The Nafziger-treasury of Orders Of Battle

Invariably, when writing books on military history, creating boardgames or detailed computer games (not like the Total War-series), you are going to stumble upon one big defect. The lack of detailed OOBs (Order Of Battles). Next to the official records the most important resource there is. A select group of people specialize in collecting these OOBs probably most prominent of them George F. Nafziger who collected a stunning 8000 files over time. If you have any books on organizational history in your library there is a good chance he has 'written' it.
Nafzinger served in Vietnam aboard the USS Hull. He retired from the US Navy in 1995 as a Captain and is now in his early 60s. In the past year he has written countless books and is a valued editor of numerous books and articles on the subject of military history. He is also the former director of the Napoleonic Society of America and the Napoleonic Alliance. Both of which we will discuss in more detail in a subsequent post about the neverending Napoleon Podcast.

A few weeks ago messages appeared on the internet. Nafzinger had put his entire collection online for everyone to look through and download whichever files they could use. Naturally I had a look and downloaded parts of this massive pdf-library of 596 mb. I was dumbstruck by what I encountered and happy as a child finding a treasure, which was actually just what happened.
According to George Nafzinger's statement he had donated his valuable to the U.S. Army's Combined Arms Research Library and it is now "free to the world" The reasons why he had to make this decision are a bit sad though:

"Technology was killing me. The collection was in WordStar, a DOS-based program, and Windows XP and Vista would not allow me to print the documents, so I found myself having to maintain a Windows 98 machine (and a spare, just in case). Sooner or later, I would no longer be able to get to the data."

As he is in his early 60s he was afraid "my wife and kids know nothing about the collection, could care less about it, would see a Windows 98 machine and think "junk" and place the computer, its hard drive and all the collection on the curb for the garbage collector, that my death would result in the disappearance of something that meant a lot to me as a hobby and a labor of love."

He ends his statement thus: "maybe I will achieve a modicum of immortality, leaving a legacy that will haunt you all long after I've shed this mortal shell. Enjoy, make use of it, and consider it my gift to the wargaming community."

Well, most certainly we will. Captain, thank you for all your hard work and thank you for sharing your collection with us.

You can find the Nafzinger-files here.


Mount & Blade Warband, first impressions

Since yesterday the singleplayer Beta for Warband is out for whoever pre-orders the game (multiplayer beta is available for download as well for those who have the original game). I have been playing Warband for a several hours in the past week now and would like to write up my first impressions of this, nearly finished, game.

Let me first introduce you to Mount & Blade which can be best compared with Bethesda's Oblivion; a medieval inspired fantasy RPG. That's the end of the comparisons however because Mount & Blade is much more combat-oriented with the big plus being the inclusion of mounted combat. You can swing a sword from horseback to chop down archers, use a lance to break through the enemies ranks or remain at a distance and rain down arrows upon the enemy. You don't do this alone however, as you can recruit your own little force of soldiers and NPCs, starting at about thirty men but soon rising to a hundred or even more you will find yourself commanding an army as well as fighting the enemy at the same time. Your troops can be trained and evolve into tough, well equipped fighters and your army will be renowned throughout the realms of Calradia. A little 'sauce' of quests, warring kingdoms and bandits complete the game for a very nice gaming experience.

TaleWorlds, a small developing team (man and wife) from Turkey, started to develop Mount & Blade some four years ago and the game soon turned out to be a success. Mount & Blade is not so much a second installment as a stand-alone add-on. It offers various new things fans have been waiting for a long time: Multiplayer battles, better graphics, better battle-AI and best of all: the ability to marry to a damsel or lady (or a lord if you are playing a female character).

Not being such a fan of multiplayer games (too fast for my kind, I can't think which tactical move to make next) I had looked forward to the singleplayer version Warband and so I set out last Friday on a new adventure in Calradia. Right from the start it is clear the map is bigger then the original. Most of the names of the cities are the same as are the factions, there are new villages however and they are all farther apart making for much larger, but alas somewhat bland, empty kingdoms (I very much preferred the map of the Broken Lands mod for M&B). After a little while you want to read a book or something to pass the time while travelling from one city to the other.

