Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Grant's "Ancient Battles" and a data dump...

It struck me the other day that I've been on a bit of a War of the Spanish Succession drive just lately - it's the way it sometimes goes, of course, you just get enthused, and the more reading and researching you do the more the period sucks you in... Bearing ever in mind the words of that wise wargamer on the Old School Wargaming group however, that interest is kept burning bright by painting and researching in all your wargaming periods and projects this post is a little more diverse... :o))

First off then a book review - you may remember some time ago that I mentioned I had managed to get a copy of Charles Grant's "Ancient Battles for Wargamers" at a very reasonable price on eBay, well, I've just finished reading it, and a lovely read it is as well...

If you've been in wargaming for a while you may remember the series of articles Charles Grant (the senior in this case) did in Military Modelling on the great battles of ancient times and how to recreate them on the table top. This book is a gathering together of all that diverse information, edited, updated, and with some entirely additional information added.

The book was first published in 1977 (in what I think of as the golden age of wargaming - not that it's rubbish these days!) and is 111 pages long. It comprises chapters on the battles of Kadesh, Marathon, Granicus & Pydna and in addition, there are separate chapters on some noted military units/soldiers of the period, in this case the Greek Hoplite, the Immortals and the Thracian's.

For me, whose interest in the Ancient period is now only a secondary one (ie. I own a few DBA armies which are very rarely used, and back in the day used to have Samurai and Early Indian WRG 6th Edition armies of about a 1000 points..) the best chapter funnily enough is the first one. The chapter on Kadesh is gripping and has huge possibilities for a scenario or game in other periods - the other battles are much more straight forward.

The accounts of the actual battles don't provide any surprises - and in these days of the "interweb", is easily obtained from many sources, the best bits of course are the calculations on how Grant worked out how to transfer the battle to the table top - scenery, and figure numbers etc. My perception is that he often used the tried and tested "finger in the air" technique when the sources were in doubt! He also uses the "figures to table" relationship to work out numbers - for example, if he knew that a piece of scenery covered a specific area rather than getting tied up in real numbers he works out how many figures could fit in the space and works everything out from there - an excellent idea in my view.

The chapters on the soldiers/units are (I think) of less interest - but they do have some snippets of interest, and even I remember the endless discussion in Slingshot (the journal of the Society of Ancients) about exactly what a romphaia was which he touches on...

All in all - a good read, and a necessary part of anyone's classic wargaming library. 6 or 7/10 I think...


Next by way of a "data dump", I need to let you know about a couple of web data sources I stumbled across this week that definitely had me stirred up...!

You'll be aware that one of my great joys when painting figures and presenting them here is to also do research into commanding offices, battle honours, history, etc. Well check out the following...

First - For the British forces in my various projects, simply the best web site used to be I say used to be, as some time ago it disappeared off the web with a statement on the web page saying it was "down temporarily"..... as weeks passed to months I gave up on ever seeing that information again, imagine my delight then, when I stumbled on this exchange on the Victorian Wars site Bottom line - you can download the entire website from here it's a 28Mb download but an absolutely key reference site for British land forces. I've already done it and I would urge anyone interested in British military history to do the same - we can't let this hard work go to waste.. (NB. Once you've downloaded it, you need to right click on the icon, select properties, and uncheck the "blocked" option - after that, just double click the icon)..

Second - Next the French - those of you with an interest in the Lace wars will probably know of the plates produced by the pairing of Lienhart and Humbert (of which the picture to the right is a sample). I first discovered them on one of the French army web resources, listed on my War of the Spanish Succession Project Page, but as time went on, I also discovered that they were one of Charles Grants sources for the two War of the Spanish Succession volumes he wrote for Caliver. Imagine my joy then when I found that these too are available as a download in their entirety from here

..and that's it for now - stay tuned for a squadron of French horse that were completed last night, battlefield research, a review of the upcoming "To the Redoubt" show at Eastbourne (the theme this year is Zulu Wars & Henry Hyde is doing a participation game which should be good fun), a campaign update, and hopefully a game report if DG and I manage to get together..


  1. Hey, thanks for the links. Great finds and I'm downloading them now!

  2. Steve,

    I downloaded the file (regiments.chm) but I have a Linux system and when I right click I don't see anything about blocked/unblock . . . . and my computer doesn't know what to open it with.

    Any thoughts?

    -- Jeff

  3. Jeff, take a gander here:

    for some Linux methods. I had to hunt for a CHM decoder to decompile it and open it. If you can't get it to work, let me know and I'll see about sending you the html files. Can you unzip stuff with a Linux system?

  4. Good to see you guys are playing nicely... :o))

    Jeff - I had a quick Google around and although I'm not au fait with Linux these looked helpfull??

    ...this one looks best though.

  5. Thanks for the help, Gentlemen . . . but I think that it may be too much of a hassle to bother with.

    I'm certainly not going to try it now (I'm dealing with an abscessed tooth -- and am zonked on a pain pill right now).

    I gather that the .chm format is a Microsoft tool to get away from .pdf files which can be used on any platform.

    My wife got so fed up with VISTA that we're having someone wipe it and get XP back onto her 'puter.

    Hmmm, I'm blathering, aren't I?

    Steve, please post some more interesting historical tidbits so that I can get my mind tracking. I do like your blog a lot.

    -- Jeff

  6. Jeff - try the Lienhart and Humbert files - they're an absolute joy to look at, and they're PDF's... :o))

  7. Steve thats a fantastic resource.

    thanks for posting it.

    John Preece