Great Military History Books matched with Great Wargames
Steven Ellis
United States
Chanhassen
Minnesota
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A list of some of my favorite wargames and book matches.
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1. Board Game: Silent War [Average Rating:7.34 Overall Rank:2684]
Board Game: Silent War
Steven Ellis
United States
Chanhassen
Minnesota
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Wargame: Silent War by Compass Games. Excellent game covering the American submarine campaign against Japan during WWII. Great mix of detail, nice graphical presentation and not-too-complex system. Silent War really does give players a feel for deadly business of the "Silent Service" during the war- especially early on with obsolete boats (S-Boats) and faulty torpedoes.

Book: "Silent Victory" by Clay Blair Jr.. The authoritative book detailing the American subamrine war in the Pacific. The author served on the U.S.S. Guardfish during the war. While it weighs in at 1071 pages, it is a great read and highly recommended to WWII fans and naval historians.
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2. Board Game: Wings of War: Famous Aces [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1103] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Board Game: Wings of War: Famous Aces
Steven Ellis
United States
Chanhassen
Minnesota
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Game: Wings of War-Famous Aces by Nexus/FFG. Fun card-driven air combat game with great artwork and a fun. easy to learn system.

Book: "Dog Fight: Aerial Tactics of the Aces of World War I" by Norman Franks. Excellent study of the development of air combat tactics by a leading author on the subject.
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3. Board Game: Monty's Gamble: Market Garden [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:4245]
Board Game: Monty's Gamble: Market Garden
Steven Ellis
United States
Chanhassen
Minnesota
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Game: Monty's Gamble by Multi-Man Publishing. Area movement game detailing Operation Market-Garden, the largest airborne operation in history. I really like the system which Avalon Hill used in games like Breakout: Normandy and Thunder at Casino- but with a nicer map and counters.

Book: "It Never Snows In September: The German View of Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem- September 1944 by Robert Kershaw. This book was an eye-opener when I first ran across during college- a German view of the battles in a subject/topic almost completely dominated by American and British perspectives. Should be a part of anyone's WWII library.
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4. Board Game: Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83 [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:3059]
Board Game: Liberty: The American Revolution 1775-83
Ben Vögel
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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Washington and Cornwallis
The Battle for America, 1775-1783

2004 by Benton Rain Patterson

There are so many excellent works on the American Revolutionary War. This book offers some unique perspectives while giving a very nice overview of the campaigns and battles of the conflict. It also does a nice job of showing events in the context of the political homefronts that mattered so very much in this war. It isn't what might be considered a rigorous scholarly work, but it relates the history in a very enjoyable way.

Liberty
The American Revolution 1775-83

2003 by Columbia Games

This is my favorite wargame. It is often far better in this game to do anything but fight a big battle. Run, hide, parry, strike lightly, run again, just sit and occupy, don't reach further. It is counterintuitive to what many other wargames might teach. But all of this shows truths about the way the war was really fought.

Liberty is my favorite not only for my fascination with the period, but also because of how well it duplicates the desperate feel for the Rebs in the early years, the French clock ticking ominously against the Redcoats, the ease with which both sides can foolishly over-commit, the overwhelming need to preserve your forces for control, and the excellent fog of war the blocks can provide.
 
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5. Board Game: A House Divided: War Between the States 1861-65 [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:1352]
Board Game: A House Divided: War Between the States 1861-65
Ben Vögel
United States
Golden Valley
Minnesota
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The Civil War: A Narrative (3 Volume Set)
by Shelby Foote

It has become lately fashionable among some elitists to make light of Foote's trilogy for various reasons. I think all of those criticisms can be answered in the title itself. This is a narrative. The story is what was most important to Shelby Foote. Other works will rightly dissect the history and examine its dry lifelessness. Shelby Foote makes you slip down the bloody lanes and dive for cover, build a house with Jefferson Davis' head slave Jim, and listen in on the battlefield conversations of lieutenants and generals of both sides. Various levels of history books all have their place, but I will put Shelby Foote and Bruce Catton near the top for writing that wraps you up and believe that you are there.

A House Divided
Game Designers Workshop
Phalanx Games

The 3rd edition by Phalanx is beautiful. There is a terrific mapboard over which to analyze and contemplate strategies. The rules are streamlined and clear, all the while making a solid attempt at light level historical gameplay. There is a straightforward turn sequence and most important, this game is Fun.

