Monday, March 31, 2014

More 6mm Napoleonic Buildings ... and a Milestone!

A few posts back I showed off two 6mm resin building models from Baccus that I have recently painted.   While I was at Hot Lead two weekends ago, sadly just for a few hours as I was quite tired from travel, my chum James Manto managed to point me to a vendor who was trying to get rid of some old stock, including a ziplock bag of 6mm lead buildings, which I got for a bit of a steal.

 

Lord knows who the manufacturer is or how old they are - any ideas?.  The sepia colour in the photo is curious - some of it is due to photo-editing but it is there in the metal, which to me suggests age.   The bag included a satisfying amount of buts and pieces … chimneys, dormers, and the like.   Even though I want some of the TImeCast stuff (curse you, Kinch!) now I have the makings of a decent central European village - Altemetallburg, maybe?

I’m open to colour suggestions for painting the walls and roofs.

In other news, while I was at the gym this morning the page view count tipped over 100,000.   There is a contest coming, with prizes for cleverness, details to follow in the next post.

Blessings to your brushes and die rolls.

M

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paint Table Saturday

 

 

This week I managed to finish the first sprue of Plastic Soldier Company 15mm Soviet infantry, just waiting for the flocking to finish drying before I spray them with Dullcote.   That means I am free to start working on those 28mm Turkish Spahi of the Porte Command.

Blessings to your paint brushes!

Michael

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rethinking the Soviet Union's Great Patriotic War

One of the pleasures of having access to a university library is the new book shelf.   God knows I have enough to read, but I can’t resist checking out the new books from time to time.  Often I learn about books I would never otherwise have heard of.

Boris Sokolov is a Russian author based in Moscow.  He held an academic post at the Russian State Social University until 2008, when he claims he was dismissed for writing an article critical of Russia’s war with Georgia that year.  Other than that, I don’t know anything about him or his qualifications, but he seems to have written a lot.

The Role of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, translated and edited by Stuart Britton (Helion and Company, 2013, ISBN 978-1-908916-55-6), is a set of essays that are sometimes dense and packed with statistics, but which make several points that I didn’t know about.   Wargamers with an interest in the Eastern Front in World War Two might be interested in the four things I learned from this book.

1) Hitler beat Stalin to the punch.  Sokolov is one of several Russian scholars who believe Stalin was planning  a pre-emptive strike against Germany.   As early as May 15 1941 Red Army planners were preparing to “forestall the enemy in deploying and attack the Germany Army when it is in a state of deployment but has not yet been able to organize the front” (21).   At this time Stalin was worried about a possible British collapse, freeing all German forces for an offensive, so in the second half of May called up 800,000 reservists, transferred large formations to the Western Districts, and was even forming a Polish division for operations in German-occupied Poland.  The idea was that by June the Red Army could mass forces between 20-80 kilometres from the border, deploying aviation to forward airfields, in preparation for an attack most likely on Sunday, 6 July.   These plans ignored the fact that the Soviet military was not ready for war.  There was not enough fuel for air and ground operations, and tank and air crews had only a fraction of the training time they needed.   There is a fascinating “what-if” scenario here, if the Soviets would have landed the first punch and not been forestalled by Barbarossa in June.  I rather doubt it would have gone well for them, and might even have been a worse result than what actually happened.

2) Kursk was far more costly than the Soviets admitted.  While still a victory for them, the Soviets exaggerated German casualties “several times over” while concealing their own “disastrous” losses.  The numbers in this chapter are quite confusing, but I gather from Sokolov’s argument that the Red Army lost 1,677,000 killed, wounded and captured in the whole battle, whereas Wehrmacht casualties were most likely 360,000, a ration of 4 to 1.  Soviet tank losses were a little over 6,000, about 4 times the figure for German tank losses (1,500) in traditional Soviet accounts, another 4-1 ration.   “This very unfavourable ration of losses may be explained by the superiority of the new Gemran tanks and also the superiority of German command and control in armour combat. … Another cause was the comparatively low level of training of Soviet personnel, especially of tank-driver mechanics, who until the end of 1942 received only from 5-10 hours of driving practice, when the necessary minimum was 25 hours (43)."

