Tuesday, 10 March 2020
Old Rules and New Ideas
A real blast from the past and a set of rules I have some fond memories of. These were the set of choice for my 1815 Airfix Anglo-Dutch army.
Way back in the early days of my wargames career I received as a Christmas present a copy of the AirFix Magazine Guide Number 4: Napoleonic Wargaming by Bruce Quarrie. This book was a revelation at the time and both myself and my then gaming friend, Paul, decided to raise armies organised as per the rules using our large supply of unpainted Airfix Napoleonics. In a relatively short space of time we were fielding armies of around 150 figures a side and had some really entertaining games using the Quarrie rules – they seemed almost an ‘adult’ step up from Charge! or similar….
I seem to recall reading somewhere that the idea of National Characteristics was originally mooted by a chap called Steve Tulk (?) and I believe the rules were published by the London Wargames Section (?) but I certainly stand to be corrected.
I remember seeing these on sale at the New Model Army Limited (the wargames shop owned by Eric Knowles) but I never owned a set.
This was the first set of rules I used that featured the concept of National Characteristics. The troops for each army were rated for just about everything – morale, firing ability, hand to hand ability as well as movement rates for every imaginable tabletop circumstance. This was quite controversial by all accounts but much of the perceived outrage amongst the diehard Napoleonic fraternity passed us by, located as we were on the Isle of Sheppey, far removed from the mainstream of the hobby.
One of the versions of Bruce Quarrie's Napoleonic book.
Looking back at the rules via the medium of Bruce Quarrie’s later Napoleon’s Campaigns in Miniature I can honesty say that whilst I enjoyed them at the time I would certainly not do so now. In my opinion rules have moved forward from these and whilst I respect the work that had obviously gone into them they are not the type of rules I would use now.
National characteristics are in my opinion a little bit of a slippery slope because where does one draw the line? They are hugely subjective in any event and so from my own perspective I prefer that troops are treated equally but with differences based on unit size, training, equipment, leadership and esprit de corps being used as the differentiating characteristic. For me this translates simply as rating troops as good, average or poor and adjusting the notional unit size accordingly - which is something that the Portable Napoleonic Wargame does.
Command and Colours: Napoleonic allows for differing unit sizes and also for an element of National Characteristics but overall is far less rigid than the approach adopted by Messrs. Quarrie and Tulk. For the most part troops of the same notional type operate in a similar way which feels far more comfortable.
In summary I will admit to really enjoying my games with the Quarrie set 'back in the day' but it is hard to reconcile my current thoughts about rules with them. They were from a galaxy far, far away...