20 January 2009

The 18th century? What's the Fascination?

Hessian musketeers by All the King's Men Toy Soldiers of Snellville, Georgia, U.S.A.

Just a quick post post today, but I thought the above question might be interesting food for thought. Obviously, there is an array of possible periods, theaters, and conflicts that might catch our eyes. But what is it about the era 1700-1799 -- either real, or imagined? Is it the commanders and politics? The fairly straightforward tactics? The myriad of uniforms and flags? The variety and scope of the conflicts? The patchwork of various and sundry petty states, (at least in Central Europe)? I'm very interested to learn your thoughts. Don't be a lurker! Please leave a comment -- or even two or three. Have a nice day everyone!


Herzog Ignaz said...

From a wargamer's point of view, I think the limited nature of the conflicts and general regard for "the laws of warre" give the period an innocence and even naivete which sorts well with the innocence of play.

It's far more difficult to project childish innocence and whimsy onto, say, the Waffen SS and Soviet Guards locked in a death struggle on the steppes.

Prinz Geoffrey said...

For me it is the colors and pagentry of the period, the amount of variation in the uniforms and the fact that the SYW is the first global conflict.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

"All of the above".... :o))

Slightly more seriously - it's an age that transfers to the wargame table particularly easily - ranges are small, movement slow - it's just very do-able on the wargame table...

Then you add in all the suggestions you put...!

tradgardmastare said...

For me there are the myriad states - each with their own customs,history and traditions. My own forebarers are from Swabia and I often indulge in imagining them in a pastoral idyll in the 18th Century...
It was a time of change with aspects of the future and of the past. I love the whole mad, complicated system of the Holy Roman Empire . I am often reminded of Gormanghast. The names,titles pagentary of all of it.
Not to mention all the discoveries being made,the splendour of the Baroque- it all wow!
Oh and by the way the military history of the period is fascinating- full of amazing characters and stories. A stability that the Napoleonic period lacks for me.
The global nature of the syw attracts me too- Last of the Mohicans and other literary/film icons
I love the whimsy of EvE too and feel we capture something vital of the times and places. So many blogs that reflect the differing faces of the times.
And what about troop types- dashing huzzars,crafty croats, vile freikorps like Von Trenck, solid grenidiers and too many to mention...
Well stokes you did ask!

abdul666 said...

Tricorns and justaucorps... and lace
At the age of 10 I started collecting info. and images of Napoleonic uniforms (Bucquoy…) – not that the was much other choice in France in the mid-"50! But at 15 I was already oversaturated with nitpickings about the actual pattern of the shako plate worn by the Nème de Ligne during the winter 1807-1808. I explored other eras, and at 20 had no longer any inclination toward soldiers in stingy clothes wearing flowerpots on their heads. 200% subjective of course, but for me the Lace Wars -the WAS even more than the SYW- saw the optimum of H&M military elegance. By the GNW / WSS times the coat was 'too' (in my eyes) large and bulky, turning the soldiers into bibendums in bathrobes; while as early as the SYW uniforms started following the 'stingy' Prussian fashion and lace started disappearing.

Simple and elegant linear warfare... and wargames
With the Revolutions (American and French) small professional armies were largely replaced with masses of volunteers and draftees – basically civilians in arms.
Meaning that formations previously known: infantry squares (Blenheim), screens of skirmishers and attack columns (the Plains of Abrahams) but rarely used became common-merely because the infantry was no longer able hold its line, to remaian steady exchanching murdererous fire with 'the shop across the street' at 100 paces, to stop a cavalry charge by its fire. Troops type so far (normally) absent from a regular, pitched battle (light types, militia…) became commonplace, in units of their own and as subunits (voltigeurs..).
On the opposite as Charles 'The War Game' Grant demonstrated, you can refight major battles of the mid-18th C. with only 3 troop types -infantry, cavalry, artillery- and 2 formations -line and column. Ideal for simple rules yet very pleasant games, (and to
attract newcomers to the hobby).
Of course you CAN add later, at leisure, skirmish lines, columns, squares, 'morale & training classes', light troops, militia, 'irregular charging infantry' (Highlanders up to "45..) and even open the Pandora box of the dreaded 'national characteristics'. But it's entirely up to you. All are compulsory for 'Napoleonics'.

