My current project harks back to my first-ever encounter with wargaming when, as a schoolboy, I stumbled across Brigadier Peter Young’s and Colonel James Lawford’s book Charge! or how to play wargames in my local library. I remember poring over the pictures in the book, totally fascinated by the era, the figures and even the trees.
When I did start playing wargames, however, it wasn’t in that wonderful 18th century era after all, because being constrained to mainly Airfix figures, I had to settle for WW2, ACW and Napoleonics. However, in my 20s I did finally start on the Seven Years War period, and built up an army of plastic Spencer-Smith figures. Crude figures, but they did convey some of the magic I recalled from the book. I still have them, but a quarter-century has made the plastic very brittle, so they never see the gaming table anymore.
My next splurge into the period was with Front Rank figures. In fact, it was seeing an army of AWI Front Rank figures that drew me back into the hobby after a 20 year hiatus. I was entranced with the exaggerated sculpting, which to me gave a lot more ‘presence’ than the slimmer plastic ranges I had been used to during my first bout of the hobby. Oddly, it is this very chunkiness that some people seem to detest. But for me it was charming, and before long I settled on doing a French army, as I loved the variations of possible uniform colours. My 18th century French army website has pictures of all the units I painted for this collection.
However, much as I loved (and still do love) Front Rank figures, there was something about them that didn’t quite capture the memory of that book. And in the end I realised it was a very simple thing – I couldn’t see much of the breeches! Nothing kinky there … it was just that I think coloured breeches are what set the uniforms of the mid-18th century apart from the later part of the century, where many armies wore plain white breeches. But with Front Rank’s sculpting style, this was hard to see. Don’t get me wrong, I love Front Ranks, and they still remain one of my favourite ranges, especially for Napoleonics. It is just for my memories of that book that they do not quite work.
I also dallied briefly with Capitulation figures from France. This looked a promising range, but they were much bigger figures than my Front Ranks, and the range never went anywhere in the end. So I have only one single solitary unit of them. See more pictures of my one regiment here on my 18th century army website.
In more recent years, my wargaming tastes have veered towards Napoleonics (which I’ll feature another time). But just in recent months, I think I’ve finally found my nirvana of 18th century figures – Minden Miniatures. These have drawn me back into the lace wars. Mindens are an exquisite range of figures sculpted for an individual collector, who in turn has made them available to other wargamers to finance the outlay required. So not a real business operation as such. Check out the Minden Miniatures blog for more details.
I’ve was also inspired by a reprint of the book that started this all off for me, Charge! or how to play wargames. So when my fellow Fusilier, Rhys Jones, said he was starting an 18th century collection of Minden figures, I jumped at the chance.
What am I doing with my Minden figures? Well, initially my thoughts were to go for an imagi-nation (a totally fictional country), which is a popular way of gaming the lace wars period. However, there was one particular historical army that I had never, ever modelled before, despite them being one of my favourite uniforms, and featuring in what I consider to be the best ever period war film scene.
Yep, it was the British fusilier’s uniform I loved so much. So I decided to start with a British regiment. Not a real-life one, but one based on the exact unit from the movie Barry Lyndon (white facings). There will be a few differences from the movie, though. The Minden drummers wear a slightly different uniform from the drummers in the movie, and I have also added a company of grenadiers in mitre caps. But overall I think the Minden figures really capture the look of the movie very well.
So far as organisation is concerned, I decided this unit was going to be exactly the way I want it, not how any rules require, nor even based on history (after all, it is imitating a movie unit!). So the organisation is totally visual, with no attempt made to cater for any particular set of rules or figure ratio. I wanted a big battalion, so have gone for three companies of 16 figures each. This is quite close to the look and feel of Charge! or how to play wargames, even though I very much doubt I will ever use that type of rules. For gaming, I suspect I’ll have to break the unit into a couple or so smaller ones to suit whatever rules we do decide to play, but their prime purpose (for now, anyway) is purely for display.
My thoughts on basing are at this stage to have eight figure bases, in two ranks of four. I am also umm-ing and ahh-ing on how to treat the officers, NCOs and other supernumeries. Quite likely I’ll do these on separate individual bases, so they can be scattered in front, alongside or behind their companies.
Painting is now well underway. This is probably the largest unit I’ve ever painted, so I see this as a task spanning a couple of months. But so far it has been fun, with the Minden figures being beautiful sculpts to paint – very cleanly cast, with excellent detail.