Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Dan K. has inspired me to write up a year in review report based on his BoardGameGeek forum threads for 2013 and 2014.

Here is a breakdown of games played here at Chicago Wargamer HQ by opponent. Several large projects were completed, bringing down the variety of titles attempted.  

Dan K.:  

Flying Colors/Serpents of the Seas: Raleigh vs. Druid Duel, Minorca, El Ferrol, Cape Henry, Algeciras Bay, Flamborough Head, Suffren v. Hughes Campaign, Lake Ontario Campaign, Glorious First of June, Trafalgar

Fading Glory: Salamanca, Smolensk, Borodino, Waterloo, Jena

The Battle for Normandy: Campaign Game


Rebel Raiders of the High Seas

East Front (Columbia Block)

Mike L.:  We will finally be finishing up our run of all GCACW titles once we are done with Grant Takes Command.

Stonewall Jackson's Way II: Cedar Mountain, Lee vs. Pope, Jackson's March, From the Rappahannock to Bull Run, Bag the Whole Crowd, Which Way Did He Go, From the Rapidan to Manassas

Stonewall's Last Battle: Chancellorsville Campaign

Roads To Gettysburg: The Battle that Never Happened, Gettysburg Campaign

Battle Above the Clouds: The Chickamauga Campaign, The Chattanooga Campaign

Grant Takes Command: Grant's 1864 Offensive Campaign

Ending out the Year with Grant Takes Command

John H:  My stalwart ASL opponent for many years via VASL.  We have been concentrating on HASL, so no individual scenarios played this year.

Red Barricades: Campaign Game III  (officially started in 2013, but finally completed in May 2014)

Valor of the Guards: Campaign Game IV  (I took a serious beating as the Germans)

Singling Campaign Game

Pegasus Bridge Campaign Game

Jared: Our newest opponent, we hope to see more of you in 2015

Blood & Roses: 1st Saint Albans, Blore Heath

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Battle For Normandy Finish - June 15

The Normandy campaign came to a sudden halt after the Allies broke out from the German lines.  June 15 was an optional sudden death victory check date, so we decided to apply the rule as the Allies had amassed enough victory locations to bring an end to the game.  We would have liked to play it out farther, but time issues over the next few weeks and the impending holidays pushed us in favor of wrapping it up.

Normandy: Evening of June 15, 1944

The Americans conducted a breakout from the Vire River line near Saint-Jean-de-Daye with the 2nd Armored Division spearheading a race to seal off the peninsula at Lessay and driving deep south to Coutances. In the north the American 90th Infantry Division assaulted the defenses of Cherbourg and pushed through to the coast at Carteret.  This double envelopment pocketed the remaining German defenders on the Cotentin.  The Allies ended the day with 37 points of geographic objectives.

American Breakout: June 13-15, 1944
Some post game stats:
Play length: July 8 - November 11, 2014
Play time: 17 sessions averaging 4.15 hours
Total play time: 70 hours
Total Campaign Game Dates: June 6 - August 11 = 67 days (201 turns)
Completed Campaign Game Dates: June 6 - June 15 = 10 days (30 turns)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spirits of Old Park Ridge Event October 2014

Location: Town of Maine Cemetery, Park Ridge, Illinois

Features: Guided tour of historic cemetery, October 4, 2014.

History: The Park Ridge Historical Society organizes this guided "spirit" tour of the Town of Maine Cemetery.  At the cemetery a tour guide will lead your party to the markers at the burial sites of notable local personages.  At each of these stations is an actor in period costume who will briefly relate the history and life of the person they are portraying.  This year featured a variety of people including several mayors of Park Ridge, a Major League ballplayer, early settlers, teachers, and entrepreneurs.  Of interest to the Military History Traveler was Colonel Thomas P. Robb, a prominent Illinois Civil War veteran and friend of U.S. Grant. Robb was responsible for formally introducing Grant to Illinois Governor Richard Yates, thereby starting Grant's Civil War career.  Also presented on the tour was Charles G. Sherwin, a young Civil War volunteer, who unfortunately succumbed to disease in 1861, the most common cause of fatality during the war.

Traveler's Notes: This is a fantastic concept for relating local history.  Even though it was our first blustery Fall day here in Park Ridge, the enthusiasm of the volunteer actors and staff, along with those who came to take the tour, was high.  It was very encouraging to see the use of memorials as educational points of "living" history.

Resources: Park Ridge Historical Society, Park Ridge Herald Article Reviews Event

George and Laura Penny, Brickyard Owner

Charles G. Sherwin, Civil War Soldier

Dr. Gustav and Mary Fricke, Town Doctor

Harriet Rand, First School Teacher

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Battle For Normandy Update - June 11

Normandy: June 11, 1944
Our Normandy campaign continues as we are on the sixth day of the invasion, with nearly two and a half months of real time logged.  The weather has held up for the most part, giving the Allies time to make some significant gains in select sectors.  German resistance grows along the bocage line.

