Thursday, October 18, 2007

So why on earth would anyone want a 66 figure battalion?

Hello weary traveller! Thank you for visiting this corner of Urope and the Texian Nation in particular.

I thought it might be a little helpful for a visitor to understand what Sir William and I are on about, as our British brethren have been asking me.

My freshman year at the USAF Academy (82-83) is when I started playing miniatures. As a “doolie” you don’t get much free time or many passes. So when a history professor stood up at a Cadet Wargame Club meeting and offered a free pass to anyone who wanted to play a Napoleonic wargame, there was no hesitation. I didn’t give a hoot about Napoleon since there was a distinct lack of airpower, but a free pass was a free pass.

Come Sunday, we showed up at the captain’s house. He had a ping-pong table, covered with two beautifully painted 25mm armies: a French one facing an Anglo-Prussian-Russian horde in a hypothetical post-Waterloo battle. I was hooked. The spectacle, the fun, the cheering, the whole day was great! (Side note: last time I checked the captain was a full colonel, permanent professor and Chairman of the Dept of History, and still using his troops for cadet games and classes!) I have gamed lots of stuff since then, but have always wanted to revisit that huge spectacle.

Many years later, I had become a member of the Lone Star Historical Miniatures club in San Antonio. A fellow member of the LSHM club brought several back issues of MWAN to the group and gave them away to anyone interested. One of the issues was #86, which had Brian Carroll’s “Birth of a Notion” article where he described his “big battalions” Marlburian project. The combination of studying the period, planning and building big battalions, how he put the project together, in fact the whole article just fascinated me. It still does; whenever I want to rekindle the gaming flame, I reread it again. Since then I have been plotting, scheming, collecting, and painting in an effort to get to that game I wanted.

Then I read about Herr Alte Fritz (Jim Purkey) and M. Bill Protz-Chevert and their new, 10:1 SYW project, which ultimately developed into the BAR rules and their recent huge game weekend. In the early part of the rules, Bill recommends:

“Gather a group of four committed comrades. Ask each to raise two battalions, one cannon with crew and one regiment of horse to start. That’s about 96-120 infantry, 1 cannon with 4-6 crew and 24-36 cavalry per person. {Total models = 125-163}. Do this and you will have some very stimulating small actions for a long time. Beware though as the inevitable occurs and your friends start secretly raising more units to outnumber yours. It will happen. You will want more.”

That is the premise I'm working on here. If you care to join us, perhaps you can raise such a force too? It doesn't have to be perfect...or historical...or exactly the same as ours. As long as you want to join us in the spirit of a gentlemanly game with the flavor of the mid-18th century in the manner of "Charge! Or how to play wargames" by Brigadier Young and Lt Col Lawford, or "The Wargame" by Charles Grant, please think about joining us.


Frankfurter said...

Scale ???
15mm? 25mm? 30mm? 1/72?
I've got four battalions of muskets from Revel's 7YW stuff, one battalion of grenadiers, and a half battalion of jaegers ... am in the process of finishing two more battalions of Austrian Grenadiers (sorry, that's what's in the box) with 6 pioneers.
Also, I've got 60+ figures of the infamous Giant of Hong Kong AWI figures ready, which include a gun crew ....

Ed Youngstrom said...

Giant of Hong Kong? That's a new one on me.

The plan is "25mm"...but Bill is using 1/72 plastics.

My own figures are primarily RSM95, with healthy doses of Old Glory, Front Rank, Foundry, and Crusader. Heck, there's even some Hinchliffe and some others in there!


Bill McHenry said...

That's all right Arthur, I still remember Giant of Hong Kong ;-)

The game will be for 25/28/30/35/40mm (we know we have at least one group of Spencer Smiths coming!). As Ed said, and I'm sure you know from my own Blogs, my stuff is all plastic, Revell SYW Austrians, the excellent new Zvezda Swedes as Wild Geese, and an assortment of AWI stuff from Italeri, ESCI, Airfix, A Call To Arms and others.

One thing that the pic's on Der Alte Fritz's Blog prove, the individual figure scale doesn't matter so much when you get a table covered with BIG battalions. And, at least for my plastics, I'll be using some sabot bases for BAR that will equalize the heighth difference.


Ike said...

That sounds like it ought to be a fun time! I believe that I can paint and mount 96 or so infantry, 12 or so cavalry and a couple of battalion guns with limbers, horses and crews - perhaps even the odd ammunition wagon as well.

Confession: 66 figures is too many for me; 48 seems just right! *laugh* Let me see .... two battalions of infantry ... yes.

Now, do we need a premise for the County(ies) of Zolms to make an appearance on this field of battle?


Bill McHenry said...


Leave the premise to us for the moment. Once we have an idea of who all will be involved, we'll construct a scenario that involves our various Imagi-Nations and let everyone know.

And I tend to agree with you on the 66 figure battalion, although I've never painted one. For now, 48 is fine with me. And, if someone plays, say Koenig Kreig, then their 24 figure battalions can combine to form a 48 figure one.

We'll discuss the issues of basing and formations later, we're already talking to Mssr. Protz, as are our UK "cousins", about converting figures based for other rules to work with BAR and this particular game.

Sir William

Stagonian Jeff said...

Our little group on Vancouver Island, Canada has been using 24-man battalions . . . and this new trend makes me feel wimpy.

Good luck with your project, I think that you'll have a lot of fun.

-- Jeff

Gallia said...

Mon très cher Jeff,

I know what you mean about 24 man units giving the impression to use your word of being, "wimpy".

Me too.

