Sunday, 16 June 2019

Book Review: Wargames Terrain and Buildings: The Napoleonic Wars

I became aware of this book when I saw Seb’s excellent review on his blog. I therefore jumped at the chance to do one of my own when offered a review copy by the publishers.

Cover art courtesy of the publishers.
Please seek permission before reproducing.

I enjoy making my own terrain pieces and it has always made more sense to me to spend available ‘wargames funds’ on figures and books before buildings or other terrain. After all, figures I cannot easily produce myself, but I can make buildings, no matter how rudimentary. In more recent times, even while the prices of buildings and other terrain have reduced (and available funds for wargaming increased), I am still reticent to purchase terrain, save perhaps for second-hand items or some of the MDF kits from Sarissa Precision (I discussed their 1/72nd La Haie Sainte previously). More on them later.

It seems that this is something that I share in common with Tony Harwood, although my attempts pale when compared to his beauties. Yet with the aid of this book, in which he shares some of his methods and ideas, I hope to be able to improve the quality of the buildings that I produce.

This book is marvellous in so many ways. The construction of the example buildings and other structures is described step-by-step with clear photographs of each. Mr Harwood uses simple, easily obtainable materials, chiefly of the ‘scrap’ variety. The construction process is straight forward and includes some great combinations of techniques that make so much sense. For example, layering strips of paper on the cardboard ‘shell’ of a building, glued in place with PVA glue in a kind of papier maché fashion. This rounds off the sharp or jagged edges of a cardboard-only construction while adding some texturing to the walls.

The construction of nine models is covered in the book. These are a Russian windmill, two-storey French house, La Belle Alliance, French pigeonnier, stone build well, Russian granary, small bakery, Hungarian chapel and Peninsula diorama. The Russian windmill is 15 mm, La Belle Alliance 20 mm and all the others are 28/30 mm. With the exception of La Belle Alliance, which is the 20 mm Sarissa Precision kit with modifications, the scales of the models are completely nominal. There are no plans, an aspect that may detract for some people, but one that I think is a bonus and adds flexibility.

Inspired by an image from a book or other source, Tony Harwood first produces a sketch.

From his plans, he produces the shell of the building. In this case strips of paper with PVA applied to one side are layered over the cardboard in a papier maché kind of manner.

The finished two-storey French house. Twenty-one pages with clear photographs show its step-wise construction.

In fact, the plans are not omitted as they do not exist! Rather, than work from a plan, Mr Harwood gets his ideas from images in various books, draws himself a sketch (something that he’s darned good at) and then roughly scales the sections of the building, using a figure of the appropriate scale as his ultimate guide.

Using this approach means that the step-wise construction of all of the structures in the book, with the exception of La Belle Alliance as it is a commercial kit, can be followed at any scale. Brilliant!

Furthermore, for those willing to have a go and adapt a theme and technique, the buildings/structures in the book can be used for inspiration to build something different. I intend to use the ideas presented in the construction of his Hungarian chapel as inspiration to make the church at Plancenoit.

Actually, ‘inspiration’ is an appropriate one-word summary for this book.

Thank you Tony!