The Flare Path Reading Room

By Tim Stone on April 27th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

The scent of parquet wax and trapped sunbeams greets you as you prise open the heavy glass door and step inside. This has to be the place, and yet, if it is, where are all the books? Noticing your baffled expression, a librarian, all tweed and twinkling eyes, approaches. “You were expecting more books? Everyone expects more books. At present we’ve only got the two – down there in the WW2 section (he gestures towards a shelf-lined alcove watched over by a large ceiling-mounted model of a Short Sunderland). Additional volumes should be arriving soon. Assuming, of course, visitors like yourself are willing to do their bit.”

A bit of an experiment this week. A few days ago, almost by accident, I found myself reading a 200-page Crusader Kings 2 After Action Report. The AAR was called Stephen and Matilda and purported to be an authoritative history of The Anarchy. Any imbecile (-2 Martial, -2 Intrigue, -2 Diplomacy etc.) could see it was actually a love letter to, and a rallying cry for a certain seriously splendid medieval social-climbing sim.

As well as deepening my admiration for Henrik Fåhraeus & co (I’m struggling to think of a Paradox production more in tune with its period) and helping to determine 90% of my play diet this week, Jim Bradbury’s tome also left me musing on the power of well-chosen companion texts.

Companion texts are the books that should be included in Collectors Editions but never are. They’re the memoirs and histories that plug the holes that riddle even the best reality-rooted games. They drag us deeper into our fact-based fictions than any briefing screen, cut-scene, or unit encyclopedia could ever hope to. Sometimes their words and images alter the way we play, turning participation into something far more intense… far more complicated. I’m convinced the right book can do as much to enhance a good wargame or sim as any pricey peripheral or cutting-edge graphics card.

But how do you go about finding The Right Book? That’s where the Reading Room comes in. With your help, I’d like to turn this issue of FP into a list of the very finest and most fitting sim and wargame-related reads.

There’s no hurry (I’ll be referring to this post and tending it regularly over the coming months) but if there’s a book on your shelf that compliments a favourite sim or historical strategy game especially well, then it would be dashed public-spirited of you to mention it here. Supply the title, the name of the author, the name of the related game or games, together with a brief description, and – within a day or three – I’ll cut-and-paste your tip into the main body of the article. Give it a few months, and hopefully, almost every decent wargame and vehicle sim will have its own edifying entry.

To ensure a good spread of opinions, I think it would be sensible if no individual provided more than two recommendations. Also, to prevent the page from sprawling like an off-duty B-17 ball-turret gunner, I suggest every one attempts to limit synopses to 100 or less words. In a way, the act of recommendation itself should be almost enough. If a book – be it a memoir, a reference work, a novel, collection of poetry, or whatever – is on the list then, hopefully, it can be taken for granted that that book will appeal to the aficionado of the specified game. Quality and aptness are the watchwords here. No blind Amazon picks, please! If you don’t know the book in question as intimately as you know the linked game, and don’t value it just as highly, then hold fire.

I’ll get the ball rolling with my own pair of recommendations. The book descriptions below are not intended as templates. If you’d rather keep things terse and factual, that’s fine. As I said, the recommendation itself is the important thing.

Suggestions will be arranged alphabetically according to their linked games (Achtung Panzer → X-Plane). Eventually each will be illustrated with an appropriate screenshot (If you’d like to see your contribution beneath a particular pic then send the image to me via the email link at the top of the post). Multiple suggestions for the same game are welcome.

The Book List

  • AGEOD’S AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

book: The Civil War: A Narrative

author: Shelby Foote

also relevant to: Scourge of War: Gettysburg, the Take Command titles

recommender: Hartford688

“Truly wonderful trilogy. A history that is full of characters, humour, sadness, detail and anecdote. I’m not even an American but have been thoroughly hooked – enough to read over 2,000 pages several times. It really brings the war, the people, the battles to life. Thoroughly recommended.”

 

  • BATTLE OF BRITAIN 2: WINGS OF VICTORY

book: First Light

author: Geoffrey Wellum

also relevant to: IL-2 Cliffs of Dover

recommender: Tim Stone

“With unflinching honesty and unerring skill, Geoffrey Wellum describes his whistle-stop journey from plane-obsessed schoolboy to Battle of Britain fighter pilot. For every technical or tactical insight, there’s a fascinating glimpse into the mental and physical impact of daily aerial combat. The fear, the exultation, the weariness, the grief… it’s all there and it’s all heart-wrenchingly vivid. Essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the Battle of Britain, Spitfires, and the reality/unreality of war.”

book: Piece of Cake

author: Derek Robinson

recommender: Retro

“Gives quite a bit of context, shows how much detail Rowan packed into their sim, genuinely funny.”

book: The Big Show

author: Pierre Clostermann

also relevant to: IL-2, IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, CFS3, Wings of Prey

recommender: darkmouse20001

“Best pilot’s autobiography, and best WW2 air combat book by a long way. Makes Geoff Wellum look like a complete noob (no discourtesy intended!). The descriptions of combat are superb.”

 

  • COMBAT MISSION: BARBAROSSA TO BERLIN

book: The Forgotten Soldier

author: Guy Sajer

also relevant to: Close Combat: Cross of Iron

recommender: Swifty

“Slightly overwrought and possibly entirely made up, but entertaining enough to someone brought up reading similarly-begotten Sven Hassel.”

book: The Legion of the Damned

author: Sven Hassel

recommender: MadMatty

“WW2 fans should read anything by Sven Hassel. He’s sold over 50 million books and is generally a great read.”

 

  • COMBAT MISSION: BATTLE FOR NORMANDY – COMMONWEALTH FORCES

book: Tank!

author: Ken Tout

also relevant to: Combat Mission Beyond Overlord, Panzer Elite Special Edition

recommender: Tim Stone

“40 hours of fierce Normandy warfare seen through the eyes of a poetical British Sherman commander. An unforgettable mix of beautifully observed crew banter (Will the lack of Stans, Harveys, and Bookies in WW2 tank sims ever be addressed?) minute details, and shimmering descriptive passages. Finding a standalone copy of Tank! may prove tricky, but an abridged(?) version of the book makes up the first part of By Tank: D to VE Days.”

book: Infantry Attacks

author: Erwin Rommel

also relevant to: The other Combat Missions, Achtung Panzer

recommender: RobearGWJ

“Written from his diary of events during his WWI service, it details his thinking on what junior officers need to understand about leading troops in combat. Each chapter delivers various tactical lessons, and they build into a cohesive whole by the end of the book (and the war). This book was available to both Axis and Allied officers, and was common reading in preparation for combat, so it’s very useful to the player of games that allow the use of accurate tactics. Not a long book, but a very interesting one that will hold the reader’s attention throughout.”

 

  • COMMAND OPS: BATTLES FROM THE BULGE

book: The Bitter Woods

author: John Eisenhower

also relevant to: Close Combat 4

recommender: vyshka

book: A Time For Trumpets

author: Charles MacDonald

recommender: vyshka

 

  • COMMAND OPS: HIGHWAY TO THE REICH

book: A Bridge Too Far

author: Cornelius Ryan

also relevant to: Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far, Close Combat: Last Stand Arnhem, Airborne Assault: Highway to the Reich

recommender: Wodin

book: It Never Snows in September

author: Robert Kershaw

recommender: vyshka

 

  • CRUSADER KINGS 2

book: Peaceful Kings

author: Paul Kershaw

also relevant to: Medieval 2: Total War

recommender: Adam Smith

“It’s early medieval so predates Crusader Kings’ timeframe, but Peaceful Kings is  a grand read and provides a splendid overview of the important and oft-ignored link between peace and power.
Fitting reading for anything European, post-Roman through to late medieval, as much of it is about a transition of thought regarding political philosophy and the role of the ruler.”

book: Vanished Kingdoms

author: Norman Davies

also relevant to: Europa Universalis series

recommender: fauxC

“Investigations of odd, fleeting and half-forgotten realms which fits perfectly with CKII’s mood of transitory comfort and stability.”

book: England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings

author: Robert Bartlett

also relevant to: Medieval 2: Total War

recommender: Wilt

“Okay, so it’s a textbook. The textbook I’m currently studying, in fact. But after the list of dates at the front, it becomes a fascinating look at the entire medieval worldview, including medicine, metaphysics, conception of time, and the whole complicated arrangement where the King of England was also a vassal of the King of France (and, at one point, of the Pope).”

book: Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World

author: Colin Wells

also relevant to: The Europa Universalis series

recommender: MrStones

“Maybe a little too info crammed but it’s less about war (though it still goes right into it) and more about what clever basterds they all were. 4/5 – Would not crusade against.”

book:  The ‘Byzantium’ trilogy

author: John Julius Norwich

also relevant to: The Europe Universalis series

recommender: FunkyBadger3

“Utterly superb (and really much better than the abridged concise version). Would enliven any game that has mention of that most under-appreciated of Empires”

book: The  ’A Song of Ice and Fire’ novels

author: George R. R. Martin

recommender: Carra

“It has all the political backstabbing and scheming, and of course, a war form time to time.”

