Interlude: Games I Play Part III: Historicals

Wow, it’s taken me a bit to get around to writing this one – not least, I suppose, because I’m a relative latecomer to historical wargaming. Coming into miniatures wargaming* via 40K and science fiction and so on, for a long time I had the (pretty common, in my experience) view that historicals would be “boring” because you’re limited to armies and events that actually happened. It’s really only since I came to Nagoya (nearly 10 years ago now) and hooked up with my group here, with its core of very groggy indeed grognards, that I started thinking about historicals as something I’d like to try.

I had a couple false starts, though, and I’m still not what you’d call an active historicals wargamer. Flames of War was very big here 5 or 6 years ago, and I made a start at an American armored rifle company, but I hit the wall I often hit, collecting and painting a fairly expensive and time-consuming platoon, only to realize that I was about a third of the way to actually being able to play a game. The same thing happened with Bolt Action more recently – I have a squad of Germans in my closet all painted up, but thinking about painting two or three more squads, plus some tanks and artillery or whatever, is just draining. (Why didn’t this happen with 40K, you ask? Well, a lot of that is the fact that I started collecting my Scythes with only the goal of playing Advanced Space Crusade in mind, so 5 scouts, 5 tactical marines, a captan and a terminator squad was plenty – but that’s another story for another day.)

What finally got me to take the plunge was 6mm. Epic has always been my great love in the 40K universe, and I’m very comfortable painting up models in that scale pretty quickly – and they tend to be cheap too. So when a friend proved open to the idea of trying Napoleonics in 6mm, I said what the hey and shelled out for a starter army from Baccus. Which, 6mm being 6mm, is plenty for a smallish game for like 5000 yen or so, and dead easy to expand out to the “as much as you’ll ever need” range for just another 5000 – a total outlay that I’m realizing, as I eye a second army for 40K these days, would buy me, like, two carnifexes.

But I digress.

Making a long story short, I ended up with a largish 6mm army of Napoleonic British:

…which, once my friend and I gave ourselves a solid deadline for a game, proved very quick to paint up – I probably did 2/3 of that force inside 3 or 4 months. We don’t play often, but when we do we use Black Powder with the very simple conversion of measuring in centimeters instead of inches, using the same values – and it works a treat for using 6mm armies on a regular 6′ by 4′ board. BP also has the benefit of being written by Rick Priestly for Rick Priestly, which means it supports huge armies and has a complexity that assumes you’ll be drinking while you play.

And, fortuitously, it supports many degrees of “interfacing with the history.” My friend is a massive Francophile, and has collected and painted a very particular historical French army, and always notes which units are which particular corps and so on. I, on the other hand, have collected a “historically plausible British force” and try to keep proportions of cavalry and infantry, and brigade formations, more or less as a real commander might have done, but don’t worry much beyond that. And all the same, we have a good deal of fun.

As for the other big historical wargaming period, Bolt Action is huge here for WW2, but I’ve already discussed my hurdles painting for it in 28mm. I’m also fascinated by Too Fat Lardies’ Chain of Command ruleset, which is as beardy as Bolt Action is cinematic, and has a very very good command and control (or “battlefield friction” or whatever you want to call it), which is very much in my wheelhouse as far as wargame rules are concerned. Alas, nobody else here is particularly interested in trying, but about a year ago I looked at my single 15mm platoon of Americans I’d painted for FoW, and realized that I could rebase them, add maybe a dozen more individual guys (dead cheap from Peter Pig), and have a complete platoon for CoC. Then I realized I could collect a complete platoon of Germans, plus a tank, from the Plastic Soldier Company, for just another 3 or 4000 yen, and suddenly I had two full platoons of WW2 troops in 15mm.

And man is 15mm easy (and cheap) to collect and paint and store. Add the fact that using a 28mm ruleset (like BA or CoC) in 15mm gives you an actually realistic ground scale, and the anal-retentive part of me begins to jump for joy. I even got some terrain, and at some point I imagine I’ll be able to convince someone to trade a game or two of CoC in 15mm with me for something they want to play, and I can actually use these dudes.

So that’s me and historicals. I’m still very much in the dipping-my-toes-in phase, especially since 8th edition pulled me solidly round to 40K for most of my gaming attention these days, but I’m keen on historicals in principle, anyway.

*I should say that I am old enough to have been a teen when Avalon Hill was still a very big thing, and I spent a lot of time in my youth playing hex-and-counter wargames in that vein. Midway and Submarine in particular got a lot of play in my house, in part because of my older brother’s fascination with the Pacific war and such.

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Author: chubugamer

I'm an American who has been living (and gaming) in Japan since the mid-90s.

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