Napoleonics, But Not As You Know It!

During the last weeks I experienced increasing tedium of painting medievals. After counting them, I realised that during the last six month I have painted 170 infantry and 60 cavalry for the El Cid project, not to mention a handful of sheep, goats and donkeys. Phew! I really need a break from Andalusians and Almoravids. So I decided to start a small side project.

For some time I wanted to use Sharp Practice for what it was actually made for, namely Napoleonics. I really love the rules – if asked for my favourite set of rules, I always mention them – and am curious to see how games work when shooting is predominant. At first, I was thinking of doing the Peninsular War, but I have to admit that I’m not that much of a Bernard Cornwell fan (gasp!) and the setting didn’t really grab me. Fortunately, researching the Wargaming Warrior Women project provided instant inspiration: I’ll be doing the Haitian Revolution!


I’m not the first to game this period: Oxiana on the Lead Adventure Forum had a very nice project and there was even an article in issue 277 of Wargames Illustrated. However, in contrast to those projects mine will – as always – be in 15mm.

I’ve already ordered some figures. Considering the popularity of Napoleonics, it’s harder to get appropriate figures than I thought. And I’m not talking about the Haitian Revolutionaries here, I’m talking about early, that is Revolutionary War period, British and French. I want to concentrate on the early phase, especially on the disastrous British campaign, which lasted from 1793 to 1799. Unfortunately, British overseas troops wore round hats and there are only a few of such figures out there – especially if you want some variety in the poses.

The friendly and knowledgeable chaps on the WD3 forum recommended using British Marines of the 1800s for the British troops. They had shorter coats than the 1790s infantry, but the Osprey on the British Forces in the West Indies says that there were regulations to shorten the coats for overseas troops, as this better suited the climate. So Minifigs Marines it is!


But what to use for the Black revolutionaries’ troops? Information about their uniforms is sparse. Some information can be found in the Osprey on Napoleon’s Overseas Army and the helpful Oxiana provided me with some uniform plates from his collection. We know that the Haitian troops used several styles and that there were contingents that were more regularly dressed than others. I concentrated on getting at least the headgear right, which consisted mostly of round hats. However, there were also bicornes and turban-like scarfs, so there is room for mixing different figures. After much toing and froing I decided to use a mix of different figures from Minifigs and Freikorps 15/QRF for the demi-brigades and Minifigs Spanish Guerrillas for the Militia.


In addition to the regular army, there were also bands of former slaves that often fought independently and had an even less uniform style. Fortunately, I discovered the Cimaroons by Grumpy’s Miniatures (distributed by East Riding Miniatures), which fit perfectly. I’ll mix them with some figures from the Peter Pig pirate range, which will also provide the female combatants mentioned in the sources.

There’ll be another post on the historical background and how it ties in with the Wargaming Warrior Women project. Meanwhile, I’m happily painting, making jungle terrain and looking forward to having a game. This will be a fun little project that provides lots of possibilities for small narrative skirmish scenarios.

Race Against Time… and the Odds

Last weekend it was time for another game of Wandering Star! We decided to play the ‘Race Against Time’ scenario, where five objectives are on the table and winner is whoever has achieved more of them after eight turns. I set up the table to represent a wilderness, with lots of difficult terrain and hills and woods blocking line of sight. This, as you will see, saved the day for me.

When we rolled for force composition, I was very happy to finally get a squad of RAPTS, my special forces. The figures are Chuhuac from Loud Ninja Games and every nerd’s secret dream come true – who doesn’t wish for dinosaurs with lasers!

Unfortunately, my happy grin faded fast when K. rolled two sixes in a row, according her a Kh’Lrion tank (from the Darkest Star Games Kickstarter), the most powerful vehicle in our game. As I didn’t have any anti-tank-weapons, I had no means whatsoever to stop that beast! At least I had some luck when we rolled for special events and a group of locals joined my force.

Set up.
Set up.

Set up saw the locals on my far left flank, keen to defend their settlement from the evil TCO forces, while my RAPTS were on my far right. I had the idea of using them to get to the objective on the far right as fast as possible and then try to stop K. getting there. My right flank Quar had the same plan, while my Auxies and the left Quar were very keen on keeping as far away from that nasty tank as possible.

Don't mess with us!
Don’t mess with us!

