REVIEW: The Wargaming Compendium

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Having followed Henry Hyde's work and admired his dedication to the hobby for some years now, I've been looking forward to getting my hands on The Wargaming Compendium.  As everyone else has noted, it's big. Very big. But sheer size alone is not what makes this such a valuable addition to any wargamer's library. It is easily the most comprehensive book about the hobby ever produced, and takes such a thoughtful, fair-minded, friendly and fun  approach to wargaming that I feel it cannot help but attract more people to the hobby.  For this reason alone, I'd strongly urge all wargamers to contact their local library and suggest that they add this book to their collection...something that I'm sure would make Henry (as well as Pen & Sword) very happy.

Looking at the Compendium, I am so well reminded of the effect that Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers had upon me when I first found it on a library shelf many years ago—and how even those old black and white photographs stoked my imagination and interest. Henry's book really puts into perspective how far the hobby has come over the past forty to fifty years; I'm quite sure if I had seen this book when I was thirteen years old my head would have exploded!

Yes, I know some people out there are loath to approve of anything that is colorful, attractive and well-designed—preferring  the dodgy text, pasted-up layouts and fuzzy black-and-white halftones of days gone by. I get it. I have a stack of old MWANs in my basement that I still like to peruse from time to time. But as a part-time book designer and old ad guy myself, I think Henry has done a particularly fine job here—the design is attractive and tidy, the type is set at an easily-readable size, and the lack of distracting graphics allows the many color photos (which are very good) to take pride of place. For a book of this size and scope, these elements are subtle, but very important.
I have to admit I was rather pleased to open the introductory chapters and see photos and descriptions of well-known wargaming books from the past—many of which are on my own bookshelf.  I'm also sure that The Wargaming Compendium will have pride of place among these other books as the years go by. That said, it is difficult to compare this new book to others that have come before, since there has really been nothing quite like it before—nothing so comprehensive, well-rounded and  exhaustive in scope.  But how could there be? Having a half-century or more of hobby history to build upon is a great help, and I'm sure Henry would agree. He has taken advantage of the sum of all that cumulative knowledge to create a book that I'm sure will remain the hobby's great reference work for many years.

In scale and intent, if nothing else, The Compendium is really a different sort of book than those memorable works produced by  Charles Grant, Peter Young or even Featherstone.  They are all products of their place and time.        

Since it will take me some days, or even weeks, to finish reading it, I will refrain from an in-depth assessment of the rules that are included in the book—specifically for gladiatorial combat, a Wild West skirmish, and horse-and-musket era battle; I know Henry likes his rules Old-School and easy to use, and I look forward to trying them out, especially the horse-and-musket rule set.
In the end, I might suggest that much of the positive response to The Wargaming Compendium results from the fact that it really holds a mirror up to the hobby, and in doing so—it offers a very agreeable image. That is always a good thing.

You can add it to you bookshelf HERE.   


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I've been interested in wargaming ever since I started playing with my Marx toy soldiers in the backyard in the mid-60's, and then again when I came across Don Featherstone's Battles with Model Soldiers at the local library in the early 70's. About 20 years ago I started painting some medieval knights for my son as a Christmas present, and became re-acquainted with the hobby...[more]