03 September 2009

Article Ruminations. . .

The Battle of Koeniggratz, during the summer of 1866, by Georg Bleibtreu.

Have you eve come across certain articles in a wargaming magazine, past or present, that just scratched that "itch" so well, that you read them again and again over the years? Me too. And I've long meant to mention a few of them here on the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog, but various other things have always gotten in the way. But no longer! Today, teaching is almost finished for the week, I'm taking a break from painting the baby's room, and the long Labor Day holiday weekend is almost upon us here in the United States. What better time than now to natter on about a few articles from the past that remain fun and inspiring to revisit years after I first read them? So here we go.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, before more serious concerns in life, like graduate school, forced me to put wargaming on the back burner for several years, I had a subscription to
Wargames Illustrated, a magazine I really enjoyed at the time. Looking back through old copies now, however, I notice that even then, it contained (almost) more advirtising than it did articles. Nevertheless, there was an occasional gem of an issue that featured something to grab my interest.

First off were a couple of articles in 1989 by an American, F. Patrick Burke, on designing and painting 15mm armies based on the old Avalon Hill Waterloo boardgame. Since I was up to my eyebrows in my own 15mm Waterloo project at the time, these seemed tailor made, especially the photographs of Mr. Burke's own figures. "Wow!" is an apt description. So, for many years thereafter, his little works of art become my artisitic touchstone, one of the reasons why the project just dragged on forever and now languishes until the time I return to it. Whenever that might be.

To my mind, one of the nagging problems with Napoleonics is that, given the wide array of uniforms, you're just NEVER finished with the project. There's always that next regiment of infantry or cavalry in some kind of odd uniform that you want to add to your army. I found this particularly the case with the 1815 Prussians. The endless variety of colors and uniforms worn by Bluchers' army is all the more interesting and, at the same time, maddening thanks to its variegated appearance. Sigh.

Two more articles that I returned to again and again involved the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. The first was entitled "25mm Franco-Prussian Wargaming" by Matthew Hawkins and appeared in the October 1987 issue of
WI. Mr. Hawkins wrote rationally and convincingly about how to build armies gradually, and with a budget in mind, for this fascinating conflict. The photographs accompanying the article certainly helped make a convincing case for the period. Two featured a lovely farmyard diorama, fought over by Prussian and French figures from Wargames Foundry. The third, exhibited a huge 6mm set-up with hundreds of Heroics & Ros. figures, which were impressively painted despite their diminutive size. In the January 1988 WI, Richard Brooks presented his set of rules for the period, "Schlachtenbummler: Or Von Steinmetz Rides Again". Be still my beating heart!

Both articles fascinated me for several years, and I have always meant to take a stab at the FPW period ever since. The two main problems have always been time (chiefly) and money (secondarily) though. In addition, the older I have become, the more I prefer to stay with one project unitl it is finished, for example the Grand Duchy of Stollen project. It finally occurred to me in the late 1990s, that if one dabbled across several different periods and/or armies simultaneously, making any real progress in any one of them would take F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Sure, indulging in several different periods at one time works for some people, but where my own wargaming interests are concerned, I feel it's better to pick a period/project and stick to it until everything is done. And I think that approach makes good sense, at least east of the sun and west of the moon in the far off Grand Duchy of Stollen!

Moving right along, in July and September of 1988, WI featured two articles on the Swedish army in the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, written by Pete Berry. The first of Mr. Berry's articles dealt with the organization, uniforms, and tactics and Sweden's soldiers while the second piece looked at the Battle of Fraustadt in February 1706. At the end of that article was a short section on assembling miniature armies for the Great Norther War, which Mr. Berry did using plastic Spencer Smith figures, given the relative dearth of historically "correct" figures available at the time. Sadly, the article featured no photographs of those armies, which I would certainly return to again and again today, given my more recent "old school" tendencies and aesthetic sensibilities.

Finally, for today's post at any rate, Stephen Shann had an article the August 1989 edition of
Wargames Illustrated that was entitled, "The Austro-Prussian War of 1866". Here again, I've always been fascinated by Bismark's wars of German unification in the 1860s and early 1870s, so the subject matter of Mr. Shann's all too brief piece was right up my alley. At the time, I believe, it was rather difficult to find material on this particular conflict in the English language, so I relished every word of this article repeatedly for the next several months as I plodded along with my 15mm Waterloo-era project.

