Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo, or One Thing Leads to Another

 General Santa Anna
Both pics from wikipedia.en public domain

I can't even remember now what I was trying to do originally.

This is just some stuff I have been thinking about while painting figures and getting distracted by different things.

I remember I was going to do a certain article, but now it is not as fresh and I would forget half of it, when the Bears were playing the Packers I was really setting out to do this other article and I still want to put it together, and even had a cool picture to go with it, more than one, but I kept looking at the Bears and started to say what was going on there. I got distracted, had to go back to work, and drifted. The Bears lost in the NFC Championship game, so they did not go to the Superbowl this year.

I don't know who was in the Superbowl, I forgot.

There are still Wisconsin people searching this blog for 'bears fans crying after NFC championship game,' football ended months ago and nobody even remembers that one, the search engine picked up on one keyword the Angry Movie Lurker used in a Comment, months and months ago, and took it out of context. Get over it already. Or at least get your cheese head hats here. The colours are wrong, by the way, Swiss cheese is not that colour, and Cheddar does not have holes. You know that, and I know that.

Those article notes are somewhere, I think. It was about something from Adam from Lancashire's blog. It will appear one of these days. An 18th Century thing.

                                                   *                        *                     *                                                 

Next I was doing some other thing, when this other guy was getting me to play chess again, the same guy who was responsible for me quitting from all chess for four years, and he is after all the first Follower of this blog, so Followers always get certain privileges. I have been calling him my Nemesis. He likes that name.

I do remember this much, I had bought some plastic 1/72 figures at a local store after having read a post by Brigade Daendels about what he was doing, and I was painting those when the chess thing started. That was in February.

There are still two tournaments and two matches going on but only about 12-13 games at a time now, which would seem like a lot but not when you are used to 33. I can handle it now, I think. I'm even beating a couple guys, at least, slowly.

That is finally at a level where I pretty much have it under control. I have been using the Icelandic Gambit especially as a secret weapon, which shocks the people who do not know what to expect. Even if I tell them openly, they don't know what to do to stop it. Usually.

Almost beat the Dutch guy with it, but got forked when I moved under sleep deprivation, so that is just a tactical accident, the system still works usually. I did beat the Scots guy, and now he is very careful, but he always was that way. There are Cautious, Bold and Rash in Chess too, and he is the cautious type. It takes longer.

So the 1/72 project for the American Revolution was going along, and I could have had them ready for the big anniversary of the taking up of arms against His Royal Tyranny of King George III on April 19, 1775, but I still had to decide first on how many men to put in a regiment before I could decide how many to paint with which colour of facings, since those colours are based on which regiment is which.

The Alte Fritz released his line of Revolutionary War figures just in time for the anniversary, and they look good, they are by a famously good sculptor. See Blogroll for more on that.

But I did not decide completely on the numbers, instead I was looking at other people's figures on the Internet which are painted really well, and that slowed me way down. Especially those Airfix Indians on Benno's. When I used to paint these as a teenager, I would have torn them from the sprues unpainted and said, 'Come on, let's set them up!'

Then maybe a half-arsed paintjob later on individual figures, some I would even use the original plastic colour as good enough for coats, etc, I remember my ACW and WWI and WWII all three were like that, and very easy to paint if you do it that way. Face belt gun done. I had other ones, with a lot more paint than that.

With the plastic Airfix I had periods from ancient to modern so there were lots of different ones, and for the ECW in the 17th Century  I did surgical conversions since those were not available at all any other way. Except expensive metal. Forget that. This was redirected lunch money.

I remember too that when I put more paint on them I liked how they looked, and was able to get non-wargamers to play both WWII and ancient Romans at different times, although they never heard of most of these periods.

Now when I bought these American Revolution figs, I also picked up an Alamo set with Mexicans, and coming off the deep immersion in chess, when I went to paint the Revolutionary ones then I started to do the Mexicans and Texans instead, to bring them up to speed. Now they are getting somewhere, and I have been trying to decide how to put them in regiments, without deciding about the American Revolution ones yet.

