Saturday, 19 January 2019

Public Order of Battles ...

A few weeks ago I visited an exhibition on the House of Arenberg, a well-known noble family in the history of the Southern Netherlands. Moreover, one of my offices at the university is housed in the Arenberg Castle in Heverlee, which makes the history of the House of Arenberg also a bit more personal.

At the exhibition, I did see something that struck me as surprising: a sheet, which was available for sale to the general public (for the price of 3 stuivers), of all military units in a military camp in Cisoin, on August 8th 1744, at the time of the War of the Austrian Succession. The sheet lists the armies of the English, Dutch, Austrians and Hanoverians in the camp of Cisoin near Lille (Rijsel). One year later, this army was defeated in the battle of Fontenoy (1745).

So, apparantly, army composition was not a terribly well-kept secret at the time ...

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Wet Paint: Württemberg infantry regiment Von Phull, 1st battalion

It's been a while since I posted to our blog, which has mostly been due to a distinct slump in hobby enthusiasm. We've all been through these phases where the hobby flame, for various reasons, is burning low.

That said, things seem to be picking up and I have started painting figures again. Here's the finished (not yet based) 1st battalion of Wurttemberg regiment Von Phull, as they would have appeared in 1809:

When going through my notes, I noticed that the first of the figures in this battalion were painted late 2016, so the entire battalion took over 2 years to paint. Some slump indeed :)

This also means that these figures are subject to my switch back to Vallejo paint. Two of the stands (which correspond to companies, BTW) have been painted with Foundry exclusively, one is mixed and the fourth (which I finished today) was painted with Vallejo only. Can you tell which is which (don't cheat by looking for the previous 'Wet Paint' posts :) ).

One final remark on flags. The figures are Front Rank, bought as a battalion pack. The pack comes with two ensigns, so I had to improvise for the second flag (Wurttemberg regiments carried only one flag in 1809). I chose to use the ducal (and, in 1809, royal) colours of yellow over black for the second flag. That flag is home made on wine bottle cork wrapper foil (how's that for compounding words), the battalion flag is from Maverick Models.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Battlegames podcast

I just had a very lively interview with Henry Hyde for his Battlegames podcast. We discussed all sort of things: wargaming in general, wargaming in Belgium, convention games, various rulesets etc.

Stay tuned - the podcast should become available in the near future.

Addendum (14 January): The podcast is now available to everyone.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Review for Floor Games

I felt the section for "Floor Games" on Boardgamegeek was a bit empty, so I decided to read the book (again) and post a little review.

The review is given here as well.

This review is based on the 1912 edition of Floor Games, published by Small, Maynard and Company, but there’s no reason to assume the 1911 edition was anything different.

The title Floor Games is somewhat misleading. The book does not describe games with a proper set of rules, but rather a number of playful activities for children and adults alike. I guess the main reason this little book is known in the gaming community is due to its famous author, as well as it being the older sibling of a more famous book, “Little Wars”, which is often seen as the first published hobby wargame to be played with toy soldiers.

Nevertheless, Floor Games is an enjoyable read. The book, using a large font size and narrative style is obviously aimed at children. The book is written from the point of view of H.G.Wells playing these games with his sons George Philip (1901) and Frank Richard (1903), only referred to as G.P.W. and F.R.W. in the book. The book is also not that long, it can easily be read in less than an hour.

The first chapter, “The Toys to Have”, describes all the toys needed to set up the games described in later chapters: wooden blocks, an electric train, (metal) toy soldiers and animals, but also what Wells calls “boards and planks”. The latter serve as the playing surface, and holes should be drilled into them as to place twigs and such to form woods and forests. As for the toy soldiers, it is interesting to read that there seems to be a lack of “civilian types”, and there’s a call to toy manufacturers to take note and please produce all sorts of non-military figures as well.

The second chapter is titled “The Game of the Wonderful Islands”. Various boards should be arranged on the floor (which serves as the sea) such that an archipelago is formed. Each island is then dressed up with trees, temples, buildings, minerals (silver paper!), tribesmen and animals, waiting to be discovered by explorers arriving by ship. The parties land and alter things, build and rearrange, hoist paper flags, subjugate populations and “confer all the blessings of civilization upon these lands” (this is still the time of European colonial expansion). The game lasts as long as all the players want them to last, after which everything is put away and a new game can be started.

Chapter 3, “Of the Building of Cities” describes a very similar game, but now the playing field is taken up by a large city area, divided in two. The city is conveniently a twin city (London and Westminster, or Buda and Pesth (sic)), and it is agreed that railway tracks are shared such that trains can run between both parts of the city without negotiations or administration. All sorts of things happen on the cities, such as an election for mayor(only citizens with two legs and at least one arm and capable of standing up can vote – but not children, boy scouts or women!) The chapter vividly describes the entire city lay-out: farms, museums, shops (with paper billboards), the zoological gardens, train stations, duck ponds, parades, etc.

