Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Buffet Wargame

A bit from this dish, a bit from that and, oh, one of those...

I have 5 stalled or abandoned wargame plans involving my early to mid 19thC toy soldiers, all centering on India or Mexico. Apart from the short lived Anglo-Mexican-US affair, they were all to be straight up historical affairs for which no toy soldiers in my preferred style and price range existed except for some reasonable conversion fodder. (yes there are 3 or 4 suitable ranges outside my price range but luckily I don't like the style, poses etc the way I love the Scruby and Zinnbrigade figures).

One of the few alt history Anglo-Mexican vs US battles. 
An OSW game from 2011.

Figures weren't the problem though, like 9 out of 10 historical campaigns they each had a major flaw. What I wanted was a horse and musket campaign in a "colonial" setting (ie hot dusty with flat roof adobe buildings as a break from trees and rail fences) with opposing all arms armies in different coloured uniforms. Both capable of putting up a good fight but with one side having mostly better armed, better trained, better commanded soldiers while the other having brave but less well armed and led regulars backed by numerous irregulars.

The Sikh wars and Indian Mutiny were both high on my list but even disregarding  the  new discovery that most Sikhs may have worn a funny little knob of cloth instead of  "real" Sikh turbans such as we've been familiar with since  the Mutiny (or War of Independence), there is no getting around that despite irregulars and possible white summer dress, in the major battles most of both sides were dressed in red. The Mutiny starts off the same apart from native cavalry in light blue but then soon both armies present the sort of motley, no two units dressed alike look that is a joy to model and paint, and one day I hope to get back to it. A major problem here, apart from having to make most of the figures from scratch, was that for much of the time, both sides were short of cavalry and while the mutineers were brave enough they seem to have had real problems manoevering. Actually that's rather useful for a programmed enemy so another reason for me to revist the mutiny  once the coffers have refilled and Mike at Historifigs gets the old Sruby natives back into production.

That brings us back to Mexico. The 1847/48 war has some interesting battles and campaigns and battles and while the Americans were a bit light on cavalry it was there and acquitted itself well.  At least both sides weren't in  red, instead they were both in blue! OK the American infantry is in a lighter blue but if I'm looking for Red vs Blue games, this isn't it. Beyond that, I don't like the new Mexican uniforms and the probable forage cap and frock is even less toy soldiery.  Now,  the Alamo Mexicans are perfect for what I want and the Texans are great as auxiliaries but they didn't have an all arms uniformed army and the battles, while famous, were not even medium sized.
 Trying it on for size a few weeks ago.

Which brings me to Faraway and Kyuquot, the native state that has not yet made its appearance. Initially I was going to use those Scruby natives and have been trying to come up with an explanation for the turbans and have been pondering fezzes vs shakos for the regulars. Last week I was looking at the Zinnbrigade molds again and pondering the still unexplained, mysterious San Carlos grenadiers who often appear backing up the Brethren and various Atlantican natives when it finally occurred to me that it may be a simple error caused by officials and reporters mishearing the native name as a mispronounced Spanish one and the regiment might actually be the Tsankawlas Regiment and that Oberhilse might have trading and diplomatic ties to the northern kingdom while Faraway might have bumped into it in an increasingly confrontational manner as it expanded its commercial and political hegemony north of the mountains during the 1830's and 40's.

The final piece of this "what do I do with all these already painted figures and vague wargaming ideas" puzzle came from my renewed interest in a project with single base units and having a 40mm army level battle game. My early work on both Indian and Mexican campaigns suggested suitability for a classic OSW approach of using the same collection for skirmishes and bathtubbed battles, but I have several of those  already and one of my goals is to avoid duplicating wargame potential such as having similar collections separated mostly by their hat choices.

A little bit of experimentation and research has shown me that I could fit a number of Sikh, Indian Mutiny and Mexican American War battles on to my table at roughly an inch=100 yards which would call for a 2" to 3" battalion frontage with 18 or so infantry battalions per side plus guns and cavalry. Just the thing. A new 8 figure native regular battalion has already been cast.


  1. I like the Anglo-Mexican vs US War as being a not altogether implausible conflict. The US has had its eye upon Canada since at least 1812, and may still have, judging by its interests in shale oil. It might have decided, 'hell, why not - we want the bit of Mexico north of the Rio Grande, and it is our manifest destiny to rule over the entire Continent... Let's grab while the grabbing is good'.

    For vaguely similar sorts of things, let me commend to you the alternative histories of Harry Turtledove.

    Occasionally historical opponents can lend themselves to similar but fictitious conflicts, such as the Amazonian Civil War (ACW).

    It occurred to me that if you have a kind of exclectic mix of shako, fez and turban wearing dudes kicking around, you might have the makings of a fascinatingly complicated colonial-political situation somewhere in East Africa, where the Angleterrans have established a littoral colony, but have to deal with rival colonists (Gallicans and Teutonians), mutinous sepoys and rebellious indentured labourers from the Sub-Continent, a Turk/Arab slave-trading City state, and, in the interior, a powerful militaristic Native Empire eager to cleanse the coast of all interlopers...

    1. Yes there were several crisis during the 1830's up to the 1860's where only the determination of British and American governments to avoid war circumvented local attempts to start them. The problem when I dug into plausible alt history is that the potential clashes in the east would essentially have been the War of 1812 in different hats while California or Oregon would have to be be skirmish campaigns since there was no infrastructure to support armies of even a few thousand men.

      I dont actually have the fez and turban chaps but too soon for East Africa. More promising was the stuff going on in the Middle East c1830 where Britain & Austria landed troops in Lebanon to support Turkey vs Egypt. If I hadn't already done it in 54mm I'd have gone there.

  2. Ross - I've pondered similarly to you upon the notions of alternative eras and armies - sometimes to complete befuddlement...Recently I solved my problem by completely removing my efforts to another planet- a fictional one at that- designing everything to suit my eccentric desires in terms of my favourite Royal Navy Figures versus an interesting takes time to settle on the one idea- but once there it seems quite believable and natural. In your case it has to do with the types of figures that you have available...I tend to think that 1812 - Canadian, British, American - a what if type of era- could be quite interesting to conjure up a series of Battles- Scenarios and go with it- OR if you want to get away from the 'Napoleonic' look of it- why not go to 1885 Uniforms or even later....what do You think? Regards. KEV.

    1. Kev, I am constitutionally incapable of restraining myself to 1 period. I am struggling to get down to 12.