Thursday, 28 March 2019

A Brief, Imprecise Guide To Armies Of The Wellsian Era & On Colonial Matters

In his new book of wargame rules entitled A GENTLEMAN’S WAR, Howard Whitehouse identifies the following attributes for several different armies:
  • Best Units
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
For example, he identifies the British Army's best troops are being Highland and veteran county regiments, whereas the Guards are seen to be well drilled Elite troops that are probably lacking recent combat experience. The British Army's strengths are identified as being:
  • Its tendency to be stalwart (i.e. resolute and unfaltering),
  • Its well-mounted cavalry
  • Its excellent marksmanship ... after 1902.
Its weaknesses are identified as being:
  • Its old-fashioned outlook
  • Its lack of a proper staff system
  • A persistent amateurism amongst its officers
The illustration on the back cover of A GENTLEMAN'S WAR. It shows British Guards and Artillery under attack by some rather depleted Russian Infantry. The use of a Victorian penny as a marker is a nice, historical touch.
In the chapter entitled A BRIEF, IMPRECISE GUIDE TO ARMIES OF THE WELLSIAN ERA, the following armies are covered in this way:
  • Britain
  • France
  • Germany
  • Austria-Hungary
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • United States of America
In the chapter entitled ON COLONIAL MATTERS, the following armies are covered in this way:
  • The Dominions
  • India
  • Egypt Before 1882
  • Egypt After 1882
  • Tropical Africa
  • L'Armee D'Afrique
  • L'Armee Coloniale
  • German Colonial Troops
  • The American Army In The West (1866-90)
  • Kingdom Of Afghanistan
  • Boer Free State
  • China
  • Desert Tribes
  • Mahdists
  • Mexico
  • North American Western Indians
  • Pathans
  • Zulus
That is a pretty comprehensive list, and any armies that are not covered above can easily be added using these examples as a starting point.


  1. Bob, thank you for posting this. I am hoping to get my copy through the post today or tomorrow and your info has whetted my appetite even more. As someone who has never really 'got' imagi-nations I'm very glad Howard has provided rules and lists for real armies. Best wishes, Anthony.

    1. Anthony Morton (Anthony),

      If you've enjoyed LITTLE WARS and FUNNY LITTLE WARS, I'm sure that you'll enjoy this book.

      All the best,


  2. Best of all, these are only suggestions of how the toolkit of attributes can be used. If you disagree for a given campaign or army, you simply use the ones that suit your judgement.

    I'm not sure about the Wellsian attribute that is so often applied to modern toy soldier games given that he was deadset against including chance when all of the new rules make much use of it and I accept that they all draw inspiration from Wells.

    1. Ross Mac,

      As proponent of the 'if you don't like it, change it to something you're happier with' school of wargame design, I like the idea that these rules are not written in stone.

      Both H G Wells and Fred Jane preferred combat systems that relied upon skill rather than chance, and such analogue systems have much to be said in their favour. These rules are Wellsian in flavour and style, if not content. For a modern set of rules that are more Wellsian in content, then I would recommend Paul Wright's FUNNY LITTLE.

      All the best,


    2. I have read and played it. Apart from the artillery fire there is still plenty of dice, morale checks etc. and the whole thing just didn't take my fancy. However, luckily I've never really craved a Wellsian game, I just enjoy the book!

      I find my inspiration in the various notes and comments in Lawford & Young's Charge! and their other writings about what matters on the table and why.

    3. Ross Mac,

      I don't know if I'll ever use the rules, but I've found the book enjoyable to read, and it has an appeal of the sort that CHARGE! (the first wargame book I ever bought) has. Reading it makes me want to wargame ... and I'm feeling quite frustrated that I'm in the middle of a project that is currently occupying much of my wargame table.

      When I was able to actually get down and play lawn wargames (my scoliosis and arthritis has stopped me managing to do that for some time; I can get down all right but cannot get up afterwards!). I enjoyed taking part in Wellsian games.

      All the best,


  3. Another fascinating and inspiring post Bob. Although I must chastise you for yet again adding to my "next book" purchase list! My bookshelves are already groaning with the weight of vital wargames tomes!
    I'm thinking of creating a Brexit wargame. The rules will ensure that no player gets what they want, no troops will perform reliably, and all players will be required to swap sides and allegiances at least once in the game. Obviously any alliances will be mandatorily broken every six turns, all orders must be written down, and then must be reversed after deployment! The aim is to frustrate and demoralise all players to the point of exhaustion. I think it should be a really brilliant game....