3) Lend Lease saved the USSR.  An official Soviet history of the Great Patriotic War states that assistance from the Allies “was in no way meaningful and could have had no decisive influence on the course of the GPW” (48), when in fact in 1963 Zhukov himself was heard to admit that without this aid “we could not have formed our reserves and could not have continued the war” (49).  Lend-Lease aid included everything from fuel to steel and aluminium to railroad equipment and explosives for making munitions.   Just one of many statistics in this chapter.  From July 41 to Dec 43 the Soviets made 30,000 T-34 tanks, each of which required 20 tons of armoured steel, far more than the USSR could produce.  If Sokolov is right, almost half of those T34s were made with Lend-Lease armour.

4) World War Two was a massive human catastrophe for the USSR.  Hard data on Soviet military losses is very hard to come by, and trustworthy research was not started unit the late 1980s.   In reviewing this research, Sokolov puts total Soviet dead at almost 43.5 million, compared to just under 6 million Germans.  These figures include military and civilian deaths, as well as potential losses from falling birth rates, which may seem to some as an exaggeration.  Even removing the unborn from the equation, the totals are sobering:  26,548,000 Soviet military dead vs 3,950,000 German military dead, and 16,900,000 Soviet civilians dead vs 2,000,000 German civilians dead  These figures are approximations.  Very few casualty estimates were published in the Soviet era and exact figures are hard to come by because for the first year of the war, many Soviet soldiers were not given identity cards, service or pay books, just (if they were lucky) uniforms and weapons (67).   These high casualties and the massive turnover of personnel in Soviet units as losses were replaced by meant that right up until the end of the war, those who were newly mobilized entered battle poorly trained in military matters” (75), and thus “The Red Army had to pay in blood for industrial backwardness and the inability to use combat equipment intelligently” (91), compounded by the Soviet leadership’s indifference to casualties.

Some thoughts for war gamers.

The Ostfront is always a compelling subject for war gamers, and yet it is one of the bleakest and most tragic spectacles of military history.  This book just makes it all the sadder.  I have to take Sokolov’s figures with a grain of salt, since I haven’t seen any scholarly reviews of this book in academic literature and for all I know the man is a bit of a flake.  However, assuming he is near the truth, what does this mean for war gamers?  I would say that any rules set which doesn’t handicap the Soviets in leadership and tactics doesn’t reflect history.   I know this has long been a debate in wargaming as to whether the Germans are too often portrayed as supermen, and I think those questions are fair.  Certainly by 1943 on the Wehrmacht was being ground down and losing its edge, but I think in almost every case until the end of the war the Germans should have an edge in training, tactics and leadership, a qualitative superiority vs the Soviet quantitative superiority.   

I got to thinking as I read this book, will we see more of this kind of scholarship coming from Putin-era Russia?   A lot of the evidence and scholarship Sokolov cites comes from the late 1980s on, the era of glasnost and post-Soviet opening up of the archives.  It worries me that if Russia goes further down the path of nationalism and chauvinism, we will see a new clampdown on scholars who want to mine the archives for a story that still hasn’t been properly told.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Playing GMT's Command and Colours Napoleonics: Rolica Part 1

The first thing to say is that this wargames blog is nearing 100,000 page views (99,159 as of noon today) so there will be a contest, with a prize for cleverness, so watch this space.

Warning, no minis in this post, just blocks.

After spending several evenings recently putting innumerable stickers on blocks, I was ready to try Command and Colours Napoleonics.   This game may be old news to many of you, and possibly uninteresting.   However, other than playing it once head to head using Apple Face Time with Kinch, the system is new to me, and I have to say, it is a splendid introduction to Napoleonics gaming.  Some may find the card-based approach unrealistic.  I had a conversation recently where I was told that using cards with names like “Assault Right Flank - 3 units may be ordered” is nothing more than casting a spell.   That’s an interesting criticism, though I see parallels between the C&C system and other card-driven systems like some of Sam Mustafa’s recent rules.   I suppose using cards is a “gamier” variant on using command initiative points systems and thus model friction to some extent, as opposed to letting each player move every unit every turn.

