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Mr. J. Curry "Editor History of Wargaming Project" (UK)

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Business in the Trenches
Business in the Trenches
by David Schroeder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Oct 2014
Entertaining use of military history to illustrate key business principles

The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military)
The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217 (General Military)
by Richard Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.39

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book, highly recommended, 23 April 2014
Richard Brooks is a free lance military historian with a reputation for writing analytical military history based on fresh research of original sources. One of his previous books, The Battlefields of Britain and Ireland, is considered the definitive work on the subject. His biography on Fred Jane (founder of Jane’s Fighting Ships and the Fred Jane Naval Wargame) is recognised as outstanding. Therefore, I was very interested when I heard about his new book by Osprey.

This book covers one of the lesser known heroes of the medieval world, William Marshal. He was a right hand man for three kings and the regent for a 4th. He was loyal to kings, respected by practically all, a fearsome knight at tournaments and a formidable general. His achievement in preserving England as a separate country is important today.

Based in part on The History of William Marshal, the first biography of a non-royal layman in medieval times, the work weaves a complex and detailed tale about the life and time of William Marshal. It covers the tournaments, the intrigue and politics, populated by accounts of the sieges and battles.

There are a number of factors that (to me) make Brooks’s style so interesting. One is his ability to bring together discussion of competing historical sources. Some historians simply state this is what happened, but Brooks outlines if there are different views before giving a reasoned decision which account he deems most likely. Another aspect is the narrative is interspersed with detailed analytical work on the technical aspects of early medieval warfare. Brook’s wider military knowledge is used to place this in a more general context, such as the analysis of the rate of march set against that achieved by armies from other periods of military history. Basically, in times of need, medieval armies could move very rapidly.

I have taken a close academic interest in the critical battle of Marshal’s career, The Battle of Lincoln (1217). This was a very important battle for England in the medieval era and 36 pages are devoted to a detailed investigation of this urban battle. Brooks has done some detailed battlefield walking and this is reflected in his excellent account. A criticism of the book is perhaps the map of Lincoln should have been included in with the chapter about the battle, rather than at the front of the book. I read half the chapter before I remember to check for the map in the front. Perhaps there should have been a note at the start of the chapter reminding the reader of the location of the map. However, this is just a minor point in a very enjoyable book.

For those interested in medieval history, I whole heartedly recommend this particular book

China's Plans for Winning Information Confrontation: Important Chinese Information Warfare Articles
China's Plans for Winning Information Confrontation: Important Chinese Information Warfare Articles
by Mr. William T. Hagestad II
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Reader in Current Chinese Cyber Thinking, 5 April 2014
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What is happening in China is of great interest and importance to those working in cyber security. However, finding out what they are doing is hard because of the language barrier. This book contains some key readings from behind the great firewall of China about what they thinking. The book was fascinating and very useful.

Brains and Bullets
Brains and Bullets
by Leo Murray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading on 20/21c tactical combat, 31 Dec 2013
This review is from: Brains and Bullets (Hardcover)
This book was written by an anonymous army analyst about the `face of battle'; what actually happens when soldiers actually meet each other in close combat. Developing the concepts from the work of Paddy Griffith, SLA Marshall and others, it weaves a theme through the experience of different generations of soldiers. However, this book is a step forward from previous studies by putting various figures to the effect on combat of different tactical options.

The importance of the work is the implied failure of British and other armies' tactical doctrine in Afghanistan. The emphasis is on killing the enemy, not winning the war (or even the battle). To save casualties now, Western armies employ vast amounts of firepower that effectively kill the enemy. Drone strikes, air strikes, artillery etc... kill, but do not win the war. After the enemy have been hit by standoff munitions, the survivors fall back only to return to fight another day.
The author reports studies that causing 10% casualties by bombardment normally causes a defender to rout, but 2-3% (if there is a gap between the bombardment and assault), normally causes the defenders to surrender to the assault.

The book argues that traditional infantry based assaults would take more casualties now, but would win the battles by giving the other side the opportunity to surrender. If NATO forces had taken half a million prisoners in the early actions of the war, then the other side would have been more than willing to come to the negotiating table. Instead of every Afghan village have lost multiple people to NATO, normally through bombardment, every village would have had people who were prisoners of war. The tribal culture would have demanded a settlement to get these POWs back sooner rather than later.

For the student of 20th and 21st century tactical warfare, the book is an essential piece of reading.

