Monday 3 January 2022

Waking the Bear - Wargaming the Great Northern War

I’m beginning to make inroads  into my Christmas book additions. The latest in the Helion Wargames series is this colourful guide to wargaming the Great Northern War and Turkish Campaigns 1700-1721, by Mark Shearwood. There are a number of quite rare and/or expensive books on this conflict, all of which are very nice and informative but don’t really cover the wargaming aspects of the war. This book does what it says on the tin, insofar that it is a well produced introductory guide to collecting and gaming the many varied aspects of this period. If anyone has their interest fired by reading this book then Mark gives a number of useful pointers in his bibliography.

So what do you get? Lots and lots of beautiful eye candy in the shape of photos of gorgeously painted miniatures from the author’s and others’ collections from pretty much every manufacturer of (mainly) 28mm figures for these campaigns. The book is worth it just for these images, many of which are quite inspiring, even if this isn’t a period that necessarily is of interest; indeed I defy many wargamers who fell into that category before reading the book to not find another gaming itch that needs scratching after they have. Even non-wargamer readers will appreciate the high quality of the pained miniatures that feature in the book. There are also some nice black and white pencil sketches together with a number of nicely produced maps.

The book starts with what must necessarily be only a brief but concise overview of the war including naval aspects, followed by a useful chapter on the armies involved, including the Ottomans and Poland. Sections on how to wargames the war, the different troop types, unit organisation, and weapons and equipment. We are then given an insight into how best to base your collection and a series of different approaches to painting your 28mm miniatures. This section also includes guidance on how one might best approach painting 6mm miniatures.

A guide to wargaming the war would not be complete without a sample scenario, in this case the less well known battle of Petschore, 1701, is included, together with a run through of how the game played out.

Finally, there is a comprehensive possibly not exhaustive list of miniature manufacturers in all scales from 6mm up to 40mm (it was nice to see that this list included 1/72 plastic figures) and it is amazing to see just how wide a choice there is for anyone considering going into this period. A handy list of references completes the book should anyone’s interest be whetted sufficiently to want to read more. 

Overall, as an introductory guide this is an excellent addition to the series. I think readers with little of no knowledge of the period and those who are fully immersed in it will all find something positive to take away from this informative and colourful book. I certainly have, but I won’t be starting new project!


  1. It sounds excellent! Tempted as I already collect this period.

  2. Another good review Colin. I've fancied this for a while.