In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Some Boxes of Nostalgia

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My first book of rules!
Many years ago, when I had a younger man's dreams and ambitions, I had a friend at University. Together we played on my apartment floor with my armies of Airfix and Esci plastic Napoleonic figures, fighting over plywood hills, a half dozen plastic trees and some houses made from card and poster paints. The rules we used were an amalgamation of Tricolor (published by TSR in 1975 and they cost me the astonishing sum of $5.00- which had been quite a bit on my allowance during High School) and ideas I had subsequently picked up from Charle's Grant's The War Game and Peter Young's Charge!

With an infusion of figures from my friend Don, I had built up quite an array. The British fielded several brigades, including a Light Brigade of green jacketed riflemen, cavalry with heavy dragoons (French cuirassiers painted red) and Brunswickers (infantry, hussars and artillery). The French fielded a corps of 3 small divisions plus a cavalry division (paint the cuirassiers green and they're now dragoons!) and some allied Swiss, Saxons and Nassauers. I also had a force of Prussians including dragoons (Esci Scots Greys painted blue) and uhlans and a large force of Austrians with Hungarians, Grenzers, heavy and light cavalry and a brigade of grenadiers. Those Airfix "Waterloo British Hussars" and "Waterloo French Cuirassiers" really got around! I used kneeling figures for skirmishers. I added plumes with plasticene hardened with nail polish to make voltigeurs and grenadiers. I turned extra British infantry into Foot artillery crews and extra Old Guard Grenadiers into Guard artillery crews. I do recall being rather frustrated that I had a lot of extra highlanders but could not think of anything to convert them into. I didn't really need 12 battalions of highlanders!

The games were epic. 2 dozen Cuirassiers became Ney's Cavalry Reserve charging home! A dozen white coated battalions were the Austrians at Lipzeig! My 6 or 8 battalions of Prussians were Blucher's army arriving in the smokey dusk at Plancenoit.

With a grad student's paltry means and debts to pay I sold my Napoleonic armies to my friend (I think he paid far too much). Life took its course and we went our ways. My friend spent many years searching the world for meaning and we lost touch. I tried to find him several times but his name is very common.

He, however, kept my armies wherever he went and after finally settling down and getting on with life, was one day cleaning up his gaming closet (as one does after one has been living a life for a while) and rediscovered our armies and remembered our games and friendship. Thanks to the joys of the internet and Facebook he found me and re-established the link.

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This past week he was in the area and came by to catch up on the last couple of decades. We were both a bit nervous at first, but that soon fell away as we both recognized each other behind the grey hairs and jowls. He gave me three boxes. Two I immediately recognized as the wooden boxes my late father had made to store my soldiers in. Inside were all our plastic brigades, much the worse for many moves but still recognizable.
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Ack! Carnage!
The cavalry was certainly the worst off. But then those Airfix horses didn't stay on their stands terribly well even back then. The bottom of each box had a fine layer of dust, a few dead bugs and powdered paint. Paint was flaked off, guns and wheels were broken, standards missing. Horses and riders were separated and I only found one limber in one piece! Occasionally while sifting through the piles of dead I found a newer figure that I did not paint. My friend had obviously tried to build upon his initial purchase. But I've tried to find some of the better examples of the armies I had in my gaming life that was. Some of these I painted when I was 14 or 15 I think. Not bad for a kid.

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Some French. Old Guard. Legere, Chasseurs a Chaval and Dragoons

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Allies. Nassau. Dutch Grenadiers. Swiss and Italians with a Saxon Cuirassier.

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Prussians. Landwehr, Jaegers and Line infantry.

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British. Highlanders, Line infantry with a Hussar and Dragoon.

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Austrians. Grenadiers, artillery, kneeling Grenzers, musketeers (Hungarian and German) with a dragoon and cuirassier in the back.

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The Hussars might be Brunswickers, or they might be Prussian "Death's Head" Hussars. But Brunswick horse artillery and a lone Brunswick infantryman.

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Some of my plasticene plumes survived! French troops with a British gun converted into a howitzer by cutting the barrel short.

I don't think he ever built the Russians he wanted to add to the collection, or even played with them again. But they prompted him to get in touch after many years and renew an old friendship. He even plans to come to Hotlead next year, hopefully we'll get a chance to play.


  1. It was so good to see you again. I apologize profusely for the rather tragic condition of the figures ... time and curious children will do that. You are correct in that I did try to build up my Russians, but I never found anyone who shared our passion for wargaming in my travels. Hopefully that has all changed.

  2. Excellent post. The basing method, the painting (Humbrol?) reminds me of my childhood collection now in a simlar condition to yours. The oddest thing..i bough my first set of rules in 1975..Naploleonic warfare by Cavendish..still have them..a bit battered now but I´m dredging them for ideas.
    Great days! :-D

  3. Yuppers! Lots of Humbrol and Testors enamels on those boys.
    And it was a major aesthetic revolution when I discovered Woodland Scenics ground flock!

  4. amazing story Id like to share this with our black powder yahoo group if you dont mind

  5. Go right ahead, I don't mind at all.
    I'm on the BP Yahoo Group too! :D

  6. Thanks James. That was a great meditation on aging and on (not quite lost) innocence. A great post and a great story. Thanks for sharing.



  7. You have brought back a lot of memories.... My first Napoleonics were the ones by AIRFIX - back in the early '70s.

    I even built a 4'x4' terrain table to use them on. I got the idea from seeing a TV show that featured a guy who played Napoleonic wargames in 54mm. It was this show, and AIRFIX, that made me think there had to be rules out there.

    In 1976 I found my very 1st set of rules at a used book shop - I was 10 at the time. The rules were the ones by Bruce Quarrie "Airfix Magazine Guide: Napoleonic Wargaming No.4". I still have the book and it sits in the book cubby in my bedside nightstand.

    BTW - I got a copy of "Tricolor" a few years later and still have it. I like the unit organizations in it!