Ok, I Want to Try Historicals. Now What?

allthingsSo you read my last post, did your reading, and decided that you want to give historical miniatures gaming a try. Of course you do, I’m damned persuasive. You’ve decided on a period of interest; for our purposes here we’ll assume you’ve chosen the Napoleonic period (1798-1815). This is a good choice. Napoleonics is one of the top three periods for historic wargaming. The other two are World War Two and, here in the US anyway,  American Civil War. Choosing a popular period as your starting point is a good idea as you’ll soon see because it will give you a variety of sources for rules and miniatures.

You’ve made a good decision, but now you’ve got some problems.  Let’s say I roll out of bed tomorrow and decide I want to play Warhammer 40K.  No problem, as long as my bank account is relatively full.  I go down to my Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS), pick up the 40K rules, grab a codex that interests me, buy all the models I need and even the paints and brushes and glue needed to assemble them.  All of these items are very considerately provided to me by the same company, Games Workshop. If you are getting into historical miniatures gaming, those easy days of single source supply are behind you.  Of course so is some of the expense, so it isn’t all bad!

Variety is the blessing and curse of historical gaming.  For any given era you will find dozens of different rules to help you recreate battles in that period. If you are new to historical gaming, and possibly unfamiliar with the organizational details of an 19th century army, picking a set of rules to get started with can be a daunting proposition. No less a problem is selecting miniatures to build your army with. To some extent, the miniatures you choose will be determined by the rules you settle on, but there is a near endless variety of toy soldiers to choose from in a bewildering range of scales from numerous manufacturers.

Some things you need to consider before choosing rules are:

  1. How much space do I have to play on?
  2. What scale of game am I interested in?  In other words do I want my individual units on the table to represent battalions, regiments, divisions, or even individual soldiers?
  3. Do I need a lot of background detail or do I already have or am I willing to go find that information?

Choosing miniatures for your game can be confusing. There are many scales ranging from minuscule to gigantic, and amazingly, all of them are popular. Often the determining factor will be what local gamers use. Generally, smaller scales are faster to paint, but you need more of them. Larger figures require more detail, and hence  more time & skill to paint but usually you require fewer models. You have to ask yourself “how much time am I willing to invest in researching, painting and modeling my armies?”  Admittedly this is more of an issue amongst hardcore historical gamers, sometimes known as “jerks.”  Previously, I’ve been told the brass buttons I painted on a unit were unequivocally wrong because that unit used pewter buttons.  Whatever.  Lets assume you want some historic accuracy in your troops.   A little research will be necessary to find out what they looked like.

One other thing you’ll want to know before you start shopping: do you have a fellow gamer going into this project with you or are you on your own? Hopefully you have a like-minded friend, that way you can each paint an opposing army. In our period of choice one of you can (must) do French and the other can paint, say Prussians.  No, that’s a lot of blue, how about French and British?  French and Russian?  See…lots of choices to make, but that’s a big part of the fun of historic gaming. If you don’t have someone willing to take the plunge with you, then your workload just doubled since you have to paint both armies.  Why don’t you get off the damn computer and go make a friend?

It sounds like there is a ton of work involved to get started with historical gaming. There’s a lot to do it’s true, but it shouldn’t be work, it should be an enjoyable experience. In my next couple of posts we will look into some of the available rules and what makes them worthwhile and introduce the newcomers to some of the names in the historic gaming community. We will do the same with miniatures, discuss the different scales available, their pros and cons and finally take a look at some distributors of historical game products so you can learn where to acquire these wonderful, wonderful toys.



3 thoughts on “Ok, I Want to Try Historicals. Now What?

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  1. Nice write up!

    I have been doing historical miniatures for years. I think it adds a great deal to my RPGs which are mostly historical fantasy of some kind even when not cosmic horror. To find a good rule set it is often good to looks over reviews and read a few systems, hookup with a local group, or go to a convention. In my experience for example there will be a handful of dominant rule sets for the period much like RPGs and then many smaller press rules.

    AS an example, Napoleonics these days seem to be being played mostly with Age of Eagles (large scale faster play), Carnage and Glory (computer moderated and using a fatigue model), Carnage and Glory (A broad scale fast play system with unusual basing), and Shako (a fast place d6 based system). There are a ton of rules, but these are the ones that I see most.

    For good general information The Miniatures Page is a nice resource:


    There are rules set listings like this one for Napoleonics:


    One of the nice thing about historical miniatures is that most are written for love and not for profit meaning that changes and updates are more often about improvements rather than driving sales.

    I help with a New England historical miniature convention in Maine called Huzzah!


    Historicals can be a lot of fun and there is a wealth of information so players can dig as deep as they want!

    – Andre



    1. Andre,

      Thanks for checking in. You’re right there are so many rule sets available it can be hard to know where to start. We’ve been playing mostly Black Powder in my group, partly because we aren’t married to a particular period and Black Powder covers it all, and partly because it’s a relatively simple set of rules and easy to teach to newcomers.

      I’ve played Shako a number of times and I like it quite a bit, I’m not sure it’d be the best set for a newcomer to start with… I’ve looked at Carnage and Glory a number of times but have never tried it. I may try to jump into a game at Huzzah this year, there’s usually at least one or two. TMP is an excellent resource for rules for sure.

      For anyone reading, Huzzah is a relatively new historical gaming convention put on in Portland, Maine in May. I’ve been going every year since it’s inception and can’t say enough good about it. The fee to attend is very inexpensive. Andre runs and excellent Aerodrome (WWI air combat) tournament which I’ve played in for the past 2 years and it’s not to be missed. Pretty sure I’ll be winning it in 2014.



  2. I love Carnage and Glory but the computer aided game takes a little getting use to. I do love how hit take unit fatigue into account as well as other factors without me having to keep records or roll a bunch of dice. I have all of two games in the systems but they were tremendously fun.


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