The last chapter has the longest title “Funiculars, marble Towers, Castles and War Games, but Very Little of War Games”, but is actually the shortest. It describes a few additional games, such as building a funicular (a mountain railway track sloping downhill, with the purpose of letting a loaded car roll from top to bottom), or building a marble tower, which is really the same idea but using marbles instead of a railway track. The last page in the book is about building a castle and war games, but of the latter “… I must either write volumes or nothing. Let it be nothing. Some day, perhaps, I will write a great book about the war game and tell of battles and campaigns and strategy and tactics. But this time I set out merely to tell of the ordinary joys of playing with the floor, and to gird improvingly and usefully at toymakers.” Quite a statement to end, knowing that “Little Wars” was published only 2 years later.

So does Floor Games still have relevance today? It is of course firmly linked to the history of toy soldier games, and subsequently hobby wargaming and everything that came after that (so pretty much the entire gaming hobby as we know it today), and as such, it is of interest to anyone interested in the history of the gaming hobby.
But I was especially struck by the notion that Floor Games is not an outdated book. Indeed, it describes activities that children must have played since then (and probably before). When I look back on my own childhood during the 1970s, me and my siblings were very lucky to have our own play-room (which later turned into my bedroom when me and my brother were too old to share a bedroom, but that’s a different story). In that play-room, we had a large table on which we laid out an electric train, houses were made with Lego bricks, we added plastic toy animals in the landscape, and our Matchbox cars were driving around on the streets made from grey cardboard and masking tape. Very Wells-like, now that I think of it, and as Wells writes as well, “the setting out of the city is half the game”. Perhaps the activities describes on Floor Games were not at all uncommon in those days as well, although I suspect that in 1911 these were the privilege of children belonging to a certain social class whose parents could afford all the toys described in the book.

Obviously, modern toys have changed since Wells’ days. Kids these days no longer have metal toy soldiers or wooden bricks, but they do have Lego and Playmobil, and I see them building cities, connecting them by electric trains, populating the city with toy people and animals, and inventing all sorts of adventures for their imaginary worlds.

I guess Floor Games could as well have been published today!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Wargames Magazine Index has now over 5000 entries

Several years ago I started an index of articles of all (miniature) wargaming magazines in my collection. It now has reached 5000 articles, but I still have a stack of magazines that were donated and I still have to enter. So the index will keep growing during the coming weeks and months.

My main motivation for compiling this index is for my own use. The wargaming literature has published so many scenarios, rules, campaigns ... over the years, I refer to them regularly for setting up my own wargames. Having a good index certainly helps in locating a specific article.

But I also think keeping an extensive library of wargaming magazines is worthwhile in itself. The history of our hobby needs to be documented, and this little project is a small contribution to that goal. Perhaps this view is coloured by my occupation as a research professor, but I honestly do think that building up a literature collection is an integral part of understanding where a specific field (in this case, wargaming) originated from and how it developed.

Granted, many wargaming magazines cannot be compared to academic publications, but even so,  they deserve to be archived, if not for the future gaming historian who wants to know where the dreaded "saving roll" came from, or when the first scenario on the battle of such-and-so was first published. Magazines are not the only source for this type of information (there are plenty of books and other types of publications as well), but they might help to establish timelines and give contextual information.

But anyway, back to the index. In case you are wondering what sort of information one can look up, you should go to the link above and experiment for yourself. But just to give a few examples ...

Here's a list of articles I wrote myself (filtering on the name of an author) ...

... and here are the articles that deal with the Waterloo campaign and have a scenario (filtering on both period and scenario) ...

... or the articles dealing with Frostgrave ...

... and here are the articles that have the random word "Faltenian" in the title (filtering on the occurance of a specific word in the title) ...

... and here are the 10 most popular periods (take with a grain of salt, since there are many subclassifications ...) ...

   ... and the 20 most prolific authors (also take with a grain of salt, since some periodicals favour some names) ...

... and a breakdown per magazine.

Hope this helps!

Friday, 28 December 2018

Frostgrave setup

I am planning of running a Frostgrave game in the near future. I started with the fun bit and tried to create a proper snowy and icy setting with lots of cover.

The hard part I still have to do - creating some warbands. Does anyone know of a good site with pregenerated warbands?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

An old boardgame ... Armada.

The local 2nd hand shop is right across the local bakery, so every time I stop to buy fresh bread or pastries, I always pop in to check if there's anything useful for my wargaming habits.

So this is the latest acquisition (price: 2.5 Euro). A naval boardgame published in the late sixties called Armada. This is the Dutch version, hence the reference to the Zilvervloot (aka the Spanish Treasure Fleet).

