1938 : A Very British Civil War is a great ‘what if’ setting for wargames (see my previous piece for full details) and I was very pleased to track down some further volumes in the series. Those mentioned in my previous piece are those most useful and necessary for understanding the setting; these ones are ‘optional extras’.
The Army of Prince Albert, Lord Protector details the Albertine faction of the civil war, desperately attempting to restore sanity to a fractured and disunited kingdom, but finding it difficult to unify the anti-Edwardian factions. The usual mic of background information and wonderful colour plates illustrating troops and personalities are supplemented with some uniform details.
The County Forces, Militia and Yeomanry is a two-volume look at the uniforms of the English militaries during the Civil war (Scotland and Wales are not yet covered). Part One covers the counties upto M, and Part two covers those from N onward, as well as cavalry. These two volumes are purely uniform guides intended to provide uniform details and inspiration to model painters. Their scope is, thus, rather restricted and not for everyone, although they do what they set out to do very well. Personally, I would have liked actual information about the different forces – but, even though I am not currently modelling figures for the setting, and probably wouldn’t have sought out the volumes solely as a guide if I was, I found looking through these two volumes strangely compelling and fascinating. Certainly not a necessity, but potentially useful and fun, too, although those willing to put the effort into their own research might prefer to actually look up and details of period uniforms themselves and extrapolate for fictional units.
A Guide To Tanks and Military Vehicles does just what it says on the cover, with some general details on the development of armour in the period, along with copious photographs of models to inspire the gamer to create their own weird and wonderful contraptions, as well as colour plates and an article on converting a die-cast vehicle into an AFV. It is a fun volume and full of inspiration, but it will not be of much use if what you actually want is hard data.
The North Somerset Campaign is one of the meatier volumes in the series. As the title suggests, it details the campaign of the Somerset Freedom Fighters in the north of the county. It provides an enjoyable write-up of the background and events and some basic rules for replaying the campaign (originally held as a convention event). Although in no sense essential to understanding the setting nor for playing battles in it, it could prove useful if you need help setting up a campaign game or would like a ready-made campaign without having to research the terrain and politics of a local area.
As with the previous volumes, the £8 cost for each slim A5 volume is steep, especially for the uniform and vehicle guides, although the lavish use of colour and the wonderful photographs and plates readily justify the cost. Although it didn’t seriously bother me, there are quite a few typos and the grammar and spelling are not great, which is a shame. Whilst I enjoy the series as a whole and did enjoy these particular volumes, I would not recommend any of them particularly highly unless you specifically require the information for a project, although completists will satisfied with them.
1938 : A Very British Civil War is a great idea that the sourcebooks don’t quite do justice to. I would love to see all the information compiled into a single, high-quality volume with the text written to match the quality of the photos and colour plates. It has proven successful so far, but I think it deserves an even wider audience. being an absolutely brilliant idea for a wargame.
With Battlegames entering the mainstream, there are currently four wargaming magazines available on the British High Street (ignoring White Dwarf, which is dedicated solely to Games Workshop product). These are Wargames Illustrated [WI], Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy [WSS], Miniature Wargames [MW] and Battlegames [BG] (sister magazine to Miniature Wargames and recently given away as a sample issue with that magazine, prompting this comparison). Given the variety, I wanted to examine each of them and see which offered the best value to gamers.
Title Price Pages (inc. covers) Non-Ad Pages
WI #303 £4.50 124 (3.6p per page) 99 (4.5p per page)
WSS #64 £4.20 84 (5p per page) 72 (5.8p per page)
MW #357 £4.25 72 (5.9p per page) 55 (7.7p per page)
BG #32 £4.95* 52 (9.5p per page) 36 (13.75p per page)
* regular price (this issue free with MW #357)
As can be seen from these initial comparisons, whilst all four are similar enough in price for it to not make a huge difference between them in itself, Wargames Illustrated offers by far the best value for money, whilst Battlegames offers by far the worst, being three times the latter on a cost per page basis. But, what of their content?
Title News Pages Scenarios Setting Articles
WI #303 4 5 3
WSS #64 1 4 2
MW #357 9 2 –
BG #32 3 2 –
Title Rules/Campaigns Reviews Tips* Other
WI #303 1 – 1 2
WSS #64 1 22 3 6
MW #357 – 22 1 6
BG #32 2 5 3 1
* Suggestions on painting, modeling and such like.
Title Eras Covered
WI #303 WWI, WWII, French & Indian Wars, Victorian Colonial/Pulp, Swiss Civil War
WSS #64 Crusades, WWII, Sudan, Ancients, Marlburian, 100 Years War
MW #357 Wars of the Roses, Marlburian (?), Napoleonic, WWII
BG #32 Crusades, AWI
Obviously, whether to purchase a magazine is not solely a question of overt value for money based upon page count; the reader will be influenced by what they want to get out of it. Although all four have substantial numbers of pages dedicated to advertising, Wargames Illustrated not only has the most, but manages that feat whilst providing both the most non-advertising pages and best value for money; it is also a close second in terms of number of eras covered, despite being both themed and incorporating a regular Flames of War section. It is also both the most lavishly illustrated (as its title should suggest) and the strongest in terms of supplying actual gaming material such as background information and scenarios.
If it is news that you want, Miniature Wargames is probably the magazine that you desire, whilst it and Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy tie on the number of reviews (the only area where Wargames Illustrated absolutely fails to deliver), making it a good magazine for those who want to know what is going on in terms of events and releases.
Battlegames could be considered the ‘advanced gaming’ sister title to Miniature Wargames, although nothing in it would really have been out of place in the latter. Although it contained some articles with interesting ideas and I really wanted to like it, it was just too lightweight in both terms of content and coverage to justify the high cover price (I probably wouldn’t pay more than £2 for it, to be honest). I’m not entirely certain what they are aiming for with the magazine, as it didn’t really seem to have a proper identity of its own; had they worked with the apparent ‘advanced’ idea, providing chunky and thought-provoking articles, it may well have been worth it, but not as it is…
Wargames Illustrated is the only one of these magazines that I regularly buy and, being on a limited budget, that is unlikely to change as none proved sufficiently interesting or useful to challenge it. Of the others, Wargames: Soldiers and Strategy would likely be my second choice. Overall, I find Wargames Illustrated the most interesting read – even articles on eras or topics I don’t have much interest in are still useful and interesting, many of the articles are the equal of a good history book in appraising you of the details of often obscure military topics, and the copious photographs and illustrations add to the written content in a way none of its rivals have managed to achieve. In essence, it feels professional, whilst the other three all feel amateurish by comparison, whilst also maintaining the lead in length and value. Of course, in an ideal world, I would be purchasing all four on a regular basis, as they all contain items of interest to inform and entertain, and, if you are lucky enough to have plenty of money, then go for it; but, if, like me, you are on a limited budget, go for Wargames Illustrated – in my opinion, not only the best value, but the best of the bunch…
(In the interests of full disclosure, I have had work published in both Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames – although not for a long time – and, aside from Battlegames, this being the first time I had seen a copy, have read all three previous to this comparison.)