My name’s Dan and I’m a wargamer… It’s not quite as serious as a proper addiction, but it can be quite as embarrassing to family members if talked about in polite company. It’s cool to be geeky these days, but we have to draw the line somewhere. I’m comfortable with who I am and the hobby I love. I’ve got past the ethical struggle of being perceived as glorifying war and real-life atrocities, when we’re really, really not. I’m as comfortable discussing the relative merits of Enforcer tactics in a Deadzone or the Battle tactics of Tywin Lannister as I am of Dark Age Viking warbands or Canadian forces on D-Day, but there’s one historical era I’m not comfortable with – and that’s the big one: Napoleonics.
I got into gaming when I was a kid – from simply loving to line up tiny plastic WWII soldiers, I learnt my mate’s big brother actually played proper games with proper realistic models. At around the same time, Tolkien’s middle earth stories hooked me, and once I learned (from the same mate) that this modelling and gaming malarkey wasn’t confined to WWII, but had all sorts of Lord of the Rings type fantasy things going on as well… things have never been the same. I remember the first time I went into a Games Workshop (in Sutton Coldfield in the mid-80s: it must have been one of a handful in the country then) and picked up the Citadel Compendium. My dad couldn’t understand it, but my eyes lit up with wonder, and they haven’t dimmed since.
I kept away from ‘real’ war in those early days. I didn’t know the history well enough to even know where to start, and I just couldn’t reconcile playing games with real life war; it felt better to keep it in the realms of fantasy. It wasn’t until I found the wonderful Warwickshire Gamers (then the Wellesbourne Wargames Club), that I took the plunge into historical wargaming. I’m glad I did – it broke the bond to GW games and showed me new and better ways of playing the games I loved. Even more, there were brilliant people around to point me in the right direction and lend books that filled the gaps in my knowledge.
Ever since then I’ve voraciously eaten up history books, and enjoyed the combination of reading about new periods of history whilst modelling and gaming the period. I’ve gone through Ancients and Romans to Dark Ages and the Renaissance. I’ve started at the other end of history too, inevitably being drawn into WWII gaming (though skipping anything more modern as still a little too close for comfort…), and gone back as far as the American Civil War. But for a while now, the big scary monolith of Napoleonic gaming has been on both horizons like an immovable object.
Napoleonics is the mainstay of wargaming, even more so than WWII. It’s how many wargamers get into gaming in the first place – but I’ve never touched it. I don’t know the history, and it has such huge attention in gaming and in history books, it’s more than just a little daunting to know where or how to start…
I’ve skirted around the edges, by falling in love with Patrick O’Brien’s Master & Commander / Aubrey & Maturin novels and trying to uncover just one aspect of Napoleonics first by focusing on the maritime stuff of the Age of Sail, but Mr Paul Stacey finally came with a scheme I couldn’t refuse: We’ll all jump in at the deep end together; we’ll all sign up to produce a shedload of 28mm units over the next 12 months with the aim of refighting a big set piece battle from 1813 in summer 2015.
So – this is the blog of how I met Monsieur Napoleon head on and what happened after… Stay tuned…