Monday 9 May 2011

Practical Wargaming - Bargain of the Year

Back in October 2008 I published a post on Charles Wesencraft's Practical Wargaming. It was not in my collection of wargaming classics at that time, but I recently decided that it was high time I obtained a copy. The book is of course easily available as part of John Curry's 'History of Wargaming' project, but I hope John won't be offended if I say that owning an original copy was my preference, even if I had to pay a bit more. Digital reproductions are a great idea for keeping these old books in print, but the resulting books themselves lack the heft, character and production quality of the originals.

Fortunately it seems there are still plenty of old copies of this book around. Imagine my surprise on finding a copy available for £3.30 (plus £2.35 postage) from a seller on the Abe Books site. 'Acceptable quality', the ad from the seller said, so I ordered it expecting a tatty copy, probably with no dust jacket. As you can see, I received a fully jacketed ex-library copy in what I would call very good condition. 

Hats off to The Perfect Book for providing such excellent customer satisfaction. There are plenty of copies on Amazon and Abe books for £20-£30, but this is a genuine bargain. Some sellers are trying to rip people off for £50 or more!

I had forgotten the book had a chapter dedicated to rules for the eighteenth century. Much joy! They look perfectly playable and I'm certainly tempted to have a go. There are a couple of errors - Mr Wesencraft seems to have got the idea that infantry battalions in this period had light companies as in Napoleonic times (see photo of text above), and also that dragoons 'usually chose to move on horseback to a given point and then dismounted and opened fire with their muskets'. Not very SYW I'm afraid. Hussars also don't get a mention. But these are acceptable faults in a book which must have been cutting edge in 1974. All the rules (there are sets covering 7 periods from ancients to the Franco-Prussian War, plus a campaign system) are well set out and easy to understand. The underlying principles are clearly explained and there are diagrams and photos to help you out. The basic simplicity of all the rules will ensure fast play. All this plus the most charming and well written introductory chapter you'll find in any book on wargaming. An outstanding piece of work indeed.

I will be reading all of this book. Not just for nostalgic pleasure but also for rules ideas, and insight into how simple, straightforward rules systems can be developed. I just can't quite work out why I haven't bought it sooner.


Steve J. said...

A good find there it seems Keith. I'd love to have a look next time we meet up.

I'm often suprised at the wide variance in prices for the same item. For example, Invasion by K Macksey can be had from £0.01 plys £2.80 p&p all the way up to the £50 mark! It doesn't make sense.

White Eagle Fencing Club Bristol said...

The book has been very influential: The big battle rules, in particular pre-figured DBA in many ways. It's a pity Wesencraft doesn't get more credit these days.

Oldpaw said...

Three books, The Wargame, Charge, and Practical Wargaming were huge influences on me when I was younger. I particularly enjoyed this one. I'm lucky that I have been able to obtain good copies of all my old favorite wargame books.