Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Remembering Battles Past

I was talking to Tim Gow of Megablitz fame last night. On the phone, you know, as he lives just outside Sheffield and I don't.

The conversation turned to commemoration of the Great War and we went over ground previously covered in this blog. Tim remarked that so many games at shows this year will be based on 1914 and he was pleased to have got his in last year. Here we are, one month into centenary year, Paxo's done his first programme, and we're seven months before the actual anniversary of the outbreak. Are we getting commemoration fatigue already?

I mean this will be a big deal for wargames manufacturers. I haven't been paying that close attention to what's being manufactured, but I'm sure there's loads of stuff in the pipeline. I don't know whether any release schedules are being done to coincide with the development of the war or whether you'd release the whole lot all at once from BEF to New Army to Grizzled Veterans.

Next year, however, will be an interesting one, with a significant other military anniversary. I'm talking about the bi-centenary of the Battle of Waterloo. An iconic battle if ever there was one, so much so that Airfix never released Napoleonics, but "Waterloo" figures.

We have a chance to do a proper job of it this time. The centenary must have been a shade awkward back in 1915, commemorating a battle in which the British & Prussians defeated the French. In Belgium. I accept I might be a little behind the curve on this one. "Waterloo 200" is up and running, and David Cameron is backing it. We're even coughing up money to restore Hougomont.

The Battle was commemorated in 1915. At least I assume so. The Royal Artillery Regiment published a book in 1916 recording how they had marked the centenary the previous year, and I have no reason to believe they'd make something like that up. Wills, on the other hand, produced a set of cigarette cards in anticipation of the event and apparently never issued them.

Waterloo, as I said above, is one of "those" battles, and it loomed large over my early wargaming career. The release of the film in 1970 when I was still at primary school was a major event. Derek & I were allowed to go on our own, and we both bought programmes (still got mine somewhere). The cinema was the Granada in Rugby, later a bingo hall and now defunct. I think we were in the front row of the upper circle.

Airfix must have released their Highlanders in anticipation of the film, followed by the French Cavalry. Those Highlanders were the main stay of so many armies. Three years we had to wait for the release of the British infantry! What a frustrating range as figures were released in drips and drabs, but central to my early wargaming life.

I had quite large British forces. Derek collected the French, mostly. We augmented the battalions with command figures bought from Minifigs, and added other units to fill in the gaps (Polish Lancers and Heavy Dragoons and Riflemen).

I eventually dropped out of Napoleonics and let Derek have my metal figures. The plastics got modified and passed on. Some (the French Cavalry) were head swapped into my WSS armies. Others were turned into a Prussian Division, which I think my brother has now.

So here's the thing. I have no Napoleonics left. No one in our group has the late period figures (Phil has some early Bonapartist stuff). I don't even know where my copy of  SPI's "Napoleon at Waterloo" is.

How am I going to mark this bi-centenary? Even with my ninja level project completion skills I'm never going to finish two armies in the time required.

Answers, please, on a postcard.

26 comments:

  1. Remember it like the Americans do... "oh how nice, another European battle with fancy uniforms."

    Really though, like you I'd love to get in some sort of Waterloo game but no one I game with has much interest in Naps and it would take a great deal of arm twisting to make anything happen. Perhaps I can make a push for a Battle of New Orleans bicentennial game next January.

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    1. If you do New Orleans, do the whole campaign, including the British freeing slaves from the plantations. Then make the US player round them all up and put them back,

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  2. 6mm of course. Cheap, fast to paint, and you have the possibility of being able to cover the entire battle (or even campaign) on a reasonably sized table.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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    1. 6mm....I suppose I could give MR Peter Berry a call. However, I see in this month's Nugget that Richard Brooks is doing a Napoleonic game with 4 figures to a battalion. That might be achievable.

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  3. 70th Anniversary of the end of WWII next year - I suspect that may take some focus??

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    1. I did wonder about that as well, but I think Waterloo deserves a fair crack of the whip, if at all possible!

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  4. i was thinking of doing something Waterloo based too but thought that Quatre Bras might be more achievable. I started painting my forces eight years ago and so far have finished exactly one unit of Dutch jagers. Oh well. It was all much easier in the Airfix days as we never painted any of the figures! I still have my Waterloo film programme too!

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    1. Have you read the post on "How to finish a wargames project?" http://wargaming4grownups.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/how-to-finish-wargames-project.html

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    2. Hmm! Very interesting. Not for me,though, I think!

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    3. I'm just saying....if you're really serious about finishing stuff you have to take tough decisions. Phil's approach is that he has to paint every new thing he buys. This means his lead mountain never gets any bigger and I think he has contained his buying to what he can paint.

      The overall point is that if you're not getting the outputs you want, you have to chnage your method of working. Otherwise you're just someone with a weight problem saying "I just can't resist chocolate" then moaning because you're obese.

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    4. I have the same approach... I've never got more than about a couple of units for each project in the unpainted pile.... it's so quick and easy to order online there's no need to stockpile..

