Wednesday, 5 December 2012

19th Century Grand Tactical wargaming

In almost 50 years of wargaming (with a 10 year break) I can't remember ever attempting to refight an actual historical battle. This is mainly because most classic wargame rules deal with battalion level tactics, and it is difficult or even impossible to gather together enough figures or find enough space to recreate the whole of a major historical battle. The problem worsens with the historical growth in the size of armies.

1632Lutzen19,000 v 27,000
1704Blenheim52,000 v 56,000
1757Leuthen35,000 v 60,000
1815Waterloo68,000 + 50,000 v 72,000
1865Gettysburg95,000 v 75,000
1866Koeniggratz278,000 v 271,0000

Going back a few decades, Phil Barker's Wargames Rules 1685-1845 seemed revolutionary in adopting a 1:50 figure-scale. Previous rules had used scales like 1:33, 1:25 or even 1:20. But even at 1:50, you would need almost 1,500 figures just to portray the French at Waterloo and an impossible 11,000 to do Koeniggratz. Portraying battles of that size was only possible with board (and, more recently, computer) games.

Such Grand Tactical level gaming required a move from individual figures to elements representing at least a battalion or even a brigade. It also involved a more abstract approach, forgoing tactical formation changes. The avoidance of complicated lookup tables, the adoption of DBx-style sudden-death (or markers) rather than record-keeping, and the use of smaller scale figures (10mm, 6mm or even 2mm) have also been advantageous.

WRG spearheaded many of these developments and my original interest in 19th Century Grand Tactical wargaming was first inspired by the appearance of Phil Barker's Horse, Foot and Guns. That seems like a generation ago and probably is. I subsequently looked at a lot of other rules, but my growing preference for straightforward, high level and 'area movement' (grid-based) games has increasingly drawn me to some of the non-commercial rules associated with members of Wargame Developments. And in the case of 19th Century rules, I noticed Martin Rapier's Rifle and Kepi which can be downloaded here.

I haven't yet placed any orders for figures or scenery but I'm currently considering 2mm blocks and Hexon terrain. Here's a picture of a Rifle and Kepi game played with 6mm figures.

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