Companion Reading for Rome 2 – Total War

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Looking for some more history in your gaming?  Want to get the backstory on all those pixels you’re pushing around?

Lloyd Sabin – February 10, 2014

Since I was a kid, I have always coupled my gaming with my reading. I think a lot of people do this, but as I have gotten older, it is rare that I read anything that isn’t directly or indirectly tied to what I am currently playing on the PC. Finally, after years of trying to combat this clear OCD-like behavior, I have given up and am going to attempt to do something productive with this quirk.

This first installment is focused on Rome 2: Total War and what I have read, and will be reading, while playing through my Iceni campaign. The Iceni are one of the stronger tribes located in Britannia and the British Isles. In my current campaign I currently hold all of Great Britain, including Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and have made significant progress in northwest Europe, particularly in Gaul. When not attempting to advance on the front and boost Iceni technological and military prowess, I have read the following title, with a few more on deck.

Imperial Governor – The Great Novel of Boudicca’s Revolt by George Shipway

Imperial Governor is the first title I cracked open for companion reading during my Iceni campaign. The title character, Paulinus, is instantly believable as he describes in detail his work in building up Britannia from a backward, swampy outpost to an integral part of the growing Roman Empire. He is a military man through and through, with little patience for insubordination and even less patience for treachery.

Imperial Governor has some great descriptive writing and paints mental imagery of a dark, foreboding, dangerous Britannia, crawling with hostile tribes. Boudicca herself does make a memorable entrance, but because Paulinus does not view her as anything more than scum most details are left out. This book is focused mainly on the Roman response and does it well, guiding the reader through a dense series of battles as well as providing a good order of battle on both sides, including the Celtic tribes aligned with the Iceni and the Roman legions and auxiliaries involved. There are also vivid descriptions of Roman military equipment, architecture and even food, producing a rich historical backdrop for the conflict.

A good part of Imperial Governor also covers Paulinus’ responsibility to both Rome and Britannia once he has put the revolt down, with little mercy. With almost all of Britannia destroyed, it is up to Paulinus to repair the damage, eliminate any remaining threat to Roman power in Britain, and also protect himself and his career from the subsequent fallout. Also keep an eye out for several historical characters with whom you may be familiar, especially if you enjoy Roman history.

Imperial Governor is a blunt and realistic title that doesn’t mince words, just like Paulinus himself. With a cunning, highly intelligent protagonist, some great descriptive writing and excellent battle scenes, George Shipway’s classic proved to be a great companion piece to my Rome 2 Iceni campaign. If interested, the author’s own life makes for some pretty good reading as well. Imperial Governor was his first novel.

Some other titles that I have on the night stand ready to go for more local color include:

The Last Frontier: The Roman Invasions of Scotland by Antony Kamm

There have been many novels and histories written of Rome’s invasions and subsequent wars and rebellions in Britannia…less so on Roman involvement in Scotland. This history title covers Roman attempts to subjugate the northern tribes as well as construction of Roman defenses like the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall.

The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels and Vikings by Tim Clarkson

Maybe slightly out of scope for Rome 2, but I don’t care…Scotland has a fascinating history and the peoples that evolved into the Scots we know today have some great historical backgrounds, mixed with mythology and legends. The Makers of Scotland covers 1000 years of history of these northern tribes, from contact to with the Romans to the beginning of the Dark Ages.

The Eagle Has Fallen by Brian Young

Rome’s Ninth Legion has received its fair share of books over the years. Brian Young’s take on what exactly happened to the 5000 troops of the legendary Ninth Legion steers the reader towards a theory of massacre and cover up.

Hopefully, my OCD will prove useful for some of the grogs here and steer them towards some satisfying reading. Look for future installments of gaming and companion reading on Vlad Dracul and 15th century Ottoman and Wallachian history, 19th century Japanese history, and a wide variety of World War I history.

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