So a long while back I was scrambling to find a PIAT team for my 20mm British platoon. I settled on using some Italeri models which are pretty nice. The unfortunate bit was they were paratroop models. Now Bolt Action is pretty open to mixing and matching troop types. You could hand wave the entire thing and say they’re a few paratroops that folded into a Normandy group the first few days of the invasion. I was perfectly happy with that, but those minis sort of sparked my interest in working up a British paras force.
I went off and got a platoon of Italeri figs and got another British platoon painted and completed. They turned out nice and the box had quite a few different figures, however I still was missing a few weapon teams to round out my force. I started looking over some other minis to get and picked up on one from Valiant Miniatures.
They are pretty nice figures. There is a lot in the box, 4 complete sprues for a total of 68 figures. There is a nice selection of riflemen and figures with Sten guns, as well as PIAT and Vickers MMG troops. A nice bit is that some separate heads wearing berets are also included. While not 100% accurate with the uniform and kits, I was able to swap out some heads and paint them up to supplement my Italeri para troops. I also could now field some 3 and 2 inch mortars too for medium and light mortar teams, respectively.
As a bonus, I now had a PIAT team to whip up and throw into my other British infantry platoon painted as a proper army uniform team. I’m also thinking of hacking up one of the Vickers MMG to throw onto a Bren carrier. The downside is I now have a gaggle of odd Brit minis. Maybe I’ll find a use for them or hack up parts for other projects.
The Valiant minis are a stiff plastic which is easy to work with and uses regular plastic cement for assembly and basing. The figures are mostly one piece with a squarish base, so you’ll likely have to put them on bases of your own. They are detailed well enough. Some parts are a little blocky and the figures seem well proportioned even if some of the weapons are a little large. The facial features and hands are a tad cartoon looking, but well enough for 20mm figures.
They are somewhat large though compared to other figures, including being a bit over proportioned. I think a few figures don’t stand out too much on the tabletop, but you should be cautioned if trying to mix and match. Below is a comparison with a 20mm Plastic Soldier Co. figure on the left and you can see that the Valiant figure on the right is not only taller but also bulkier.
For wargaming they are suitable minis though and a great price with a decent variety in the box. Another nice point is that they are hard plastic which I’ve always found easier to work with in modifying and modeling. Overall if you’re on a budget, they are a good set to pick up for 20mm wargaming.
This week just a small tip for folks delving into miniature painting. If you are like me you might have a lot of different game systems and army projects going (sometimes several simultaneously). Once an army is done, going back to add a few troops or units is always an option. However it can be a tad difficult to remember what paints were used before for that force.
Another issue is that occasionally your miniatures will get some dings and dents. You may find needing to touch up a miniature or two. So trying to think back what paints you originally used for a base coat along with the proper wash might be a problem. It’s compounded if you’ve been painting a slew of other stuff since then too.
To get around this I use note cards. I write down the paints used for base coats, washes, and highlights. Additionally I pair this information up with the appropriate parts of the models. Along with the name of the paint, I also place a small dab of the paint color on the card.
This way I know exactly what colors I used for say, the webbing on my US Marines, along with the colors used for the drybrush highlight too. The color reference is also there in case I have problems tracking down a specific paint. I then have a hue to compare to if seeking a replacement paint from a different manufacturer. Another plus is I can take the card with me into the shop to directly compare.
They are very handy. I’ve got a slew of unfinished 15mm Russians I’ve been sitting on for a couple of years now. At least with the paint reference cards I have some confidence I can revisit them again using the same color scheme as I had done in the past, ensuring that my army will have a uniform look. So consider keeping track of the paints you use on your minis. While I find note cards handy, but even a notebook is helpful. After all you never know when you might have to touch up a couple of minis (or add another squad to your force).
Warlord games has been diligently releasing their theater specific books and I was able to finally snag a copy of Bolt Action: Empires in Flames, their Pacific campaign book. This details quite a few parts of the entire Pacific and East Asia conflict from the initial invasions of Japan into China during the second Sino-Japanese war, engagements in Burma, to the final allied island-hopping offensive to take back territory from Japan. As with many of the previous books it not only covers some scenarios, special troop types, and unique rules for these games, but also provides brief historical background overviews of the conflicts.