One benefit of the C&CN system for people like myself who aren’t steeped in Napoleonics is that the games act as a primer for the period.   Each scenario gives a useful overview of battles, and in the case of C&CN’s basic set, it’s a good introduction to the Penninsular War.   I decided to start at the beginning and chose Rolica 1, First French position, Wellesley’s first battle against the French.   The scenario setup and background is found on page 2 here.  In looking at it, the first thing I realized is that I overlooked the British horse artillery unit on the British left wing.   Forgetting that asset no doubt made the British work harder for their victory.

On the French left wing, as the French (playing myself) I decided to be aggressive, advancing my light cavalry and infantry to check Trant’s Portugese, which suffered heavy casualties.   Here Trant shelters in a much reduced infantry square, while his lights snipe at the French from some woods and Wellesley sends half of his infantry reserve to shore things up.

 On the right things are going less well for the French, whose other unit of light cavalry were totally shot up by the redcoats then finished off by the advance of the British heavies.   In this shot the British have managed to sneak a unit into the village of Rollica, thanks to the Out of Supply card which allowed them to move the French unit holding the village to the board edge.  Things are looking grim on the French right.

 

Final score, British 5, French 2.   In the last few turns the British got the replacements card and were fortunate enough to top off the Portugese cavalry, which Trant finished off the French cavalry and now have a clear shot at the last remaining objective.   British units on the left are thinned out but hold the other objective and have the five banners needed to win.  Quite a bloodletting on both sides.

 

 

Towards the end I realized I was doing a few things wrong.  I didn’t understand the significance of the sabres on the bespoke dice, which require a leader casualty check if a unit with a leader loses one or more blocks from infantry or cannon fire.   It also took me a while to understand that when the rules speak about Ordered Units, they are talking about units which are given an order to move/battle as a result of a card.  Ordered does not mean ordered/disordered I don’t think.

So yes, C&CN is a fairly simple affair when it comes out of the box like this, but it’s an elegant system and its fun to play even solitaire, though I would love to find some opponents, either locally or via Vassal.  I have the Prussian and Austrian expansions, and would like the Spanish set if it’s still in print, though I haven’t seen it in stores.

So that was by board gaming for the past week.  Next up is a European game on Frederick the Great which looks quite good.

Blessings to your die rolls!

MP

Monday, March 24, 2014

Franco-Prussian Cat Fight

Today a bit of a Mexican standoff is going on between the last two figures to be painted from the Bob Murch Pulp Figures Dangerous Dames 2 set. I love painting these figures.

These two ladies have been glimpsed on my Saturday Painting Table posts of late.  Now they’re done and will be part of my Weird War Two collection, which I need to revisit.

First is Mademoiselle Madeleine la Roque, who was a graduate student in ancient languages at the Sorbonne before the Occupation.   She may be bookish, but she knows her way around an MP40 and is widely respected in Resistance circles for her planning abilities.   I’m thinking she needs some compatriots - perhaps these ladies to form the dreaded and ruthless Communist resistance.

Oberleutnant Anna Hertzog flew as a test pilot before being recruited for special courier duties.  She would prefer to be flying state of the art aircraft rather than transporting sinister passengers and secret cargo to obscure Baltic bases that don’t show on any map she’s ever seen.   She really needs a model aircraft - I’m thinking maybe this one.  

 “German flying pig, you have landed in zee wrong moonlit pasture zees time!"

 “Ach!  French cow, Ii you knew vy I haff landed here and vat horror vas coming, you vud not be so brave mit dat machinepistolen, I am sinking”.

How will this tense standoff end?   Gunplay?  Reinforcements?  Maybe a truce and a bottle of wine?  Who knows?

These figures bring my 2014 totals to date to:

28mm Mounted: 10

28mm Foot: 22

28mm Artillery: 1

15mm Vehicles: 4

6mm Buildings and Terrain Pieces: 2

Kilometres Run: 303

Blessings to your brushes!

