Well, I'd been looking forward to this release from Warhammer Historical since it was announced. The release date seemed sooner than I expected, but it did mean I could reliably put in an advance order for delivery to my French address.
Amazingly, my copy arrived the day after the official release date; despite where I am. Pretty impressive delivery GW/WH! The book itself is a large softcover A4 volume with, as one would expect, high production standards throughout; particularly the extensive use of full colour in most of the book, and the high quality illustrations.
The rules themselves only take up 22 pages of the book and are in some ways typical GW fare: all D6's and some simple solutions to complex issues; but in others they break from the GW norms. For example the rules do not operate on an IgoUgo rationale, but rather sequence vessels based on their proximity to the direction of the wind. Shooting and other key actions are considered simultaneous.
The rules make large use of data sheets for each class of vessel, and so details of all ships from 1st rates down to gunboats are included.
This is where the real strength of the GW design philosophy starts to show; as these are covered in the sort of clear, but reasonably comprehensive detail, that allows someone with no knowledge of the period other than what is in this book to get a lot of good information. On top of this data the book also includes an extensive introduction warfare in the age of sail, timelines for 5 conflicts, a detailed essay on the Trafalgar campaign, and a glossary of terminology.
By the end of this any beginner could bluff his way through a discussion of the age of sail.
There are also fleet [army] lists for 8 nations and the 'Privateers' (who also allow for Barbary coast forces, which could constitute a ninth nationality), a half dozen standard scenarios, a campaign based on Trafalar itself - though very linear in design - and the usual hobby section, mainly devoted to painting and rigging 1/1200th scale model ships. I should add that the rules favour this scale, but include scale adaptions to work with anything from 1/2400th to 1/100th scale [personally my 'Pirates' card ships will ably fulfill the role of fleets for the game].
It is hard to fault the book as it stands, my biggest concern will be how the game will stand up to play; that is something that I will maybe get to find out some months from now; but as a primer on the history it works really well, and one can't fault its' presentation or scope. It isn't perfect, for one I'd have liked to have seen a couple of other fleets included and a little more detail on the war in the Mediterranean. But those are minor gripes really.
Overall, for the asking price (£20) this is one of the best presented sets of wargames rules I've ever seen; I really hope they are a sucess, and I hope I get a chance to try them out soon.