British and Canadian Front
The British thrust lead by the Desert Rats push through Bayeux toward Caumont. The Canadians and British 3rd Infantry screen Caen, waiting for their opportunity.

American Zone: Omaha 
The Big Red One finishes off a large pocket of the German 352nd who held out at Trevieres for seven days.  U.S. 28th Infantry push on toward St. Lo, but have not linked up with Utah yet.  Strong German lines hold the Douve and Taute Rivers.

American Zone: Utah
The U.S. Airborne forces have remained static against strong German defenses while the 90th Infantry have pushed through on the coast to the north in a mad dash to reach Cherbourg.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Town of Maine Cemetery - Civil War Memorial

Location: Park Ridge, Illinois

Features:  Scenic cemetery with memorial statue and historic headstones.

History:  Town of Maine Cemetery is a small local burial site located in Park Ridge. It has served Chicago's northwest neighborhoods since at least 1822.  The cemetery has a reputation for containing very personalized and colorful memorials and markers.  Located within is a Grand Army of the Republic statue honoring those local soldiers who served in the American Civil War.  Their headstones are arrayed in a circle around the monument.

Traveler's Notes:  The Maine Cemetery Civil War monument has the honor of being the closest historical marker to my own front door, roughly a half a mile.  It took me several years of living in Park Ridge before I even knew it was there, walking nearby almost every day.  This is exactly the sort of coincidence that inspired my to start this blog.  You can find history right in your own backyard!

The Park Ridge Historical Society will be hosting a "Spirits of Old Park Ridge" tour day of the Town of Maine Cemetery on October 4, 2014.  Guides and reenactors will tell the story of individuals who have contributed to Park Ridge history and are laid to rest in the cemetery.

Resources: Park Ridge Historical Society; Chicago Tribune Visits Town of Maine Cemetery

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blood & Roses - Blore Heath

Saturday saw our first game with BoardGameGeek user Jared Inc.  Jared had put out the call on the BGG forums a few weeks ago for local Chicago wargamers and we arranged a session of GMT's Blood & Roses. This is a Richard Berg design on battles from the English Wars of the Roses.  It is part of the Men of Iron series of medieval battles.  We had time to try out the first two battles in the game: 1st St. Albans and Blore Heath. 1st St. Albans is really more of an introductory scenario, and we played though it quickly to work out any rules questions still lingering.

Blore Heath End Game 
Blore Heath was our first serious attempt.  This battle features a small force of Yorkists in a strong defensive position attacked by a strong Lancastrian combined force.  It turned into quite a tense affair with Lancastrian infantry assaulting the Yorkist trench line while the Yorkist Longbows skirmished on the Lancastrian left flank, causing quite a bit of damage.  It all come down to the army morale roll with Lancaster losing the will to continue the battle.  A lucky break for the Yorkists, who were hard pressed and ready to flee the field.

Jared joins our expanding network of local Chicago wargamers.  We have an email database that can be utilized to make a match for local face to face wargames.  Please drop me a line if you would like to be included in our growing ranks.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lundy's Lane Battlefield

Location: Niagara Falls, Canada

Features: Drummond Hill Cemetery with monuments and markers.

History:  The Niagara River was the front line of the War of 1812.  The major campaigns centered on the strategic control of the forts guarding the waterways and lakes of this river boarder between New York and Ontario.  The summer of 1814 was the critical year for the United States' efforts to invade the Niagara peninsula and wrest control of the region from the British.  The US Army crossed over the Niagara River in early July 1814 and fought a series of engagements with the British defenders. The campaign climaxed on July 25, 1814, 200 years from the date of this post, when the US Army attacked the British at Niagara Falls along a road through the city called Lundy's Lane.  It was a hard fought battle featuring severe attacks and counter-attacks that lasted well into the night. Though they performed admirably, the high casualties among the Americans forced them to abandon the campaign.  They would not mount another major effort in the region again for the balance of the war, giving the Canadian defenders a strategic victory.

After the war Niagara Falls boomed as a tourist town much as it is today.  19th Century travelers journeyed not just to see the renowned waterfalls, but to tour the famous battlefield.  The tourist experience at Lundy's Lane 150 years ago was surprisingly similar to our modern visit to a park such as Gettysburg.  There were observation towers, "ranger" guides and a host of tourist amenities.   And just as the tension exists today between preserving historic lands and encroaching economic development, Lundy's Lane suffered from the same urban expansion crisis with the battlefield largely losing to new growth.  After the American Civil War, interest in the Ludy's Lane battle waned as the American park system offered larger venues for events that happened much closer to home.

