A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Engineer and the Coffee Table

I am still exploring the possibilities for providing my British Peninsular army with some engineers and sappers for their siege activities, as discussed in a recent post. I have had some very interesting and useful suggestions, for which thanks to anyone I haven’t thanked already. I’ve looked at some plastic ACW engineers, which were interesting but not quite suitable (primarily because of that physique thing – 1/72 plastic models are mostly wonderfully sculpted, but they also seem to represent a race of men with skinnier build and smaller heads than 1/72 metals), and the latest suggestion – from Rod – is the Art Miniaturen set JS72/0468, Napoleonic Austrian engineers, for which I have reproduced Herr Schmaeling's  catalogue picture at the top of this post. I’ve ordered some of these. I reckon a man in a shirt is a man in a shirt, regardless of nationality, though I may feel the need to carve off the odd moustache.

I think the aforementioned Finescale Factory French pontonniers which I have in the Spares Box may also switch sides and join the Brits – still thinking about this – and I have been offered some weaponless British infantry who should lend themselves to odd-jobbing and landscaping. One thing I haven’t got a source for is someone like this...

This is the only depiction I’ve ever seen of a British engineer from this period in serious working kit. The drawing is by Richard Scollins, and comes from a book I have which has an unjustly chequered past.

The book is shiny, big format. The edition I have comes from Book Club Associates, and the whole production is very obviously that most uncomfortable of things, a Coffee Table Book [gasp]. You know the sort of thing – lots of nice pictures and not much detail. A book about sieges for people who really couldn’t care less. You just know that the well known print of Major Ridge of the 5th climbing the breach at Badajoz will be there and – sure enough – there it is. My lack of enthusiasm is evidenced by the fact that I unsuccessfully tried to unload it on eBay – twice, I think. No takers.

Well, in fact the book is not bad at all, once I got around to having a proper look at it. If anyone else is selling it on eBay, it's worth a modest bid. It contains some good stuff on artillery and engineering and all the unglamorous bits of sieges, and there are a lot of illustrations I’ve never seen anywhere else. So – credit where it’s due – I regret having previously rejected this volume – it’s fine. It even has some good pictures of British 10-inch howitzers, and you can’t get more specialist than that.


  1. I have that book actually - never cracked the cover as I got it on a trip to Hay on Wye where many other books were bought.

    I've always wanted to do a siege, but I think it's the sort of thing that lends itself to a map game rather than figures.

    1. You think what? Gosh, if I'd known that, I'd never have started playing siege games. Not to worry...

  2. Uwe has produced some SYW Prussian sappers that might serve, see Hagen Miniatures website, and seeing the pic of Brit sapper with I presume one of his wife's hair rollers takes me back in time to when I got a right rollicking for nicking my late mother's ones to make gabions

    Map for siege game, NO WAY, figures only, you can have some great small scale actions, besieged attacking siege works etc
    cheers Old John

    1. Hi John - thanks for that - I've had a look at the SYW Prussian chaps - interesting. Funny trousers? No trousers??

      Siege games - I've been doing them as a paper exercise during my campaign, simply because the time scale doesn't work with an ongoing campaign - can't have the table tied up for months! Also, what happens if second siege occurs at the same time? - then we are knackered.

      The miniatures-game sieges which I've played owed a lot to Chris Duffy (with frills, naturally, to cope with a lack of an umpire - especially for mining activities) and worked pretty well. Really just needed some tweaks to balance the game better. Clive put a good slideshow on his blog after some of the early testing. In those very early tests, mining was so effective that it wasn't worth wasting all that time bombarding (slight exaggeration...)!

      As I am typing this, the doorbell just rang, and here is my parcel of Austrian engineers from Art Miniaturen, Special Delivery. I'd better check them...

      Cheers - Tony