C.S.Forester — a wargamer’s novelist

By Rob Morgan

The mention of some of Forester’s excellent novels in the blog Wargaming Miscellany reminded me of the immense value of this legendary writer’s novels. It’s over 50 years since I first read them and, in my opinion, all of them, perhaps “The General” apart , contain wargame scenarios and, in many cases, solo scenarios (Forester was a bit of a loner) suitable for interpretation on the table top. “Death to the French” is an ideal book for solo wargaming, and a long while ago, I think in Lone Warrior No. 145 (?) my solo game “Fire & Retire” appeared, and it’s even longer since I scribbled together a game on the superb journey across Spain of “The Gun” for Wargames Illustrated. These two, for landlubbers, are the finest Napoleonic war novels ever written,. They make Brigadier Gerard look like a toy soldier.

Forester’s “The Ship,” being a WWII naval novel, like his short stories “Gold from Crete” are hardly the stuff of solo games, but are extremely good reading and can be played out too!  “The African Queen,” its WWI river journey and its attack on a German gunboat was in Battlefleet, the Naval Wargames Society’s journal a while back, but it is a solo game!

Best of all are the Hornblower series.You can’t turn a page without a war game cropping up. Since Hornblower was as much a loner as his author, these are not nose to tail, line-of-battle stories, but serious expeditions. “The Commodore,” for instance, with its detached squadron in the Baltic, is made for a solo campaign, with lots of actions on sea and ashore, and “Lord Hornblower” contains sea, raid and shore based actions suitable for the solo player. One or two have cropped up in Lone Warrior of late. Somewhere I have notes ready to write up on the solo guerrilla campaign fought by Horatio and a few gallant souls after Bonaparte’s unwise and very temporary return to Paris in 1815.

“A Ship of the Line” is another superb title. HMS Sutherland’s exploits off Iberia, and her ultimate capture make for splendid game opportunities, again shore actions and ship-to-shore encounters abound. He knew how to write did Forester! The adventures of “The Happy Return.” with its long Pacific voyage and fights for and against Spain are yet again worthy of examination by the naval gamer — a small investment in Peter Pig’s pirate ranges would be sufficient for most of Horatio Hornblower’s adventures. The voyage of HMS Atropos again will provide several short table top scuffles for the solo wargamer to enjoy. The writings cover most of the Napoleonic wars, and beyond. “Hornblower in the West Indies” is very much an American excursion, and the possibility of gaming the attempt to rescue Bonaparte (still incredibly calling himself Emperor!) from his island prison is one I should attempt at some stage. It didn’t succeed, of course.

A highly recommended author, and very useful wargames titles in most cases. Of course, the Aubrey books are considered good, but frankly Hornblower leaves them in the doldrums.  All of Forester’s work is still in print, by the way.

This entry was posted in Periods - Napoleonic. Bookmark the permalink.