Ethics (?)
The Lace Wars were basically wars without hatred. The 'knightly' attitude, the taste for panache, affected by the officers reflected on the soldiery. Of course there was blood, suffering, mutilations… but, like to-day football / soccer players (but without the obscene incomes), soldiers were professionals doing their job, often to their best, often with pride and devotion to the Regiment. They killed, but were not indifferent to courage and 'good workmanship'. The 'enemy' was more an 'opponent', alliances changed (though France and Great Britain *always* managed to be at each other's throat) and 'transfers' (deserters, POW) were allowed: so 'the enemy' could become an ally or a comrade-in-arms.
Contemporary texts show that most at least sincerely tried to spare the civilians (except during sieges, of course, where 'embargo' and bombings had the same consequences as to-day).

With Revolutions and wars of independance (all *civil wars* at least at the start) at least one side fields bloodthirsty mobs maddened by fanaticism -just as with Wars of Religion, with the same consequences. At no time in Flanders during the WAS were whole villages massacred, babies bunrt in the bakers' owens, POW mass slaughtered… as during the French Revolution.
And this goes far further than ideology-crazed volunteers. As soon as you have an army based on *draft*, as soon as you tear numerous young men from their family, home and civilian life to send them to the bloodbath you *have to* -to keep them motivated and merely willing- mobilize them with hatred. And to keep this hatred burning by constant propganda de-humanizing the enemy, military and civilians alike. Recent wars largely devoided of political / ideological content, 'classical' wars between countries but involving draft armies: WWI, WWII in the Pacific… remind us of this unsavory reality.

Some among us take greater pleasure from the building of a fictitious country (its geography, history, economics, genealogy of the ruling line, current political situation and court schemes) and [or 'at least, / to start with'] an imaginary army, to design its uniforms and flags… than to search (in Osprey, generally..) for the historically accurate cuff pattern of this or that regiment. A few Imagi-Nations exist set in other eras, Napoleonic or (African) cintemporary e.g. but the Lace Wars are their niche 'par excellence'.
Why so?
-The 300+ states and statelets of the Empire: against such a bewieldering kaleidoscope of countries and uniforms, adding 'yours' is not a monstruous incongruity.
-The unicity of military practices, types of troops, tactics... in 'western' armies: you have sure guidelines.
-The identical (at least at first glance and at the level of troops seen en masse from a distance on a wargame table) military fashion across the whole 'western' world. Commercially available minis have just to be painted to become parts of your imaginary army, without their intented 'nationality' as obvious as with Napoleonic ones -each country having its own characteristic headgear for instance: thus your troops are not immediately identifies as 'Prussians painted in bizarre colors'....

Possibilty of world-wide campaigns: SYW is often called 'the first World War' but indeed -with France and Great Britain already involved oversea- the 1st WW is actually the WAS.
Given thi sprecedent, in addition to ± 'historical' oversea (for us Europeans) campaigns in North & South America, India and minor actions in Africa and the Indian Ocean, you can play 'corsairs or is it pirates' PoCarribean fashion, attempt by the mid 18th C. a 'rehearsal' of the great colonial expeditions of Victorian times (and by then the Fachoda incident would soring a real conflict): field your 'tricorns' against your Victorian Sudaneses or Chinese Boxers for instance?

johnpreece said...

Certainly all of that, but more than anything its 'Charge' and 'The Wargame'. They depicted 18C wargaming in such a delightful manner that I was influenced for life


abdul666 said...

I warmly second John's point: it may be a kind of 'historical accident', outside cold reasoning, but 'The War Game' and 'Charge!' had me hooked to the hobby, and he and me are certainly not alone in this case. Hopefully the 'Companion' and the 'Raid on Saint-Michel' will attract new people to the Lace Wars.

A minor point re. 'military elegance': by the end of the 18th C. armies tend to become more (gloomily) 'uniforms' (the Russian and Swedish ones had already been so for a century, but were the exception): distinguishing colors tend to be no longer proud characteristics of a regiment, but of an area of recruitment (American infantry of the AWI) or of a whole arm of service. Probably linked to the breaking of traditions during the revolutionary turnmoils (Great Britain was unaffected) and to the economics of huge draft armies (in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France it affected only line infantry, yet the bulk of the army). Progressively one came to the like of the American "Yellow: cavalry, light blue: infantry, red: artillery" of the ACW and John Ford's 'US Cavalry' movies. Even before khaki a good part of the pagentry was lost.

abdul666 said...

