Monday, May 30, 2011

War Games of the Napoleonic Period!

By John Beresford Welsh, Jr.

It is said that the world of military miniatures is most often resolutely divided between collectors, who prize their figures as pieces of art, and war-gamers who find the art of maneuver more challenging. There is at times considerable disdain between these two ''camps,'' collectors being inclined to regard war-gaming between civilian generals as trivial and amateurish, while war-gamers may consider the chaste collector as prudish and antisocial. The dichotomy is in fact a reflection of two different forms of appreciation of military history. The collector's appreciation is centered mostly on colortul and stylish uniforms, and the technique and skill of the application ol fine detail to an artfully sculptured figure. The attention of the war gamer is focused not so much on individual figures as with the use of them, often in large masses for the purpose of simulating the fidelity of battle. Only in moments of enlightenment, it is said, do these rivaling factions ever consider the common identity of their causes.

The generalization of a dichotomy of military miniatures into collectors and war-gamers is in fact contrived and illusory. For the collector, as for the war-gamer, war-games need not be colorless, mechanical, and devoid of that special romance which collectors are wont to possess. On the contrary, a war-game is the ultimate, exclusive indulgence which permits the fullest realization of that romance. Colorful uniforms are but part of the general panoply, but what emerges is a sum greater than its parts. War-gaming represents a combination of a skillful negotiation of tactics with the chival rous pageantry of color, romance, and style. What produces a successful war-game- in the larger sense is not merely the victory of one opponent over another. Like all games, it is the challenge presented between equal opponents, as well as the tempering of that challenge with a certain style. Style is that method of doing things which is in some way distinctive of the war-game group.

In the consideration of style, while victory remains the ultimate object, it is not the primary purpose for the war-game. Other things, more complicated to explain, except by example, go into a successful war-game.

The spectacle of the war-game board to the war-gamer does not consist of lead figures mounted on placards or bases; it does not appear as cardboard or plastic buildings, paper rivers and roads, or plasticene hills or lichen trees however artfully conceived. From the beginning of the game until the last volley is fired, the multiple ingredients take on a great fantasy. In the eyes of the beholder, the square arrangement of blue figures which appears haphazardly in the din of battle represents more than lead and paint to the player. It is the last defiant and noble gesture of the French Garde Impériale at Waterloo, wreathed in smoke, covering them selves with glory and sacrificing themselves on the altar of the Empire. The single line of red in kilts, a line which perhaps stretches two feet across the battle-board, may represent the stub born pride of the Sutherland Highlanders containing the Russians at Inkerman while the pipers blast the acrid air with Scotland the Brave. The cluster of buildings at the crossroads appears as the imperial city of Vienna to the approaching blue columns, and the blue papered river by the forest conjures up the horrid visions of the crossing of the Beresina in 1812 in the retreat from Moscow. The versions may be different but the thoughts are the same. The participant is re-living and identifying with the most exciting moments of history. For that brief departure from reality, he has become a part of the panoply of grand gestures and heroics which characterized the Napoleonic age.

The visions of vainglory which flash before his eyes emanate from his mind's extravagant imagination. To the degree which a gamer can call a war-game "successful'' then, depends to a great extent on how closely he identifies with the figures on the board, and with the staff which commands them, and to some persons, even with the nationalistic aspirations and political considerations which depend on the tateful battle.

The beauty of the formations has as much to do with this identity as the beauty of the execution of their movement in battle. Many war-gamers take great pride in the workmanship of the details which appear on their game figures. Such details as straps, buttons, and shading cannot be appreciated from an ordinary eye level and can hardly be distinguished trom a less detailed figure at the same level. But some how it does seem to matter to the war-gamer for he attaches a special significance to his corps d'elite. That is, he identifies more closely with it, and its fate, or success, in the game becomes his own. The paint work on a war-game figure is as important to the morale of the gamer as esprit-de-corps can be to an army. This pride of manufacture, of authenticity, is not reduced by reverses in the field. A defeat by out maneuvering or fire power can never diminish the war-gamer's enthusiasm for this unit.

