Review: Battlefields in Miniature

Pen & Sword Books are publishing a growing range of wargaming books. Some of them are rules – the latest being One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas, more of which in another blog entry – while others cover more general topics, such as Wargaming on a Budget or Henry Hyde’s unrivalled Wargaming Compendium.

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Paul Davies’ Battlefields in Miniature belongs to the later category. It’s basically a compendium of terrain building for wargamers. Paul Davies is a regular contributor to Wargames Illustrated, where he has published a number of articles on how to build specific terrain features.

The book is a lavishly illustrated hardcover volume. One thing I immediately liked is that the photos of demonstration or participation games from diverse UK shows are not just random illustrations – the author discusses many of the games depicted and gives hints on how the terrain was constructed. This is especially useful for someone who doesn’t live in the UK and has no opportunities to visit the shows there.

The book starts with basics, discussing tools and materials, before moving to the topic of gaming surfaces. This covers terrain cloths, tiles and sculpted terrain. There is a lot of useful information in there and I learned some new techniques.

Afterwards, we come to the staples of wargames terrain: Rivers, hills, trees, walls and all the other features we fight over. The book presents different building projects and describes how to make specific features such as trees, stonewalls, wattle fences and so on. While those are pretty basic, the buildings, which are described in the last (but lengthy) chapter, are more involved. There’s a Saxon Great Hall (with interior!), a half-timbered building and finally a splendid looking yarn market.

There are several things I like about the book. I’ve already mentioned the lengthy discussion of gaming surfaces, which is a topic that is sometimes a bit neglected in books like this. Also, while 28mm is the focus, the book includes images of 15mm or 6mm games and discusses at least some terrain solutions for those sizes. Most of the examples covered are pretty generic, though they tend towards depicting terrain for the western hemisphere – there is no specific information on how to make desert or jungle terrain. A drawback might be that the buildings are all from the ancient to medieval periods, so of you are looking for inspirations for your WW2 table, you might be disappointed (at least by the section on buildings). One interesting thing to note is that the book clearly mirrors current fashions in terrain building, especially with the copious use of teddy bear fur.

The projects are a bit more detailed and therefore more time-consuming than, say, the projects presented by Diane Sutherland in Miniature Wargames. The author also stresses the need to take your time and work diligently – good advice, but if you are impatient like me or if you have a huge table to cover like Diane, you might want to look for short cuts.

I like Battlefields in Miniatures, but then I like nice books and this is a very nice book. From a practical standpoint, it’s a compendium that allows you to compare terrain solutions without wading through hundreds of web pages. From an aesthetic standpoint, it’s something to browse while lounging on the couch and to take inspiration from. If this is something you enjoy, I can highly recommend it.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Battlefields in Miniature

  1. Michael Peterson August 14, 2015 / 6:01 pm

    Thanks for this review, it looks most helpful and useful. I shall see if it is available as an e-book, rather than buying the hardcover.
    I find it interesting how peoples’ views on terrain change over time. A friend of mine, who has long been notorious for his ultra-basic terrain (e.g., dollar store packs of green scouring pads laid down as “hills”) told me that he is becoming a terrain snob as he gets older. Perhaps as a middle-aged empty nester he has more time to dedicate to this new priority?
    I was recently described by a friend as having a good balance between simple and elaborate terrain, which I found most encouraging. Until I’m done with the military, and moves every 2-3 years, all my terrain efforts have to be modular, capable of breaking down and packing up, but I too am always trying to improve. It makes the table more satisfying to look at, I think.
    Cheers,
    Michael

    • cptshandy August 14, 2015 / 7:53 pm

      Thanks Michael! For me, saving space is also paramount, so no fancy terrain boards. I like your notion of keeping the balance between simple and elaborate – in a certain way, I like my set ups to look like games, too much model-railroad realism looks too static and untouchable too me.

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