Saturday, 22 August 2009

Humbrol Authenticards, and Progress!

These were a godsend for the indigent wargamer of 1975!

When I first seriously started gaming in Napoleonics way back in time, and I mean WAY back- 1975 or so- it was no easy matter for a boy of fourteen- with an allowance of $1.00 Canadian a fortnight- to find painting references for the buckets of Airfix miniatures (with a smattering of Minifigs) that I was using to game with.

The local library had a limited selection of illustrated books on the topic, and while specialist book stores carried some of the Blandford colour series, they were much too expensive for my limited budget.

Great was my adolescent rejoicing, then, when I came across the
Humbrol Authenticard series on Napoleonic uniforms at my local hobby store. These were cheap- a dollar each as I recall- and had illustrations by Norman Swales of the figures based on those in the Hinchliffe catalogue on on side, with brief written descriptions and basic facing colour charts on the other.

I have the whole series packed away somewhere at my parent's house in Vancouver, but when I came across these images of the cards that were for sale on eBay, it made for a great trip down memory lane.

For a newbie getting into Napoleonic gaming in 1975, compared to one wanting to do the same in 2009, things have changed. Some for the better, others for the worse.

In 2009, there is an absolute embarrassment of riches for the gamer; figures in every size and in a variety of sculpting styles, rules set after rule set after rule set dealing with every level of command and army size, and a huge amount of assorted information on Napoleonic uniforms and tactics in both print and on the Internet.

And that can be the deterrent as well- where to start? What figures and what rule set? How do I organize my units, and how do I base them? What are those guys with the funny plumes on top? And what IS Napoleonics, exactly?

There is in fact not a lot out there for someone getting started, and some of the comments on TMP, for example, are not exactly encouraging. Lots of criticism of general works on the topic, and a lot of prescriptive- and conflicting- advice on how to do it "properly". Many a commentator will say how a given source may be full of "dangerous" errors- but yet can not go on to recommend any -affordable- alternatives.

I say just point a newbie in the right direction; suggest some basic books that explain the difference between a
voltigeur and a Kurassier. Sure there will be errors, but basics are basics, and as our would-be Nappy enthusiast reads more and more, the greater the understanding will develop. And being of the species Homo Sapiens, chances are that he (or she) will be able to draw his or her own conclusions as the rest of us did.

The Humbrol Authenticards were not a comprehensive resource by any stretch of the imagination; the information was absolutely basic, with the focus being on the French, British and Prussians of the Waterloo campaign (some things never change!), but with a few token cards on the Russians and Austrians available as well.

But in addition to being motivationally eye-catching, the series presented essential information for the raw beginner in a way that was concise as well as being very affordable. The cards provided a starting point which allowed me some degree of firm footing from which to start climbing the mountain of information which is part and parcel of Napoleonic wargaming.

They served me well.

I suppose the nearest equivalents available now would be the Peter Bunde plates, or the excellent online resource which is the Mont St. Jean site.


On another note, some good news that may see me actually gaming again!

I was recently contacted by a long-term resident here in Tokyo who is also interested in historical miniatures gaming
, and who had found out about me after coming across one of my blogs. And as luck would have it, it turns out that he lives no more than a twenty minute walk from my house.

This bearing in mind that Tokyo is a huge, sprawling city of 12,000,000 inhabitants, with a handful of people having even so much as heard of the hobby. Such is coincidence and/or Karma- and further evidence of the value of having a blog.

Giovanni mainly plays Renaissance games using DBR and the excellent Venexia range of miniatures- and it is an era in which I also have a great interest. But he also expressed an interest in trying out Napoleonics, so it looks like I may be looking at doing a few DBN games at first, as this is a system with which he is familiar.

The start of a flourishing club here in western Tokyo if we're lucky!


Finally, It's been a productive period on the painting front here at Chez Stavka. Here is a shot of a completed voltigeur company.

And I finally painted up a mounted colonel for the command stand- M. le Colonel Claude-Julien St. Peur of the 1/28e Regt. Legere.

I still have to texture and paint the bases, but I'll do that all at once when the rest of the battalion has been finished. I've been making great progress on the centre companies this week, and have been working on cavalry too, so I can't complain about the way the hobby is going for me right now!

1 comment:

JAM said...

Another great editorial Robert. Being a pretty new wargamer (3 years), I would have absolutely welcomed a general introductory text to wargaming.