Gaming John Keegan
Jon
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As suggested in my earlier GeekList, "Gaming Barbara Tuchman" (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/30443) , I have combined an interest in wargaming with another passion, reading historical books.

Next to Ms Tuchman, I have read John Keegan more than any other author and have collected a number of his works over the years. I would put at least two of these in my all time Top Ten favourites and I think that one may be in my Top Three all time.

To date, anyway ...

For those of you who are unfamilar with Mr Keegan's efforts, he is a British military historian who has taught at Sandhurst, which allowed him to speak with and get to know soldiers over the years. This "soldier's viewpoint" has been of great interest to him and figured prominently in at least one of his books. Unlike Tuchman, who is what I would classify as a writer of narrative history, Keegan takes a more explanatory approach. He explores questions of "how" and "why" as opposed to focusing on a story with characters.

As before, I have limited my list to books that I have actually read (leaving room for more that others may wish to add). In addition, I have tried to pair each with a game that I have played or owned over the years. Often, this latter point is impossible or makes for an odd pairing, but there you go. Please feel free to suggest better games. Over the years, I have always enjoyed playing games on subjects that I have read about and vica-versa. Not sure what comes first normally ...

Lastly, as with the Tuchman list, I hope to introduce new readers to John Keegan's works.
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1. Board Game: The Great Battles of Alexander: Deluxe Edition [Average Rating:7.74 Overall Rank:1289]
 
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Book: The Mask of Command

Might as well start out with my favourite. This is, in my opinion, a great book. It is a study in the evolution of command with sections on Alexander the Great, Wellington, Grant and Hitler. With each subject, the proximity of the commander to the "pointed edge of the spear" increases over time. That is, you progress from Alexander and his "follow me" philosophy through to Hitler, hunkered in his bunker. It is a fascinating look into methodology without bogging down in academic analysis. One point of interest is that over time, when I have spoken to other people who have read this book, the section that they liked the most will vary to the point that I have not determined a clear favourite. For me, it was the section on Alexander as this was the first time that I had read anything about him and which lead to ...

Game: GBoH, Alexander (Deluxe)

Slight confession. I actually owned the original three battle version first and bought the deluxe version years later since it had better components and ten (count 'em) battles. Regardless, it is the latter that I have played the most. My reading of "The Mask of Command" lead directly to getting into this game and others in the GBoH series. It captures quite well the heroic leadership style of the title character. In addition, the game's emphasis is on command, which fits nicely into my interests. It is a study of the Macendonian art of war, with the combined arms approach (phalanx, elite cavalry) often triumphing as it did historically during this time period. Some players may be tempted to not have Alex leading the charge, but I think that the benefits of putting him out front are just too great to pass up. Feels right too! There are several modules that add more and more battles set in the later Hellenistic time period. Hint for the non-Macedonian side: kill the Boy Wonder.

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2. Board Game: La Bataille de Mont Saint Jean [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.82 Unranked]
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Book: The Face of Battle

As you pushed you little cardboard counters around the paper battlefield, no doubt you wondered just what was it like to be a participant in the struggle. What would you see? Hear? How would these sensations affect what you did (or did not do)? This fascinating book tries to answer these questions and more. Like "The Mask of Command", Keegan divides the work into several sections, in this case the three battles of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme. The reader is placed into the viewpoint of the common soldier struggling to come to grips with the foe and by doing so provides a greater understanding as to why things occur in combat. Most books focus on the generals and the grand tactics of battle leaving out the perspective of those who actually did the fighting. This is a great work and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Game: La Bataille de Mont Saint Jean

That's "Waterloo" to most folks. Part of the "La Bat" series from Clash of Arms, it is actually not a complete game in and of itself. Prior ownership of the Quatre Bras and Ligny games are a must. Combined with the Wavre game, players are able to fight out all of the eventful battles between June 16th and 18th, 1815 down to the battalion. These particular games are my favourites in the series as a whole in large part due to the battles depicted. I think that the series is the best at representing Napoleonic tactics that I have certainly ever come across. You can get a very good understanding of the complexities of moving the various units of a French Corps across a map, ever mindful of the mutual support requirements between the infantry, cavalry and artillery. This is miniatures brought to the cardboard world, complete with some of the best looking counters in the business (too "busy" for some people). It is a complex game system, though, and not for those seeking an easily playable game to take up an afternoon.
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3. Board Game: Fear God and Dread Nought [Average Rating:7.38 Overall Rank:5364]
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Book: The Price of Admiralty

This is Keegan's look at the evolution of naval warfare. Following his familiar pattern of looking at specific battles through time, he starts with Trafalgar and moves through Jutland, Midway and The Battle of the Atlantic. This book was the stimulus for my growing interest in reading about naval warfare which has been very rewarding over time. His section on Trafalgar was very memorable as you can really get an understanding of the preparations needed for battle while the opposing lines slowly drew towards each other. The other sections were just as good in their own right. I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject. I like ships; there is something both beautiful and horrifying about them that catches my imagination.