 

  • EMPIRE: TOTAL WAR

book: Master and Commander

author: Patrick O’Brian

also relevant to: Napoleon: Total War

recommender: Crazy Gweilo

“Any of these series of books are a great introduction to what life was like on a Royal Navy ship during the Napoleonic wars. The movie is great as well. If it doesn’t get you wanting to fire a broadside at pistol distance into the stern of a French ship, well then I can’t help you.“

book: The Fort

author: Bernard Cornwell

also relevant to: Birth of America 2

recommender: Jonith

“A book detailing the Penobscot Expedition during the American Revolution which was the United States’ worst military defeat until Pearl Harbour. Certain read for anyone interested in that part of History (and made me quite proud to be British.) Quite a bit about Paul Revere, how his ride was not strictly accurate and how he got court-martialed for his role in the disaster. Also pretty historically accurate, and anything which is not, Bernard Cornwell has compiled into the back of the book to show what actually happened. ”

 

  • EUROPA UNIVERSALIS

book: The Pursuit of Glory

author: Tim Blanning

also relevant to: Empire: Total War

recommender: Faldrath

“The best one-volume history of Europe of the early modern period (1600-1800) I know. It fits perfectly with Europa Universalis.”

book: The Grand Strategy of Philip II

author: Geoffrey Parker

recommender: Joe Duck

“A serious essay that analyses the strategic decisions taken by Philip II during his reign years in 16th century Spain. The general strategy tried to prevail in five different scenarios, the expansion into America, the north of Italy, the south coast of the Mediterranean, Flanders and central Europe and finally the claim to the British crown. Parker describes how each Philip treated each theatre of conflict and why he succeed in some of them but not in others.”

 

  • FALCON 4.0

book: Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot

author: Keith Rosencranz

also relevant to: Flaming Cliffs 2

recommender: gabe

“The book tells the story of Captain Keith Rosenkranz’s actions in the First Gulf War. The link to the games is the attention to detail from the procedures and mostly the way a modern war is fought from the air perspective.”

 

  • FIELD OF GLORY

book: Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae

author: Steven Pressfield

also relevant to: Greek Wars (HPS Simulations)

recommender: spelk

 

  • FLIGHT SIMULATOR X

book: Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying

author: Wolfgang Langewiesche

also relevant to: All winged sims

recommender: Snuffy the Evil

“As it turns out, the basics of powered flight haven’t changed much in in the past sixty-eight years”

 

  • HEARTS OF IRON

book: Crusade in Europe

author: Dwight Eisenhower

also relevant to: Commander: Europe at War, Time of Fury

recommender: Rusty

“It’s a surprisingly interesting account of Ike’s personal experience with WWII, and one of the few readable stories from someone who has actually held theater command in wartime. Written before celebrity biographies were really a thing, and thus less filtered than something you’d get today (although he was already being talked about as a potential president, so it’s not completely unvarnished).”

book: General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman

author: Ed Cray

recommender: Havok9120

“Story about the man who designed, built, and organized the U.S. Army of the Second World War. As you’d expect for a companion to a game that’s more about organization and planning than war-fighting, the book is the story of building and maintaining a coalition war machine, not a story of intricate tactical battles.”

 

  • HISTWAR: LES GROGNARDS

book: Swords Around a Throne

author: John R. Elting

also relevant to:  Napoleon’s Campaigns (AGEOD), Napoleonic Battles (HPS series),

recommender: thebigJ_A

“A comprehensive study of Napoleon’s Grande Armée, from the Marshals to the soldiers who hadn’t yet found the batons in their backpacks. It’s got the formation of the units, the gear and logistics, the campaigns and uniforms. It’s no dry analysis, either, but an enjoyable read full of first hand accounts. One of my favorites.”

book: The Campaigns of Napoleon

author: David Chandler

also relevant to: (see above)

recommender: thebigJ_A

“The Campaigns of Napoleon is a giant dusty old tome (on my shelf, anyway). If you can find it, it’s expensive. Even the Kindle version is like $70. But it covers every campaign Napoleon fought in exhaustive detail, liberally illustrated with maps. This is the bread and butter of grognards. (Goes great with the even rarer “A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars” by Esposito & Elting.)”

 

  • IL-2: STURMOVIK

book: In Pursuit

author: Johan Kylander

also relevant to: IL-2: Cliffs of Dover, WarBirds, Rise of Flight

recommender: gabe

“Johan Kylander was an obsessive player of WW2 MMO flight sims who decided to write down everything he knew about multiplayer air combat. The basics of energy and angles, maneuvers, and pilot psychology are all covered. And theres a free online version!

book: Samurai!

author: Samuro Sakai

also relevant to: CFS2. Other PTO combat flight sims

recommender: F33bs

“Playing IL-2 Sturmovik (the version with the Pacific theatre), I thought  “Samurai!” was a great addition to the gameplay. It’s also a wonderful and tragic memoir in itself, and the ending is well worth it.”

book: Going Solo

author: Roald Dahl

also relevant to: CFS3 (Mediterranean Air War mod)

recommender: Plopsworth

“Yes, that Roald Dahl. Really brings out the human element of serving in a fighter squadron with a dozen Hurricanes against some five hundred Luftwaffe planes in Greece. Moments of sheer terror blended with travel literature. Men fighting war in paradise, sleeping in tents, landing on dusty fields and noticing how every patrol it seems likely at least someone won’t beat the odds and won’t make it back. Goes well with any sim featuring that wooden solid and sturdy workhorse, the Hawker Hurricane, that gets no love next to its muscled sexier curvier Spitfire stallion.”

book: The Ace Factor

author: Mike Spick

also relevant to: Most other air combat sims

recommender: Torgen

“Mike Spick was a US Air Force fighter pilot instructor in F-16s, but in “The Ace Factor” he presents his insight and explanation of aerial combat theory in a way that applies to all eras. Many actual pilots as well as serious sim pilots have praised this book. I know it made a world of difference to me, as I learned not only what to do, but WHY, enabling me to be a much better sim pilot.”

 

  • JOHN TILLER’S BATTLEGROUND NAPOLEONIC WARS

book: Tales of the Rifle Brigade

author:  Captain Sir John Kincaid

also relevant to: HistWar: Les Grognards

recommender: Swifty

“Great great book, set me on track to be a rifleman in real life.”

 

  • MEDIEVAL 2: TOTAL WAR

 

book: European History for Dummies

author: Sean Lang

also relevant to: The Europa Universalis series

recommender: AmateurScience

“Reading ‘European History for Dummies’ in parallel to a grand campaign in Medieval II has enriched the experience no end (it’s not exactly authoritative. but then, neither is Medieval II).”

 

  • MiG ALLEY

book: The Hunters

author: James Salter

also relevant to:

recommender: Retro

“Just beautifully written, makes me want to install that game and take to the skies again.”

book: The F-86 vs. the MiG-15

author: Squadron Leader W. Harbison

recommender: Jason Moyer

 

  • MOUNT & BLADE: WARBAND

book: The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms Of Scotland

author: Alistair Moffat

also relevant to: Crusader Kings 2

recommender: Moth Bones

“This title deals with north British history from the Roman era through to the coming of the Danes, and its descriptions of how local warlords became big shots by forming warbands and raiding cattle strike me as excellent background for Mount & Blade games, especially mods such as Brytenwalda or the Viking one. Also could be relevant for CK games, though covering an earlier time period. Basically, M&B needs more religion!”