Yes, the potential is there for a long game if the CSA player is super defensive and/or the Union takes a patient long-term approach to tearing down the Confederacy. Yes, dice will play a significant role in the game. Yes, there are occasionally some unwieldly counter stacks and map crowding. However, none of these minor criticisms diminish the overall appeal in my opinion.

I want an American Civil War game that delivers historical flavor with some accuracy, is playable in 2-4 hours, and is fun to play. A House Divided hits the mark for me.
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6. Board Game: Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:5525]
Board Game: Bitter Woods: The Battle of the Bulge
Erik Krommenhoek
United States
San Marcos
California
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The game: "Bitter Woods" is an excellent, playable Avalon Hill game named after...

The book: John S.D. Eisenhower's "The Bitter Woods", 1969...A highly recommended account of the Battle of the Bulge.

Also, the game is in print as a fourth edition from L2: Bitter Woods (Fourth Edition)
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7. Board Game: Grant Takes Command [Average Rating:7.96 Overall Rank:3449]
Board Game: Grant Takes Command
My suggestion here is The Wilderness Campaign, edited by Gary Gallagher. This book is part of a large series of books on various eastern theater battles and campaigns, each of which contains numerous articles by Civil War historians--all chosen to be "rigorously accessible," I suppose you might say. If you think academic military historians analyize history in its dry lifelessness, I recommend this series a shot.
 
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8. Board Game: Breakout: Normandy [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:1435]
Board Game: Breakout: Normandy
There are a great many good books on Normandy, but here I'd like to especially point out John Keegan's Six Armies at Normandy, a fine example of the "New Military History" (as it is called, with an argued-over degree of accuracy), building the story from the ground up--focusing on the experience of the privates rather than the generals.

There are many other good Keegan books, too.
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9. Board Game: The Great Battles of Alexander: Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:1979]
Board Game: The Great Battles of Alexander: Deluxe Edition
Lots of Alexander books, too. My personal favorite is Peter Green's Alexander of Macedon, 356-323 BC: A Historical Biography. As the title implies, it's not all military history...but since virtually all Alexander's life was spent involved with the Macedonian army in one form or another, the military narrative dominates.

I was fortunate to have Peter Green while I was at the University of Texas; a truly great professor--as a lecturer and scholar.
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10. Board Game: Eighth Air Force [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
Board Game: Eighth Air Force
Well, I think it's a great wargame, anyway. If you want, go ahead and imagine that I chose Over the Reich instead.

My book, for either one, is Richard Overy's The Air War: 1939-1945, analyzing how the Axis and Allies developed air power technology and doctrine from the pre-war years to 1945. Great stuff...
 
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11. Board Game: Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:2873]
Board Game: Caesar: Epic Battle of Alesia
Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Game: Caesar at Alesia. Fascinating military situation presented in a very playable game by Robert Bradley, and subsequently reprinted by Avalon Hill.

Book: The Gallic Wars by Julius Caesar. Very interesting to read Caesar's first-hand account of his exploits in Gaul.
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12. Board Game: The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:4174]
Board Game: The Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BC
Which to choose...

Of course, there's Thucydides. In English, you want the Landmark Thucydides edition--lots of maps, notes, commentary--the works. Just remember, whichever way you go, that you're reading the postwar memoir of a disgraced Athenian general. Turn your CYA Detector up to "high."

There are some good recent studies, too. I like Donald Kagan's Peloponnesian War, and Victor Davis Hanson's War Like No Other is magnificent; it's another study of a great conflict largely from the perspective and experience of ordinary soldiers.
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13. Board Game: Wilderness War [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:859]
Board Game: Wilderness War
A great game deserves at least one great book. Start with Crucible of War, by Fred Anderson; a fine scholarly narrative of the conflict, which touches on the role it played in foreshadowing the Revolution. For more on that, I like A Leap in the Dark by John Ferling. They all do well to keep the war in context--social, global, political, intellectual, economic...it's a fascinating time.
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14. Board Game: Mississippi Fortress [Average Rating:6.63 Overall Rank:10438]
Board Game: Mississippi Fortress
Who has a loooong time to read a loooong book? If that person is you, track down a copy of Edwin Bearss's three-volume book on Vicksburg, The Vicksburg Campaign. Much of his output was fairly light, breezy battle introductions to sell at National Parks--that's not bad (and that was his job), but this is his magnum opus.

