastic and the liberation of captured hostages provided an interesting dynamic. But not sure the amphibious rules are the best part of M&T.

There was some fun boardgaming as well, but not the ones on my to do list. I'll have to prepare better to get them on the table.


My friend Dick had assembled a number of artillery guns for me from our SHQ order, which I immediately set out to paint. I also painted up the TooFatLardies jump off points.

And a 57mm AT gun that I ordered from Grubby Tanks, from which I ordered my WW2 Americans. I can't recommend them enough.


No stuff out of the door, but bringing in a new IKEA Ivar allows me at least to stack up my army bags rather than leaving them on the ground. Cleaned up my hobby table as well, so I can actually work on it again.

A fair bunch of hills from Total System Scenic came in, but I haven't gotten them on the table yet.


As you can see, a lot of Chain of Command stuff. Also guiding my reading.

But I've also been distracted by WW2 commemorations, such as the one at Arnhem. To come in October: Battle of the Scheldt and the liberation of Noord-Brabant.

Hardly any progress on the 1672 front as I try to get other stuff out of the way and think about the way I'm going to paint them. I have no set system yet, although I was reasonably happy with Army Painter.  But with the French grey uniforms, I'm wondering if that's the best solution. GWs contrast paint looks inviting too. So I've been testing different washes and varnishes on white and grey base coats. Not settled on a method yet, though.

And there is yet a new project popping up: a TooFatLardies day in Arnhem for October 2020! Might organise itself to a certain extent, but it will need a venue and some financial arrangement. Stuck my finger up.

PS I crashed through my 3,000 kilometer target for cycling this month. So 4,000 seems doable. A terrifying thought for next year...

Friday, 27 September 2019

Another Bridge Too Far?

The Tactical Painter recently published a great post with many good points on Richard Attenborough's 'hidden' message in A Bridge Too Far, and many of them I gladly take on board. It retriggered a train of thought that started last weekend, as I cycled with my friend Diederick from Arnhem to Oosterbeek and then on via Driel and Oosterhout to Nijmegen. We discussed why no one had attempted a new movie about Operation Market Garden recently (it being over 40 years since ABTF).

The church tower at Driel

I figured there is ample room for different perspectives. Quite a lot was left out in ABTF and a lot of time was 'wasted' on episodes that do not drive the grand narrative (eg Dohun/Eddie) but only make sense in light of Attenborough's ulterior motives, as The Tactical Painter shows (I think quite convincingly. You really should read that bit).

And in a sense, the episodes from Band of Brothers relating to Market Garden are one of those possible perspectives. Those combat scenes are excellent. And that is one way to do it, focussing on a part rather than the whole.

And there's so much more to play with. In ABTF there's hardly any time for the vital cutting of Hell's Highway at the crisis of the battle and 101st's US Airborne role in general.

Or what to think of the desperate fights on the 18th and 19th September by the Para's to get into Arnhem? This is where the back of the division was broken, but not always in the best performance. It somehow gets swept up in the Urquhart story in ABTF.

Polish Information Point in Driel

And I guess there might shortly be a Polish movie on Sosabowki's efforts (if there hasn't been one already). His role fits seemlessly into the political narrative of the present Polish government, with the Poles as heroic liberators that are being scapegoated by devious foreigners.

And by the way, where is Monty in all this? Only referenced in archive material.

But some of the most intreaguing choices Attenborough made are on the German side (and this is where I disagree with the Tactical Painter a bit). Rather than as simple foils, I think Attenborough made a conscious decision to only focus on the SS. They are portrayed as tough and ruthless, also probably as a counterpoint to the British lackadaisical approach.

Graebner, the commander of the SS reconnaissance battallion that gets shot up trying to cross the Arnhem bridge, is on the other hand the classic German puppet officer, who hardly utters a word, refusing even to scream as he burns to death.

The German commander in chief, Field Marshal Model, is portrayed as egotistic and incompetent, refusing to blow the bridge in Nijmegen until it is too late. Given Model's experience and competent handling of the German countereffort, this is inaccurate, so Attenborough might have wanted to pose him as a mirror image of Browning.

Looking towards Nijmegen from the spot where 504 PIR crossed the Waal

But nothing about the kampfgruppen on the west of Arnhem holding up the Para's advance, or the motley force commanded by Von Tettau. Nothing on Student, Walther or Chill mounting the vital counterattacks against the corridor. Equally competent to their SS colleagues but somehow showing the Germans as masters of improvisation and very average quality fighting troops didn't fit with the narrative lionising the allied troops. I think a modern movie might focus on them more and show the Germans as more human.

But what would a new movie look like? Another star studded epic involving the cream of international actors? Perhaps less likely than a combination of the Marvel/Disney universes. Or a new British epic in the light of Dunkirk and Darkest Hour? Or do we leave it to the next generation that will interpret WWII in the light of Brexit and Trump?

ps I tried posting my reaction to the Tactical Painter blog but that didn't work

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Gaming goals - August update

A good month, gaming wise.


Month started good with a brutal game of Gaslands... (note the excellent 3D printed terrain!)