The book is broken down into sections first dealing with the 1937 outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, then detailing the rapid conquests Japan had during the initial part of WW2, up to the final years of the war (with Burma and the other major allied offensives being their own section). There are only 8 scenarios listed in the book, but taking a page from Ostfront, there are lists of scenarios out of the main Bolt Action book that are recommended as ones that would be applicable for that period of the war.
Although the scenario count is limited, many have some unique layouts in terrain to give them a twist from your typical games. Additionally, they employ some special rules incorporating night fighting, mines, or amphibious assaults, or ones more specific to the stress troops had in a jungle environment (like exhaustion, monsoon rains, or deep mud). There are also quite a few suggestions for the density and type of terrain that should be on the table for these games. I’ll admit it’s a little disappointing more rules weren’t included but there is enough to add some wrinkles to your typical game which could capture that feel of jungle fighting.
One thing that stands out included in the book is a complete army force list for Chinese national forces. If hankering to duke it out during the initial Japanese invasion into China, this book has you covered with some Japanese theater specific lists. But along with that is a complete list of units and vehicles that would be thematic for the Chinese national army at the time. It certainly is a very niche force, but an interesting option if looking for something different in your typical Pacific theater games.
Along with this new force list are also some new units for both Japan and the allies (both US and Britain), including rules for Mongolian Russian troops. There are a sparse number of heroes and a few vehicles. Most of the new units are for infantry troop selections. Rules for horse limbers and mule-packed guns are also presented as troop options.
Amphibious rules are presented, as well as rules for night fighting, city fighting, and minefields. There are some additional rules that attempt to capture the challenges of fighting in the jungle (monsoon rains and deep mud). Another interesting rule tweak is exhaustion. This rule potentially strips away troops from infantry and artillery units. Exhaustion can also impeded Run orders (units must always check leadership, even with no pins) and units in reserve are more difficult to bring in. It’s a bit of a gamble if playing with the jungle specific rules for exhaustion as it can randomly effect just the attacker or just the defender (or possibly both sides).
The Good – The book provides a nice overview of the different types of engagements that typified warfare in WW2 for this region. Touching on the years up to the start of the war, along with the initial part of the Japanese military campaign is also welcomed, as it’s something not quite visited in typical WW2 rules.
The theater-specific rules are okay and having additional units are always welcomed. The detailed scenarios aren’t groundbreaking but do offer some different challenges from your standard Bolt Action game. It’s especially nice to have a complete army list and theater-selectors for a Chinese national force, which certainly stands out from your regular Pacific wargame book.
As with many other Osprey books, the art is great. It’s well organized and having the special rules dedicated in a single section at the end of the book is nice.
The Bad – There is a lot of ground and history to cover, but it would have been nice to provide some more scenarios. As with many of the other books, a fair number of scenarios are presented more as generic battles with a Pacific flavor rather than detailing a specific battle. Even though the horse limber rules are presented again, it’s a shame the rules for flag bearer units weren’t included.
The Verdict – Empires in Flames is a niche book. It certainly is for a player wanting to focus on the Pacific war. Most of the rules covered have been seen elsewhere in other campaign books (although it’s nice to have them collected in one book here again). So if looking for tons of new rules, some might be disappointed.
Additionally the number of scenarios provided might be considered a little sparse. However the ones provided offer a nice snapshot of the particular types of battles seen in the Pacific. There are quite a few suggestions for table layouts, special rules, and theater-selector lists to use too.
I think Osprey has hit their stride with putting these campaign books out. Empires in Flames manages to present a wide range of different conflicts in the Asian region well. I don’t consider this book a must have for everyone. But if war in the Pacific is your bag, you’d be remiss not to pick up this campaign book. It’s got a lot of meat in between its pages to keep a Bolt Action fan happy.
For a long while now I’ve been pretty much sticking with 20mm for my Bolt Action platoons. I’ve accumulated quite a few different nations dabbling both in the Pacific and European theaters. Usually when I jump into a wargame I end up picking up enough models to fill out a couple of armies. It’s just so much easier for me to spark someone’s interest in playing when I’ve already got an army for them to try out. So for Bolt Action, going 20mm was not a problem at all for me.