Our group1 has been able to achieve considerable success in adding elements of style to war-gaming; 2 the bases upon which our figures are mounted conform to certain standards by general agreement. Firstly, the bases of the individual units are in the particular color which identifies their nationality: khaki for the French, grey tor the Russians, olive green for the Austrains, field green for the Prussians, and medium green for the British. Additionally, the edges of the bases reflect the status of the unit. The Guard regimental bases are trimmed in red, the Light Infantry in yellow, the Reserve in white, Guard sharpshooters in red/yellow striping, and the Line is plain. Colors also identity and differentiate heavy, light, and guard cavalry units. In a practical sense, the color code gives quick identification to the troops. In a larger sense, the beauty of the board is enhanced by standardization, order, and style. The bases may also record a division or corps' identification number, or may display battle decorations in a further effort at distinction.

In addition to paint work and base ornamentation, each army displays on special bases (which might be termed pedestals), a general staff, which may vary from a diorama of four figures to a suite of twelve. These prizes, as objects in a war-game, also represent symbolically the pride of an army. The individual war gamer competes for the envious glances of his companions-in-arms for the most beautiful display. Line staff are also represented on bases which identify, either by color or number, the organization of the corps d'armée.

Procedurely, prior to the actual war-game, diplomatic correspondance between participants is generally exchanged: proposing alliances, negotiating secret convenants, dividing spoils, or issuing ultimatums. Acts of diplomacy give some theoretical element to the game and make the battle relevant to a political situation, as every historian must realize it was. Then a geographical focus is chosen on a map where the battle is eventually to be engaged. The battle-board is carefully arranged to fit the topography of the map and each adversary care fully prepares a plan of strategy reducing it to writing without being aware of his enemy's intentions. The plan is based largely on the ability to take advantage of prominent features in the terrain (where flanks can be protected by rivers, forests, or hills), as well as the ability to anticipate where the foe will be. The adversaries are held to their plan in the initial disposition of troops, for good or no. After that, they are left to make the best of a bad situation or to exploit an oversight on the part of their opponent. Victory in a war-game can often be predicted in the first move, and many a player has discovered that his magnificent strategem for throwing his adversary off-balance in an offensive has rendered his position untenable in a defense. And as a consequence, hours have been employed with forced marches by troops left on the perimeter without a thing to do, while the objective is in peril of capture.

The use of dice may be decried by some as the dethroning of skill for chance, but skill in battle, as history so often discloses, is little more than the ability to profit from chance or opportunity. Dice presents the chance, general ship produces the opportunities for victory. Regardless, the war-gamer more often teels that he is left ultimately in the hand of fate than the Firing Table. But viewed as a more-or-less helpless pawn of the gods, war-gamers are less apt to involve their egos and injure their pride brought on by a too-close identification with history, personalities, and the course of the battle on the board. Style, itself, can both produce the identification essential to the success of the war-game, and prevent its abuse by over-involvement.

During the engagement, and in keeping with diplomatic convention, the host often serves "liquorous libations" of drink representative of the various nationalities present. At tlmes, unfortunately, certain individuals have in the past neglected their duties in the field showing instead a preference for the satisfaction of their thirst, with consequent results. But I have never known a war-game dispute, no matter how bitter, that wasn't settled over a good glass of Port. This little refreshment, even aside from its initial pleasantness, is a great tranquilizer tor the jagged nerves, and seems to put everything in the correct perspective, especially when war gamers are most apt to identity too closely with their causes. The strong fellowship among war-gamers which results from a mutual recognizance of a special and common interest in war-gaming should be at its closest bond at the end of the battle.

