12 October 2010

French & Indian War - thoughts about historical wargaming

There is a part of me which just love the old horse&musket era, even pike&musket. The age where armies had awesome looking bright colored uniforms, and marched into each other’s faces to unleash a volley at a distance of 20 paces - then receiving one volley of their own to see who would flinch and fall back.

There are armies and conflicts, sometimes even single battles that spark my interest right away. I am a big WW2 junkie, with an unhealthy fascination for pretty much the entire war. I started my journey into the hobby of miniature wargaming some 16-17 years ago as I had those old Prince August moulds where you could cast your own 18th century Swedish army of Karl XII. Casted like 200 models which I painted in mediocre kid quality using oil based Humbrol paints which made cleaning your brushes or swapping between paints a pure hell. I was then sucked into GW, playing Imperial Guard and then WHFB Empire - but the first one was a mere substitute for a proper WW2 army, while the second was a substitute for a proper 17-19th century horse&musket army.

I found my WW2 game eventually, in form of the Weird WW2 game Secrets of the Third Reich, mixing standard WW2 units with occult and weird technology. And I finaly also found a good skirmish game for the age of musket - "This Very Ground". This later game was not an easy process to find or actually settle upon. I knew I wanted a game based around musket weaponry, but I was damn picky about the setting, size and models.

Would I have found proper good looking Polish Winged Hussars I would most likely end up playing a game set in the golden age of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth instead. Anyways, I had just left 2 GW games which both required a ton of models. I wasn't rich enough to start a game requiring rank& file squares of infantry in huge amounts either - and to be honest I also wanted a more detailed level of combat and unit control than I've seen and read about in most historical games taking place in this era.

All the time, I had Perry Miniatures in the back of my head - haunting me with their superb quality of the sculpts. I couldn't really place them in any setting which would allow me to play skirmish games though. I love the American War of Independence as much as the American Civil War - but both games would quickly require larger amounts of models to recreate that epic feeling I associate with both conflicts.

It was not until I watched "Last of the Mohicans" for like the 34th time that I realized - "what if there was a game set during this conflict!?". Euphoric with my sudden insight, I started browsing the internet and read up on this conflict between the British and the French, little known and often overlooked part of the 7 year war taking place at the same time in Europe (even though the war had started before the conflict spilled over to the European continent!).

This conflict fitted my vision like a glove; it was somewhat small scale, largely skirmish. Ambushes, shitty roads, no large cavalry charges or open pitched battles, European mentality met the Indian way of warfare. It was perfect. This is also one part which usual GW players miss out on. You learn absolutely nothing from playing with your fantasy/sci fi armies. Playing a game set in a historical context which is accurately represented is extremely educative and much more interesting. Suddenly you start going from painting models in colors which are “cool” to doing actual research on button, flags, dates on which a certain company was sent somewhere and if that would make it possible for you to include them in your army etc.

I love “Last of the Mohicans”, and was pretty much into collecting French from the get go. I talked my friend Calle/Millmir into starting as well – and he of course had to collect the other army fighting in the North  American forests, the British. What I like about this conflict is that both sides had almost the same type of troops. Historically the French were hugely outnumbered both in soldiers and population by British colonials on the American continent. And the French did not send reinforcements in such numbers as would have been needed to actually win the conflict. The French took a gamble, leaving their colony to pretty much fend for itself, their strategy was to win battles in Europa and using their victories as leverage to get back lost territories in America and possibly gaining even more than they had from the start. This did not go as planned, and the French lost their colonies in North America to the British.

But apart from different strength, both sides had Colonial militia, native American allies and regular army involved in the campaign. The French which had closer ties with the natives also developed “Coureur des bois” / Runners of the woods in their close trade of furs and pelts with the natives. Adapting their style of living, knowledge of the land and style of battle. Superior to any regular army mentality at the start of the campaign they worked closely with native tribes against the British, laid ambushes and fought in skirmish formation while the British stood their ground as if still home in Europe, valiantly taking unnecessary casualties from an enemy who wouldn’t face them and fight as they were used to. This eventually led to the formation of British skirmishers, Rogers Rangers. Equally skilled soldiers, at one time there was a “Enemy at the Gates” scenario as the French commander of the Coureur du Bois and Roberts Rogers “Rangers” along with their special forces competed for superiority trying to outmaneuver and destroy each other.

At this point of my research I was excited as hell to say the least. I had found a good setting/war for my musket era style wargame, I also found good enough rules in “This Very Ground” and miniatures both from Conquest Miniatures and Perry Miniatures to fill the role of a French detachment.
Somehow a much more dynamic and educative process than simply pointing at a bunch of Orks&Goblins and say “those” because they are “cool”. I’d like to think that this brings more “heart&soul” into a miniature wargame – making it last longer as you have invested more into the whole project than simply picking up a “ready to go” packaged deal from Games Workshop.

So is this rambling going anywhere? Yes. I decided earlier that this week’s special would be a rundown of the Iron Ivan rules for the French and Indian skirmish game “This Very Ground”. I will also post a bunch of related pictures of my force and pictures of battles played to give you an idea of what it’s all about.

Stay tuned :-)

1 comment:

  1. I friend of mine and I run skirmish games in 54mm for FIW, it is a very fitting and flavoursome period for skirmish actions.


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