When I was a young boy, just getting into wargaming, I read Martin Hackett’s “Fantasy Wargaming: Games with Magic and Monsters” and was inspired to play more than just Games Workshop games with my mythical minions. Twenty-three years later, his new book “As Told In The Great Hall – The Wargamer’s Guide To Dark Age Britain” has reinvigorated my approach to Dark Age wargaming.
The book is 288 pages long, and stuffed with photographs of re-enactors and the supposed sites of the various battlefields. Mr Hackett and his family have definitely put the miles in on this one, visiting the locations of nearly every major battle covered in the book to walk the ground in the best tradition of A.H. Burne for a better appreciation of the terrain.
A history of British warfare from the 5th to the 11th century takes up the largest part of the book, starting with summaries of all the major players – Post-Roman British, Saxons, Welsh, Vikings, Norse-Irish, Anglo-Danes, Normans, Scots, Picts & Irish. Alongside a substantial chapter specifically about the weapons, armour and tactics of Dark Age Britain, it serves as an excellent primer on the period. The rest of the history forms a narrative that winds through all the bits wargamers care about – the kings and generals, their battles and campaigns. Mr Hackett does an excellent job of setting these conflicts in their proper context, illuminating the political machinations and imperatives that led to so many doomed charges and last stands. Given the overall quality of the book, one thing that surprised me was the uncritical acceptance of the notion of Pictish chariots in the later period – a very shaky proposition according to most authorities on the time. Each major battle is sketched out as a scenario, making this book an invaluable starting point for gamers wanting to branch out into this fascinating period. In aid of this, the appendices include suggestions of places to visit, books to read and companies from which to source models. It is a comprehensive guide in the style of Stuart Asquith and his contemporaries.
Not only that, but the book includes a whole set of Dark Age rules – the As Told In The Great Hall of the title. It is a percentile-dice, single-based system for any size of model and/or battle. It is an old-fashioned game full of charts and modifiers, but don’t let that put you off! Martin Hackett is a stalwart of the UK show circuit, and is often playing As Told In The Great Hall – so if you want a live demonstration of how to set your Saga armies to other uses, look him up! The 54mm battles are particularly impressive, and over the years this game has won numerous “Best Demonstration Game” awards at shows around the country.
The book is £19.99, but available discounted from many retailers. When you consider how many books you would normally need to buy to get all the information in this tome and a game as well, it is a definite bargain in my book. Pun intended.