Book Review: Can You Beat Churchill?: Teaching History through Simulations


by Michael A. Barnhart

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2021. Pp. x, 188. Tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $22.96 paper. ISBN: 1501758292

Learning through Wargaming

Remarking that “History did not lead me to games. Games led me to history” (p. 1), Prof. Barnhart (Stony Brook), gives a valuable tour through the uses of simulations – whether over-the-counter wargames for hobbyists and buffs or specially designed simulations for academic use – in the teaching of history.

Barnhart opens with a number of short chapters discussing the nature of simulations, how role playing works, the rules that guide play, how to integrate simulations into the curriculum, the role of the instructor in managing play, and the mechanics of gaming.

Barnhart follows these with a chapter on selecting appropriate games and then some general conclusions, and adds an appendix on how to find appropriate games.

Throughout, Barnhart frequently makes reference to historical events to help explain how things can be modeled in gaming, mentions numerous games with some lessons earned from play, and admits that thus far no one has done better than Churchill.

Although Barnhart doesn’t mention that some commercially available wargames (e.g., Origins of World War II ) actually include recommendations for classroom use, and some gaming magazines have similar suggestions, Can You Beat Churchill is valuable book for educators and game designers.




Note: Can You Beat Churchill is also available in shard cover and e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium (


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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