A wargaming consequence of the 'ethics' point.
The Lace Wars are unlikely to stirr embarrassing religious / ideological / political / patriotic echoes.
While religion tended to mould alliances among the German states, it was no longer a primary issue. The Wars of Religions were over, a thing of the past (within Christianity -of course, if you add Turks or pirates fromthe Barbary Coast...).

Most belligerants were monarchies, thus no obvious political / ideological connotations for us 21st C. wargamers.

France and Germany were not at war -Germany as such did not exist, and French armies if roaming in Germany were there as allies of half the German states (of course, swapping alliances if needed, France and Great Britain *were* at war: but has been a trivial fact of life almost from the days of William the Conqueror, and would remain so to the Crimean War - negligible, thus!).

Capt Bill said...

The pageantry of your Hessians is what inspires must of us. The insightful comments of our colleagues represents what motivates me, but I have to acknowledge the influence that 'The War Game" and "Charge" had on my interest in the era and a war game should look like.

A J Matthews said...

Warfare without the hatred. Nationalism and jingoism mere blots on the horizon. Respect for the foe. Colorful uniforms and troops. A myriad of statelets and realms to immerse yourself in. Diplomacy and skulduggery. Skirmishes on the fringes of the known world. Even some great naval strategy in the shape of Hughes and Suffren. What's not to like? Tricorns rock!!! ;)

Snickering Corpses said...

Already touched upon by others, but I think a big part for me is the ability to add in a state of my own invention without disturbing the history, because there were already so many petty little states with their own little concerns around which the great wars occured with only minimal disruptions.

Conrad Kinch said...

I must say the 18th century has never been a real interest of mine. At 28, I'm too young to have encountered Charge! or The Wargame first hand, my background is Warhammer and Featherstone.

My main wargaming periods have been the Second World War, the American Civil War and the Napoleonic wars precisely because they are conflicts that have discernable baddies (at least by my lights) that I can take my frustrations out on.

That said, the charm and whimsy of Charge! have certainly won me over to the 18th century, though ironically my two 18th century imaginary armies are being built for use with H.G. Wells Little Wars rather than either Charge! or The Wargame.

Fitz-Badger said...

All the cool kids were doing it!

But seriously ... when I was looking for a break from fantasy armies I started looking at historical periods. I've always had an interest in the American Revolution and thought I would get into that, but then one day I came across this ImagiNation business.
So, inspired by the various blogs (ever-increasing, so it seems), my imagination was fired up and the rest is history (or psuedo-history?).
Sure, I could do ImagiNations set in other periods, but my introduction to ImagiNations was by way of the 18th century through blogs like yours. I soon found I enjoyed the diversity of aproaches, the imagination and creativity people pour into these little countries, the colorfulness and pageantry of the armies, the farce and whimsey, the "toy soldier" aspect, and so much more. The period has much to offer the creative gamer and modeller and writer and artist. And the kind of people I have found doing it really seem to be great people out to be creative and have fun. In addition, so many are helpful with advice and sharing their knowledge
and enthusiasm.

Der Alte Fritz said...

I cannot add much to the eloquence of Alan and others. Although there is something about the tricorn hat, the full coat and long waistcoat and knee breeches, that when combined together, result in the most elegant and graceful uniforms ever made.

The minuet of war wherein two armies dance towards an encounter with one another on the battlefield, a sense of gentlemanliness and honor that is epitomized by Lord Hay at Fontenoy:

"Gentlemen of France, fire first" and further found in such stories as General Daun returning Frederick's captured dogs to him, or Frederick politely volunteering to return Daun's captured maps of Silesian (after he had been permitted to make copies for himself first). It goes on and on.

MiniWargamer said...

I have to agree with Conrad, I never liked Yankees much either....

(Texas boy with ancestors in the GA Infantry and Terry's Texas Rangers) ;-)

Grimsby Mariner said...