There is a mysterious help however. A year or so ago, I raised my 48 man battalions to 60. Granted it was only 12 extra per battalion, but it was SO easy and satisfying to do this. Some excitement too.

Ditto for my English Civil War forces 2-3 years ago. I raised the usual 30 man regiments of foot mostly to 48. Again easy, not time-consuming and very satisfying.

The benefits of, forgive me please, 48-60 man battalions is they are more visually stunning AND another big plus is you get to do battalion structures of different kinds so they don't look odd, mishapen or something like that. Plus one can really do a time-period in the historically customary three ranks with fewer rules and visual compromises.

You'll see. Try one unit. If it doesn't work, well that's not too much. But man ... those longer lines and deeper marching columns and squares that really look like squares are an amazing tonic and heart-lifting visual treat.

Hyperbole? Yes and No. But it is all true.

Bon Chance,
Bill P.

Der Alte Fritz said...

Another advantage to basing your figures on individual stands is that if (Heavan Forbid) you decide that this style of wargaming is not your cup of tea, then you can use the figures for skirmish games.

In our Big Game, we padded out the forces with some cavalry units that were based two per stand on a 2" square base. This fits perfectly with the BAR frontages of 1" by 2" for cavalry. In several instances, I took two 20 figure cavalry regiments and combined them into one bigger 40 figure regiment.

Frankfurter said...

I've actually been basing my figures for Koenig's Krieg ... 3/4" x 1" for infantry, 1 x 2 for cavalry ... and 2 x3 for artillery (I think).
What I've done is to generate one block of 2 x 2 figures which the game rules require, then three 1 X 2 blocks, then two individual stands.
This would support any "depth" of formation for me ... with only the flag stand being out of line ...
It's the old idea from WRG days, to base most figures on multiple stands but to have a nice assortment of "break down" figures to handle casualties, funky formations, and so forth.

Ike said...

Well, I'm planning on two foot battalions, one cavalry regiment of two squadrons, and one battalion gun. If I can find the time etc, I'd like to bring a brigade of three foot regiments of one battalion each, three battalion guns and two regiments of cavalry.

Basing etc will be 48 figures with one mounted officer for infantry battalions; 12 cavalry figures per squadron with one officer and one trumpeteer or flag carrier; one gun, one limber, two horses and three crew for the battalion guns. Also, one or two "ammo" wagons plus one wagon with a pontoonier plus - say - six pontooniers including one officer. Never can tell when ya might need an engineer, eh?

Gallia said...

For the heck of it I checked roundtrip air pricing. From Milwaukee to Austin the cost for early Nov. 2007 varies from $350 to $404 or so. That's not bad considering fuel costs of driving by car, wear and tear on the car and four days just in a car. Not doing a road trip.
Flying is not that bad if one is moderately lucky and persistent to monitor computerized air fares and then jump on one when the one you like pops up.
Haven't been to TX in forty years.
Bill P.

Ed Youngstrom said...

We would love to see you in 2008, Bill.


Bill McHenry said...

Friend Gallia - I just checked Expedia, and others may wish to know this as well. Apparently Austin is not a "mainline" airport and commands a premium fare. If you price San Antonio, which is an International Airport on the North side of that city, your round trip fares a year from now (and you can book that far in advance) are as follows: NW - $214, Delta - $223, American - $289. Significantly cheaper!

If you choose to have your own transporation, a rent-a-car will have you in the Austin area in about an hour and a half. Or, we have several participants coming up from San Antonio, including Sir Ed of Hesse-Fedora, who could probably be persuaded to provide a ride. With any of the airlines you will have one stop, since Milwaukee also is not a mainline destination. Depending on the airline, you will get to enjoy an hour or so of Memphis, Chicago or Atlanta. I would also suggest checking or similar.

Another option, which would result in even more savings, would be for you to drive down to Chicago (not a bad drive as I recall) and fly direct.

As my compatriot to the south has already expressed, we would be delighted to see you there (especially as it appears we will have a very inexperienced BAR group present), and would no doubt ply you with various Tex-Mex and authentic Texian delicacies.

Sir William

Bill McHenry said...

Sir Ed,

I'm remiss in not responding to your earlier question regarding Arthur's post. Giant Toy Company of Hong Kong produced several wonderful plastic "playsets" back in the day, including some of the ones you saw on the back of comic books. Many other Chinese manufacturers copied their products, and Airfix's, shamelessly, but all have come to be known to plastic aficianado's as simply "Giant of Hong Kong". Just another "blast from the past".

Sir William

Ed Youngstrom said...

I remember those playsets! Always wanted one, could never talk mom into springing for it. Sigh.

Bill McHenry said...

To All - I stand corrected on one point in my earlier post. After further research on both Expedia and Hotwire, it appears as though its cheaper to fly from Milwaukee to San Antonio than my suggestion of driving to Chicago and then flying out. The reason? All of the flights out of O'Hare are non-stop and therefore higher. All of the flights to and from Milwaukee involve a stop and are roughly $100 cheaper across the board than either flying to Austin or non-stop to San Antonio. The best fare that I found was on Delta for $219, including all fee's and taxes. Not that bad considering the lack of wear and tear on you and your car, not to mention whatever ridiculous price we pay for gasoline a year from now!

Also, anyone considering flying in could probably carefully pack and ship their figures (insured of course) to Ed or myself and we could transport them to the venue and then ship them back to your point of origin. I ship many valuable antiques, guitars and firearms regularly, and trust UPS or FedEx to carry a well-marked fragile box more than I do an airport baggage handler. And forget about getting past security with carry-on metal or magnetic based lead figures! That would probably get you added to a "watch list" of some kind!

Sir William, The Corrected