Getting Into a New Period: Parte the First

Retreat of Napoleon's Army From Moscow, 1812

Retreat of Napoleon’s Army From Moscow, 1812

Normally, I am the person who gets drawn into new gaming periods – one look at Bruce Meyer’s beautifully painted Russian Civil War figures and I was hooked! Mark Copplestone’s sculpted figures were too amazing to refuse. WWII in the Pacific was another era Bruce introduced me to. It was a mix of figures and vehicles that caught my eye. In fact, the PacWar games he ran prompted me to build a Tarawa pillbox for fun. I did resist the pull into Field of Glory and Saga, not because they were not interesting but because the other periods so dominated my time. Bruce seemed to have everything for everything, especially for areas not usually gamed, like Napoleonic skirmish in the Peninsula, Japan in China in the 1930s and a Terra Cotta warrior army for pulp gaming. It was he who got other people into gaming new periods until recently when I was finally able to turn the tables on him and drew him to my dark side concept for a new scenario idea in an unusual and, to date, locally unplayed setting.

Our gaming group recently played some Napoleonic battles in 15mm scale. This is a period I usually avoided even though the first figures I ever painted were 1/72nd scale Airfix French Cuirassiers (painted in enamels with a toothpick!) There are plenty of decent rules for this period though one clear cut club favorite could not be found. Another more significant problem was the complexity of the uniforms of the period. My big 15mm armies were Union (standard navy blue jacket and slate blue/gray trousers) and Confederates (every other color in the spectrum pretty much in any manner I wanted). The complexity of the uniform plates from the Napoleonic era varied from army to army and year to year was too overwhelming and kept me away from this period.

Still, I enjoyed looking at the painted figures and was intrigued watching a computer simulation of the battle of Eylau online. The games we played were immensely enjoyable and prompted me to learn more about the Napoleonic era. Bruce lent me several books – a general primer, an account of the 1809 campaign, the wars from the Austrian perspective and the 1812 campaign. As I read the books, my interest slowly increased; by the time I started the third book I gave serious thought to gaming something related to this era. I wanted to do something different and off the beaten track. Even before getting to Mr. Nafzinger’s classic on the Russian campaign, I knew I found my next major project – scenarios based upon Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow!

Because I only had a layman’s knowledge of the period, I wrote to Bruce who was on vacation in Hawaii. My interest was obvious, yet it was clear, almost from the start, that Bruce was hooked, too. He told me of Perry’s ‘Retreat from Moscow’ line of figures. I knew what figures I would want to get but was wary about starting something new (especially with the risk of our family moving in 6 months) and initially balked at the idea. Bruce was the brave one and took the plunge first and told me he was ordering some figures – initially I balked but soon realized that I could not pass it up. Because I had already looked at the miniatures, I already knew what I wanted to get. I ordered what I thought was sufficient to run a game; Bruce, whose war gaming collection is best described as ‘Go big or go home’, almost doubled my order – the descent into the new period was in motion with no going back.

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