Charge! was the inspiration. Simple rules for a period where, on the face of it, the tactics were simple. There are fewer types of troop to collect and fewer arguments over the minutea that comes with conflicts closer to living memory. There is no one governing or dominant set of rules. The uniforms are myriad and colourful.

abdul666 said...

Wargaming without "discernable baddies" prevents you from *enjoying * their slaughter. Probably a good thing not to rejoice at mutilations and deaths, even 'virtual' -too easy to carry it to 'The Real World™'. Not that I am a politically correct 'bleeding heart', but I prefer games to be moments of escape / haven / respite from reality -thus somehow 'peaceful' even if wargames. Passionate massacres we have enough in reality.

A related point is how can one bear to send his (/her, rarely alas) lovely painted (regardless of the artistic level of the result!) minis - one's *children* in a way- to the bloodbath? Not by remembering they are 'toy soldiers' -if you acknowledge to be 'an adult playing with toy soldiers' you are probably of the 'Old School' mentality that tends to forget a mini is only the 3D marker of 15 or 20 'real men' but on the opposite to see, 'feel' him as an 'individual'. You are of the lucky kind that kept, as an adult, the children's marvelous imagination and ability to 'submerge' in imaginary world -what Cocteau translated by 'All children are poets'. The 'protective reflex' is to see -unconsciously- tabletop fights as some Grandes Manoeuvres / lifesize training session rather than 'real' battles (hypocritical but confortable). Easier when these battles look somehow 'unreal' / 'not serious'.

The Lace Wars, by the nature / motivations of the 'real' conflicts, the contemporary war ethos, the formalized, ballet-like appearance of their pitched battles, the gaudy uniforms... have some 'unreal' feeling which greatly helps to keep battlegames 'disconnected' from 'bloody reality', to be and stay *games*.
And, given the simple nature of the Lace Wars mainstream armies and tactics, specially *simple* games.

abdul666 said...

The Hessians are gaudy indeed - but would not they be even more so in laced tricorns, true justaucops and breeches and gaiters rather than those 'poor men's overalls', i;e. in true 'Lace Wars' uniforms? And the conflict would be without political conotations...

Anonymous said...

I just like the uniforms.

Bob Cordery said...

Coming as it does in the period after the enlightenment, the whole historical period has lots of appeal. The world was on the cusp between the agrarian-based economies of the 17th century and the industrial economies of the 19the century; thus we seem to have the best of both worlds. Sufficient industry to supply our armies with what they need (uniforms, standardized weapons) and sufficient numbers of healthy peasants to fill the ranks.

It is also an era when communication has improved, and with it education for more people. Printed books are used to spread ideas to a much wider group in the population; hence the growth of manuals for soldiers which 'standardized' military tactics.

But most importantly for the wargamer, we have 'simple' warfare with attractive uniforms. We do not need to know the difference between the .056 cal musket used by the army of the Bishopric of Bad Humor and that used by the troops of the Elector of Sax Coalbag; they are just muskets! We only have three 'arms' to worry about - infantry, cavalry, and artillery - and their weaponry are all very imilar.

Finally, because of this 'simplicity', 18th century wargamers can concentrate their efforts on winning by getting their tactics right, something that is often missing from other wargaming periods.

abdul666 said...

Two (not unrelated) points, mentioned here for completness but separately as a kind of ‘optional annex’ since most wargamers will find them irrelevant and even, at first, out of topic. Indeed these points could perhaps favour ‘astounding adventures’ games more than ‘mainstream’ wargame campaigns.

-By the mid-18th C. a good part of Earth was still to be discovered.
Meaning that deep in the Amazonian forest or the Indochinese jungle you can discover a ‘lost city’, either in ruins but filled with treasures or still inhabited by the survivors of some ‘forgotten civilization’ –maybe a miniature whole ‘lost continent’. In the Sahara you can run into the city-states of Ayesha or Antinea, further South the King Solomon's Mines: instead of being ‘Victorian’, your intrepid explorers can well wear tricorns.…

And most of the Pacific Ocean is still to be explored in detail. Thus you can create your own pleasant kingdom in Tahiti, or large Imagi-Nations in Australia. You can even discover a new continent –call it Mu if you wish– with its original primitive and / or advanced cultures.

