Generic Wargame ArmiesPosted: August 31, 2014
An example of the extreme viewpoint is illustrated by a wargamer of my acquaintance who refused to buy a particular figure from a manufacturer (I think that it was a Prussian Napoleonic Fusilier of 1815) because the 15mm-scale figure was wearing an item of uniform that was supposed to have been withdrawn from service two or three years earlier. This seemed a bit extreme to me, and when I asked whether or not obsolete items of uniform might have still been in service even though they were supposed to have been withdrawn, I was subjected to a long diatribe about the need for absolute accuracy. To that wargamer wargame figures in accurate uniforms were essential for their enjoyment of the hobby.
I do think accuracy is important … up to a point. For example I would not expect to see Pzkpfw V Panther tanks rolling across the French countryside in 1940, but I would not be desperately upset if I saw a 1945 model of a Pzkpfw V Panther tank on the tabletop during a re-fight of the Battle of Kursk. (I know that there are quite a few wargamers who – having read this far – are now foaming at the mouth and giving serious consideration to tarring and feathering me at the first opportunity that arises!)
In my little world my wargame figures represent what I want them to represent, and as long as they are vaguely correct when seen from about three feet away, I am happy. This has meant that I have been able to use my collection to fight a variety of battles from periods and wars that would otherwise have required me to paint a lot more figures than I would ever have been able – or inclined – to do.
Military fashion has been of great help to me in this. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars – and to some extent during it – every nation seemed to copy each other’s uniforms. Only the colours used were markedly different, although dark blue does seem to have been used by a lot of countries. By the middle of the nineteenth century French military fashion set the trends, and almost every nation – with the exception of Prussia and those countries that followed their lead – was dressed in similar uniforms. After the Franco-German War of 1870-71 the trend moved away from French military fashion and more towards Prussian/German styles.
The growth of colonial warfare also led to greater uniformity, and by 1900 most countries had colonial armies that were clothed in brown/khaki uniforms when on active service. Even the uniforms worn within Europe became drabber, with only the French – and the countries that followed their military fashions – retaining any significant colour in their field uniforms. Even their colonial opponents tended to wear similar clothing to each other, and my North West Frontier tribesmen – who wear an off-white tunic and trousers with a white or coloured turban – have seen service as Mahdist riflemen and Turkish irregulars.
By the end of the First World War most of the Allied countries were wearing drab-coloured uniforms, and they set the trend for the next twenty years or so. A figure in French uniform (i.e. Adrian helmet and long overcoat or tunic) can be used to represent French, Belgian, Polish, Russian, Yugoslav, Greek, Romanian, and Italian troops without difficulty (only the colour of the uniform might vary from country to country), whilst a figure in British uniform (i.e. British-style steel helmet and tunic) can be used to represent British, US, and Portuguese troops. Even figures in German steel helmets present opportunities for wargamers who are not uniform purists, and could be used to represent German, Polish, Finnish, Irish, and Chinese troops.
This is by no means a definitive list, and it strikes me that if other wargamers took my less purist attitude to the uniforms their wargame armies wear they could get a lot of use out of them.