28 August 2014

Iowa Soldier Crowd-funds to Refight 'Seven Years' War'

Jason Huffman with "1750: Britain vs. France" at GenCon 2014. PHOTO: Battle Hardened Games, Inc.
Like many soldiers, Iowa Army National Guard member Jason Huffman loves history, loves games and simulations, and loves learning about history through gaming. After months of game design, play-testing, and even demonstrating at the recent GenCon gaming convention in Indianapolis, he and his colleagues at Battle Hardened Games have launched a crowd-funding effort to bring their inaugural game "1750: Britain vs. France" to full production.

Sample graphics from the game "1750: Britain vs. France"
The game "1750" is a 2-player card-based strategy contest, using both dice and cards to fight for control of the board. One player plays as Britain and the other as France, and each seeks to dominate the globe. Players leverage historical events, land and sea forces, generals and admirals, supplies, and allies to control the North American, African, and Indian colonies in the years leading up the American Revolution. The graphics incorporate the paintings, maps, and other artwork of the day.

A Kickstarter page for the project is here. A video is here, as well as below. A Facebook page for Battle Hardened Games is here. Huffman started his game company in 2013, and is trying to raise $28,000 by Sun., Sept. 28, 2014. He has already fronted the graphic design and other developmental costs. If funded via Kickstarter, the game is ready to go into full production.

"My top priority is to deliver games that you'll enjoy playing, whether you are a history fan or not," he writes on his website. "But I do hope that you will learn a little bit about history when playing our games. I also hope that some educators will consider using our games as a framework for discussing history, particularly the leaders, battles, economics, and geography involved."

In 2007-2008, Huffman spent a year deployed to Western Afghanistan as part of an Embedded Training Team (E.T.T.). There, he saw the echoes of empires first-hand. (Also, be sure to ask him about the Taliban chicken.) In his first game design, however, he chose to focus on the 18th century struggle between imperial powers Britain and France—the "Seven Year's War." (In the theater that was to become the United States, the conflict is better known as the "French and Indian War.")

For Huffman, the historical mileu provides an opportunity to explore lessons on scales ranging from the global, to the individual. He writes:
Many British officers that would later play major roles in the American Revolution also fought in the Seven Year's War, with some of the younger officers in the American Revolution going on to fight in other British conflicts of the late 1700s.

There are a few British generals that I find particularly interesting in terms of their legacies from this era. They fought in multiple wars and had very different results in each of them. Growing up in an American school system, our history books didn't really address parts of their careers that didn't deal with American history. Basically they get mentioned within the context of the American Revolution and that’s it.
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, circa 1796
Take, for example, Charles Cornwalis. Huffman writes on his website:
Basically, looking at American history books, or watching [2000 film] The Patriot, Cornwallis would have been viewed as the biggest loser of the 1700s. He surrendered an army of over 7,000 soldiers, the act that ultimately broke military British efforts to retain the 13 colonies. This same person was hugely instrumental in the ongoing rise of British power in the Indian subcontinent. You can't look back at him and only weigh the Yorktown surrender in judging his performance as a commander [...]
In his "spare time," the entrepreneurial Huffman is an Iowa National Guard signal officer assigned to 734th Regional Support Group (R.S.G.), and recently spent time as a civilian contractor instructing on mission command systems. Huffman is a 2003 graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. "My love of military history was certainly a strong influence in my decision to join the military," he tells the Red Bull Rising blog. "My grandfather was also a medic in the 34th Infantry Division during WWII in North Africa and Italy, and that was always inspiring to me when I decided to join."

And ... what about the war story regarding Pashtun poultry?

"I was driving wearing N.V.G.s [Night Vision Goggles] during an operation to cordon an Afghan village, when a chicken flew at our Humvee, knocking out a tactical satellite that had been zip-tied to the hood and really hurting our communications during that operation."

"That chicken," Huffman says, "was Taliban."


26 August 2014

'As You Were': Veteran Group Re-launches Lit Journal

Military Experience & the Arts (M.E.A.), a veterans- and arts-advocacy non-profit based in Richmond, Ky., has announced that it will re-launch its family of four annual journal titles under a single quarterly banner. The new on-line publication will be titled "As You Were."

Military service members and veterans will recognize the phrase as one frequently heard in drill and ceremony, in which it is used to revoke a preparatory command. (See FM 22-5, Section 2-1, paragraph D.) A nautical equivalent might be "belay that."

"Our title also connotes a hearkening back, an exploration of the self and the past," the editors write. "We're interested in those words and works of art that are brave enough to cut through rank and time, presenting military experience honestly, free of the white-washing that is so common in today's war literature and art."

The group will continue to foster a collaborative culture and methods. "We've published six volumes since 2011, providing each contributor—regardless of whether that contributor has published 25 words or 25 books—with some form of one-on-one consultation."

The re-launch comes soon after the announcement of a May 2015 symposium to be held in Lawton, Okla., which will welcome artists, advocates, and veterans to military experience through the expressive arts. Registration for the event is open here.

Previously, literary titles published annually by Military Experience & the Arts included:
Submission instructions for "As You Were" have been consolidated here. The organization now uses the on-line service Submittable to manage submissions. Editors seek artwork, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Scholarly articles will no longer be considered.

21 August 2014

In Nat'l Guard Mag, Mil-blogger Revisits Korean War

In the current issue of GX Online, journalist and mil-blogger Susan Katz Keating delivers a fast-paced, fact-packed article about Korean War history that was inspired by her citizen-soldier father, Norman Katz. GX Online is an official magazine of the U.S. Army National Guard.

Keating chronicles National Guard mobilizations including California's 40th Infantry "Sunshine" Division (40th Inf. Div.) and Oklahoma's 45th Infantry "Thunderbird" Division (45th Inf. Div.). Between Aug. 14, 1950 and Feb. 15, 1952, she writes, the National Guard contributed approximately 138,000 reservists to repel North Korea. Norman Katz was a member of the 40th Inf. Div., and a Purple Heart recipient.

Troops fighting in Korea braved sub-zero temperatures, unforgiving mountain terrain, ubiquitous spies, and inferior supplies and equipment. One pharmacist veteran describes for Keating how he'd mix codeine into syrup, to suppress coughing that would give away their fighting positions. Another tells of being welcomed by a group of liberated Korean and Chinese prisoners of war while on a supposedly secret mission—informed by their former jailers, the prisoners knew more about the mission than the U.S. troops.

The issue is available FREE as a PDF file here. Keating's article, "Enduring Courage," appears on print pages 58-63, and PDF spreads 30-33. You can read her blog post about the GX Online article here. Her Facebook fan page is here.