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Tabletop Wargames: A Designers’ and Writers’ Handbook book review

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It is arguable that over the last three decades no other individual has exerted as much influence over the shape of war games as Rick Priestley, whose pedigree can be traced back to Games Workshop’s original Warhammer Fantasy Battle game. If he 
has something to say about game design, one should most certainly listen. And it turns out he does, teaming up with John Lambshead (himself rather prolific in the wargames world, if not as high profile) to produce Tabletop Wargames: A Designers’ and Writers’ Handbook. 

Intended as much to provide insight and increased enjoyment to avid wargamers as a ‘how-to guide’ for bugging designers, here we have 157 pages chock-full of fascinating insight and advice. Avoiding the trap of letting it become a mere technical manual, the authors have endeavoured to focus on describing different approaches to the craft and the reasoning behind them. That said, there are plenty of solid, interesting examples that would-be designers can certainly learn from. For example, would you like to know exactly why a Guardsman (an average solider in Warhammer 40,000) has just a 6% chance of killing a Space Marine (super-soldier) wearing Power Armour? 

The book is arranged into themed chapters that can be read sequentially or dipped into individually. Scale, randomness and even the language of rules-writing are covered in an approachable and readable style. The book is nicely laid out on the whole, but is a little text-heavy at times and the section headers do look they were lifted straight out of an early ‘90s PowerPoint presentation – so this is no coffee table stunner. But, it’s the content that counts – and this is an essential read for anyone seeking wisdom and inspiration in their design career.

 

Author: Rick Priestley, John Lambshead

Publisher: Pen & Sword Books

Price: £14.99

Website: pen-and-sword.co.uk

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