Wargames Terrain and Buildings, The Napoleonic Wars is a book written in 2019 by Tony Harwood (probably more well known by his online pseudonym Dampfpanzerwagon) and published by Pen & Sword Books.
The Napoleonic period is one of the most popular periods to play wargames in – whether the player is following the historic battles of Napoleon in Russia, or Sir Arthur Wellesly in Spain, or more inspired by the exploits of fictional heroes like Richard Sharpe. It is a period which covers a wide range of territory, and is played in multiple scales. This book uses nine different buildings in three different scales (15mm, 20mm and 28mm) to showcase how Tony builds his terrain.
The nine projects are:
- 15mm Russian Windmill
- 28mm Two Storey French Farmhouse
- 20mm La Belle Alliance
- 28mm French Pigeonnier
- 28mm Stone Built Well
- 28mm Russoan Granary
- 28mm Die Kliener Backerei
- 28mm Hungarian Chapel
- 28mm Peninsular Diorama
Tony has obviously taken copious notes, as well as photos, as he has constructed his buildings. At the end of each chapter is a full list of what materials and paints he used during the construction of the buildings, so you have some idea of how to put together a similar structure.
The text between each photo gives details of the steps that Tony performed between each picture, so you can see, at least to a certain extent, how he has constructed each building.
The subjects tackled gives the reader a wide range of architectural styles to inspire their own projects – from wooden buildings, through timber framed houses to a full farm complex of clad stone. Given that the guide also covers roofs that made of wooden planking, thatch and at least three different types of tile, the book covers the vast majority of building styles that the average modeller would want for the period.
The book refers throughout to different modelling tools and materials, and what they can be used for, and the back of the book has a full glossary of terms which describes some of the methods, materials and tools that are used.
Unfortunately, as I continued to read through the descriptions of the various building projects I became increasingly frustrated with what was missing from the content of the book rather than what was included.
I suppose part of this comes from not only what audience the author was addressing, but also what he was trying to communicate – as well as the expectations of what I was expecting to read.
It quickly became apparent that there were certain modelling methods and materials that the author was very familiar with, so his description of certain steps were of a single line where he says “then I did x“, where x is something that he has done perhaps dozens of times before.
However I, as the reader, have perhaps never done x before, whether that is work with the mysterious Green Foam that Tony uses in construction (indeed, I must admit I had never heard of it until I picked up this book – blue and black, yes, but green? ‘fraid not), use DAS modelling clay or build doors and windows out of foam and wood and then add texture and detail with a razor saw and wire brush. These are methods that are made reference to time and again but it seems to be assumed that the reader knows how to do them. Whilst it is not beyond the wit of man to work these things out, if you buy a book on making terrain do you think it is too much to ask to have some introduction into the essential methods used in the book before launching into the various projects?
The next issue is one of dimension. Other than describing the final model measurements, along with a comment about ensuring that you have an appropriate scaled miniature with you to check the height or doors and windows, there are very few words dedicated to how one works in a particular scale – even in the chapters devoted to working in different scales. Other than the author referring in passing to sketches he did of various buildings before he started work, nothing is said about what size of buildings you should consider. What’s the average dimension of a single storey house in 28mm, or approximately how tall and wide doors and windows should be. Again, it’s not beyond the average person to work this out, but it would have been nice to have this sort of information included – even if it was just in the form of a large picture of a building plan.
Finally, we come to the pictures. This book is filled with pictures, as you might expect. I would suggest though that there are far too many of the wrong sort of pictures.
What do I mean by that?
There are pages where the author describes the next step that he did on the building, followed by a picture of the building – sometime 4, 6 or more pictures on a page. There were a number of times when I wished that the page was not in print, but rather like a blog so that I could zoom in on the picture and see the detail of what had just been done, rather than viewing from afar.
In addition, I wish that there were more work-in-progress photos, rather than showing the completed step. There are a few, such as showing how to tile a roof, but I wish that there were more – don’t just tell me, but show me. Similar when showing model painting. don’t just keep showing the same shot of the building after each colour is applied, but focus in on what you have just done so you can see some changes in detail. Don’t just talk about the texturing of paint that is only brought out when drybrushed – show me!
I know these books have limitations, some of which are down to the skill of the author to photograph his work. As I read through each project, I became frustrated with what I wanted to see of the construction, but wasn’t there, rather than what was available.
Ultimately, this book details how Tony approaches his building projects. It’s not a full and comprehensive guide of all the ways you can scratch build models, but rather a detailed description of Tony’s own tried and trusted methods.
The question is whether his methods produce the results that you are after for your own scratch builds.
One of the prerequisites of the games I play, which admittedly are mostly skirmish or small battle in nature, is that the roofs of buildings should be removable so that troops can be placed inside. The fact that Tony constructs his as solid structures immediately precludes some of his methods from what I would wish to do in my own buildings.
Of course you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and there is much wisdom to be found inside these pages when it comes making buildings and how to paint them. In my opinion though, this book is as much an opportunity missed as one made. I don’t think it would have taken much extra effort – considering what had already gone into writing the book – to turn what is a decent book on making buildings into an invaluable part of your hobby library.
It’s a good book, but I think it could have been better.
This book is available to purchase from the Pen and Sword website, and is priced at £12.00 at time of writing (RRP is 14.99)
More details can be found here
Whilst I own a copy of this book, I was also supplied with a review copy by Pen and Sword Books.