I took out the trial subscription to Ancient Warfare magazine just to see what it would be like. This is 6 months (3 issues) for 10.65 Euros. It seemed like a good price for a trial so away I went. Having received my first issue this week, what do I think? Excellent. I already have Bob Bennet and Mike Roberts’ book on the Wars of the Diadochi, and thoroughly enjoyed it. As such, a lot of this was not new to me. However, without that background there is a wealth of information here for a newcomer to the period.
A walk through the contents first up gives a very good overview of the period by Bennet and Roberts. This is followed by a very interesting piece on fortification in the Successor period focusing on Philon of Byzantium. Next is a biography of Demetrius Poliorcetes by Pat Wheatley. This is a competent overview, although there was nothing new here for me after having read Bennet and Roberts. After this Joseph Pietrykowski looks at the Macedonian military machine and its employment by the Successors. I found this very useful as a wargamer. Next is a description of the battle of Gabiene by Micale Park. This is a competent and torough article well illustrated with two clear battle maps.
An archaeological report on Sarissa finds, an article on Gladiators, a reconstruction of a naval carpenter from the excavations at Herculaneum and an article on Vegetius are next. Finally there are reviews and a description of the picture on the front cover rounds out the magazine.
There is certainly a lot here, and the magazine does a fantastic job of bringing current scholarship to the fore in a readable way. There is obviously a pattern for the articles, and the idea of devoting half of the magazine to a particular topic is a good one. What I loved about it was its aesthetic quality. The magazine is all in colour, chock full of diagrams, photographs and full page colour plates. I’m no expert on the ancient world but I do have a lively interest and consider myself well read in the area. So for a magazine to grip me and teach me something new rather than rehash the same old information, as some Military History magazines do, is a pleasurable rarity. My final verdict? When my trial subscription ends I will take out out a full subscription. Alongside Battlegames, it is the best magazine I have found in a long time.
My second review is of the Osprey fortification series volume on Maori fortifications. There had been some eyebrow raising on various fora over this book as the author is Ian Knight, a respected British historian, but someone seldom associated with scholarship on the NZ Wars. I have to say that he has done an admirable job in putting this book together. He begins with pre-European pa (hillforts), goes on to speak about the development of the gun-fighting pa during the Musket Wars, and then the subsequent use of pa in the New Zealand Wars of the 1840s-60s.
The text is evenly balanced in that it avoids falling into one side or the other on the revisionist debates surrounding this conflict. This is probably the advantage of distance that Ian Knight has. His narrative is clear and unbogged by controversies. Given the size of the volume and the audience, this is a good thing.
The only real problem with this book is that being solely about fortification it can’t look at raiding tactics, the political context or strategic plans and options of the commanders in any detail. An elite or campaign volume on the New Zealand Wars would be appreciated as an accompaniment. For wargamers, the Northern War, the Waikato War and the campaigns of Titokowaru and Te Kooti beg for closer attention, to provide more uniform detail and potential scenarios.
What the book does do, though, is give the fantastic Osprey treatment to an aspect of the NZ Wars. The plates by Adam Hook are excellent, and the colour photos and diagrams complement the text perfectly. There is enough here to whet the appetite and to come up with various scenarios for several periods of New Zealand history. My hope is that the book sells well, that accompanying Osprey volumes will appear, and that the war will begin to attract more attention amongst wargamers.