Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wargaming in History - Book Review

On saturday I received a long awaited shipment of books from Ken Trotman Ltd. ( ) containing the latest book written by Charles S. Grant, with Phil Olley, titled: Wargaming in History Volume 1 The Seven Years War, Krefeld, Sandershausen and Lutterberg - 1758. This is a hardcover book of 140 pages published by Ken Trotman and promises to be the first in a series of books that are designed to emulate the old Knight's Battles for Wargamers series that were published in the 1970s and early 1980.

Here are some of the particulars: the book is divided into five chapters (An Introduction to Wargaming; The Seven Years War; the 1758 Campaign in Western Germany including the battle of Krefeld; the Campaign to Sandershausen; and the battle of Lutterberg). The text is complemented by 29 color photographs of the three battles in various stages of progress and 17 original colored drawings by noted wargame illustrator, Bob Marrion. There are also 5 campaign maps and 3 wargame maps showing the reader how to set up each of the battles as a table top action.

Each of the battles has a different and unique focus. The first one, Krefeld, is a large set piece battle that will appeal to anyone with a bias towards the big battles (you know, someone like me). The second action, Sandershausen, is a smaller delaying action that can be fought in its entirety without scaling down the historical forces in order to fit everything on the tabletop. And finally, Lutterberg is a big battle, but is an example of how to take a smaller slice of the battle and convert it into a wargame scenario for almost any table size.

Let me just come out and say it, this is the best wargaming book that I have ever seen, and read, and I think that it even surpasses The Wargame by Mr. Grant's father, Charles Grant. I am certain that ten or twenty years from now there will be wargamers who talk about how this book stimulated their interest and excitement in wargaming as a hobby. It is that good.

Mr. Grant's writing style is a pleasure to read and has a conversational style that makes the reader feel like he is there in the game room having a chat with the author. One of the things that I like about the book is the way that Grant provides the reader with the background to the battle, then he goes through the explanation of how he would wargame said battle. There follows a narrative of the game in process, with both Grant and his partner, Phil Olley, talking about how they approached the tactical problems of the game and how the outcome compared with their expectations. Sometimes a game narrative can become a plodding affair to read, but not so in these three battles. I think that many a reader will go back and want to read the accounts over and over again.

And did I mention the high "eye candy" quotient in this book? There are 29 color photagraphs, by my count, composed and photographed by Phil Olley and each picture is a little gem. Charles Grant recounts how he has had to replace his venerable Spencer Smith plastic figures, due to brittleness and breakage of the plastic over time, with RSM and state of the art Minden Miniatures figures for his French-like army of the Grand Duchy of Lorraine. Phil has opted for an all Front Rank Figures army of Prussian-like Pils Holstein infantry and cavalry. Both armies are colorful to behold and grace some simple, but fabulous looking terrain.

It is fun perusing the photos in detail and picking out some of the famous buildings made by Grant Pere that we all came to know and love from The Wargame and from countless Tabletop Teaser articles. Grant Fils is equally adept at constructing wonderful looking buildings and terrain pieces - like father like son, it is all good.

Finally, I should make mention of the color illustrations drawn by Bob Marrion. These are found in a section titled, "A Taste of the Exotic" and cover the various light infantry and cavalry that fought in the small Kleine Krieg actions during the war. Subjects include full color treatment of Prussian freikorps units, Austrian Grenzers, French light troops and some Hanoverians. Each picture would make for a suitable painting guide for any wargamer.

There are no shortage of good things that I can say about this wonderful book, so I shall conclude by simply stating that if you like wargaming (especially the 18th century), then you need buy this book and add it to your collection. Like me, you will probably find it hard to put down and you will read and reread it over and over again.


  1. But did you like it, Jim?

    *grin* . . . okay, you make me want to get it . . . but my budget is currently blown thanks to the Holidays . . . so I'll have to wait a few months to see if I can afford it then.

    -- Jeff

  2. Hopefully Santa is bringing me a copy , I look forward even more to it now !.

  3. I enjoyed your review and it whets my appetite for the book - maybe as a birthday present in a couple of months.


  4. While I agree with your assesment of Mr. Grant's writing style, very easy to read, I was disappointed in the book. Really only for one reason. I love Phil Olley's painting style and bought the book for that reason alone. Teh book is too small (physical dimensions) and although the pictures are beautiful, they are too small and hard to see. Hardly inspiring.

    On the other hand they have some nice pictures of ubiquitous troops from Prussian and Austria and that is nice as it is now an additional resource for uniforms of the period.

    Just my 2 cents. But as Jim says I think it a good read.


  5. Hmm! I have some Xmas money burning a hole in my pocket... ;)

    Thanks for the review.

  6. Well I don't know about anybody else, but your review made me want this book, to accompany my many other works of Charles. I have ordered 2 copies today, for myself and Richard :-)

    Have a great Xmas everyone, especially you Jim and keep the SYW stuff coming in 2010!!