However I realize that if I was dumped into a gaming scene where I’d be typically playing against folks with their own armies, well, I guess they might frown a little on me pushing around 1/72 scale troops and tanks. So I wanted to work on another nation army that would be a ‘proper’ 28mm scale and settled on fielding a Russian force. One aspect of my choice was that I’d be able to dig up some 1/48 scale armor and vehicles. I could have chosen some other smaller nation, but rounding that out would likely be difficult. The downside of course would be that I’d have to whip up a lot of models. Russian armies work with having lots of bodies so I certainly wanted to look into plastic kits.
There are a few options out there but in the end I decided to make the bulk of my troops from using the Red Army box sets from Wargames Factory. These are pretty nice sets of around 30 figures with a variety of small arms. Most weapon options are for Mosin Nagant rifles and PPSh-41 smgs, but there are quite a few DP-28 lmgs and various sniper rifles also. My complaint would be that I wish there were more rifles. You can get about 15 figures with rifles from a box set. From my 2 sets, I wanted to squeeze out a 3rd rifle squad but it looks like I might have to stick with making that a smg scout squad instead (was able to get a free 12 man rifle squad though for a total of 3 rifle heavy units).
The figures are pretty well sculpted with a fair amount of detail. It’s hard plastic that is a snap to assemble with cement and they don’t appear to have excessive mold lines (although there are some and you can see from the photos I still need to trim more). Another small bit I love about the box is that lipped bases are also provided. There are a couple of prone figures that don’t get any benefit from the bases, but it’s a nice touch.
There are a variety of heads but most are with helmets with a smaller proportion having caps. There are a some officer caps and a few female soldier heads also. As a nice touch, you have the option of making a couple of female troops which is cool. Something historically accurate and adds a little variety to how your force looks on the table. I made one of my sniper teams women and working on converting my field medic to be female.
As pistols and other accessories go, the sprues are a little lacking. They are present but in a limited number. However there are tons of ammo pouches and field kits. So certainly you can deck out your troops to have some additional details. I will grumble some that the entrenching tool and canteen are modeled as a single piece which somewhat limits options for attaching them.
Arms are modeled individually and at first I sort of groaned looking at this, worried how much of a chore it’d be to piece them together properly. However each arm is paired by letter along with a matching body figure making it a much easier process. Still, you’ve got individual arms, heads, and other gear kit bits to glue. Expect your assembly of troops to take a while.
Nonetheless the end product is fairly good. They are digital sculpts but they look like they can handle some detail rather well. I’ll complain about wanting more rifles, but there are enough different weapons between smgs, sniper rifles, and lmgs to provide lots of options. While most of the bodies are single sculpts, with movable arms and heads you can get enough dynamic poses to give the models variety. Adding more kit options and about 5 body figure types, you end up with enough to make your force look engaging with plenty of differences in poses. Hands down, the quality and price for these kits are hard to beat and are an exceptional value for wargaming. Well worth looking into to bulk up your Russian force.
A long while back I mentioned that I picked up some battemats from Hotz Mats and wasn’t that impressed with them. At the same time I made my order, I decided to pick up some flocked felt field sets from the same company. Despite me not being keen on the treated felt mats, I gotta say that I do like the flocked fields they offer.
I bought 2 sets of the 20-30mm range felt fields. The fields vary in sizes and colors that look pretty good for that scale. Seems they offer smaller scale mats for 6-15mm. The pics I have here are of 1/72 scale Germans. It does seem that smaller models would look a little off with the larger scale mats.
The felt fields are durable though and the flock is tightly adhered to the material. Mind you I keep them stored relatively flat tucked in a box of other terrain, so if tightly rolled up I’m not sure how they would hold up. But I have to say they’ve been through some heat and humidity and still look nice. Through normal gaming wear and tear you’d likely have some fields that would last for years.
The felt fields range in size having one large section, 2 smaller fields (a little over 6″ long), and a mid-sized field. A good mix for a set which looks nice. Throw in some small stone walls or bocage and you’d have a nice bit of rough terrain or light cover for your table. If looking to get some rural terrain and not too keen on modeling your own, they are a good option and worth picking up a set or two.
I’ve been slowly working on some more Pacific-themed terrain for Bolt Action. One stickler for me was getting some appropriate woods for a table together. I’ve got some decent trees that could work for deciduous forest, but really nothing that would work for jungle terrain.
Cruising through a small pet store I stumbled on some inspiration finding fish breeding bedding for aquariums. This lead me to also hitting up a local arts and crafts store to buy some plastic floral arrangements.
