Tag Archives: review

Books from Naval & Military Press

Back in April I made an order to Naval & Military Press, a UK-based specialty publisher with a focus on military history. The books arrived last week and I’ll do full reviews of the books in the upcoming weeks, but I wanted to do a quick writeup of NMP themselves and a first-look sort of quick summary of my new books!

NMP were having an Easter sale, with quite spectacular discounts on everything in their catalog, so I jumped on the chance to get a few books I’d noticed in their selection that nobody else had. I thought I had seen one particular title in their catalog that I couldn’t find again, so I fired off an email asking if it actually existed, or if I was mistaken. Three business days later, with time running out on the sale and still no reply, I fire off a second email… two business days after that, on the last day of their sale, I still had no reply, so I went ahead and made the order anyway, a bit irritated at the lack of communication.

I still haven’t ever gotten a reply from NMP. Frustratingly, about four hours after making my order I got the first mass-mailout marketing email from NMP, which I’d opted into when I made my order. They seem to send out at least two advertising emails a week to their mailing list, but apparently that’s all they use email for, as they can’t seem to find the “Reply” button when potential customers send them one!

I got an email about 24hrs after my order saying my order had been “processed”, so I figured that was it in the mail, and started wondering how long Surface Shipping would take. I was not best pleased over two weeks later (11 business days later!) to get another email saying my order had been “shipped”… apparently “processed” didn’t mean what I thought it meant. Since when does it take 11 days to tuck five books into a box? If NMP were waiting for an out-of-stock item to finish up my order, fair enough, but an email to that effect would have been nice.

My order actually shipped on the 27th of April and I got it here on the 10th of May. As I said, I’d just paid for Surface Shipping, books being heavy and me being cheap, so no complaints there, but that’s down to the Royal Mail and Canada Post apparently playing well together.

So, a summary of NMP: given that they have titles I’ve never seen for sale anywhere else, and their prices are fair, I’ll certainly order from them again, but I’m not terribly impressed with either their communication skills or their dispatch speed.

The four books I bought for myself were all WW1 or Russian Civil War-focussed, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been reading this site for a bit. In no particular order, they were:

  • Gone to Russian to Fight: The RAF in South Russian, 1918-1920 — a fascinating-looking book published in 2010 about the Royal Air Force’s expedition to support Wrangel and the White forces in southern Russia. I hadn’t realized that famous Canadian ace Raymond Collishaw was one of the senior RAF officers sent to Russia. The book also talks about the Tank Corp unit sent to the same areas to train the Russians in tank use, and who wound up fighting as well.
  • The White Armies of Russia, A Chronicle of Counter-Revolution and Allied Intervention — An NMP facsimile reprint of a 1933 history of the Russian Civil War. I’ve barely skimmed it since getting it, but various people including Rich of TooFatLardies recommended it as one of the standard early works on the RCW, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.
  • Notes for Infantry Officers on Trench Warfare, March 1916 — I bought this book and the next mostly to inspire scenery projects, although I’m not planning a full Western Front setup (but never say never…) I wanted to get the trenchworks and fieldworks I build “right”. This is another facsimile edition, a very nice little booklet, about 100 pages, with all the original line drawings. Trenches, fortified shellholes, shelters and bunkers, and some notes on attacking and defending same are all covered.
  • Manual of Field Works, 1921 — Another facsimile reprint, this is a 300 page monster with 175 line drawings, covering everything from trenches to bridges to field camps to roadworks to demolitions. More fodder for scenery building and general inspiration. Amusingly, I received the hardbound version despite having only paid for the paperback…

The fifth and final book in the order wasn’t for me but for Corey, who has been doing some Anglo-Zulu War gaming recently:

  • The Zulu Army and Zulu Headmen — A facsimile reprint of the official 1870 British intelligence report on the Zulu nation and military, with details of Zulu regiment composition, numbers and even uniform details, notes on the principal leaders of the Zulu nation and more. As a facsimile edition, it even reproduces the handwritten amendments someone had added to the text, small notes like “This regiment destroyed at such-and-such an engagement” and similar, which is fascinating.

I’ll be doing full reviews of my books, as I mentioned, in the near future as I do at least a fast first readthrough of them. I don’t actually have much of a military history library, so it’s nice to fill some gaps and get more reference material on my shelves, and I’ll be keeping any eye on NMP and almost certainly picking up more books from them, as their World War One materials are quite extensive.

