Thursday 19 August 2021

Book Review: Wargames Terrain & Buildings - WWI Trench Systems by Douglas Hardy

The latest addition to the Wargames Terrain and Buildings series of books from Pen and Sword is WWI Trench Systems by Douglas Hardy. It is good to see that they are expanding the series with different authors (not that there is anything wrong with Tony Harwood's books). As the title suggests this book concentrates on trenches which means it is more aimed at terrain boards rather than scatter terrain.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out (as the book does in the introduction) that, although it is aimed at WWI trench systems, the techniques shown will work just as well for any period that uses trenches, whether it be late ACW or right through to sci-fi games. 

The book is divided into several sections that cover using (and improving) commercially available trench terrain, scratch building trench systems, specific projects, and finally a great selection of reference photos of either original trenches or reconstructions at various museums across Europe.

The first thing that the book looks at is the materials that will be needed. These run from simple items like cocktail sticks and coffee stirrers to specialised adhesives and insulation foam.

Then we get into the guts of the book with building a trench table using commercially available trench systems. Douglas covers a selection of different commercially available systems, both foam-based and vacuum formed.
The book covers improving the bought pieces by adding details and also the painting process.

The next part of the book looks at scratch building a trench system. This was the section that was of most interest to me as I feel it will offer the opportunity to produce the most realistic-looking table and it also gives me the freedom to design a system that fits my needs, rather than assembling a bought system. Now clearly there is going to be more work involved in creating your table from scratch rather than buying a pre-made system. However, as I am a professional model maker it is just the way I prefer to go.

The book covers everything from the layering up of foam sheets and cutting the trenches into them through adding planking, sandbags, barbed wire and other details. Then finishes off with the painting.

Next up we move on to "Projects" which covers adding specific terrain items to your trench table to add a little more interest (and possibly objectives for games). Again a very useful chapter that is well written. However, I did find it a little odd that Douglas chose to base one of the projects around a piece of commercially produced terrain that has been out of production for many years and is therefore going to be extremely difficult for readers to get a hold of.

The final section of the book is an extensive collection of photographs of original trenches or reconstructions. This is something that I feel has been missing from the previous books in this series. This is a real boon for anyone wanting to build a trench system as it gives us an accurate picture of what the real thing looked like rather than just ideas from our own imagination or captured from movies etc.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I found an easy and quick read. It will be invaluable for any wargamer who wants to create a trench system for their gaming table and I highly recommend it.

Thursday 25 March 2021

Book Review: Painting Wargaming Figures - Axis Forces on the Eastern Front

This is the third of Andy Singleton's painting guides that I have reviewed ( Early Imperial Romans and WWII in the Desert). As usual, they are well researched and give some useful background on the period and theatre of war.

As the title suggests, it covers more than just a painting guide to the German forces (Wehrmacht and Waffen SS) on the Eastern Front. Also covering the Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, and also the Finnish forces. Due to the changing allegiances as the war progressed some of these could be used on either side in the conflict, and the Finns could also be used for the Winter War (technically separate from WWII, a conflict between Finland and the USSR from November 1939 to March 1940).

The book covers the preparation of the miniatures, a painting guide aimed at reasonable quality and speed, and a guide to basing in the various terrains experienced on the Eastern Front.

So far so good, and there is no denying the quality of Andy's finished miniatures. However, this book suffers from the same drawback that was seen in the previous two books. The photos of the miniatures as they are being painted are all "long shots" that include a lot of wasted space featuring the clamp holding the miniature. In this book in particular it is a problem as Andy has chosen to paint 20mm minis instead of the larger 28mm minis in the previous books. This makes actually seeing the different stages of painting very difficult (if not impossible). I even tried using a magnifying glass, and on some of the guides it is impossible to tell the difference from one stage to the next.

The following two examples of pages from the guides, I hope, demonstrate the deficiency in the photos.

The photos would be far more useful if they included some close-up shots so we could actually see the development from one stage to the next.

Even with the problem with the poor photography in this guide, I think it would still be a useful addition to any wargamers collection if they were planning to start collecting an Axis army from the Eastern Front. 

I hope that Pen And Sword take on my criticism about this book and fix it for future volumes as I think they are developing into a valuable resource for wargamers.

The book is available now direct from Pen And Sword HERE.
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