Another good Vicksburg book is Ninety-Eight Days, by Warren Grabau. Grabau is a geographer, and the book has a very different "feel" to it than books written by historians. If you're interested in how terrain affects campaigns and battles...find this book.
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15. Board Game: Brandywine [Average Rating:7.30 Overall Rank:4954]
Board Game: Brandywine
My own recommendations for the American Revolution...

If you liked the recent History Channel series on the war, Gary Nash--who was one of the star commentators in the series--has a good book out called The Unknown American Revolution. Lots of material on the fractures in American society at the time. It all sounds very "culture war-y" to the some, but it's a darn'd good book.

If you're interested in the social millieu of the war, I like Robert Gross's The Minutemen and their World. Local studies is a big thing in history--or, at least, it sometimes is--and this studies the experience of Concord and its citizens throughout the war.

Also check out Charles Royster's A Revolutionary People at War. This is about how the patriots considered their army--the intellectual and "spiritual" component to creating an army. Should it be all-militia? What level of "professionalism" would compromise the democratic ideal? Fun stuff. Well, not fun, but at least important and intellectually interesting.
 
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16. Board Game: Battle Cry [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:899]
Board Game: Battle Cry
Again: Feel free to imagine that I chose other games here. This is where I'm recommending books on the Trans-Mississippi theater of the Civil War.

If you want to imagine that I like the Great Battles of the Civil War series than I do, pretend that this entry is for "Pea Ridge." My recommendation there is for what may be the best Civil War book to appear in...gosh...maybe ever. (But probably not. It is good though.) It's Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West by William Shea and Earl Hess. It covers the campaign and the battle in great detail, with plenty of maps and a nice style--unusual for a co-authored book, in my experience. If a book this good existed about Gettysburg, the book and its authors would be household names. As it is...

Another GBACW title is "Wilson's Creek." For that, I recommend Wilson's Creek by William Garrett Piston and Richard Hatcher. I'd recommend it even if Dr. Piston weren't my thesis advisor here at MO State. It goes into the motivations the soldiers had for enlisting, the social networks behind them--and, of course, the boots 'n' saddles history of a very strange campaign and battle.

Both of these are fine examples of recent ACW scholarship on campaigns--and both are quite readable as well as scholarly.
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17. Board Game: Marching Through Georgia [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:13945]
Board Game: Marching Through Georgia
Dr. Piston had me read Mark Grimsley's The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865 for an independent study seminar this past spring. He asked me what I thought, and my response was "I feel like a better person and scholar for having read this." This is one of the Necessary Reading books for Civil War scholars.

There's a lot of PR and mythologizing about Union civilian policy, and Dr. Grimsley cuts through it nicely. It's hard to summarize--it's a short book; read it. He also does a good job of undoing the Gordian Knot that is the argument over whether the ACW was a "modern, Total War."

Another interesting book is Stephen Ash's When the Yankees Came, about how the military administered the occupied/liberated/(pick a word) south during the war. I'm not sure I really agree with much of his analysis, but there isn't another decent book on the subject I know of, and even if it all gets overturned in ten years at least he started this overdue scholarly discussion.
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18. Board Game: Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:5423]
Board Game: Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean
Xander Fulton
United States
Astoria
Oregon
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Book:
Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the coming of the Great War (1992)
by Robert K Massie
ISBN 0345375564

1040 pages

Covers the lead-up to World War 1, including the naval arms race and personalities that led to the war. Not strictly game-related, but it gives VOLUMES of meaning to any WW1 game to understand *how* and *why* things happened as they did. Massie writes very much narratively, not so much the grognard "legalese", but like reading a novel. The 'story', as it were, flows naturally and you are really drawn into what was a real-life drama and tragedy.

***and***

Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea (2004)
by Robert K Massie
ISBN 0345408780

880 pages

Covers the actual naval fighting in the war itself. More closely related to the games, but (by nature), more dry. Still, Massie's narrative style wins out, and the personalities and history of the commanders and engagements really put a vivid light on the reasons for certain actions. VERY highly recommended reading!