Guns Against the Reich: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front
Guns Against the Reich: Memoirs of an Artillery Officer on the Eastern Front
by Petr Mikhin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Good addition to literature on Eastern Front, 28 July 2013
"On the offensive, a private on average lasted for a couple of assaults; a platoon leader for a day; a company commander for a week, a battalion commander for a month. If you keep a person constantly in the front lines for a year or two, he'll go insane. That is why the Germans offered leave of absences for their soldiers at the front. We didn't have leaves. In fact it wasn't really necessary- who would survive to see his leave day?"

This quote sums up why so few accounts of low level combat from the Russian perspective have made it into print in English. Few in the Russian front lines survived long enough to gain the perspective necessary to make valid observations. This officer survived as he was the forward observer for the artillery and so he saw combat first hand, but was often set back from it, running the indirect fire part of the battle.
Although there is some Russian jingoism embedded in the writing, it comes across as honest and straightforward. The tactical snippets are many. The German 82mm mortar was their best weapon for killing infantry. The front lines were often confused, just lines on a map, with units too spread out to keep a continuous front. Camouflage was an obsession of Mikhin, perhaps was related to his survival.

Russia was able to win as the American lend lease sent 400,000 trucks and jeeps. Without this, they could not have resupplied their armies. German lost as they did not have enough trucks to support their divisions on the Eastern front. However, after that broad generalisation, this book helps give a good idea of how the Russians won in the company and battalion level battles that all major wars are decided by. The books is a worthwhile addition to Eastern Front literature.

Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games
Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games
by Jon Peterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most comprehensive exploration of early roleplaying games, 7 Oct 2012
As the editor of wargaming books (some mentioned in the bibliography), I was asked by the author to do a review of this new book.

The book is Jon Peterson's magnum opus (great work) about the development of roleplaying up to the 1980s when the roleplaying games started to spread onto various computer platforms. The chapters explore the detailed chronology of wargaming events prior to the publication of Dungeons and Dragons (D+D), the development of the medieval fantasy game genre, the origin of the D+D rules and what happened in roleplaying after D+D was published.

The source of much of the material is various archives of fanzines held in American, publically and in private collections. The list of games and magazines alone covers nine pages in the bibliography. The intellectual effort to pull together this vast plethora of material was a staggering undertaking.

The result is a substantial book at 698 pages, with the section on the development of wargaming rules and their influence in the development of roleplaying games having approximately 100 pages. Due to the length and depth of the book, it is no easy read. Some of the ins and outs of development are covered in great detail, for example the material shedding light and investigating the D+D clerics is eight pages. Saying that, the material is fascinating to anyone interested in the murky origins of roleplaying games.

The book delves into such mysteries as the issues of copyright and intellectual property for the creation of D+D (a most curious tale), the development of the magic user, dungeon settings and role of thieves in the game. It was new to me that Tony Bath, the UK wargamer who started ancient and medieval wargames and was well known for his Hyborian campaign, was given credit by Gary Gygax for the inspiration for his Chainmail rules.

The book also has a most interesting section on early wargames of Hellwig, Venturini, Reiswitz, etc, based on translations of the some of their pioneering work. Some of this work has never, to my knowledge, been available in English before.

With a book of this length, it is not surprising that I have some different interpretations in a few areas, particularly in the discussion about the history of wargaming. Donald Featherstone, one of the dozen or so people who made wargaming a popular past-time, is rightly given credit, but his main job was a physiotherapist. Perhaps I would have included more about the advent of live-roleplaying, where people borrowed the idea from historical re-enactors and started to play out D+D adventures in full costume and padded weapons, but exploring the origin of that subject would have added more pages to this book.

I can say with some certainty that no-one else is likely to write a book about the development of roleplaying that will ever match the scope and depth of this book. Whilst the book is targeted at a specialist audience, if a wargamer is interested in the origins of the D+D genre, this is the book. There is no other to compare.

John Curry, Editor of the History of Wargaming Project.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 23, 2013 10:57 PM GMT

Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878
Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878
by Neil Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book is worth getting, 29 Aug 2012
Book Review of Neil Thomas's Wargaming 19th Century Europe 1815-1878 published 2012 by Pen and Sword Books.

As the editor of many of wargaming books (some mentioned in the bibliography), I was asked by the publisher to do a review of this new book.

The book is set out in a fairly standard format for such wargaming books as first devised by Featherstone in his writings. A chapter outlining political and military developments, a chapter explaining the rationale of the rules, a set of simple rules, examples of types of battle (e.g. meeting engagement, flanking attack), some army lists and nine historical battles.

