Wargame (Reading) Library

A (slightly) annotated bibliography of the wargame or related gaming texts in my library (both deadtree and electronic).

Seminal Texts

These are the primary works on wargaming. If you only read these you can’t go wrong.

Dunnigan, James F., Wargames Handbook, Third Edition: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional Wargames, San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2000. Written by the Godfather of Wargaming, this is your basic “how to” guide to wargame design.

Perla, Peter P., The Art of Wargaming, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990. Written from the professional wargaming perspective, there is also useful history of wargaming included.

Sabin, Philip, Simulating War: Studying Conflict Through Simulation Games, London: Bloomsbury 2012, 2014. Sabin takes a more modern, nuanced approach to wargaming simulation games.

Excellent reading to further expand on the seminal texts.

Harrigan, Pat and Matthew G. Kirschenbaum (eds), Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2016. A wide-ranging collection of essays that cover the gamut of modern wargame issues and design. Part of MIT Press’ Game Histories series.

McHugh, Francis J., The United States Naval War College Fundamentals of War Gaming, 3rd Edition, March 1966 (Reprint), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Fundamentals…for professional wargamers.

Wargaming Books

Titles that are related to wargaming, often with a focus on the history of the profession/hobby.

Antal, John F., Armor Attacks: An Interactive Exercise in Small-Unit Tactics & Leadership, Novato: Presidio, 1991. A “choose your own adventure” approach to wargaming.

Appleget, Col. Jeff, USA (Ret.), Col. Robert Burks, USA (Ret.), and Fred Cameron, The Craft of Wargaming: A Detailed Planning Guide for Defense Planners and Analysts, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2020. Focuses on wargaming as part of the military planning process.

Caffrey Jr., Matthew B., On Wargaming: How Wargames Have Shaped History and How They May Shape the Future, Newport: Naval War College Press (Naval War College Newport Papers 43), 2019. Part history and part advocate for wargames in defense planning. Matt Caffrey is one of the “Old Guard” in wargaming and for many years ran the CONNECTIONS professional wargaming conferences.

Curry, John, United States Naval War College Manual Wargaming (1969): Wargames at the Start of the Missile Era, The History of Wargaming Project http://www.wargaming.co, 2019. These were the rules used in wargames at the Naval War College in the late 1960’s; provides a “professional” set of rules to compare other games to.

Curry, John and Chris Carlson (ed), The United States Naval War College 1936 Wargame Rules: USN Wargaming Before WWII, Volume 1, The History of Wargaming Project http://www.wargaming.co, 2019. Another set of historical Naval War College rules; these are very similar to those used by the U.S. Navy before World War II that trained so many of the senior officers that fought that war.

Dunnigan, James F., How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the 21st Century (Fourth Edition), New York: Harper, 2003. Dunnigan is a prolific wargamer designer and while this book is not a set of rules or the like, it does provide insight into what it was about war he considered important enough to model in his games.

Dupuy, Col. Trevor N., U.S. Army [Ret.], Future Wars: The World’s Most Dangerous Flashpoints, New York: Warner Books, 1992. Excellent inspiration material for wargame designers. Appendix B is a short tutorial on “The Tactical Numeric Deterministic Model (TNDM)” which is very useful for wargame designers to study.

Friedman, Hal M., Blue Versus Orange: The U.S. Naval War College, Japan and the Old Enemy in the Pacific, 1945-1946, Newport: Naval War College Press, 2013. Focuses on wargaming at the Naval War College in the 1945-1946 academic year and the role it played in planning for a post-war Navy.

Friedman, Norman, Winning a Future War: War Gaming and Victory in the Pacific War, Friedman is a well respected naval historian who adds another perspective on how wargaming prepared the U.S. Navy for the Pacific War.

Harris, Christopher and Patricia Harris with Brian Mayer, Teaching the American Revolution Through Play, A middle-school teacher’s guide for using Academy Games’ 1775: Rebellion in the classroom (or homeschool).

Hughes Jr., Capt. Wayne P. (USN, RET), Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat (Second Edition), Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000. The “Missile Salvo Equation” needs to be understood by every modern naval wargame designer.

Lawrence, Christopher A., War By Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat, Lincoln: Potomac, 2017. An Operations Research approach to modeling warfare. Lawrence is the successor to Col. Dupuy at The Dupuy Institute. Updates the TNDM.

Lockwood, Jonathan S., PhD and LtCol Donald J. Hanle (USAF), Wargaming and Intelligence Education: Joint Military Intelligence College Discussion Paper Number Six, Washington, D.C.: Joint Military Intelligence College, 1998. Short essays on the use of wargames in professional military education (PME).

Nofi, Albert A., To Train the Fleet for War: The U.S. Navy Fleet Problems, 1923-1940, Newport: Naval War College Press, 2010. Recounting of the Fleet Problems that leveraged wargaming at the Naval War College and how they prepared the U.S. Navy for war against Japan.

Peterson, Jon, The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2020. Although focused on role-playing games, there is some good history here about how skirmish miniatures wargamers and role-playing games diverged.

Peterson, Jon, Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2021. Another entry in MIT Press’ Game Histories series. Chronicles the story of Dungeons & Dragons without the hyperbole of the major characters, Gygax and Arneson.

Prados, John, Pentagon Games: Wargames and the American Military (Includes three playable wargames), New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1987. Another “advocate” text for professional defense wargaming; of great interest is the three games included.

  • Pentagon: Monopoly in the Military—”Create your own defense budget and then protect it from bureaucratic politics inside the Pentagon”
  • The R&D Game: Congressional Chutes & Ladders—”Design new weapons systems and guide your project through to Congressional Approval”
  • Last Days of Saigon: Playing to Break Even—”Match wits with the joint chiefs as you plan the evacuation of U.S. troops from South Vietnam”

Only the last game is hex & counter, showing even in the 1980’s professional wargaming was looking at “serious” gaming using different gaming mechanisms.

Wargaming Studies/Journal/Magazine Articles/Blog Postings

Augier, Mie and Major Sean F. X. Barrett, General Anthony Zinni (Ret.) on Wargaming Iraq, Millennium Challenge, and Competition, Center For International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), October 18, 2021. https://cimsec.org/general-anthony-zinni-ret-on-wargaming-iraq-millennium-challenge-and-competition/ “Discusses how the differing objectives of service chiefs and combatant commanders manifest in wargames.”

Dougherty, Chris with Jennie Matuschak and Ripley Hunter, The Poison Frog Strategy: Preventing a Chinese Fait Accompli Against Taiwanese Islands, Center for New American Security (cnas.org), October, 2021. “To explore potential policy and strategy options to prevent such a calamity, the Gaming Lab at CNAS wargamed this scenario with Taiwanese, American, and regional experts.”

Emery, John R., Moral Choices Without Moral Language: 1950s Political-Military Wargaming at the RAND Corporation, Texas National Security Review, September 07, 2021, https://tnsr.org/2021/09/moral-choices-without-moral-language-1950s-political-military-wargaming-at-the-rand-corporation/. “…they created the first political-military simulations, called the “Cold War Games.””

Kania, Elsa B. and Ian Burns McCaslin, Learning Warfare from the Laboratory—China’s Progression in Wargaming and Opposing Force Training, The Institute for the Study of War (understandingwar.org), September 2021. A rare look at wargaming in the People’s Liberation Army.

Uncredited, Why Machines May Kill Us in Our Sleep, general-staff.com, Accessed 11/18/2021, https://www.general-staff.com/why_machines_may_kill_us_in_our_sleep/. “Yeah, the machine performed perfectly, brilliantly, in fact. But the error in the data set killed him.”