OK, so I bought it…

With the half price sale on at the moment and the recommendation of my mate Scott, I went ahead and bought a copy of Warhammer Waterloo.  I thought the rules might be good to convert for Marlburians and in any case, that it would be pretty.  I was right on both counts!  I really like the gist of the rules, the fact that they will play well with just a few units, and they seem easily convertible for earlier periods.  It is astonishingly pretty.  I would not hesitate to call it the most beautifully presented wargaming rulebook of all time.  Everything is laid out in a (to me) sensible order, the photos of games being played and the full colour diagrams make it a joy to leaf through.

My largest beef with Black Powder is that I didn’t think they worked well for playing out the table-top teasers and wargames scenarios of Charles Grant because the command and control system didn’t suit only having a few units.  Warhammer Waterloo will be perfect for playing out teasers – from smaller scale games of only two or three units a side to a dozen a side – with ease.

Of course, this all comes with a warning. Under absolutely no circumstances should a Wargames Butterfly not currently intending on embarking upon a Napoleonic project go anywhere near this book!  Keep away, whatever you do!  I now have hithertofore unplanned boxes of British and French Perry plastic infantry on their way from Caliver Books along with some artillery for both sides from Old Glory 25s.

I hope plastic mountains have the same life-giving powers as lead mountains.






Some inspiration

While I finish off my War of Spanish Succession armies, there could be nothing grander than being inspired by the book ‘le Roy Soleil’ with plates by Maurice Leloir.  I got Dan to grab this for me from Amazon while he was overseas (saves vast amounts on postage that way), and he delivered it to me yesterday.

For those unfamiliar with this work, it is a large book filled with full-page pictures which truly evoke the age of Louis XIV.  They are too big for my scanner to do the work, so here is a page I found with google image search showing the Dragonnades – the expulsion of the Protestants from France:

Personal highlights are the burning of Heidelberg, the Battle of the Dunes and the cavalry battle at Malplaquet.  Leloir has an accurate, animated style, and the characters in his plate have real personality.  First printed in 1931, I’m glad that it is still around. It is only available in French, and my French has deteriorated over the years, but I can still get the gist of the text.  But even if you don’t read a word of the language, the plates say it all really. I’ll be looking to colour photocopy a few and frame them up for the wall of my wargames shed.


All quiet on the miniature front

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). 


Ancient Warfare and Maori Fortifications


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.