|Wargamer Home - Forum Home|
|17 AUG 2012 at 12:02am|
Posts : 1093
Joined: 12 AUG 2011
Status : Offline
Posted In: Articles : Miniature Wargaming
In June of 1812 the United States declared war on Great Britain, with American troops crossing the Detroit River to occupy Sandwich (present-day Windsor) in mid-July. A Canadian counter-attack then resulted in the occupation of Detroit in August; this pattern of inconclusive fighting characterized the remainder of the War of 1812—one which stretched until 1815.
Many gamers have been drawn back to this conflict for its two-hundredth anniversary. Myriad books and articles have fueled this interest; but so has the manageable scale of the conflict. There were relatively few battles, which in themselves were relatively small affairs. Many of the more interesting battles were in fact skirmishes; which means relatively few models are needed for recreating these battles in miniatures. The war was also a close-run affair, meaning that battles are often quite evenly matched. Also, the “frontier” nature of this war enabled troops to wear whatever they had, meaning one can paint troops without the need of a large reference library or worries of button-counting opponents. As a bonus, the availability of low-cost 1/72-scale plastic figures makes it relatively easy to get into wargaming the War of 1812. For example, large skirmish games can be easily played with just $30 in figures.
1/72 Soft Plastic Figures
The introduction of hard-plastic 28mm figures has been big news in historical miniature wargaming for the past five years. Nevertheless, the real story in plastics is the dramatic increase in the number of 1/72-scale, soft plastic figure sets. According to the Plastic Soldier Review (HERE) there have been 846 new sets issued between 2002 and 2011—that is seven times more sets than were released between 1958 and 2001! The chief advantage of soft plastic sets is their lower cost: soft plastics are half of the cost of hard plastics and one quarter of the cost of metal. The downsides of soft plastic include a tendency for paint to flake and difficulty gluing polyethylene together. Both of these issues have been largely resolved through the development of plastic primers (HERE) and Loctite’s All Plastic Super Glue (HERE).
Despite the deluge of new sets, there are no figure sets specific to the War of 1812. Fortunately, there are a number of quite useable proxies available. The war is especially suited for using “proxy” sets as there is some uncertainty about uniform details, especially after units had been in the field for awhile. What follows are the choices I made, informed by some helpful commentary by gamer Mike Manning (HERE) and limited by what I could track down.
Native Americans were important allies for the British. While there are several sets of Plains Indians available, these are mostly inappropriate proxies for the woodland tribes. I opted for Italeri’s Indian Warriors set (HERE).
These figures are designed for the American War of Independence, thus they are a bit more “woodsie” than what would be considered appropriate for War of 1812 Indians. Nevertheless, this set contains a nice mix of poses and a goodly number of musket-armed troops. There is also a fellow wearing a jacket (either booty or a gift), who would make a good Tecumseh figure.
There are a number of options for regular British troops, as well as Fencibles. HaT’s Peninsular War British Napoleonic box was my choice because it had almost all useful poses and came with 92 figures (HERE).
These fellows wear the stove-pipe shako hat common in 1812. This was eventually replaced by the Belgic shako in 1813 (although it is unclear how quickly this happened). If you are keen on the Beligic shako, the Revell’s British Infantry is a good choice (HERE). Each of these sets also includes enough officer figures to populate command stands.
For artillery pieces, your best bet is likely Revell’s British Foot Artillery (HERE). I was never able to source this kit and I ended up using HaT’s 1805 French Artillery set (HERE). The artillery crew are from the Imex Mexican Artillery at the Alamo set as are the smaller cannon from that same set (HERE).
The Hat 1805 French set looks nice but was a bear to put together, as each cannon comprises 8 pieces of soft, bendy plastic. Loctite plastic cement will hold the pieces together. Yet, like all forms of crazy glue, Loctite has weak shear strength. The bendy nature of the plastic made for lots of shearing forces during assembly.
Canadian militia groups can be drawn from a couple of different sets. The Sedentary Militia of Upper Canada (now Ontario) can use figures from Imex’s Alamo Defenders (particularly the men in top hats) (HERE). From what I can tell this unit had red jackets, but uniforms were pretty mixed in their first year. The field shortened jackets and mixed head gear reflect this.