I probably won’t waste my time sending any more emails to them again, though…

A 2011 Review

Happy New Year! Just back from a week away from my computer and my workbench, spent visiting the folks inland, and counting down the hours until it’s back to work and such.

Although this website has been around on various hosts and under other names since 1998, 2011 was our first full year in this relaunched blog format, powered by the awesome WordPress and a renewed and expanding interest in wargaming! So how did that first year go, anyway?

Random Stats of Possible Interest

We started rebuilding the site back in September 2010, officially relaunched in January 2011, and we’ve been going steadily since then! According to the web statistics package we run, there were just under 17,000 visits to the site, with just over 20,000 pageviews (just over 1 page per visit, in other words). Most of our visitors are from (top 5, in order) the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany.

April 2011 was the busiest month we’ve had so far, with just under 2,000 visits.

In terms of posting, this post is the 149th posted to Warbard, with the vast majority — roughly 130 — being from 2011, giving us a rough average time between posts of under 3 days. Not bad!

The most popular single article was the review of .45 Adventure 2nd Edition, with various terrain articles and gallery posts filling most of the rest of the top ten. We talked about Inkscape quite a bit, lots of pulp adventure, and more recently the Russian Civil War.

Going into 2012, expect more RCW, more pulp, more terrain & buildings, and of course the two main gaming conventions locally are rapidly approaching in February and March/April 2012! 2011 was a great year, and I expect 2012 to be even better!

Another Review of .45 Adventures 2nd Edition

Another review of .45 Adventures 2nd Edition has come out, this one in The Ancible #9, a free-to-download PDF magazine.

I hadn’t actually grabbed a copy of The Ancible before, I have to admit. It started as a “real” paper magazine, I’m pretty sure, and when it switched to free PDFs I missed the memo! It bills itself as “a full colour digital magazine that specilises in the field of Science Fiction and fantasy wargaming” and it delivers — besides the 45A2e review in this edition there’s a long review & painting article on some giant Warmachine war wagon, a review of the new Battletech box set, another review of Heavy Gear: Arena, some interviews (great conversions in the interview with the Frenchwoman!) and a lot of advertising for all sorts of conventions, companies and such. Well worth checking out, I shall have to start grabbing the back issues and seeing what I missed.

The 45A2e review is longer than mine, with a nice introduction to the pulp gaming genre and more detail on specific game mechanics and such than mine. Go check it out, and the rest of The Ancible. Well worth it.

.45 Adventures 2nd Edition, A Review

45A2e_cover
.45 Adventures 2nd Edition

Rattrap Productions released the much-anticipated 2nd Edition of their .45 Adventures pulp adventure rules a few weeks ago, I received my copy of the full rules last week, and I’ve already run one convention game and several small private test games with the demo rules before even getting the full rules.

The PDF version should be out shortly too, as Rattrap generally releases the PDF version about a month after the initial print release. (Edit to add: the PDF version is out today.)

This review is mostly aimed at folks who have some familiarity with the 1st Edition of 45A, but it should be general enough to give those of you with no experience at all with the system an idea of how it works. Note that throughout this review I’ve used “45A1e” and “45A2e” for 1st & 2nd Edition respectively; this is a bit of a D&D-ism but useful shorthand!

So What’s Changed?

The most obvious change from 45A1e to 45A2e is the “fistfuls of d10” change. Instead of the previous version’s “1d10 + Stat +/- modifiers”, 2e is almost always “1d10 + stat +/- extra d10s depending on skills or circumstance”. You pick the best of the rolls if you’re rolling multiple d10. In practice, this seems to work out at around 3d10 per attack roll and 1d10 or 2d10 for the defender most of the time, so while you might need a few extra d10 for larger games, just to keep things moving, it’s not a really serious “fistfuls of dice” game the way Full Thrust or some of the GW games are!

Almost all the rules from 45A1e now in the one new 45A2e book. Basic gangsters, cops, crime-fighters, military, super science & robots, safari characters, all in one cover, along with all the skills. This alone makes character creation much easier, as the archetypes, skills and special rules aren’t spread over half a dozen books anymore! The campaign rules and New Commerce City background material have been rolled into the main rulebook as well.

Character creation is also massively streamlined. Rather than lists of specific skills available to specific archetypes, the archetypes have different numbers of skills they can take per skill category, and all the skills are now slotted into one of these 11 categories. This will also make integrating future supplements and releases easier!