MP

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Saturday Painting Table (On Sunday)

Yesterday was a busy day.  I got back from a conference early in the morning, took Ms. Padre for breakfast, then ran over to Stratford to catch some of what looked like another awesome year of Hot Lead.

 So apologies for not getting to the painting table until today but that’s how it goes. I’ve taken a break from doing more cavalry and started work on some hard plastic PSC 15mm WW2 Soviets from Canada’s favourite wargames supplier, J&M Miniatures.

 These are great figures to paint, with only a little assembly requires, and there are easily a company’s worth in the boxed set, which is a pretty good value.

Blessings to your paint brushes!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Baccus 6mm Farm Buildings

I’m actually composing this blog post on a plane from Toronto to a conference in Dallas-Fort Worth, which is rather fun.  I’m hoping it will be warmer there.

Part of my original foray into Napoleonics was to buy these two resin farm buildings from Baccus (POW 1 Belgian Farm and Barn).    Both very nice models, with lots of detail, and a lot of fun to paint.

 

 

My only reservation with these models is the resin base, which isn’t a perfect fit with the buildings, which look slightly odd when nested in the base (Baccus calls them plinths), but I suppose they don’t look too bad from a distance.

 

I’m always a little uncertain about painting historical European buildings.   I always wonder if I have things like the roof tiles correct.   Sometimes they appear to be a kind of blue in period paintings, which inspired me to do the farmhouse roof in a Vallejo Luftwaffe uniform blue with a bit of a wash and a lighter highlight.  I dunno, it looks pleasing enough and it’s a slight contrast to the gray roof of the brick barn.   

 

I have hundreds of little Nap chaps to sort and base, so getting more terrain pieces isn’t a huge priority for me, but I will eventually need some more 6mm terrain for this period.   Since the figures I bought are French, Austrian and Russian, I suspect these two buildings are a little too western European.  I may need to look for models a little more central or eastern European.   I know there are several firms (including Baccus) that make scenery in this scale for this period, but Id appreciate any ideas you may have.   I will also need to make terrain - hills, roads, woods, hedges, etc.   I haven’t had time to search for any blogs that may offer 6mm terrain hints and how tos, so again, any suggestions appreciated.

I won’t have time to visit any hobby stores while in DFW, which is probably just as well, as I doubt I’ll find anything in the right scale, since they say that everything is bigger in Texas!

Blessings to your dice rolls and paintbrushes!

M

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Visit To Canada's Military Archives

I was in Ottawa last week pursuing research towards my MA thesis, and paid a visit to Canada’s military archives, which are maintained by the Department of History and Heritage.   DHH has a substantial website, which is interesting in its own right.

DHH itself is not very impressive to look at - a small two story building in a dingy industrial park in a rather unglamorous neighbourhood in Ottawa.  Regrettably there were no artifacts or items on display - one would need to go downtown to the National War Museum for that (highly recommended if you visit Ottawa).  However, on my way up to the reading room, I noticed this display, which unfortunately had the sun coming through it at the time.

The illustrations are unmistakably by Ron Volstad, who has done the colour plates for many an Osprey book.  I thought it would be fun to post some close ups.  Hopefully I’m not violating copyright in doing so.

Canadian peacekeeper circa 1970s/1980s.  My first uniform and webbing looked like this, though I wasn’t rocking the sexy moustache and glasses.

On the left I’m guessing is a member of the Queen’s Own Rifles at the time of the Fenian Raids in 1866 or as he might appear if I ever revisit that Trent Affair Goes Hot project I discussed here earlier this month.  On the right, an infantryman as he might have appeared at the defence of Hong Kong in 1941.

Naval officer from the Battle of the Atlantic/

Some kind of nursing sister, late-Victorian, I’m guessing?

Great War cavalryman as he would have looked at the Strathcona’s charge at Moreuil Wood.

