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Pingo

Opinions requested about Osprey books

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Can I ask people's considered opinions about the history reference books from Osprey Publishing?

 

I had been vaguely aware of them Wherever Games Are SoldTM.  One or two have fallen into my lap and proven useful.

 

But I have heard mixed things about them.  Some, I hear, are more reliable than others.  And I have heard a few rumors that academia doesn't exactly smile on them or those who write for them.  I haven't heard anything about those who illustrate for them, but I have an interest in that too.

 

Since the InternetTM can be unreliable in these things, I thought I'd ask people who stand a better chance of having some experience.  

Edited by Pingo
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When I started in historical miniatures wargaming, I found them to be good for an entry level overview of the subject.  With the assumption that if my interest was piqued enough I would look elsewhere for more detailed info.  From a uniform reference I always found them satisfactory to get me started in a period; but I have never been accused of being a button counter. :)   

 

For the most part though, I have found the internet has replaced my need for their books anymore.  Most any info I could get from them is easily accessible now for free online from other sources like Wikipedia.

 

edit: Just wanted to add that I have heard the same things that you have about their quality.  But for game purposes, which to me are different than the accuracy level needed for a scholarly dissertation, they've always been adequate.

Edited by Chris Palmer
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I enjoy them just because I like books with pretty pictures in them. I can't speak to their accuracy. 

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WWII and modern forces are described pretty accurately.

However when it comes to Ancients ( Romans etc) one should always keep in mind that even experts in their History aren't sure about colours of tunics and "uniforms"

So any illustrations depicting those in a certain colour are more or less an artists interpretation.

 

For Games...absolutely useful, for Accurate History..it depends on the era.

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I have a lot of Osprey books, most are fine from a gaming/painting standpoint. It also depends on which series of books you are looking at. Some contain a lot more information than others.

 

The Men at Arms books are the basic level. Generally good uniform guides and relatively reliable historical information. These books are never updated though, so if there are inaccuracies in an early edition it will remain there.

 

The Elite and Warrior series are a step up from the Men at Arms series, typically focusing on a specific unit, rather than a broad spectrum look like MAA.

 

The New Vanguard Series focusing primarily on vehicles, although there are exceptions. If you want to know information about a specific tank or vehicle this is the series for you.

 

The Campaign series focuses on actual military campaigns, although typically smaller campaigns than larger. So the landings at Normandy might be divided up into a series of books as the scope is quite large. For a quick, fairly accurate look at specific battles and campaigns these are great books.

 

The Battle Orders books are excellent supplements to the Campaign series and focus on larger unit formations, typically division or even corps level and typically include a look at the TOE for those groups as specific points in time. The couple that I own have been invaluable for helping to plan small wargame campaigns.

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The thing to remember is that Osprey publishes these with the thought in mind that they are going to be a good reference for fluff, painting, scenarios, background, etc., for your historical gaming, and also with the older war buff in mind. They are wonderfully illustrated, and not bad books at all, but they are more a form of entertainment, than scholarly source.

 

That said, my son is a brainiac when it comes to antiquity and ancient history, and he quite enjoys the books, at least from the sense of their overall quality and interest. He does point out inaccuracies, from time to time, and instances where information is asserted, that he understands to still be hypothetical (including the aforementioned color schemes on uniforms). He's like me in that regard; he prefers accuracy in reporting.

 

So, overall: appreciate the beauty of the illustrations and formatting, use for good gaming and modelling reference. Don't base your school report solely on these books, but enjoy them anyway. NOTE: When it comes to modern wars, Osprey's gaming books (such as Force on Force) sometimes seem to be more accurate than their history books, but this may be because the gaming books are more regularly updated.

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Largely agree with Heisler.

 

Speaking mostly of the Men at Arms series:

  • For a reference for the colors of the facings and buttons of the 23rd Regiment of Foot in the Austrian Army in 1758, they're pretty good. (In part, this is because they're what almost everyone uses, so even if there's another source that disagrees, nobody will much complain. ^_^ )
  • For a broad overview overview of the war they reference, not too bad either, but they will be pretty light.
  • For a source of a representative sample of period photos (for later subjects, obviously), they're OK.
  • For illustrations of period troops, they're quite good. They hire generally very competent and occasionally quite gifted illustrators.
  • For any more in depth information, you really want to go elsewhere.

I will note that their more recent miniatures rules series of books has been pretty decent. Frostgrave, Horizon Wars, Tomorrow's War, Rogue Stars, etc., are pretty strong and reasonably priced.

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Horizon Wars is awesome!  [NB I may be a bit biased]

It's fully compatible with CAV minis, too.

 

That said, I would strongly recommend people download the FAQ and Errata from my website.  I'm not sure if the mods here would count including a link as violating the "no commercial use" rule, but just search for "Precinct Omega".  It's also available from the Horizon Wars Facebook group.  However, the version on the Osprey site is out of date, so don't use that one.

 

Regards,

Robey

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2 hours ago, precinctomega said:

Horizon Wars is awesome!  [NB I may be a bit biased]

 

:poke:

 

2 hours ago, precinctomega said:

It's fully compatible with CAV minis, too.

 

That's what I'm going to use it for (plus OGRE miniatures). Though I'm not much of a fan of big stompy robots, the rules work fine for vehicles and infantry and are a nice, lighter alternative to Dirtside II.

 

2 hours ago, precinctomega said:

That said, I would strongly recommend people download the FAQ and Errata from my website.  I'm not sure if the mods here would count including a link as violating the "no commercial use" rule, but just search for "Precinct Omega".  It's also available from the Horizon Wars Facebook group.  However, the version on the Osprey site is out of date, so don't use that one.

 

Regards,

Robey

 

Thanks for the note about the errata and FAQs. Hope to see you here again, Mr. Jenkins.

Edited by Doug Sundseth

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I have loads of Ospreys. One thing to keep in mind though is that even within the series there are ones that are better than others. I am most familiar with the medieval titles, and anything by Gravett or Nicole is pretty good or reliable.

 

Damon.

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I have one of the British Crocodile tank on the way.  I will let you know what I think. I got it primarily to help me paint up a Crocodile, but the tank is also too as well--guess that's why I chose to tackle it first.

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I have a couple hundred.  The quality varies enormously...from dreck to gold.  In general, I use them for uniform painting references and introductions to various campaigns.  And some of the campaign books provide introductions and broad overviews that I haven't found elsewhere.

 

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7 minutes ago, Highlander said:

I have a couple hundred.  The quality varies enormously...from dreck to gold.  In general, I use them for uniform painting references and introductions to various campaigns.  And some of the campaign books provide introductions and broad overviews that I haven't found elsewhere.

 

 

I just picked up a few by Stephen Turnbull on the Mongols in the time of Genghis Khan.  They seem on a cursory first look to be reasonably solid.  

 

I suspect a lot of the variation in quality depends on the authors.  

 

I would call the illustrations "National Geographic style", a mix of historic documents, photos of more or less relevant contemporary locations, and specially comissioned paintings.

 

I got some good use a few years ago from some Osprey titles on tall ships.

 

While I confess to a slight curiosity about the "dreck" titles, I fear getting bogged down in gripes when what I'm really more looking for is where are the gems.

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Turnbull's work is quite good, both for Osprey and elsewhere. If you like the Osprey books, I think it likely that you'll like the others even more, as they're much more in-depth and have excellent illustrations as well.

 

As to which Osprey titles are gems, that's a bit hard to say. Osprey has published ... several ... books. ^_^

 

If there is a period you're interested in, you might be able to get better feedback by virtue of narrowing the field.

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