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
(2018 suggestions in purple)
- ACES OF THE DEEP
book: The U-Boat Commander’s Handbook
also relevant to: Silent Hunter 2/3/5, Wolfpack (original and upcoming), Uboot (upcoming).
"This is, essentially, Uboat captain 101, as issued by the Kreigsmarine to all U-Boat commanders. It’s a surprisingly brief, straightforward, and easy read for an official wartime training manual. As such, it is an immediately and easily applicable tactics guide for any of the above games. I also find it a compelling aide to immersion, as this is a document that any U-boat commander would have known back-to-front. Knowing the same tactics and advice they had helps you fathom the mindset of a Kaleun whilst you prowl the icy pixels of a digital North Atlantic."
- 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
“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
“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
“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
"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
"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
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
“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.”
- COMMANDER: THE GREAT WAR
book: 1914 – 1918: The History Of The First World War
author: David Stevenson
also relevant to: Strategic Command Classic: WWI, To End All Wars, Squad Battles: First World War etc.
"There’s many good World War One books out there, and quite a few single volume histories. Before I read this one, Kershaw’s First World War was my go to, and I was actually slightly taken aback by Stevenson’s work, because he seemed to paint campaigns very broadly.
However, it turns out his focus was slightly different. Where Kershaw often has the operational side in view, Stevenson looks at the bigger picture on a strategic level and also adds sections about logistics, the home fronts, and politics, including a lengthy section about the conflict’s influence from the interwar period into WW2 and beyond."
book: The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919
author: Mark Thompson
"Covers the Austrian/Italian front of World War 1; fighting was especially grueling due to the mountainous terrain of the Dolomites and the Alps. If you’re in Vienna make sure to visit the Heeresgeschichtliche Museum which has an excellent exhibit on this oft forgotten front."
- COMMANDOS: BEHIND ENEMY LINES
book: Ill Met by Moonlight
author: W. Stanley Moss
also relevant to: Hidden & Dangerous
"In 1944, two members of the British SOE infiltrated occupied Crete and, with the help of Cretan partisans, successfully abducted the commander of German forces on the island. This first-hand account of the operation is a thrilling read in its own right. But it also gives some insight into the minds of the commandos, endearingly romantic young men who played dangerous missions as public-school japes, passed the long waiting hours reading Homer and generally went full Byron.
Tragically, the occupying forces on the island were less playful and accounts of German reprisals after the operation make for grim reading. But the book itself remains readable and revealing – an authentic counterpoint to the robotic professionals of commando fiction, and a testament to the bravery and humanity of the British soldiers and their Greek allies.
I was given it to read after trying to explain the appeal of Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines to my Granny. She was, it’s fair to say, somewhat dismissive of the game, but the book has stayed with me ever since."
- COMMAND OPS: BATTLES FROM THE BULGE
book: The Bitter Woods
author: John Eisenhower
also relevant to: Close Combat 4
book: A Time For Trumpets
author: Charles MacDonald
- 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
book: It Never Snows in September
author: Robert Kershaw
- 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
“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
“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
"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
"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
"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
“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
“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.”
- EUROPA UNIVERSALIS IV
book: The Thirty Years War
author: C. V. Wedgwood
also relevant to: Pike and Shot, Pike & Shot: Campaigns
"Written in the late 30’s just as Europe got ready to have another, shorter, go at destroying itself, it was the book I read as a kid that got me interested in history in general and military history in particular. It’s a great narrative history that, for me, hits the sweet spot between too much and too little detail. Whenever I feel tempted to moan about the way Paradox use pretty simple scripted crisis events to throw a spanner in the player’s works I only have to think of this book to realise how utterly impossible it would be for them to emulate just the higher level interactions that propelled that conflict, let alone the myriad minor players who were in the mix."
book: Gunpowder & Galleys
author: John Francis Guilmartin
"G&G´s subject is the naval warfare in the struggle between the Ottoman Empire and Habsburg Spain in the 16th century. In regards to early modern technology it combats a couple of misconceptions. It doesn´t stop there, though, but goes on to put that technology in context. All too often armchair strategists assume technology is linear and the adoption of the more advanced one is the result of a deliberate, free decisione. Guilmartin links the use of weaponry and the way armies are raised, campaigns are planned and undertaken and strategic goals set in a specific conflict to the societies that wage it. That thought alone is worth the read.
I would also recommend “War and society in renaissance europe” by J.R. Hale, for very similar reasons."
book: The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy
author: Peter H. Wilson
"Good single volume history of the conflict, including roots and motivations, though the campaigns as to who moved where and when can be confusing (almost inevitable, because they are)."
book: Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
author: Richard Crowley
"Eminently readable history of the 16th century contest between Christians and Muslims around the Mediterranean."
book: Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire
author: Richard Crowley
"Details the first forays of the Portuguese into the Indian Ocean and how the powers there were unprepared for the new arrivals. As always with Crowley a very quick read that puts the reader at the center of the events."