 

Now to find a moment to organize 200 pages of photocopies and 50 digital pictures from that visit and start a paper.   The subject, if you’re interested, is the evolution of Canadian Forces chaplain cap and branch badges from a Christian to a multi-faith stage in the chaplaincy’s development.

 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Czar's Three Hussars

I’m on the road in Ottawa doing some research but before I left home on Wednesday i was able to finish these three fellows that have been on my desk for the last three Paint Table Saturdays.  These are 28mm Foundry figures from their Seven Years War Hussars range, from their set HUS9, Goluza’s Hussar Characters in Short Fur Hats.

 The dashing, blonde Vlaso Dobrovoevich, a young hussar officer who will be a useful character in Sharp Practice skirmish battles against the Ottoman Turks.   I’ve based his uniform on the Moldavski and Novoserbski Regiments as described by Angus Konstam in Osprey 298, Russian Army of the Seven Years War (2).

 

 

Eat lead, my friend! 

Vlaso’s friend and comrades in arms, Vakhronka Kislenok, slashing with his sabre to clear a way to get the dispatches through a swirling mass of Tatar cavalry (swirling mass not included). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gallant and slightly psychopathic hussar major Goluza Chemerkov.  I love the details the sculptor added with this figure -- the axe and the tricorn hat, which suggest an eccentric, rather mad personality.  Perhaps Gokuza took  the hat from an infantry officer he defeated in a duel.  The axe suggests a certain ruthless nature - Lord knows where he acquired it but I am sure he can throw it with deadly accuracy as well use it to split heads like melons.  A man to be feared when he’s in his cups, and not to be trusted with cards, but the right sort of fellow to send against the Turk.

 

 

 I’ve painted Goluza to match the uniforms of this hussar unit I painted last year.  He’ll be useful as a Big Man for these fellows in skirmish battles on the frontier.

 

These figures bring my totals completed this year to:

28mm Mounted: 10

28mm Foot: 20

28mm Artillery: 1

15mm Vehicles: 4

Kilometres Run:  281 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Film Review: The Wind Rises


I don’t have a lot of expertise in film reviews, I just watch films and know what I like.   However, I saw one last night that I thought worth sharing here, since I know that some of you make model aircraft (Kinch and King and Stoesen, I’m looking at you fellows).
I think anyone who has made a model aircraft has a sense of the beauty of aircraft and of their design, even when we make a hash of the model and get glue all over everything.   The romance of early flight, the grace of aircraft designs, and history all come together in this film.  It’s also incredibly beautiful.   Have a look at this trailer.
The Wind Rises is about Jiro Horikshi, the aeronautical engineer who designed the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter.  It’s a coming of age story,, a boy meets girl story, and a boy falls in love with aircraft story.    Believe it or not, it’s absolutely fascinating to watch the hero work a slide rule, scribble numbers, and then see his designs fly off the drafting table in a flurry of air and graceful lines.  
I’m not a great fan of Japanese anime, but I found this one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.   The film is a rich blend of history, fantasy, and imagination.   The director is Hayao Miyazaki, who has had a long and honoured career and a long history of reflecting on Japanese history.  Miyazaki was taken by Horikishi once saying that he just wanted to design something beautiful, and one of themes of the movie is how design and technology is taken over for war and violence.   Certainly the Zero fighter was a beautiful creation - we see a flight of them at the end in a final dream sequence, sleek and deadly like sharks, but Jiro sees them with the knowledge that the war is lost, and the planes he designed and the pilots who flew them never came home.  The mixture of loss, naivetĂ© and melancholy is quite powerful, but the film still celebrates the impetus to dream and reach for beauty.
There’s a link here on how The Wind Rises has caused some controversy.   Some people, particularly in Korea, think it romanticizes and celebrates Japan’s militaristic history, while conservatives in Japan think it’s unpatriotic.  See it for yourself and decide.  Take your significant other when you go, because it is a love story on several levels.  Even though there are long sequences with slide rules and talk about rivets, she’ll love it too.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Paint Table Saturday: Dashing Hussars And Dangerous Dames

 

I’ve been fortunate this week to have had a few hours and half hours to bear down and bring some projects to near completion.  I love the final stages of finishing figures, when I am doing all the little finishing stages and starting basing and flocking.  It’s a very rewarding part of the hobby.  On the right, my three Foundry Russian Hussars are almost ready to go in search of plunder and vodka.  