May 3 or 4 was a holiday for the hard-drinking carpenters of Mexico, and today is the Cinco de Mayo celebratng their victory at Puebla in 1863 over the imperialist French and their Austrian friends, when they briefly tried to take over while the US was busy with its own Civil War.

So back in the Salt Mines that I keep having to return to, we are talking about El Dia de los Heroes, the cadets of the Mexican Military Academy who suffered at the hands of the Americans at Chapultepec in May of 1847, just down the main street in Mexico City from the Presidentiial palace. They have lots of holidays, but we are all working just the same while we talk about what holiday it is.

El Generalissimo en Jefe y el Presidente Para la Vida Don Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a Photograph from 1847 when he lost the capital and the country to the invasion by the US

We have his leg.

Now everybody knows there were four thousand Mexicans at the Alamo and the assault was March 6, but Dr Al Nofi the famous wargame-oriented historian says there were only about 2200 of them. It is still a lot more than 183 Texicans and their true friends, but I have not read anywhere about how that went over when he published it. I imagine it would be an interesting discussion.

I do know I am the only person I know who has his book, The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence 1835-1836.

Also some other info such as the Freikorps booklet on the same period shows that the biggest battle of that war still only had a few thousand men in one place at one time, never much more than that. Usually just several hundred at a time in that one. So for that one a low ratio of figures to men would work best, as well as skirmish at 1:1.

But looking at the figures, I wanted to paint them for the US-Mexican War of 1846-1848, ten years later when the Lone Star Republic was ready to join the United States for a while, and there some of the battles were bigger and involve more men. Still not much over maybe 20,000 men at a time and usually less than that, so the scale of operations is comparable to the American Revolution.

Whatever I decide on for number of men per regiment could be comparable then between the two wars. With only one set of figures, which cost fifteen bucks and included six sprues of 25  pieces each, or 150, with four Mexican cannon, I was thinking of going with a larger than normal ratio such as at least 100 men per figure and maybe more than that.

Yes, even for the American Revolution, and that could also apply to the French and Indian War too. In the Revolution I don't think there were ever more than about fifteen to sixteen to seventeen thousand men in one place, at one time, on one side that is,  and usually less than that.

In the Civil War or Napoleonic Wars, there could easily be 100,000 or more, even a lot more, so I need to take that into account. I am interested in the whole battle, either way, and not just a small part to get the idea across, because I only have two regiments or something. I need all the regiments. And on one dining room table. Not even a typical hotel convention table, but my table.

Napoleon had nearly 200,000 men at Leipzig and he was outnumbered and surrounded by four Allied armies with hundreds of thousands more men than that. Nobody really knows for sure, they couldn't keep track of it, it was too big for them, and that's the way it will always be, we can not find out much better than we already think we sort of know. It is not possible to completely reconcile the sources.

And I want that on my dining room table. That's why a few years ago I went down from 15mm to 6mm, and from 6mm to 5mm the next year, and then ultimately to 2mm, which are very, very small.

I still have those and just painted 72 wagons in 2mm before I bought the 1/72 plastic, and maybe in part because once I painted those I was in a mood to paint and fresh out of things to paint.

The Table is a Huge Factor in How Much Territory is Depicted

 The Leipzig battle field is about fifteen miles square, more or less. Fifteen miles each side of a square, or maybe 16 by 13, something like that. My table is one meter by one and a half meters.

 I don't want a bigger table, I want different wargame rules.

 Fabrizio at the Torgau Project and Gunfreak at the apartment of war have both mentioned similar concerns at various times, and they are far from the only ones. People were talking about these issues thirty years ago, but are still largely ignored by the community.

In the old days there were a lot less publications, so the occasional letter to the editor was much more readily drowned out by the crowd. But there is no rule that says everybody has to do things any one way. Maybe in the official Dungeons and Dragons, or Chess or something, but not the free-wheeling miniature wargamers. Some might think so, but they are mistaken.

