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Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead A Review     First I need to apologise to Pen...

Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook Tabletop Wargames A Designers and Writers Handbook

For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


Tabletop Wargames: A Designers and Writers Handbook by R Priestly & J Lambshead

A Review

First I need to apologise to Pen and Sword regarding the delay in reviewing this particular book. It's partly down to ill health but also if I'm honest with myself I've found this particular review difficult to start as the book isn't normally the sort of thing I'd read so was nervous about reviewing it. I'm out of my comfort zone:)


Now onto the book. The authors come with excellent credentials and are easily qualified to write a book like this. R Priestly created the world renowned Warhammer and Warhammer 40K system for Games Workshop. Dr J Lambshead designed the computer wargame Fredrick Foresythe's Fourth Protocol which was the first icon driven game and was also the editor of Games & Puzzles and Wargame News. He has also written a number of books for Games Workshop and Osprey. Finally he is the author of SF&F novels published by Baen Books. So with their experience you know you're in good hands and in this book they share this experience which can only help any of you out there who fancies designing a game yourself or help you with any tinkering or modifications you want to do with a current system.

The book is divided into nine chapters with a References section and finally an Index at the back of the book. The first chapter is an introduction that lasts twelve pages and eases you into the book. The next chapter talks about scale. The scale of a wargame is of vital importance in how the game will play and effects everything. Next comes a chapter on "The Language of Design". This deals with wargame and design jargon for example talks about "LOS" or line of sight. Following this is a chapter called "Alea Iacta Est", the famous line supposedly said by Ceaser, translated "The Die is Cast". So,  it doesn't need to much working out to know this chapter deals with Dice and randomness with in a wargame design. Chapter five "Presenting a Games Rules" is self explanatory. How many wargames have you played that have had rules that only an enigma code breaker could decipher? So it's an important aspect of any game design. Also talks about tables, not an actual table like the one you'll be playing on but tables in the rules. Chapter six "Skirmish Games" talks about skirmish wargames. Chapter seven "English as She is Writ" kind of goes hand in hand with chapter five. Again dealing with how to convey your system and rules to the player. Chapter eight "Expanding the Rulebook". This chapter deals with creating expansions to your core rule set. For instance adding new armies etc. The final chapter "Campaigns as Wargames" deals with creating campaigns for your rule system.

The book is full of photographs and is very well written as you'd expect from a book that talks about how to write rules. It's also full of useful information for those contemplating designing a tabletop wargame. Not sure how relevant it is for those wanting to design a hex wargame, but several of the chapters would be useful. I'd also say it's aimed at those who have little to no experience in designing a wargame, well it's certainly of more use to them. Saying this it wouldn't hurt for anyone be it novice or experienced in giving it a read. I say this because so many wargames come out and then forums are full of players totally confused by the rules. I think until you've actually tried you don't realise how difficult it is to convey to others your new game solely by the rulebook and what you've written. So maybe some of the chapters in this book would be of use to even a published wargame designer. Please don't expect a book that really goes into great detail and depth and covers every aspect under the sun. At 149 pages it should be apparent this book doesn't do that. It's more an overview with helpful advice of what the authors consider the main aspects of tabletop wargame designing. Aspects which will be relevant to pretty much all types of wargame systems. Your not going to come away with knowledge that's going to make you design some new innovative award winning game. It's just helping relative newbies dig decent foundations to their game design. If your looking for more than that then your prob best looking elsewhere.

The book is 149 pages not including the Reference and Index. Priced at £14.99 it's also not that expensive for such a niche book and wont break the bank. Certainly cheap enough to buy to see if it has any useful info for you as you start out on your game design. I would certainly appreciate it if I was about to start out on a tabletop wargame project.

Published by Pen & Sword it's available in all good book shops!

I will start this review by telling you the hard truth : Battlefleet Gothic : Armada (BG:A) is a game that makes me feel ambivalent. N...


For your Wargamer, Toy soldier collector, MiniFig collector, military history nut. Reviews, interviews, Model Making, AARs and books!


