Saturday, November 22, 2008

Great and Glorious Days...

By way of a quick update to the Blog while I finish writing up an account of the most recent game that DG and I have just completed (a Blitzkrieg Commander game set in North Africa) herewith a quick review of the latest book I've just finished..

I have to say that I own quite a number of James Falkner's Marlburian books, not by accident but because I find him immensely readable. He has the happy knack of making the pages turn almost by himself! There are few military historians in this category, but he, Richard Holmes & David Chandler are in that select bunch as far as I am concerned..

Chandler and Falkner have a bit of a Marlburian niche, and of these two Falkner is probably slightly more "lightweight" than Chandler, but he is eminently readable for all that... (Holmes's "niche" is the British Army as a whole, I think - specifically from the foot sloggers view)

So what do you get in this book?

As a beginner to the period, then an enormous amount - this takes his earlier Battleground series books (on Blenheim and Ramillies) and adds meat to the bones of those.. with the addition of similar treatments for the battles of the Schellenberg, Malplaquet and Oudenarde, he has room not available to him in the Battleground books to put in a little more background information on the tactics, the strategy and the personal relationships between Marlborough and his contempories...

If you've had an interest for a while, read a few of his other books, even read a few other historians, then not so much. I guess I put myself in this category (though I'm not an expert), but I still picked up some interesting snippets.. for example, I wasn't aware that the French had formally adopted the platoon firing principle by 1708, but were using it in an informal way before then - it looks like I may need to revisit my wargame rules for the period to add a note that the positive modifiers I currently give the Allies may not be applicable after a certain period..

He also mentions the fact that at Malplaquet, the bloodiest of Marlborough's victories, a few of the eye witnesses he quotes had noted that the allied musket ball was heavier, so flew straighter, and hit harder.. also worth following up.

Finally, I don't know who does them for him - but the maps in Falkners books are lovely...

So - what's my view?? Steve the Wargamer rates this 9 out of 10 as an introduction to the period, and 7.5 out of 10 if you already have a reasonable knowledge of the period.. when I think back to the book that first got me seriously interested in the period, Spencer's book "Blenheim - Battle for Europe", then this is a much better book for doing the job... (by the by - also very cheap as it's been available for a while now)

I look forward to reading more of James Falkner's books...


  1. Falkner is excellent if you want to refight the battle on the tabletop. He's done all the ground work and all you have to do is the figure scale.
    Maps are very good.
    I'd still refer to Trevalyan for confirmation but Falkner does sit happily on my shelf.

  2. I know nothing of Marlborough beyond reading a little of Chandler. I might check out the Falkner.