Looking at Shann's article again a few evenings ago, I began to consider how I might, one day, place the Grand Duchy of Stollen and the Electorate of Zichenau within a mid-19th century context. If I approached the 1866 conflict from an imaginary point of view, I could raise two relatively small 25/30mm "armies" without feeling the need to build two historical, corps-sized forces. Indeed, I've had the lingering thought, for a couple of years, that one infantry force wearing the Prussian pickelhaube (spiked helmet), Bavarian raupenhelm (crested helmet), and Saxon kepi would look really good on the table facing another brigade-sized force of early Crimean British, wearing the Albert Shako and bearskins.

There are lots of eminently suitable plastic figure sets out there now that would makes this a not-terribly-expensive prospect too. And of course there would be the obligatory lancers, hussars, dragoons, and so forth for the cavalry. Naturally, the uniform colors and flags would be more in line with Stollenian and Zichenauer military fashions of, say, the mid-1840s. . . before breechloading artillery and Minie or Dreyse rifles became an issue on the battlefield. Well, that's maybe a couple more years away, at least until the Grand Duchy of Stollen project, in its current incarnation, is finished. But it's sure fun to think about in the meantime!

In my next post, I'll look at five additional Wargames Illustrated articles from the late 1980s and early 1990s along with my associated observations, ramblings, and spin-off thoughts. Between now and then, though, I have a few final touches to make to the baby's room, and a few more RSM Austrian cuirassiers to prime with black gesso. Who knows? Maybe I can apply the fleshtone to them this weekend as well. We'll see how it goes. Charge!!!


Fitz-Badger said...

Bringing Stollen and Zichenau into the mid-19th century sounds like a fun possible future project. :)

Some of my favorite articles were actually 2 campaigns that were presented over the course of about 4 issues of the Courier each. One was a Sudan-like Colonial campaign, about the False Prophet of the San Juans, based on maps of those islands off the coast of Washington. The other was a Medieavals game called the Marnon campaign and used the map from the Avalon Hill game "Wizard's Quest" (if I recall correctly). Both made me dream about doing some kind of fun campaign.

Some of my other favorites might seem heretical, but there were a few in White Dwarf that I enjoyed (like "A Tale of Four Gamers", where they reported on building small fantasy armies and then gaming with them).

Bluebear Jeff said...

I loved those GNW articles and the later articles on the Danish army of the GNW (by Dan Schorr, I think).

As for putting flesh on primed figures . . . doesn't it really start to bring them to life? It certainly does for me.

-- Jeff

Grimsby Mariner said...

I remember the Waterloo article well. Basing his units on wooden blocks to represent the regiment with a few figures in poses and painted sooo very nicely. Like many another I too planned to do something siilar but, like so many others, got distracted onto other projects. Inspiration and information are key ingredients for an article - something many forget sadly.

Stryker said...

Stokes - I admire your ability to stick to one project at a time as I somehow seem to have five on the go at the moment. Apart from my main Hinton Hunt project I too have a 15mm Waterloo project begun in 1985! It is crazy to attempt to build so many armies at the same time and you are right that the result is very little progress on any front.

One of the old articles I return to again and again is "The Reinstadt Operation" from the August 1972 issue of Miniature Warfare (yikes that shows my age). It's a narrative of a WWII game based loosely on Arnhem. It really grabbed my imagination as a young teenager. Hmmm, perhaps some 20mm WWII stuff...


A J said...

The FPW is a fascinating period. There's something about those Ruritanian uniforms that really appeals. I think the era would lend itself very well to the ImagiNations concept.

Until recently I had most of the French 1st Corps and the Prussian III Corps in 15mm. I favored Outpost Games of Scotland's figures. They look nicely proportioned, are quick, cheap and easy to paint, and they have every troop type needed. As for rules sets, Principles of War give a good game, although I hear tell a variant of Rally Round the Flag rules produces a better result.

An article in one issue of WI circa 1990 covered a mini-campaign set in the Loire valley during the Republican phase of the FPW. It's worth looking out for as it had some excellent ideas.

tidders said...

Mid-19C german states armies - ooh nice idea.

-- Allan

pgwliddle said...

Great idea doing mid-19th century imagi-nations. I could fancy using "Shiny Toy Soldiers" for a project like this.
With their multiple parts you could make a splendid variety of units.



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