Henry Hyde's long-awaited tome on wargame campaigns has, at last, crashed through the letterbox. Well, actually, it was too big for the letterbox, and my wife suspected this was another addition to my lead pile! At 526 pages, you can see below, it dwarfs the classic (75 pages) 1973 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign' by Tony Bath.
Henry has many virtues, but as listeners to his podcast will know, brevity is not one of them! And I even pay him through Patreon for the privilege. In fairness, much has changed in the hobby since 1973, and this tome covers far more than was even available to Tony in those early days of the hobby. Looking at my copy of Tony's book, I can see my pencil amendments to his costings, which reminded me of all those campaigns I organised using his book, with lovingly drawn maps on hex paper. Today, with tools like Inkarnate, we can have stunning fantasy maps at the click of a mouse. And it is developments like this that are reflected in this new book, hopefully encouraging a new generation, and some old grognards, to extend their tabletop battles to campaigns.
I did worry that this book might veer too far towards nostalgia. There is a fine chapter, 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants', which had me reaching for my bookshelf. However, in the main, this is bang up to date with chapters on mapmaking and digital campaigns that drip with valuable ideas and resources. I use Inkarnate, but Worldographer looks good, and the Cartographers Guild website is a great resource. There are many good ideas about using spreadsheets and other technology to take a lot of the effort out of the paperwork that used to grind many of my early campaigns to a halt. I think I still have some of the many desk diaries I used to pick up cheaply at the end of every year. Henry is also supporting the book with online resources.
So what do you get for your money? After an introduction to campaigns, there is a chapter on generalship and strategy, followed by how to write your own campaign rules. Most chapters give you the theory, followed by practical examples and his suggested rules to get you started. The book is well illustrated throughout, not just with eye candy but with screen grabs and other practical pictures. Solo campaigns are not ignored, reflecting the impact of the pandemic on most of us.
The following chapters get into the detail, covering issues like characterisation, roleplaying, weather, as well as campaigns at sea and in the air. The naval chapter will come in very handy for my Adriatic project. Most of us ignore weather in our games, which is surprising given how much we talk about it generally! Henry has created a deck of 52 cards to download that will go with his suggested rules. An excellent example of how this is much more than just a book.
I suspect most wargamers will use this book as a reference resource rather than reading it from cover to cover. Nonetheless, I loved this book, which I will keep within easy reach. It is a mixture of inspiration and technical manual, not an easy mix, but one Henry has done very well.