Book recommendations for wargames and historical simulations
Brian Morris
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One of the cool things about wargames and historical simulations is the history. Through these games we gain a greater insight into the people and events. Often times they leave us wanting to learn more about the history itself. The problem though is there are a ton of different titles covering the topic and we really don't want to spend our summer reading 5 books on the Mexican American War when truth is we just want one covering the topic in general so we can have a better understanding when we break out a game we really enjoy on the subject.

That's where this geeklist comes in. The goal is for folks to recommend a book that would be the one book they would recommend to someone looking to learn more on the subject matter. And when I say "a book" I mean just one. Don't recommend 4 or 5 because most folks new to a subject don't want to handed a summer reading list. They just want one book that will help them become more familiar with the subject so that they can enjoy the game more with a little better understanding.

Keep in mind that I'm like many others. While I have a strong interest in history and am very strong in certain areas there are many conflicts and areas where I simply haven't done much if any reading on. As such the initial games listed here will be a mixed bag. I will start by listing some games/historical game topics that I feel strongly versed enough that I can recommend a good book for folks. I'll then list some games based on subjects where I personally would like to get a better footing and would appreciate some reading recommendations.

Feel free to add games to this list. Either games where you have a book that you think would be a great for someone interested in the game to read or a game you like that you'd like a recommendation for so you can become more versed in the history it covers.
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1. Board Game: Founding Fathers [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1015]
Brian Morris
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Kind of the game that inspired this list. There's been several threads with people asking for book recommendations covering the 1787 Constitutional Convention to prepare themselves for the game. It was such a monumentally important event in our history and so much has been written about the Constitution itself. Yet the actual events that took place in Philadelphia that summer between the delegates is sort of lost in the background of history.

Miracle At Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention by Catherine Bowen is my recommendation here. The book is about 25 years old but it covers what happened at the convention extremely well in terms of who wanted what and the actions and beliefs of notables such as Ben Franklin, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. In the book you find that our founding fathers were after all still politicians.
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2. Board Game: For the People [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:714]
Brian Morris
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I currently have about 500 books in my civil war collection so asking me to pick just one is very hard (yet I am the one who said only one book). One of the things I like about this game is it covers not just the military but the social and political aspects of the conflict. As such I'm going to go a little off the wall on this and recommend 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Flood. The book is one of the best I've read that combines what was happening in Washington during the war and how Lincoln had to balance his efforts between military and political matters. If you feel that you have a decent grasp of the overall military events of the American Civil War and want something covering the political aspects then this would be a good choice.
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3. Board Game: Three Days of Gettysburg (third edition) [Average Rating:7.47 Overall Rank:3662]
Brian Morris
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As mentioned I have about 500 books in my collection on the civil war. Of those about 100 deal specifically with Gettysburg. Currently there are three good books that cover the entire battle all in volume. Of those two are more recent but for me the best first book on Gettysburg is still The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edwin Coddington.
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4. Board Game: In their Quiet Fields II [Average Rating:7.20 Overall Rank:4033]
Brian Morris
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The bloodiest day in American history. While overshadowed in civil war scholarship by Gettysburg (The two battlefields are only 45 miles apart) it's a fascinating battle. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen Sears in my mind is the easy choice here.
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5. Board Game: Victoria Cross [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:3639]
Brian Morris
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Zulu may have been a great film but as far as historical accuracy it was lacking to say the least. For example in the film Private Hook is portrayed as a malingerer hanging out at the hospital to avoid his duties. Truth is the man was an attendant in the hospital and was a good solid soldier. I've read that several of his descendants actually walked out of the film's premiere they were so disgusted with how he was portrayed. If you really want to learn the true story fo what happened my recommendation would be Like Wolves on the Fold: The Defense of Rorke's Drift by Mike Snook. One of the best battle books I've ever read.
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6. Board Game: The Halls of Montezuma [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:4683]
Brian Morris
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When it comes to the Mexican American War "So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848" by David Eisenhower I think is a great choice. Covers the conflict very thoroughly.
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7. Board Game: Blood of Noble Men: The Alamo [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:8763]
Brian Morris
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Got interested in the Alamo just before the Disney film came out about it (That movie could and should have been so much better). I haven't done a ton of reading on it but of what I've read Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William Davis was by far the best.
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8. Board Game: Houdini [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Brian Morris
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Ok, I'm counting this as a historical simulation. I was involved in the early playtesting of this and when we started Richard Berg recommended to the playtesters that they read The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman. I'd heard of the book before because of the fuss made about the author's contention that Houdini used his trips to Europe as a cover for some spying on the side. Truth is that part of the book is only a small part of a much bigger package. What the book truly is is a fantastic biography on Houdini and history on the vaudeville magic circuit in the late 19th and early 20th century. Excellent book and I think the game is going to do a fine job of recreating the flavor of the era when it is finally released. If you pick up Houdini when it comes out I recommend you get this book as well. It will help you enjoy the theme a lot more.
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9. Board Game: Crown of Roses [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:4696]
Brian Morris
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Considering how much I enjoyed the classic Kingmaker and how much I'm looking forward to this one coming out from GMT you would expect somewhere along the line I would have read something on the subject. Unfortunately I'm extremely lacking in this area of history. There certainly are no shortage of games on the conflict. In just the last year both Z-Man (War of the Roses) and Columbia Games (Richard III) have come out with games on it which people have been extremely high on. Time I read up on it so I'll make this my first game on the list where I personally would like a book recommendation.
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10. Board Game: Unhappy King Charles! [Average Rating:7.64 Overall Rank:1328]
Brian Morris
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Super game and I'm even a descendant of King James I (ok, one of his bastard children according to my aunt who is crazy about genealogy) and yet I know as much about this conflict as I do about my taxes (my wife does them). Time to educate myself on the topic.
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11. Board Game: Washington's War [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:428]
Brian Morris
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I have a good general background on the subject but most of it has been towards the political side through reading biographies on men like Jefferson and Adams. Would love a book that deals with the military aspects of the conflict.

