Wednesday, October 5, 2011
The Last Argument of Kings: A Review
by Pete Brown
Published by Warlord Games 2011
GBP 18.00 (CDN$29.00)
I was quite excited to find this soft cover supplement for Black Powder in my mail box a few weeks back. In between working on my Basic Officer's Training Course I've given it's 112 full colour pages a very thorough fondling and read through.
The pictures of superbly painted armies do not disappoint. I was quite pleased to notice that some of them I have even played with; Stephen Thomson's brilliantly colourful Ottoman Turks.
The book is quite ambitious and tries to give an overview of the entire tricorne era from the War of Spanish Succession to the Seven Years War. The American War of Independence is conspicuous by it's absence, but perhaps they are planning a specific AWI supplement. Certainly the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Year's War could have their own supplement as well. But the book does introduce readers to some lesser known conflicts; the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden and the on-going Austro-Turkish Wars. The Jacobite Rebellions (or as the authour refers to them, the "Wars of English Succession") get a mini-campaign which could be adapted to other wars as well with a bit of thought.
Each war is used as an opportunity to focus on one army of the era, highlight a particular commander, provide an army list and then a scenario based upon a battle. The War of Spanish Succession is used to highlight the English and the Duke of Marlborough. The scenario is part of the Battle of Blenheim. The Great Northern War showcases both the Russians and the Swedes, but the battle presented is the relatively unknown Battle of Holowczyn with the Swedes trying to force a river crossing. The chapter 'Storm on the Danube' brings in the Austrians and Ottomans with a scenario involving the Austrians under Prince Eugene attempting to raise the Ottoman siege of a frontier fortress. The War of Austrian Succession ironically has no Austrians at all, but is used to showcase the French under Marshal de Saxe and a scenario for the Anglo-French Battle of Fontenoy.
The Seven Years War gets two chapters. One to finally bring in Frederick the Great and his Prussians. They get a classic match up against the Austrians in the little know Battle of Hundorf. The second chapter is 'War in the Colonies' covering the French and Indian Wars in North America and warfare in India. Both the French and English use the same army lists "Colonial European Armies in America (1700-1775)" and "Colonial European Armies in India (1700-1775)". The final chapter is 'Raids and Invasions' throwing light on some of the many amphibious operations undertaken during the SYW. I thought these landings were a matter of Midshipman Hornblower and a few Marines but they got quite large; a few involving 10,000 troops being landed on the French coast to destroy installations and spread alarm.
The strengths of this book are also it's weaknesses. The breadth of scope gives a good overview of the wars of the era and provides a lot of inspiration, plus some excellent starting points for the novice. But this very breadth means the book has to skimover many things with generalities which will frustrate the veteran. One army list to cover the entire era causes a few problems. The English are allowed 10% light infantry which may be appropriate for the SYW, but is it appropriate for the WSS as well? The Prussian list has no freikorps, but I suppose they could use the same template as the Garrison infantry or Militia. The Guards seems overly generous at up to 20%, unless you consider this to include the Grenadier battalions as well. I also wonder about the one-size fits all approach for the Prussian cavalry. They went from atrocious at the Battle of Mollowitz to really superb during the SYW but are covered by one template for each of Cuirassiers, Dragoons and Hussars in the army list. The Austrian list is similar and really restricts the Austrian leadership which, I think, is unfair to Brown and Nadasty. The Austrians managed to give Frederick a few nasty shocks at battles like Hochkirk.
So not a bad book. A must if you're totally rabid about the period and enjoy superb eye candy. The thoughts on adapting the Black Powder rules to the 18th century, plus the interpretation of the various armies and how the authour reflects them in his use of special rules is interesting. But if you're looking for detailed army lists and scenarios then you'll be disappointed. Personally I had been hoping for more of the Austrians and Prussians but then not everyone shares that interest. I am thinking the other scenarios will be quite adaptable to games between my own Austrian and Prussian armies.