For me, one of the most interesting chapters is the one of Nineteenth- Century Wargaming. This aims to outline the reasoning behind the rules in the next chapter. It does this well, but like all wargamers, I always contest the writings of others on wargaming. For example the idea that, `A more serious problem with a system of simultaneous turns, is its lack of realism', is clearly not defensible from the military perspective (otherwise there would be never be any `meeting engagements' in the history of warfare). There are however, very sensible reasons to design wargames with alternative movement systems, such as to prevent disputes. The writer's apparent views on leadership systems in wargaming as unnecessary could also be an area for discussion.

The wargaming rules are at unit level, with infantry units having four bases, are straightforward and contained within just 8 pages. Morale is tested when a unit loses a base from firing, is a charging cavalry unit under fire or it has lost a melee. A D6 is rolled against the unit class or the unit loses a base e.g. an average unit needs 4, 5 or 6 on a D6 to avoid losing a base.

The wargame scenario chapter has some interesting rules to add flavour to the type of battle. E.g. in the rearguard scenario, the attacker rolls 3-6 on a D6 per turn for the next attacker unit to arrive.

The rest of the book consists of synopsis of various battles, with suggestions how to turn them into wargaming actions.

The book is a good read for a wargamer. I enjoyed the sections on the design decisions for the rules and have used the chapters on the various battles. I tried out the rules in several solo games and found they were straightforward and produce a fun game suitable for an evening's entertainment. The book is worth getting.

John Curry, Editor of the History of Wargaming Project.

21st Century Chinese Cyberwarfare
21st Century Chinese Cyberwarfare
by William T. Hagestad
Edition: Paperback
Price: £49.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original contribution to the literature of cyberwarfare, 30 Mar 2012
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Book Review of 21st Century Chinese Cyberwarfare

Having spent a lot of time looking at every conceivable method of gaming cyberwarfare (as opposed to just gaming an attack on a single network), I have read a lot of books on cyberwarfare. Most of these books are really about IT Security, not the strategic use of virtual means to interfere with the operations of another country. There are a few exceptions, e.g. Richard Clarke's book Cyber War. This book is another exception and makes a most interesting and original contribution to the subject of cyberwarfare.

To me, the book is a cross between a military text book and an IT Security book. The military part of the book covers Chinese military doctrine for conducting cyber operations, placing the Chinese method of conducting a virtual offensive soundly on a theoretical basis. It suggests Chinese principles of war, but in the cyberwarfare areana. It supports analysis with a detailed breakdown of the Chinese organisation / structures for conducting cyber operations, showing how the People's Liberation army, is supported by State Owned Enterprises and state sponsored hackers.

The IT Security part of the book has pages of examples that seek to support the idea that China is the world's first cyber superpower and they are exercising their weapons to further their national interest.

The book has some dark conclusions; saying the governments and organisations that say they have not had their IT security breached are either lying or they do not realise.

I finish my review with a large caveat (get out clause). I do not have sufficient knowledge to judge the accuracy of the book. I do not speak Mandarin. I do not have access to the Chinese military publications referred to. I did check out some of the claims of the book about individual security breaches and I found supporting evidence from the Internet. If the conclusions of the book are correct, this book is somewhat worrying reading.

The book is well worth reading for those interested in IT Security set in its wider importance.

Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls: A Tabletop Game of Naval Battles in the Age of Sail
Blood, Bilge and Iron Balls: A Tabletop Game of Naval Battles in the Age of Sail
by Alan Abbey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New set of rules, 17 Mar 2012
This is another book from the growing range of wargame related books by the well known military publishers, Pen and Sword. The author of the rules, Alan Abby, is clearly a Napoleonic naval wargamer who has taken the opportunity to get his own rules into print in book format.

The book is 144 pages consisting of the main rules, some optional rules, scenarios and campaign rules. The rules are of medium complexity, allowing quite large fleet actions to be played out. Each ship being represented by an individual ship card showing crew, command, gunners, marines, cannon, masts etc... I tried a solo game of two ships aside and I was happily moving and firing within 30 minutes of picking up the book and moving to my wargames table.