What does remain of the battlefield is primarily centered on the Drummond Hill Cemetery. This hill was the focal point of the battle and its dominating geographical presence today can still be seen even though surrounded by urban development.  The cemetery is the final resting place for many people associated with the battle and the era.  The most famous of these is probably Laura Secord, a name instantly recognized by Canadians as their heroine of the War of 1812, but still obscure to most Americans.  The 200th anniversary of the war has seen some new interest in the battle with the Canadian government and local organizations promoting events to commemorate the Lundy's Lane battle.

Traveler's Notes:  Lundy's Lane holds a special place for me as it shares my birthday, July 25.  Given its proximity to my homestate of Michigan and my personal connection to the War of 1812, combined with several trips to the Falls as a kid, it remains one of those battlefields that turned me into a history nut!

Resources:'s_Lane tour.pdf

Lundy's Lane -  200 years later

Laura Secord

Lundy's Lane Anniversary Update:  I had hoped to make it the 200th Anniversary events this year but could not manage to get away to Canada at this time.  However, Matthias Koster at the Niagara Falls Marriott was kind enough to send along a photo of the new 200th Anniversary Commemorate Archway that was unveiled today by the city of Niagara Falls.

Photos provided by: Marriott Niagara Falls Hotel Fallsview & Spa

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Battle For Normandy - The Night of June 6

The great invasion has finally begun.  Tuesday night saw my Allies take on Dan K.'s Germans as we started the standard campaign game.  We spent some time finalizing setup and reviewing various rules which left us with just enough time to complete the initial June 6 night airdrop phase.  We realized too late that we had already made on error in the drop procedure rolling for scatter direction for each individual company. However, we decided to let it stand and move on.  It will just take me a little longer to reform the battalions from the slightly farther afield companies.

The British 6th AB landed consistently south of the Bois de Bavent in a fairly tight pattern with minimal losses.  The Ox and Bucks took Pegasus Bridge.
The British Airdrop

The US took slightly higher losses than historical,  losing 17 of 54 (31%) airborne infantry companies plus the 101st HQ compared to the 22% historical loss rate.

The American Airdrop 
 Next week we hit the beaches...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

24th Michigan Monument - Gettysburg

Location: Gettysburg National Military Park

Features: Granite monument.

History: Today's postdate marks the 151st anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The 24th Michigan Infantry Regiment saw heavy action in McPherson's Woods on July 1, 1863. This Michigan regiment was a unit of the "Iron Brigade" of the Union I Corps, with a reputation for discipline under fire. As a mark of distinction, they were allowed to wear the black army dress hat as can be seen on the monument's soldier. Their valor at Gettysburg would cost them dearly, taking more than 70% casualties, the highest losses suffered by any Union regiment at the battle.

Traveler's Notes: This is sacred ground for all native Michiganders.  Many Michigan units served with distinction during the war, but none capture the imagery of the 24th Michigan on that hot July morning.  I keep a small replica of the 24th Michigan monument on my desk to honor those men of my home state.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Battle For Normandy

The next big project with Dan K. is to be GMT's The Battle For Normandy.  We are going right into the campaign game as soon as I finish clipping 100,000 counters.
Is this how armies are made?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall - Chicago Cultural Center

Location: Chicago Cultural Center - Chicago, Illinois

Features: Large marble hall with Renaissance pattern glass rotunda.  Mosaic floors and mahogany doors that feature the names of the major American Civil War battles.

History:  The Chicago Cultural Center was originally built in 1897 as the city's primary library and meeting hall for the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was a fraternal organization of Civil War veteran founded in Decatur, Illinois in 1866.  The GAR donated the land to build this Chicago landmark with the purpose of housing the GAR meeting hall and memorial.  The other rooms of the building feature a variety of beautiful neoclassical architectural designs.  Today the Center serves as a multipurpose forum hosting local events, art galleries, music and film exhibitions, and lectures.

Traveler's Notes: I attended a recent business related awards ceremony that was hosted in the GAR Memorial Hall.  Being there a little bit early gave me the opportunity to take some pictures.  Perhaps more of an architectural history destination, it is certainly worth exploring the amazing decor of this Chicago institution.


Red Barricades Campaign Game

Things have been quiet here on the blog as of late as I have been concentrating on a Red Barricades Campaign Game III.  Yes, the big one, played out on VASL with John H.  It has taken us the better part of a year to finally come to a conclusion with the Germans pushing the Russians off the map.  I made a simple video showing the daily situation from beginning to end.  Sorry guys, it's not very sound or fancy graphics.  We are thinking of going Valor of the Guards next so I might record the game with the idea of doing a more complex video report.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Lexington Minuteman

Location: Lexington, Massachusetts

Features: Monument on the Lexington Green

History: The date of this post, April 19, marks the 239th anniversary of the first battles of the American Revolution.  The opening shots came at dawn on the Lexington Green as the British Regulars confronted the assembled militia.  The monument is said to be a likeness of Captain John Parker, leader of the local militia.

