Sunday, June 26, 2011

Army Building: Example of costs & calculations

Army Building

Basing Convention: French

French Basing Convention V1

Book Review: From Pike to Shot

Remembering an age before the Internet, Charles S Grant provided the wargamer with the single most readily available and concise coverage of later seventeenth century warfare and armies in From Pike to Shot 1685-1720. Published in 1986 by the Wargames Research Group, this book helped almost everyone who commenced wargaming the Wars of the Grand Alliance and Spanish  Succession for the last 25 years.

Of much greater application to the Nine Years War campaigns, this book provides the starting point for collecting all central and western European armies of the late seventeenth century period - a separate volume covering the Swedes and the Russians, focusing on the Great Northern War.

Of only fleeting reference for the evolution of warfare preceeding 1685, Grant spends invaluable space on the Monmouth rebellion and well as the Boyne and Irish campaign. Again, the campaign detail tends toward the Anglo experience but as far as regimental lists and uniform details are concerned, it is an almost universal cornerstone for the mid to late Williamite period. For that reason it provides an essential starting point from which to work backwards for earlier campaigns.

Whilst other works have since been published and the Internet has emerged as an invaluable tool for the military researcher, Williamite Warfare was nevertheless drafted with this book never far from reach. Highly recommended.

Book Review: Warfare in the Age of Marlborough

Research for the period 1672-98 within the English language is more often a matter of picking the asides from works which straddle the military history either side of it. This is principally the reason for including The Art of Warfare in the Age of Marlborough by Professor David Chandler. In presenting his analysis of warfare which concentrates on the War of the Spanish Succession, Chandler discusses, sometimes in considerable detail, the developments and reforms taking place over the preceding twenty or so years leading up to Marlborough's campaigns.

Of particular interest is his approach to the separate arms of warfare; artillery, cavalry and infantry, through which he provides considerable detail for this period. Indeed, without this work, Williamite Warfare's coverage on artillery of the various armies would be found significantly wanting. As with so much analysis of warfare across this period, Chandler does not specifically concentrate upon those campaigns preceding John Churchill's ascendancy - that of his sponsor and King, William III.

There is some criticism, likely warranted, that Chandler is too Anglo-centric in his treatment of cause and effect for Marlborough's victories and his effective dismissal of the true role the United Provinces had in providing the bulk of the army and considerable logistic support. Certainly, this work tends toward a focus on French and English examples throughout and those looking for a greater understanding of the Dutch or Austrian war machines (for example) will need to look further afield.

This book continues in almost perpetual publication, widely available at a reasonable price. It can always be found in any half-decent library. This is simply a must-have for anyone interested in military history of our period of that following it.

Book Review: Anatomy of Victory

It would be unfair and unreasonable not to review what has become a modern historical classic on the subject of military analysis for the late seventeen century. First published in 1992, Brent Nosworthy was one of the first and only military historians of the English speaking world to concentrate on this period of warfare and without this work, I'd have been well and truly without a light to guide me.

The Anatomy of Victory: Battle Tactics 1689-1763, whilst not exclusively dedicated to the late seventeenth century and not concentrating on the period immediately preceding the Nine Years War nevertheless covers in some detail developments throughout the seventeenth century which culminated in linear warfare - the subject of this text.

Whilst by no means exclusively, Williamite Warfare relies on much of Nosworthy's referencing which has been extensively corroborated across all resources available to me. The only deficiencies from my perspective is that this work, whilst casting an invaluable back-shadow over the late seventeenth century, is nevertheless not about the proto-linear Williamite period. Gaps are still apparent when seeking answers to all the essential questions and because of this, for me this is not the ultimate text or last work on the subject.

I can highly recommend it to anyone interested in this period. It is currently out of print and you'll not get much change out of AUD100.00. Having said that, if your interest extends no further than the turn of the eighteen century, then only a third to half of this book would be of interest. Happily, it is often stocked in major academic and research libraries.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alternate Rules Review: BLB (I)

Currently, Beneath the Lily Banners (BLB) 2 is gaining significant traction amongst gamers of this period following hard on from the original Beneath the Lily Banners (I) pictured above. Released commercially in 2008 from a long standing freely available product, these rules are the creation of Barry Hilton of the League of Augsburg wargaming group - a collection of gentlemen with a significant international reputation in 17th and 18th century wargaming.

Since starting this blog I have had a few recommendations concerning these rules which has an enthusiastic following. Those that are using it just love it and it has certainly done much to engender and interest in the Williamite period. I have not yet read through the second edition so I am as yet unable to comment on why the changes were necessary, but from the first edition I can hazard a guess as there appears to be an inconsistency and even deficiency or two between the pages.

I do not intend to critique BLB in terms of worthiness; however, and I am certainly not intending to be critical. To have generated a set of rules is no mean feat and to have them published as professionally as Mr Hilton has done lends this edition sufficient gravitas for them not to be dismissed by anyone. I certainly won't be. What I do want to discuss is the major differences between this rule set and Williamite Warfare, largely stemming from a divergent approach. In essence, those differences are four-fold.

