How I Go About Selecting a Period to Game

I thought it might be interested to roughly chronicle the process I go through in selecting an army for the Warring Empires contest. I wounder how dissimilar it is from others?


I’m pretty limited in scope here. Warring Empires only covers the late 19th Century. Now, I have thought about wargaming the Franco-Prussian War at some point in the future. My wife is German, and I want our kids to understand German history, so there’s sort of a natural inclination for things like the Franco-Prussian War. I know next to nothing about it, though, but that’s not the handicap it appears– I never research a historical period before beginning to game it!
I tend to decide on a period, buy rules and some figures, and begin to research then. I’m not sure how typical that is, but it does seem backwards. I started painting Napoleonics with only the most cursory examination of the period. I selected 1809 because of Aspern-Essling and Wagram, two large battles with victories on both sides, so I figured I could get two battles for the price of one army. Never mind that I don’t have much intention at this point of gaming at that scale. Plus, I painted up a unit of Austrians in shakos because I saw a reference to it being introduced in 1809, and thought I’d do a mix– and now know that it must have been after the 1809 campaign, and they were all still in helmets! Oh well. I’m not really a stickler for extreme accuracy, although I must say that irritates me a little bit.
So, the first thing I do is hit a few historical timeline sites, and look through the battles of the period. Franco-Prussian has a bit of a draw, as I mentioned, but it really is the obvious choice. I enjoy being a little contrary, so I look around. Russo-Turkish looks interesting, having two armies I don’t know much about, including an Eastern army. Ah, but look here– there’s the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Seven Weeks War. I like the Austrians, I’m doing them now. Hmmmm…no Osprey’s, no obvious painting guides, no easy history lessons…it’s PERFECT! Oh, and if down the road I get some French, too, there are several wars, including the Franco-Prussian War, that I’ll be able to do.
This is a side project for me, and I don’t want to spend much money on it at this point. Part of the draw of the contest was the chance to do some 2mm armies, so I start to price up units. I really don’t know how the armies will be organized, but I do know the basing conventions— 75mm wide and not very deep. Okay, but which 2mm blocks should I use? Irregular Miniatures is, as far as I know, my only choice. I have the advantage of Gildas Facit’s 2mm Gaming Page, which already includes the dimensions of Irregular’s blocks. This saves me the time and money of a large order of samples. I already have a few samples ordered years ago, so I’m getting a good idea of what’s available. I’m tentatively thinking of two BG33, 52 infantry in two ranks, per stand. Given exchange rates, subtracting VAT, adding shipping, I’m looking right at about $1.00 per battalion stand. I’m not really sure that two close order ranks is appropriate– I may not have a choice, though, going 2mm– so I hold off any order for now. That means my rules will have to wait, as well. The 75mm wide base wouldn’t really jibe with anything else I do…I might run two 30mm wide bases, which would serve as half a Piquet unit. Besides, at $1 a stand, I’m already looking at about $50.00 for about 12 foot battalions, 4 cavalry units, and a few artillery stands on each side. Hmmm…I note a post on rice armies. I don’t think I’m crazy…and besides, it’s not obvious how to do the cavalry. I also note Irregular does the era in 6mm…
Okay, what about cheap historical reference? Naturally, I check the net first. A few overviews, but nothing really meaty that I see. I cruise the TMP 19th Century Message Boards, and catch a reference to the Wyre Forest Wargames Club. They have a some TO&Es for the Austro-Prussian War, and well as several scenarios. Interesting– I make a note of the site. I resolve to not really study their scenarios, as I don’t really want to lift from them. Maybe I’ll use them to compare and contrast down the road.
I need something meatier, though, like a history book. I peruse Amazon a little, although at this point I really don’t want to buy a book, spending more money on this project, having to wait and getting something site unseen. Lots of out-of-print stuff, and nothing really jumps out at me.
I cruise eBay for “Austro-Prussian–” whoa, Military Prints Austro-Prussian War by Knotel! Hey, I know these guys from TMP. They sell Uniformology prints in the UK. Uniformology has been the source of a lot of complaints on TMP. I have never had any dealings with them, but my experiences in general have largely matched what I’ve seen others on TMP express, so I’m not going to deal with them. However, Prince Prints resells their product and has a better reputation. I’ve had in mind for a long time that if I got a Uniformology product, I would order it from them. I check their web site, to see if they are selling the CD directly so I don’t have to wait for the auction to close, and they are. For roughly $12.00, I go ahead and order it. I kind of doubt I’ll find anything better for that price.
I hit my local library’s online catalog and see what they have. I already have several pending requests for Interlibrary Loan, already out a week and a half without a response, so I’m hoping I don’t have to go that route. Hey, check it out– they have the Battle of Königgrätz by Gordon A. Craig, and it’s on the shelves. They have no books matching Franco-Prussian. That’s surprising. I swing by on my lunch break on Friday and check it out so I can read it over the weekend. So far, it looks very good, although it’s pretty dated, published it 1964. I catch a reference to Austrians in columns– I wonder what types, although in these rules, looks like it will be battalion wide– and Prussians in open order– uh oh, gildasfacit notes the 2mm loose order block is “not very well defined.” Ah well, I’m holding off the decision for now. It might be worth keeping close order anyway, for visual purposes. 2mm “loose order” sounds spectactularly difficult to see. I think the generally white Austrian and dark Prussian uniforms should make some nice contrasts on the table.
So, that’s where I stand now. I’m going to grab my book and a pipe, and go read a bit. And try to stop thinking about zombies. About how zombies in PKombat would be cool. No! I haven’t even started this period yet!! Argh!! Watch for more updates later.

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