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    5. That's true on the ordering on-line. my issue at the moment is that I'm buying airfix-style boxes of figures, so to get units I have to take figures from multiple boxes. even with four identical sprues in a box I still need to order four boxes if there's only one particular individual figure on each sprue and I want 16 figures for a heavy infantry unit.

      What ever your approach the key thing is to have some self discipline and recognise the behaviours in yourself that disrupt getting you to your goal.

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  5. Why not go for a skirmish game or two? TFL or Genasha games have great rule sets and a bit of scenery and few figures should not tax too much!

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    1. Honestly a skirmish game isn't going to cut it as a commemoration of Waterloo. Really.

      Even the defence of La Haye Sainte or Hougomont requires more than a dozen figures a side.

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  6. IMHO, the British image of Waterloo is stolid redcoats taking punishment much of the day ('Hard pounding' as the Duke put it), being forced into square to resist the cavalry charges, then reforming to give the French a few volleys and a bayonet charge to send them packing.

    As one anonymous - but oft-quoted! - British soldier said: 'I'll be hanged if I know anything about the matter, for I was all day trodden in the mud and ridden over by every scoundrel who had a horse!'

    So, a sort of skirmish/roleplay combination, in which players took the roles of individual officers and men (not forgetting the pig in the knapsack!) of a typical British battalion, trying to endure the historical sequence of events, might be a very appropriate commemoration of Waterloo.... I think I may have written a piece on that theme for Nugget many years ago?

    Alternatively, if you reduce the fighting on the 18th June to its essentials, you have a Red static holding force defending a position against attack, relying upon the arrival of Black reinfocements, by a Blue opponent who believes a Green force he has detached has already driven/is driving Black off, and will march to join him.

    However, although Green has encountered Black, it has not blocked Black's axis of advance to rendezvous with Red, but must engage Black, who must hold Green off while he sends troops to reinforce Red...

    Two separate, but connected battles to fight - or you could ignore Waterloo, assuming it largely runs its historical course, and concentrate upon recreating the fighting at Wavre and subsequently at Plancenoit. Victory there willeffectively decide the outcome of Waterloo.

    You could do it as a disguised scenario. For example, Grant defends against Lee, whilst awaiting Sherman, who is under attack by Johnston. Or fictionalise it as two Red vs Blue Kriegsspiel scenarios. You could also disguise the scenario AND reduce the size of all the forces in proportion, to make mustering the troops more manageable - San Martin holds the ridge whilst waiting for Bolivar?

    Or you could just commemorate Agincourt instead!





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    1. Excellent range of options there, Arthur. I think you have a fair amount of ammunition for appropriate MWBG articles next year.

      The individual experiences idea is interesting.As I drove in to work today I wondered about basing something on my "Military Memoirs" dinner party consequences-style game. Or a card game with authentic "happenings" that players play in a sequence to create a narrative.

      But really I want someone to invite me to (or bring to Shedquarters) a toy soldier game of Waterloo.

      That'll play in 4 hours maximum.

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  7. I ran the paired battles of Wavre and Waterloo using an early draft of Horse, Foot & Guns on a 'table' approx 2'6" wide using my 6mm stuff in the early noughties.

    Richard Brooks OPNAP might work, but as he says in the article, Waterloo was at the top end of battles for numbers engaged and at his six figures per brigade, you'd still need a lot of kit.

    I also did a version of Pete Berrys 'Leipzig Lite' for Waterloo. You'll need a 6x6 grid, 21 bases of French and 32 bases of Allies. Took about an hour to play. I'll send it to you if you like.

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    1. I see what you mean about OPNAP. The "Liepzig Lite" option looks like an interesting choice, so I'd like to have the details, please.

      Perhaps we can talk Pete into doing a bi-centenary battle pack!

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    2. Martin,
      I'd be very interested in your Waterloo version of Leipzig Lite, too, if you would be so kind.
      It's a great system for quick audience participation games to promote Pete Berry's figures, but perhaps a bit too 'lite' for Trebian's purposes?

      Trebian,
      May I suggest you look at Snappy Nappy by Russ Lockwood?

      I'm trying to create a Napoleonic version of Bob's Portable Wargame, but haven't cracked it yet. When I have a draft, I'll send you a copy.

      I presume when you say a 'toy soldier game' you are seeking a playable, entertaining game that reflects the history, rather than a simulation?

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    3. I'll look Snappy Nappy up next time I go to a show.

      By "toy soldier game" I mean a table top figure game that plays entertainingly. And is also a good simulation. Isn't that what WD should be able to deliver?

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    4. "Snappy Nappy".... good grief.... :o)

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    5. "What's in a Name...a Chrysanthemum by any other name is just as hard to spell" as my father was wont to say.

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  8. > .. You'll need a 6x6 grid, 21 bases of French and 32 bases of Allies. ...

    That ought to be do-able ... given 18 months notice!! If you go plastic, Treb, I have appropriate French and Prussians in my back collection (just the Wellington allies required): such a project might be just the spur to get me renovating them all again ...

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    1. Almost sounds like we could do a MNG group project. What do you think?

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  9. Well we know the due date, we know the subject, we know the toy scale ...

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