Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Wargaming Compendium

Henry Hyde's massive work, The Wargaming Compendium (TWC), arrived in the post this week.  Massive?  Quite.  TWC is 520 pages in length and truly is a compendium detailing our hobby. The book has been lingering in my Amazon Wish List since pre-publication.  Why wait so long?  Since I have been active in wargaming for more than 40 years and wondered what a general wargaming compendium could offer, I was reluctant to "pull the pin" so to speak and make the purchase.  I am not disappointed with that decision.

Production quality of this tome is outstanding.  I have always admired Henry's layout skills and his hand is evident in this work.  Handsomely laid out in a large font (great for aging eyes), the book is filled with color photos of games and models.  Divided into color-coded chapters or sections, the color coded tabs on each page edge make for a quick and clever method for pinpointing a topic of interest.  Photography throughout the book is first rate. Having listened to podcasts of Henry conversing with Neil Shuck on Meeples & Miniatures, I could hear Henry's relaxed, conversational style of speaking as I read.  That connection was quite enjoyable as if Henry was in the room discussing the book with me.

As noted, TWC is compiled into eleven chapters preceded by a Forward from Charles S. Grant and an Introduction from Henry, himself.  The following chapters include:

  1. Basic Concepts of Wargaming       
  2. A History of Wargaming
  3. Choosing a Period
  4. Something to Fight For
  5. Assembling Your Forces
  6. From Small to Large
  7. Shot, Steel, & Stone
  8. Learn by Playing
  9. Other Aspects of Wargaming
  10. Advice for the Digital Age
  11. Resources

These eleven chapters are then followed by a Bibliography, Index, and Afterword.

TWC leads the wargamer or casual reader through a tour de force of wargaming by logically progressing from overviews of the hobby triad of collecting and painting figures, modeling terrain for the tabletop, and playing the game.  For the reader new to the hobby, this book would be an indispensable introduction.  My maturation in the hobby has been founded on a multi-decades, informal education; picking up tidbits of information when I could and much reliance on self-discovery.  Self-discovery to me, is part of the allure to any hobby and especially wargaming.  Prior to the Age of Internet these "discoveries" were much more difficult to uncover. Being a seasoned veteran, with much campaigning behind me, many of the topics are very familiar.  Are there still tidbits be be gleaned from these sections? Of course!  

The History of Wargaming chapter I found particularly enjoyable.  Summarized within are many of the books I have treasured over the last 40 years.  Classics many of them.  Some I have yet to sample.  How would the interested readers know where they are headed unless a solid foundation of where they have been is retold?  This, Henry does well.  Very pleased to see Wesencraft receive more than a passing mention. For me, his works are the classics.  Separate sections on Games Workshop and Black Powder, I could have done without. 

Following the History of Wargaming chapter, the meat of the book is consumed by describing wargames' preparation.  These include very thorough discussions on selecting a period and scale, figure painting, and terrain building.  This three-chapter nucleus forms a solid basis for any newcomer to the hobby.  This hobby foundation takes up over one third of the book.  Quite extensive! 

What would a wargaming compendium be without rules?  I say, incomplete.  TWC includes several rulesets that the reader can use without outlaying any additional cash.  Included are rules for gladiatorial combat and a horse and musket period game.  Given Henry's affection for horse and musket gaming, this is a natural inclusion.  The horse and musket rules, themselves, entitled, "Shot, Steel & Stone" are lavishly illustrated with artwork from the renowned artist, Bob Marrion.  I have several books with Marrion's illustrations and each one is a gem.  The uniforms plates within TWC are no exception.  Beautiful work.

While geared toward the neophyte in our hobby, TWC is a worthy addition to anyone's personal library.  If a similar compendium was available when I came into the hobby many years ago, my wargaming evolution may have been more focused.  "More focused?"  With the number of periods I dabble in, I clearly could have used some focus and direction or maybe not?  

For the variety, depth, and production quality contained herein, TWC is a bargain and destined to become a classic.

10 comments:

  1. I may have to pick up a copy someday as it sounds interesting!

    Christopher

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    1. It is interesting! Also,a very handy aggregation and explanation of the hobby.

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  2. Great review, I have had it in my Amazon basket for weeks. Time to pull the trigger!

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    1. Thanks, Monty! I hope when you receive it that you find it an enjoyable addition to your wargaming library.

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  3. I too have been sitting on the fence about this one for some time, and for similar reasons. I shall have to consider desceding from that somewhat uncomfortable perch!

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    1. Sounds like many of us grognards have been fence sitting on this one. At $40, I think it is a bargain.

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  4. It's in my Amazon's wish list fro weeks now... time to reassess again after reading your comments
    I'll probably buy the Kindle version

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    1. The electronic version is more convenient for mobility but there is something comforting to me in actually having the book in hand. The photography is really good.

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  5. Happy to hear you added the tome to your collection, Jonathan. Sounds like you really wanted it and got it at a good price. My reading collection is more of a visual thing - gotta have lots of pictures :)! Best, Dean

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    1. Well, Dean, Hyde's book has plenty of pictures!

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