I will start this review by telling you the hard truth : Battlefleet Gothic : Armada (BG:A) is a game that makes me feel ambivalent.

Now you may ask yourself, or for that matter, me, why I am sitting here with my mixed feelings. So let me start at the beginning.

The first time I saw the announcement about BG:A, I was ecstatic. My mind started to go crazy, dreaming of the release day when I would be able to command my fleet of Imperium Cruisers and cleanse the universe from the filthy Chaos !
And, as soon as I could, I pre-ordered the game to get into the Beta and start enjoying this game.

My initial feelings when I first delved into the game was of shear excitement. I can still remember how great it felt when I got a look at my first fleet, to play through the small campaign introduction and to play my first skirmish game against the AI.

And, with some reserve, I am still enjoying BG:A. So, what happened down the road...
Why can't I make my recommendation for this game to all players out there?
I will try to answer by the end of this review.
First, let me introduce you to the game as it is and what you will get when you purchase it.

What do you get?
Battlefleet gothic is a Real Time Strategy game (RTS) set in the Warhammer 40K universe. The game offers you many game modes that make it really attractive:
- A campaign
- 4 different races: Imperium; Chaos; Ork; Eldar
- Fleet management
- A multiplayer mode with a cooperative option and with a persistent fleet.
- A skirmish mode without a persistent fleet.

  • The Campaign

I won't go into any great detail about the campaign. Why? Well, because I do believe this game was essentially developed to be a multiplayer game. The campaign is there, it is enjoyable, it really is. It has a great story IMHO and you can feel the love the devs have for the W40K universe. But, it in my opinion it's not the core of  game, though I'd loved to be able to play it in a co op mode however that's not possible. The campaign wasn't the part of the game where I spent most of my time. It was useful in that the first few campaign missions are actually the games tutorial. So I suggest you do play the campaign or if your like me and really want the multiplayer play part of the campaign as this is where you'll start to get to grips with the fundamentals of Gothics gameplay. Playing at least the start of the campign is obviously  a big help  for those who want to delve into the mulitplayer, the mode I was really interested in.

  • The Races

The game has four races: Imperium; Chaos; Ork; and the Eldars. Each of those races have their own design and lore. Of course, the capacities and competence of your captain and crew will be different from one race to the other.
This is one of the positive elements of the game. You can play any of the factions and each one will require a different approach in terms of tactics etc, which means you'll have to re-evaluate how you approach the game if you want any success with the particular faction. This also then helps the games replayability. From the huge Ork cruiser that will try to ram any ships in sight to the Imperium and their boarding tactics. The truth is that the game races offer enough difference of gameplay for you to find yours of choice.

  • The Fleet management

Every time you play a game, you will earn some experience that you will be able to use to buy more ships in your fleet, plus you will be able to upgrade your ship systems, weapons, perks, and crew. There is a little bit of disappointment here. Some of the competence you can add to your ships are really nice and necessary, such as sending bombs away or improving your armor or gunpoint cannons.
But I felt like it was pretty hard to understand how some of the crew perks really work.

  • The multiplayer

As I said before, this game was clearly designed to make multiplayer the core of the game. Unfortunately, the game is still suffering from some early matchmaking issues. And, it is not very rare you will end up fighting against an Admiral with a full fleet of ships under his command, while you will only be spawning with one or two of your ships, since they are under repair at the dock after a previous defeat.
The multiplayer lobby should be better at calculating the 'real' number of allocated points to spend for deploying both sides. At least it should do it based on the ship's availability of the weakest.
One of the things though I would love to see in this game, and that is missing at the moment, is a Coop Vs AI with persistent fleet management.
While multiplayer will appeal to a lot of players, the truth is that a lot of people also enjoy Campaign mode in Coop, and there is a demand already for a skirmish mode in a coop mode.

You are the Admiral, so...
So how is the gameplay you ask? Well, here is the thing about my ambivalence.

At first, the game starts easily enough. A couple of ships, max three, and a few competencies for the ships. Not much to do. You setup the max/min range of your engagement, and then you go on with the mission.
The combats are incredibly beautiful. The ship models are just perfectly rendered and the effects and sounds are just immersive.

