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Sources for historicals: where, who, what?

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  ninjilly 5 days, 4 hours ago.

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    Cult of Games Member

    As an absolute beginner who wanted to look through a cross section of different fighting forces across all of history I used Blandford’s “Warriors and Weapons of Early Times” and Lilane and Fred Funken’s Arms and Uniforms (2 volumes) published by Ward Lock.  Both date to the early 70s so are not at the cutting edge of research or understanding but they do give a good chronological review of the appearance of fighting men from earliest times to the present day.  As a lad I spent hours looking through the copies I got from the local library and I now have copies here at home which I still turn to, not for historical accuracy but for the lovely artwork and the period snapshots that these summary works give.  Inevitably there is an Osprey that does something similar “Warriors: Fighting men and their uniforms” which will be a bit more accurate to modern understanding, although I’ve not read that one.

    After that I always found the wargames magazines were a good source of inspiration, as were display games at conventions.

    As a wargamer I’ve always gone with the rule of cool when picking out armies to build.  I enjoy research and have a history degree but for me wargaming is a visual thing, after all I spend hours peering intently at them whilst I paint so I need to stay engaged enough to finish them.  My toys have to look lovely or they just won’t play games in the right style. Once you’ve picked out something that you think looks cool you can turn to specific Osprey Men at Arms but as there are hundreds of those to choose from some easier method of picking a starting point might be preferable.

    After that you can start on the deeper research and commenters have given some excellent suggestions for selecting suitable sources.



    Have to agree about the Funcken books, the Napoleonic ones were beautiful inspiration. Not always correct, but it would be a wargamer with no soul who told you it was wrong.

    And still waiting to hear what ‘historicals’ we are talking about – it’s not MERP or Age of Sigmar, or even the Imperium, there is no one canonical source. Just a variety of competing sources. In which we have to swim.


    Cult of Games Member

    A while back I recall Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies when talking about starting a new period certainly endorsed picking up some ospreys as a starting point and then checking more into whichever period it is if of interest after the intital review.


    I have a few tricks for my google shui:

    1/ Check Osprey for a title in the period, which normally shows other linked titles.

    1a/ Go to Amazon enter that title and look up the entry, you can often get them still brand new but cheaper than direct from Osprey and it will show a here’s what other people bought who got this title, most of the time its linked and could be of help. Amazon entires also get reviewed to help other buyers decide if this or sometimes a better title is referenced.

    2/ If got a Wargame Mag covering the period with an article, check the suggested reading/reference which normally gets listed at the end.

    3/ Is there a sourcebook covering the period/particular camapign such as done by Warlord, this will often point you into other books, Warlord is normally Osprey but other company sourcebooks can cover various publications.

    4/ There’s a how to Wargame this period XX guide, various ones are around these days and normally under a £10.

    5/ For historics definately check this site:

    Its a 1/72 review site, but under whichever box its evaluated there will be a list of were they got there information which can often point to a wider list and often references a Millitary Modeleing or collector magazine that had run a feature and might be worth picking up if can locate a cheap enough version in the second hand market.

    6/ Lastly other good sources aside from Osprey although not always with the purdy pictures in there works:


    These are UK, but if across the pond, the plastic soldier and Amazon site for the states can help in research.


    Cult of Games Member

    Further to the above, depending on the period you are interested in it’s also well worth checking out (in reverse chronological order…) Video footage, photographs, contemporary canvases, sketches, woodblock carvings, tapestries and illuminated manuscripts for guidance/inspiration.

    Additionally, during Covid many museums and galleries started digitizing collections or increasing their online footprint, so these can also provide good reference material.

    There was a pretty good summary article on heraldry in a recent issue of Wargames Illustrated (Issue 399/March 2021) but if you can’t chase down a copy then there are probably similar resources online or books available if you are looking at that period.

    Also, terrain. Worth having a look at architecture in your preferred period/locale, and considering that many buildings can be ‘carried forward’ to later periods. ie German gothic half-timbered style buildings can be used for medieval, Peasants, War Thirty Years War, Napoleonics  or 20th century at a push. Similarly, Tudor style half timber will do for War of the Roses through to ECW’s or later ‘alternative’ WW2 scenarios, or anything in Brittany/Normandy on the continent. You don’t have to do a ‘deep dive’ for this, just hit up wikipedia and pintrest for references if you are scratch building, if purchasing then the building probably does what it says on the tin 9 times out of 10 🙂

    Finally, movies and TV series, as well as fictional novels or even historical records, can provide inspiration for scenarios. Just be aware that using movies and TV as reference for clothing worn in your particular period may or may not be historically accurate. Of course if you don’t mind and want your ‘heroic’ characters or units to stand out on the tabletop then go nuts 🙂

    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by  evilstu. Reason: Typos - In accordance with the prophecy

    Cult of Games Member

    If I’m just looking for information on what colours to paint my minis as well as the obiquitous Osprey books I find pintrest to be a brilliant resource. Not only can you get an abundance of images you instantly get images from multiple sources allowing you to check and compare details.


    Pen & Sword have a £0.99p sale on at the moment for a selection of e-books.


    I can recommend SAS Zero Hour

    They have regular e-books sales and promotions so it’s worth adding your email on to the mailing list.



    Some of the books I have for review over the next few monthsIMG_20210501_132443IMG_20210501_132510IMG_20210501_132437


    Cult of Games Member

    Most of my weekend was stolen by being an adult so haven’t been on the site to catch up with this thread but I’d like to thank all of you for the fantastic advice.

    I spent what little free time I had today on the websites mentioned, looking through the different periods covered and it’s been inspiring. I’ll need to keep my hobby butterfly in check but definitely picked up a few different periods/wars I’d like to look into more before picking one to start for army building.

    Thanks for the heads up on that sale @warhammergrimace – turns out they also applied a five for the price of four discount at checkout.

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