- FALCON 4.0
book: Vipers in the Storm: Diary of a Gulf War Fighter Pilot
author: Keith Rosencranz
also relevant to: Flaming Cliffs 2
“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 II
book: The Complete Roman Army
author: Adrian Goldsworthy
also relevant to: Rome: Total War I/II, Europa Universalis: Rome, Imperator: Rome (upcoming)
"This is certainly not an authoritative nor exhaustive study, but it is well written, accessible, and very attractively illustrated, making it an excellent reference and companion for any laptop legate looking to dismember some digital Dacians. It includes a straightforward description of the many iterations of the Roman army’s organization across it’s lengthy history, clear accounts of numerous pivotal engagements, and well illustrated depictions of Roman panoply of various eras. I use it as a quick way to critique the accuracy of any games’s depiction of the triumphant Legions."
book: The Wars of Alexander´s Successors 323-281 (Volume I and II)
authors: Bob Bennett & Mike Roberts
also relevant to: Rome Total War I/II, Europa Universalis etc.
"A society of backwards hill chieftains might conquer the known world, but they remain tribal chieftains and conduct war and politics accordingly."
book: Gates Of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae
author: Steven Pressfield
also relevant to: Greek Wars (HPS Simulations)
- 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
“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
“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),
"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)
"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: Red Star against the Swastika: The story of a Soviet Pilot over the Eastern Front
author: Vasily B. Emelianenko
"Just finished listening to this (yes, it’s even on Audible), and it is probably the best companion going for the much-loved series of Soviet ground attack focused flight sims. Emelianenko was named Hero of the Soviet Union for his extraordinary exploits at the helm of one of Stalin’s storied flying tanks, and I believe that few readers will be left wondering why by the end of his memoir. The tactics used and challenges faced by the VVS’s ground attack pilots are described engagingly and in detail; Emelianenko seems to have had near as much talent as a writer as he did perforating Wehrmacht steel. He also brings to life a Soviet pilot’s training and day to day life on the front. Above all, he brings home the terrible price the Soviet ground attack squadron’s paid for their victories as comrade after comrade fails to bring their sluggish, armor-clad mount home."
book: In Pursuit
author: Johan Kylander
also relevant to: IL-2: Cliffs of Dover, WarBirds, Rise of Flight
“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!”
author: Samuro Sakai
also relevant to: CFS2. Other PTO combat flight sims
“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)
“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
"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
"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
“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
author: Jed Mercurio
also relevant to: Orbiter Kerbal Space Program
"I don’t think Mercurio’s a particularly great writer, his protagonist is hard to warm to, and the historical detail isn’t always convincing.
BUT… it’s got MiG-15’s vs. Sabres, a U-2 shoot-down, a variant of Pardo’s Push, and a Soviet manned lunar landing, which is more than enough excitement for me!"
book: The Hunters
author: James Salter
also relevant to:
“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
"Those dastardly Jerries and what they were thinking."
- PRIDE OF NATIONS
book: The Scramble for Africa
author: Thomas Packenham
also relevant to: Victoria 2
"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
- RISE OF FLIGHT
book: Flight of Fury: Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps
author: Major James McCudden
also relevant to: Over Flanders Fields
“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
“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
author: Tom Holland
also relevant to: Europa Universalis: Rome
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
"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
book: Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1943
author: Ian W. Toll
book: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal
author: James D. Hornfischer
"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)
- SQUAD BATTLES: TOUR OF DUTY
book: Fields of Fire
author: James Webb
also relevant to: Squad Battles: Vietnam
"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
“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
also relevant to: every other WW2 game
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
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.”
- ULTIMATE GENERAL: CIVIL WAR
book: The Killer Angels*
* Although any of the American Civil War novels by Michael's son Jeffrey could apply here
author: Michael Shaara
also relevant to: Scourge of War: Gettysburg, Sid Meier's Gettysburg!
"Aside from the fact that practically every battle or skirmish worth mentioning has a parallel in one of these books (from the Eastern or Western theatres of the war, with The Killer Angels focusing exclusively on Gettysburg), it also does a fantastic job of giving you a play-by-play understanding of what people in the time would have been feeling, coupled with your own understanding through the game itself. It becomes painfully, brutally, bloodily apparent that your goal is not to attack the enemy, but to be in a position in which the enemy must attack you. It’s little wonder the Union shoulders at the stone wall shouted out “Fredericksburg!” at the advancing Confederates, having learned the lesson that they were about to learn: For the next 50 years, humanity was about to evolve to the point where attacking an enemy position was basically suicide. In UG: Civil War, you’ll realise this quickly or you’ll fall down just as fast. It’s better to be 100 rifles in the woods than 1,000 rifles walking up that hill. And Shaara deserves bonus points for not so much making the South likeable as at least making them human. They were awful humans, but they were humans. Slavery was an abhorrent practice, so it takes an incredibly talented writer to at least see the humanity in people who were displaying their inhumanity."
