Friday, 3 June 2022

The Armchair General

 I am not particularly a fan of counterfactual history, but have been reading 'The Armchair General' by John Buckley.

The premise of the book is not so much what if things had happened differently, but more specifically what if allied commanders had made different decisions at various stages during the Second World War. The structure is that for each of eight scenarios the reader is presented with binary options, then for each of those routes there is another binary option and so on, leading to a small number of alternative situations. The author claims these to be 'plausible rather than fantastical' and that seems a reasonable description to me.

The reality is that readers will go back and take all the alternative paths anyway, so it ends up being not so much one counterfactual history as a group of possible outcomes collectively illustrating why and how choices were made. The areas covered are all of a strategic nature with Market Garden being the most operational.

I don't think there are any huge surprises in it, especially for the sort of person who reads wargaming blogs, but it's well put together and I found it an enjoyable read.


  1. Not sure if my previous comment went through - there was no "publish" button in evidence, so I assume not. I have changed from my 15 year old iPad to my 10 year old laptop - the iPad sems to have issues with a few blogs - and always the same ones, so I guess its some kind of incompatibility with my ancient version of, what I said was....this looks like an interesting book and one thing they could have done differently at Arnhem is drop the Paras ON the bridge, rather than several miles away!

    1. Funnily enough in the preface the author says that it was a discussion with his students on that very subject (Arnhem not web browsers) that sparked the idea for the book. Most of the decisions highlighted are at a much higher level though: e.g. do the allies invade Italy or Northern France in 1943.