 

  • THE OPERATIONAL ART OF WAR

book: How Great Generals Win

author: Bevin Alexander

also relevant to: The Panzer General series

recommender: Joe Duck

“Bevin Alexander explores the tricks of the trade that make a general become legendary. The reader is taken through history in order to analyse the importance of fog of war and limited information in the battlefield. The different chapters in the book analyse several campaigns from ancient times to the 20th century where the generals were able to use the limited perception the enemy had to maximise their advantage.”

book: The Other Side of the Hill

author: B. H. Liddell Hart

recommender: Swifty

“Those dastardly Jerries and what they were thinking.”

 

  • OVER FLANDERS FIELDS

book: Sagittarius Rising

author: Cecil Lewis

also relevant to: Rise of Flight

recommender: Wodin

book: Winged Victory

author: Victor Maslin Yeates

recommender: Wodin

 

  • PRIDE OF NATIONS

book: The Scramble for Africa

author: Thomas Packenham

also relevant to: Victoria 2

recommender: Megadyptes

“A brilliantly detailed account of the late 19th century colonisation of Africa (obviously).”

book: The Wars of German Unification

author: Dennis Showalter

also relevant to: Victoria 2

recommender: Tac Error

“This is an excellent one-volume survey of Prussia’s wars of unification from the military perspective, but it also incorporates recent (2004) scholarship on the subject. It also puts the wars into a wider political and military context, something I found lacking in books like Michael Howard’s “The Franco-Prussian War”


  • RED ORCHESTRA

book: Island of Fire: The Battle for the Barrikady Gun Factory in Stalingrad

author: Jason D. Mark

also relevant to: Close Combat 3, Close Combat: Cross of Iron

recommender: Wodin

 

  • RISE OF FLIGHT


book: Flight of Fury: Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps

author: Major James McCudden

also relevant to: Over Flanders Fields

recommender: Hartford688

“Extraordinary story of a young man who rises from fitter in 1914 to one of the greatest aces of WWI. Strange feeling to be reading his own account of air battles over the Western Front. And chilling to read the last paragraph knowing he was killed a few days later. There is a very nice little hardcover edition available also. Well worth the pennies.”

book: Three Cheers for Me

author: Donald Jack

recommender: Agrippa911

“The first of a trilogy (The Bandy Papers) about a fictional Canadian pilot during WW1 (and eventually into WW2). It’s probably hard to find and not well known (which is criminal) but is damn hilarious.”

 

  • ROME TOTAL WAR

book: Rubicon

author: Tom Holland

also relevant to: Europa Universalis: Rome

recommender: Gwyddelig

“Holland writes with an easy, almost colloquial style but he describes the machinations of late republican Rome vividly. You see the gigantic figures of that age as living, breathing, fallible humans (his decription of Sulla is both terrifying and engaging at the same time), with the events they unleashed similarly enhanced in your mind. Playing the already-fantastic RTW with that narrative tale of the Roman journey from SPQR to Empire fresh in your mind means even those little details like event reminders, pockets of rebellion, diplomatic wrangling and personal colour (Catamite: Who would have thought it of the man!) take on new meaning as things you can relate to from actual history. It also displays the love of subject matter and attention to detail that Creative Assembly lavished on the game.”

 

  • SILENT HUNTER 3

book: The Boat

author: Lothar-Günther Buchheim

also relevant to: Silent Hunters 2 & 5, Aces of the Deep

recommender: cathode

“Based on his wartime experiences, The Boat follows a patrol of a German submarine during WWII. He captures the boredom and terror of an extended patrol incredibly well and the book is full of relevant technical and tactical information. The film based in the book is also outstanding, grab the extended director’s cut if you can.”

book: Hitler’s U-Boat War (volumes 1 & 2)

author: Clay Blair

recommender: Rusty

“They are extremely dense and not easy reads, but you will find something on literally every combat patrol by every boat in the Kriegsmarine. There’s nothing like them for sheer scale.”

book: Iron Coffins

author: Herbert A. Werner

recommender: I Must stop buying games

“Stunning book by one of the few U-boat commanders to survive the war. You can sense the disbelief in the guys writing as he goes from being the king of the sea to not even being able to cross the harbour without getting attacked. ”

 

  • SILENT HUNTER 4

book: Run Silent, Run Deep

author: Edward Beach

also relevant to: Silent Hunter

recommender: Plopsworth

“Pretty similar to Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s The Boat, except from a US perspective. Add in some Ahab and Moby Dick-esque rivalry between the US sub captain and a mysterious Japanese destroyer captain.”

book: Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Most Famous WWII Submarine

author: Richard H. O’Kane

recommender: F33bs

“I found this in my local library here in Las Vegas and read it extensively while playing Silent Hunter 4. A lot of what I appreciated about that game was the quiet tension that permeated literally every action you made. Probably the only game where the soundtrack was memorable to me for consisting solely of ambient sound effects: bells, wave breaks, sonar pings, underwater white noise. Only a few voice-actors in the whole game and all of it is down to business: from the whispered “Warship spotted” under the red lights to the jovial “Ahead full!” The book really underlines the cold science behind submarine warfare but never neglects the human courage involved in making it all work.”

book: Wake of the Wahoo

author: Forest Sterling

recommender: Marcin

“I see the Patrols of the Wahoo are already there – that book is also fantastic as a top-down, command-level view of the operations of the sub. However, this one is written from the viewpoint of someone considerably lower on the totem pole and as such a much more candid look into life during those patrols. While the author himself admits that some of the conversations and byplays may be exaggerated a bit, I suspect the overall ambiance is pretty much spot on.”

book: Silent Victory

author: Clay Blair

recommender: Rusty

book: Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1943

author: Ian W. Toll

recommender: Fishbreath

book: Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal

author: James D. Hornfischer

recommender: Fishbreath

“As with all good submarine games, SH4 cuts you off from everything outside your boat, excepting the occasional dispatch that hints at the wider war outside your little world. Toll and Hornfischer provide a look at the politics leading up to the war in the Pacific and its first year, as told through the stories of the men who served in the opposing surface fleets”

 

  • SQUAD BATTLES: FALKLANDS

book: Spearhead Assault

author: John Geddes

also relevant to: The Falkland’s War 1982 (Shrapnel Games)

recommender: spelk

 

  • SQUAD BATTLES: TOUR OF DUTY

book: Fields of Fire

author: James Webb

also relevant to: Squad Battles: Vietnam

recommender: Swifty

“Great account of war-fighting in ‘Nam, tops “Dispatches” in my opinion. Read it as a 15 year old and immediately wanted to enlist as a US Marine.”

 

  • STEAM AND IRON

book: Castles of Steel

author: Robert K. Massie

also relevant to: The Distant Guns games. Naval Campaigns 1: Jutland (HPS Simulations)

recommender: I Must stop buying games

“Along with the Dreadnought, a fantastic naval/political history of the First World War. Perfect to get you in the mood for the best game on the war at sea since Action Stations!”

 

  • STEEL BEASTS PRO PERSONAL EDITION

book: Team Yankee

author: Harold Coyle

also relevant to: Steel Beasts Gold

recommender: Retro

“Engaging, easy to read, can be replicated quite faithfully within the simulation”

book: The Defense of Hill 781

author: James McDonough

also relevant to: Steel Armor: Blaze of War or any other Cold War tactical wargame

recommender: Tac Error

“It’s an easy to read book inspired by Ernest Swinton’s “Defense of Duffer’s Drift” detailing the experiences of being a battalion task force commander at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center.”

book: Red Army

author: Ralph Peters

recommender: Tac Error

“World War III in Germany, but from the Soviet perspective. The author goes the extra length by having the book focus on “men in battle” rather than on shiny weapons and technology, and avoiding a stereotyped portrayal of the Soviet Army.”

