06 September 2009

Article Ruminations, Part II. . .

Another nice illustration of some mid-18th Century Prussian troops.

The other day, I held forth ad nauseum about several articles in old issues of Wargames Illustrated that managed to capture my fancy years ago (the 1980s and early 1990s) and remain interesting these many years later. This time, I'll continue in the same vein, looking at another five articles from my early days in the hobby when money was short, but the imagination was vivid, and anything seemed like it might be possible.

Where technical matters were concerned, Bill Leeson's "Artillery Effects in the Reiswitz Kriegspiel", contained in the April 1988 issue of
WI, certainly was influential. While I knew of the Prussian Kriegspiel, I had no clue about its details or rules. So, Mr. Leeson's piece on how artillery fire was adjudicated in the Reiswitz variant of the game/simulation made for fascinating reading. It even led me to devise my own relatively simple artillery rules, which, sadly, I never was able to try out in an actual game. But that particular exercise also led, eventually, to my realization that striking that ideal balance between playability and realistic simulation was just that. . . an ideal. The article in question nevertheless provided ample food for thought for several years thereafter.

The October 1988 issue of
WI brought with it a neat little piece by Pete Duckworth, in which he described how he built modular units that could be used to represent farms, villages, and towns on the tabletop. Mr. Duckworth did this for a SYW campaign that his Scimitar Wargames group was getting ready to fight. It was, and remains, a neat idea, and the accompanying description of how these units were constructed fired my imagination to try something similar for my own 15mm Waterloo project, then in full swing. Sadly, my modeling efforts did not produce quite the effect I was after, comparing poorly to photographs of Duckworth's models, which were feature occasionally in later issues of WI. Live and learn as the saying goes!

More in keeping with the old school wargaming line was Simon Clark's article "Napoleonic Wargaming in 54mm or 'Where is Grouchy?'" in the November 1989
Wargames Illustrated. Here. Mr. Clark described why and how he amassed a collection about 4,500 54mm Historex figures with which he fought sprawling games on the floor in the Wellsian tradition. Given my focus on Waterloo at the time, the several large color photos of large Napoleonics that accompanied the Clarke article made me itch for something larger than my 15mm figures. I think this was very similar to what Phil Olley has more recently termed "painting sirens".

In other words, you see another fellow's stunning work on the web or in a magazine, and instantly your own machinations seem shabby and less than worthy by comparison. How true, how true. Still, who can argue with a floor full of neatly painted, highly detailed, anatomically correct 54mm figures in their thousands??!! Yep, this one is still fun to stumble across and reread once in a while, especially in view of my old school leanings of the last (almost) four years.

And while we're talking of H.G. Wells, there was another article in the February '91 issue of WI called "VERY Little Wars" by Mark Elwen. Here, the focus was on how Mr. Elwen and his father conceived and staged a game using Wells' rules as described in his classic Little Wars but using 1/72nd plastic figures to recreate the armies seen in that wonderful little book. Yet again, another inspirational article, describing something I've meant to try myself ever since but haven't yet got around to.

No, I don't think I could bear to fire miniature projectiles at my carefully painted RSM and Holger Eriksson figures! But if time permits before decrepitude sets in, this one project I'd love to take a crack at. Maybe I could combine the mid-19th century imagination idea, described in my previous post, with good old H.G.'s rules and have my very own ice cream war using a couple of old Britains cannon that have been carefully packed away in my pile of boyhood stuff since the early 1980s. Who knows?

Finally, Paul Stevenson contributed a piece to the October 1993
WI, "The Seven Years War, WRG Style" that I always thought was a terrific idea. Basically, Mr. Stevenson discussed why using 15mm figures on 25mm-sized bases, which would allow you to double the number of figures per base/unit, produced better games. Most notably, he described how the look of the game improved immeasurably as units really began to look like long lines of troops, a hallmark of mid-18th Century warfare. Stevenson went on to discuss the further advantages that an innovation like this would provide to players with regard to fighting SYW battles using the 1645-1845 WRG rule set.

While no photographs accompanied the article, Stevenson wrote in such a way that I immediately wanted to try what he advocated. So, perhaps this was the first inkling I had that my Napoleonics would eventually be relegated to the sidelines in favor of the 18th Century. And indeed, it was the very next summer, in July of 1994, that I purchased a copy of Young and Lawford's delightful
Charge!, and the rest was history.

In my next post, I'll go back a little bit further, to a few really old issues of
Minature Wargames and Military Modeling -- from the early 1980s, no less -- and look at several inspirational articles that continue to fire my imagination when I reread them now, almost thirty years on. Stay tuned!

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