Traditionally, one of the things I enjoy most about the holidays around Christmas and New Year’s is that they offer plenty of time for reading. Of course I tend to forget that life intervenes in the form of family, friends and other distractions and that usually I don’t have as much quiet time as I thought I would have. Nevertheless, I take great pleasure in browsing, selecting and preparing books for the holidays.
Not surprisingly for the readers of the blog, this year my lists contains a bunch of books on medieval warfare. My Wars of the Roses project is progressing to my satisfaction and we will hopefully get a game in during the holidays. I have also already read a couple of general books on the subject. To further my knowledge, I put some more works on the holiday reading list. One is The First Battle of St. Albans by Andrew Boardman. This is out of print and at first I could only locate some ridiculously priced copies at Amazon. Fortunately, I found one at an antiquarian bookseller for a far better price. What I can say from browsing is that it contains a very detailed analysis of this battle, which for me is one of the most interesting of the period, as it involves fighting in a town. This is rather rare for the middle ages and offers plenty of opportunities for smaller scale scenarios.
To complement this study, I will probably also get the volume Battles of St. Albans by Peter Burley, Michael Elliott and Harvey Watson. I really don’t like the way it looks: It gives a sensationalist impression and the fact that it includes pictures of reenactors doesn’t help. However, it seems to be a solid work that contains useful information for the wargamer, especially on how the town of St. Albans looked at the time. For similar reasons, I ordered the Osprey on The Battle of Tewkesbury – I already got the one on Towton and tend to come back to the illustrations when pondering about how to paint my figures. Another Osprey I’ll order is the volume on Medieval Handgonnes, as I got increasingly interested in these devices when adapting the stats in the Sharp Practice rules for the period.
When reading about the Wars of the Roses, one thing that captured my imagination was the naval warfare of the period. There was piracy, mainly by the Earl of Warwick, but also a daring raid on Sandwich harbour by Warwick’s men. I have a vague idea of making something out of this wargame-wise, but I don’t know anything about medieval naval warfare. Luckily, Susan Rose has just published a book that promises to answer a lot of my questions: England’s Medieval Navy 1066-1509. Rose is a specialist on the subject and has some other books out, but her latest one seems to give a solid and quick overview of the subject. It is also richly illustrated, which will be useful when I try my hand at scratchbuilding 15mm ships. If I like it, I will check out her other volumes from the library.
The last book on medieval warfare on my list is Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield by Robert Jones. It investigates the role of signs and signals on the battlefield. It discusses not only banners and armour, but also covers sound and music, a topic I came across when reading the rules on musical signals in Sharp Practice and kept asking myself how I could adapt them to the medieval period. I have read some mixed reviews of the book, but the topic is extremely fascinating to me and there are not that many studies out there that cover the subject of command and control for medieval times. So let’s hope my expectations will not be frustrated.
I have already mentioned several times that I am flirting with the idea of naval gaming. Recently, I discovered a second-hand copy of a title originally published in 1980: Sea Battles in Miniature by Paul Hague. The book radiates great charm and I would have bought it on the cover alone.
It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for old school wargaming and the book looks very inspiring. It covers the ancient, napoleonic and modern periods and contains rules as well as practical hints for scratchbuilding ships. I am looking forward to getting some insight into the mechanics of naval rules and some ideas for building medieval cogs.
Last but not least I’ve got a couple of novels I would like to read. For fun and relaxation I mainly read Science Fiction, and there have been some interesting releases this year. I still haven’t read John Scalzi’s Human Division, although I am a big fan of his work, so I will take that with me. It tells the story of some sort of diplomatic special operations group and is set in the universe of Old Man’s War. I very much enjoy Scalzi’s humour and his fast-paced storytelling, so I am looking forward to an entertaining read. I also got Cherie Priest’s Fiddlehead, the fifth installation of her steampunk series. I greatly enjoyed the first volumes but got stuck with the fourth book because it moves at a very slow pace and for some reasons I don’t care too much about the protagonists. Perhaps I might just leave it and delve into Fiddlehead, which has a much more promising outline. And then there is The Ace of Skulls, the final part of the Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding, a kind of dieselpunk-with-demonology series centered on a very Firefly-like crew. I am a bit trepid about starting it as I enjoyed the others some much and really don’t like to see the series ending.
So, that’s my Christmas reading list. I know that I won’t manage to finish (or probably even to start) all of it, but chosing the books is half the fun already. I also might make some last-minute changes or amendments. Do you have anything that you would recommend?
I’d recommend the Elliott/Burley/Watson book on St Albans … by far the most up-to-date research and a convincing ‘find’ for the real location of the key action.
Thanks! I’ve now browsed the book and have to admit that it looks much better than I thought at first. Looking forward to reading it!