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Posted on Sep 23, 2013 in Books and Movies

Wargaming World War Two – Gaming Book Review

By Sean Stevenson

wargaming-world-war-two-coverWargaming World War Two: A Guide To Recreating The Battles Of Our Civilization’s Greatest Conflict. Justin Tonna. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. Softcover, 152 pages; 14.95.

Any primer book on gaming, especially wargaming or roleplaying, generally suffers from the same dilemma: The people who are interested probably already play the type of games the book focuses on and want more than basic information; those who don’t play games, or at least not the kind of games discussed in the book, won’t be interested in reading a book on the subject, no matter how basic. Wargaming World War Two has this problem in spades, but the author’s enthusiasm for both subjects—World War Two and wargaming—shines and there’s some useful material here.


As with many such books, this one begins with a “what is wargaming” chapter, which gamers will skip right past. A brief history of World War Two itself and the nations involved comes next, followed by a discussion of scale and rules sets. Tips on painting and tactics can also be found. The brief history of World War Two chapter lives up to its name: ten pages of history followed by ten pages discussing the major powers. The pages are sprinkled with tantalizing bits of information and tips—if you like ambushes and small unit tactics, try the Winter War between the USSR and Finland; close-in infantry fights are the city fights in the Soviet republics; for defensive terrain and limited tank involvement, game the Pacific Theater—but beyond serving as kernels for scenario building none of these little gems are mined and polished, and none are further developed by the author for the gaming table.

The reason is found in the section on rules. Mister Tonna reviews the strengths and drawbacks of the various scales (Do people really game in 2mm? The thought makes my eyes hurt.) but gives no advice on picking a rules set; the book doesn’t even cover what types of systems are available beyond telling the reader to check the Internet for free rules. Hey, Justin, tell us what rules YOU use—make up your own, even, and include them.

That’s the biggest hole in this book: there’s no there there, the author being clearly reticent in providing the reader with a hard and fast set of rules. By opting to leave rules completely up to the reader, Tonna manages to do a disservice to both the beginning gamer at whom this book is aimed and the active gamer (who might like the rules set provided or might want to look into one or more rules sets recommended by the author).

The painting guide, since this is a general overview of the hobby, unfortunately provides no army-specific uniform colors or details, but it is a fairly good guide on modeling and painting. What supplies you need, what sort of paints work best, and other such information will come in handy to the beginner who is reading this, while the old hand will wish for at least a table or two of uniform colors or unit insignias.

Two chapters on tactics, Basic and Advanced, show that the author has been gaming for a while. He discusses everything from “bounding overwatch” tactics to smoke to METTT (Mission, Enemy, Troops, Terrain, Time) in a concise and readable manner. Again, the lack of a set of rules makes the tactics section too generic (what is the modifier for smoke or firing on the move?), but even veteran players will find some items of use in here.

Justin Tonna clearly loves the wargaming hobby and especially gaming in World War Two scenarios. It would have been best if, rather than a general discussion of the hobby, he had focused more on the specifics and so played to his strength. Wargaming World War Two would be great with a few appendices, such as a basic rules set, list of uniform colors and sample insignias, and an Order Of Battle showing units for each major nation, along with a few scenarios. As it is, although the book is a bit too abbreviated, it is still a guide that beginners will find useful and veterans will be able to use, if only for the chapters on tactics.

Sean Michael Stevenson is a writer from Pittsburgh. He is currently working on an online comic book and has also provided several gaming reviews for Armchair General.