Friday, 29 April 2016

Brihuega and Villaviciosa 1710 - a review

I saw this book during some meanderings on the internet looking for literature that covered the War of Spanish Succession in Iberia. There is a whole series from Almena books in Spain that cover battles, wars and campaigns of interest to Spanish readers. I really wanted to have a look at Almansa, but Book Depository didn't have it. This chap weighed in at $26 NZD, so I thought I'd have a look, even though, and please bear this in mind, I don't speak a word of Spanish. Well, maybe the odd word - after all I have sat through three daughters watching Dora the Explorer - but certainly not enough to understand a book written for adults. I was, of course, hoping for pretty pictures.
The cover is pretty...
So what did my $26 buy? First of all, the book is marginally smaller than an Osprey (book, not bird), and has 96 pages. It is nicely presented and full of illustrations which are on almost every page. These are mostly black and white except for 8 colour plates that feature uniforms of the combatants and colour battle maps. As far as I can tell, there are no typos, but as I can't actually tell, I probably can't comment on that.
Example of some of the colour plates
What does the book cover? Well, not that much about Villaviciosa and Brihuega I'm afraid. In a 96 page book coverage of these battles starts on p.70. Leading up to that is a lot of background about the War of Spanish Succession, covering the three main theatres - Spain, Flanders and Italy. It is nice to see these get an even amount of coverage, and the author weaves the three theatres together in his chronological narrative (I can glean that much). Along the way are many contemporary illustrations of personalities, maps and battles, and some modern photographs of fortresses in Spain and Portugal.
Prior to the recap of events during the war is a section on the composition of armies for the period. I made out that in 1703 pikes were phased out of Spanish infantry organisations, along with a few other bits and pieces.
The sorts of maps and illustrations found on virtually every page.
And the battle coverage? Dora the Explorer has failed to prepare me for reading this, which is a shame, although I'm sure that whatever it says in 20 pages I can probably find on Wikipedia anyway. Quite handy is the inclusion of an order of battle that I can understand- and - my goodness! - Frankenberg was a real place with a real person in charge and with real cavalry in the Allied army! Whatever am I going to call my imagi-nation now?
My imagi-nation made it into the history books!
So, the verdict? If you are an English speaker and hablo no espanol, should you buy this book? Unless you are a crazy gringo like myself with a fascination for this campaign, probably not. The uniform details in Charles Grant's book are much more comprehensive, and while the pictures are pretty, they are also rather common. The photographs of the battlefield of Villaviciosa reveal a big plain. And the plain is pretty plain. The aerial photo of Brihuega on the other hand is excellent and a bright spot in the book.

If you are a Spanish speaker, then it is probably a nice addition to the library.

Personally, I'm going to keep it and use it to teach myself more Spanish than Dora ever did, in my pursuit of wargaming this campaign one day. Muy bien!



  1. Thank you for the review. I'll probably give it a miss then since I never watched Dora the Explorer and my Spanish can get me a beer but no idea how to pay for it.

    1. So long as you get the beer - that is the important thing!