The war-game is generally conducted along the most professional lines similar to the diplomatic courtesies displayed between the warring monarchs in the past. Insults, of course, are exchanged. Toasts are often made to uncommon valor and splendid successes of particular units in the field. As a supreme grand geste, foreign units have been decorated by grateful allies for meritorious service. Applause frequently rings the excited air of conviviality. At times, fine cigars have been passed out atter a particular ''good show," and on at least one occasion atter a splendid French cavalry charge which reversed an impossible situation, cognac was served, even though the battle was still in doubt.

At all times, as a backdrop to the battle, appropriate thematic music lends itself to this atmosphere of controlled conflict. Be it pipes and drums, Napoleonic marches, or the sound track from War and Peace. in all cases the music is relevant to the instant proceding. Far from dominating, it becomes stylistically just one more component part of a larger context. I believe it was Voltaire who said. ''Style make the man." What I have said so far is that "style makes the game.'' Style, that distinctive concern with manner that tempers and polishes our indulgences, adds appreciably to the success of war-games, Where some war-gamers are frought with ''combat fatigue'' and give way to the license of argument and conflict among themselves, the interjection of style smooths over these differences. and war-games become an excellent exercise in friendly challenge. For the war-gamer, the ''journey through the looking glass'' is not eftortless. But once achieved, stylistically through the development of skill, color, and an affinity tor people,. it becomes the most pleasant of pastimes.

As each war-game group has essentially a different view of what is important to a war game, the results, the ingredients, and the rules will vary between them. What should not be missed, though, is the real opponunity present to exploit our imaginations to the fullest with what is in fact and tancy, an exceptionally envigorating hobby. If I have persuaded the purest collector to dabble or experiment in the excitement and enthusiasm of a war-game, I hope also to have reminded the maneuver-minded war-gamer of an appreciation for color and style, in mobilizing the component parts of his game in a form which greets all the senses in unfolding a faithful drama of military romance.

1 The Société Napoléonienne.

2 The Society restricts its war-games rather exclusively to the Napoleonic Wars, and to the use of "flats." As a rule, a regiment is made up of approximately eighteen men, mounted on three 1" x 3" bases, being six men per base. Cavalry regiments are composed of two bases of five men each.

This article was originally published in Campaigns magazine no. 10 (1977) as "Wargaming Can be Fun".

Friday, May 27, 2011

In Honour of those fallen!

This video seems a fitting tribute to this Memorial Day weekend!

Reinforcements have arrived!

And now for something completely different;

And a more rocking tribute;

Note the Ambush scene: Factually the Vendeens were truthfully better marksman then the regular French troops

So feeling that my Vendeen forces were still lacking some mass I found Wargame Foundry's sale this month for the "The Revolting Mob" & "Revolutionary Guillotine" complete with basket and headless victim;

Which consists of the following sets;

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stay Tuned For JUNE!

Several exciting things are planned for the month of JUNE! The Battle's of Rivoli and Ligny will be coming using the rules set of C&GII (Carnage & Glory II).

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Interesting Smithsonian article on wargaming "Outsmarting Napoleon"!

While researching online I found this interesting article;

Outsmarting Napoleon

War games enthusiasts use miniature soldiers and multiple-terrain boards to simulate real battles

  • By Michael Kernan
  •, September 01, 1999

Sometimes it starts with chess, a most abstract form of warfare, with rigid rules and little identical armies. Sometimes a young player wants more "reality," more of a sense that this is indeed a battle, and discovers commercial board games simulating war. And then he wants his own army.

For Douglas Mudd, it was a miniature battlefield that he saw one day — Hannibal versus the Romans, on an 8-by-4-foot table fixed up with grass, trees and a gently hilly terrain. There were the Romans in their phalanxes, each tiny shield hand-painted, and there were Hannibal's famous elephants, the spearmen, the bowmen.

Mudd, who manages the National Numismatics Collection at the National Museum of American History, started buying unpainted miniature soldiers and soon was deep into military history, researching not only the battles themselves but the uniforms worn at the time. Military medals struck to commemorate famous battles, plus ancient coins showing soldiers with decorated shields, provided a great source of information about the look of things.

