Magazine Review

A recent trip to my local branch of WHSmith gave me the opportunity to buy the latest copies of each of the main glossy wargames magazines that are widely available in the UK. As two of them have changed hands – and styles – quite recently I thought that I would look at all three and make some comments.

Miniature Wargames (October 2009 – Number 318)

This issue covers:

  • Show Reports on Historicon 2009 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and Battlegroup South 2009 (Bovington, Dorset) – Lots of photos of wargames (and people playing wargames) with a well-written commentary about both shows
  • Air War 1941 –This is a short scenario for an air battle using the ‘CHECK YOUR 6!’ rules accompanied by a report of how the scenario played out
  • The War of the Successors Part 4: The Naval Actions – A mainly historical article with ideas on how to refight the naval aspects of the War as a campaign
  • Towton 1461 – An historical article with a section that explains how the battle could be re-fought as a wargame
  • Dunkeld 1689 – Another mainly historical article with a short section that explains how the battle might be re-created as a wargame
  • Assault on the Bettel Berg 1809 – This article includes a short description of the battle and a scenario that was originally published in BATTLES FOR EMPIRE – NAPOLEONIC WARGAME SCENARIOS 1807 – 1809 by James R Arnold and Ralph R Reinersten
  • Byte the Bullet: Computers at Eggmuhl – a short article about a computer-moderated figure game that was featured at Historicon 2009
  • Salem Church 1863 – Yet another historical article with a section about how to re-fight the battle on the tabletop
  • Dark Horizons – This is a new section in the magazine; it covers all aspects of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Alternative History wargaming
  • A Dark Age Watchtower Made Simple – A well illustrated ‘how to’ article
  • Reconnaissance Report & Diary
  • Figure Reviews
  • Book Reviews

All-in-all, this magazine has not changed a great deal since Ian Dickie handed it over to its new owner and editor. Its photos tend to look less staged than in other magazines and its layout has been updated. From my own point-of-view there was not a lot in this issue for me – my interests being much more orientated towards the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Wargames Illustrated (October 2009 – Number 264)

This issue is billed as a World War One special and covers:

  • The Western Front 1914 – 1915 – An historical overview of the first seventeen months of the First World War
  • The Successors – An introductory historical article that outlines the main protagonists in and events of the wars that followed the death of Alexander the Great
  • Airborne Landing Rules – A short historical article about the major airborne landings that took place during World War II and a set of rules – designed to be used with the FLAMES OF WAR rules system – on how to recreate them
  • Attack Everything! – An historical article (and a scenario for the WINGS OF WAR rules) about Lieutenant Hawker’s attack on the Zeppelin shed at Gontrode on 19th April 1915
  • Late Medieval Irish Armies – An well illustrated article that describes the main types of troops found in the Irish armies of the late Middle Ages
  • Zeppelin Hanger – A ‘how to’ article about building a Zeppelin shed
  • Eyes and Ears – Another historical ‘tie-in’ article for the FLAMES OF WAR rules system, this time about the role of reconnaissance units in the American, German, British, and Russian Armies
  • Reno’s assault at Little Big Horn – An historical article with a section that explains how the battle could be re-fought as a wargame
  • The Big Push – Another historical article – this time about the Battle of Loos – with a section that explains how a part of the battle can be recreated as a wargame
  • Spotlight – A review of a range of plastic fantasy figures that have recently been launched by Mantic Games
  • St. Oedenrode – A scenario for a FLAMES OF WAR wargame involving elements of the 101st US Airborne Division and a German Fallschirmjäger Kampfgruppe
  • Painting a WW1 Highland Officer – A ‘how to’ article about painting a 28mm Scottish Infantry Officer
  • Historicon ’09 Show Report Part 2 – An article that mainly covers the speakers who presented sessions at Historicon ’09, including Scott Bowden, First Sgt. (Ret) Matthew Eversmann, US Army, René Chartrand, David Glanz, Keith Rocco, and Todd Fisher (winner of the Scruby Award for 2009)
  • The problem of trenches – An article that discussed the problems of recreating trenches on the table top as well as suggesting how the problems can be solved
  • How to customise your scenery – A short, well illustrated ‘how to’ article that show the reader how to improve commercially produced pieces of terrain
  • Rules Roundup – This article reviews all the major wargames rules that cover World War One and that are currently available.
  • Club Focus – This spotlights the activities of Golf Company (a wargames group based in Columbus, Ohio) who are part of the Game Korps wargames organisation
  • Reviews

This is a much thicker magazine than Miniature Wargames (116 pages as against 72 pages in MW), but it does appear to be dominated by commercial ‘tie-ins’, especially with FLAMES OF WAR. This is hardly surprising bearing in mind who now owns the title, but I do find this somewhat of a distraction. That said, I did find more things of personal interest to me within its pages, and I do like the layout and use of photos, maps, and colour illustrations.

Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy (September 2009 – Number 47)

This issue includes a boardgame about the Battle of Quatre Bras as well as:

  • News – This covers the Alpha Ares Games Days 2009, the Third Atlántica Juegos Impetus Tournament, and the new Spanish wargames company, Cosas Wargame
  • Miniatures Review – A very well illustrated guide to newly released wargames figures
  • Publications – A short review of SNAPPY NAPPY and the 2nd edition of BATTLEGROUP PANZERGRENADIER
  • Impetus Hispanicus – A review of the recently published IMPETUS Ancients wargames rules (written by Lorenzo Sartori) and details about the 2009 Impetus Tournaments that have taken place in Spain
  • Zama, Scipio in Africa, 204 – 202 B.C. – An historical article that covers the background to the Battle of Zama
  • Recreating Zama with FoG and Impetus – A pair of articles that explain how the Battle of Zama can be refought using either the FIELD OF GLORY or IMPETUS rules systems
  • WW2. Race in the dark – An historical article about the Battle of the Bulge and the fighting around Bastogne
  • Clean this boil out! Scenario FoW – A short scenario for a FLAMES OF WAR battle between elements of the 101st US Airborne Division and 15th, 26th, and 2nd Panzer Divisions on Christmas Day, 1944
  • Dossier – Quatre Bras 1815
    • ¿Que voulez-vous que je fasse?, The Battle of Quatre Bras – A blow-by-blow account of the battle told in the form of despatches from the major commanders
    • The “Forgotten Men” of Quatre Bras – An article about the role of the Dutch-Belgian forces that took part in the battle
    • The Frenchies are coming! – A short campaign game that puts the players into the role of a battery or cavalry squadron in the French Army that is advancing upon Quatre Bras
  • Interview with … El Mercenario – A interview with Javier and David Gomez, who form the EL MERCENARIO painting team
  • Step-by-step – The second part of a ‘how to’ article about the construction and painting of a Northern Spanish hermitage
  • Virtual War – a review of the latest computer-based wargames

This is the thinnest of the three magazine (it only has 66 pages) and the translation into English can be a little quirky at times; however there is something very endearing about it, and of the three I have reviewed, this is the one I actually look forward to reading most. The boardgame that came with this issue is very nicely presented, and although I will not play it, the map will no doubt be very useful at some time in the future.

Conclusions

There is no outstanding ‘winner’ amongst these three major wargames magazines as far as I am concerned. They all have their weaknesses and their strengths, and I will probably continue to buy them each month if there is at least one article that interests me in an issue. That said, if I was only able to buy one of them, it would probably be Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy because I like its slight eccentricity and quirkiness as well as its coverage of the somewhat too often neglected European wargaming scene.


When Empires Clash! – Colonial Wars: A progress report

Having finally developed a layout that I like, I have begun to draft the revised draft of the Colonial version of my WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! rules.

So far I have been working on the General Rules section, and I have made the following changes:

  • The addition of two sets of numbered ‘chits’ – one set for each side – to the list of equipment needed to fight battles using the rules
  • European and European-style infantry will be allowed to form a small tactical square within a single grid square by placing the stands back-to-back

The activation ‘chits’ will be used by each side to indicate the order in which units will be activated during their turn, and are a development of an idea put forward by two of the people who have play-tested the rules. Likewise the suggestion that European and European-style infantry be allowed to form small tactical squares came from play-tester feedback.

These additions show how important play-testing is in the development of a set of rules.


25,000 hits!

Another milestone was reached today when this blog had its 25,000th ‘hit’.

I had no idea when I started this blog that it would be as popular with readers as it has become … so thanks to everyone who reads my blog, and an especial thanks to those of you who take the time to send me comments.

I wonder how long will it be before it reaches 50,000?


Donald Featherstone’s Lost Tales

Just over a year ago the first book I made a blog entry about was the reprint of Donald Featherstone’s WARGAMES. Today John Curry sent me a preview copy of the latest book to be published in his HISTORY OF WARGAMING PROJECT – DONALD FEATHERSTONE’S LOST TALES (ISBN 978 1 4092 9431 3).