The game itself is rather simple: each player has a number of ships, and you have to move them along the grid (the grid looks triangular, but since you move on vertices, it really is a hexagonal grid) to reach a destination port as soon as possible. Since players move ships in opposing directions across the board, you can also shoot at each other, taking out the enemy ships. As can be expected, the game has nothing to do with the actual history of the Spanish treasure fleet ... the theme is simply pasted on. Nothing new there, as we see this in many modern boardgames as well :-)

I doubt that I will ever the play game (the plastic model ships are nice though ... I can repaint them and use them in a proper naval game), but I was surprised to see a very nice mechanic for determining speeds of the ships relative to the wind direction.

In the middle of the game board there is a large plastic island containing a "compass" marker. There are 6 wind directions (determined by a die roll each turn). The nice bit is that the movement distances are indicated on the rotating compass marker, such that you can immediately read off the movement distances relative to the wind direction. When the wind direction changes and the compass is rotated, these indicated movement distance rotate along as well, and so you never have to "compute" your relative bearing to the wind direction.

The picture below illustrates the idea. The wind direction is direction 3, and you can immediately see that when your ship moves on the grid in direction 5, you get to move a distance of 3 or 1 (2 distances, since merchants and warships move at different rates). Direction 6 does not allow movement at all (0 and 0).

There is a blue and a yellow compass as well, for different wind strengths. The numbers are slightly different, but I didn't check them out whether they all make "sense".

The entire mechanic looks very nice. You can of course do all this using tables and modifiers as well (as you would expect in a proper naval wargame), but having 3 different dials for wind strength, and having movement speeds on the dials such that they are always relative to the wind, struck me as a very clever idea.

I painted something!

It has been a while since I painted some figures, but painting a building is always an easy way to get the painting juices flowing again.

This plastic tower has been on my unpainted pile for too long ... 26 years. It's the plastic tower from the iconic game Battle Masters, which I did buy when it was published in 1992.

It's not a very sophisticated model (nor a very sophisticated paint job :-)), but it is a nice "generic" model that can be used in many medieval/fantasy games - if not as an objective in the game - simply as a quick scenery backdrop to embellish the table. The tower was simply spray-painted black, then grey drybrush was applied, and subsequently some details painted in. The 2 decals finish the job. Total painting time (excluding drying time after the initial black basecoat - probably less than 20 minutes).

The two knights are plastic Bretonnian figures, Warhammer 5th edition.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

First Fantasy wargaming figures ever?

Over the years, I have become more and more interested in the history of our hobby. Part of that is an interest in old figures, whether proper wargaming figures or toy soldiers.

A recent post on the Playing at the World blog led me to buy the "first fantasy wargaming figures ever" from Historifigs. They have the old Jack Scruby moulds, and the figures are still for sale. So I ordered a set of each one of this old set fantasy figures. As you can see, the figures are rather crude by today's standards, but for me, they have a lot of character.

Jack Scruby fantasy figures.
There is of course a philosophical question here. These figures are newly cast, but based on old moulds. So are these new figures or old figures? Does it matter for the collector? Or is a vintage figure only vintage when it was actually produced back in the day? Etc.

I was curious whether these figures really are the first fantasy figures. They probably are, being produced during the early seventies, along with the fantasy range from Minifigs. But was there anything earlier in the range of toy soldiers - i.e. in toy ranges not marketed as "wargaming figures"?

I started looking in one of my reference books on toy soldiers, Norman Joplin's "The Great Book of Hollow-Cast Figures", always a good source for tracking down old ranges of toy soldiers. Since (classic) toy soldiers and wargaming were very connected hobbies till the sixties, it seemed to me that if there was an interest in fantasy gaming before the seventies, it should be visible in toy soldier ranges.

Browsing through the pages, there weren't that many "fantasy" figures to be found in ranges that were available up to the fifties. There were however, many medieval and antiquity types of all sorts (and which could be used for fantasy gaming -- see also Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign), but not real fantasy as we know it today. The closest were figures based on fairy tales, children's books (Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh), Disney characters, or figures based on pulp stories (e.g. Tarzan). There is however a significant range of space figures, e.g. Flash Gordon. A few examples are shown below.

In hindsight, this is perhaps not surprising. The "fantasy genre" as we know it today really only gained popularity after the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, especially "high fantasy" set in complete imaginative worlds (see history of fantasy literature). And since toys tend to follow popular trends (and for wargaming, we need a setting with empires, battles and so on), it is perhaps not surprising that proper high fantasy figures only saw the light of day during the early seventies.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Shootist at BGG

In our gaming group, we have been playing Wild West games since the mid-90s. Sometimes in 25/28mm, sometimes in 54mm. See our page on Wild West games for a full overview.

Our rules were originally based on a little ruleset called Shootist. We have adapted the rules over the years, but the core is still recognizable.

Some time ago, I noticed that the game was also listed on But apart from a general description, there were no files, no images, no review. I felt a little sad about this, since Shootist has served us so well over the years, and didn't deserve to be orphaned in this way.

So I uploaded some of our photo's, some our materials, and worte a short review. So you should all go to the relevant BGG page and give all that uploaded stuff some thumbs-up!!!