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    Avatar photoMike

    Osprey historical books, best for beginners and people starting out, or good for those that are properly into their history, or both, or neither, or?

    Avatar photoGeneral Slade

    I like them, though to be honest I really buy them for the pretty pictures rather than the text.  I know some people tend to be a bit sniffy about them but I have never really understood why.  Mind you, I did curse the one on Napoleon’s light infantry, the plates in which seemed to suggest that the French light infantry wore lighter blue coats than the line.  I painted a couple of battalions in bright, mid-blue coats before I discovered this was just a quirk of the artist (I think they attempted to make the coats appear darker in subsequent editions).

    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    Before the advent of the internet a useful general resource that didn’t cost a fortune. Nowadays not so much.


    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    I used to buy quite a few as casual interest starting points,because as NCS says, pre internet they were a not bad (usually) resource. Since the internet you  can pick up a lot of the info there. Free info is worth what you pay for it of course, but at least it’s free, whereas some Ospreys should have been given away. If you want a quick beginners guide to a subject in one accessible place however, I still think they work in general.

    The trouble is the quality can vary dramatically (or has done over the years). I know of one or two academics who have written titles under a nom de plume/guerre(?) and their works are brilliant value. But as they don’t advertise who they really are, you don’t know unless you know what you are getting. There are others which will leave you having to unlearn a lot of stuff before you work out what really happened.

    Osprey seem to be branching out into more obscure subjects, often not particularly historical as such (the gaming titles, particularly the fantasy and SF ones) which might be good for gamers generally, but makes me wonder if they feel they have covered the historical field as well as they can. I think there are titles and subjects they could revisit, some in the light of new research, some just because the originals were, how shall we put this? Less than a hundred per cent accurate?

    Given the prices I’d still pick one or two up for a quick guide if I were starting a new period/theatre of ops, and if I weren’t such a crusty old git who already thought he knew it all!

    Avatar photoRussell Phillips

    I always thought their main value was the colour plates. Before the web, they were the best painting guide for virtually any period that I was aware of. Even with the web, because of technical issues, the colour you see on your monitor isn’t necessarily the same as what the artist intended, so there’s still an argument for them in that regard.

    As for the text, I’d say they’re generally a useful introduction. Some have mistakes, but I’m not sure they’re any better or worse than other publishers in that regard. Generally I find them easy to read, which has value in and of itself.

    Military history author
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    I have a few mainly for smaller nations of the Napoleonic wars or conflicts I don’t know much about.

    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    Are you asking about the Essential History series? I think those are dreadful. Get a real book on the subject.

    The other series vary a lot in quality by individual title. I’m an 18th century enthusiast, and I find that any volume by Rene Chartrand has information and insights I can find nowhere else. There are others, like the “Comanche Warrior” title, that are mighty thin gruel.

    The color plates…you gotta watch out, ’cause sometimes they’re wrong. I remember in the old “Stonewall Brigade” Man-At-Arms, since withdrawn, the artist had the idea that ‘butternut’ was a bright mustard yellow, and illustrated a Confederate soldier in full uniform, double-breasted frock coat in that awful mustard yellow, with sky blue cuffs, collar, kepi and trousers, and white lace piping, I kid you not. At a convention once, I saw an entire model Stonewall Brigade that had been painted up from that color plate – bright yellow coats and all. I didn’t say anything, but it made me very sad…

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Good for a new period, to get you started. Good for a “minor” period that you don’t intend to immerse yourself in.

    Several of the figure companies I use clearly go to Ospreys for inspiration.



    Avatar photoMcKinstry

    I’ll usually pick one up to start a new period or army but the internet has really cut down on the volumes needed.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Avatar photoNorm S

    I generally like them. they are in the ‘readable’ zone for me. They are short enough that real life is not likely to interrupt the read partway through, they have plenty of illustration and importantly maps – the number of ‘better’ books that don’t have maps is surprising.

    Increasingly I am buying them as e-books, not so great on the kindle, but on a tablet, they are much more functional and of course colourful!

    I bought their Dux bellorum rules as an e-b00k and regret that, I think rule books are much better in the hand and so subsequent rules have been bought in physical form.

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