Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have been out of touch with the blog for quite some time. I have been  so focused on other pursuits (especially newspaper reporting), that I have not had as much time to focus on game writing  - or this blog - as I have in the past.

Oddly enough, the page views on this blog have nearly doubled since I slacked off more than usual. I think the message is clear - folks have been waiting for me to pipe down!

In the meantime, I think I will make the hiatus official. It is time to re-energize.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Inspiration from Guy Sajer's Forgotten Soldier

This post is overdue - I was knocked out of several days of normal productivity by a bout of illness and then computer problems. This caused me some problems with a number of competing deadlines and the blog simply had to wait.

In the meantime, I did finish up Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier, an autobiographical account of a Franco-German soldier who spent nearly three years on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was even more depressing than I recall from reading it 14 years ago. I'm not going to do a review of the work, except to say that I highly recommend it. There's apparently some conflict regarding the authenticity of the work - you'll have to make that judgment yourself. I believe its based on actual experiences.

Beyond the sobering enrichment this book offers (akin to All Quiet on the Western Front) to a reader, there's plenty of interesting things in the book that lend themselves to wargaming the period - and I must say that I still have a hard time separating what I would consider technical details (ie. equipment, orders of battle, etc) from Sajer's emotional overall account. Regardless, here goes...

Obsolete Equipment
I was rather surprised how older model tanks and anti-tank guns showed in Sajer's accounts. Granted, they often appeared in last ditch defenses and the like, but I really didn't expect that Panzer I's and Panzer II's would be used in late 1943/early 1944. I recall the Panzer I's were used to tow trucks through muddy terrain during a retreat and another early Panzer (II or III) was employed in a ditch during the Prussian city fighting in late 1944. Even the 37mm anti-tank gun shows up, providing close support along with panzerfaust teams. On a sort of related note, Sajer even mentions trucks painted in blue in the late war years - I would have expected everything to have been in dunkengelb by then. Also, there always seems to be some foreign trucks impressed into service.                                                    

Anti-Partisan Actions
Sajer, whether a supply truck driver or as a member of the Gross Deutchland Division, encountered partisans more often than I would have expected. Sometimes their numbers surprised me, as well. Plenty of small actions and company-sized operations are described in the book. Again, this is where older equipment shows up (esp. the Panzer Is). Also, I believe Sajer's company mounts their machine guns on trucks during one operation.

For what was a gigantic tank battle, we only see a few tanks in Sajer's account. His unit spends its time infiltrating Russian entrenchments and fighting its way through villages. Their defensive actions in a village prior to the German retreat would make a good company-sized game: plenty of machine gun nests, coordinated with a few mortars, infantry guns, and a bit of self-propelled artillery (or anti-tank gun).

From a gaming perspective, there's a lot of unusual things one could add to their tabletop scenarios and miniatures that one doesn't expect to see late war, based on The Forgotten Soldier. Honestly, I'm only talking a little bit about how Sajer's accounts might alter the typical expectations one might have for gaming the Eastern Front.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year

I want to thank all the readers - old and new - who make an attempt to keep up with this blog. I do hope you find something of interest and value here as I ramble on. 

I've been thinking a little bit how on how I want to handle blog content and updates. Offhand, I think I'm going to make an effort to write at least one post per week. I've averaged better than that, but I think some more consistency is worth it. I've thought about archiving some of the older material  as well. Not sure just yet.

The next blog or two will likely focus on Guy Sajer's The Forgotten Soldier, the autobiographical account of a Franco-German soldier serving in the Wermacht on the Eastern Front (up until the last days of the war). It's been 14 years since I read this book and I must say I see a lot of inspiration to bring to the wargames table. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book