The Sedentary Militia of Lower Canada (now Quebec) can be drawn from Imex’s Alamo Defenders set (those in soft caps) (HERE). There is no authoritative guide to what these fellows would have worn—likely their regular clothes. My own paint scheme was something halfway between courier des bois and Bon Homme.
There was not much cavalry in the War of 1812. The British 19th Light Dragoons can be modeled using HaT’s King’s German Legion Light Dragoons (HERE).
Provincial Light Dragoons (which I have not bothered to model) can be recreated using the mounted figures from Airfix Waterloo Horse Artillery (HERE). I found this set to be elusive, and eventually just gave up.
Regular American troops can be created by thoughtful painting of figures from a variety of sets. I’ve used Imex’s Alamo Mexican Infantry (HERE). This is a nice box with few unusable poses. The head gear might not be perfect but they’ll do.
I also used HaT’s Netherland’s Militia and Belgian Infantry set (HERE). This is a particularly useful box, although there are not a lot of poses. But they are all useful to gamers.
Blue jackets are the norm among the re-enactor photos I have seen. I would expect that there was quit a lot of diversity in the field (including some browns and greys), but I decided to go with uniform colours to distinguish which units belonged to which player on the tabletop.
Imex’s Mexican Artillery at the Alamo set also yielded some useful artillery figures and smaller cannon (HERE). I swapped some of the cannons with larger ones from HaT’s French 1805 artillery set (HERE). The “American” gun crews are actually French, from the HaT set.
There are several useful sources for American militia. Airfix’s American Civil War Confederate Infantry set look the part and are still good sculpts, despite being first manufactured in the early 1960s (HERE). Painting some in an eclectic mix of colours, and others with a degree of uniformity, allows you to differentiate less and more organized militia units.
Figures from Imex’s Alamo Defenders set can also be employed in this regard (HERE). The men in the top hats can be used for Pennsylvania Militia, while the fellows in soft caps can be used as generic militia.
Accurate’s AWI American Militia set (re-released by Revell) comes with a number of fellows in buckskin and homespun, although you will need to set aside the those in tri-corns (HERE). I have used some of these fellows as frontier-type militia.
Others I have used as dismounted dragoons with some spare horses from Italeri’s AWI British Light Cavalry set (HERE).
The majority of the battles of the War of 1812 were fought around the Great Lakes. This is relatively rough country (as compared to European battlefields of the Napoleonic era), with a good mix of trees, rocky slopes, small streams and bogs, and small open or cultivated areas. I normally use coloured felt to denote the area of terrain and some moveable terrain pieces (e.g., stands of trees) to facilitate unit positioning within the terrain. I’ve constructed a number of terrain items specific to the War of 1812. I was most happy with my British camp scene, where two privates guard a pig pen (“imperialist pigs!”). The pigs are from an Imex American Pioneers set (HERE), while the soldiers are extras from a Revell British Rifles set (HERE).
The Imex American Pioneers set also yielded some cattle and a herdsman, which occasionally can identify a geographic objective in the game.
A mass of Imex Pioneer figures, and their Conestoga Wagon, set gave me an encampment of civilians (HERE). The wagon is a bit out of period (cough, cough) but was the only wagon I could find locally.
There are a number of books that provide useful guides to painting uniforms worn by the participants of the War of 1812. For beginners, Stuart Asquith’s The War of 1812: A Campaign Guide to the War with America, 1812-1815 is a good place to start (HERE). Although pricey, it contains an overview of the war with some discussion about the different troop types and about 90 colour plates. This book should not be confused with Asquith’s Scenarios for the War of 1812-1815 booklet, which is less costly, but less useful and repeats much of the same material. Osprey Publishing also offers a number of books that include colour plates and information useful as painting guides, including The United States Army 1812-15 (HERE) and British Forces in North America 1793-1815 (HERE). My own approach is not to sweat the specific details of each uniform too much. Rather, I have painted units by unit type (e.g., British regulars in red, irregulars in a mix of clothes). This reflects that the more abstract rule sets I prefer, tend not to worry too greatly about the identity of any particular unit,
Scenarios and Rules
There are many rule sets that are designed (or can be used) for the War of 1812. For skirmish games (up to 100 figures, each representing a single soldier), Iron Ivan games produces an interesting ruleset called This Very Ground. Although designed for the French-Indian War, I’ve found this set works reasonable well for the War of 1812 (HERE). Iron Ivan has also produced some free supplemental rules addressing cavalry, artillery and boats.
