It’s raining and exams are coming. Time is at a premium and motivation a bit low. I haven’t got back into the painting groove that I had last term when I churned out the Marlburians. So I’ve done very little constructive wargaming stuff. I painted a couple of houses and a church from the Total Battle Miniatures range, completed 2 units of Legionaries for John’s Imperial Roman FoG army, and I’m about half way through 6 WWI Germans from Great War minis. I made a couple of corner pieces for modular hills so that I can arrange them in different ways.
I was going to do a photo report for the Frolics in Frankenberg blog of a raid during the siege of Dolfstein, but the light has been poor and I’ve been putting it off. I might manage it this weekend with any luck. I’m hoping I get back into the painting groove very soon.
I have managed a read of a couple of the latest Ospreys. The Marne 1914 campaign title, and the first 2 books in the command series – Napoleon and von Manstein. The Marne has some lovely little details that I could adapt as scenarios, although I was already aware of the struggle at the chateau of Mondemont which is one of the better described moments in the book. I really enjoyed Graham Turner’s plates in this book, particularly the battery of French 75s.
The command series is typically Osprey. Quite light with some nice illustrations, the chapter format is: Introduction; The Early Years; The Military Life; The Hour of Destiny; Opposing Commanders; When war is done; Inside the mind; A life in words.
I wasn’t impressed with the Napoleon title. This is probably a result of having read in such depth on the subject in the past, therefore a summary of his career was always going to struggle to engage me. I really expected a lot more analysis of his command style, of his opinions on tactics and influence on the art of war. What I got was a potted history with some words about his megalomania, which has been done elsewhere. I wasn’t even very impressed with Peter Dennis’ paintings (and I regard him very highly as the natural successor to Angus McBride). Napoleon didn’t really look like Napoleon, and the plates were all rather static.
On the other hand, I really quite enjoyed the von Manstein book. For some reaon I expected it to be laudatory of the Marshal, but what I got was critical and balanced. Two of Adam Hook’s illustrations show von Manstein’s troops in battle, and one shows him at the table with his staff. This is what I would have liked to have seen in the Napoleon book.
As the second book in the series I was a bit surprised at this choice of commander, expecting that Alexander the Great would have been the natural person to look at alongside Napoleon. I’m assuming that Osprey has targeted WWII generals as this is their biggest selling area. The releases for the future include Patton, Rommel and Montgomery. God knows MacArthur will turn up, maybe Bradley, Guderian etc. There are plenty of more important commanders from history out there, but feed the hoi-poloi first I guess. I am glad to see that Marlborough is about the 9th book in the series, written by Angus Konstam. I like Angus’ writing, but as with the Napoleon volume, I have read so much on Marlborough I doubt that he can tell me anything new in the space of an Osprey. Still, I will buy it for completeness, I’m sure.
So the overall verdict on the Osprey command series? As a means of introduction to those without prior knowledge, they are very good. If I’d picked up the Napoleon volume when I was 13 it would quite possibly have become my favourite book (which at that time, incidentally, was H A L Fisher’s tiny volume on Napoleon – I slept with it under my pillow! Only because that was what Alexander the Great did with the Iliad… I was a very nerdy child…). I assume that at least some of the appeal of the von Manstein book was that I didn’t know a great deal about the man, and that the minutiae of operations on the Eastern Front in WWII is invariably new and refreshing to me. Nevertheless, I have pre-ordered the book on Julius Caesar, and can imagine that I will pick up Marlborough, Henry V and Robert E Lee when they are released. But I’ll pass on Patton (yawn), Rommel (overexposed), Monty (ditto) and Hideyoshi Toyotomi (you’re kidding me – a series looking at great commanders and this guy is released before Genghis Khan?!?!). It isn’t that I’m anti-WWII, just that I’d prefer to read about guys like O’Connor, Yamashita, Rokossovsky, Model, Rundstedt etc that don’t already have a vast literature dedicated to them. When we get to the true greats – Alexander, Genghis, Turenne, Belisarius, Scipio Africanus, Hannibal, Eugene, Frederick the Great, Saladin, von Moltke, Grant, Sherman, Haig, Foch etc – then I can see myself buying regularly. Some I will buy for the sake of completeness (eg. Alexander, Frederick), others because of a paucity of texts in English (eg. Turenne, Belisarius, Eugene).