The campaign game is very good and very disappointing. It is a hypothetical campaign, with some interesting rules to help create meaningful naval battles. It includes an abstract map of trade routes, renue sheets, revenue to the crown, fleet reconnaissance, damage repair, etc... However, my own preference is for naval campaigns set solidly in the history of the Napoleonic Wars. Despite this I can see no problem in someone modifying the campaign game to set it in the Atlantic or some other geographical reality. The choice between a historically based campaign and a hypothetical one has always been a subject of debate in wargaming. Featherstone clearly likes historical, so did Fletcher Pratt, but Fred Jane and Phil Dunn created their own hypothetical arenas to test naval strategy.
The bibliography is a bit disappointing, as it only lists work by Pen and Sword. What naval wargaming book cannot list Donald Featherstones Naval Wargames or Phil Dunn's Sea Battles as sources of inspiration?
Overall, the book is a set of rules in book form. Initial play testing indicates they work and are fun. I can see these rules being used by clubs who want an entertaining game doing something different.

Simulating War
Simulating War
by Philip Sabin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.96

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Book about developing your own micro board games, 19 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Simulating War (Hardcover)
Book Review of Phil Sabin's (2012) Simulating War Studying Conflict Through Simulation Games

As someone who has edited and written more wargaming books than most, I am always pleased when a new book says something original about wargaming. This book has a message. The message is micro board wargames are good for education and training. This book argues the case that wargames, in particular manual board games, are an invaluable tool for examining tactical and operational military history. The best of these games are worthy of inclusion of any study of military history.

The first part of the book is a summary of the academic potential of wargaming techniques. The value of games to education and training is indisputable in the academic and business world. Phil takes that view and argues that wargaming can be used as tool to understand military history, supporting this with some academic evidence and his own experiences of using games as part of his teaching of military history at Kings College London.

The second part of the book is a straightforward guide to building simple `micro-board games'. These are games that are smaller than even the smallest of commercial `folio' type board games. Small and simple enough to be used as part of a two hour teaching session. Building on the work of Peter Perla's Art of Wargaming and James Dunnigan's The Complete Wagames Handbook, the book offers a recipe for analysing historical conflicts and distilling them into a board game format.

The third part of the book gives a number of worked examples of such micro-board games. It includes games from the ancient world and World War II. There are also two tactical games; one about a battalion attack in WWII and the other about a company level assault on a built up area. The latter is still relevant to modern conflict. Although one could cut up the colour plates in the book to play the games, most people will download the game components from the book's web site and print them themselves or use play them on the computer using the free Cyberbox software.

The book may not appeal to all parts of the disparate hobby of wargaming. Some miniature (figure) gamers are sometimes overly keen with their mental model of wargaming that is based around a game with realistic terrain features using miniature figures to represent every battle. Such miniature wargamers may `scratch their heads' about the large number of references to classic board games within this book.
Board gamers have often spent years developing their skills on a variety of complex simulation and so they may look upon the games within the book as too simple for their own tastes. Personally, I would hope they will be inspired by the book to take their wargaming to the next level and start to develop their own board games. The act of creating one's own game is a very interesting learning experience and one that Donald Featherstone, and the other early pioneers, would all thoroughly approve of.

Professional wargaming, practised by the military, is largely insular and inward looking. Many of these professional wargamers are in apparent ignorance of the wider developments of the commercial and hobby wargaming, so some of these professionals will see little relevance to any book giving examples that are not from the immediate past, current operations or probable immediate future. However, attitudes can change. The British Army has recently started doing study tours of the 1944 Battle for Normandy and the American military has a long tradition of scholarship about military history that is often the envy of other nations. The American armed forces have long placed great value on studying military history as an essential part of the education for their potential senior commanders. Many of the books by recent American commanders make reference to historical strategies which demonstrates they have at least a passing knowledge of military history.

The book is clearly a work of scholarship, but what will the wider academic community make of the book? Phil's writes in a lively accessible way, using many anecdotes from his own experience. This is in contrast to the many academic text books that are written in a style as `dry as dust'. A purely academic book would have had more on games theory (and less on practical examples) and would have included some quantitative studies of the impact of using board games for studying military history compared with traditional teaching methods (supported with statistics and graphs). I have used such games in my own teaching and I have no doubt they encourage `active' and `deep' learning. Many teachers struggle with using games in their teaching. Games are outside their comfort zone, games (especially ones created by the teacher) may apparently `fail' or descend into lively chaos. My own experience is that such failures do not matter, the students always find the games interesting and rewarding, even if the game does not actually work that well. However, this book is aimed at the wider world of wargaming rather than just the tiny world of academic wargames.

I can whole heartedly recommend this new book to anyone who is looking to develop their understanding of wargaming. Developing wargames is great fun and this book will help get started on that path.

John Curry, Editor of the History of Wargaming Project.

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