Most wargamers probably have a soft spot for old Flashy, and we can always pretend we read them for the history (I do, honest). My favourite as I remarked on the "Twenty Questions" blog is "Flashman and the Great Game" which lead me to wargame the Indian Mutiny so many years ago. Most of the other books have never lead to wargames, - I looked quite seriously at Rajah Brooke and the Pirates of Borneo but struggled on trying to find sources and the figures.
So re-reading "Flashman and the Dragon" made me wonder why it had taken me so long to think about 19th Century China as a period. I actually did a course in Far Eastern history in my second year at University and studied the Taiping Rebellion so it should have been on my radar. One of the problems with it is the armies are just SO big. Then there's the sources, which are erratic. We have memoirs of travellers in China and people who visited both the Manchus and the Taiping but as with the International Brigades in Spain we know more about the European style "Ever Victorious Army" lead by Chinese Gordon than we do about everything else. Maps of battles are non-existent and exactly what happened in field conflict as opposed to sieges is a bit thin. Sounds perfect for a wargame.
What will make it an interesting problem will be finding a way of fighting smallish armies (the EVA was about 3,000 strong, the British & French expedition in 1860 was about 15,000) against really big ones. Taiping and Manchu armies were a minimum of 20,000 and normally 100,000. I think I want to do not just the Taiping Rebellion battles but also cross over into the "Opium Wars". I think I have a way of doing this but no doubt I'll change my mind after the first game.
So I bit the bullet, sort of, last night and ordered Ian Heath's Foundry work on China in the 19th Century. I've been looking at the availability of figures (15mm) and reckon I can use Irregular's Boxer Rebellion figures, and there may be some others. The Manchu army hadn't changed much since the 17th century, so there are a few ranges to look at I'd guess. Falcon UK do a Taiping Range, but I can't get a decent look at them and it seems I have to order them from the US. I'm at Derby in October, so there's a chance to poke around. I'm fairly sure Mongol cavalry hasn't changed much throughout history.
The British and French from the Opium War of 1860 can probably be put together from Indian Mutiny ranges and the Crimea for the French.
So that will be the next project, I think. I've still got some SCW figures to paint and some other bits to buy, but I can run them in parallel, I reckon, and the MNG needs a bit of a break from my Iberian obsession.
So do I.