If you’d have asked me when I was a young lad about Napoleonics, I’d have said quite sincerely “You’ll never get me playing that!” Even ten or fifteen years ago (with one exception, see below) the answer would have been the same. I started off as a World War 2 gamer, evolved into a Fantasy and SciFi gamer, partly through Games Workshop (GW), back in the time when GW had sales… Then I became a historical gamer, but strictly Ancients and WW2, again. So as I sit here typing, I’m looking at four units of almost finished Napoleonic cavalry and I wonder… where did this obsession come from?
Back when I was a lad, I knew about the Airfix Naploeonic 20mm boxes (duh, of course I did!), but never collected any. I recall being given some French by a friend and the impression they left me with, was that all French wore silly bearskin hats. I knew nothing of the Imperial Guard back then, which was, of course, the Airfix set I’d been given. I also remember being presented with some horses (no idea which side these were) and getting frustrated as they stubbornly refused to stay on their bases! When I joined local wargames clubs, I had the odd Seven Years War and Napoleonic game (with WRG 1685-1845 and Warfare in the Age of Reason), but I was still too much into GW SciFi, and besides, the club menbers had all the armies anyway…
In my 20s, I had a minor ‘blip’ with Napoleonics. My (now ex-) wife Amanda out of the blue suggested we do something together, gamewise. She told me that her father had played wargames, and in fact, played Napoleonics. She’d always been fascinated by his games but was told categorically it ‘Wasn’t for girls’. So we started painting a 15mm Napoleonic army. Now I look back on it, it was very ‘naive’, and of course we had few books on the subject. The horses she painted were Palaminos and the colours of our infantry were all wrong… But sadly the relationship didn’t last (the O’Jay’s song ‘Backstabbers’ is very relevent here). I gave the army away, something which I now regret; a little repainting and those palaminos could have seen action!
Change the clock by a decade and my wargaming tastes had changed dramatically. GW fantasy and SciFi had long lost its lustre. I’d tried DBA in 15mm, but there was a new kid on the block: Warhammer Ancient Battles. My regular gaming partner Paul Houghton and I started collecting all sorts of armies: Bilbical, Greek, Roman, Arthurian, El Cid, Hundred years War, ECW, you name it. This is where Napoleonics surfaced again. We actually tried Warhammer Napoleon, taking advantage of a Foundry Christmas special offer (£40 for 80 minis) and all of a sudden I had a small French army. Paul matched it with a British Newline army. Sadly, Paul died of cancer in 2006 and my Napoleonics went into a drawer.
So now in 2015, how do I find myself with a growing Prussian and French army? I think it’s a combination of three converging factors: miniatures, rules and players. Getting into Napoleonic gaming has become cheaper thanks to plastics - the advent of the Victrix, Perry and Warlord plastic sets have made things much easier. Rules wise, we are spoilt for choice - I tend to favour Black Powder as it is quick and fairly simple system. Finally, I have people to play with! There are several local players who play Napoleonics and also enjoy Black Powder. The moral of the story? Never say never… errr never again!