Firstly, BLB is a fast-play set. Naturally, it relies on simplified mechanisms to achieve outcomes in order for a reasonable sized game to be played in a reasonable time-frame. This in itself has a lot to recommend it in my view but very much depends upon what sort of wargamer you are. For me, wargaming is the catalyst for building and painting, whilst for others, the game itself is all important. Like Williamite Warfare, ground scale is not a consideration in BLB; however, it does dictate unit sizes and basing conventions. Any rule set must make compromises somewhere and for me some national characteristics and detail for the Williamite period is lost and therefore for my purposes BLB is lacking in what I very much wanted to concentrate on. Having said that, I reckon it would be fun to play - perhaps the most important consideration!

Secondly, and connected to the fast play theory, BLB is element centric rather than figure reliant. In contrast, WAB and Williamite Warfare calculates upon the figure - dicing for each. BLB calculates against the element or base which through the rules convention dictates the number of figures on each. Again, the compromise here is for fast-play and I think players need to appreciate that the more dice you roll, the better average result you can obtain. For example, I'm a famous roller of '1s' but I will get some results if rolling for each figure in an eighteen figure battalion rather than just one dice for the lot - the BLB convention.

Getting back to the issue of national characteristics; BLB takes away from army differences in its core rules and creates a standardized army concept for all nations. Battalions are essentially 3-4 stands of musketeers and up to one of pike depending upon period. All stands are arrayed in only two ranks and this is consistently applied. Personally, I think calculation based on elements or bases has a lot to recommend it, I have thought about this myself and I believe it an essential cornerstone for fast play rules - especially around larger scale engagements. Having said that, I have never found WAB wanting and in fact it is still yet the best system for applying to small and larger games. For truly large engagements; however, in re fighting entire battles I think elements would have to be the system of choice.

The generic battalion representation represents all armies throughout a 60 year period in essentially the same linear formations as Napoleonic wargames - infantry battalions in a two rank firing line. Some of this stems from the 1:35 troop scale BLB is designed for. My own, perhaps perverse adherence to 1:20 provides for larger battalions and my Dutch battalions for WSS are arrayed three deep - entirely reminiscent of the period. Depth of formations was far greater still for the Williamite periods, beginning to thin by the end but never as far as the thin-red-line of the Seven Years War and beyond. Depths also varied greatly between nationalities.

The third major difference between BLB and Williamite Warfare is that Williamite Warfare delineates between emerging and experimental fire delivery systems for infantry between nations. The transition between Carolocole, Fire by Ranks, Platoon Firing and so on does introduce a level of depth but also complexity which may prove counter-productive in fast-play wargaming. BLB also does not differentiate between technologies; particularly noticeable if searching for matchlock verses flintlock firearms and drill. In BLB, a battalion pretty well fights in 1660 as it does in 1720 whereas a battalion within one army in Williamite Warfare will have changed significantly between campaigns over just thirty years in how it is constituted, the formations it uses, how it is armed and how it gives fire.

The fourth obvious difference is that BLB makes a lot of decisions behind its mechanisms and conventions based on an understanding and feel for the period. Barry Hilton and the League of Augsburg have that in spades. A significant amount of historical perspective has nevertheless been sacrificed to provide a blanket system over such a large period of time. Having said that, it's no more or less than previous systems have done - Wargames Research Group having been masters of the art. By contrast, Williamite Warfare continues the WAB style of explaining why rules mechanisms exist. For example, only one in two matchlocks may fire in a given turn due to recorded reliability issues surrounding misfires and the complexity of matchlock drill - this is stated in the core rules. Players may not agree with this interpretation on matchlock effectiveness or may think that a one in two ratio is too severe. The readers of Williamite Warfare have an advantage in that they may dismiss a mechanism or convention with knowledge and an awareness of how it affects the balance of what they are trying to represent - at least I hope so.

In a nutshell, I think BLB and Williamite Warfare are two distinct types of wargames rules - not competing sets. Vive la difference!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I was just reading a discussion thread on the new release of Beneath the Lilly Banners 2 which, from my understanding, hits this period square on. There was much 'passionate' discussion about simultaneous movement which, I gather, features within that set. As you may gather, I have no experience of this system. It follows on from another observation of mine that many wargamers tend to follow trends and invest a lot of time in keeping up with new release rule sets.

None of these features of the hobby and those involved in it ever made much sense to me. I'm certainly not disagreeing with peoples preferences and interest in rule mechanisms but I certainly fall squarely into the camp of, 'If you like something - stick with it'. I suppose this is why I've gone to the effort of adapting WAB and WECW specifically because it is a system which I have grown familiar with over the past ten years and quite like. It is also one which I hope I am demonstrating is open to adaptation and variation.

There has been concern expressed that WAB is somehow a dead format as no new supplements are due for release in the foreseeable future. Some have shown  that it is time to move on to the latest thing in rules and lists which will be supported by a publisher with ongoing releases. Perhaps this is a WAB thing and that such a commercial approach had engendered that expectation amongst younger or newer wargamers who have entered the hobby over the past decade or so.