With a craft knife and a hot glue gun, I was able to remove sections of plastic plants and mount them on metal washers. A coat of plastic primer and flat green paint, along with a simple drybrush of a lighter green and I was able to whip up quite a few stands of jungle trees and overgrowth. I cut many sections at varying heights and mixed and matched them to provide a little more realistic look.
They really look pretty well and being on separate bases, I can move them around to accommodate larger teams and vehicles. Next to some 20mm Japanese troops I painted up, they’ve got an appropriate height and occupy a good chunk of area to offer cover. They were also a snap to get together. Certainly one of my more easier terrain projects to complete. Making trees and jungle terrain this way is easy and offer some decent terrain for your Pacific theater games.
A long while back I introduced some house rules for Bolt Action that I use for my games. Just some tweaks to a few odd things I find a little quirky with the rules. One thing that I’ve stewed a bit on however are the ranges. I understand why they are so truncated. For a wargame to be played on the dinner table and trying to encourage maneuvering with squads, you can’t have ranges covering the entire play area.
Now a lot of gamers have a beef with this and cite it as a huge flaw with Bolt Action. I’d totally agree for some weapons it throws all simulation out the window playing the rules as written, especially with tank guns that were actually reaching ranges of a kilometer or more. So a lot of folks lean towards other systems where ranges are longer distances or simply cover the entire table. However for infantry weapons there are a few documents which claim field manual distances were fairly exaggerated. Actual combat engagements were much closer, having rifle fire up to ranges of 300 yards, with truly accurate and effective fire being at only at 100 yards. With short distances like those, 24″ rifle ranges might not be too far off from what was actually seen on the WW2 battlefield.
There was one thing that stuck out for me when reading Battlegroup (another great set of WW2 miniature rules). That was the idea of fire at extreme ranges which could only be used for suppression. Battlegroup has effective ranges for all weapons that can inflict casualties or damage armor. However there is no max range and players can freely fire at anything on the table top that they can see. However these long ranges are limited to area fire only. It’s hard to land a hit and if you do, you only get to put a pin marker on your target. It is for suppression only and you need a ton of firepower but it’s an option.
This is certainly something I could use for my Bolt Action games. A fire mode that was difficult to achieve hits beyond maximum range and would only result in pins. I still wanted to cap out ranges though, but stuck at simply doubling listed ranges. Even for armor this could be used, but like rifle fire, could only potentially pin a target. So I decided to incorporate this into my own house rules. You can find a detailed explanation of the rule below.
Extreme Range – On a fire order, all weapons can fire at targets up to twice their listed range. Weapon fire at this extreme range only hit on 6s on 6s as per Nigh Impossible Shots (pg 37). All hits do not inflict casualties or vehicle damage, regardless of their penetration value. The target will only suffer one pin instead if hit (suppression does not apply). Armored vehicles, whether they are open topped or not, ignore all small arms fire at extreme range. Vehicles hit from weapons of +1 pen or greater suffer a pin as per the Tank War vehicle rules (veterans ignore hits if the weapon cannot penetrate their armor, inexperienced units gain a pin, etc.). Note that weapons which can cause more than one pin such as HE weapons still only inflict 1 pin at extreme range. Flamethrowers and indirect fire weapons firing smoke cannot use this rule.
Osprey publishing has been continuing their releases for Bolt Action campaign specific books and Ostfront covers the broad Eastern European front from the Russian invasion of Finland, Operation Barbarossa, up to the final attack into Berlin. As with previous books, it covers special units and scenario specific rules, all along with some historical background text.
One particularly interesting section is the Japanese-Soviet conflicts between 1938-39. And the beginning of this book highlights a few key battles along with some special army lists and units, including Japanese cavalry. It’s a pleasant addition to shake up what you’d expect to be a typical Russian/German book. The book also dedicates some scenarios illustrating the Finnish-Russian conflict at the onset of WW2.
Both Russian and Germans get a few special units including Soviet partisans. At the beginning are some generic units for all periods in the manner of Japanese and Soviet flag bearers. These units allow for improved rally orders and can affect quite a few units (up to 12” from the model). Also rules for horse-drawn limbers are now available and a welcome addition as these artillery gun tows are more historically accurate for the time.