 

  • STEEL PANTHERS

book: The World at Arms: The Reader’s Digest Illustrated History of World War 2

author: various

also relevant to: every other WW2 game

recommender: BooleanBob

“I read (well, re-read) The World At Arms (edited by Michael Wright, Bob Hook and John L Pimlott) as a companion to long Wehrmacht, Commonwealth and Soviet campaigns in the original Steel Panthers. Its history offers an admirable array of global perspectives and narratives, which is appropriate given that its topic is the Second World War; sadly, these efforts at inclusivity are ultimately undermined by the book’s gentle-yet-irrepressible Anglocentrism. Nonetheless, it is a big, bold, beautifully-illustrated book that offers up a fascinating compendium of easily-subsumed core war history and considerately-curated anecdotal asides, and in a pinch could also be used to dispatch any spider up to the size of a tarantula.”

 

  • STRIKE FIGHTERS 2

book: Flight of the Intruder

author: Stephen Coonts

also relevant to: Strike Fighters: Vietnam, Flight of the Intruder

recommender: gabe

“Tells the story of Jake Grafton, a Navy A-6 pilot fighting in the Vietnam War. This book (and the movie for that matter) really helped me to see the sheer terror SAMs gave aviators from those days. Since Mr. Coonts was an A-6 pilot, the cockpit procedures, the tactics from the 60′s and 70′s and the life inside an aircraft carrier are well documented.”

book: The Warbirds

author: Richard Herman

recommender: VFRHawk

“Story of a fictional wing of F4 Phantoms that gets deployed to the Gulf. Well predates the actual first gulf war, but again, I believe the author was an F4 pilot in real life, so lots of accuracy.”

 

  • TOTAL WAR: SHOGUN 2

book: Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan

author: Eiji Yoshikawa

also relevant to: Sengoku, Shogun: Total War

recommender: alh_p

“I’ve not found a book and game that link so well before. The story narrates the Sengoku Jidai period of crumbling Shogunal power, the rise of Oda Nobunaga and his legacy. It’s essentially the actual story CA and Paradox’s games seek to emulate, in more detail and colour than the games can provide. The first time I played Sengoku it left me pretty cold. After reading Taiko, I get it in ways only my well-fed imagination can be responsible – and that is entirely due to this book.”

book: Shogun

author: James Clavell

recommender: Crazy Gweilo

“This is set in the same time period as the Shogun games, and features a dutch sailor whose ship runs aground in Japan just as the old shoguns rule is failing. He gets involved with a daimyo called Toranaga, a historical analogue of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in real life founded the Tokugawa shogunate. The book involves Samurai, Ninjas, political scheming, and the Japanese trade with the Jesuits, all themes of the game.”

 

  • UNITY OF COMMAND

book: Stalingrad

author: Antony Beevor

also relevant to: Red Orchestra 2, Close Combat 3, Close Combat: Cross of Iron

recommender: Tim James

“I’m trying to find a book-game pairing where the units in the scenario line up with the divisions on a map. I want to follow along with the historical plans and then try my own. Stalingrad didn’t fit perfectly: a lot of it was low level personal accounts. But the units lined up almost 1:1 in the Operation Uranus scenario in UoC. I thought that was neat. So not only is it a great entry-level wargame, it’s a good way to start into military history companion texts.”

 

  • VICTORIA 2

book: The ‘Age’ trilogy (The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire)

author: Eric Hobsbawm

also relevant to: Pride of Nations, Napoleon : Total War

recommender: Zephro

“These give fantastic context for the changing political, social and economic situations across this period.”

book: Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World

author: Barrington Moore

recommender: alh_p

“The book which I physically cannot pick up for more than 20 mins without feeling compelled to fire up Vicky 2. It’s a comparative study of modernization in Britain, France, the United States, China, Japan and India. It’s not easy reading but I’m convinced that if the book was put in a press it would ooze knowledge like a viscous fluid. Nothing can compare as a companion to the megalomaniac meddling with your POP’s live’s in Vicky2. I think it’s even better than Hobsbawm’s trilogy for Vicky. It’s especially good at getting under the skin of the social changes involved in modernisation and industrialisation -particularly when trying to understand the social/economic links to politics in the game and out.”

book: Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War

author: Robert K. Massie

also relevant to: Pride of Nations, the Distant Guns games, Steam And Iron

recommender: Megadyptes

“A an excellent book which not only covers the revolutionary design of HMS Dreadnought, but it also goes into a lot of detail to examine the rulers, politicians, diplomatic shenanigans, political and social movements that shaped the paths of both the United Kingdom and the German Empire in the late 19th and early pre WW1 20th centuries. This book really brought the late Victorian and early Georgian era to life, and thus compliments Victoria 1 & 2 brilliantly.”

 

  • VIRTUAL SAILOR

book: Kon-Tiki

author: Thor Heyerdahl

also relevant to:

recommender: Bhazor

“A book about a hand-made raft that successfully sailed from Peru to Polynesia. It does a great job of describing old navigation techniques and helps drive home how rough the sea can be. The documentary is well worth a look too.”


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103 Comments »

  1. Tim Stone says:

    The Flare Path Foxer

    Apologies for the technical hitches last week. I’d like to blame the unintentional comments embargo on the EMP blast from that SAM Simulator nuclear test, but the truth is it probably had more to do with a fragile wireless link and some clumsy editing. Of the six PIAT pinpointers who got their guesses in before I bolloxed everything up, westyfield (I5) and Korvus Redmane (J5) were both a whisker away. They take home FP flair points fashioned from StuG vision blocks.

    See http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/04/20/the-flare-path-nukes-and-rebukes/ for the solution pic.

  2. wodin says:

    ” I’m convinced the right book can do as much to enhance a good wargame or sim as any pricey peripheral or cutting-edge graphics card.”

    Well said couldn’t agree more.

    I have Military History collection of what must be nearly 300 books. SO it makes its difficult to pick one. Plus I find some of my favourite books don’t apply to wargames like Islands of Fire by Jason Mark does help in games like Red Orchestra 2. Also most of my collection is WW1. Books like Liaison 1914 by Edward Speer are superb, or the recent German Army on… series by Jack Sheldon, however there aren’t many wargames set during WW1, I suppose I could say WW1 Gold by Ageod but those books don’t cover the War at that level.

    So a classic book for two classic wargames.

    A Bridge to Far by Cornelius Ryan
    Command Ops Battle for the Bulge with HTTR expansion, Close Combat A Bridge to far (or Last Stand at Arnhem remake).

  3. Bhazor says:

    Heh, the same book about Stalingrad as the one in Peepshow.

    “Those kids have no idea whatsoever of what went on at Stalingrad. Although I can’t compare my reading of the book with the struggle of the Red Army; it has been a very big read”

    On topic;
    Title Kon-Tiki
    Author Thor Heyerdahl
    Related games Any historic ship sim (a sadly undercatered for sub-genre)
    My interest is more historic than simulation based but one book I could really recommend is the original “Kon-Tiki”. A book about a hand made raft that successfully sailed from Peru to Polynesia. It does a great job of describing old navigation techniques and helps drive home how rough the sea can be.

    The documentary is well worth a look too.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGooopCTmpg

  4. AmateurScience says:

    The spines! They are so broken!

    Edit: also to make an meaningful contribution. Reading ‘European History for Dummies’ in parallel to a grand campaign in Medieval II has enriched the experience no end (it’s not exactly authoritative. but then, neither is Medieval II).

  5. Stranglove says:

    Is it worrying or excellent that I have all but one of the books in the first picture? They’re all very good reads.

    I inherited each book from the first print run of the Biggles books from my Grandfather, I’d suggest them to anyone who’s interested in WW1 aviation.

    • ShowMeTheMonkey says:

      My Step-dad decided to start collecting Biggles books. He gave up after seeing how expensive some of them are…

      He also told me that many British pilots would study the Biggles books on how to fly and tactics. Due to the brief training they had they would try and use any material they could get their hands on!

      (Haven’t verified this, so this may just be conjecture).

  6. jimbobjunior says:

    This is a fantastic idea, I’ve already wishlisted or bought any books you mentioned in previous FP and have not been disappointed.