K. advanced with her Brunt and some Pasiphaeans on the right flank, covered by the tank. I kept out of its LOS and managed to get to both of the right objectives. After securing them, I headed back into cover and went on ‘Overwatch’, intent on preventing K. from achieving them.

A motley crew of locals rush forward.
A motley crew of locals rushes forward.

Meanwhile, on my left flank, my troops slowly advanced from cover to cover. The locals made a racket and fired wildly with their Blaster Pistols without hitting anything. At all. For the whole game. So much for enthusiastic volunteers. Undisturbed, the Pasiphaeans secured the objective located at the settlement.

Quar defend the objective.
Quar defend the objective.

On my right flank, K.’s Pasiphaeans were challenging my Quar, while her Brunt were charging right at the RAPTS. To my disappointment, the RAPTS’s fire was utterly inefficient – no doubt they were shocked being charged by gigantic anthropomorphic rhinos. The Brunt had a good run this game, dealing with the RAPTS without any problems and even succeeding in an intelligence test and securing one objective.

Brunt having a bright day.
Brunt having a bright day.

Up until now, I had managed to deny K.’s tank any target. She kept her vehicle rather stationary, covering her left flank and one objective that I really wanted to get… so I sent in the Quar. The poor brave Quar moseyed over to the strange alien flower and got into the LOS of the tanks cannon.

Quar heroics, futile again.
Quar heroics, futile again.

They stood no change against the barrage and I will spare you an image of the aftermath…

The game’s eight turns were now coming to an end. I had managed to secure 3 objectives, but K., who had rolled over my right flank, had 4, so she was the winner!

This was a very instructive game. First, it proved how important terrain set up can be: The terrain was very difficult for vehicles, offering only limited lines of sight and having many areas that were impassable to the tank. K. could have used it a bit more mobile, but there weren’t that many places she could have gone. And having it stationary and covering the flower made sure I wouldn’t get this objective. Secondly, the game also showed that, at least with the right terrain, even set ups that look extremely unbalanced on paper work well and are still exciting the play. Being up against the most powerful vehicle in the game without any chance of harming it was definitely an interesting challenge. My guys did ok, if I say so myself, even if I was disappointed by the RAPTS’s performance – next time, I expect the dinos to make mincemeat out of those puny mammals!

Female Gladiators

Logo_small“The same year witnessed shows of gladiators as magnificent as those of the past. Many ladies of distinction, however, and senators, disgraced themselves by appearing in the amphitheater.” – Tacitus, Annals 15.32

With Alex Buchel’s new game JUGULA all the rage, what would be more appropriate than to have a look at female gladiators? While today Roman gladiatorial games appear to be the epitome of manly combat, there were women who fought in the arena, as the citation by Tacitus attests.

The Halicarnassus relief, depiciting two female gladiators
The Halicarnassus relief, depiciting two female gladiators

Female gladiators (by the way, ‘gladiatrix’ is not a word used by the Romans, there was no special female form of ‘gladiator’) first appear in the sources in the late Republican and Augustan eras. We don’t know the number of women that fought in the arenas. In general they seemed to have been an unusual sight, though not as rare as one might expect. Descriptions of female gladiators are often used to illustrate the extravagant nature of an Emperor’s spectacles, such as in this citation from Sueton’s Life of Domitian:

“Besides he gave hunts of wild beasts, gladiatorial shows at night by the light of torches, and not only combats between men but between women as well.”

Some are used to comment on the depravation and excesses of Emperors, especially if noble women were fighting in the arena. It seems that what Romans found most offensive was not the confusion of gender roles – the authors had no problems with lower class women fighting as gladiators – but the upsetting of the social order. Anna McCullough has argued that the passage by Juvenal describing the training regime of a noblewoman aspiring to fight in the arena has to be understood in that light:

“What modesty can you expect in a woman who wears a helmet, abjures her own sex, and delights in feats of strength? […] See how she pants as she goes through her prescribed exercises; how she bends under the weight of her helmet; how big and coarse are the bandages which enclose her haunches; and then laugh when she lays down her arms and shows herself to be a woman!”

Noblewomen such as this wouldn’t join a ludi (school), as fighting for money would have been inappropriate for their status. However, lower class women might have entered contracts with a lanista (manager of a school) or sold themselves to a school because of debt.