Followed the next day by Chain of Command. My 20mm GIs were attacked by a reinforced platoon of 28mm Fallschirmjaeger, who seem to have a harder time advancing than defending.

Then there was a game of Muskets & Tomahawks, bringing out my FIW French to introduce a club mate to the system. Mission accomplished there.

And a game of Dux, hotly contested and narrowly lost, but that proved a phyrric victory for the other Saxons.

There was some board gaming, with my 20th game of Blood Rage the most notable.


I was trying to get some projects to finish before I embark on the 1672 painting project. So there were the CV33 Italian tankettes and the monks to give spiritual guidance to my late Anglo-Saxons.

And the last few Prussians that belonged to the lot that I sold earlier this year.

And then I finished a bunch of 1:72 tanks and M3(A1) halftracks for the Chain of Command and What a Tanker forces.


Not really, eh? Although those Prussians will leave the house at some point.


Chain of Command is going to turn into a pint sized campaign (29th, Let's Go! in commemoration of D-Day). Although I have quite a few support options already, in these pint-sized campaigns the support options can be quite specific, so I have ordered some additional men and materiel.

And the 1672 miniatures have arrived (plus some books...) offering me the opportunity to join the ranks of Turenne! First goal: four units this year and another before a first demo game in February of Sharp Practice tuned to the 1672 period.

But I also need to get back to the Big Project, so that limits my hobby time for September. This may have been the high point of this year.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Gaming goals - July update


In terms of painting I got off to a good start to paint my 47mm and 88mm Italian anti tank guns for my 15mm Italian desert force.

Testing which colours best match the spray painted base coats plus highlights

I also did some good work on my allied 20mm tanks but the decals are still on their way, so not finished yet.

At the same time I started to paint some more Italians but decided that I don't like to paint charred bodies of burned tankers and to have those on the table, so I'm going to give those away to somebody who enjoys that more.

Also started on a few Dark Age monks to finish off my 1066 Anglosaxon force for Dux Brittaniarum.


A bit of a catch up month in terms of playing miniature games! There was a game of Dux Brittaniarum which went down hill very fast and is surplus to the goals set for this year.

My FOW desert Italian force also didn't fare too well despite the newly added AT capability. It might have had something to do with attacking...

Then there was a big battle of For Reign or Ruin that went quite well. My skeleton cavalry made a big initial impact, but the rats were able to claw back their way into the fight due to superior leadership. At the end I held the advantage with uncommitted reserves in hand, but those weren't shock troops.

And finally an evening of What a Tanker with Harald's new entries: Valentines and M13/40s and two JS II, which were pitted against Michiel's King Tiger. The JSII are the first tanks that could actuallz take on the Tiger II with some chance and they did well in that respect. It means I've reached my goal of WaT games for this year.

There were some board games as well, including Mr Jack and the travel version of that game that I played with Nick for the first time. Good fun. None of the stuff on the goals list though.


Well, rather the opposite with an order out for the new project.

And I received some late but excellent birthday toys: Renault R35 tanks by my self printing friends. There's enough to build an Italian 1941 and a French 1940 platoon!

Also some additions came in for my Chain of Command yankees. Especially some support options. I hope to paint a few of those before I embark on a pint sized campaign this autumn.


So, the die has been cast on the new project so I can reveal what it actually is. We're going for a 1672 version of Sharpe Practice by TooFatLardies. It focusses on the petit guerre of Louis XIV's Dutch War from 1672 to 1678. I've gone for the French side, inspired by John Lynn's Giant of the Grand Siecle and their surplus of dragoons. That will be a major addition to my lead mountain.

My aim is to finish (mostly) some of the other projects before that time, such as my 20mm tanks for What a Tanker and Chain of Command, and Italians for Flames of War. It also means the Skavendome and Space Hulk plans are on the backburner.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Gaming goals - June update


Well, at least June has seen me return to the tabletop!

There was a very successful game of Dux Brittaniarum (and a very lucky one at that!), which will see my force quality improved for future games.

Also another session of What a Tanker with nice match ups: Semovente 75 + Panzer IID vs 2 M5 Stuarts and StuG IV + Panzer IV vs Grant + Firefly. An enjoyable evening.

And the elephant was seen by my platoon of Yankees in my first ever game of Chain of Command. Another successful game that proved an extended firefight from cover with no manouvering. Luck gave me an edge so that morale problems destabilised the Germans before my guys started to waver and then the German attempt to pull out of the fight descended into slaughter. Good for my men's morale but it felt like the game dragged on a long while after the result was clear. Got a reasonable grasp for the game now. Maybe a pint sized campaign later in the year?

Two games of Machi Koro and one of King of Tokyo on the boardgaming front don't count toward any specified goal but were very enjoyable!


Haven't gotten round to painting much yet, although I did have an evening session putting the last magnetic disks under my WWII Americans. They have been lying around for 5 years without getting a proper game since they were painted so nicely by Rene.

Also did a wash on some 1:100 British tanks to oppose my Italian tanks for a desert version of What a Tanker some day.


Nope. And new stuff will come in soon...


With Dux and Flames of War running, hints at CoC and Muskets & Tomahawks and the mysterious project starting in the autumn I suspect I'll have my hands full enough.