Sunday, 25 October 2015

Team Yankee - Background Fiction

So with the release of Team Yankee being imminent I thought it would be good fun to let you know what fictional source material there is to read out there to get you all in the mood for fighting Soviet hordes in the Fulda Gap.

Team Yankee by Harold Coyle

I am not going to talk much about this novel as you’ll most likely will have read it already.  Also the main rulebook references a lot of the book so you’ll get a good flavour for it.

In short it follows the story of a US Armoured Company commander in the opening stages of the Third World War.  Captain Bannon commands a tank heavy company in a Mechanised Infantry battalion.

It is clear from that start that Coyle knows his stuff and being an ex-tanker you certainly would expect him to.  Rumour has it that he wrote most of the novel whilst on exercise himself in the Fulda Gap area.  For a work of fiction this has a real authenticity about it.

Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy (and Larry Bond)

This is the novel that really defined the idea of a Third World War to most Western readers in the 1980s.  Whilst it cracks along at a riproaring pace the focus on the land portion of the war is small.  Naval actions tend to dominate and apart from some vignettes of engagements in Germany there’s not really a lot here for the tread heads among us to get to grips with.

Nonetheless it is classic Clancy fare before he went all weird in the late 90s with Jack Ryan becoming President and stuff.

Chieftains by Bob Forrest-Webb

This was the seminal novel for British squaddies in Germany in the 1980s.  It was out print for a long time but a campaign on the British Army Rumour Service (ARRSE) website got the author to republish it on Kindle, before then I saw copies change hands for nearly a £100!  But is it any good, in short yes!

The author really got underneath the skin of a British tank crew.  The authenticity just drips off the page.  As a soldier myself the descriptions of combat rang true.  The author pulls no punches about the impact that modern weapon systems would have, there is truly slaughter on an industrial scale.  All of our worst nightmares are presented in the novel, what do we do about civilians caught up in the fighting, what is the effect of a Chemical attack immediately before a massive Soviet onslaught, what happens when a critical crew member is taken out etc etc

The ending is a bit contrived and out of sorts with the rest of the book but that certainly doesn't spoil it.  Pick it up now and write off the next few evenings while you read it.

The Red/Blue/Black Effect by Harvey Black

A former Intelligence Corps operator Harvey Black recently churned out a very believable trilogy based on what would happen if the Cold War turned hot.  His background in intelligence clearly shows from his snappy descriptions of the key players and their equipment.

Being a British author the action naturally focusses on what the British get up to with some interesting takes on it, such as what would BRIXMIS be doing once the shooting starts?

Only really available on Kindle these are very readable and just like Chieftains can provide no end of inspiration for when Battlefront decide to release the BAOR supplement.

Red Army by Ralph Peters

Ralph Peters like Harold Coyle was a US Army Officer but unlike Coyle he went completely out of his comfort zone when he wrote this novel as Red Army is a tale of World War Three told entirely from the Soviet standpoint.

This alone should make it on to your reading list, however on top of it it is actually a really good read.  All levels are represented in the novel from the frightened young Private soldier in the BMP not knowing what he’s doing or why to the hard bitten Air Assault Battalion commander to the General commanding Soviet forces in Germany.  

Peters sets up the action well and just like in Chieftains no punches are pulled when they describe the carnage that would ensue.  There some really great scenario ideas in the book from the initial assault into the NATO lines to the air assault action to secure some vital crossing points over the Weser.

Despite it being out of print copies are still available to be had but once the Team Yankee buzz picks up that may not last. 


The Third World War and The Third World War: The Untold Story by General Sir John Hackett (and others)

These are the daddies of speculative fiction about a potential Third World War and describe the action all the way from the tactical level right up to global political strategic level right back down to the level of ordinary civilians.

Unfortunately the books have not aged well, which is probably because they were written in the late 1970s.  A lot of the equipment is either misdescribed or was trial equipment that never came to light but given that this was written from limited open source material it is probably understandable.

For me The Third World War: The Untold Story is the better one of the two as it describes the events more snappily.  There is also a very chilling alternative ending.

They are not written in the style of a novel but rather as a narrative history book and once you get past this they are very good indeed.  Long out of print they are nonetheless easy to find on auction sites.

First Clash by Kenneth Macksey

Macksey, a former World War Two British Army Officer, was tasked by the Canadian Army to write their training scenarios in the 1980s.  At the time the Canadians had a sizeable, for them, presence in West Germany.

This book is very much a close up look at combat on the ground in Germany in World War Three.  Macksey bases the action on the 4th Candian Mechanised Brigade Group as they prepare to defend a strategically important plateau.

It has been dismissed by some as being a bit dry which I think is unfair.  Admittedly its not a pacy novel and is written very much like a unit history but this is what it good for me.  This is one of the few speculative pieces that really focusses on the preparation of the ground, the equipment being used and their battle plan.  