  7. Adam Smith says:

    It’s early medieval so predates Crusader Kings’ timeframe, but Paul Kershaw’s Peaceful Kings is a grand read and provides a splendid overview of the important and oft-ignored link between peace and power.

    Fitting reading for anything European, post-Roman through to late medieval, as much of it is about a transition of thought regarding political philosophy and the role of the ruler.

  8. Gwyddelig says:

    First post – hope this is the right way to submit a suggestion

    Author: Tom Holland
    Relevant game: Rome:Total War

    In Rubicon Holland writes with as easy, almost coloquial style but he describes the machinations of late republican Rome vividly. You see the gigantic figures of that age as living, breathing, fallible humans (his decription of Sulla is both terrifying and engaging at the same time), with the events they unleashed similarly enhanced in your mind. Playing the already-fantastic RTW with that narrative tale of the Roman journey from SPQR to Empire fresh in your mind means even those little details like event reminders, pockets of rebellion, diplomatic wrangling and personal colour (Catamite: Who would have thought it of the man!) take on new meaning as things you can relate to from actual history. It also displays the love of subject matter and attention to detail that Creative Assembly lavished on the game.

    • Zephro says:

      On the subject I find the actual Roman historians great to read:
      Livy, Tacitus, Seutonius (salacious gossip that he is)

      But also for Barbarian Invasion:
      Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    • bit.bat says:

      This is not really a book but Dan Carlin has a great podcast called Hardcore History which includes a six part Fall of the Roman Republic show that is also a great companion piece for Rome: Total War. He quotes Tom Holland many times.

  9. Zephro says:

    Maybe a cheeky one as it’s a series:
    Eric Hobsbawm: Age of Series
    Age of Revolutions Europe 1789-1848
    Age of Capital: 1848-1875
    Age of Empires: 1875-1914
    Age of Extremes: 1914-1994

    These give fantastic context for the changing political, social and economic situations across this period (Early Modern to Contemporary society).

    Recommended for:
    Victoria 2, Late game of EU3, Hearts of Iron, Pride of Nations, Empire/Napoleon Total War, Fall of the Samurai Total War. Any grand strategy game really.

    The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo [Paperback]
    Russell F. Weigley
    I think this is the one. Will check at home, my cover is different but I picked up second hand. Covers the changes in professionalism, doctrine and context of battles over the centuries.
    Recommended for:
    Most wargames from 1600 onwards.

    I really want to put my favourite history books: Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, A People’s Tragedy: The Revolutions in Russia, and Lefebvre’s Napoleon, The Making of Modern Japan. But I can’t think of games they easily relate to.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      No Age of Mythology? xD

    • Wilt says:

      A caveat about Hobsbawn: he’s a Marxist historian. Now by that, I don’t mean that he’s a raging Commie and we should all go lynch him – it’s a school of historiography (the history of history) that emphasises economic factors and downplays the role of individuals in history, and also happens to be of the opinion that the course of history is steadily moving from worse governments to better ones. So, for example, he would view the failure of the 1848 revolutions as a major setback for the world, rather than an interesting anomaly, even as he would consider them to have been caused largely by high food prices in 1847. It doesn’t make the book bad – on the contrary, it keeps you on your toes!

      Also, Orlando Figes, author of “A People’s Tragedy”, was recently embroiled in a scandal where his wife was found to have been posting large numbers of positive reviews of his book on Amazon and elsewhere. It’s still a very good, very large book, just something to be aware of.

      Just finished a major essay on Kaiser Wilhelm II’s foreign policy and was advised to be aware of these things by my teacher. I’ve heard good things about Iron Kingdom, but couldn’t find a copy. Is it any good?

  10. Gothnak says:

    Art Of War In the Western World for all your ancient military tactics

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Art-War-Western-World/dp/0252069668/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1335529851&sr=1-1

    Also for a great fun read but at the same time informational:

    All of the Military Blunders books, they are awesome!

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=books-uk&field-author=Geoffrey%20Regan

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I couldn’t possibly read the Art of War In the Western World and then feel the urge to play any modern game. I’d go back to this excellent book in no time.

      But there will come a time when wargames and strategy titles will offer us something more than a tiny subset of the military strategical and tactical options open to us in the battlefield. I may just be very old then.

      That said, if Paradox ever considers bringing the whole Hearts of Iron III and the Clausewitz engine to a an historic ancient world, Asia, or Medieval Europe, that’s the closest we would get at this time in the history of game development.

      • Gothnak says:

        I worked on Warrior Kings and we tried to get the whole formation thing in. Wasn’t quite up to Total War, but it wasn’t a bad punt. I agree though, would be great to see a game which things you learn in this book would actually help.

  11. Reapy says:

    BGG thought this board game geek
    Iink would be relevant here, same idea, if you like xyz wargame, you would
    Iike this book.

    For me as a kid, honestly the Battle of Britain instruction manual did all pf these things for me, showed me an overview of the history, talked about acm, talked about the planes ect. The whole thing really jump started my interest in ww2 planes. I had to read the book a lot having only one pc in the house that my dad was on to get my fix…but that forced me to examine something i would gave skimmed over. Having read up on everything though, it really brought the game to life for me.

  12. Faldrath says:

    Tim Blanning’s “The Pursuit of Glory” is the best one-volume history of Europe of the early modern period (1600-1800) I know. It fits perfectly with Europa Universalis.

    (actually I think EU2 made me buy a few dozen history books. “I wonder if there’s a good recent book on the Ottoman Empire”… “Livonian Order? Who were those guys?” “Look at all those nations in India! I should learn more about that…”)

    • Dys Does Dakka says:

      The Pursuit of Glory is indeed a splendid book.
      -I read it because of Empire Total War. …of Glory, and On War by Carl v. Clausewitz. That one is a very… uh, “German” book, though. Not sure it was all that interesting outside of a few memorable quotes.

      For any wargamer, I can recommend WAR – The Lethal Costum, by Gwynne Dyer. Get some perspective on the whole deal. :d

  13. cathode says:

    Author: Lothar-Günther Buchheim

    Title: The Boat

    Relevant game: any ‘Silent Hunter’ title

    Based on his wartime experiences, The Boat follows a patrol of a German submarine during WWII. He captures the boredom and terror of an extended patrol incredibly well and the book is full of relevant technical and tactical information. The film based in the book is also outstanding, grab the extended director’s cut if you can.

    • Plopsworth says:

      Non fiction:

      Going Solo by Roald Dahl. Yes that Roald Dahl. Really brings out the human element of serving in a fighter squadron with a dozen Hurricanes against some five hundred Luftwaffe planes in Greece. Moments of sheer terror blended with travel literature. Men fighting war in paradise, sleeping in tents, landing on dusty fields and noticing how every patrol it seems likely at least someone won’t beat the odds and won’t make it back. Goes well with any sim featuring that wooden solid and sturdy workhorse, the Hawker Hurricane, that gets no love next to its muscled sexier curvier Spitfire stallion.

      Fiction:

      Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series. Goes well Europa Universalis and other games set around the early 17th century and the 30 years’ war. Plenty of mildly pulpy yet solid swashbuckling action, intrigue, galley rowing and tercio-formation pike and shot warfare.

      Edward Beach’s Run Silent, Run Deep for the Pacific Silent Hunter. Pretty similar to Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s The Boat, except from a US perspective. Add in some Ahab and Moby Dick-esque rivalry between the US sub captain and a mysterious Japanese destroyer captain.

      Arthur Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard stories for comic Napoleonic moustache-twirling swashbuckling. Yes, that Doyle. Flashman-esque short comic stories as retold by a flamboyant retired old soldier. Combine it with Ridley Scott’s The Duelists for a French POV for Napoleonic-era stuff.

      Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels for any Age of Sail stuff, of course. Pity there is no real offering of suitable high-end Age of Sail games. Something like Silent Hunter on a 32-gun frigate would be lovely, combined with Crusader Kings’ crew modifiers for officers (disliked ones would inspire mutiny and so forth).

      I’ll add more later.