Games:
The Great War at Sea: The Mediterranean (1996)
by Avalanche Press


Great War at Sea 2: The North & Baltic Seas (1998)
by Avalanche Press
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19. Board Game: Rommel in the Desert [Average Rating:7.54 Overall Rank:1556]
Board Game: Rommel in the Desert
The Rommel Papers by Rommel. Edited by Liddell Hart.

His short letters to his wife, many observations about the African theater, and lots of info about what a general thinks about when making decisions. Very readable.
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20. Board Game: Three Days of Gettysburg (Third Edition) [Average Rating:7.59 Overall Rank:4959]
Board Game: Three Days of Gettysburg (Third Edition)
Rich Hart
England
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
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The Game:

Three Days at Gettysburg (which to be honest I havent played but I'm interested in picking it up)

The Book:

The Gettysburg Campaign by Stephen Sears. I found it a great read and a very good paced book that went into just about enough detail.

I would also shill for Sear's other works too which are also rather good imho
 
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Board Game: The Army of the Heartland: The Army of Tennessee's Campaigns, 1861-1863
Severus Snape
Canada
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"A moment's courage, or a lifetime of regret It's always come down to this choice." Chief Superintendent Bright from "Endeavour.".
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Army of the Heartland, The - The Army of Tennessee's Campaigns, 1861-1863 is my favourite ACW game, in part, because it is a great, though not perfect, game, and also because the western theatre was where the war was won--and lost. Designed by John Prados, this simulation allows you to explore the key campaigns during 1861-1863. One aspect I found most interesting are the leadership ratings. Rather than assign a "negative" rating, as some designers do, Prados allows almost every leader an ability to do something. For example, Halleck, has a zero(!) when it comes to his combat ability--my imperfect former grade 8 math still tells me that zero has more value than a negative integer--but his seven ranks him highest for his administrative ability, even higher than Grant. I wish Prados would join the Consim World discussion because I have many questions for him. A couple of things I wish had been done: one, that the Vicksburg campaign had been included and two, that Prados had included a campaign game for 1861-1863 & 1862-1863, instead of only for the year 1863.

The books to go with the game are: Daniel's Days of Glory: The Army of the Cumberland, 1861-1865 and Connelly's two volume set on the Army of Tennessee, Army of the Heartland and Autumn of Glory. None of these books are "pefect," and I feel that Daniel skates lightly over some of the tough questions, but these are still solid pieces of historical writing. goo
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22. Board Game: Turning Point: Stalingrad [Average Rating:7.25 Overall Rank:2427]
Board Game: Turning Point: Stalingrad
Robert Crawford
United States
Chester
New Hampshire
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Book: Enemy at the Gates by Gordon Craig. A gripping account of the Stalingrad campaign. I still blush that, when I first read this book as a young teen, I badly wanted the Germans to win.

Game: Turning Point Stalingrad. I wish I hadn't given this--and Storm Over Arnhem-- away in a move! Not sure, but I think this was a precursor to Breakout Normandy which I still have. Area move/combat system. Clean, bold map. Large counters. But, as I remember, rule book from hell.
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23. Board Game: Algeria: The War of Independence 1954-1962 [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:11509]
Board Game: Algeria: The War of Independence 1954-1962
Robert Crawford
United States
Chester
New Hampshire
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Book: A Savage War of Peace, by Alistair Horne. In my opinion, an absolute must read for trying to understand current events. One of the best war histories ever written. I did a search for this book recently and found that it was OOP and going for $100-$200 on eBay.

Game: Algeria : The War of Independence 1954-1962
. Surprisingly, the only one I could find on this topic. I have no experience with this game.
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24. Board Game: The Russian Campaign (Fourth and Fifth editions) [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:3889]
Board Game: The Russian Campaign (Fourth and Fifth editions)
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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A pair of classics:

The game: The Russian Campaign
The book: Barbarossa by Alan Clark

The Russian Campaign and Barbarossa are quite similar is many ways. Both are classics (Barbossa was written in the mid-sixties, republished without revision in the mid-eighties). Both are great overviews of the titantic struggle, easy to play and read. They both have some warts that don't dim the enjoyment in experiencing them (IMHO). In the case of RC, the supply rules need a bit of tweaking. Clark's book was written before the Russian archives were as accessible as today. Still, in my view the book compares favorably to many more recent publications, with clear operational descriptions and focus on the most interesting campaigns and figures of the war.
 
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