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Monday, March 1, 2010

My Seven Years War Armies

I have always been inspired by wargaming in the 18th C. Ever since I saw a picture, in an introductory wargaming book by Donald Featherstone (back in my teens), of long lines of musketeers clashing and brightly uniformed cavalry sweeping across the field have I been interested in Seven Years wargaming. It just took me a very long time to get around to completing the armies i have always wanted.

It is easy to get side-tracked when you are a wargamer by other periods (all have a fascination of their own) and by games that are popular in your area of the world.

When I started painting SYW units I thought i would only paint one or two for the pure enjoyment of creating really brightly coloured figures. A friend of mine, when I proudly showed him my first finished unit, told me that I would never get to use those figures and that I was wasting my time. This may have motivated me even more to indulge my love for the period.

In the beginning I set out only to complete an Austrian army and felt certain I could find an opponent somewhere to play against. But as the units rolled out, first infantry then cavalry, I didn't really care any more and ideas of the Prussians soon followed.

My first figures my Old Glory 15mm which I was (and still am) very pleased with. But these figures were not readily available to me. When I discovered Eureka miniatures were casting SYW figures I decided to flesh out my armies using these figures. Most of the cavalry, save my dragoons, and around half of my infantry units are Eureka products. I would recommend these figures to anyone wished to collect SYW armies.

Originally I set looked on the net and found that a major set of rules for the period was "Warfare in the Age of Reason." This seemed to be quite a good rules set to me but upon playing it the rules did seem a little cumbersome in some places. I then ordered Sam Mustafa's "Might and Reason" rules and never looked back. These rules are simple to understand and work very well. The focus of the rules is on movement and command which make for very interesting games.

I also love the idea of fighting a full size battle from the SYW period. So many games tend to allow you to refight a tiny corner of a battle often completely missing the main focus of the period. Wargamers are all inspired by the great commanders of history and their tactics but so many seem content to completely miss this level of play.

With an excellent set of rules that were really enjoyable to play (and yes I have had quite a few games with my armies despite what my friend initially said) I decided to fully flesh out the two armies. The Austrian army consists of 8 units of cavalry (3 cuirassiers, 3 dragoons and 2 hussars), two cannon and 16 units of infantry (12 musketeer, 2 grenadier and 2 grenzers.) The Prussian army consists of 7 units of cavalry (3 cuirassiers, 2 dragoons and 2 hussars), two cannon and 10 infantry (2 fusiliers, 6 musketeers and 2 grenadier.) These troops produce a very good game that lasts around 3-5 hours depending on the aggressiveness of the commander/s.

I do plan to flesh out my Austrian army with one or two more units of infantry, probably from the German states within the Empire, and an additional cannon or two for each army. I have found collecting these forces to be a real pleasure and very rewarding as each new unit is painted and deployed on the battlefield.

I summation I would recommend the SYW period for other wargamers for the following reasons:
  • Visual appeal - the uniforms of the period create a very appealing battlefield for wargaming and for spectators. With two banners fluttering from each infantry unit the effect is stunning.
  • Focus on movement and maneuver - the SYW period encourages bold maneuver especially the flanking attack. Battles are not limited to frontal assaults.
  • Command issues - good rules for the period should try to recreate the command difficulties SYW armies had in maneuvering their men. This adds challenge to the period. No general in any period of history has complete control of their men and rules need to reflect this aspect. Our divine position as wargamers towering over our troops gives the wrong impression of the power of generals.
  • Variety of Different national armies involved - its not a question of being one side or the other (eg: French or not in the Napoleonic period, or German or Allied in WWII.)
  • Depth and Colour in the Historical period - the SYW period includes several wars not just the SYW itself. Within this period national alliances were shifting and changing allowing a large number of possible combinations for players : for example, Russia can fight against and with Prussia during the SYW. Also a wide variety of heroic and incompetent characters provide interest to the historian. Individual unit histories provide great interest for the wargamer, for example the Botta Regiment of Kolin or the III Guard at Leuthen.
  • And I haven't even mentioned wars in India and North America to add additional spice ...
Major Cecil Savage

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