Book Review: The Games of War--A Treasury of Rules for Battles with Toy Soldiers, Ships & Planes

There are three words that can describe John Bobek's book The Games of War: Good, simple, fun.

John's made a major contribution to the wargarming hobby by writing a book gamers of all ages can use and enjoy.

While the book weighs-in at 271 pages, it contains 39 rule-sets for playing games from Ancients to Modern, with a couple of off-shoots for running sci-fi and fantasy games.

This book is an excellent tool for "converting younglings to the Dark Side."

Seriously, I mean it's great for introducing wargames to adolescents. Each set of rules ranges between 3 to 22 pages in length; with the World War II, Modern and Aerial games being the longest due to the vehicle status charts. Despite the length of the more technical orientated rules, novice wargamers of all ages can quickly grasp the game mechanics and dive right into the action.

Which is why the rules bound in this book also serve well for convention games. Conventions have several periods a day in which to run games within 3-4 hours each period. That's not a lot of time to digest a weighty tome of rules, unless the game session calls for experienced players. But by making games exclusive would be defeating the purpose of introducing newcomers to this exciting hobby. So simpler sets of rules are in order and the rules packed in this book fit the bill.

Nor is this book limited to youngsters and convention goers. The demands of everyday life limit the amount of time gamers can spend with their friends indulging in their favorite hobby. More often than not, players don't have the mental energy to devote to studying war simulations.

We'd rather spend our valuable time playing an enjoyable war game! (Oh, and maybe even learn a thing or two about military history).

John even suggests using these rules as teaching aids in the classroom. (He's a high school teacher himself).

Good Lord! I wish I had a history teacher like this guy! Some of his History Labs include the Battles of Chickamauga and Tarawa. Heck, I would have played the side of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn if it meant playing wargames in history class!

You can read glowing reviews about John's book on Amazon.com and Boardgamegeek.com. Like the other reviewers, I give John's book a whole-hearted 5-stars.

The retail cost of the book is $32.95, which at the time of this review, Amazon.com is offering it for $29.95. Either price qualifies the buyer for Amazon's "Super Saver" (ie., free!) shipping, at least in the US.

I only have a couple of recommendations in using this book. First that you mark the places where each separate set of rules start. John suggests using Post-It Notes or sticky-tabs. I'd further recommend making photocopies of the necessary rules to use during game-time. This will be much handier for the game master and players than trying to thumb through the entire book in the heat of table-top battle.

Second, some of the lengthier material, like the tank charts in "Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright" are several pages long, but don't always have the column headings on the top of each page. So you may want to pen & ink-in the necessary column headings to avoid confusion and unnecessary page flipping.

I'm happy to add Games of War to my rules library.

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Comment by David Allen on February 3, 2009 at 11:05am
I agree that this is a great book for both beginners and grognards. The rules are simple enough not to overwhelm a beginner, but they generate realistic outcomes that an experienced gamer demands. Since the rules are so simple, an experienced gamer could use them for very large games. I've been thinking of running an air combat gaming using these rules and a very large number of planes -- dozens or even hundreds -- and combining it with action on the ground.
Comment by Ted Henkle on January 31, 2009 at 12:02pm
You're welcome! I buy both simple and complex rules. The complicated ones usually end up being reference material. I also posted my review on my main blog "Stern-Rake Studio":

http://sternrakestudio.blogspot.com/

Take care.

Ted
Comment by John Bobek on January 30, 2009 at 8:42pm
Wow! Thank you for the very kind words! Never having grown up myself, I lean toward rules that are simple and fun. I do believe that I haven't shortchanged "realism" by much. The fun of being an "indie" is that publicity is very tough to come by. Now, if I could only have you put my pix in video form like you did with "Impending Fury!"

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