 

Below, a tense standoff as Mademoiselle Jeanne of La Resistance faces off against one of the Tigresses of the Luftwaffe.  Two figures from Bob Murch’s Pulp Figures from his Dangerous Dames set.  I’m very happy with both figures.  Behind them, my two Baccus 6mm Napoleonics buildings are nearly done.

Blessings to your paint brushes!

Michael

Monday, March 3, 2014

Saturday (Monday) Painting Table

 

The weekend slipped by while I blinked, I think.  I haven’t had a chance to post my report on the week’s progress until tonight.   Most of my work this last week was focused on these three roguish Russian hussars.

Here’s the whole table - what a shameful mess.  I’m almost ashamed to show it to you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trent Affair Goes Hot: An Alt Civil War Thought Experiment

I’m not sure I quite understand this picture, but it sort of conveys my point.

The other day I posted a review of John Boyko’s book on Canada and the American Civil War, which might not have been super-interesting to all you non-Canadians out there, but then I got thinking about the wargaming angle.  What if the Trent Affair had gone hot instead of being diffused?  In November of 1861, Britain and the United States were having a diplomatic row over two Confederate diplomats detained by the US Navy while travelling to Britain on the Trent, a British civilian ship.  As Boyko tells the story, a British ultimatum came within days of expiring, until Lincoln decided that one war at a time was enough and reigned in his secretary of state, William Seward.  So what if things hadn’t played out so sensibly?

Let’s assume that cooler heads hadn’t prevailed over the Trent crisis.  Perhaps Seward persuaded Lincoln not to release Mason and Slidell, the Confederate diplomats, or that there was another incident at sea involving a US and British ship, or what have you.  For whatever reason, it’s January 1862, and Britain declares war on the United States in the second year of its civil war with the Confederacy.  What we then have, I think, is a very interesting wargaming scenario.  

Here’s a map of Canada at that era.

 

 

As Boyko tells the story, there were roughly 4500 British regular soldiers in Canada, divided between Nova Scotia (primarily in the port of Halifax), Quebec or Lower Canada (primarily along the St. Lawrence in Montreal and Quebec City) and some in Ontario (Upper Canada).   In December, as the Trent Affair heated up, the Governor General, Viscount Monck, had persuaded London to send an additional 11,000 regulars to Canada, although most of these are in Nova Scotia and some made it to Quebec.  Unfortunately they arrived in the middle of winter, the St. Lawrence river is frozen, and there are no railways between Atlantic Canada and Ontario, so those troops are stuck in the east until spring.   Otherwise, Canada has roughly 40,000 militia available for call up, though their training and weapons are not of the best.  Other than citadels at Halifax and Quebec Cities, permanent fortifications are few and quite primitive.

At the same time, the Union armies in the east are recovering from two beatings, one at 1st Manassas and a smaller one at Ball’s Bluff.  General McClellan will spend the winter rebuilding and reorganizing the Army of the Potomac and by spring it will the powerful force that, historically, marched on Richmond in the Penninsular campaign.  In Richmond, Joseph Johnston is preparing his army, the strength of which, via Pinkerton’s so-called spies, is being greatly exaggerated in Washington.  In the west, let’s assume that the US victory at Fort Donelson still happens in February, 1862, and that Grant is getting ready to face the Confederates under Albert Sidney Johnston.  Meanwhile, in shipyards north and south, the Monitor and Merrimac are being prepared.

With me so far?  So let’s assume it’s March 1862.  Those British 11,000 British troops in Canada will soon be able to deploy west from Nova Scotia if they want to.  Presumably the Royal Navy has been deploying to Canada’s eastern ports in some strength, as well as taking up station in the West Indies, to break the US blockade of the Confederate ports.  Going forward, how do we handicap the opposing forces?  

