Thursday, 22 March 2012

Wargaming: Nineteenth Century Europe 1815-1878

Just before I left home yesterday to go to lunch a book arrived in the post. It was Neil Thomas's latest wargames book, WARGAMING: NINETEENTH CENTURY EUROPE 1815-1878 (published by Pen & Sword Books [2012] ISBN 978 1 84884 629 6). I was able to read several of the chapters on the way to and from Central London, and this afternoon I have finished what remained.

One of the reasons I bought this book was because I enjoy wargames set in the mid to late nineteenth century, and as this book covered part of that historical period I thought that it would be of interest to me ... and it was.

The first chapter gives a historical overview of the period and examines the main elements of nineteenth century European warfare (e.g. political change, tactical developments, the changing nature of weapon technology). The following chapter then discusses how battles from the nineteenth century can be recreated on the tabletop, and this leads on to the third chapter which contains a complete set of relatively simple wargames rules.

Chapter four presents the reader with a series of potential generic scenarios that can be used (e.g. Pitched Battle, Meeting Engagement, Rearguard Action, Flank Attack, and the Minigame), and each scenario includes specific rules for that scenario. What I liked about this chapter in particular was the fact that Neil Thomas specifically designed the scenarios so that they could be fought on a 4' x 3' (120cm x 90cm) tabletop. (The exception to this is the Minigame, which is designed to fit on a 2' x 2' [60cm x 60cm] surface.) This is far more likely to be the space available to most wargamers, and he is to be commended for acknowledging this fact ... unlike many other wargame designers.

The following chapter is devoted to Army Lists, but unlike most other Army Lists, these have a degree of variability written into them, thus ensuring that opposing sides are not 'equal point' armies but are nonetheless reasonably balanced.

Almost the entirety of the rest of the book examines how historical battles can be re-fought on the tabletop. Scenarios, maps, and Army Lists are provided for the following battles:
  • Alegria (October 1834)
  • Oriamendi (March 1837)
  • Alma (September 1854)
  • Montebello (May 1859)
  • Oeversee (February 1864)
  • Rackebull (March 1864)
  • Nachod (June 1866)
  • Kissingen (July 1866)
  • Mars-La-Tour (August 1870)
  • Sedan (September 1870)
The book also has three appendices:
  • Bibliography
  • Figure Sizes, Scales and Prices
  • Useful Addresses
This book is not cheap (its published price is £19.99/$39.95) but it is a very useful primer for anyone who is thinking about wargaming this historical period.


  1. I like his stuff and he is a man after my heart as 'less is more.' I game on a 2' X 4' table as space is an issue. Bob ... Thanks for posting this ... Jeff

  2. Chasseur,

    My wargames table (it is actually two folding top tables pushed together) is 4' x 3' in normal mode, but it can be extended to 6' x 4' if required. As a result most of my wargaming is tailored to a small-sized table.

    What I liked about Neil Thomas's approach is that it is realistic in terms of what space most wargamers have available. It is a pity that some other wargame designers do not realise this when they are writing their rules.

    All the best,


  3. Bob,
    I got my copy today, too - but from Amazon uk, so considerably cheaper! Interesting that this book has been published in hardback, unlike the previous paperbacks, perhaps to conform to the trend set by Black Powder et al.
    I thought it was much better than his Napoleonic book: less potted history and useful generic and period specific scenarios that the previous book should have had.

  4. Arthur1815,

    I also bought my copy from Amazon, but I felt that - for the benefit of my blog readers - I ought to quote the price on the cover rather than what I actually paid for it.

    I agree with you that this is a much better book than his book about the Napoleonic era, and I can see myself going back to it again and again. The rules are not the sort of rules that I would normally use, but they do have a certain simplicity that makes them attractive.

    All the best,


  5. I eagerly await this book arriving at my door in the US! Any chance you could tell me a bit about basing (are units still 4 bases, are there different formations)? Any army lists for Risorgimento? I'd love to field some Garibaldini, Papal forces and Neapolitans....Thanks!

  6. Le Coq Fou,

    In answer to your questions:

    1. Infantry have four bases and two formations (Line and Column)
    2. Skirmishers have two bases that deploy in one rank
    3. Cavalry have four bases and deploy in two ranks of two bases
    4. Artillery has one base and can be either limbered or unlimbered
    5. There are Army Lists for the Austrian and Italian Armies in 1848-1849 as well as for the Garibaldini and the Neapolitan Army in 1860.

    Judging by your questions, I think that you might enjoy this book when it arrives.

    All the best,


  7. It's a very interesting period. I've often considered modifying Command & Colours to cover it.

  8. Conrad Kinch,

    I would have thought that the period up until 1850 would have only required a few minor changes to 'Command & Colors' to make them work very effectively indeed.

    All the best,


    PS. For some reason Blogger 'dumped' your comment into my blog's spam folder ... and I have only just found it!


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