Similar to other campaign books, the material is sectioned into parts with historical information presented first, along with a few scenarios depicting that engagement. Some additional rules and terrain effects are also provided to reflect the conditions of these battles. One change is that there are some lists of generic Bolt Action scenarios from the original rulebook that are suggested as something which could be considered a typical combat engagement for that period. Combined with special rules for supply, terrain, and theater selector forces, you’d have a decent twist on your regular game of demolition or hold until relieved.
Rules for minefields and dug in units are presented again, along with some special rules for deep snow and other weather effects. Of course, you couldn’t have an Ostfront book without some rules for city fighting and there are plenty of additional rules to cover rubble and sewer fighting too. One aspect of city fighting is the lack of effective command. As fights progress, leadership gets bogged down and hinders orders given to units. This really can shake up your typical games especially if you are needing to move units up and capture objectives.
Overall 12 scenarios are provided. Most of them have victory conditions that revolve around capturing objectives, moving into enemy deployment zones, or destroying the most enemy units.
The Good – The book gives a decent overview of the Eastern Front from right before the onset of WW2 up to the Battle for Berlin. There are additional units and options to provide a theater selector feel that’s appropriate. The artwork and photos are plentiful and of good quality.
The Bad – As with some of the other campaign books, I really would have appreciated more maps and figures of a typical scenario terrain layout, or photographs of full table layouts. You get a written description that’s functional, but having some more details would have been better. Most of the scenarios still are firmly planted in the generic fight camp, and more detailed scenario objectives and force composition are absent. In the end it offers a representation of these types of battles instead of presenting lots of options for reenacting a historical battle or engagement.
The Verdict – Battleground Ostfront is a good book. Like it’s Normandy predecessor, it provides games that give a certain flavor over depicting a true historical battle. I still wish there were more detailed historical scenarios along with the generic battle options provided. However the layers of terrain and supply effects do offer a wrinkle in play. The presentation of the material is also much better. All the terrain and special scenario rules are off in a rear section, making it much easier to reference during a game.
It’s still a Russian/German heavy book. But the Finnish and Japanese campaigns are a great addition highlighting some more lesser-known parts of WW2. Of course what also stands out are the snow and city fighting rules. Easily something you could port over to mimic the Battle of the Bulge or Monte Cassino.
For a player that is interested in the Eastern front and a Bolt Action fan, they’ll find this book indispensable. If you aren’t there are still a few interesting rules and options that you could find some value (with a few caveats, say like running a Pacific game). Compared to some of the other Bolt Action campaign books, I’d consider this superior and worth picking up if you are looking to add a little spice to your games.
In my continuing quest for Bolt Action terrain, I’ve been slowly accumulating different model kits. One that stood out for me was the 1/76 scale Airfix forward command post. It’s a nice kit with a lot of little extra bits including a cool looking bombed out house.
One sticking point for me is I wanted to stretch out the usage for the model. There was a second floor to the house model, however the roof section was a little cramped to the point I couldn’t place a miniature in it. I opted to move the roof section to the other side, opening the second floor up. Perfect position for an arty observer or a sniper.
The kit assembles very well and paints up nicely. With a decent amount of detail and texture on the walls. It really is a diorama kit however. I had to shore up some of the wall angles with other bits of plastic.
As mentioned the kit comes with a fair amount of extra detail bits, including various signposts, wooden barricades, crates, fuel drums, coiled barbed wire. There are lots of nice details you can add to the house model, or throw them onto other figures for that extra touch.
One complaint I had was with the sandbag corner piece that was hollowed out and had no back section. I figure this was likely designed to go on a building corner, or be a detail part for a diorama (which would typically have a fixed point for viewing). So I had to plop mine onto some styrofoam and paint like it was built up earth.
The corrugated tin roof sections gave me a great idea using it as a possible objective. I placed mine on a section of styrofoam with it textured to look like an earth bunker of sorts. With a smattering of fuel drums and crates, it made for a nice little objective to plop down on the table.
The kit is very good for 20mm troops, if being a little small for more bulkier figures like the Plastic Soldier Co. Germans I have pictured here. Unfortunately, unlike the Armourfast House I do not think this would work well with 1/48 figures. It’s simply too small. Airfix looks like it has the same model with less extra detail pieces at 1/32 scale which sadly might be a little too big for Warlord figures. However if you’ve got figures on a thicker plastic base, that’ll add about 3mm to the height and maybe not look too shabby compared to a larger scale house. It really is a nice model and might work well.
