Friday, August 12, 2011

Maybe I Won't Do Leipzig First After All

Leipzig Needs 500,000 Men and  Well Over 2,000 Cannon
Having second thoughts about the advisability of actually trying to do the great Battle of Nations as the first Napoleonic battle for the budding 1/72 plastic Napoleonic collection, but it still may be the best way to have started thinking anyway. Having the British Horse Artillery, British Infantry, and British Light Cavalry at the outset could easily have sent me down the path to the Peninsula so commonly seen in English, and diverted me away from the big continental campaigns. Still might anyway, but there is some balance.

Everything else must needs be smaller and easier, than Leipzig. I have small armies shaping up for the British, Austrians, Russians, Prussians, French, and ready to add some of their friends once the great powers are all represented. As it stands so far I would have to have something like a ratio of 1250 men per figure or some such ratio to make a small collection serve for Leipzig. That part is okay, but what about all that artillery? That's what makes it crazy to do this one first. It's like someone planning their first job out of school to be winning the big lottery. Not really an entirely bad idea.

Not really opposed to that ratio on the face of it,  but in this scale and actually even in 2mm or any other scale, the proportions of the figures' bases greatly exaggerate the frontage and depth most especially for artillery and cavalry. This same issue continues even at much lower ratios.

Most wargames I have seen vastly exaggerate the actual size of a square and always have done so. These squares are not as big as your kitchen inside many times;  it is necessary to do some mathematics to figure it out. It has often been depicted with the same figures from the line arranged in a square, but that makes the square way too big. It should be very tight and compact, only a small number of horses even could make contact if they would, notwithstanding the fact that they wouldn't anyway except by accident.

There are some maps in the Adkin book, The Waterloo Companion, which is a large coffee-table size of book, and in these maps the ground scale is only one millimeter different from the tabletop ground scale I had arrived at for doing Leipzig on my table, at least if it was the dining room table. Placing actual 1/72 figures on the map right in the open book itself then gives an approximation of what should fit, because it did fit in reality. But the depth  of the bases of the figures makes them not fit the actual formations.  The worst is the reserve formation of the Imperial Guard standing in the French rear in a very tight formation in closed columns close together.

They would be quite vulnerable to artillery, but luckily for the French they were using the reverse slope.

Of course Waterloo is a very small field for having 200,000 men jammed in, only 5500 meters side to side, so the British for example used mostly column or square with few lines formed, and even then not so much their famous two-rank line, but the four rank line. That means most of the well-worn stereotypes are in fact false impressions.

Wellington thought when he arrived that he would use the same reverse slope (in reverse) as the French ended up using on the 18th, but no, his assistant had selected the next one north.

So we have the French using that reverse slope. The British deployed in column. If in line it is a four rank line, while the French still have the thinner three rank line, should they deign to use it. And we even have the French attacking in square, not even allowed in many rules but there it is in reality.

Many of the most influential pioneers in English-language miniature gaming and indeed in figure-making too were oriented towards the most popular aspects in their own country of these wars, so thus the Waterloo figures were mainly for the painting of the Scots Highland square receiving the French Cuirassiers, plus Mercer's horse artillery on the side, but there was a lot more to the 25-year period of constant warfare than just that scene.

For example Mercer was really next to the Brunswickers wasn't he? I remember that I did paint some of my French in black to make Brunswickers, but today there are more than one dedicated set for that purpose, so you don't need to use the French any more just because they have shakos.

The Prices are Too High
So back then when I was in my formative years we had no choice but to raise vast armies of the same few sets and use paint and what not to differentiate and make anything else. Today there are a vast number of different sets available and the price is much higher, even taking account of inflation they cost a lot more than they used to cost, in the seventies.

It was 69 cents, and then due to inflation even then they raised it to 89 cents a box, when I was starting my collection. Now they range around 10-14-even 20 dollars a box and that is far in excess of inflation.

It is more than just that. Certainly I wish my income had increased by that proportion. Do the math and it is shocking, these plastic figures are now a dollar and more each depending on how you do it, at least if the man sits on a horse. And there has been no improvement at all in those Airfix Cuirassiers who still can't hold together at all, as bad as they ever were in that regard.

Here is What is Good About It
On the other hand, even if it is money-grubbing on their part four or five times and more above  inflation, all that money in their hands does give them the motivation to vastly increase the ranges from the choices there were in the past. So now there are a couple hundred different Napoleonic sets, instead of five or six.

But this means one has to be selective and not try to get one or more of each type all the way down the line, as that would now require thousands of dollars as well as take many months to catch up with the painting.

Underground Music Award
Teri aka Lyric thanks anyone who helped with the voting for her Underground Music Award nomination for Song of the Year 2011. The voting has now closed; it had to be before midnight last night of the 11th. Now they will use the next ten days to figure out what they are going to do, and then on the 21st of August in the Bronx they will have their awards ceremonies and announce who won.

The Bronx is one of the boroughs of New York City. So in about ten days we will see the results.

Banquet Tables
I have two matching folding banquet tables with wheels, quite convenient for a temporary and mobile wargame setup. They are each five feet by 28 inches, so side by side they give a few inches short of five feet square. There is also a roughly comparable wooden table that could be next to those, without even diverting the dining table. If I were to use all four at once, it would allow the Leipzig rules to be like the Waterloo rules as far as scales are concerned, but would certainly dominate my wargame room for as long as it stayed set up. It would perhaps allow ten inch miles instead of three or four inches, for the scale.


  1. Good post as usual sir, I have read that some people are representing a lot of cannons off table for firing especially the Grand Batteries of Napoleon

  2. That sounds like a commonsense solution considering the players have committed to a commercial set, and already based and painted a certain size of units--brigades for units at most or more likely battalions and big ones at that, so what can they do?

    Hardly anyone has the 2,100 guns painted.

  3. Nice project you have going on. And you're right about the prices. On the other hand the figures are much better sculpted with a lot more of details. Some sets are worth their price.

    PS: I didn't forget you, but I have some busy weeks at work and at home. I let you know something soon ;-)