On paper, the game is an RTS, so you will select your ship, their destination, and then the crew will try to follow the rule of engagement you have predefined (distance, what cannon to use, the port side or starboard, ships, and systems to target in priority, etc.).

What is very important to remember, though, is that when you play, right-clicking your target to attack is pretty useless. As I said previously, you'll set the rules of engagement, click on a sector where you ship will travel and then you will have to trust them to act. The fact that you can select an enemy ship and define it as a priority target, together with subsystems such as the drives, armor, bridge, weapons etc, makes you learn very quickly to trust your Captains and their decisions in combat.
Of course, while your ships have been sent to an area, you can always change those orders.

I do believe the intent of the developer was to make the player really feel like a fleet Admiral.
And that is what may be a little bit misunderstood for RTS veterans or people expecting combat gameplay such as in a game like "Nexus:The Jupiter incident" or "Homeworld".

... act like one!
Your role will be to activate competencies/skill for the ships to attack, send boarding parties, buff your ships or counter the enemy. And, of course, to set the course, as previously said, and to withdraw from the battle if necessary.
The captains and their crew will do the rest.  They will keep firing at the closest enemy ship or upon the ships you have selected as a priority target.
This is a very nice setup IMHO. It reminds me of this Sci-fi book I read not so long ago, Ark Royal from Christopher Nuttall.  The Admiral, still sits in the CIC, but he will not take over the captain role. He will decide on the global tactics, but ultimately the crew and the ship is the captain's responsibility.
Battlefleet Gothic really does a good job of detaching you from the feeling that you are a Captain. You are the admiral, and for this very specific reason, you should be the one in control of the global decisions, not the close decisions.

Don't let this become a click-fest! Use your spacebar!
Because it is an RTS, and the way you play BG:A is not common to another RTS, the moment the fleets engage can just be overwhelming. There will suddenly be a lot to click and to remember during the course of the combat.
When you have up to 6 or 7 ships to manage and that many number of skills per ship, you will understand how confusing and stressful the situation can become.

Remembering in time what cooldown you had been triggering earlier and keeping an eye on each ship status and competence bar can become horrendous...
That is why the game has a great feature implemented: the time compression.

Press the spacebar on your keyboard and the game will suddenly compress time and everything will slow down and allow you to review the situation and to send new orders to your ships' captains.
Sometimes  I have played an entire scenario just in that mode.

"Did I do that!? How did I win/lose?"
That is the main thing you will ask yourself while playing this game.
Somehow, you really never know for sure if any of your action have been influencing the course of the battle.
You can see there is a lot of things happening, but at the end of the battle, your look at the victory/defeat screen and the feeling is mitigated.
The game makes you click skills, send torpedo, remove rogue captain from command, buff your ships, send them there and here...
But when the battle ends, you will ask yourself if you did play well or what you could have done better.
You will wonder if the extra armor on your ship did the difference for your survival. Or was it the boarding party you send out ...
It is difficult to know if any of your actions were decisive.

The game is not really good at explaining your doings and what is the best tactic for you to win.
Even the ship customization can be pretty difficult to grasp. All along I am really wondering if crew competencies are really useful. For sure adding ship system is a must... but I couldn't grasp the utility of the crew experience...

My verdict 
Battlefleet Gothic : Armada   is a good game, well made, and extremely polished.
I do like it...
But I must warn you:  the game is tough .
The learning curve can really be steep for newcomers.
As I said earlier it is not for everyone but it will please the 40k license fans, the people who like multiplayer competitive PvP, fast RTS, and who are ready to accept inevitable defeat.

The game will not explain all your gameplay options at first. You will have to learn and to be defeated in several ways before you understand all the feature the game offers you.

Recommendation for the other players who like to think about their action and take time building up their tactics, I will advise to look at the WEGO game Star Hammer The Vanguard Prophecy, another space fleet combat game.

Developer: Tindalos Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Official Game website:
Available on: STEAM