I have certainly decided to stick with a system I know. More importantly, I'm sticking with one I enjoy. I don't tend to experience the frustrations others seem to about rules and see nothing wrong with 'house rules' or one-off scenario rules to cover any specific characteristic of a battle or campaign. I certainly am not of the school of thought which demands that a rule system cover every and all eventualities from life as represented on the table-top.

So, if there are gaps in any of my lists or core rules amendments, please feel free to change them and especially share them.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Word on Ground Scale

A contributor on TMP (The Miniatures Page) commented on the Williamite Warfare adaptation with a cautionary note on taking into account the required ground scale. This is something I have never bothered about in the past - but then again I have not bothered to draft publicly available rules before. After discussions with my partner in crime Matthew, we are probably not going to this time either, so I apologise to anyone looking forward to that consideration because I doubt you'll find it here.

Having said that, if anyone has a further adaptation and wants to forward it to me at any time, please feel free to do so and I will post it here for others to share. I can always receive contributions at and will design some sub-forum within this Blog to accommodate contributions - should they prove forthcoming.

AND why are we of this temperament when it comes to ground scale? Mainly it has to do with or preferred figure scale - 28mm. It is unlikely that we would represent anything larger than a section of any battle at any one time. Even with several thousands of points, we are unlikely to assemble a whole army for the battles of this period - they were just too big. This has challenged our figure scale preference and I earnestly feel if I were ever to move toward 10mm armies, this would be my period of choice: but in addition to, not in lieu of 28mm.

Because we wargame in 28mm, I believe our level of gaming is a 'zoom-in' or battle snap-shot and because of that, relative distances, battalion coverage and so forth seem less important than if we were re-fighting a particular battle over a re-created battlefield in its entirety. Another issue is our representative troop scales within 28mm wargaming. In short, there's only so far you can reduce your frontage and depth with figures of these sizes. A 20mm frontage is about as low as you can go. In representing a battalion arrayed according to national doctrines, the frontages of a battalion are going to be pretty much dictated by the miniatures themselves.

I have long dabbled with the notion of bases being the essential unit element in the game. This is not novel in any way but a faster play system would rely on bases rather than figure counting - less dice etc. This way, we could festoon our bases with as many figures as we liked and the base dimension would dictate the figure numbers - not the other way around. Ground scale would be more relevant to our thinking in such a system. As Williamite Warfare is an adaptation of WECW; however, this is not an option for this project.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Improved Lists: The Specials

As predicted, having moved onto my second army list (The Early Franco-Dutch Wars French) I had cause to revisit the United Provinces list with a new and improved Version 2 (V2) being posted. Thanks to the suggestion of fellow Goulburn Wargames Group aficionado, Matt Williamson, the lists now include a series of Special Assets or non-staff Characters in the WAB style.

Having suggested a Preacher to fire up the rank and file, I have created the Firebrand - ministers of varying faiths, imbedded in the line to stiffen the resolve of the true believers - whomever they be. This got me creating a cast of Characters which now also include the Assassin and his nemesis, the Captain of the Guard. Also, I have created two new types which, whilst purchased are actually gifted (rather inflicted) onto your enemy. They are the 'Empty Wig' for want of a better description being a next to useless Brigadier, and the 'Courtesan' who hangs off the arm of your Commanding General with unfortunate consequences.

Hopefully these 'Specials' will introduce a bit of the period flavour and some fun into Williamite Warfare. It should also prove a catalyst for procuring some more curious figures.

Important Note: For those interested, you need to click on the header link with these Pdf attachments to open up the whole document.

United Provinces: Early Franco-Dutch Wars V2

United Provinces V2

Thursday, June 9, 2011

First List

As earlier postings indicate, I had intended to get the core rules adaptation out first, followed by the lists. As it transpires, I wanted to get something up and running first. I have also found that in drafting my national army lists, it causes an editing sense check as part of the drafting process. So it's to be Army Lists first, rules second.

The first as you can see is the United Provinces for the early Franco-Dutch war. This will give an indication of what lies behind the thinking and a taste of the core rules. Apologies if this frustrates anyone. The next List to follow shortly will be the French for the same period. By the time that's finished, I'll be satisfied enough with the core rules to post the first draft.

Regretably this means some of the core mechanisms such as fire systems will not be readily understood for a while.

I'll emphasis here that all of this is up for discussion. Whilst I've researched this quite extensively, I'm not foolish enough to think that fellow wargamers with access to archives more extensive than I cannot contribute to our collective knowledge and force a re-draft. I am calling the first list V.1 (version one) and it's just that - the first workable draft (hopefully).

On that note, none of this has been play tested and is not likely to be by my group for some time. This site and the product associated with it is very much a moveable feast - a work in progress. If anyone wishes to do so when I have the first two lists and core adaptation available, I'd love to hear from you.

I've used old images freely available on the Internet to give the layout a little colour. I hope it reads well enough and inspires further interest. Stay tuned for the next list by the end of the month.