Traveler's Notes: This is the starting point of the Lexington to Concord route that is simply filled with historical sites from early Americana.  In October 2013, I marched the distance from Lexington to the Old North Bridge in Concord, following the path of the British column.  I stopped along the way to record as many of the attractions as time allowed. These to be featured in future posts.

Resources: Battles_of_Lexington_and_ConcordJohn_Parker_(captain)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

PAASL February 2014

Saturday night was the latest PAASL meeting hosted by Dave Kleinschmidt.  Five brave souls faced another round of Winter 2014 as we made our way to the NW suburbs.  I matched up with Tom B. for J139 Light Aid Detached.  This is an interesting scenario featuring partisans attempting to hold off a mixed German column.  The partisans must buy time for a small British repair crew to hastily man a pair of vehicles in defense of their undermanned facility.  Also in attendance was newcomer Eric O. who matched wits with Mark W.  in a small scenario from Valor of the Guards.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Flying Colors - Minorca

This week Dan K. and I took to the seas with GMT's Flying Colors.  We started with Minorca, a naval battle between Britain and France during the Seven Years' War.  The British closed the gap on the French line quickly and powerful broadsides were exchanged.  A lucky shot killed the French Admiral on turn 4 quickly followed by an unlucky roll which broke the French fleet.
Britain has the wind gauge.

Ramillies fires on the Foudroyant - the Marquis is lost!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

U.S.S. Lexington Memorial

Location: Lexington, Massachusetts

Features: Series of monuments with plaques each representing one of the United States naval ships named "Lexington."

History: In honor of its place as the location of the start of the American Revolution, Lexington has given its name to several warships of the United States Navy.  The monuments here detail the exploits of these five ships:
-16 gun brigantine of the Revolutionary War era
-18 gun sloop-of-war seeing action during the 19th century including use during the Mexican War and sailing with Perry on his expedition to open Japan
-river gunboat of the American Civil War
-CV-2 "Lady Lex" Aircraft Carrier of the Battle of Coral Sea fame during World War II
-CV-16 "Blue Ghost" Aircraft Carrier of World War II

Traveler's Notes:  The U.S.S. Lexington Memorial stands out as a moving tribute to the legacy of these ships and the men who served aboard them.  Located nearby is a Visitors Center with additional information. Unfortunately it was closed at the time of my visit due to the late hour.


16 Gun Brigantine

18 Gun Sloop

River Gunboat

CV-2 "Lady Lex"

CV-16 "Blue Ghost"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Concord Monument Square Civil War Monument

Location: Monument Square, Concord, Massachusetts

Features: Granite obelisk

History:  Monument honoring those residents of Concord lost in the American Civil War.  It was dedicated in 1867.

Traveler's Notes: Photographed October 2013.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

USS Constitution

Location: Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts

Features: USS Constitution is open for self-tours of the deck and guided tours of the lower decks.  USS Constitution museum contains excellent exhibits, demonstrations, model ship building, films, library and gift shop.

History: The USS Constitution or "Old Ironsides" is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat, launched in 1797.  She is most famous for her actions against the British during the War of 1812.  Since that time the ship has been used in a variety of roles including life as a training ship during the American Civil War, as a ship of state and as a museum ship.  After numerous repairs over the past 200 years, the Constitution is now restored to her appearance during the 1812 period in celebration of the war's bicentennial.

Traveler's Notes: Standing on the deck of a 200 year old frigate is as close to the experience of entering a time machine as one can get.  The ship is more than just a piece of history, it is a piece of the past that has to be kept alive by the knowledge of her craftsman and skill of her crew.  This spirit of tradition permeates the Constitution and allows you to experience a different age as it was lived. Without the continued dedication of these preservationists this will all be lost to us.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Charlestown Navy Yard

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Features: Historic United States Navy shipyard, dry dock, Visitor Center, USS Constitution, USS Cassin Young, USS Constitution Museum

History:  The Charlestown Navy Yard served the US Navy from 1800-1974.  Warships from all of the United States' conflicts were built, maintained and supplied from these docks.  Full tours are available for the USS Constitution, the Navy's oldest heavy frigate, and the USS Cassin Young, World War II era destroyer.  The entire complex offers an array of interpretive displays relating the history of the location and the warships.

Traveler's Notes:  For anyone taken with the romance of the Age of the Fighting Sail, this is one place not to miss.  I greatly underestimated the amount of time a comprehensive visit would take at this amazing National Park.  If you have an interest in the US Navy, particularly the naval aspects of the War of 1812, plan a reasonable amount of time to take it all in.