Quite soon I set out to perform some minor quests; train some villagers to defend themselves, escort a caravan and pay the ransom for a merchant's daughter (quest didn't work, remember this is still a Beta!). All is well, there are many more quests in Warband. Entering villages and towns is a real joy now, the look perfectly splendid and lively. Instead of quickly jumping to the tavern or the arms-salesman I like to walk through the gate and navigate the streets until I have found the merchant I need, almost sightseeing. The villages are much more a part of their factions now as well. Nord villages have a real Viking feel to them for example. Then there are the skies. Normally I wouldn't write a word about them but in Warband they need some attention because the look so good, so realistic, and in doing so add to the game's atmosphere and immersion.

In fact, the graphics in general are a lot better. I just love the clothing of the steppe-people and during a battle you sometimes wonder about the equipment and armor of the soldier you are fighting as it all looks so splendidly. It has happened more then once I pick a helmet or piece of armor with a lower armour-value just because it looks better. The once I like best are those which depict your own heraldry (you will pick one at the start of the game). Even more then in M&B your soldiers will carry shields depicting your heraldry which makes for a very nice scene, you almost feel proud of the buggers, when they are attempting a shield-wall.

Then to the actual combat. I found the enemy in Warband behave better then in M&B, wasn't able to crack a superior force early on this time around so that might account for a certain AI improvement. Your own army performs exactly as you ask them to do, in Warband there are even more options such as 'Stand Ground' and 'Withdrawl' but in order to incorporate them a new two-tier system had to be made. I am not very happy with this as I now have to give twice as many commands to set up my forces before a battle and being used to the ones in the original M&B make a lot of mistakes sending soldiers to their death by accident. You will get used to it however and seeing them make a nice line, archers ten steps to the rear, cavalry behind you on the right, gives a lot of satisfaction. Pepper the enemy with arrows, blunt his first attack and then charge them from the flank with fuming horses and leveled lances.
This brings us to the second part of combat swinging the sword yourself. After having made your tactical dispositions and shouting out orders to your men you want to get into the fray yourself as quickly as possible. My preferred modus of operandi has always been to use the lance during the first and second run and then switch to the sword (preferring edged weapons over blunt and thus killed enemies over prisoners). Straight away I ran into an annoying bug, or new future, who's to say. In M&B your lance levels out when galloping and you have to aim it to strike a damaging 'couched lance-hit'. This does not happen in Warband however, I couldn't get my lance to level for a long period. By pressing 'x' it would level for about ten seconds but pressing 'x' all the time is rather annoying, the key being so close to the 'AWSD' you need to control your mount. Let's hope this is actually a bug and something soon solved.
Swinging a sword is different in Warband as well. Your swing is longer and far more realistic and elegant. I had some problems with thrusts however but that's something negligible once I have found my favorite, the curved sabre.

To conclude, a little recap. There are some bugs which need (and probably will be) solved before the end of the Beta-period. The map, however will remain some sort of a problem for me and perhaps for others as well. A mod will solve this issue however and it is something I can live with for now. The graphics are stunning and in big battles they don't seem to hamper the performance, quite the contrary as it looks like the performance in Warband is better then it was in the original Mount & Blade. Battles have become even more fun and I am sure everyone will enjoy them, throw the multiplayer options (siege, deathmatch, skirmish, capture the flag and conquest) into the mix and Warband is a very enjoyable game.

