I've been buying various fantasy miniatures related books and publications lately, focusing on what in my opinion was the golden era of miniatures; the 1980s. My main purpose is to find inspiration for my own miniatures and modeling projects - but also to be able to get that miniature fix without having to play, paint or even get out of bed. Mmm... effortless gaming.
First of several books is Fantasy Wargaming - Games With Magic & Monsters by Martin Hackett. I came accross mentions of it on TMP when googling for miniature books. Comments were mixed, ranging from praise to entertaining pannings. I'll soon get to the panning part myself.
Let's begin with the physical properties of the book. At 232 hard-bound pages, it's fairly thick and sturdy but a bit small; only 24 cm tall and 16 cm wide. All but 8 pages are black and white.
The majority of the contents of this book revolves around presenting the fantasy wargaming and role playing hobby. It's obviously a work of passion by a guy who loves his hobby and he wants you as a reader to love it too. In his excitement he crosses the line from calm enthusiast to full on frothing geekboy fundamentalist. He gets a bit carried away.
I've heard this book referred to as "well worth having for the pictures alone" - but that's just not true. In fact, it's a blatant lie. It's not subjective or in the eye of the beholder - this book is NOT worth having for the pictures alone. Or for any other reason, as a matter of fact.
The quality of most pictures is pretty poor. Black and white pictures of poorly painted and poorly based miniatures, or just bare metal miniatures. As previously mentioned, there are 8 colour pages in the centre of the book. A few of them are decent, others would have been splendid as a full page in landscape format. Most are of the author's own poorly painted collection.
Here are two examples of how little Hackett cared for paragraphs, as well as some examples of the picture quality in the book.
Apart from poor pictures and inane rambling (no, not my blog!) the writer decided to cram in some sort of rules system. These are the most confusingly laid out rules I've ever seen. If you've played War of the Ring (from Fantasy Flight, not the GW game) you know there are some rather opaque rules sets out there. This beats the WotR rules, without contest! I can't even pick out an example, as the rules is so mixed up with anecdotes and opinion that they're impossible to make sense of. I'll just leave you with these examples of inspirational tables and maps. Would you play a rule set by a man who made these?
So, in conclusion not my finest purchase. I would recommend people to not get this book. It's good for a laugh or two, but as a source of inspiration it fails. A few of the pictures are intriguing (I saw some cool Ventauran Space Troopers from Denizen) and the author's genuine (but sometimes scary) enthusiasm for fantasy gaming gives him some credit. Also, it was published in 1990 and if I had owned it at that time I might've thought the pictures to be the dog's danglies. Now, in 2010 it's at a terrible disadvantage to the 'net. Some other older books stood the test of time much better. For my next "review" of sorts, I'll take a look at the Citadel book "Fantasy Miniatures" from 1989.
If you're wondering how things are going with the Stillburg project I'm progressing nicely albeit at a slower rate than I had hoped. Two of the remaining seven hero miniatures are painted, and I'm hard at work with Aldor Berlepsch now. Once he's done, the four main characters are finished and I'll post them on here complete with stats and back stories.