    • Rusty says:

      Absolutely right. I might also suggest Clay Blair’s books on the sub war in the Atlantic (Hitler’s U-Boat War, Vols. 1-2) and the Pacific (Silent Victory). They are extremely dense and not easy reads, but you will find something on literally every combat patrol by every boat in the Kriegsmarine/USN respectively. There’s nothing like them for sheer scale.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Note that Wolfgang Petersen’s film version is sold as “Das Boot”, even in the English packaging. I recommend the uncut mini-series version running at 281 / 293 minutes. Unfortunately, the individual episodic version is unavailable – the DVD release is edited into a seamless whole, so you have to find your own break points if you don’t want to spend four and a half hours watching it in a single sitting.

      Interestingly, the English dub was recorded by the original actors – they were all bilingual. I still prefer the original Klingon German with subtitles, though.

  14. Tony M says:

    I’ve always been a fan of immersing myself in a genre through multiple mediums. Games, Pen-and-Paper RPGs, Novels, History Books etc. Consuming all of them at the same time on a single subject.

  15. Joe Duck says:

    Author: Bevin Alexander

    Title: How Great Generals Win

    Relevant Game: Any Operational Level Strategy game

    A very interesting analysis of the tools used throughout history by great generals.

  16. phuzz says:

    Tom Clancy wrote a book called SSN, which was intended as a tie in to the game of the same name. However, despite enjoying the book (a fictionalised account of a LA class sub during a hypothetical US vs China war) I never did find a copy of the game.
    However, it has helped provide some background and flavour to other post-cold war sub sims I’ve played.

    (I’m currently loving Naval Warfare: Arctic Circle, although I’ve not come across a purely sub-only mission yet)

  17. Retro says:

    Derek Robinson – Piece of Cake – “Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory”

    Gives quite a bit of context, shows how much detail Rowan packed into their sim, genuinely funny

    James Salter – The Hunters – Mig Alley

    Just beautifully written, makes me want to install that game and take to the skies again..

    Harold Coyle – Team Yankee – Steel Beasts

    Engaging, easy to read, can be replicated quite faithfully within the simulation

    • Snuffy the Evil says:

      Oh man, Piece of Cake is fantastic. I would also recommend A Good Clean Fight, which is by the same author and involves the same fighter squadron but also features commando teams doing their thing in the desert. Also very funny.

    • Torgen says:

      I always wanted to play MiG Alley, as it seems it was the last flight sim with a hardcore campaign mode where everything was modeled, but didn’t have a computer that could run it at the time. Someone should really update that but keep all the realism and difficulty.

      • gabe says:

        Have you heard about Falcon 4? Easily the best dynamic campaign a flight simulatior has to offer. Look for the lastest mod for it. It is called Falcon BMS 4. Google it!

    • Jason Moyer says:

      While not really the sort of book this article is about, I thought Mig Alley’s inclusion of a book of declassified RAF Intelligence on the F-86/Mig-15 was a nice touch. I miss games with decent manuals/feelies.

    • wodin says:

      Derek Robinsons WW 1 trilogy I loved. More so than the WW2 books which where still superb.

  18. MrStones says:

    Ah a bit of history definitely compliments grand strategy games. There was a great book on the Byzantine empire i was reading during a CKII play through but the name escapes me, will have a look at the bookcase when I get home tonight. Also playing as my family name (the mighty Uá Briain) was a pure joy mostly due to my knowledge on Irish history and admittedly it probably wouldn’t hold the same interest to others. Nothing quite like changing the course of history and seeing my name plastered across the hard fought, short lived “United Irish Kingdom” :)

    I have to say bravo to Tim Stone, RPS and the hivemind for this article. Loud and proud on the front page and not hidden away in the back of some forum like some other sites would have, reminds me why i come here.

    Cheers sirs. Looks like my credit card, shelf space and free time are all about to take a serious hit.

    • alh_p says:

      I couldn’t agree more – T Stone is a GOD.

      ahem. or this is a cunning way of identifying the real geeks and silencing them…

      Or maybe I should stop reading novels set in dystopic authoritarian worlds.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      James Julius Norwich’s 3 part History of Byzantium is utterly superb (and really much better than the abridged concise version) and would enliven any game that has mention of that most under-appreciated of Empires, e.g. AssCreeds, Civilisations, Europa Universalisii etc.

      • MrStones says:

        Heh, maybe a little byzantine-d out myself for now but it’s going on the wish-list.

        My recommendation “Sailing from Byzantium – How a lost Empire changed the world” by Colin Wells.
        Maybe a little too info crammed but it’s less about war (though it still goes right into it) and more about what clever basterds they all were.

        4/5 – Would not crusade against.

  19. alh_p says:

    Taiko Ki (English title – Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan) by Eiji Yoshikawa. Ties in exceptionaly well with Total War: Shogun 2 or Sengoku.

    I’ve not found a book and game that link so well before. The story narrates the Sengoku Jidai period of crumbling Shogunal power, the rise of Oda Nobunaga and his legacy. It’s essentially the actual story CA and Paradox’s games seek to emulate, in more detail and colour than the games can provide. The first time I played Sengoku it left me pretty cold. After reading Taiko, I get it in ways only my well-fed imagination can be responsible -and that is entirely due to this book.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Taiko-Novel-Glory-Feudal-Japan/dp/4770026099

    • alh_p says:

      And the book which I physically cannot pick up for more than 20 ins without feeling compelled to fire up Vicky 2:

      Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore, Jr.

      It’s a comparative study of modernization in Britain, France, the United States, China, Japan and India. It’s not easy reading but I’m convinced that if the book was put in a press it would ooze knowledge like a viscous fluid. Nothing can compare as a companion to the megalomaniac meddling with your POPs live’s in Vicky2. I think it’s even better than Hobsbawm’s trilogy for Vicky. It’s especially good at getting under the skin of the social changes involved in modernisation and industrialisation -particularly when trying to understand the social/economic links to politics in the game and out.

  20. Triangulon says:

    Title: Eight Lives Down

    Author: Mjr Chris Hunter

    Relevant Game: Any ‘modern’ warfare game.

    An often hilarious, often chilling account of the life of an Ammunition Technical Officer with the Royal Logistical Corps in Iraq. These are chaps that have to deal with all of the IEDs and unexploded ordinance. Makes one realise what a load of guff The Hurt Locker was.

    • Bhazor says:

      I’ve never understood the acclaim for that film. It’s not bad but “One of the best films of the decade”? Fuck that.

    • Shooop says:

      Hey would you rather the Oscar had gone to that steaming pile Avatar?

      • FunkyBadger3 says:

        Hurt Locker’s an excellent thriller – Hitchcock would have been proud. And Penner’s excellent.

        The Oscar’s though… not worth getting het up about – see also Drive not winning Best Picture…

  21. BooleanBob says:

    I read (well, re-read) The World At Arms (edited by Michael Wright, Bob Hook and John L Pimlott) as a companion to long Wehrmacht, Commonwealth and Soviet campaigns in the original Steel Panthers.

    Its history offers an admirable array of global perspectives and narratives, which is appropriate given that its topic is the Second World War; sadly, these efforts at inclusivity are ultimately undermined by the book’s gentle-yet-irrepressible Anglocentrism. Nonetheless, it is a big, bold, beautifully-illustrated book that offers up a fascinating compendium of easily-subsumed core war history and considerately-curated anecdotal asides, and in a pinch could also be used to dispatch any spider up to the size of a tarantula.

  22. Fishbreath says:

    Titles: The Crucible (Ian W. Toll) and Neptune’s Inferno (James D. Hornfischer)
    Relevant game: Silent Hunter IV (preferably with Real Fleet Boat or Trigger Maru Overhaul)

    As with all good submarine games, SH4 cuts you off from everything outside your boat, excepting the occasional dispatch that hints at the wider war outside your little world. Toll and Hornfischer provide a look at the politics leading up to the war in the Pacific and its first year, as told through the stories of the men who served in the opposing surface fleets.

  23. RobearGWJ says:

    I’d go with a book that is useful for any WWII or later tactical sim, the Combat Mission series especially. It’s Erwin Rommel’s “Infantry Attacks”. Written from his diary of events during his WWI service, it details his thinking on what junior officers need to understand about leading troops in combat. Each chapter delivers various tactical lessons, and they build into a cohesive whole by the end of the book (and the war). This book was available to both Axis and Allied officers, and was common reading in preparation for combat, so it’s very useful to the player of games that allow the use of accurate tactics. Not a long book, but a very interesting one that will hold the reader’s attention throughout.

