Friday, November 27, 2020

Pre-80's Wargamer Goodness: Ian Heath's "Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066" Old School Review


Greetings Delvers and Mappers of the Mazes.

This was mail-call for me when I arrive home from work today, a piece of goodness from 1976 which was authored by Ian Heath to furnish historical wargames.

I found this at Noble Knight Games and got it for a little under thirty US Dollars, and I'm very happy that I got it, even though I am not (at present) a historical wargamer.

This book is 132 page treatise on Armies of the Dark Ages published by REG Games Ltd.(Sussex) and Heritage Models, Inc.

What is it? A very simple run down of armies from round the globe, from 600 AD to 1066 AD, furnishing the arms and armors of each, their tactics and typical formations, command structures, and their mounts and standards.

I say simple, but this is a misleading word, for although it is made simple for you and I by Mr. Heath, it is apparent a great deal of research was involved and fused with the author's love of wargaming. 

The book contains 137 illustrations, all of which are neither elaborate nor ornate but are amply instructive to give any wargames enthusiast (or roleplaying game referee or even author of stories) plenty of visual reference, painstakingly researched, for the periods included herein.

Front Page


The book we are speaking of now, though, by Mr. Ian Heath, is a very impressive volume. As we have said, it is an army and soldier description, and it covers a great many cultures and centuries which can be used not only for wargaming, but to add realism and depth to fantasy role playing games with fantasy cultures based on these real world examples, and also to inform writing of stories or novels which seek a historical flavor.

The cultures and armies covered are:

Byzantine, Sub-Roman, Pictish, Irish, Visgothic, Lombard, Merovingian, Carolingian, Ottonian, Viking, Russian, Slavic, Avar, Khazar, Magyar, Bulgar, Pecheng, Ghuzz, Alan, Armenian, Sassanid, Arab, Moorish, Near eastern, Saxon, Norman, Italian and Spanish Armies.

The first part of the book contains militaristic information about fighting styles, strengths and weaknesses, and general information, while the second focuses on uniforms, arms, armor, standards and mounts. Below are some images to give you an idea of the book's format and flavor.

A Short Bibliography in the Intro

Territorial Maps by Period

Irish Warriors at top and Visigoth Infantry at bottom

Harness and fittings of 9th  and 10th Century Carolingian mounts.

Norman Warriors and their Banners

Viking Warriors, including wolf-skinned Berserks, and various Raven standards.

Back in the Day!

Its uses for wargaming seem obvious (though I am not a wargamer) but it will certainly serve me well in fleshing out some of the fantasy cultures and nations which I have based upon real world history.It might aid you in a similar way.

I love the detail given to the appearance of the warriors described herein- it would  certainly aid a GM in selecting miniatures to represent the cultures explored or their fantasy counterparts in an invented setting.

The book itself is "Perfect Bound" and if you get an older book don't try to spread the pages wide open or you will get cracking and leaf-loosing, as I did on a few pages my first perusal. 

My final thought is a simple "Wow" when I think of the passion and love of hobby that went into wargaming and roleplaying books of this period. These authors were certainly scholars in their own right and we who enjoy this hobby owe a debt to them. 

Since you bothered to read this far, you deserve a cat pic. 

Evil Evie, the Huntress, permits me to give her a small serving of milk. Nothing says wargaming like a cat sipping milk. 

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