The American Revolution is likely the one conflict in American history where people know more about the politics of the war than they do the military. In contrast in terms of the American Civil War most people know the name Gettysburg or Antietam even if they aren't interested in the history but likely couldn't tell you much of the political leaders besides Lincoln. Schools and society in general in America tend to concentrate more on the men like Washington, Jefferson and Franklin than the battles of the revolution. In school I remember them teaching us about Lexington and Concord and the Boston Massacre but I don't remember Yorktown, Saratoga and Monmouth being mentioned. I think most people for example could tell you that Benedict Arnold betrayed the revolution but likely most people couldn't tell you exactly what he did to earn that.
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12. Board Game: The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition) [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:1284]
Michael Lavoie
United States
Nashua
New Hampshire
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Untold thousands of books have been published on the wars of Napoleon Bonaparte over the last 200 or so years. None of them can touch David Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon. Thoroughly researched, entertainingly written, and massively complete, this book covers the period in full, colorful detail. There are many books that one might recommend that delve deeper into the individual battles and campaigns, but for the overall picture of the conflicts of this era this one remains unsurpassed some 45 years after its publication.
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13. Board Game: Friedrich [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:469]
Christian Krach
Germany
Potsdam
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"Battles determine the destiny of states".
I can recommend "The military life of Frederick the Great" by Christopher Duffy. It has s strong focus on the military aspects of the Prussian King' s life, including the Silesian Wars and the Seven Years War which is represented in the game.
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14. Board Game: Hellenes: Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:1886]
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
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Thucydides wrote his famous History of the Peloponnesian War as a contemporary. There are multiple translations into English. I recently read The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to The Peloponnesian War, edited by Robert Strassler. Very readable rendering of Thucydides. Lots of maps (every 5-6 pages). Lots of tips and explanations of strange city names or old words and concepts (hoplite, trireme, trophy, etc).

And the war itself... combat, revolution, intrigue, diplomacy, elections, sacrilege, overweening pride, strategy, over-extension, heroes, villains, massacres, barbarians, the conflict between a democratic maritime power (Athens) and a totalitarian land power (Sparta), which many in the Cold War tried to liken to the US vs USSR, a stretch IMHO. Besides, Athens was democratic but also not averse to conquering others, while militaristic Sparta was seen as liberators by many Greeks. Fascinating.

I've never played a game about the Pelopennesian War. Now I want to.
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15. Board Game: Cemetery Hill: The Battle of Gettysburg, 1-3 July, 1863 [Average Rating:5.43 Overall Rank:13093]
Scott Henshaw
United States
East Bridgewater
Massachusetts
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Once again, I am going to Gettysburg at the end of April with the Greyhound Rescue groups. (Greyhounds in Gettysburg -http://www.greyhoundsingettysburg.com/)
Two years ago. I stomped around Plum Run gully, behind the Trostle farm, with famed game map maker Rick Barber. Walking that ground really lets you get a feel for how the 2nd days attack slowed down and stopped in that terrain.
Last year, I chose to explore in depth the terrain of Herr and McPherson's Ridge exploring Buford's stand and the attack and defence of the Union 1st Corp. Once again, walking the terrain really gives you a better feel for the battles story as you read some of battle reports, the terrain makes some of the story much clearer. A great example is the railroad cut. Seeing is believing!
This year. I decided to explore East Cemetary Hill. This will be much harder as it is some of the most disturbed parts of the battlefield. Many of the terrain folds that the Rebel soldiers hid behind are now smooth pavement of the local High School, not to mention the Hotel I'm staying in at the foot of the hill, plus all the other businesses, are on what was the battlefield.

