Monday, 18 June 2012

A World Aflame

My advance copy of 'A World Aflame: Interwar Wargame Rules 1918-39 (Osprey Wargames)' [link to buy] came last week, so I thought I should probably post up a quick review of sorts!

'A World Aflame' is a new set of wargames rules published by Osprey (of ubiquitous reference volumes fame) written by Paul Eaglestone (PDE of Empress Miniatures fame).

Eaglestone had previously released "And was Jerusalem builded here?", a 39 page pdf of rules for fighting engagements in the Very British Civil War (VBCW), the imaginary conflict that is currently sweeping the nation (well, not literally currently), and this set of rules is built on that framework, but in greater depth (and much prettier too!)

Although this volume focuses mainly on the Spanish Civil War (for which Empress produce a range of rather nice miniatures) there's plenty here for the VBCW enthusiast, as although the rules themselves are designed to be useable for the entire 1918-39 Interwar period, period and regional flavour are added through the use of Scenarios and Chance cards, amongst other things.

Before I look at the book proper, it's worth mentioning how much I enjoy Eaglestone's style of writing - this isn't a rulebook for rules lawyers to brandish at a tournament, it's the sort of book used by a group of adults getting together to create a narrative set in a period of history that interests them by pushing little men around in a gentlemanly fashion, perhaps over a snifter of something, and as such the tone throughout is conversational, and makes for an exceedingly pleasant read.

Presentation throughout is as high as you'd expect from an Osprey production, with the usual plethora of high  quality illustrations throughout, taken as they are from a variety of existing publications. There's also a number of colour photographs of miniatures 'in situ', which provide a great deal of eye candy and inspiration. My favourite would probably have to be "Anglican League Militia take control of a vital communications point", the 'vital communications point' being the local phone and post boxes. If pushed, I would probably say it's a pity that there isn't a large diorama or somesuch to pore over, but that would just be me being fussy.

The Rules: written as they are in a 'retro' style, aiming to "pay homage to rulesets written by such wargaming legends as Charles Grant and Donald Featherstone", 'A World Aflame' gives you the tools to play fun, fast-paced games that mix high adventure with a dash of tongue-in-cheek humour. I won't go into too much detail here (buy the book for that!) but rest assured the book contains rules on how to move, shoot, and measure the morale of your little lead men, as well as less generic rules as smoke and sending runners carrying orders across the table... There's rules for a whole plethora of period weapons and armour too, including rules for boats and planes as well as the expected armoured fighting vehicles (yes, including improvised ones! ). 

The book contains sample units for a variety of conflicts, both the Spanish and Russian Civil Wars, as well as Warlord China and (the one that's most caught my interest) the aforementioned VBCW, ranging from militia rabble to Regular Army Guards. 

The book also contains a sample scenario to show the sort of game you can play using the contents of the book, 'Suicide Hill', aka the Battle of Jarama, February 1937. It's a three-day/three-game scenario, with special rules, orders and suggested chance card decks (from a selection of example cards at the end of the book), complete with a map and some more pictures of miniatures in situ for you to get excited over.

If I had to pick my three favourite things from the book (entirely arbitrarily, and if you were to ask me another time it's likely I'd choose three entirely different things) they'd be:

3 - The rules for attacking armoured fighting vehicles with a crowbar. More specifically, the fact that the second paragraph ends 'Good Luck!' Strange things amuse me.

2 - The Flashman effect - I like the fact that there's a special Legendary grade of officer that you can use in special scenarios that is, well, legendary. It's such a flavourful little rule that it makes me want to convert and paint up some miniatures for use as named characters in a campaign...

1 - Chance cards - the SCW flavoured examples in the back of the book make me want to write up some more of my own to use with VBCW, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. They're a great way to add period flavour to a game, as well as some tongue-in-cheek humour (if that's your cup of tea). I mean, look at 6milphil's chance cards for the sort of thing I mean...

Right, that's probably enough blocks of text to turn anyone from off from reading to this point, so I'll wrap it up here. I could give the book a rating, or a percentage score, but I think a more pertinent score would be this:

A photo my young lady took. Yes, that's me prepping some miniatures having finished reading this book. Sat on the floor at the coffee table as I couldn't wait long enough to sort out the desk that I normally use. If that isn't a glowing recommendation, I don't know what is...


  1. This seems like the kind of game I could get behind, especially crowbarring a tank.

  2. Wow you win for quantity of meaningful words alone. If I thought I'd be able to decipher the language, I'd even buy one! Go Osprey! :)

  3. Nice review,will get the rules.



  4. I preordered from Amazon many moons ago and am looking forward to getting a copy.

    The one thing that puts me off a bit is the inclusion of VBCW. I don't have any objection to it at all as a period but to me it is quite seperate from historical wargaming

  5. "I won't go into much detail here." And you didn't. This was a waste of time.

    1. Three months late to the party, but nevertheless - if you mistook this for a proper review written by a paid reviewer and not the excited ramblings of a wargamer that managed to get his hands on a copy a couple of months before release and wanted to share how much he liked it, with a few choice examples, but without typing out the rules of an at that point unreleased ruleset, then you were mistaken, and for that I apologise. Also, I imagine most comments to be delivered in the style of bug these days, which makes me laugh...

  6. That picture of you painting on the set of an Austin Powers film is pretty weird!

    1. That's just the swinging way the other half live ;) (primarily through a fisheye lens, I suppose...)

      Although we don't live there anymore, but we still have the pictures...

  7. Useful review. Often impressions are more valuable than a nut by bolt deconstruction of the rules minutia.