Things I Learned Through Wargaming
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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A selection of bits of trivia picked up through my interest in wargaming.
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1. Board Game: Manchu [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:7468]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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Tso Tsungtang (Pinyin spelling Zou Zongtang, 1812-1885) was a general in the Chinese army, and quite a successful one. A contemporary (some would say a rival in ruthlessness) of William Tecumseh Sherman, he specialized in winning back rebellious provinces for his emperor, particularly during the Taiping Rebellion.
And he is the namesake of my favorite Oriental dish, General Tso's Chicken.
In contrast to other military/culinary connections(Napoleon and Chicken Marengo; Wellesley and Beef Wellington) it is unlikely that Tso and General Tso's Chicken ever met(some say the concoction originated on the oriental island of Manhattan circa 1972). Still, it's nice to be able to order the dish and then entertain one's companions by telling them something about the General.
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2. Board Game: Submarine [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:2593]
David Heldt
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Harper Woods
Michigan
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Georg Ritter von Trapp(1880-1947) was an Austro-Hungarian naval officer. Transferring to submarines in 1908, by the outbreak of World War I he had command of his own boat. By the end of the war he had tallied 45,669 tons of Allied merchant shipping as well as a French cruiser and an Italian submarine.
When the Armistice left Austria with neither a seacoast nor a navy, the Ritter retired to a quiet life with his wife and seven children. The whole family shared a love of music, and they would often sing three-part Lieder for one another. After the Ritter's wife passed away, he hired a novice from the local convent to help care for the children and further their musical education.
And so we find Georg Ritter von Trapp in the role for which he is most familiar today: The head of the family in The Sound Of Music. Worth knowing if only to answer the question of why the Nazis were so keen on this guy.
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3. Board Game: Zeppelin [Average Rating:5.27 Overall Rank:9266]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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PURE HYDROGEN EXTINGUISHES FLAMES.
Yes, I will repeat that:
PURE HYDROGEN EXTINGUISHES FLAMES. It's only mixture with Oxygen(Through, say, a leaking gas cell) that produces the brew Herb Morrison described so very well. This explains how L33 survived a direct artillery hit with only structural damage. Something to impress the Bill Nye-types in your circle of friends.
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4. Board Game: The Civil War [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:559]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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Modern gunshot wounds are effectively self-sterilizing: Friction with the air heats the bullet to the point where it will kill any bacteria that might be dragged into the wound.
Not so during the Civil War era.
The combination of slower projectiles and general uncleanliness meant that wounds were pretty much guaranteed to get infected. This did not worry doctors of the time--in fact, they honestly believed that pus forming in a wound was the first sign of healing.
And so was coined one of the most unlikely phrases in the English language--"Laudable Pus".
Yes, it is hard to work this into genteel conversation--but I have to say that the punk rock band I lead in my dreams is named Laudable Pus.
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5. Board Game: Jutland [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:2444]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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One function of a navy is the overseas projection of power. Sometimes it can be projected very far indeed.
As part of the Armistice terms after World War One, the German High Seas Fleet was forced to intern itself in the British naval base at Scapa Flow. On June 21 1919, fearing that the ships were about to be parceled out among the Allies, the High Seas Fleet hoisted the Kaiser's battle dusters for a final time before scuttling themselves.
Most of the ships have long since been salvaged but there are still several wrecks at the bottom of Scapa Flow, including the battleships Konig, Kronprinz Wilhelm and Markgraf. Since they have been under water all these years, these ships represent the world's largest concentration of steel made before the Atomic age and uncontaminated by nuclear fallout. Such steel is a vital component in sensitive scientific instruments such as tose used on interplanetary sattelites.
So at this moment some of the Kaiser's finest battle-tested Kruppstahl is now winging its way to the stars. If that's not "projection" I don't know what is.
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6. Board Game: Ballistic Missile [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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If you can't get government aid for your project, maybe you should look elsewhere. Hermann Oberth, leading German rocket scientist, learned this lession in 1929 when film director Fritz Lang hired him as a technical advisor for his film Frau im Mond. Oberth co-wrote the script which features space exploration via multi-stage liquid-fueled rockets as well as an interesting dramatic device called the "countdown". The proceeds from this film allowed Oberth to continue his jet propulsion studies until the Nazi government could give him bona fide research funding.
Interestingly, the Nazis banned Frau im Mond when they came to power. It seems the film was a bit too accurate in its portrail of the current state of German rocket science...
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7. Board Game: Texas Revolution [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:7084]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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The modern chewing gum industry has two fathers.
One is Thomas Adams, a New York inventor and entrepeneur.
The other is Adams' somewhat unlikely neighbor on Staten Island in the late 1860s: The celebrated Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Exiled from his native land, Santa Anna had brought several chicle plants with him. He explained to Adams that Mexicans would often chew on the chicle plants, and also outlined to Adams an idea for making money from the humble plant. When the General went back to Mexico he left the chicle plants with Adams. With dollar signs dancing in his head, Adams acted on the General's idea...
...and spent quite a bit of time unsuccessfully trying to turn the chicle plants into rubber.
Adams eventually realised that chewing the chicle had been the proper thing all along, and by the end of the 19th Century he had cornered the chewing gum market.
But even then it lost its flavor on the bedpost overnight...
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8. Board Game: Carrier War: the War in the Pacific 1941-1945 [Average Rating:6.75 Unranked]
David Heldt
United States
Harper Woods
Michigan
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On the eve of American entry into World War II the US navy faced a dilemma. The aircraft carrier would be the dominant ship in the Pacific, and the navy would have to train thousands of pilots to staff the carriers which would be built. But all of the navy's current carriers would be needed in the war zone; not one could be spared for training. Additionally, a carrier conducting training excercises in the ocean in wartme would have to maintain radio silence and be vunerable to submarine attack.
In late 1941 Commander R. F. Whitehead proposed a solution: Carriers on the Great Lakes. For qualification purposes all you really needed was a flight deck and a decent turn of speed, plus a Great Lakes carrier would be free of submarine and radio worries.
And so two Great Lakes passenger steamers, Seeandbee and Greater Buffalo, were converted respectively into USS Wolverine and USS Sable. Cruising in Lake Michigan off Chicago, these ships qualified a total of 17,820 Allied pilots for carrier duty, including a certain George H. W. Bush. They were also the only aircraft carriers ever to feature side paddlewheel propulsion. A nice tidbit for your next conversation about Great Lakes shipping, George Bush the Elder, or aircraft carriers in general.
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