Saturday 30 March 2024

A Promise is a Promise…

A while ago I announced to the world and to the reader of this blog that a book, written by me, about Solo Wargaming was going to be published. I also said that I would let you know when it was available for pre-order, and that time is now. So, there you have it: Solo Wargaming: A Practitioner's Guide is now available for pre-order from the publisher’s website:

Not only that, but the book is available for pre-order at a very healthy discount of £6. Even if you add in the postage, it is still a good deal, in my view. Additionally, as orders over £40 are post-free, you can justify adding in some other books that you might like and get the lot – Pen & Sword seems to have a special offer at the moment on wargaming books, at least.

I suppose I should mention that you can get the book from Amazon, as well. However, leaving aside any accusations of dubious business practices Amazon may or may not be guilty of, it seems that the big A gets their books from a wholesaler, who gets them from the publisher. This adds an extra layer and hence delays to the supply chain. Thus, if you are eager to get your wargamer’s mitts on the book, order directly from the publisher, who will send the book out as soon as they receive stock from the printer.

I suppose it is rather time for me to start to talk a little about the content of the book. I will not reproduce the publisher’s blurb here. After all, you can read that on the website linked above. But it might just be worth trying to describe the bits that went into the writing the thing.

To start with, the title. In the dying days of my professional work, there was a lot of talk about ‘practice’. We were all becoming practitioners, it seems, although what we were practicing, and whether we got any better at it or not seemed to be moot. Still, ‘practice’ as a term was terribly trendy and right on (but not, it seems, ‘woke’, mercifully). Slightly intrigued, as I rather enjoy seeing how languages evolve, I dug a little further.

A practice is, of course, a way of doing things. It seems that a practice is defined against a theory on one side and a set of rules on the other. A practice is not abstract, hence it is not theoretical, but then it is not something that is constrained by already worked-out rules. A practice is, then, something concrete, that we can actually work with, and with which we can engage our critical and creative faculties. At one level this is, of course, obvious and, in these terms, practice covers more or less everything humans attempt to do. At another, I realized, it starts to sound quite a lot like wargaming.

So, somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind an idea was born, I suppose. At work, I was notoriously bad at titles. I still remember the laughter at the other end of the phone when I was talking to a colleague about my latest course and mentioned the title. ‘That needs a bit of work’ was the usual response. Too long, too vague, and not expressive enough of the contents was the usual feedback. And, to be fair, it was exactly correct, although I discovered that students could and did quite quickly come up with their own titles for our courses.

So, when I came to writing a book proposal, I realized that I needed a title, at least, a working title, so I could talk and write sensibly about the contents. I do not have, in my notes, a record of where and when the title came to be, but it was there in the initial outline and has, remarkably, survived without changes. I have only ever written one other thing that managed that.

A title is supposed to give some clues as to the contents, however convoluted some postmodern writing and titles might be. The book is, as you will have surmised by now, about solo wargaming, and the sub-title has, hopefully, just been roughly explained, at least as far as the practitioner goes. I am, of course, the said practitioner, and it is my guide to solo wargaming.

Perhaps also surprisingly, my outline chapters survived more or less intact. There is, of course, an introduction that discusses why someone would want to wargame solo. There turn out to be quite a few reasons, and I dare say my list is not comprehensive. We then move on to stand-alone wargames and the various ways these can be created and played. The focus is more on the creation of interesting battles than on anything else.

Next along, of course, comes running campaigns. Avid readers of the blog will recognize some of the ideas here, such as using plots to keep the campaign running nicely. Some of the nuts and bolts of running a campaign are discussed here as well, along with my admission that my campaign diaries are pencil scrawls on pages of notebooks, not the works of art that you sometimes see as journals.

Still next up are all those things that can make a wargame, and particularly a campaign game, much more interesting, such as personalities, random events, and logistics. I spend a bit of time trying (and probably failing) to take an accountancy approach to the latter. This is followed by a chapter on the prima-donnas of the wargame world, sieges, naval and air wargaming. Many wargamers still seem to avoid these topics, in spite of some very creative ideas published recently as to how to handle them, but if we are to wargame with some degree of realism, they have to be there.

The final chapter discusses how to keep things moving along and a bit about why academic military history is less useful than it should or could be for wargamers. It explains, at least in part, why Oman and Delbruck are still so popular. I finish up, of course, with an apology for everything I have missed out of the work.  

I will try to keep you updated; in the meantime, more timely news should be found on my new Facebook page, which should be here:

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