From painting miniature soldiers to fighting their battles was just a step. Soon Mudd was competing in war games based on historical battles. Game participants deploy miniature troops on a board that looks like a three-dimensional representation of the terrain covered in the actual battle. "I love the strategical challenges of putting myself in the shoes of a known general to see if I could do better than he did," says Mudd. "War-gaming began in the 1840s," he tells me. "The Prussians wanted to analyze what happened with Napoleon, how he could beat them even though they had a large, well-trained military. How could they anticipate what a genius could do? So they created the general staff, a pool of officers trained in all aspects of war, logistics, battle tactics. They tried to see if this group of officers could simulate what would happen if you had a genius like Napoleon against you."

They set up teams of officers in separate rooms, with maps, a chain of command, rules and referees. By the 1860s Kriegspiel was being used by major European countries for military training. Civilian war-gaming spread with the aid of Little Wars, a 1913 war-gaming book by H. G. Wells. But these civilian simulations were relatively crude compared with the sophisticated war games that developed later, in the wake of World War II and the Korean War.

Today, model soldiers appear in many sizes, from 2 to 25 millimeters. The 15-mm figure, a bit over half an inch high, is the most common and is relatively cheap.

"Most of my troops are that scale," says Mudd, "although I now prefer 25 mm: I can afford them now and they're a little more detailed. The problem is, if you re-create any large-scale battle, you need a big table — minimum size, 5 by 8 feet."

The rules are the heart of it all, and the rules are incredibly complex. I still wonder how any set of fixed regulations could come anywhere near simulating the madness of a real battle. Look at what happened on October 25, 1854, at the Battle of Balaklava during the Crimean War. A huge body of Russian cavalry, 3,000 to 4,000 strong, threatened to overrun the base camp of the Allied army, consisting of British, French and Turks. Routing the Turk defenders, the Russians forged ahead.

All that stood between the Russians and the base was Sir Colin Campbell, 550 of his 93rd Highlanders and 100 invalids. Campbell had his men lie face down in their red coats, in a threadbare line just two men deep, along a hillock. "Men, remember there is no retreat from here," Campbell famously told them. "You must die where you stand." Four cavalry squadrons bore down on them. Suddenly they leaped to their feet.

They fired a volley from their muskets, every bullet aimed. The Russians wavered, came on again. A second volley, another hesitation. Some Highlanders pushed forward for a hand-to-hand fight. "Ninety-third!" shouted Campbell sternly. "Damn all that eagerness!" A third volley, and the Russians wheeled about and withdrew toward the main body of the cavalry. Impossible, but it happened. That brilliant stand was immortalized as "the thin red line."

How do you write rules that cover such stranger-than-fiction scenarios — the infamous fog of war?

"Well, there's hundreds of sets of rules," says Mudd. "They're divided up into periods: the ancient period goes up to the edge of gunpowder warfare, about 1450, covering 3,000 years of history: swords, pikes, armor, spears, shields, etcetera. Then there's the pike and shot period, to 1600, and the horse and musket period, from 1600 to 1785. And so on."

There are rules for large-scale battles, rules that balance different types of troops, so that if one player has, say, soldiers of the Trojan War totaling 300 points and another has 300 points' worth of soldiers from the Persian Wars, much later, it will be an even match up.

"There are a dozen very focused rules for the Frederick the Great era, accounting for the special characteristics of each army." For instance, Napoleonic armies had light infantry or skirmishers, who move at a certain pace, and more heavily armed grenadiers, who move slower and act differently in a given situation. "Infantry might move six inches per turn on open terrain, but only three inches if crossing a river or going through woods."

Other factors cover fighting ability — the difference between feared Guards troops and militia — or the impact of morale. And dice are used to add that element of luck that can thwart even the best general.

