Some wargames books are simply a pleasure to read.
Henry Hyde’s Wargaming Compendium falls into that category. I recently invested in a hardback copy of the book, after making do with the Kindle version for a year or so. Eventually the lure of the eye candy was just too much to resist!
Henry’s book is very much in the tradition of old school wargames writing – think of it as a modern take on Don Featherstone’s seminal volumes. It’s a debt that Henry pays in full, not least in the fascinating section on the growth of wargames literature in the chapter which details the hobby’s history.
This chapter – ‘A History Of Wargaming’ – is actually one of my favourite parts of the book. The author covers the ‘birth of the toy warrior’, the adoption of wargames by the military, the early years of amateur gaming, the post-war expansion, the emergence of affordable miniatures, and the golden years of wargames literature. The chapter continues by covering modern developments and one or two controversies, for example the role of Games Workshop and the ‘Black Powder controversy’. It’s a delightful and very thorough overview of the subject, and puts the current situation of the hobby into a clear context.
The chapter on ‘Basic Concepts Of Wargaming’ is helfpul for newcomers, and also acts as a useful reminder of some of our basic assumptions as gamers regarding scales of figure, landscape, time and how the vagaries of chance can be translated onto the tabletop. The chapter on ‘Choosing A Period’ is brief but thorough.
Henry really drills down into the fine detail of the hobby in the chapters covering the production of terrain and the painting of miniatures. These contain everything the newcomer needs to get started, but also contains tips and ideas that this seasoned veteran for one certainly found useful – I’m currently consulting the excellent section on painting horses (always a bugbear for me!).
The chapter on different sizes of wargame – ‘From Small To Large’ – starts with gladiatorial combat, then moves through the skirmish (using a detailed Wild West shoot-out scenario as illustration) right the way through to pitched battles on the grand scale. As with every other section of the book, Henry combines a plethora of tools and tips with wonderful illustrations, and comprehensive resources that bring the ideas to life – for example a printable Roman arena, and highly detailed Wild West skirmish rules. Nor does the author neglect the campaigning aspect of the game; there are 24 pages on the subject including a ruleset!
Talking of rules, the book includes Henry’s own rules for the Horse & Musket era – ‘Shot, Steel & Stone’. This is not really my wargames period, so I’ve only skimmed the rules, but they are as comprehensive as one might expect from what has gone before. He follows up this chapter with another that provides a detailed walkthrough of an encounter using the rules, which should help a newcomer put them into context.
Also included is a chapter on ‘Advice For The Digital Age’ – which includes some very sound tips on getting the most out of your digital camera when photographing miniatures – and a comprehensive section on resources.
Another of my favourite chapters is the one on ‘Other Aspects Of Wargaming’. This crams in short sections on naval, air and pirate wargames; role playing and pulp gaming; multiplayer gaming; and – last but certainly not least! – a few pages on solo wargaming that even includes a mention of this blog!
All in all it’s a great read, a beautifully produced book that’s copiously illustrated and well thought out. It’s destined for classic status in my humble opinion, and should take its place on every wargamer’s bookshelf next to volumes by Don Featherstone, Stuart Asquith, Charles Grant and Terence Wise.