Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Late to the Party: HBO's Pacific as Wargame Inspiration

There are a lot of materials that are necessary for painting miniatures: good paints, brushes, a tidy workspace, and good lighting, but there's one essential that's rarely discussed: binocular vision.  I recently had eye surgery and have spent the last few days sporting a truly boss gauze eye patch. Very stylish; the ladies have been fawning all over me. Attempting to finish up some wargame projects has been right out though, so I've been catching up on HBO's "The Pacific " instead.

I loved "Band of Brothers " (while watching the series I did some internet research to find out more info about Easy company and stumbled onto a page about a wargaming the Brecourt artillery battery, my first exposure to historical wargames), but I'd heard mediocre reviews of "The Pacific".  I binged on the first half of the season while healing up from surgery, and while not as tight as BoB, I'm enjoying The Pacific a lot more than I expected. I was surprised to see the Battle of Alligator Creek in the first episode which was very similar to the Fireball Forward scenario I played at Fall-In a few weeks ago.

As a campaign for wargaming, I've always found the Pacific a tough area to wrap my head around. The ETO during WWII is "easier" to game. The forces (U.S, British, German, Soviet, Italian, etc.) all behave in familiar ways. I've grown up watching war and action movies and read my share of history, and the concepts of firing, taking cover, moving and flanking are ingrained in the way I think a battle should play out. The Japanese tactics of holing up in caves or launching human wave Banzai attacks are strange. The geography of the Pacific is equally alien. Fighting across Europe soldiers needed to capture strategic crossroads, or fight in towns or woods. The Pacific doesn't have the same sorts of landmarks, each battle playing out within a "fog" of dense foliage or across barren hellscapes of blasted earth. In comparison to BoB, "The Pacific" throws these differences into relief: the battles are more chaotic, the fighting closer and bloodier, and the sanity of the men fighting in these horrible conditions breaks down faster and in more disturbing ways than shown in Band of Brothers. It seems to me that the enemy and the terrain were so alien to the Western mindset that simply coping with the strangeness took a toll on their spirit.

My knowledge of the Pacific campaign is fairly weak, so I'd like to research and game it, but it seems it would be better suited to solo or coop games against a programmed enemy, a bit like Reiner Knizia's "Lord of the Rings Board Game". I could be wrong though, as the Fireball Forward game I played and the beach landing that was running nearby at Fall-In  proved two sides facing off across a pacific jungle could be a heap of fun.

As a side note, I also did some initial playtesting of a scifi rules set I've had on the back burner for years. I'm writing it for myself, but if turns out to work I'll throw it up on the web.

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