Weapons are no longer purchased as part of a character’s basic build. Instead, they’re purchased per-scenario using Equipment Points. This means, among other things, that Grade 1 & 2 characters can often take more Special Abilities than before, as they’re not having a significant part of their available Special Ability count taken up with weaponry. (Giving a Grade 1 flunky a tommy gun used to soak up 3 of their 4 available Ability slots in 45A1e, now a Grade 1 can actually have four skills and the gun!)

What’s Brand New?

The whole Occult section is new, with rules for various Cthulhu-esque creatures, cultists and goings on, spells, artifacts and such. I haven’t had a chance to use these in play yet, but they look entertaining.

The entire Special Abilities/Skills list has been rewritten and consolidated. There’s a bunch of new or replacement skills, some duplicated stuff removed, and a rather elegant hierarchy of skills has been implemented for a few areas.

A couple of my favourite archetypes from 45A1e didn’t make it into 45A2e, namely the Foreign Agent & Professor archetypes. On the other tentacle, the G-Man archetype should encompass the old Foreign Agent one quite well, and there is now an archetype creation formula so you can roll your own if you really want to.

The archetype creation rules were much requested for 45A1e, so it’s great to see them included with 2e. I haven’t really played with them yet, but a read-through and examination of how the included archetypes are assembled lead me to think the creation rules should work just fine. (the stock archetypes included in the rules appear to have been built using the actual archetype creation rules as presented, which is always a good sign!)

Weaponry, as mentioned above, is no longer bought as part of a character’s build process, but instead it’s done using Equipment Points which can change on a per-scenario basis. This gives players and GMs greater flexibility – you can restrict weapons in a scenario without players feeling like they’ve “wasted” a lot of a character’s build options, control the amount of firepower on the table, etc. The Equipment List also encompasses a lot of non-weaponry equipment, too, things that might be useful in certain scenarios like flashlights, ropes or even multi-language translating dictionaries.

The Super Science & Occult equipment is controlled the same way, with seperate Super Science & Occult Equipment Points. Certain archetypes give bonuses to various of these Equipment Points totals – the Military Officer gets +10 Equipment Points, the Witch Doctor +10 Occult Points, for example.

A Few Issues

Typos and grammar errors! There’s a typo in the Table of Contents (“Resaerch” instead of “Research”) that should have been caught by a simple spellchecker  (not the only time I noticed this in the book) and a few grammar glitches (its/it’s, that sort of thing) recurring. None of them that I’ve noticed so far occur where they’d cause rules ambiguity or misinterpretation, at least.

(Corey’s interjection: Amongst the many jobs I do, I am a part-time writer and copy-editor, so the mistakes in the book, especially with regards to the lack of a style guide, really bug me, to the point where I had to put down the book and walk away at one point. Sorry Rich. )(Brian’s re-interjection: Unless you’re a hardass about editing, the concerns I noted in the previous paragraph really aren’t showstoppers…)

There are a number of layout glitches that make some things hard to read than they should be, especially when searching quickly for a specific rule or skill. One example is the lack of differentiation between sub-section headings (just made using bold text) and some lists, some of which use bold to make their titles stand out and some of which don’t. The Special Abilities Lists are easy to read, but the similar Robot Upgrades List re-uses bold text for two different things (sub-section headers and upgrade titles). A second style for those sub-section headers would make some sections of the book much easier to scan, especially in mid-game when you’ve had to pause the action to clarify a rule.

Beyond layout and grammar, as I said above, some of the old 45A1e archetypes haven’t made the cut. There’s also a few toys and weapons missing, but for ordinary games that’s not going to be a huge concern, as the most notable missing weapons are the Light & Medium Machine Guns from the Amazing War Stories military supplement, hardly common weapons in typical 45A games!

The Verdict

These are all very minor issues, though. The new character stat/wound boxes are far more compact than the old ones, so it should be possible to get more characters onto less paper now – and less paper in front of players during a game is rarely a bad thing!

The new “fistfuls of d10” combat/skills system runs faster on the table. Characters move faster, Grade Ones (the mooks, thugs, extras, Privates and redshirts of the factions) die quicker while Grade Threes (the Stars!) are a bit tougher but not hugely so. It’s entirely in keeping with the heroic/cinematic traditions of pulp that major characters should be able to plow through crowds of extras, anyway!

So, the final verdict?  .45 Adventures 2nd Edition is just as detailed, playable and flavourful as the old, but the new system is faster, leaner and pulpier.

Streamlined, in fact. Very pulp-era thing to do, actually!

Pulp-era Streamlining. Not just for trains anymore! (Image is CC-BY-NC from Carlos62 on Flickr)