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A Wargamer's Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943

A new review has been created: A Wargamer's Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943

I was looking forward to reading this book for several reasons. Firstly, I have been a wargamer since I was a teenager, and I have a long standing interest in the British Army of WW2. I also have a family connection to the North African campaign as my father had served in Royal Navy in the Mediterranean and my father in law was an 8th Army veteran, serving with 7th Armoured Division in the desert and NW Europe.

At a first glance it looked promising, neatly laid out and with some excellent colour illustrations. However, I noted that the introduction stated clearly that the book was aimed at wargamers, with the emphasis on the game aspect, and not for the historian. Personally I wanted to enjoy this book but instead I found it to be somewhat disappointing. However there were one or two good points.

The first two chapters cover a potted history of the Desert War and the equipment and organisations of the opposing armies. The rest of the book covers the wargaming aspects of the Desert campaigns and include chapters on how the conditions of the Desert campaigns can be represented on a tabletop using models, a review of some of the manufacturers who make suitable models (in various scales), how to paint and prepare the models for the wargames table plus an overview of some of the most popular commercial WW2 wargame rule sets and suggestions for designing scenarios for the games.

Unfortunately, I thought the potted history was probably the best part of the book, neatly summarising the overall course of the desert campaigns up until the final German surrender in North Afrika in 1943. The history bit was clearly written and easy to follow for a beginner, although I feel that some of the pages of data tables later in the book might have profitably been dropped in exchange for some simple maps to accompany the history section.

The chapter on the wargaming aspects of the campaign also had a few interesting points to raise. However I was particularly irritated to find no less than eight pages taken up with tables of equipment data (including such random information as the muzzle velocity of the various infantry rifles) whereas the subject of logistics during the campaign and how to represent it in a wargame context was disposed of in seven short paragraphs, and the subject of sappers and engineering on the battlefield was barely even mentioned.

As a brief aside, I have never understood why wargamers obsess over such pointless trivia as the MV of infantry small...

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