15 January 2013

Achtung Schweinehund!

I bought this book 5 or so years ago while visiting London and laughed my whole flight home reading it before giving it to Comrade James.  After recommending it to Alan aka Dux H late last year, I decided it was time for a re-read.  Its a hoot.

As an example, in describing his Games club the author says: 'We would do something that was intellectually undemanding, trivial, pointless and involved limited commitment and minimum communication skills.  In short, something truly masculine.  Instead of making spectacular food like the women did we would buy snacks from the local garage; we would not discuss anything meaningful; we would not address the big themes; we would sit around drinking beer, eating bright orange cheese-flavoured corn based snacks, rolling dice, moving hundreds of bits of plastic around big map boards and yelling "And now all of Turkey falls to the mighty forces of the Yellow Emperor.  Look on and despair you puny weaklings!" (Although not every utterance would be quite an intellectual as that.)'  Now that sounds pretty much describes every good gaming session I've ever enjoyed!

The author goes on to make other wonderfully self mocking commentaries which apply to all of us gamers really.  For example, after recording the time it took to paint 28 20mm soldiers (43hrs, 27mins - a full working week with a bit of overtime) he observes 'I thought of all the figures I had painted in my life.How many years it had taken to paint them.  If I had put it into some sensible activity I might now be a lawyer, architect or neurosurgeon and you'd be reading a book by somebody sensible like John Grisham, Bernard Cornwell or Alain de Botton.'  Certainly a perspective most gamer wives would agree with, even if only from a financial perspective.  Nonetheless you can feel the love and enjoyment of modelling and gaming all the way through the book.

Another of my favourite quotes from the book is 'There was nothing more guaranteed to put you off wargaming than to go to a wargames show.  Yet I was drawn  back to them like a salmon to its spawning ground.  Or a dog to its own vomit.'

'This book is about Toy Soldiers  and the men who collect and fight battles with them' the Acknowledgement says, but its really is so much more.  Achtung! also includes wonderful anecdotes about growing up making endless Airfix models, reading Commando Comics and the adventures of their cliche spinning colourful characters, and the pitfalls of engaging in discussion with military re-enators (including a U-Boat crew who, without a submarine, simply get together and re-enact shore leave!).  It also speaks from the heart of being a closet geek, having a circle of hobby friends who are quite different and distant to all other acquaintances and fighting to ensure that never the twain shall meet.

Younger, GW focused, gamers who have never known life without a Playstation or XBox probably wont identify much with this book, but if you are older then this will hit a chord with you in many ways.  
I found something to chuckle at on pretty much every page. Highly Recommended.


  1. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and indeed read it again a while back. It certainly struck several chords (ok, most of them in fact). If you're of 'a certain age' I can't imagine it not doing that though.

    The wargaming show line is unerringly accurate!

  2. Thanks Paul! That sounds so great that I directly went to ebay and bought it :)

  3. "Like a dog to its vomig" made me LOL!

  4. Thanks Paul, definitely sounds interesting.

  5. Sounds a great book, I'll defo look out for this one!

  6. Thanks for the review, off to Amazon!

  7. Couldn't agree more, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I particularly liked the section on the middle aged single gamer who had so many lead figures stored upstairs his house was liable to collapse... thank God we've now switched to plastics!

  8. I read this book several years ago and I also have to agree that it is a book well worth read for anyone 35 and older. A lot of childhood memories were stirred as I read it.


  9. Looks like every wargamer will relate to it. We should be able to laugh at our selves and maybe this will put our hobby into perspective for us.

  10. Gotta get my hands on one of those...
    Truth be told, the part about the hours spent painting miniatures (or else for that matter) already disturbs enough.

  11. I really enjoyed this book - lots of chuckles!

  12. I enjoyed it, but clearly he has never met the female wargamer, though I know that we are rare indeed.

    1. Indeed most welcome that you are, are you known in some circles as "Unicorns"? :-)

  13. Stumbled across this wee gem of a book at the local library a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Bit of a nostalgia trip actually as it reminds me of a simpler, happier time before electronic crap took over and chaps actually had to glue fiddly palstic bits together and read plans and Gawd forbid,... read books to find out about stuff.

  14. I award Ogilvie eleventeen hundrathousand Interweb points for summing up my "you kids get off my lawn" feeling that I just couldn't compose.

  15. Good to catch you the other day (at one of said shows no less). I haven't opened Achtung for years, but recall the most touching, for want of a better word, section was the last chapter - Rallying Broken Troops, a great conclusion to end on.

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  17. Finally got the time to sit and enjoy reading the book (bought in Jan).

    Absolutely loved it!
    The writing, the humor, the insight on all that's involved in/by the world of "toy soldiers". What a fantastic little book.
    Thank you for sharing it.

    Please, do let us know if you ever stumble on another pearl like that one!