Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Touching History Terrain Book review

I received in the mail of a copy of the first volume of the Touching History series on terrain making last night, the Peninsular War one.

It’s a magazine format book with a great many illustrations showing the buildings and terrain. I was greatly impressed by the quality of the photos, but not too impressed by the information presented.

I did not feel that the book really presented me with tips on making “Spanish” terrain. The section on making the terrain boards while nice enough presented some nice grassy scenery that might not have been out of place in any generic European layout. There was no discussion at all of the differing terrain and climate conditions that one might encounter in the Peninsula. I always had the impression that Spain is rather diverse, and a bit more arid!

The buildings as describes are very nice to look at, but the emphasis seemed more on describing the finishing of the buildings than on the techniques used in making them. That’s fair enough – it’s always seemed to me that war games terrain is mostly about the finish, but a few more tips might have been useful. Some tips that were mentioned were new to me – using brass sheet to represent pantiled roofing for example – but most were pretty unremarkable and frankly could have been gleaned from the Terragenesis website or past issues of White Dwarf.

The book contains a great deal of padding and irrelevance – double-page spreads of scenery layouts, close-ups of single miniatures, close-ups of scenery layouts from irrelevant periods and an astonishingly self-indulgent couple of pages on re-enactors of the 95th Rifles. Surely some of this wasted space (and surely there’s not much space to waste in a 75-page publication) could have gone towards fleshing out the descriptions on building some of the more complicated buildings.

The problem today with this sort of publication is that there is so much material available on the internet. This material is filled with excellent, well-illustrated articles on virtually every aspect of terrain design. To produce a book on terrain building that is actually worthwhile, you may need to pitch it as being someone’s “master class” with perhaps tips on advanced techniques, perhaps some material on designing buildings from conception to execution.

I think that if you wanted to take a more useful look at creating the terrain of the Peninsula War, you might be better off hanging onto the GBP18.50 this cost me here in Australia (and spending it on some Connoisseur miniatures) and go here instead:


Bluebear Jeff said...

First, I've not seen the book/magazine you are reviewing . . . but I take you points. I've also been disappointed by some books on terrain. Actually, I think that the source on terrain that I've found most useful is the Major General's website:

Okay, so that's not a direct link to the terrain pages . . . but there are links to lots of useful pages (including boat building as well as techniques for more traditional terrain. And, hey, it's free!

-- Jeff

Grimsby Mariner said...

Terrain books are one of those items that I've tried to avoid purchasing. I'm lucky that at the Grimsby club there are several talented model makers (some have gone on to launch their own model buildings range). What put me off was Ian Weekly - his articles in the various wargames magaines seemed to promise a "how to build a ....." but never contained enough detail (unlike his articles in Military Modelling).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this review...Ioannis