- UNITY OF COMMAND
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 Transformation of the World
author: Jürgen Osterhammel
also relevant to: Pride of Nations
"A huge tome covering the, uhm, transformations of the world during the 19th century."
book: The Pursuit of Power (Europe 1815 – 1914)
author: Richard J. Evans
"Part of Penguin’s History of Europe series, slotting in between Blanning’s excellent Pursuit of Glory (1648 – 1815) and Kershaw’s To Hell and Back (1914 – 1945)."
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
“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
“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
"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
author: Thor Heyerdahl
also relevant to:
“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.”
- WINGS OVER FLANDERS FIELDS
book: Winged Warfare
author: William Avery Bishop
recommender: Tim Stone
"Compared to the two masterpieces already recommended as WoFF companion texts, Bishop’s account is less introspective, less literary. The Canadian ace is far more interested in narrating dogfights than analysing emotion or describing comrades and scenery. Apart from a brief chapter outlining his route into the RFC (like many Allied pilots he entered the war on the ground) and one on squadron pets and pranks (most of the latter seem to involve hiding pigs in bedrooms) the book is almost entirely action – thrilling tales of canny kills, wasted chances, and near-death experiences... If you’ve ever fought for your virtual life in a polygonal biplane or triplane, almost every page will ring bells."
book: Sagittarius Rising
author: Cecil Lewis
also relevant to: Rise of Flight
book: Winged Victory
author: Victor Maslin Yeates
* * *
Added in November, 2018, this portion of the Reading Room is reserved for books that aren't ludological touchstones but deserve to be.
book: The War the Infantry Knew (1914-1919)
author: J.C. Dunn
"Essentially the War Diary of RAMC Captain JC Dunn, this is, an often maddeningly dry, day-by-day account of the Great War as experienced by Second Battalion, The Royal Welch Fusiliers. It’s only by reading through each entry and cross-referencing with the excellent photographs that the full tragedy of the war starts coming through. Each photograph with a named officer or soldier is (where appropriate) captioned with their date of death. One particular date is present over and over again, and as you approach that diary entry it is impossible not to experience a growing sense of discomfort.
Possibly more a book for people who already have a good grounding in the battles on the Western Front, but it completely changed my perception of what life was like in the trenches.
Also, as a literary and historical footnote, 2nd Btn RWF happened to have both Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon serving as Commissioned Officers which, having read both previously (plus Pat Barker’s Ghost Road trilogy), was a lovely bonus.
God alone knows how one would turn this into a war game, but anyone who tried would earn my eternal respect!"
"The War The Infantry Knew is pretty much my favourite WW1 book bar none, the one that’s always close to hand (along with Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs"
book: The Zeppelin in Combat: A History of the German Naval Airship Division
author: Douglas H. Robinson
"The book covers the German Naval Division’s airship operations throughout the Great War, with topics such as the technological developments of the airships, the personalities behind the organization, the operations whose main drive were the first aerial bombings of British soil and the challenges to the British air forces. Because of the limited nature of the division (there were only a handful of airships active at any one time), the book covers in great detail the day-today events and developments, successes and catastrophes, with some remarkable human stories of all those involved. There is a certain absurdity to the belief that such unwieldy and fragile machines could ever be effective tools of war that underlies the whole book, but also some stories of remarkable achievements, such as an ill-fated expedition to resupply German East Africa that set long-distance travel records.
I am not aware of any companion game that really captures the terror and tension that must have been felt on both sides of these engagements, as well as the overall technological complexities of these machines. I see two possible avenues for incorporating these stories into simulations or wargames:
1) Probably the most feasible would be to adapt a WWI flight sim to simulate the British response to the bombing missions. Rise of flight already has an English Channel map that covers most of the relevant area already and the Zeppelins could simply be added as non-playable additional enemies for specialized missions.
2) Much more complex, but potentially immensely rewarding, the zeppelins could be modeled in a way similar to the Silent Hunter games, with overall command assumed by the player but also the option of manually controlling the various stations of the airship. The long bombing missions could be condensed into various incidents, but players would still have control over navigation throughout the open North Sea map. The technology and science around early Zeppelins is well enough understood that with some thorough research I believe it could be modeled into a compelling simulation."
book: Hell in the Holy Land: World War 1 in the Middle East
author: David R. Woodward
"This volume covers the oft-neglected story of the Middle Eastern front in WW1, in which the British faced off against Turks, often under German command. From the parched deserts of Sinai to the rain-drenched hills around wintry Jerusalem, Woodward tells a compelling tale of the Territorials, who went from derided volunteer force to effective fighting machine. Along the way we hear fascinating details, such as how the British recruited Egyptian and Sudanese camel drivers. The front is particularly interesting for contrasting the type of warfare generally experienced in Europe; in place of trenches and gas, one sees cavalry charges and battles of maneuver and mobility. The potential for gamification, and giving long overdue attention to this neglected (but hugely impactful) corner of history, is enormous."