For element-based games (where a multi-figure base of troops represents a unit of men), my current favourite is Maurice, by Sam Mustafa (HERE). Although designed for an earlier period, we’ve found it works quite well for the War of 1812. The Perfect Captain has also produced the free Cousin Jonathan set of rules (HERE). Gamers who like hex-based games (e.g., Memoir ’44, Battlelore), may wish to consider Worthington Games’ For Honor and Glory. Although no longer in production, the manufacturer has posted the rules online and it can be easily miniaturized (HERE).
Rockets Red Glare (by the Canadian Wargames Group) can be a bit hard to find these days but is a useful source of scenarios for the War of 1812 (HERE). Gamers interested in running campaigns may wish to consider board games such as Columbia Games’ War of 1812 (HERE) or Academic Games’ 1812: The Invasion of Canada (HERE) as campaign engines: where small battles are resolved using the board game engine and larger battles are resolved using miniatures.
The War of 1812 is one of a handful of wars to have occurred exclusively in North America. For American and Canadian gamers, this often means it is relatively easy to walk the battlefields spanning across the continent. Although the war is often overshadowed by other conflicts, the latter demographic remembers well their victories in holding off the invasions of Canada, something the former have nearly all but yet forgotten. But the 200th anniversary has yielded a spate of new histories. For those new to the Napoleonic era, the relatively few and small battles of the War of 1812 make it a manageable miniatures wargaming period to get into; particularly using low-cost, 1/72-scale plastics.
Article written by: Bob Barnetson
About Bob Barnetson
Bob Barnetson is a professor and historical miniatures wargamer in Canada. He also maintains a blog called “Bob’s Miniature Wargaming Blog".
Forum username: bobbarnetson
Direct email: email@example.com
|18 AUG 2012 at 3:10pm|
Posts : 223
Joined: 16 JUN 2007
Status : Offline
Great article! Inspires me to want to do something with these 1/72 scale "soldiers" I played with as a kid.
|19 AUG 2012 at 4:21pm|
Posts : 6183
Joined: 8 MAY 2001
Location: AT, 3D
Status : Offline
Although these are not the Revell, Airfix (although Airfix figures can be shocking) and Italeri figures I collected as a kid. HAT figures do not look as nice imho 1/72 figures body proportions still look a lot better than the usual metal hobbits from larger scales.
Also the numbers you can get on the field is great.
at 1/72 it is still possible to get great detail into your figures also.
The boxes are also cheap. You can actually get more than a skirmish sized force with a couple of bob.
If it was not for computer games this is probably what I would be doing
Have you ever used house of campaign 1/72 figures? They look nice from what I see on the interwebs. Perhaps these figures are actually "a call to arms" brand. http://www.acalltoarms.co.uk/172_2.html
P.S. I have to ask. Why did the USA invade Canada?
Last edited by destraex : 19 AUG 2012 4:43pm
|20 AUG 2012 at 7:36am|
Posts : 1
Joined: 18 JUN 2012
Status : Offline
Thanks for your comments guys.
I haven't seen A Call to Arms figures in person (hard to get from my supplier). The quality of HaT varies depending upon the sculptor. This is true to all manufacturers (e.g., Italeri AWI Americans are awful) but the huge range of haT figures means more sculptors and this more variation. The good news about HaT is that they seem to understand that gamers are important customers so the number of non-combat poses is minimal.
I'm not sure there is a single cause for the American invasion of Canada (seeking free health care?  but wikipedia gives a reasonable overview of the various international and domestic factors that lead to the invasion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812#Reasons_for_the_war
|21 AUG 2012 at 11:44am|
Posts : 9
Joined: 5 JUN 2012
Status : Offline
I too have a mad hair brained 1/72nd project, that I've been doing for a few years now.
Copyright ©1995-2013, Wargamer Ltd. All rights reserved in the United States and throughout the world.
All other products and copyrights mentioned on Wargamer Ltd are the property of their respective companies, and Wargamer Ltd makes no claim thereto.