Let me start by saying that I have to admit that I have long been a fan of this campaign; there are so many "what ifs" that occur throughout the course of the story that several campaigns could be run in succession without having the same result in any of them. It is a campaign that was fought with small forces, but no entirely light forces, so you aren't stuck buying the entire Grand Fleet, but you still can use Armored Cruisers and Battlecruisers. The battlefield is the entire ocean surface of the southern hemisphere and the potential impact on the course of the First World War was significant. There is plenty of meat here for a naval gaming buff.
The book itself follows the standard Osprey Campaigns format with a short background that lays out the forces and commanders as well as the overall situation. The straightforward text is peppered with photographs and evocative period artwork. I can't make my usual gripe about bad maps as they have the ocean colored blue and it seems that all the continents and islands are in the right places. The map of the Battle of Coronel is very good while the one for the Battle of the Falklands is fully adequate. The maps tracking the hunt for the Emden and later the Dresden are fine giving the reader a bit of a feeling for the work laid out in tracking down two small ships in such a vast tract of water in an era when radio communications were often faulty or non-existent..
I do have to take exception to two of the three double-page spread illustrations that were apparently commissioned for this work; "Craddock's Gamble" on pages 50 and 51 and "In the Finest Tradition of The Service" on pages 59 and 59 are quite simply very poor. I was surprised that a prestigious outfit like Osprey would place such weak artwork in so very prominent position, using up four pages of full-color in a 96 page book. Better to have enlarged one of the wonderful period pictures that populate the other pages of the text.
That said this volume is a good starting place for someone just getting into the period and a handy "all in one spot" reference for an old-hand. Many of the photographs I had not seen before and the text is clear, laconic and moves along easily. While I am no expert in the field I did not see any errors in the text or maps. There is a good index and a short "Further Reading" section (in lieu of a proper bibliography, I have to guess that is due to many of the references being difficult to access military records or rare books from the period) All in all a worthy effort let down only by some shabby artwork.
I will give this a Recommended rating due largely to the issue with the waste of four full color pages.
Osprey Campaigns #248
Author: Michael McNally
Illustrator: Peter Dennis