    1. Ken H,

      As a fellow buyer of books, I apologise for enticing you to buy yet another book ... but as a writer I must encourage you to do so, if only to keep a fellow write in funds!

      I like the idea behind the Brexit game ... but I understand that the design has already been patented by HP Fun and Games Unlimited.

      All the best,


  4. Enjoyed this informative posting. I've never really taken to colonial warfare as a game genre. Time was I would have been too biased in favour of the colonialists; these days too biased in favour of the colonised. Kinda puts a crimp in the enjoyment thereof.

    However, during my decades-delayed visit to family up north, I went with a friend to the Tawhiti Museum, near Hawera, Taranaki. Most of the exhibits deal with the social history of the region from Maori times, but with quite large exhibits of farming equipment. You should see the hedge cutters built from war surplus bren carriers! I have an idea that there was something fashioned from a Valentine tank as well, though if it was opn display, I overlooked it.

    Probably my main intyerest was in the displays on the subject of the Maori vs Maori 'Musket Wars', followed soon after by the Pakeha vs Maori 'Land wars'. If Mr Whitehouse were to list the strength and weaknesses of Maori in war, I reckon it would be an interesting list. Their main strength was field engineering; their main weaknesses disunity and lack of numbers.

    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      Colonial wargaming is like Marmite. You either love it or hate it.

      I happen to love it because of its limited nature and because - despite commonly-held beliefs - it is not always as one-side as it first appears. Hilaire Belloc may have been right about the Maxim Gun, ('Whatever happens, we have got, The Maxim gun, and they have not') ... but machine guns don't always work, and when they don't, things can go bad for the Europeans ('The sand of the desert is sodden red, — Red with the wreck of a square that broke;— The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke').

      The Maori Wars in New Zealand are not well known or understood outside that country; neither are the 'Musket Wars' and 'Land Wars' that followed. It certainly seems that the Maoris fought hard and were often more than a match for the Europeans facing them. Their use of fortifications was phenomenal when compared to some of the other indigenous peoples the Colonial Powers came up against, and they seemed to prove to be very difficult to overcome.

      I doubt that I will be able to persuade you to try Colonial wargaming ... but I suspect that you might actually enjoy it.

      All the best,


    2. I must admit, what I heard of Joe Morschauser's campaigns featuring a militant African Empire's resistance to European encroachment, intrigued me enough to dream up such a world featuring my ... erm ... Chromatic nations (Ruberia, Azuria and Grauheim), against the Empire of Nyeusi. Complicating matters I had a vaguely Islamic, and definitely piratical, coastal city state of Abyad. It never got beyond the concept, though.

      Maybe you can persuade my to revisit it!

      Perhaps if ESCI (or someone) reissues the Zulu and Muslim warriors. I have quite a few ESCI British and French foreign legion figures...

      I always liked the notion that deep within the jungle fastnesses of the Nyeusi Empire, lurked the hidden walled city of Morobar (or something)...

    3. Archduke Piccolo,

      That sounds far too good a starting point NOT to be developed further!

      I assume that the Empire of Nyeusi is a sort of mixture of Zulus and Arabs, rather akin to the mixture of Riverine Arabs and Sudanese black tribes in the Sudan, with Abyab being a basically Arab independent pirate/slaver city state.

      I look forward to reading more about this on your blog at some point in the future.

      All the best,


    4. Bob - You have come very close to persuading me. I had thought of Nyeusi as kind of Zulu on steroids, but Arab/Sudanese thing intrigues me and sounds like an improvement in plausibility. Abyad I did indeed think of as Arab pirate/slaver/traders, their centre being on the coast or maybe an island city just off the coast.

      The main thing holding me back, though, is all the other projects that are hanging fire right now. One of these is a General Townshend, Battle of Kuts action set about 40 years earlier, with yet another punitive expedition mounted by a Ruberian army in Medifluvia, against the hordes of Turkowaz...

      I did the maps and orbats last year, but never got around to staging the action. I was hoping to get 'Jacko' involved...


    5. Archduke Piccolo,

      I'm very pleased to read that my ideas have helped to encourage you to think about taking this project further.

      I like the sound of your punitive expedition in Medifluvia, and that sounds like a project that would be very worthwhile taking forward, and is the sort of Colonial action that I like. You only have to see how much fun I had all those years ago taking part in the Madasahatta Campaign to understand that.

      All the best,