At sea, I think, we can assume that the British have naval superiority along the eastern seaboard, given their superiority in numbers and experience, but the US Navy is a tough, professional force, and it survived succession with its officer corps mostly intact, unlike the US Army, so the Yanks at sea will be a tough opponent.   For now the US has the biggest and strongest naval forces on the Great Lakes.  

On land, I suspect it’s a different story.  The British Army has recent combat experience from the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War, but how many of those combat veterans are still in the ranks?  Would the British soldier be any more effective than his US counterpart?   One of the surprising things about Boyko’s book was that desertion of British troops was always a worry when they were garrisoned in Canada; British officers were always worried when their troops were posted too close to the US border.   While the US army is still largely an amateur force in 1862, it’s had the whole winter to train and prepare itself under McClellan.  It may have bad strategic leadership once the campaigning season starts (not that British generals in the Crimea were always great either), but man for man, they can probably give the redcoats a fight.  Also, I don’t know how large the British Army was in 1862, but I suspect the same problems of cost and logistics of sustaining a large overseas force, problems which doomed the British during the American Revolution, would apply in this war.

So where do we go from here?  I suppose it depends on what kind of wargaming we want to do.   On the tabletop, we will likely be fighting War of 1812 battles with different figures, which sounds like terrific fun.   A US Civil War collection will do fine, and we’re still early war enough that all those cool figures like the 14th Brooklyn from Forgotten and Glorious or Perry Zouaves could be used.  On the Canadian/British side, there are all sorts of figures that could be used, from Crimean War ranges through to British home service uniforms for the local militia as seen here.  Of course, there are also those 1860s British figures that the Perrys are currently working on. At the height of summer, I suspect one could use Mutiny figures for some British uniforms, I’m not sure.  Tabletop naval games would also be interesting - lots of tense actions off New York or Boston as the US tries to defend its seaboard, and the question of whether the Monitor would make a difference.  I suspect a lot of Union ironclads would be produced as fast as possible for coastal defence.

I would love to see a board game using an eastern subset of the map above and extending it as far south as the Confederacy.  One day I might try and design one, but I don’t think now’s the time.   Here are the questions I think a game of that sort would have to answer.

1) How much of the Union’s military strength could it afford to divert to fight the British, including such projects as a replay of the 1812 invasion of Upper Canada?   Shelby Foote once said that the Union fought the Civil War with one hand tied behind its back, but at the beginning of 1862, Lincoln was in near despair with his army and finances, and said the bottom was out of the tub.  It’s an interesting question.

2) Related to (1), how does a British intervention help the Confederate armies, particularly in the east?  Will Joe Johnston and his lieutenants, Lee and Jackson, be able to take Washington DC?  Will the US be able to leave the same troop levels in the west, so that a victory at Shiloh (the beginning of the end for the CSA in the West) is still possible?

3) How will the naval war play out?  Will it simply be a matter of the US blockade being broken, so the CSA has better chances of procuring European armaments and supplies for its armies?

4) What are the strategic and logistical factors?  The US has its industry gearing up, and has a well developed railway network to move troops all over the place.  The CSA and the British in Canada have neither of these things.  The US can stuff a lot of men into uniform, but British troops would probably be a much more limited resource.

4) What are the political factors?   Does the war end if the Anglo/CSA side takes Washington or would the US government be able to move around, as it did during the Revolution?   How do you model Britain’s appetite to sustain the war?  Would the British be casualty adverse?   How badly do things go at home, given that the US is Britain’s greatest market for food at the time?  Also, how does slavery work?  Would it make sense to give the US an opportunity, should they win a significant battle over the CSA, to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, thus making it a lot harder for London to justify a continued war on behalf of a slave state ally?  What are Britain’s strategic goals anyway - a punitive campaign, or regime change in Washington?

So what are your thoughts?  What do you think would happen if the Trent Affair went hot and caused a was as outlined above?  What happens when the campaigning season starts in March 1862?  How would you model it, either on the tabletop or as a board game?  I’d love to hear your opinions.

 

 

 

 

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