|I took a photo because the cover you see on Amazon isn't the cover you receive.|
This 150 page softback can be got from Amazon for around a tenner. None of your colour pictures or high-end production values here, just a normally printed book with a set of black and white maps (to which we will return) and no photos. After a quick introduction, we are into the meat of the book - rules for nine wargames periods from Ancients to World War Two (not eight as the jacket blurb states). As regular readers of this blog will know, there are actually only three wargames periods, but Neil has decided to give us:
I also found that the period feel introduced by the tweaks to the rules tends to be cancelled out by the common basis that all the rules share. Setting out my WW2 infantry units and anti-tank guns on a hill, it felt like I could just as easily have been setting out some SYW infantry battalions and smooth bore artillery.
I very much wanted to like this book, but I learnt that most wargames rules have a certain level of complication for good reason - they provide the required period feel, and also provide games that are interesting to play because you have to think about detailed tactics, as well as simply having a number of things you have to constantly bear in mind if you are to be successful. For my taste, Neil has taken simplification several steps too far, and has conclusively thrown the baby out with the bathwater. To be brutal, I would say the rules are just rather boring to play. I will also say that I have encountered 'one side of A4' rule sets for periods including WW2 which gave much more subtle and interesting games than this book provides. If you have ancient or medieval armies, DBA is a far better option for a quick game, with much more play interest. However, one area the book might be of value in is as a starting point to get young kids into wargaming. They will certainly enjoy the no-nonsense simplicity.
There is perhaps one further point to make. The rules in the book are obviously sitting ducks for those keen to make their own amendments and additions, and Neil indicates that this is fine by him. In the past I might have already been busy working out 'improvements' so that the rules worked better for me. But these days I tend to think that, having paid out for a rulebook, I want to be able to use it more or less as written. Spending time amending and altering is messy and frustrating. And I also want to feel that I am giving the author the chance to convince me about his ideas - I've bought the rules, so I should give them a chance to work on their own terms. I therefore won't be spending time making Neil's book work for me. His approach doesn't suit me, so I will leave it at that.
I should add that I do not regret buying this book. Reading it and playing the rules therein has helped me clarify in my own mind what makes wargaming intellectually satisfying. And those three page sections written for each period which give a potted explanation of how warfare worked during that time, and how Neil proposes to reflect this, made me think about my own assumptions for the periods I play. Despite the maps, those thirty scenarios will probably spark some game ideas in the years ahead. A good feature of them is that Neil notes which real battle or classic wargames scenario has inspired them.
Despite the mostly kind reviews on Amazon, I doubt these rules will catch on. But the book was worth writing, because I feel Neil has explored the limits of rule writing for miniature wargames with a brash originality. Even if I find the results disappointing, the attempt was worth making.