Book Review – Fatal Choices by Seth Owen
Fatal 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.
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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