Friday, October 8, 2010

Foundry Compendium

As my current wargaming endeavours are all pirate themed I am looking for as many resources I can find. I already mentioned Foundry's Scourge of the Seas book some months ago. But I am not only interested in background material but also in existing game rules. It all started with Legends of the High Seas and one book that caught my attention and that I really wanted to check out ever since its release was the Foundry Compendium. The subtitle reads: "Pirates to Darkest Africa - Rules, Campaigns, Painting Guides and Terrain-making". As promising as that sounds, it sure is a lot of stuff for a 96 page book. The articles are taken from previous publications but as I never had a subscribtion to any of the Wargaming Magazines (such as Battlegames or Wargames Illustrated) I could be sure that all the contents would be new to me. Now somewhat recently Foundry had their books on offer so I took the chance and bought the book at a nice discount price. Although I always enjoy having a gander at other periods, genres and games, my prime interest was the cutthroats parts so let's see what aspiring captains can find in this book.

These are the piratical articles from the Foundry Compendium:
Pirates in West Africa (5 pages) - A simple but full set of rules for playing a pirate game.
Any Port in a Storm (7 pages) - A Guide to creating a waterfront wargaming board.
It's Cutlasses Now, Men! (6 pages) - A Guide to scratch-building 28mm pirate ships
Pirate Personalities (2 pages) - Some tips on converting piratey miniatures.


The pirate "game" is of no use really, at least not to me as I don't enjoy this kind of superficial game rules. I understand this rules set was created for quick participation game purposes, but then why put it in a wargames book? I would rather play the free Island Mayhem pirate rules.

The next articles are by Foundry terrain guru Gary Chalk. I really enjoyed the waterfront tutorial - lots of eye candy and useful information. I like to see articles that encourage gamers to create their own terrain and scenery. Of course, I am already doing so myself coming from a skirmish game background, but I have rarely seen it done in my gaming groups and I think it's good to keep encouraging gamers.

The tutorial for scratch-building 28mm pirate ships can probably considered a classic. On various forums I have seen gamers using his plans to create their own ships. This is probably due to the fact that Foundry used to host a PDF file of the article (in its original publication form) on their website, then took it down for the release of the Compendium. I already mentioned the plans in my list of Pirate Ship Manufacturers along with links to example works. Although it is great to have the article in printed form, a PDF version of the plans would be much better when actually applying the knowledge to use. I am sure you can still find the PDFs somewhere floating around the web.

The last article deals with converting piratey themed miniatures (as if Foundry's Pirates and Swashbucklers miniatures range wasn't huge enough already). But it's not too bad as it does give some inspiration for unusual poses and it is always nice to have one's own personalised figures.

So, the conclusion? If you are only in for the pirate stuff you probably want to give this one a miss. The pirate material in this book is not really worth the money. However, if your interest is more widespread so that you enjoy the rest of the covered themes and periods, then you might want to give the book a chance. Personally, I enjoyed some of the other articles, especially as I had never concerned myself with those periods before (Romans, Aztecs) so I learned quite a bit. At the very least it is definately nice for the eye candy. If you can get it a reduced price, I would recommend it IF you are open-minded with regards to periods and themes.

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Update: By request here is a breakdown of the rest of the book:

Today will Decide! (11 pages) - Skirmish gaming with Romans by Chris Peers
The Land of El Dorado (22 pages) - by Chris Peers
The Colours of War (4 pages) - Painting Guide for Aztec miniatures
Burned with Fire and Killed With Steel (8 pages) - "Quickfire rules for Roman gladiatoral combat" by Chris Peers
In Darkest Africa (5 pages) - Full rules for Dark Africa games by Chris -well-guess-who
Painting Darkest Africa (4 pages) - Painting Guide by Mark Copplestone
In Darkest Africa (6 pages) - continued
The World of the Greeks (8 pages) - A History lesson on Greek warfare by Adrian Garbett
Painting Spartan and Athenian Armies (2 pages) - by Steve Saleh


In "Today Will Decide" Peers presents rules for playing skirmish games with Roman Centurions vs small warbands of Gauls. It's one of those "fast-paced" games I am not too interested in personally, however, I did enjoy the somewhat lenthy discussion on why skirmish gaming - playing Heroic actions of individuals - does make sense with Romans despite the widely spread idea of the Roman discipline.

The "El Dorado" article is massive and actually presents what I consider a full rules set: Army lists, point values, campaign rules - all the good stuff I expect from a full rules set. Of course, if you enjoy the "fast paced" games, then you will consider those full games too and you might even prefer those simpler sets. I just don't. I expect a minimum of depth from any rules set. Together with the cool painting guide by Ian Heath this is a very good starting point for people looking to get into wargaming in central america.

I haven't read through the Gladiator article in full but it look promising to me. It contains presents rules for proper Gladiator fighting with rules for parrying, dodging as well as "dirty tricks" such as 'stomach throw' or 'sand in the face'. And you check for "appealing to the crowd (or not...)". I have tried gladiator rules in my old group before and I am very interested in alternative gladiatoral rules sets so I hope to try these out in the not too distant future.

The Darkest Africa rules are again more in-depth feature army lists and campaing rules (including a nifty map). Not really my cup of tea but definately a good starting point, or possibly additional material, for gamers interested in the setting.

The last two articles deal with the Greeks. The first is a history lesson on Greek warfare followed by a 2-page article on painting suitable miniatures. The space for these two articles should have been used to add more substance to the pirates part (for my liking) or the Roman part (for overall balance of themes). The way it is now, it appears somewhat random and only broadens the range of topics at the price of depth of the other themes.

I would have liked to see more weight on fewer topics than touching this many and only providing only few articles. Of course, the book is meant to appeal to many gamers, but this way does it appeal to people who are, say, interested in wargaming with Greeks? Does it appeal to people who are interested in Romans? I don't think so. If you are interested in those setting you probably have the material already and the stuff provided in the book is not sufficient to do as a starting point. In my mind it is for the Aztecs however and probably also for Darkest Africa. So the problem is that you don't know what to expect when buying the book - is it supplemental material for players who know their stuff or is it a good starting point for players who want to get into a new period? Unfortunately the answer varies from theme to theme, increasing the chance of disappointing the reader.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this information. I have had this on my wishlist for some time and now it seems as if I do not need it. I have tons of old WI issues and it sounds like I might have all of this. I know I have all the pirate related stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice review, this too has been on my wish list and I am interested in other periods other than Pirates. Can you give a brief as to what else is in the book?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm glad you found it useful.

    Tim, I have updated the post with a breakdown of the rest of the contents. I hope this is useful.

    ReplyDelete

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