Books being used for this year tour:
Gettysburg- Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill by Harry W. Pfanz

A small book that should be useful on the walking tours is:
East Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg "The Hour was One of Horror" by John M. Archer

Any other suggestions? (I do have most of the full Gettysburg books, any in particular I should re-review?)
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16. Board Game: The Devil's Cauldron: The Battles for Arnhem and Nijmegen [Average Rating:8.17 Overall Rank:1632]
Bryon Petrie
United States
Kaukauna
Wisconsin
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The first game I thought of when I saw the title of this Geeklist. I was interested in World War II in high school. Then I saw the movie "A Bridge Too Far", which has become my favorite war movie. It has also become my favorite battle of the War, and I'm not sure why.

The book "A Bridge Too Far" by Cornelius Ryan, may not be the definitive book on the subject, but it is one that I have read twice.

I can't wait to give the Devil's Cauldron a try.
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17. Board Game: Here I Stand [Average Rating:7.94 Overall Rank:169]
Jon
Canada
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There are literally dozens of book/game combos I could add to this list, but I will restrict myself to a game that I am currently playing and the last book that I read, namely Defenders of the Faith by James Reston.

Now, it is not a perfect piece of literature by any means. It is, in my opinion, history-lite (no footnotes!) and the author suffers from one of my pet peeves, namely repetition disease. However, it covers the subject matter of the game spot on. All six player roles are mentioned in detail or at least in passing and many of the minor leaders from the game are also in there. Note that it only covers the first decade plus of the game's breadth, namely 1520-1536. However, it is an easy breazy introduction to this subject and this game. If interested, pick it up (if cheap) or check it out of a library as it will enhance your enjoyment of HIS if you are like me and really know nothing about the time period.
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18. Board Game: Jutland [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:3301]
The Grouch
United States
Tucson
Arizona
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An excellent book on Jutland and the Great War at Sea is Robert Massie's Castles Of Steel, the follow up to his excellent Dreadnought.
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19. Board Game: The Battle for Normandy [Average Rating:7.86 Overall Rank:2309]
Ted Kim
United States
Torrance
California
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I really liked Decision in Normandy for understanding how the commanders thought about the battle.

For stories about the soldiers in the action, there is The Longest Day. Okay, I am not supposed to suggest more than one, but if you want to concentrate on an American beach, try Balkowski's books including Omaha Beach and Utah Beach. Hey my excuse is that it was a big battle.
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20. Board Game: Sicily: The Race for Messina [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:4925]
Ted Kim
United States
Torrance
California
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Another D'Este book on how the commanders saw things: Bitter Victory.
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21. Board Game: The Russian Campaign [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:1069]
Ted Kim
United States
Torrance
California
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Okay there are so many on this subject. But let's take advantage of recent info from the Soviet archives and try When Titans Clashed by David Glantz.
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22. Board Game: The Burning Blue [Average Rating:7.63 Overall Rank:2289]
Brian Morris
United States
Raytown
Missouri
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Greatly enjoy this game although it never seems to make the table. On a friend's recommendation after playing I picked up Fighter: The True Story of the Battle of Britain by Len Deighton and really enjoyed it.

I find it fascinating talking to people who experienced The Blitz. A family friend was a little girl in Croydon during the war. She remembers seeing dogfights in the sky and seeing V-1 rockets flying over. Her father was an air raid warden. She lives in Canada but was here in Kansas City for a convention my wife and I put on. During the convention they tested the tornado sirens which they do regularly in the spring and summer. She said the sirens sounded so close to the ones from the Blitz that they sent a shiver down her spine. My grandfather said a similar thing once when a WW II movie was on TV and they sounded the general quarters alarm. He had served in the Pacific and that sound in the war meant someone was coming to kill him.

I actually wanted to recommend a book on the Blitz here as well as the Deighton book that I read many years ago but for the life of me I can't find it on Amazon and can't remember the title. Likely out of print but if anyone can recommend one please do.
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23. Board Game: Scorched Earth [Average Rating:7.92 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.92 Unranked]
Bill Lawson
United States
Rutland
Vermont
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I could list many books and games on this topic (Eastfront) but this says it the best.


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24. Board Game: Julius Caesar [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:718]
Kent Fletcher
United States
Saratoga Springs
Utah
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For reading on the Roman Civil War, I would recomend The Civil War by Julius Caesar himself. Obviously biased but very entertaining and informative. He was a pretty good writer too. Apparently some of it was written by his liuetenants and other observers and those parts are not as well written. I really like the feeling of getting inside the head of the main protagonist in a major conflict. A rare thing I think.
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25. Board Game: Blackbeard [Average Rating:6.10 Overall Rank:3263]
Michael Lavoie
United States
Nashua
New Hampshire
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A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates by "Captain Charles Johnson" is the Bible of Pirate lore. This book was published in 1724 and remains readily available today (it's probably still in print somewhere, I'd wager). The identity of the author is unknown, as "Captain Charles Johnson" is almost certainly a pseudonym. For many years, it was generally believed that this book was written by the novelist Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame), but modern scholarship disputes that and it is now considered unlikely at best.

Regardless of who actually wrote it, the book is colorfully written and full of wonderful details. It's the source of much of what we know today about the Golden Age of piracy. Well worth looking up for anyone with even the slightest interest in the subject matter.
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