I must have been standing too close to “Our ‘Enry”, head honcho of Minature Wargames with Battlegames and, who, whilst seemingly living in Brighton & Hove, is actually (and more believably) the Grand Tomato of Prunkland and sworn enemy of um…some other naughty people who are taking part in the Wars of Faltenian Succession, a long running punch up which provides His Royal Tomatoness and his Spencer Smith figures with endless wargaming opportunities.
“Of what do you speak Clarkie, you blathering loon!” I hear you cry. Well, somehow it seems that the planets have aligned to kick me off on yet another wargaming venture which has seized me by the enthusiastic proverbials and got my painting fingers twitching with poorly-timed enthusiasm. How could such a thing happen to a sensible chap like me when I should be filming videos for Sharp practice? You may well ask. And I certainly will tell you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.
As so often is the case, this tale begins with a happy-go-lucky chap minding his own business, when into his life walks a man of magic, a character who, either knowingly or not, is about to set the unexpecting individual off on a mission of incredible proportions. “Gandalf!” I hear you cry (with some degree of amazement), but no, this was a Wizzard more powerful, a veritable modern Merlin. It was Mike Hobbs, the Welsh Wizzard from Meeples & Miniatures who flogged me a box of some very nice AWI troops to supplement my own growing collection for Sharp Practice. And when I say very nice, they were actually VERY NICE indeed. They were from Wargames Foundry.
A long, long time ago, when the world was younger and beer was significantly cheaper, I fell in love with some Indian Mutiny figures which featured heavily in Wargames Illustrated when it was in the hands of another Wizzard, Duncan Macfarlane. The figures concerned were, of course, by Wargames Foundry and inspired me to throw several pitch forks full of cash in their direction before I realised that I couldn’t find any rules I liked. As such, my Madras Fusiliers languished in the loft, whilst the evil badmash leader, Ram Dittin, enjoyed only sporadic cameo roles in our games, usually as a Barbary Pirate or other random “naughty chap”. As time passed and I moved on to projects new, Foundry seemed to somehow slip away into my sub-conscious; like a giant sleeping in my very small brain.
As I made tea in the Lard Island kitchen, the Welsh Wizzard filled his pipe with torn up strips of the Western Mail and blew smoke rings as he enthused about the the figures which were to be mine for a mere purse of silver. But, in truth, his mission was not to sell me a few figures, it was to wake the giant and reintroduce me to a rather spiffing range of toys. Yet, clever Wizzard that he is, his plan would not emerge in all its glory for a few weeks. By which time he had, remarkably, disappeared without trace, his task complete.
The first step in my quest was to purchase a few packs of AWI British Line and Light Infantry to supplement the toys which I had bought. It was a revelation to realise that the range were a perfect match for the Perry Miniatures AWI figures I had. What was more they figures were nice to paint, with detail sufficiently pronounced to allow a ham-fisted chap like me to get a decent result. Yet, impressed as I was, little did I suspect what was to follow.
It is true that, ever since watching Barry Lyndon, I had aspired to own some Seven Years War armies. However, and I am sure I am not alone in this, the thought of painting hundreds and hundreds of figures was always sufficient to disperse such ideas like frightened rabbits caught in the headlights of reality. Then Sharp Practice came along in 2008 and, for some reason, we focussed heavily on the Napoleonic Wars. Indeed, I can only blame myself when I see that the Sharp Practice forum on the Miniatures Page is a sub-forum of the Napoleonic one, when, in truth, the rules are designed to cover a much wider period of time than that. With the second edition of Sharp Practice, we have been enjoying a much broader smorgasbord of periods, from the middle of the 18th century through to the ACW. Yet, even now, the penny did not drop. Indeed, it took a trip to Durham for Wor Lard, the North East’s premier Lardy Games Day, for the true expanse of with Wizzard’s plan to be unveiled.
As part of the grand panoply of Lardy games which were on display, Dave “The Colonel” Parker was running a very attractive Kriegsspiel. In some ways it is funny to wax lyrical about the beauty of a game played with blocks on a map, but the fact is that it is one of the most visually enthralling spectacles you can ever see, especially if you get a chance to see both players’ maps and the umpire’s map, allowing you to contrast what they *think* is going on with what is actually happening. What was more, the Meckel Map, upon which said kriegsspiel was unfolding, was in many ways the star of the show.
In 1:8000 detail, the Meckel Map was produced in the 1870s to train Prussian Officers in the arts of their profession. It is attractively drawn in a somewhat parochial manner which, although a piece of imaginary real estate, hints at the lives of the people who live there. Each house, each garden, each Inn, each Schloss drawn in full detail. It is hard not to find yourself imagining walking those streets. Especially at the head of a rumbustious body of Freikorp seeking out an 18th century tavern and the pleasures it promises. At last the penny dropped. Here was a beautifully drawn period map (which I already owned) upon which to campaign. But not the huge engagements of Frederick the Great, but the Kleiner Krieg of small bands of chaps harassing the enemy wherever they could find them. In fact it was my own ready-made “Imagi-nation”. “Blimus” I cried, “I never expected that”.