What do we know about how they fought? Our only pictorial source is the Halicarnassus relief, which shows two women equipped as provocatores, a type of armament that was modeled after Roman legionaries. They have swords and shields, wear greaves and protective armour on the right arm, but have exposed breasts. The inscription says that the fight between ‘Amazon’ and ‘Achillia’ ended with a missio, which is something akin to a draw – both get a reprieve and may compete again. Furthermore, literary sources mention female venatores (fighters specialised in killing wild beasts) as well as swordfighters and even an essedaria, a female chariot driver.

A missio in a graffiti from Pompeji
A missio in a graffito from Pompeji

So there are plenty opportunities for including women in your miniature ludi. But what about figures?

There are quite a lot of female gladiators in 28mm out there. Foundry offers a broad range encompassing several types of female gladiators, as does Shadowforge. Both companies seem to prefer the topless look as pictured on the Halicarnassus relief. Old Glory have a small sample of different types (e.g. retarius and mirmillo) with more clothing, as does Black Hat. Steve Barber Models offers ‘Achillia’. The latter seem to be more on the side of true 25mm figures, so they might not mix with newer ranges. Recently Arena Rex had a Kickstarter funded for 35mm gladiators, some of them female, and although skimpy dress abounds they may very well fit in with the ‘official’ JUGULA range, which is also scaled at 35mm.

There exists an astonishing variety of 15mm gladiators. Mick Yarrow has several female ones. Highlander Studios has a female dimachaerus on offer and Rebel Miniatures has ‘Carolee’. A good resources for 15mm gladiators is the Irregular Wars blog, where you can also find useful comparison pictures of the figures.

For those preferring other scales, in 1/72 Pegasus has a pack of gladiators which also includes two female figures while in 54mm Irregular Miniatures has a selection of suitable figures.


Coleman, K.: “Missio at Halicarnassus,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 100 (2000), 487-500.

McCullough, Anna: “Female Gladiators in Imperial Rome: Literary Context and Historical Fact,” Classical World 101 (2008), 197-209.

Vesley, M.: “Gladiatorial training for girls in the collegia iuvenum of the Roman Empire,” Echos du Monde Classique 62 (17) (1998), 85-93.


Making Roads

Seems I am getting bold: After purchasing a terrain mat from Pieropablo, I wanted to experiment a bit with the technique myself. The plan was not so much to make my own mat (at the moment, I don’t have the space for that) but to make some terrain features.  There are some very helpful tutorials out there, the most inspiring being the one on Tobi’s Paint Pot and the discussions on the German Sweetwater Forum.

My experiment started with mixing unthinned acrylic paint with sand and slathering the mass unto a piece of felt. After letting it dry, I cut out a roundish shape and did a little bit of drybrushing. Ok, this seems to work! I had a decent wood base for our mediterranean games.

Let’s tackle something bigger. For some time now I wanted to build new roads. The ones I have are nice but a bit broad for 15mm medievals – they are scaled for 28mm (I bought them for the pirates) and look like highways with the small guys. There are a lot of different techniques for making roads out there, but I haven’t yet read something about mine, so here goes:

Take a piece of felt or other textile – mine was about 100x80cm. Some use artist’s canvas, but this is way too expensive where I live and the felt seems to work fine. With a permanent marker pen, draw on your roads. I used my 28mm roads as templates for the larger pieces and just freehanded meandering paths.


Fix the cloth to a surface. This is necessary to prevent shrinking when the acrylic dries. Think of turning it around so as not to slather the acrylic over your carefully drawn roads, as I almost did!

The next step is to mix a paste of acrylic – this time I used the sealant acrylic that is available for next to nothing at every DIY store – with paint and sand. Put on disposable gloves as it is going to get messy! Pour the mass unto the felt and rub it in. You can create different structures with your fingers, so do experiment a bit.


When this is ready, let dry for a couple of days to make sure the acrylic cures. You want to leave the stuff in a room you don’t have to use often because during drying acrid fumes emerge from the mass. When everything is properly dried, cut out the roads with scissors. A quick drybrush and a whiff of mat spray varnish and the roads are finished!


I’m quite content with how this worked out and already see many more possiblities. Next up are more wood bases and, who knows, maybe I will even try a gaming mat, provided I can make space to let such a large surface undisturbed for a couple of days.