Of course all this was true before, and will still be for some time. But by the Lace Wars times the maritime powers, their navies and Indies Companies had the required ships and experience. The 18th C. is the century of exploration of the Pacific, by Behring, Cook, La Perouse… Later the ‘blank’ areas shrank progessively, making ‘great’ discoveries more and more unlikely.

The «Century of Enlightenment», its name of «Age of Reason» notwithstanding, saw the cooccurente of two opposite cultural features:
-on the one hand most people still believed in ‘magic / sorcery’: re. the rumours of werewolves in Gevaudan, the inquiries of the Austrian police in the Balkans about vampires, the success of Saint-Germain and Cagliostro at the French Court, the common ‘magical’ interpretation of Mesmer’s experiments…
-on the other hand it was the time of technological innovations and breakthroughs with the first balloons, submarine, steam-powered car and boat…

Thus adding a pinch of ‘supernatural’ to your setting would not be out of character - while Munchausenian contraptions *can* be built as prototypes, and steam power now makes several of Da Vinci’s projects almost viable in a ‘Lacepunk’ setting.
Both approaches (not mutually exclusive, in the same way as both are accepted components of Victorian Science Fiction) are far from ‘mainstream’ Lace Wars gaming, but currently are tempting a few inquisitize minds.

To summarize, the ‘tricorn’ era is specially propitious for two gaming genres normally associated with Victorian times : ‘Colonial’ and ‘Science / Fantasy adventure’. Certainly *NOT* what most wargamers would spontaneously think of as appealing characteristics of the 18th C. –but true nonetheless. And you can add not only ‘Khartoum’ but ‘Van Helsing’ and ‘Tomb Raider’ to your sources of inspiration: is not the Lace Wars gamer’s life marvelous?

Brent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
johnpreece said...

Brent makes a very interesting point.

Allowing for terrible generalisation:

If Napoleonic players are attracted by the GLORY of the period, and cant bear their favourite army to lose. And:

If one is suspicious of WW2 Nazi reenactors no matter what they say, because after all why would you want to reenact that evil shower.

Then conversely those attracted to the 18c must me a pretty decent bunch of individuals.

Wouldn't you say?


littlejohn said...

I'm coming in late to the party...but I think it would be the amazing range of uniforms... and when you add the ImagiNation option, that aspect really gets rich.

I'm also fascinated the realtive strengths of the different arms in horse/musket/gun games. It seems to reward classic military tactics. Cav in Napoleonic games seems to often get stymied by squares thus diminishing the balance of the three arms.

18th century games really lend themselves to tactical problems like Table Top teasers. That's enough to keep things really engaging for me.

...the color and character that come into the mix with an ImagiNation seals the deal for me.

Captain Brummel said...

The 18th century? Whats the fascination?
Does this mean there are other periods to wargame? How shocking!

Seriously, I agree with John Preece, not only because he is Welsh but also because "Charge" and "The Wargame" did it for me as a child.
This progressed into a general interest in the 18th century which includes the culture, literature, politics, society and fashion. I even served in a regiment that was founded in 1715. I now live in germany and the battlefields of Minden, Klosterkamp and Warburg are just over an hours drive away.
Back to wargaming, I do dabble in other periods but nothing has ever gripped me like the 18th century does.

tidders said...

I was an avid reader while a young lad of Charge and the Wargame (borrowed repeatedly from the local library). These I believe are the main reason for my 18C imagi-madness.

I started wargaming while at school with Napoleonics and later veared to SYW after buying a reprint of Charge. I was working on some late 18c historical german states armies when I stopped wargaming some 25 years ago.

When I took up the hobby again two and half years ago I went straight for for my favourite - 18C imaginations. It appeals to me because I can have anything I like in the way of units and uniforms and not be constrained by historical exactitude. It's nice to be able to pick and choose either real units or create my own.

-- Allan

Snickering Corpses said...

Another part that's been somewhat alluded to by previous comments is that the armies of the period are small enough that one can establish a reasonable battle even at big battalion scale without requiring several thousand figures to do it.

guy said...

I can only echo many of the above posts. The SYW has only been the focus of my hobby for about the last 3/4 years. Before that I happily spent years collecting Napoleonics (and still do).