How Long Did Gary Gygax Stick With One Certain Set of Rules?

Gary Gygax did not follow any one system slavishly, he continually invented new ones. It's his legion of followers who follow, he led. And his Civil War game Hardtack did not have twenty yards per inch, he went for something different. It was shocking to change the traditional measurements, he went to the metric system and said one millimeter represents one yard, in this game. People were really messed up trying to figure out millimeters, even though it was on a lot of rulers, on the side we always just ignored. This was like 1973.

So instead of the normal wargamers' 24 men on six trays of four or four trays of six no matter what war it is,
I am thinking in way smaller numbers per regiment, even like three or four figures, or six. Or two or three. Some of these Revolutionary Regiments were really small anyway.

Then on the Mexican War there are only fifteen figures out of the 150 pieces (counting cannon wheels) that look like they would pass for American regulars and a lot of the volunteers, because of what they are wearing, so I started thinking about even TWO figures per regiment, as I was painting them, and again it was the facing colours that force the issue.

I was actually painting four to a regiment, but thinking about what if it was only two and make these two regiments of two, instead of one regiment of four?

That got me up to just a couple days ago, when I went back to the store to get another set of Mexicans and Texans, and wound up getting a couple hundred 1/72 American Civil War figures too.

I was probably thinking something like this, what if I had twice as many figures and did go back to four per regiment.

But now these Civil War ones are starting to make me think the exact opposite, because I did some calculations about Gettysburg and about my table, and started last night to think about what if I had ONE figure per regiment, except for certain especially big regiments, so something like 360 to 400 men represented by ONE figure.

It doesn't really have to be quite that drastic, this allows all three days of Gettysburg with the wider  field that entails, and also even the cavalry battle out to the Union rear, usually ignored, with the even wider field that THAT entails, all to fit on my one by one and a half meter table, with 1/72 plastic figures.

Actually any figures work on the same table, but with 2mm you'd be able to put thirty men on the same half inch, where 1/72 has one figure, so the difference is just in how you look at it, and if you can bend your imagination to the scale being used.

But is this just way too drastic for the Revolution? I have not tried it yet, but it would reduce those battles to about the size of a chess game, so most wargamers would think that's way too small. At least the miniaturists.

Boardgamers have used exactly that scale for many years in the classic game 1776. The battles in that game only took a few minutes to resolve, maybe three quick turns for a minute each. Still they were exciting and not exactly predictable in their context.  The real game in 1776 was the campaign and it could take a bunch of sessions to play out the whole Revolution, for the whole eight years at one month per turn--that is about 96 turns.

Another boardgame or two, Prague and I think even a Torgau by GDW and Frank Chadwick, also used this same scale that I am now arriving at, for tactical battles, but the way they did it the game  could go an hour or two. This is not the same Torgau game that Fabrizio has been talking about, but is much smaller and about the same physical size as the Holowczyn game he has been talking about the past few days, with only 100 or so battalion size pieces.

All of these have been out for 25 or 30 years in the boardgaming world, so it is really not something that could shock anyone but a miniaturist stuck in the Sixties. I think I am going to keep thinking about it. The Gettysburg game at 1:400 or so men per figure would only need a couple hundred figures on a side, but would fit on the dining room table, and that is the main criterion.


  1. Amazing post with bitter memories of my poor Bears but I like the idea of one figure to a regiment (not at first), it would be something like a military acadmey pushing figures around on a board discussing why someone lost or won or what could we do differently, like the ladies in WW2 fighter command pushing squadrons around a map with their little shuffleboard stick combinations. while others stressed about information. Maybe every one man regiment could be a standard bearer figure?

  2. Yep some guy still searching for that, and the big G found your comment for him.

    If it was 1:400 or so you'd have about 20-21 or so men in the seven union corps and fifty in the three Confederate corps so the number of figures is just a few plastic packs at fifty men per pack.

