Sunday, 22 May 2016

Wargames Nostalgia – More Books

1971 our first wargames room

There are two more books which would greatly influence my wargaming.   Unfortunately I no longer have either of them, nor indeed most of my early period wargaming books.    When we moved to Spain in 2006 I got rid of most of my wargame library.   In particular those books which I had not opened in 10 or 20 years, and which were gathering dust on my library shelf.   This was a serious mistake.   I now often wish I still had them to glance through, if only for nostalgic enjoyment .   And as I write these blogs they would have been very useful to remind me of their detailed contents.   So my description of the contests of both books are sketchy and vague, and based on memories of almost 40 years ago.
How to Go Collecting Model Soldiers by Henry Harris

I first borrowed this book from the garrison library soon after it was published in 1969.  But I found it so useful that I eventually bought my own copy.  It was aimed at collectors of Brittains Toy Soldiers and seemed most concerned with the Victorian period.   It was not the most obvious choice for a collector of Napoleonic wargame figures.

My experience of starting wargaming is that it was a much simpler time than now.   There was very little practical advice about collecting and organising armies.   I do not recall even hearing about orders of battle until much later.  There was nothing scientific about the types and quantities of figures I bought, which was simply those available at a cost I could afford.   Hence Hinton Hunt and Airfix.

This book captured my imagination because it explained how best to approach collecting Toy Soldiers.   It discussed military organisation and how best to reflect this in your own collection.   Most was not applicable to Napoleonic wargaming.   But some was very much so.  In particular it stressed that the majority of each army should be line troops and not elite.    There should be a balance between infantry, cavalry and artillery.

As this time I was serving in the British Army, and all of this should have been obvious.   Indeed I am sure that it was.  But I had not applied my knowledge of modern armies to planning my Napoleonic wargame armies. 

I already had a large proportion of French guard grenadiers and Polish lancers, plus British Scots Greys and Royal Horse Artillery.   My line troops were mostly those available in the earlier boxes of Airfix.  

But having read this book I worked out a plan to reorganise my small collection, and to apply it to future purchases.  I would still be largely influenced by what was available from Airfix.   My British line infantry would be most Highlanders for a few years.   But at least I had a plan, and gradually I would work towards it.

When I had sufficient money to replace my Airfix with Miniature Figurines there would be a good balance of infantry, cavalry and artillery.   I would still be a sucker for French Imperial Guard, but at least they would be greatly outnumbered by line infantry.
Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature by Bruce Quarrie

Apart from “Charge, or How to Play Wargames”, this book had more influence on my wargaming than any other.   When it was first published in 1977 there were few enough wargaming books around for each new one to make the (wargaming) news.   It was my period and campaigns was something I was becoming more and more interested in.

This book was, and still is, one of the best introductions to creating a Napoleonic campaign.   It is a very easy to read book and it covers so many aspects of the period.   I was particularly interested in the brief overview of the campaigns and some of the best line maps I have ever seen.

The chapters on supply, attrition, sieges and daily march rates were the very stuff that campaigns are made of.  The chapter on setting up a campaign completed all you would need to do it yourself.

It would take many years before I set up my own wide ranging Napoleonic campaign.  But when I did this book provided me with a mass of practical information and got me started.


Chasseur said...

Nice, post and has me tempted to pick up the second one now that these grand old titles are being republished!

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Chasseur

Its a long time since I read the Bruce Quarrie book, and my feelings may well be coloured by nostalgia. But I found it to be very useful when I was trying to design my first campaign. The fact that it is very easy to read also helps. And I have not found another single volume since that contains so much information about organising a napoleonic campaign. So I would strongly recomment it.



Jonathan Freitag said...

Quarrie's NCiM is still a classic and one I still pull off the shelf for an occasional peek today.

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Jonathan

I must confess that I am sorry that I sold off much of my wargame library. At the time I was moving to Spain and having a big sort out. For example I got rid of half of my collection of model soldiers, because I knew that my new wargames table would be only half the size of my earlier one. I considered that it was pointless to move all those books which I had not opened for many years. But now I would quite like to be able to look throughout them again. Mind if I had kept them I possibly would not have ever opened them again!