Game: Fear God and Dread Nought

Might be the best title for a wargame to come down the pike in some time. Not a game that I have played (the price scared me away). This is the WW1 entry in Clash of Arms' thorough study of naval warfare through history. It is very, very detailed which has a personal appeal, but I have to wonder just how playable it would be. Be that as it may, if it's ship to ship combat that you want, this would have to be on the consideration list.
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4. Board Game: Paths of Glory [Average Rating:8.00 Overall Rank:100]
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Book: The First World War

The first three books on the list are amongst my favourite ever read and I would not hesitate to recommend any of them due to their quality, subject and style. The remaining books, although well written, pale slightly in comparison in my opinion due in part to the fact that the first three had such original qualities/viewpoints (at least to me). Case in point, this look at WW1, although well written and chock full of interesting bits and pieces, just does not measure up to the originality of the previous entries. That being said, it is still a good book and if someone were to ask for a general historical overview recommendation on the "war to end all wars", this would be the first one that I would mention. This war's impact on today's world and the concept of "modernity" cannot be understated. Well, it probably could, but please allow me some license.

Game: Paths of Glory

Award winning game that most BGGs will have at least heard of. This game provided the introduction of many old hex-wargamers into the world of CDG (myself included). I am still learning this game and have decided to play some less detailed CDG to get used to card play (Hannibal, Twilight Struggle). Lots of detail and depth here. Although not without it's detracters, generally I think you can call this an important game in this hobby of ours.
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5. Board Game: Rise and Decline of the Third Reich [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:1425]
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Book: The Second World War

Continuing his descriptive histories, Keegan turns his focus to the "big one". Again, this is a well written history and a pleasure to read. One of the things that I like best about his works is that you often come away with new ideas to ponder and anecdotes to share with others. This one is abundant in the latter. Where else can you learn the English translation of the Japanese carriers (well, you can see them in his Admiralty book mentioned above)? Something struck my imagination when reading of the Red Castle (Akagi), Green Dragon (Soryu) and others. This is a very good general history from someone who knows his subject.


Game: Rise and Decline of the Third Reich

Yeah, I know I could/should have chosen a game with a broader theme, but this one has always been special to me. I received it as a birthday present in the 70's. I had picked it out myself at a store, my mother purchased it and then hid it for 3 months or so prior to the big day. Little did she know that 1) I knew her gift hiding places and 2) I was pretty sure she would not remember whether or not it had plastic shrink wrap when she bought it. I was a cad, but I was a kid with a new game! And how about that cover? One of the best in my opinion. Was that smoke supposed to look like a grasping hand? Sure ...
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6. Board Game: The Battle for Normandy [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:2296]
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Book: Six Armies in Normandy

This was actually one of the first Keegan books that I had ever come across, but it was one of the last that I read. As the title implies, this is an in-depth look at D-Day and the fight to liberate Paris. Like his two books covering the broader subjects of the First and Second World Wars, this is very readable with scatterings of memorable anecdotes thrown in here and there. For me, oddly enough, I found the preface/introduction the most touching. In it (if I recall correctly; never a sure thing), he describes being a young boy living in the English countryside during the war. He remembers the American troops tossing candy to him along a roadside as they speed past in their jeeps and trucks. And then one day...they were gone. Vanished. Of course, we know that they had left to take part in D-Day. I found this personal observation interesting and sad, for the reader knows full well what those young men were dealing with just a few dozen miles away.

Game: The Battle for Normandy

I keep professing a desire to steer away from large complex monsters and devote more time to playable, short-duration games. Yet for some reason I keep getting sucked back into the world of the BIG game. This one is not out yet (it is on the P500 listing for GMT), but it sure looks interesting. Hmmmmmm! I think it is the maps that draw me in. I am a sucker for a pretty map.
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7. Board Game: Wilderness War [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:572]
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Book: Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America

I picked this up some time ago and read it on my hour long commute (each way) back in the days when we lived in the Bay Area. Here he is looking at the particluars and peculiarities of warfare in the New World (well, the northern portion of it) in history. He moves from the early conflicts and the French/Indian War through the Civil War and beyond. Although not my favourite work by Keegan, as usual it did leave me with some food for thought. Of particular note, I enjoyed his discussion on the influence of the vast spaces of the continent on warfare and even on today's residents' mindset. Not the highest on my list of recommendations, but no slouch.

Game: Wilderness War

To be honest, I have never played this game. Yet. It has been on my radar for years and I have just never purchased it (other "more pressing" items always bump it back deeper in the queue). Judging from many of the comments on BGG, I would say that I have made a mistake in not getting this sooner. Maybe next time ...
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8. Board Game: The Generic Game [Average Rating:3.58 Unranked]
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Book: A History of Warfare

I saved this for last as I think that in many ways this is Keegan's most important work. Although I rate several of his books higher in my list of favourites, this look at warfare throughout human history is, I think, his penultimate opus. Ostensibly, it is a refutation of Clausewitz, who embodies the idea that war extends politics (please excuse the generality). War is, rather, part of the cultural makeup of a people. At least I think that is what he was getting at. I found myself engrossed in many of his chapters. In particular, the development of the horse for warfare and the impact of horse peoples (and limitations of same) on their neighbours was thought provoking. Also, I seem to remember his section on fortifications to be noteworthy. Not a simple read to be sure (especially the earlier "Clausewitz" bits), but worth it if you can get into it and see it through.

Game: Pick 'Em

I had a difficult time coming up with a representative game that would cover such a large subject. Then it came to me. Looking at my collection, I see that they span almost the entire breadth of human conflict, from the ancient Greeks through Rome and the westerly incursion of the steppe cultures, the Middle Ages, 30 Years War, Enlightenment, Napoleonic Wars, American Civil War and into the 20th century. In many ways it encompasses what Keegan is speaking of and I suspect that many of your collections are similar. So, for the "Game" I choose all of them!
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