Here’s the big area covered by the map in its original state.
And here’s a sample of the detail on it. Luvverly!
PRETTY IN PINK
In truth, I had once begun a Seven Years War Army. I bought vast quantities of Spencer Smith plastics, painted up one battalion of forty blokes and threw them in the bin. The sight of another three hundred infantry and voluminous cavalry was too much and I went to the pub instead. However, what I do recall is the spectacular uniforms of the period. My Prussian infantry looked very pretty with their pink facings and the freedom to go slightly off piste with an imaginations setting was a tempting proposition. But the project this time would be manageable, it would be with Sharp Practice and allow me to get my force painted and on the table in short order. In an instant I had summoned up the Wargames Foundry web page, clicked on Prussian Infantry and was mulling over which would look most like Freikorps. I wasn’t having much luck until I did a search on Google for images of Freikorps on which to base my selection. As if by magic, there was an image of Foundry Freikorps, stuff I hadn’t been able to identify on their site, but which looked perfect. Here’s the page which I borrowed from their web page, I hope they won’t mind me reproducing it here.
What can I say. EXACTLY what I had been seeking. What I realised was that when I clicked on the “Prussian Infantry” tab on their web site, I was only looking at the first page of Prussian stuff. If you look at the top right of the image above, you’ll see, in red, “next collection”. This is the gateway I should have thought. However, being thick, I presumed “next collection” meant “different stuff” not “more Prussians that Clarkie might be interested in”. Thank Heavens for Google Image search. Anyway, needless to say I found all I wanted and a telephone call to Foundry saw a box arrive almost moments later.
Now, time is precious at the moment with Sharp Practice looming large, and having finished a 36 hour solid shift I really should have gone to bed early last night, but what sort of chap retreats to the Land of Nod when there’s a spanking new parcel on the table waiting to be assaulted. So, with a will I set about them.
First I assembled my usual tools for cleaning up figures. I have been fairly consistent with my figure purchases recently and one thing I have got used to is all sorts of thin wire-like flash from the casting process adorning most figures. Indeed, all figures. What a joy to discover that these were 99% flash free and the lightest of touches with a small file saw them readied for the paint table.
So, let’s see what I bought and why. Sharp Practice is a large skirmish game, where the core force normally kicks off between 40 and 50 men. I rather like the combination of three groups of one troop type supported by two of another. It allows for some variety and is fun to game with. In a Freikorps one has LOTS of freedom to make choices which are not a-historical. With that in mind, here are three Groups of 8 Musketeers with a couple of Leaders. I did consider going with all one pose, but with a skirmish game the three poses allowed me some interesting variety, especially when you realise that all the heads are different anyway and that Foundry do some really nice “Character” packs to add even more variety.
Following on from that I bought two Groups of Croats in their swanky uniforms. I got these onto the paint stick before I realised that I had made a real beginners error. Namely, I only bought two Groups of 8 men. “But you said you liked three groups plus two!” I hear you cry. And you’re right. But the tip from the top is ALWAYS buy your line troops in three Groups as a minimum. Had I got a third Group of Croats I could have three Croats supported by two Musketeers, or the other way round. Two”different” Armies for the additional purchase of 8 men. Simples.
Next we have the donkey wallopers. Horse Grenadiers to be precise. One Group of eight is a nice support option, but I also got a couple of packs of dismounted troopers as they make nice little skirmish units when hunting out chickens or spies.
Jagers next. A skirmish game without some form of skirmishers is rather like flat cooking lager. It’s still lager; it’ll still do the job it’s invented to do, but you know that something is missing. So, a couple of bags of them will provide just the little green men we like best.
And, finally (sort of), some Prussian mounted officers. Do you need a mounted officer? No, but why not.
Now, time to right wrongs. The two Groups of Croats was a daft error, but fortunately I realised that I had forgotten to get an artillery piece. So, without further ado, a few clicks on the Foundry web site (which I CAN now navigate around) saw me loading lots of toys and goodies on my cart. A few Prussian Grenadiers can never go amiss…
So there we have the start of my Prussian force, all thanks to a Welsh Wizzard working his magic. I suppose that leaves us with the dilemma, are Welsh Wizzards a force for good or evil? To be fair, I only know one, although there was a bloke from Wrexham who sold fish on Chester Market who billed himself the “Druid from Clwyd” (bizarely, I bumped into him years later at a Eisteddfod in Bedford). But, I think on balance his mystical, tangled-web of a project to get me back loving Foundry miniatures has been a huge success. Over the next few weeks I shall be adding more on how this project develops. But I do need YOUR help. Our ‘Enry seems to have bagged all of the swanky names for Imagi-nations, so I am looking for two Duchies, one in the Prussian sphere of influence, one in the Austrian. Suggestions on the back of a gin bottle please. Of just post them here.
There are some dates or events in the wargames calendar which mark special or memorable day; Crisis in Antwerp is always the first date on the wall planner in the Lard Island Office, the Lardy Games days across the UK are always next. But sometimes a day comes along which is unique and deserves celebrating