Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Plunging into a new period, one toe at a time

Lone Star 58mm plastic Afghans drop on a rock on home cast Highlanders, possibly Scruby based?

Thanks primarily  to G.A. Henty and Classics Illustrated version of King of the Khyber Rifles, I was at least aware of British involvement in India but it didn't catch my imagination  the way that Africa, especially South Africa did.  Perhaps it was the lack of a personal connection or national connection?  Even the advent of Flashman didn't really change that.

When I first dabbled in Colonial Wargaming in a small way, it was with Mikes Model's 15mm British & Boers and then Esci's 1/72nd British & Zulus. By the time I got more serious and pitched in to Frontier, Minifig and Ral Partha 25's, it was the Sudan and Egypt, thanks at least in part to Peter Guilder. It wasn't until I upscaled again to 54mm that I started to look at India. My idea was to build a British Toy Soldier army that could do battle around the world against various types of enemies, European regulars, tribal spearmen, irregular sharpshooting guerrillas etc. Since I wanted Guards in Bearskins, the Crimea seemed like a good starting point and the Great Mutiny like a natural 2nd theater of operations. I started hitting the books.

CTA 54mm plastic Napoleonic British infantry converted for 1840's service in South Africa

Confusion over styles of figures and the lack of availability of affordable soldiers of the types I most wanted led the project to drag somewhat while my gathering British forces were largely pitched against CTA Zulus, homecast Arabs and various Turks & Egyptians.

With the decision to Right Size (sic) everything at 40mm, I had to start over without ever having made it to India but by now I had acquired a small library of  30 some odd books on wars in Indian between 1800 and 1860, including many memoirs.  

  MacDuff and his men winkle the Emir out of yet another lair.

So why India rather than Africa? Why the 1840?s and why fictional?

I still intend to do South Africa, but South Africa only offers asymmetrical warfare, clashes with largely spear armed natives or with mounted riflemen. Interesting, but with endless but limited (in a certain sense) gaming options. India allows for conventional warfare against all arms armies with disciplined infantry and sieges of imposing fortifications as well as scope for small operations against irregular enemies and hill forts. North Africa and the Middle east do the same but with limited scope in this time period (basically Napier's dabbling in Lebanon), and I've already been to the Sudan in 2 scales and don't intend to go back.

As mentioned above, my initial plan was to focus on the 1850's and 60's, the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, the 8th Xhosa War and the slightly later Fenian Raids closer to home. There were 2 main reasons behind my decidion to look for an earlier time period, neither very sound ones. The first was that I decided it would be easier to fit musket era battles on a tabletop than a rifle era game, (I can't remember why but I was wrong). The second was that I had always wanted to do some British troops in wide topped shakos. Since I also liked Havelocks, the 1830's & 40's was perfect!

More than that, there was a wider choice of potential campaigns, The 1st Afghan, Scinde, Gwalior and 1st & 2nd Sikh Wars, three Xhosa Wars, the first clashes with the Boers, the Canadian Rebellions, two war scares with the US (Aroostock & Oregon not to mention possible intervention in Mexico and Texas) and to end it off, if I really wanted a European angle, I could always draw Britain into the Belgian, Polish or Schleswig-Holstein Questions not to mention the Carlist Wars and of course, many of the troops are ready for the early campaigns in the Crimea. The long peace was a busy time for small wars.
RA in South Africa in the 1840's. Ok No actually they are in Nova Scotia. If anyone is interested in some 54mm plastic South African British infantry and artillery just let me know. There was no interest on ebay last year.

So, there are plenty of historical campaigns that one could pick as the basis for a project, the problem only comes when you want to do them all and in the right uniforms. One could just fudge it, and I doubtless will, changing names to protect the innocent, but just as easy and fun in a different way to draw  on inspiration and examples from all these historical campaigns as well as others from just outside the period, and then fight it out with 2 or 3 sets of armies instead of 10.

All that remained was just the right sort of rules. After all, the trick is getting the flavour of the many small expeditions while giving a nod to the famous battles. I had the ideal set on hand when I started, With MacDuff to the Frontier,  but the big battles took too long and moving large forces of single figures started to pale. Once I started fiddling to fix things, the rules stopped doing anything as well as I wanted and I had lost my sense of what it was that I wanted from the game.  Having moved to the 1840's, the temptation to adapt Charge! was strong, but practice showed me Charge! is less entertaining as a solo game and there was still the issue of all those single figures. Either compromises were in order, or a different approach. Enter Morschauser and the struggle to bring Hearts of Tin to fruition.

I hear drums in the hills.  

Richard Larsen's 40mm Scruby Native  cavalry. I'm hoping to get some of these one day.


  1. Ross Mac,

    Your 40mm figures are causing me all sorts of problems. Every time I see them in action I have to visit the Irregular Miniatures website and can only just stop myself buying some of their figures!

    All the best,


  2. *sigh* . . . I have to agree with Bob, Ross . . . they DO look tempting.

    -- Jeff