  24. ShowMeTheMonkey says:

    I’ve just finished reading Achtung! Panzer! by Mr Fast Heinz, very interesting. It’s incredible how he could envisage advanced tank tactics whilst tank technology was still quite underdeveloped.

    It’s a shame Brits didn’t pick up on his ideas and carried on making those awful cruiser tanks.

    Not sure if anyone else has read it, but I massively enjoyed Guy Sajers “Forgotten Soldier”. Mostly on the East front, it describes how he had to decide between the French or German army. Very, very good.

    Now I’m in a Vietnam mood. Tion O’Brians “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home” was not at all what I thought it would be and is also really good.

    • Rusty says:

      The rest of O’Brien’s stuff is good, too. I am tempted to recommend it as an antidote to the sanitized version of combat found in the Battlefield/Modern Warfare genre.

  25. Torgen says:

    “The Ace Factor” : Mike Spick
    Game: Any combat flight sim

    Mike Spick was a US Air Force fighter pilot instructor in F-16s, but in “The Ace Factor” he presents his insight and explanation of aerial combat theory in a way that applies to all eras. Many actual pilots as well as serious sim pilots have praised this book. I know it made a world of difference to me, as I learned not only what to do, but WHY, enabling me to be a much better sim pilot.

  26. Snuffy the Evil says:

    Book: “Stick and Rudder”
    Author: Wolfgang Langewiesche

    Applies to: pretty much every flight simulator ever made.

    As it turns out, the basics of powered flight haven’t changed much in in the past sixty-eight years.

  27. I Must stop buying games says:

    Such a intersting thread I feel bound to throw away a lifetime of silent lurking and contribute. I belive I can make 2 choices.
    1. Title: Iron Coffins
    Author: Herbert A werner
    Game: Silent Hunter 3 or 5 with lots of mods

    Stunning book by one of the few U-boat comanders to survive the war. You can sense the disbelief in the guys writing as he goes from being the king of the sea to not even being able to cross the harbour without getting attacked.

  28. I Must stop buying games says:

    1. Title: castles of Steel
    Author: Robert Massie
    Game: Steam and Iron

    Along with the Dreadnought a fantastic navel/political history of the 1st world war to get the mood set for tacking the best game on the war at sea since action stations.

  29. Skabooga says:

    Perhaps a bit obvious, but:

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    Game: Any WWII-themed flight simulator

  30. fauxC says:

    I guess CKII has already been mentioned, but my contribution has to be Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies. Investigations of odd, fleeting and half-forgotten realms which fits perfectly with CKII’s mood of transitory comfort and stability.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Sounds fascinating and your description reminds me a little of Ghost Colonies by Ed Wright which has some brilliant stories in. Truth being stranger than t’other and all that.

  31. darkmouse20001 says:

    ‘The Big Show’ by Pierre Closterman, best pilots autobiography, and best WW2 air combat book by a long way. Makes Geoff Wellum look like a complete noob (no discourtesy intended!). The descriptions of combat are superb.

    • Hartford688 says:

      Excellent suggestion. One of my very favourite books since I was a kid. Now on loan to someone at work, with another queued for after. Amazing story, and so well written Some shocking moments as well.

  32. Rusty says:

    “Crusade in Europe” by Dwight Eisenhower
    Game: Hearts of Iron (and other strategic World War 2 games)

    It’s a surprisingly interesting account of Ike’s personal experience with WWII, and one of the few readable stories from someone who has actually held theater command in wartime. Written before celebrity biographies were really a thing, and thus less filtered than something you’d get today (although he was already being talked about as a potential president, so it’s not completely unvarnished).

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      I’ve got a copy of Defeat into VIctory, by Field Marshall Slim knocking around somewhere that I hacen’t read nearly enough of.

      Must rectify that forthwith…

  33. Hartford688 says:

    “The Civil War: A narrative” – 3 volumes – Shelby Foote
    Game: AGEOD’s American Civil War

    Truly wonderful trilogy. A history that is full of characters, humour, sadness, detail and anecdote. I’m not even an American but have been thoroughly hooked – enough to read over 2,000 pages several times. It really brings the war, the people, the battles to life. Thoroughly recommended.

    As it happens, I am reading “Fort Sumter to Perryville” right now, and will kick off a campaign of AACW over the weekend – with the latest patch just out:

    http://ageod-forum.com/showthread.php?24527-AACW-official-patch-1-16a-April-24-2012

    • Havok9120 says:

      Ive also found that having AACW in a window while watching Ken Burns’: The Civil War (which Foote is in a ton) is a great time.

  34. Havok9120 says:

    Since you opened with a Paradox game, I’ll keep it up.

    For the Hearts of Iron games:

    General of the Army: George C. Marshall, Soldier and Statesman

    Story about the man who designed, built, and organized the U.S. Army of the Second World War. As you’d expect for a companion to a game that’s more about organization and planning than war-fighting, the book is the story of building and maintaining a coalition war machine, not a story of intricate tactical battles.

  35. Hartford688 says:

    And one more:

    “Flying Fury” by Major James T. McCudden VC
    Game: Rise of Flight or Over Flanders Field

    Extraordinary story of a young man who rises from fitter in 1914 to one of the greatest aces of WWI. Strange feeling to be reading his own account of air battles over the Western Front. And chilling to read the last paragraph knowing he was killed a few days later.

    PS – there is a very nice little hardcover edition available also. Well worth the pennies.

  36. Tim James says:

    For newbies like me:

    Book: Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad
    Game: Unity of Command

    I’m trying to find a book-game pairing where the units in the scenario line up with the divisions on a map. I want to follow along with the historical plans and then try my own. Stalingrad didn’t fit perfectly here: a lot of it was low level personal accounts. But the units lined up almost 1:1 in the Operation Uranus scenario in UoC. I thought that was neat. The authors mentioned on the forums a couple other books they used to create the game. So not only is it a great entry-level wargame, it’s a good way to start into military history companion texts.

  37. Commander_Zeus says:

    This isn’t strictly within the format, but I can recommend Osprey’s ‘Campaign’ series as companions for, well, any wargame really. They cover pretty much everything: the background to the battles and campaigns, biog’s of notable commanders, OOBs and equipment, tactics employed, maps, even lists for further reading (if I remember correctly).
    I only have experience of reading ones concerned with WWII battles, but if they are as representative as they seem, the medieval/ancient warfare ones should be just as eye-opening and educational.

    Also, I believe that Battlefront’s CM: Afrika Korps had the option of shipping with a companion monograph, although I don’t have it, so can’t comment on how well it matched.

  38. Wilt says:

    EDIT: Just noticed the bit where you shouldn’t recommend more than two books. Sorry, got carried away.

    Book: The Crescent and the Bull, Erich Zehren
    Game: Tomb Raider, Uncharted, etc. (Not really standard FP fare, but the book fits great!)

    This book is the story of Mesopotamian archaeology and the rediscovery of Babylon, Assyria, and Sumer. Many of the archaeologists in question had to pull off stunts to smuggle out artifacts that were almost as crazy as those of Lara Croft and that other chap whose name I can’t be bothered to look up. (NB: Atheists beware, lots of Biblical quotes cited as literal history here)
    See also “Gods, Graves, and Scholars” by C. W. Ceram

    Book: England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings, Robert Bartlett
    Game: Crusader Kings, Medieval Total War, etc.

    Okay, so it’s a textbook. The textbook I’m currently studying, in fact. But after the list of dates at the front, it becomes a fascinating look at the entire medieval worldview, including medicine, metaphysics, conception of time, and the whole complicated arrangement where the King of England was also a vassal of the King of France (and, at one point, of the Pope).