The rules for a game in which you are following historical fact would be different from those for a battle you are making up. Sometimes you can move troops and have them fire in the same turn; the dice decide how many you kill. Sometimes the rule proclaims that communications failed, so your men move but are too confused to fire.

Try imagining a chess game in which one of your knights goes lame. Or a pawn refuses to advance.
"I do have some World War II troops," Mudd informs me, "but basically I stick to pre-19th century. I don't do Napoleonic wars anymore. I just don't have the time to paint those large armies. You need 120 to 150 figures for a battle [the usual scale is one figure for 60 men], but if you want a large army you need some 300 figures."

Mudd's speciality is the wars of Frederick the Great, from about 1760 to 1780, "although recently I have been involved in the Italian wars, so I have an army of Charles V of Hapsburg, and I've also got Spanish, German and Italian troops of the 1550s." Mudd has built a considerable collection of books on battles and uniforms. It's amazing, he says, how a skilled painter can give character and identity to even a flea-size soldier two millimeters high.

Uniforms greatly aided morale. The tremendous shakos and busbies worn by grenadiers made them look ten feet tall, and with their trademark piratical mustaches they looked as fierce as Gauls. In the age of gunpowder, uniforms were a vital means of keeping a unit together, for as soon as the first volley was fired at a range of 50 yards the entire field would be obscured in dense smoke "and you couldn't see men five yards down the row," explains Mudd. Thus, each company often had two flags, six feet square, designed to be seen.

Mudd, a Washington native who is only distantly related to Dr. Samuel Mudd of Civil War fame, has about a thousand 15-mm figures and 500 of the 25-mm soldiers, plus many still unpainted. He says a fan gets excited about a period or battle, collects the soldiers for it, then moves on to another one. A half-dozen major firms handle war games, some specializing in figures, some in rules, some in paints, a few in a variety of items. Some also produce fantasy-gaming products, though most historical games manufacturers are purists who prefer not to be identified with the fantasy field (big with younger crowds brought up on games like Dungeons and Dragons).

War-gaming cannot be blamed for the shootings in Littleton, Colorado, and similar tragedies, I think. For one thing, the average age of the players is around 35. And even though some youngsters do tend to start with fantasy gaming, "it's like the whole TV issue: most people know it's not real life," says Mudd. Moreover, many young players get into historical gaming from the start.

I ask about the role of electronics, which seems to play a large part in fantasy gaming. "The computer is perfect for certain random events," he replies, "and it can keep track of a complex situation, but it's not easy to combine with gaming. It's certainly better than rolling the dice forever, but it's most commonly used in sea battles, which are very technical. If you fire a 16-inch shell, you know how much damage it will do, so you don't need charts — the computer figures it instantly.

But it's the hands-on aspect that fascinates Mudd and many others. He will spend hours painting a single tin-and-bismuth figure (lead soldiers being medically incorrect) in acrylics, sometimes two hours just on one flag. His coin research shows him the designs that might appear on, say, a Theban soldier's shield. His soldiers have won first place in the Masters Category at the Historicon Convention, put on in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by the Historical Miniature Gaming Society. And he has won quite a few tournaments in a fairly abstract game involving 12 pieces on a side. "It can be played in under an hour, it's fun and very simple, and it's a decent simulation, 60 percent skill, 40 percent luck," Mudd says. "On the other hand, I haven't done very well with my Charles V army. I spend a lot more time painting and researching those figures than fighting with them."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wargaming starting out part deux!

Is this guy excited or what? A little creepy!

So since I started this BLOG I've been collecting Napoleonic Rules sets. I know, one person could never play them all, but I've kind of become obsessed in seeing all the innovative ideas that have been incorporated into the "Napoleonic Wargame" over the years. Some are truly inspirational, others not so much. You'll notice that when I stumble across a new rules set now a days I tend to post those new discoveries here for you to see under the heading "New Rules". For a copy of my list of over 550 something Napoleonic rules you can download a copy of my spreadsheet from my Yahoo Group at;



NEW Rules set!