    About 192 Union infantry, whatever is 11,000 cavalry, 20-odd more, the confederates 150 plus some cavalry--a pretty manageable table full of plastic and cost maybe fifty dollars or so for the whole thing. It's only organized differently from the usual.

    But for the Alamo at the same scale it would be one half-strength Texan versus five (Nofi) or ten (traditional) Mexicans. That's probably too small, but it is to the same scale.

    You could use all flags like that, but I was just looking at these relatively inexpensive plastics. But check out how Carlo Antonio can paint them! Or some of these other guys too.

    Also these boardgames have been able to do this for thirty years already, it is just that the loudest miniature guys always shout it down. Some others quietly did this all along, whenever a cool new boardgame came out.

    That Holowczyn game on Fabrizio's blog has really only about twenty Russian versus fifteen or so Swedish battalions, and the numbers on them are 1 SP = 100 men, as published, so typically 6 SP for 600 men.

    Peter Englund is a famous author now, the guy who designed that game when he was a regular wargamer. Obviously it is viable, just not well-accepted.

    If you used two figures instead of one, you can show column and line like that very simply.
    That's what Twilight of the Sun King does, but with a couple bases. Number of figs could be one, it doesn't matter really.

    I have been around wargaming long enough to know what people said and did that far back, so it gives me perspective on it.

    Also in some military schools we did use microarmour from GHQ, with some rules super-simple but the emphasis was on doing the communications correctly, that was the goal. Like Scout Commanders' and Tank Commanders'.

    I had no idea I wrote that big of an article, it is seven pages with the pictures. This blog is already almost a book, if I printed it up.

  3. Great post, I don't know why but as I started to read the post I went faster and faster all the while holding my breath, I got to the bit about Gary Gygax, (great name), and nearly passed out, my mate had to revive me with tea and crisps. Who the hell is Gary Gysex anyway???
    Not sure I like the idea of 1 man per unit, we need pics of your figures, get the camera sorted!!

  4. Well, Ray, fortunately I read all your works and recognize your spelling skills, so I can tell that that second mention of Mr Gygax' name was just a typo from being out of breath and not a Freudian slip.

    A couple days ago someone's blog was talking about Airfix men and put a 'u' where the 'i' should be in a similar mishap.

    I thought everyone knew who he was, but it looks like nobody does any more.

    I'm not sure I like the one-man plan that much either, but for some years I had given up on 1/72 to avoid that problem because I want Leipzig with a half million men on a field 13 by 16 miles, but my table is still only 1 by 1.5 meter.

    If we use the usual 1 inch equals 20 yards, Leipzig would be on a table 39 yards long and almost as wide.

    That's a whole basketball gymnasium.

    It also needs over 100 villages and towns, besides the main city, and a whole bunch of rivers.

    I would need 27,500 figures at 1:20 ratio.

    In plastic, they would cost three thousand dollars, unpainted.

    Luckily, all other horse and musket battles are smaller than that. Leipzig was the big one for that century.

  5. Love your blogging work! Keep up the good work you make really good posts!

  6. Oh thanks. I was just about to abandon the da-n thing when you said that, and go start a different one.

    Here's why:

    1. the ad program didn't earn enough for the check cutting fee--I would have to pay them over ten bucks to collect my pay
    2. the 'let's bring high-tech jobs to Illinois' governor got us all fired from it anyway--and when they break something it takes 100 years to fix it
    3. I am painting and reading about the ACW right now, and meant this to be an 18C blog--that is 19C

    And why not
    4. Maybe all that doesn't matter because it could as easily be a blog about whatever I am talking about
    5. only the Faustina Bordoni searchers come from the search engine anyway
    6.I was accepted a month ago to the new ad program but just don't trust them yet with my content--they censor it you know
    7. the same thing would happen at another blog anyway, but at half the speed
    8. And this one got a nice comment

    3 says start another one, 5 says carry on with this one regardless of the topic and do 18C when I am thinking about it. I still was hovering over reason number 4 when reason number 8 came in