His description of the action when it happens is very effective.  The section with the Canadian Infantry going tank hunting at night is very evocative.

Ultimately this book is chock full of scenario ideas and some kind soul fromThe Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers has even gone to the trouble for us already, albeit for Rapid Fire so you’ll need to adjust the troop sizes.

This is a personal favourite of mine and one that I’ll reread soon.  Pick up a copy if you can.

Red Thrust by Steven Zaloga

Steven Zaloga moves the action along to the mid 1990s for Red Thrust.  Very much like First Clash it is not meant to be read as a novel.  You do need to suspend some disbelief at his construction of a scenario that sees the Cold War turning hot in the 1990s but once he has done that it is a good read.

His background as a historian in all things Soviet military really shines through.  Unlike the others this is tailor made for scenario building.  Each chapter focusses on a particular part of the Soviet arsenal and he not only describes the equipment and the formations that used them but paints very well written pen pictures of their use.  So we have everything from Tank and Motor Rifle company attacks to Spetznaz being deployed to Attack Helicopters hunting tanks and chemical warfare.

What makes it interesting and noteworthy however is that it is all described from the Soviet perspective.  A good read if you can find it.

Well that’s all from me.  There’s tons of other books out there that I haven’t mentioned so if you have one that you really liked why not leave a comment below and let everybody else know about it too.  You might also want to check out the excellent Cold War Gamer blog for more in-depth reviews of a whole host literary resources about gaming the Cold War turning hot.


  1. Great post! I'm always looking for good reads in this genre, but they're not always easy to come by. Thanks for the recommendations; they will help motivate my painting with Team Yankee incoming.

  2. Chieftains is my favourite of those. An excellent read is Red Phoenix. It is slightly off topic as it is set in Korea but it really could have been Europe in 1982 given the equipment and protagonists. It is a cracking novel too and IMO Larry Bonds' best.

  3. Yep top post mate! Your line up is 100% the same as mine, but you've reminded me that I haven't read The Untold Story for a long while - must get hunting!

  4. I just finished Team Yankee. It's awful 1980s propaganda, written by somebody who didn't have a lot of knowledge about training and abilities of the Red Army (no surprise considering it has been written before the fall of the USSR). The US casulaties are basically nil while they destroy regiment after regiment of Soviets. Every engagement is best case scenario for NATO and worst case for WarPac. "Characters" are boring. Action is boring. Book is boring.

    Nevertheless, I recomment Red Storm Rising, it's actually quite good. Red Thrust is most likely the best oneout of the bunch, but sometimes a little hard to get.

    1. I really hope that battlefront won't take inspiration for game balance from the book. If it's going to be a classic "barbaric hordes of untrained crazy Russians" again the game will win my personal "wargaming failure of the decade" reward

  5. I read Team Yankee a while ago and IMHO Harold Coyle's second book, "Sword Point", is much better. Soviets attack thru post-Shah Iran to secure warm water port, US counters, Iranians attack both, with a rogue nuke floating around.

    Looking forward to the games release, especially the M163 Vulcan!

    @TTFix No doubt. Tm Yankee is however fiction and I believe that Coyle had no illusions regarding Warsaw Pac capabilities! However, I don't think a book that accurately depicted a clash between the NATO Vs. WarPac would have sold very well, especially over here in the 'ol USofA.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Thanks for this list! I had read Red Storm Rising in the early 90's but I never knew so much other writing on the cold war gone hot scenario had been written! I look forward to tracking these down for a read :-)

  8. Just reading Red Gambit series on book 5, set a bit earlier in August 1945 great read and lets you use lots of existing models

  9. Another couple of books with a twist during this eta are Harold Coyle The 10,000 and Larry Bond's Cauldron. German's vs Americans and Polish/Americans vs German/French could make for some interesting battle ideas.

  10. If my opponent expect to find hordes he will b disappointed, I plan to go heavy on expensive BMP-2 motostrelky with many support units and use only a few T-72 as chep support, perhaps to bait the enemies to take shots at them who have more armor while I strike their armor with ATGM's, or use them to pound enemy infantry in cover. All in all I expect the number of miniatures on the able will be rather similar on each side. Unless my enemy is heavy on using only M1's in which case they will be ill equipped to deal with the infantry.

  11. Great reviews and breakdowns. I have read some and now have a few to look at. Can I suggest Andy Farmans Armaggedon series. The second to the fifth are full of land naval and air scenarios. With the 82nd Airborne playing a support role to the Coldstream guards. Hms navy with others facing the soviets. In book 5 its moved beyond European countries to Australia. Plenty for a player to gain ideas from.

  12. Excellent post and replies guys, I'd post more but I am off to Amazon now. Thanks for all the reading tips.