So I am now at home from uni for three weeks (Already a week down). I have a mountain of work to do (primarily my Games Device Programming and FYP projects), got all the Christmas things to do and will be spending some of it tidying through my room which despite having moved out of for most of two years is still full of all my stuff. I had a great flush of emotions when looking around, remembering things from the old game boxes to the Warhammer figures scattered everywhere. I’m tempted to put a few of these up on a self-indulging “This Is Where I Came From” thing.
Part of this links to something I was thinking about whilst my Aunt and Uncle visited last weekend as a sort of Christmas celebration/youngest cousin’s birthday. My Uncle Mike actually introduced me to computer gaming way back in mid to late ’90’s. Visiting him would always be a treat – driving down south to go see him and my aunt, having a nice home cooked meal, often Italian styled in their lovely house. But the highlight was jumping on his computer to play the latest and greatest games that had just been released. I’ve written in great detail about him and his effect on my life elsewhere.
No, the game I’ve been thinking about more and more over the past few weeks has been Close Combat: A Bridge Too Far, released in 1997. For those of you who don’t know, this is a WW2 strategy game focused on the battles that raged during Operation Market Garden, an operation that aimed to win the war by Christmas 1944. The plan was an ambitious one – drop Airborne troops from both the US and Great Britain onto three strategic bridges across the Rhine in Holland. These units would then be relieved by XXX Corps, a British formation that would steam up the main roads in order to open a route across the Rhine and into Germany. Unfortunately, it was a catastrophe. From bad weather to the plans falling into the German’s hands to a string of bad luck, everything seemed to go wrong. The plan itself was also a tad ambitious due to it requiring the British to push down one thin highway within four days covering a huge distance through territory perfect for tank ambush. The game itself modelled everything letting me dip into single battles, whole operations or even attempt the Grand Campaign – the capture of all three major bridges from Eindhoven to Arnhem. Sadly, it would take me up until last year before I finally managed to beat history and link up with the British Paras.
Market Garden is really a perfect example of history filled with what-ifs and maybes. It has a bucket load of personal stories from those of the British 1st Airborne surrounded and fighting to the last round in the ruins around their objective at Arnhem or to the Germans who had, up until a few weeks before, been falling back to Germany after the collapse of their defence in France following the Falsie pocket. There are great stories of triumph yet under pinning it all is a great tragedy – the failure of this plan really hammered home the fact that the war wasn’t going to be over by Christmas.
It really inspired me and grabbed my interest in both the military and history in general. Without this game I probably wouldn’t have spent the vast amount of time I have on History, doing it at both A Level and GCSE. The only reason I didn’t do it at university was because I wanted it as my hobby – something that I can go back to and enjoy looking through outside of my studies. My interest in history has taken me places – WW2 Airsoft is mostly about the airsoft but also a little bit about living some history. Many of the game ideas I want to develop for have some basis in history or the military as it’s something I enjoy researching.
Anyway, all this talk of Market Garden has inspired me to take up Flames of War as a hobby that will take me away from staring at a screen all day. Thanks to some chatting with my friend I can now confirm we will be doing a swap of stuff from the Open Fire box leaving my starting British Armoured Company with a total of 12 Shermans, 4 Fireflies and two US Airborne platoons. All I need now is a set of Achilles 17pdr tank destroyers and a 25pdr battery box set and I’ll have a completed army list. This is something that will take a while to happen thanks to both its cost and the sheer amount of painting I’ll need to do. But I’m looking forward to it – I’m not a natural painter but I find it nice and relaxing. Now where did I leave my paint brushes from back in the Warhammer days…
I’m going to try and do a few more posts before the year is out, as well as updating my work diary and showing off some of my programming. Until then, have a great Christmas everyone!