To begin with, I’m not too sure exactly when I became interested in the War of the Spanish Succession. It was definitely while I was at school, at the height of my Napoleonic interest. It might have been after a visit to the Tauranga library where I picked up the Osprey on Marlborough and a book on biographical dictionary of military leaders (both of which I now incidentally own). Certainly it was the period costume that attracted me first – those large cuffs, and tricorne hats – and then a bit of reading about the campaigns of the great duke himself. In my first year at uni I read every book that the library had on Marlborough – Correlli Barnett’s illustrated biography being particularly evocative, but also George Malcolm Thomson’s biography, Winston Churchill’s biography and David Chandler’s works. There was also a biography of Eugene, and a double volume set on the Wars of Spanish Succession which is no longer there and unfortunately I cannot remember who the author was. At any rate, the Marlburian period quickly became my number one pre-modern interest, even overtaking the career of the Emperor Napoleon himself.
So what do I like about the Marlburian period so much? Well, first of all there is the great Duke himself, one of the greatest commanders of all time, and certainly a much under-rated figure. Many people point to Eugene as the true genius of the period, and Napoleon mentioned studying the campaigns of Turenne and Eugene, but was silent on the Duke himself. I’m not sure if this effect is the direct result of a continental unwillingness to acknowledge an Englishman as a great captain. Certainly Wellington is a much more famous character in world history. Or maybe it is a result of the English political system that destroyed Marlborough at the peak of his powers? Whatever the reason, even a cursory examination of the Duke’s camapigns will lead one to conclude that here was truly a tactician and strategist the equal of any other of the great captains. Alongside Marlborough himself, there are of course other great generals and interesting figures, such as Eugene, Boufflers and Villars, and Berwick. And of course, the shadow of Louis XIV hangs over everything.
The second thing is the warfare itself. The tactics were linear and simple and truly a wargamers dream. No need to worry about where to deploy skirmishers or exactly how they operated – they didn’t (we’ll leave Dragoons and piquets aside from the big battles)! Even the sieges are interesting in a formulaic sort of way. The big 6 – Blenheim, Turin, Ramillies, Almanza, Oudenarde and Malplaquet are truly interesting battles, and the bookmarks – Zenta and Belgrade – give a dollop of eastern flair. And on that note, the Great Northern War, raging at the same time threw up personalities such as Karl XII and Peter the Great, as well as some stunning battles. And because of the linear tactics, the barttles always look good o nthe battlefield – especially battles with lots of units!
Third is the look and the ‘feel’ of the period. Something about the costumes worn and the society that existed (high and low) really enthralls me. My interest in the First World War is also in this vein.
So, in essence, this is whay the Age of Marlborough appeals to me. But why game it in 10mm, as opposed to 15mm or 28mm? Well, for a start, I was keen to splash out on extravagant amounts of Front Rank figures. These are truly beautiful sculpts, and I’d recommend anyone considering the period in 28mm to go with this company. Unfortunately, between the postage from the UK and my limited budget on account of a new baby, this was not going to be viable. I wanted mass in my battles, and i wanted it before 2025!
15mm appealed, but was discounted on a couple of factors. First, that no 15mm range really excited me, at least not for the money that it would cost, and second was the simple fact that I treat 15mm figs like 28mm figs when it comes to painting. I like to paint eyes on them. This means that large armies of 15mm figs would be exceptionally time consuming. How about 6mm then? I bought a starter pack of Irregular figs, but they were too small. So then it was that I decided to go with Pendraken 10mm.
There were several positive factors in Pendraken’s favour. First of all, I could get them from Caliver Books, which meant that postage was not going to be a factor (free figure delivery worldwide on any order over 10 quid). Secondly, they are very nice figures with enough detail to paint up very prettily if you want, but can be churned out quite quickly with good effect if you are looking for mass. Thirdly, 10mm is the scale of the Warmaster Ancients rules, which Dan and I had just decided to get into. Having played a Warmaster Fantasy game, I was suitably impressed with the mechanisms and their crossover potential to go with a conversion of the rules for Marlburian.
So scale decided, the first 12 battalions for each side and 9 cav have been purchased and are ready to paint. This will be expanded, probably threefold in the end, but not until I’ve actually finished painting what I’ve got. Because this is really a solo project, as Dan doesn’t share my love of the Horse and Musket era, I’ve decided to do it in between units for other projects. Hopefully this will break up painting on other projects and keep me fresh. The odd marlburian unit will make its appearance here from time to time. Next on the list is a French infantry battalion.
In this close up photo the painting doesn’t look great – and that’s because it isn’t. I’m not painting these figs to satisfy the painter in me – that is what 28mm are for! No, these are for gaming, and so the painting philosophy is put the right colours in the right place and go for the three feet perspective (they will be viewed from three feet when people look at the table). One thing that I may do is try more blacklining to make things stand out, althoug I often feel that this leads to too much black on 10mm figs.
Below is my first unit for Warmaster ancients – Byzantines. These figs are Magister Militum, and I think I’ve used the black undercoat to better effect here:
To try to capture the 3 feet look, here is my one finished foot regiment with my one finished cavalry regiment:
Next on the list are some pirates, but I’m about to start back teaching again, so painting may take a back seat over the next couple of weeks. For that reason the blog is likely to contain more writin than pictures in the near future.