Book Review – Fatal Choices by Seth Owen

Fatal Choices: Wargames, Decisions and Destiny in the 1914 Battles of Coronel and FalklandsFatal Choices: Wargames, Decisions and Destiny in the 1914 Battles of Coronel and Falklands by Seth Owen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I backed the Kickstarter campaign and got both the ebook and the paperback version of this as well as some pre-cut counters for playing the scenarios.

The book is a fascinating tour of the what if as well as the real history. It takes us through the technical and political backgrounds of both sides, the vessels and the commanders. Owen explains why the situation was what it was, why the protagonist navies had chosen their strategy and how they had got their ships on station when the first world war started.

Map showing British and German ships and movem...
Map showing British and German ships and movements at the Battle of Coronel, 1 November 1914. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each of the battles is presented as a playable scenario, with basic rules in the annex and some counters (I got the pre-cut set as part of the Kickstarter, but the book has a copyable annex). In addition to the house rules in the book there are also suggestions for how to play the game with a couple of other popular sets of naval wargame rules.

Doing this allows readers to understand how much leeway the real result had, what was inevitable, what was plausible and what was bad luck or poor judgement. The factors affecting this are also explained in the text. For example British gunnery was poor, most of the sailors were reservists recalled at the outbreak of war, so they were out of practice and many unfamiliar with the kit installed on the ships. They were also scratch crews and hadn’t had much time to practice together.

This is so much more than a history, it offers an insight into how and why the events in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean turned out the way they did.

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About Author:

James has a keen interest in military history, backed with experience as a TA reservist and a 17th century re-enactor. He has designed and run several face to face social games and is the editor of MilMud, the journal of the CLWG game design group. He is currently working on a book on the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

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