Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Destructive and Formidable.

 A while ago I bought David Blackmores book. Destructive and Formidable- British Infantry Firepower 1642-1765. Best thing I've read in years..
It brings into focus  lots of things we should consider on the wargames table but don't - in case it hurts our brains.
 When was the last time you heard the phrase "tactical doctrine"  around the table or in a set of rules? Now I've heard it used in the modern context more than once but rarely when considering he Black powder era.
 The idea that each bloke in a tricorn hat is exactly the same as all the others seems imbedded in wargamers psyche.
 The fact that it wasn't like that on the battlefield seems-especially these days entirely beside the point.
 Blackmore makes the point quite forcibly that the Dutch, English French Prussians- all had different firing methods. I suppose the Austrians did too  and in some cases different formations- yet all you see on the table are the same  half a dozen "elements or "bases" with figures in two ranks.
. Hmmm - stuff to think about 


  1. Works better with big battalions of course. Some decades ago I picked up a set called Fusil & Fortress covering battles, sieges and campaigns in Marlborough's day. They had rules for several different firing systems but it required a 1:1 relationship between the number of ranks of the miniatures and the real thing but . So your 6 deep 100 wide French battalion might be 6 figures deep but only 4 wide looking very march column ish. But their hearts were in the right place.

    1. ross I have not yet thought about the how too much- except to keep the ranks in proportion to each other- so if the "base-line" is a 3 deep British battalion represented by 2 ranks of models then the French will have 3 or possibly 4 ranks- depending up wether its a 5 or 6 rank formation- they carried on using 5 until the 1750s at least in Europe..
      For smaller units you would hve to use different values for the firing- the French doctrine was to open fire at far longer range than the British for instance. As did most other European armies- even the Prussians.
      Also it appears that French loading drill was slower whilst the British made strenouous efforts to speed it up - so that by the end of the SYW they were - fully 50% faster than in Marlboroughts day and in a closer order too - more muskets in a smaller space

    2. Only on the basing side but this is how I've based my 10mm WSS figures (you have used these lads before Andy.)
      Scrole down and look at the pictures. The frontages are proportunatley correct, give or take a little bit to fit the figures on. I got the info from Chandler's book The Art of Warfare in the age of Marlborough, a good start but I'd like to have a butchers at Blackmoor's.

    3. Its a good start- I'm starting to think about running some tests to see if its possible to game the different firing methods- starting in the ECW as even here things changed quite considerably during the war .
      By the 18th century more changes- you don't - or at least the English and Dutch don't usually open fire whilst moveing. You stand still then fire.
      Ammo supply becomes vital- can you re-supply during battle- only up to a point- at the beginning of the 18th century 24 rounds a man was considered enough to carry in the pouch. By the SYW it was 60 rounds- this for the Brits- the French were often still on 24 or so
      Makes you 5thin k don't it ???

  2. Of course while the effect of the firing systems and tactics is vital, in battle the "how" is the stuff of captains and colonels not generals. If you're putting a brigade on table with 2 minute turns then you can make a show of how but if you're trying to do Blenheim, best find a way to represent the effect of the tactics on space occupied, speed of advance and fire effect without showing how. Generic unit capabilities are ok for playing a game of toy soldiers but won't really do for historical games however the effect can and should be shown. Used to knuckle my brain alot in my 15mm days trying to do that.

    1. Ross yes of course- absolutely- my problem with many commercial sets is that they give you brigade size games without any how at all- Table tactics become samey and stereotyped no matter what the sub-period- so you get rules like Black Powder which have little differenciation from the 7yw to acw - unless its hidden in anothet 20 quid book . Black poweder is not the only one there are plenty of otherguilty of this kind of massive over- simplification.
      the real problem I suppose is that many wargamers think such tosh is "accurate" BECAUSE it is easy