Monday, February 28, 2011

A Closer Look at WI 280 (the Sudan issue)

Picking up where I left off on Wargame Illustrated's Gordan in the Sudan issue in this post.
WI 280 cover

The Sudan theme is every bit as good as I expected it to be after the previously noted skimming. Neil Smith really puts the whole series of episodes in political and military context, including the changes within the British Army in regards to organization and equipment. Having never really studied the period, I've always come away with some basics on the Sudan in the late 19th Century - ie. it was tough fight between the British Empire and the Mahdists and Gordon came to a bad end (and maybe not unexpectedly given his drive). The articles really go a ways towards explaining the how's and why's; you get way more than some interesting battle scenarios. 

The theme also includes the article, "A Good Dusting," written by Sudan rules author David Bickley. He explains the premise of his design concepts for the period and it gives one the impression his game must be driven by scenario/setting concerns instead of just creating a comprehensive set of rules for the entire colonial period. I have not read or tried out Bickley's rules, but I can say that I like his mindset for creating games. If you like to write game scenarios or tweak rules for particular historical encounters/wars, then this article should inspire you. 

I also enjoyed Mike Haught's "Bunker Down" Flames of War material, part of the supporting articles for the recent D-Day/France 1944 releases from Battleground. Even if you have no interest in playing FOW, I recommend the piece to you unless you are already quite familiar with all the types of pillboxes, machine guns nests, and other fortifications used by the Germans. Furthermore, there's lots of practical and historical tactical advice on using them in your World War II games. 

The "Back to Bases" article was also very interesting, and might be worth taking into account if you decide to jump into the Sudan ranges - which, by the way, I think you will find plenty of book and figure references and advertisements to get you started if you have thought about playing the period. 

I have not yet read Howard Whitehouse's "The Tribes of Germania." Not sure what to expect these days on the subject, but I'm encouraged by the article's use of classic sources and modern archeology. This subject is probably far more complex and misunderstood than one might think - and I don't write this because I know so much on the tribal folks at the edge of the Roman Empire - it's simply because I've experienced a few revelations through historians like Guy Halsall and Michael Kulikowski. 

OK, that wraps up my review on the Sudan issue. I left some things out - still haven't finished the magazine yet - but I think the above ought to give you an idea what a good issue it is.


  1. I was disappointed by Howard Whitehouse's piece on the Germani, which was all literal readings of the ancient sources. Untouched by the sorts of new studies you mention. The fact that it was called 'The Early Germans' (rather than 'The Germani', which might flag up some awareness of recent studies) turned out to give the game away. It was a shame. I expect better from him, not that he'll care; he doesn't like me!

  2. Guy - thanks for the enlightenment on the piece.

    I have read the article since writing this blog post. I came away thinking it was better than a lot of popular/glossed material I read on the subject 15 or 20 years ago, but did not quite break the mold like it could have.