A PDF download of the March Attack Napoleonic rules, 80 A4 pages. The page backgrounds have been removed for ease of printing, for more details of the rules and game mechanics please see the main Crusader Publishing web site. Approximately 8MB download

March Attack are designed to allow players to fight large battles with battalion sized units in a reasonable amount of time. Command and control, orders and morale for large formations are combined with easy to learn tactical game mechanics so that battles of a Corps or more a side can easily be fought by a few players during an evening.

Each unit on the table represents a battalion of infantry, regiment of cavalry or battery of artillery. A ground scale of 1” to 60 yards, one turn representing 20 minutes and fast paced strategic movement rules mean that battles play out at a realistic rate. Combat is dealt with in a manner that allows large numbers of units to be fielded and the interaction between strategic movement and tactical combat allows for a fast paced game that keeps a good level of detail.

Seven different training and morale levels combined with the historical strength of a unit introduces the concept of ‘Combat Value’. This ties together all of the tactical rules and ensures that troop quality, more than just luck or buckets of dice, plays an important part in every battle.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Some research on this SBA thing!

There are different variations on the stipulated requirements, such as nominating  6, 7 or 15 other bloggers, and sharing 5, 7 or 8 things about yourself. But all ring true in that this is indeed a prestigious and coveted blogging award. 

After extensive research, I share with you today the true and formerly undisclosed story of the SBA.

The Stylish Blogger Award originates with  Stash Glieb, an early blogging pioneer. Stash was a true pioneer, blogging back before there even was an internet, as Al Gore had not yet been born. Stash saved his daily musings in a diary that was found after his death by Garry Dowl, a member of the team that developed ENIAC and an early adopter of the Usenet and Telnet systems. Garry, sensing that Stash’s writings might someday be important, imbedded them into early computer code,  so that his words might be immortalized for all time. Later, as the internet became more sophisticated and less understandable, Google searches began pulling up Garry’s code as  repeated letter patterns. This alarmed the federal government, who contacted  internet historians at the University of Michigan to form a task force to make sense of this recurring code. Information regarding the task forces’ work began to leak to the public, causing general alarm to ensue. As the internet teetered on the brink of social anarchy, one dedicated task force member, who for security purposes, will only be  identified as TK,  finally made sense of the recurring letter patterns. After developing a complex algorithm to analyze the repeated patterns,  and accounting for regression, tax code revisions and amortization, TK  concluded that the repeating letter patterns arranged themselves into:

Just before being taken to his undisclosed federal location, TK sent out the first missive nominating a fellow researcher for the Stylish Blogger Award, and the rest is history. And now you know the rest of the story! For those inquiring minds that want to know?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stylish Blogger award!

  1. A thank you to the nominating blog and a link back to the same
  2. Share seven things about the nominated blog owner
  3. Nominate a heap more blogs that are also worthy of the award
  4. Let those nominated blog owners know of their nomination

1.) A thank you to those who nominated the site! (See #3.)

2.) To fulfill number 2. ...

1.)  I've been fascinated by the Napoleonic Era since the age of six (1970's)

2.)  The book that started it all for me was found in my elementary school library "The Battle of Waterloo" by American Heritage (1967)

3.)  The first book ever bought for me on the Napoleonic Era was "Waterloo" by Henri Lachouque (1972)

4.)  My favorite Christopher Plummer movie (I actually had a conversation with him about this one day!) was "Waterloo" (1970)

5.)  My first famous Napoleonic scholar friend "The Late Col. John Elting". I have a personally edited copy of "Swords around the Throne" which he'd update for me every time we met!

6.)  I'm a retired former "RANGER", "SPECIAL FORCES", Police officer.

7.)  I still enjoy 1980's alternative music;

3.) My Blog List