I do not think the 18th C in the main attracts new or young gamers. Most are attracted to tanks, fantasy etc. After however that pales and some years pass,for those interested in history, battles, extraordinary personalities, uniforms etc then I think the 18th C is hard to beat. If you then twist in imaginary nations and all the great ideas so many people have, then for me it was a dead cert. Finally it has the huge advantage of having some inspirational great books (Charge etc) and we should also not discount their modern equivilent, blogs such as yours and Der Alte Fritz's to name but 2.

The question perhaps to be asked is what is there not to be facinated about the 18thC. Clearly this site shows the whole subject is fizzing with energy. That is why we have such a great hobby.


Frankfurter said...

Since you asked us to post ...
got an extra stamp?
Otherwise, it's all been said ... about the only influence that did NOT lead me to the period were the Grant and Featherstone books which I'd read at the library long, long, long, long ... ago.

Franbkly, it was the memory of some fun games with Koenigs Krieg rules and my own interest in siege warfare which led me to consider the period when I decided to resume playing, even if I'm condemned by health and isolation to be solitary. Then all sorts of nice folks in cyber space started to help ... including throwing real nice deals and gifrs of lead my way!
And it's the last period in which one can almost believe in the reality of an imagi-nation without drastic alterations to world history or planetary geography ...


Frankfurter said...

Since you asked us to post ...
got an extra stamp?
Otherwise, it's all been said ... about the only influence that did NOT lead me to the period were the Grant and Featherstone books which I'd read at the library long, long, long, long ... ago.

Franbkly, it was the memory of some fun games with Koenigs Krieg rules and my own interest in siege warfare which led me to consider the period when I decided to resume playing, even if I'm condemned by health and isolation to be solitary. Then all sorts of nice folks in cyber space started to help ... including throwing real nice deals and gifrs of lead my way!
And it's the last period in which one can almost believe in the reality of an imagi-nation without drastic alterations to world history or planetary geography ...


Ali said...

Hello everyone.Im an neewbie in the mini world.Just started collecting ww2 1/35 figures.It seems the 18th and 19th century has become an object of fascination with me too.I would really appreciate it if you guys were kind enough to name the companies that produce and sell figures from this era.I would be ever so greatful.

Furthermore would you by chance know where I can actually order molds for tin and lead soldiers.Making my own army sounds like a fun and less expensive idea.

Snickering Corpses said...

Hi Ali,

There are a number of companies out there offering figures in many different scales. If you're looking for the figures in Stokes' collection, you'll find a mix of:

RSM95 - http://www.dpcltdcom.org/
Minden Miniatures - http://mindenminis.blogspot.com
Revell 1/72 scale plastics (out of production, but still findable online)
Holger Erikkson
Spencer Smith

There are a couple of other brands in his collection that escape me at the moment. A trundle through his blog should turn them up. :)

I know less about molds, though Prince August is one name I've heard. I believe they're mostly 40mm figures, however. I am sure there are others out there, it's just not an area I've done much research into. Some of the other guys can probably add to the list. :)

Ali said...

Thankyou so much for replying snickering.Really appreciate your cooperation,for a newb its like an ocean of information online so a guiding hand of the veterans is always appreciated.

Prinz Ulrich von Boffke said...

Hi Ali,

Be sure to have a look at my most recent post, from this past Saturday morning, if you haven't already done so. It will provide a few suggestions/answers to at least some of your questions.

Best Regards,


Ali said...

Thank you for your advice. I read the post about those rule books by you Prinz Ulrich von Boffke , and indeed your observations are useful. I too was overwhelmed when I blackmailed my little brother into playing a ww2 table top match against my American troops with the complicated numerical’s presented in most rule sets that were available to me at that time. I had to resort to compiling my own set of rules which is a very very difficult thing to do. But I had to delve into that sea for want of simplicity of play. I had only compiled rules for squad based combat in which there were two squads only [yes I know its small but it was just a start] per side. Heavy weapons and vehicles rules were in the pipeline when my baby brother decided to just throw it all away [that nincompoop he should have asked me at least].
Sighs, on the American and British writing styles……I side with the Britons. War hammer 40k is British and so there nuff said. Our education system was initially English, before college my spellings were impeccable and my sentence structuring immaculate but now that my teachers are mostly qualified from America, I have slipped sadly I write armour and they write armor. Confusing isn’t it.



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