If this would have been a review the score would have been like this:

Gameplay 8
Graphics 8,5
Sounds 7
Replayabiltiy 9

Overall Score 8


The 'Dandy King's' weakness, a book review

Joachim(-Napoléon) Murat (1767-1815) linked his career with that of the famous Napoleon when on the 13th Vendémiaire he returned to the general with the canon Napoleon fired into the crowd for his 'whiff of grapeshot'. From that moment onwards he was the (soon to be) Emperor's trusted cavalry commander. He led the mounted troops valiantly in countless hardfought battle. From the front, always splendidly uniformed and mounted. A faithful lieutenant through sixteen years of campaigning. Quite the character for a nice biography: Marshall Murat, King of Naples. By A.H. Atteridge.

I have always liked this flamboyant Marshall of France who was rewarded for his loyalty by the Duchy of Berg and later his beloved Kingdom of Naples, Atteridge's book adds to the understanding of character and actions. In his later years, particularly after the failure of the 1812 march to Moscow, he put his own, or actually his kingdom's interests before that of Napoleon and his loyalty suffered for it. Reading about it all you can understand his sometimes stupid and treacherous decisions and feel for him, Napoleon wasn't an easy Emperor and brother-in-law to deal with.
With the same passion he ruled his kingdom Joachim Murat lived, there was his aforementioned flamboyance and his dashing style of leadership. But he was also a gentle and kind man, weeping while reading the letters from his wife, Caroline Bonaparte while on campaign. Something Napoleon moked him for.

After the 1812 campaign all went south, his relation with the Emperor, the rule of his kingdom and the future of the crown of Naples. It was thus after another adventure he was caught leading an abortive and futile 'revolution' on the coast of Southern-Italy. After a quick trial he was sentenced to be shot by firring squad and had but one request: "Soldiers, do your duty. Fire at the heart but spare the face." So he died on October 13th 1815, a bullet nevertheless having shattered his cheek.

There is another fascinating quirk of Joachim Murat I would like to share with you though. This, in the very last pages of the book, made Murat's character shine even more.
During battle he never took his sword from its scabbard (bit of a discrepancy with the first picture there) because, as he himself explained: "What gives me the most heartfelt satisfaction when I think of my military career is, that I have never seen a man fall killed by my hand. [.....] If a man had ever fallen dead before me by my act, the picture of it would always be before me, and would pursue me to the grave."

A second story perhaps even better illustrates the kindhearted man he was, even though he led many a deadly charge and on these occasions did not spare his troops nor the enemy. After a mutiny, the three leaders had been condemned to dead. Murat however, was so impressed by their regret for their misconduct he carried out a sham execution at sunrise. He arranged that the condemned men should fall before a volley of blanks cartridge, and had them covered up by dirt for a while. During the night the three men were removed to a place where they were given disguise and subsequently shipped away from the port.

King-Napoléon Joachim Murat, he knew how to live and "he knew how to die."

- Marshall Murat, King of Naples. By A.H. Atteridge a good but not great book, nice read about the amazing Murat though: 3/5


The title of this blog is most obviously a reference to bot Sun Tzu's famous book on strategy; The Art of War and the wargamers website Armchair General. You gathered rightly, this blog will be mostly about military history and warfare through the ages and everything related to it.

For a few years I have been writing: reviewing history-books and wargames as well as
other articles related to warfare and military-history. Most of these reviews and articles were published only on the Paradox forums and now lost below a huge pile of other posts and threads.
As these articles might be of interest to others and I have plans to expand my writing in a more general direction I have chosen to start this blog. Several projects are planned for the near and far futures, amongst which "This week in the American Civil War".

Now, I am not a propagandist of war (quite the contrary) nor am I a supporter of the military as a whole and would prefer a world without war. But miltary conflicts in all its different forms make for a damned fine read, interesting and exciting settings for movies as well as games. And even though you most of the times already know who is going to win and how it will end you just read on and on, wanting to know more.
Thus I absolutely love the moments I can sit back in my comfy armchair and enjoy a good read in front of the hearth, take pleasure in an exciting and immersive game on the computer or even better, enjoy a good old boardgame with some friends.

Take a seat in your comfortable armchair and join me as we discuss books, boardgames, podcasts, battlefield-tours, art and games.