By Stephen Patten
Just about every other trade stand that I visited at Phalanx carried its own pile of copies of Shieldwall and, seeing as no one had kindly sent me a review copy I thought I better buy one. What I got for the fresh creak in my plastic was a flashily produced soft back publication with sixteen pages of absolutely superb colour photographs of a range of models painted in a way to make your mouth water. Supporting these are a whole range of sketches and maps to support the text.
And the text provides wargames army lists for the age of Viking warfare, and suggestions for wargames scenarios. However you can't play the scenarios unless you already own a copy of Warhammer Ancient Battles, a set of rules that seems to grow and grow in popularity. The text itself includes a neat, brief introduction to the history, characters and conflicts of the Dark Age period. Nothing new for the gamer who has done any general reading of the period, but fine for someone totally new to it.
Stephen Patten in his introduction makes clear that his inspiration for the period owes as much to the Norse sagas as to definitive historical fact. And this is reflected in the make up of the lists. This is fair enough as far as I am concerned, but it raised a few hostile comments from some Dark Age "experts" at Phalanx. So you pays your money and make your choice.
For me though the problem with Shieldwall is not the historical accuracy of the lists, that is covered in the authors introduction, but simply that the content is too thin for the price. You can glean better painting details from an issue of Wargames Illustrated, more information on the armies, or battles of the period by thumbing through Miniature Wargames, or even by visiting your local library. So why on Earth should you be tempted to pay £15 for just 24 pages of hard wargame information? Especially if you have to lay out another £15 or more to buy the actual rules?
Nothing against Stephen, I think what he has produced is fine, and I am sure will be reflected in many enjoyable games, but real meat has been filled out with fluff, and my careful Yorkshire blood tells me that the price is no bargain.
Published by Warhammer Historical Wargames
ISBN 1 84154 342 X
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