From a 20mm war gaming standpoint, while the kit is designed to serve as a centerpiece for a diorama, it can work very well as a terrain piece too. It’s got a lot of nice additional details you can add to flesh it out, or throw onto other models. All of which makes for a nice addition to add to your terrain collection.
Osprey publishing has slowly been releasing a series of campaign specific books for Bolt Action. Battleground Europe takes the ambitious task of highlighting the Western European front from the invasion of Normandy all the way up to the end of the war. The book covers special units as well as more scenario specific rules and throws in some historical background sections to boot.
Like the theme, the material in the book is rather sprawling. The campaign is broken down into progressive sections where historical information is first presented, then any particular rules related to the battles, and finally a few scenarios depicting a historical engagement or a more generic type of skirmish that was fought in that battle.
Rules for special units are presented and can be chosen as selectors for particular scenarios. In addition there are a few hero type characters for Allied and Axis forces. A few special vehicles are also covered. There are some force selector lists that are also given for armored platoons of Allied and Axis flavors.
New scenario rules primarily cover minefields, night engagements, and amphibious landings. Each of the listed scenarios usually have some small additional rule regarding the composition or other tweak to give the battle some flavor like limited fuel or ammo. Hedgerow rules are also covered to add as a terrain feature for Normandy battles. All in all 15 scenarios are provided. Most of them have victory conditions that range from destroying the most enemy units, to having the attacker move into enemy deployment zones. Some scenarios like those for Normandy beach landings detail an expected table layout some, but most are fairly generic. They do cover a broad type of engagements fairly well with each having some small special rules, along with what would be considered atypical forces for the battle.
The good – The book gives a fair snapshot of the Western European theater at the end of the war with enough scenarios to visit. The additional units offer some fun choices to give a platoon a decent theater selector feel. The artwork and photos are also plentiful and along with the historical background, certainly helps convey information and evokes inspiration for playing the game.
The bad – Most of the scenarios don’t really stand out as anything new. While there are a fair amount of special rules for particular engagements, much of it is scattered throughout the book. And some key rules which would work in different types of battles (like amphibious landings, mines, and night fighting rules) would be better presented in one section rather than spread out and aligned with one scenario. I really would have appreciated a few more maps. Some actual aerial photographs or simple drawings of scenario tables would have been nice. You get a written description which is functional, but having some more details on a table layout would have been better.
The Verdict – Battleground Europe isn’t a bad book. It’s just not a completely stellar release. I was hoping for a more historical scenario book with more rigid force selector rules. There is some of that, but not quite enough. It seems to go more for providing games that give a certain flavor over depicting a true historical battle. I just wish it dabbled in both types of scenarios more.
Another ding is the presentation of the material. For the most part it’s sectioned off in the different stages of the conflict, which isn’t bad. However the special rules also are spread throughout the book. This becomes an issue as some rules (like for mines) are required for several missions throughout the book, but the actual rules are with one particular scenario. Having them collected in one section would have been better and easier to reference. There is some nice stuff here. Some interesting vehicles (ex. Hobart’s funnies) and units are depicted, like French resistance troops and the Einheit Stielau commando unit (English speaking German commandos that were in first days of the Battle of the Bulge).
While it is a European specific book detailing Axis vs. Allied engagements, some of the rules could be applied to other theaters. Amphibious landing rules could easily be used for the Pacific, or the Invasion of Sicily. And night fighting rules and mines could also be added to a regular game. Likewise, many of the scenarios could be used to depict some generic battle with a small twist on the composition or conditions of the game.
I guess that’s my main complaint for Battleground Europe. Too much effort was put into making the scenarios something that could be applied to a wide variety of forces, rather than trying to depict a specific engagement. I recognize that’s the nature of skirmish games. You really can’t mimic something unless going for a larger scale battle. These skirmish fights are a zoomed in, snapshot of the action. However it seems a missed opportunity. So for a player that wants to duke it out on the Western European front, and is a Bolt Action fanatic, they’ll find this book worth picking up. If you aren’t I’d be hard pressed to say it’s a must have. It is a decent book with a fair amount of scenarios that have slight tweaks to make for a different game. However it’s not enough to make it an essential book to have on your shelf.