The History Channel has, some would say, lost its way in the past few years. It has shifted its focus somewhat away from long form documantaries and towards reality programming of questionable historical value (see Swamp People).
Now, don't presume to find that the History Channel has signed a contract with Ken Burns any time soon, but at the very least it's begun to lose its way in a different direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you an epic faux historical mocumentary... thing — A History of the Great Martian War.
The trailer looks downright brilliant, mixing CGI with archival footage and, where necessary, fake archival footage. If it actually manages to catch a popular science fiction wave and bring more attention towards the study of WWI all the better.
You see, this year is the 100th anniversary of The Great War, and it feels like A History of the Great Martian War is the History Channel lampooning itself as much as it is trying to bring attention to this often overlooked conflict.
Allow me to give you three ways to prepare yourself for viewing this semi-satirical two hour presentation, with a little bit of history and a little bit of gaming.
Step 1: Hardcore History
Dan Carlin will go to great lengths to explain to you that he's not a historian, and yet his podcasts released over the last year have given me the broadest historical context of any historical work I've read on WWI. His ongoing series, Blueprint for Armageddon, averages around four hours per episode. Each one is filled with dramatic readings of first hand accounts of early 20th century combat. The sinew that holds the entire series together is Carlin's own wonder at how this war, more than any other, changed the way humanity will fight forever.
Part four was released not long ago, but I highly recommend picking up every episode and waiting around for however many come to follow.
Step 2: Valiant Hearts
Our own Danielle Riendeau reviewed this adventure game from the publisher Ubisoft and showered it with praise.
"In its best moments, Valiant Hearts is basically a playable history lesson. Its personal, heartbreaking fiction is bolstered by bits and pieces of real-life history that resonate with unexpected intensity."
The game is actually produced in partnership with the French company CC&C and Canadian firm Ideacom International. It serves as the transmedia component for Apocalypse, World War I, a five-part documentary series that premiered in France and Canada earlier this year.
Step 3: All Quiet on the Martian Front
Of all the tabletop games I saw on the show floor at GenCon this year, this one looked the best. Launched as a Kickstarter in June of last year, the game earned more than $300,000. Its quirky blend of historical WWI armaments and fantasy Martian units was a hit, and opportunities to learn the game on the floor of the convention went quickly.
If you have some experience playing AQMF, please let me know in the comments below.