We feel very fortunate whenever we hear the thud of a delivery landing on the office carpet. A generous number of books get pushed through the Wi Tower letterbox and we always enjoy having a flick through them but, alas, many never find their way into the magazine. This is generally because they, rather crucially, miss out on the prerequisites that our name dictates: they must relate to gaming (Wargames) and they must have some sort of visual element (Illustrated).
The text below is a transcript of the video, for those who prefer to read rather than watch.
Books with the word ‘Railway’ on the cover tend to fall into this category. We have absolutely nothing against model railway enthusiasts (and suspect a decent number of our readers do their fair share of HO modelling) but the contents of these books tend to be too focused solely on railway modelling (rather than that essential wargaming element) even if they have some good tips within.
Modelling Historic Buildings and Imaginary Structures bucks that trend; just about every model within it would look magnificent on gaming tables for various historical periods. In the introduction the author, David Wright, states: “I have purposely tried to present the contents in a way that I hope will fire the modeller’s imagination, rather than following exacting constraints.” and perhaps this is why this, his seventh book for Crowood, is particularly appealing to us as gamers. We want to recreate the past or breathe life into the imaginary rather than strive to achieve present-day realism; the guides here aim to do much the same and they do it through a truly expert teacher.
The introduction shows the author is as comfortable expressing himself with the written word as he is creating stunning scenery and sets out the aims of the book. We particularly like how using scrap or low-cost materials is given first billing in those aims. There are no projects here that you’ll need to gather piles of special equipment and materials to achieve.
Chapter one throws us in at the deep end somewhat with a historic timber-framed building. This is a rather more complex than the standard Wargames Illustrated How To … but with a lot of pages to fill David can afford to get into the details. He builds Mary’s Lodging, a 16th-century half-timbered hunting lodge that was once within the walls of Tutbury Castle. In great detail, we are guided through the challenges and techniques in researching and building a model of a building that no longer exists and there’s a treasure trove of detail about materials and planning before the actual build process is examined.
Photographs of real-world buildings, David’s own sketches, and workbench snapshots are used, and these are all of good quality. There’s a very slight lack of focus in some of the work in progress pictures but we’re being extremely picky by even mentioning it! The guide focuses on the techniques used to complete one wall then expands to the building as a whole.
Don’t expect step-by-step processes here, this is not a guide for the beginner. David is showing off and sharing his expert approaches and as long as you have some basic interest and experience building terrain his words and creations will inspire you to learn and progress your own projects.
The finished model looks great – a fine payoff after the excitement of watching it develop. Did we expect to smile at a close-up photograph of the cesspits David added? No, we did not, but their inclusion and lovingly rendered finish can’t help but bring joy – we love this sort of obsessive attention to detail. After 24 pages of progress and advice, the completed model looks excellent, and we feel at least somewhat ready to have a go ourselves.
Chapters two to four
But it’s on to the next chapter and the next project! Much as we’d like to focus in detail on each of the projects we simply can’t fit everything here, so we’ll just mention that a dovecote built around a drinks cup and an aqueduct cottage are the next historic structures covered. Chapter four is the first one to tackle an imaginary building. To start with it’s nothing too adventurous – a gamekeeper’s hovel – but David examines the new challenges of researching and planning before creating a beautifully detailed model that is full of life.
This is where things get most exciting – a ‘layout diorama’ is presented and it’s a project that we, as gamers, could easily take and make into an incredible modular board section. There’s no doubt that this chapter, showing the construction of a partially ruined castle and the surrounding terrain, is the highlight of the book; happily it runs from page 100 to 165, close to a third of the book’s total length.
There are complex levels of varying elevation in this model along with (we’ll let him off just this once) a train track running through it, so the planning part is extensive. Once into the build itself it really does feel like the sort of board you’d find used in show exhibition games. From Styrofoam, insulation foam, foam board, cork bark, and some wood offcuts it starts to take form and, over the 65 pages, evolves into a stunning scene.
There is so much good advice here, translatable to our own wargaming projects: realistic rock building and painting, waterfall construction, bridgework, stone embankments, cliffs, caves … and we’ve not even gotten to the castle itself yet! There’s a folly, ruins, underground elements, even a quick guide to making a backdrop.
Chapter six and conclusion
The book ends with a chapter that looks at creating the ‘setting’ for your constructions (lots of atmospheric photographs here), a colour mixing appendix, and lists of material suppliers and places of interest to visit in the UK. There’s even a useful index.
This book is as inspirational as it is informative, and we rather hope that the author continues to delve into the historical and imaginary in his future projects. If he does, we’ll certainly be eager to see what’s next on his hobby table!