Issue 77 (2015)

Amateurs on the Potomac: Fighting the Civil War’s Neglected Early Battle, in The Battle of Ball’s Bluff
by Jim Werbaneth

Wargaming the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95
by Emory Earl Toops

Coming Attractions: Developer's Notes for The Invincible Armada
by Jim Werbaneth

Variety of Battle: Scenario Design Notes for Firepower
by Jim Werbaneth


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The Bully Pulpit

Issue 77 (2015)

by Jim Werbaneth

At last, the new Line of Departure. Honestly, I agonized over what date to put on the cover, but the most honest one seemed to be the simplest: 2015. Then I’ll start fresh with a Spring 2016 issue on time.

As promised, the centerpiece of the issue is Emory Earl Toops’ treatment of games on the First Sino-Japanese War. Originally, I planned to publish this in two parts, but when I put this twenty-one-page magnum opus into a standard Line of Departure format, it went to twelve pages, without columns or illustrations. This is the upper limit of publishable articles, but it fits, and I would far rather publish an article in one piece. From the American point of view at least, this certainly qualifies as an obscure conflict. From that of the combatants, it was a key step on the road to world power status for Japan, and for China, one more stop on the road to second-class status. The Middle Kingdom ended it with its place assured as a country that did less, than had things done to it.

The lead review further fulfills a commitment to cover magazine games. One can be sure that in the long run, Line of Departure will publish articles about the usual suspects of the magazine genre, with Strategy & Tactics, Command, and Against the Odds consistently represented. With this issue, War Diary makes its first appearance, with John Poniske’s game on the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, from the Civil War. For most gamers, even the more knowledgeable on the War Between the States, this battle is obscure, and maybe even the punchline of the occasional joke. Yet here, the designer shows that it was a more interesting clash than generally accepted, and a good subject for a wargame. One might excuse the larger publishers for not risking capital on it, but Ball’s Bluff certainly finds a niche in the magazine context.

The demands on my time are going away, slowly. The next one to go is my commitment to getting a second Masters in military history. I’m not quitting that, by any means, but I did sign up for the last class that I need, and it should be finished at the end of February. Then I intend to take three months off before starting the formal study and review process needed to take my comprehensive exam. So classes will be finished by the first of March, and the degree itself by the end of October, or so I’m planning now. For the record too, I have no plans to pursue any more degrees. I’m a bit old for the time, work and cash needed for a doctorate to be worthwhile for any purposes but my ego. As for other Masters, the same reasoning applies, along with that I am just burned out from this one. Besides, I had the extra motivation that this is in military history, a subject that has fascinated me since childhood. Quite frankly, no other topic has interested me as much as history, and especially military history, so much and for long. That includes political science, by way.

The last few months have remained crazy. I finished the development work on Mark McLaughlin’s The Invincible Armada game for Turning Point Simulations, and completed several chapters on a book project; I’ll let you all know more as the information becomes public, but I am excited about it now.

Unfortunately this year has had more than its share of crises. There were more than the usual plumbing problems, car repairs, as well as day job headaches. Unfortunately I also had some health issues; I’ll spare you all the details, but very hopeful that unpleasant surprise will give way to getting it all under control. I’m not about to croak or anything. I have too many books to read, and too many games to play. Still, I absolutely the aging process, and can’t stand talk about getting old gracefully. I’m going deeper into middle age, and toward my silver years, with an absolutely bad attitude, and more defiance than acceptance. Not even the prospect of being a dirty old man has any appeal.


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