    Book: Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana Jr. – Diary of a 1860s Harvard student who goes and enlists as a seaman. (Game: Pirates!, Port Royal, etc)
    Book: The Second World War, Winston Churchill – The first and longest WWII history. (Game: Lots)
    Book: The Schemes of the Kaiser, Juliette Adam – Fascinating paranoid rants by a French journalist about the evil German empire. Like a nineteenth-century Rush Limbaugh. Freely available on Project Gutenberg! (Game: anything WWI)

  39. gabe says:

    Here goes my contribution!

    Book: Keith Rosenkranz’s Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot
    Game: Falcon BMS 4, Falcon OF, Falcon AF and probably Flamming Cliffs 2

    The book tells the story o Captain Keith Rosenkranz’s actions in the first gulf war. The link to the games is the attention to detail from the procedures and mostly the way a modern war is fought from the air perspective.

  40. gabe says:

    And another one.

    Book: Stephen Coonts’ Flight of the Intruder and The Intruders
    Game: Strike Fighters 2, Strike Fighters 2 Vietnam

    Flight of the Intruder tells the story of Jake Grafton, a Navy A-6 pilot fighting in the Vietnam War. This book (and the movie for that matter) really helped me to see the sheer terror SAMs gave aviators from those days. Since Mr. Coonts was an A-6 pilot, the cockpit procedures, the tactics from the 60′s and 70′s and the life inside an aircraft carrier are well documented.

    • VFRHawk says:

      Have you ever read The Warbirds by Richard Herman? Story of a fictional wing of F4 Phantoms that gets deployed to the Gulf. Well predates the actual first gulf war, but again, I believe the author was an F4 pilot in real life, so lots of accuracy… And the Phantom never got all the love it deserved! :-)

  41. gabe says:

    And yet, another one!

    Book: In Persuit by Johan Kylander
    Game: Il-2 Sturmovik, Il-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover, Rise of Flight and almost every WWI or WWII flight simulator

    Johan Kylander was a obsessed player of MMO flight sims from the second world war who decided to write everything he knew and had learned about air combat and was appliable to multiplayer flight simulations. The book covers from the very basic notions of energy and angles, Basic Fighter Maneuvers, advanced maneuvers to the way players react psycologically when playing online. It also has a free version online!

  42. Owain_Glyndwr says:

    Book: Berlin, by Anthony Beevor
    Game: World at War,

    Book: Armageddon, by Max Hastings
    Game: World at War, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 2, Hearts of Iron, Combat Mission

    Both of them give you a clear overhead of the larger campaign while supplying you with plenty of details of what it was like to fight in what must have seemed at the time to be an apocalyptic, end-of-history war. The descriptions in Berlin (though I may be getting mixed up a little bit with Stalingrad) are fascinating- the way Russians would tie mattresses to their tanks to stop Panzerfausts, floor-to-floor combat where the enemy could just be a few feet above or below you etc.
    Armageddon has its moments, too. Hastings reports an incident where a German-speaking British officer rigged up a huge sound system to communicate to some trapped Germans nearby, and went on to provide a taunting running commentary to them as ground attack planes tore them apart.
    Beevor also details the grisly criminal activities of the Red Army as they pushed into Germany, particularly their wide-spread assault on women, something that wasn’t at all addressed in World at War apart from a few token scenes of Russians shooting German prisoners.

  43. Agrippa911 says:

    I recently read the “The Blitzkrieg Legend” by Karl-Heinz Frieser which covers the battle for France. It’s a good look more from the German side which also shows much of the German high command didn’t get the blitzkrieg theory either.

    I’d also recommend a series called “The Bandy Papers” by Donald Jack about a fictional Canadian pilot during WW1 (and eventually into WW2). It’s probably hard to find and not well known (which is criminal) but is damn hilarious. The books that take place during the war are “Three Cheers for Me”, “That’s Me in the Middle” and “It’s Me Again”.

  44. MadMatty says:

    WW2 fans should read anything by “Sven Hazel”

    one of his books was filmatized to an ok film: The Misfit Brigade

    hes sold over 50 million books and is generally a great read, although there are different versions of his war-history, one claiming he was a hoax- – check his wiki

    • wodin says:

      Sven Hassel.

      I’d say your best going for Cross of Iron if you want a great east front read. Written by an ex German Soldier and made into that amazing film. Though the book is even better.

      Or

      The Red Horse by E Corti..a great read about an Italian family during WW2 again written by an ex Italian Soldier who served on the East front and also wrote an amazing account of his Retreat from the Don bend called Few Returned: Twenty-eight Days on the Russian Front, Winter 1942-1943. Highly recommended.

  45. Crazy_Gweilo says:

    “Shogun”

    Author: James Clavell

    Relevant games: Shogun Total War 1 and 2

    Recommender: Crazy Gweilo

    This is set in the same time period as the shogun games, and feature a dutch sailor whose ship runs aground in Japan just as the old shoguns rule is failing. He gets involved with a daimyo called Toranaga, a historical analogue of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in real life founded the Tokugawa shogunate. The book involves Samurai, Ninjas, political scheming, and the Japanese trade with the Jesuits, all themes of the game.

    “Master and Commander”

    Author: Patrick O’Brian

    Relevant games: Empire Total War, Napoleon Total War, any game with Napoleonic ship battles

    Recommender: Crazy Gweilo

    Any of these series of books are a great introduction to what life was like on a Royal Navy ship during the Napoleonic wars. The movie is great as well. If it doesn’t get you wanting to fire a broadside at pistol distance into the stern of a French ship, well then I can’t help you.

  46. Carra says:

    Playing Crusader Kings reminds me of George R.R. Martins A Song of Ice and Fire series. It has all the political backstabbing and scheming to try and get into power and of course, a war form time to time.

    Also, I can’t believe noone mentioned the Art of War by Sun Tzu yet so here goes :)

  47. Tim Stone says:

    Thanks for all the excellent suggestions so far. Lots of colour on the shelves now.

    If your recommendation hasn’t been kicked upstairs yet that’s either because I’ve cut-and-pasted myself into a stupor, or I’m struggling to link your tip with a specific sim or wargame.

  48. Megadyptes says:

    Dreadnought: Britain,Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert K Massie is an excellent book which not only covers the revolutionary design of HMS Dreadnought, but it also goes into a lot of detail to examine the rulers, politicians, diplomatic shenanigans, political and social movements that shaped the paths of both the United Kingdom and the German Empire in the late 19th and early pre WW1 20th centuries.

    This book really brought the late Victorian and early Georgian era to life, and thus compliments Victoria 1 & 2 brilliantly. I guess the same could be said for Pride of Nations as well. The sequel Castle of Steel is also an excellent read, mostly focusing on WW1 naval matters and I guess would compliment Distant Guns: Jutland as well, although I’ve not played it. EDIT: didn’t notice Castles of Steel already recommended there. Still a great book, though.

    Another book to consider for the Victorian age is The Scramble For Africa by Thomas Pakenham. A brilliantly detailed account of the late 19th century colonisation of Africa (obviously).

  49. Moth Bones says:

    Book – ‘The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms Of Scotland’ by Alistair Moffat
    Game – Mount & Blade/M&B Warband; possibly Crusader Kings/CK2

    This title deals with north British history from the Roman era through to the coming of the Danes, and its descriptions of how local warlords became big shots by forming warbands and raiding cattle strike me as excellent background for Mount & Blade games, especially mods such as Brytenwalda or the Viking one. Also could be relevant for CK games, though covering an earlier time period. Basically, M&B needs more religion!

  50. F33bs says:

    I found “Wahoo: The Patrols of America’s Most Famous WWII Submarine” in my local library here in Las Vegas and read it extensively while playing Silent Hunter 4. A lot of what I appreciated about that game was the quiet tension that permeated literally every action you made. Probably the only game where the soundtrack was memorable to me for consisting solely of ambient sound effects: bells, wave breaks, sonar pings, underwater white noise. Only a few voice-actors in the whole game and all of it is down to business: from the whispered “Warship spotted” under the red lights to the jovial “Ahead full!” The book really underlines the cold science behind submarine warfare but never neglects the human courage involved in making it all work.

    Playing IL-2 Sturmovik (the version with the Pacific theatre), I thought Saburo Sakai’s “Samurai!” was a great addition to the gameplay. It’s also a wonderful and tragic memoir in itself, and the ending is well worth it.

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