This book is a compilation of various articles, monographs, and wargames rules that Don has written over the years. Some saw the light of day on the pages of the old WARGAMERS NEWSLETTER, whilst others have been hitherto unknown. The fact that James F Dunnigan has written the foreword indicates the seminal nature of Don’s contribution to wargaming.

The book includes the following sections and chapters:

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Section 1: Modern Wargaming – How it all Began
  • Section 2: My War – Sergeant Featherstone 7893763
  • Section 3: Wargaming Rules
    • Rules for Ancient Wargames, 300BC – AD500
    • Medieval Rules by Tony Bath
    • God for Harry, England and St. George! Wargames Rules for the Medieval period
    • Rules for the English Civil War
    • Rules for the 1750 period in Europe by Tony Bath
    • Napoleonic Rules
    • American Civil War Rules
    • Rules for the late 19th Century (Including Colonial Wars against Natives)
    • 1917 German South West Africa including Rules for early Tanks, Armoured Cars etc.
    • A simplified set of World War II Rules
  • Section 4: Battle Rules
    • Realistic Rules for Wargaming the Peninsular War
    • Realistic Rules for the Gallic and Punic Wars
  • The Holy Grail of Wargaming
  • Appendix: A Short History of the 51st Battalion Royal Tank Regiment

This is truly a book not to be missed by anyone with an interest in wargaming, particularly ‘Old School Wargaming’, and I thoroughly recommend it.

I don’t have a price for this book, but it should be available soon from John Curry Events, Lulu, Amazon, and Waterstone’s.


I saw it … and could not resist buying it!

Having written about Rudi Geuden’s website in general and his latest project – ‘To Arms!’ – in particular, I just could not resist buying a copy of Osprey’s THE BELGIAN ARMY IN WORLD WAR I (MAA No. 452; ISBN 978 1 84603 448 0; Price £9.99/$17.95) when I saw it today in the local bookshop.

The book is written by Ronald Pawly and Pierre Lierneux, and illustrated by Patrice Courcelle. Its chapter titles are:

  • Historical Background
  • The Military Situation in 1914
  • Invasion
  • Rebuilding the Army
  • The Watch on the Yser, 1915 – 17
  • Liberation
  • The Belgian Air Force
  • The Appearance of the Belgian Infantryman
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Plate Commentaries

I have yet to read the book, but a quick flick through seems to indicate that it is well up to the usual standards of Osprey’s MEN-AT-ARMS series.


Driving … can give you time to think

I do some of my best thinking … whilst I am driving.

Don’t get me wrong … I concentrate on what I am doing when I am driving … but for some reason it is often whilst I am driving that my subconscious seems to be able to process all the possible solutions to a problem … and suddenly an answer comes into my mind!

This happened today. As it was Saturday my wife and I had the weekly shopping to do as well as paying a visit to my father – who lives in South East Essex – and to my father-in-law – who lives in North East Kent. As a result I spent quite a lot of time today driving along the main roads of Kent and Essex.

As will be obvious from my earlier blog entry of today, I have been having problems with choosing a layout for the next draft of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! It has been occupying a lot of my thoughts – and time – over the past few days, and I could not seem to find a solution.

On the drive back from Kent earlier this evening it suddenly struck me that rather than try to sort out a layout for the full version of the rules, why didn’t I experiment with the Colonial version first. If I could get that right, the full version would be much easier to do … and this is the course of action I have decided upon.

Decision made! … and work on the latest draft of WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! – COLONIAL VARIANT starts tomorrow!


When Empires Clash! – A few minor hiccups with the layout

I have been experimenting with several different layouts for the latest draft of the rules, but none seem to work quite how I want them to.

I am dithering between having a simple sidebar tab that readers will be able to use to find a particular section in the rules, and just using simple headings at the top of each page. The former looks nicer, but if readers want to print their copy of the rules back-to-back (i.e. on both sides of a piece of paper), the sidebar has to be switched from the left to the right side of the page or visa versa depending upon the page number; the latter layout is easier to produce, but the facility that would allow readers to quickly ‘thumb through’ the rules may be lost or seriously impaired.

I am still undecided as to which style of layout I should choose. I have had suggestions from regular readers of my blog regarding both options … and as I have said, I have experimented with several different layouts this week. Until I make my final decision, progress on the new draft is somewhat stymied.

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!