Alan and Michael of Perry Miniatures have long been known for maintaining an extremely high standard of excellence in the miniatures field. Indeed, wargamers from all over the globe proudly display various armies of these exquisitely detailed (toy) model soldiers. Half my own collection of wargame figures are made by the Perry brothers, and stand in high honour on my glass display cabinets.
However, in recent years I have been having a few problems. As one gets older (especially true of hardcore wargamers.. like me) you find it becomes more and more tedious to set up a full eight or ten foot long wargame table. These rare events tend to be left for club occasions and game conventions/shows. I guess I`m lucky if I get to play one of these full blown wargames once a month.. and this last year or so, even less. And so, even though I am pretty good at painting discipline, and have entire three English Civil War armies finished, plus my Liberty or Death American War of Independence, and my Zulu Wars all painted, based, varnished, and ready for action... and even though I have about half my Bolt Action WWII British, Americans and Germans finished and ready for the table... to physically cart these with me to the clubs, is hard. Nowadays, it`s an extremely rare thing to see me actually get them out and play a game with all of this stuff at home. It simply takes up too much space, takes an age and a half to set up, even longer to play, and... frankly, I`m too old, too achy nowadays to want to lean heavily over a frickin` huge five foot wide table for hours on end moving 28mm or 40mm troops about, until even the Paracetamol won't cut through the pain of my poor tired muscles.
This led me to doing three major massive culling sessions of a lot of my wargame and rpg games. Three major `must go` blitz attacks on my lifelong collection, in so many years. I don't tend to sell my stuff when I get rid of it. Maybe I`m crazy, but I usually give things to people I know will find a use for the items I choose for them. Makes me feel good, and more importantly, it does mean I can return a bit to the hobby in general (which has been so kind to me over the years, due to the generosity of others). It`s nice when I can hand over entire collections to people who will use them (not just "thank you very much" but have them gathering dust in a box).
But I digress. When I started playing with toy soldiers back in the 1960`s, when I was a kid, and later when I discovered proper wargaming in the early 70`s, I started with Napoleonics.. pretty much the moment I saw the epic "Waterloo" at the Cinema in 1970. The film had some awesome names to is credits: Rod Steiger as Napoleon, Christopher Plumber as the Duke of Wellington, Orson Wells as Louis XVIII, Jack Hawkins as General Picton, Virginia McKenna as the Duchess of Richmond, and Dan O` Herihy as Marshal Ney. I was 8 when I first saw this film on the big screen, and was hooked immediately (my Dad always encouraged me with history, even as a child.. bringing it alive for me in vivid colour of description). Suddenly I was spending all my pocket money on Airfix Napoleonic little plastic men. By the time I was 14 I had struck up quite a friendship with some of the greats of the time, writing to them endlessly with childish enthusiasm and annoying charm; so that by the time I was 15 (in 1977 - the beginning era of Punk Rock) I was invited to visit and have holidays with writers like George W Jeffrey, and Donald Featherstone. Long weeks at a time with these icons of the wargame world. My goodness they honed my appetite for more I can tell you. I am eternally grateful for their kind patience with an incessantly questioning youth with a deep appetite for knowledge.
Incidentally, same time as this was happening (and for some years after) Hils was messing in entirely different circles. She was a part of the early 2000AD comic book `gang` and frequently hung out with the guys from those iconic days of British greatness. I often wonder how things would have worked out had we known each other back then. Me a raving Punk Rocker (all zips and snot), and her, a ravishing beauty with an almost ethereal Pre-Raphaelite demeanour.
But in time, I left Napoleonics behind. I left Wargaming behind too.. and for many years to come. Due in part to having discovered Role Playing, in the form of Dungeons and Dragons, and its many imitators. Mostly though, I left wargaming behind because I had discovered a new phenomena in my life.... GIRLS.... Woohooooo!!!!! .
But the pull of gaming was never far away. Even in my role playing games, I had a love for the big battles and military style adventures. And I guess it was about the mid to late 80`s that I rediscovered, and rekindled my passion for wargames, and `the bug` has never left me since.
Anyway, back to now!
We live in a big old house which is surrounded by the (usually) mist shrouded, Puka filled mountains and Banshee cry, green grassy valleys of Southern Ireland. The house is too big for us now that all the kids have flown the nest, and we tend to rattle about like peas in a very large, rattling pod. Luckily, everyone seems to want big family homes right now in our area, and the fact we live high on our own hill which translated from Irish means "the place where Cuckoos are first heard in Spring." It overlooks an Iron Age hill fort and is altogether an idyllic spot. But this all does nothing for my hobby. We are selling it... putting the place on the market next year (once we have done some cosmetic paintbrush surgery and TLC on the outside and on the interior six bedroom walls). Meanwhile I have no grand games room: no massive sand table to call my own, and no way I can play full on wargames of the scale and grandeur I most desirously wish to pursue.
And so we return once more to Perry Miniatures. Once again they have come to my rescue. This time in the form of an early Christmas present. The second I spotted their new Travel Battle boxed set, I knew I wanted it: "pleaaaaaseeee?" I asked Hilary. And yep! she got it for me...... for Christmas. Yipeeee!!! but noooooooo!!!!! I wanted it now! Suffice to say, I, as only a husband can do best, wore her down, until eventually she let me have it..... NOW.
Travel Battle. Hmmmm, a bit of a misnomer of a name really. I would have called it "A complete wargame in a box, for the gamer who is restricted in space." It's neat, it's beautiful, and its complete. And best of all, it`s a game of generic battles fought in the age of Napoleon`s warfare.
The miniatures are 8mm, and are sublime. I`ve never seen anyone else make 8mm figures before and certainly not in plastic. A marketing ploy you might say? Not so, I reply.... Perry Miniatures sell all the box components separately, for anyone wishing to expand the experience beyond the box (which is exactly what I have done. At £3 a sprue, i.e. three quid for a complete new army, I don`t think even the most frugally minded gamer could complain at that financial drain).
Or you can buy new moulded plastic map boards for £14 each, which is GREAT value. These are superbly detailed I might add, and a nice lick of paint sits well on them The woods and building roof tops even lift off to allow you to put companies of soldiers inside.
The boards all fit the next one seamlessly, which ever way you turn them, making it possible to create an endless variety of battle fields.
So, I have me a game in a box. A complete, wonderful, small scale, generic Napoleonic wargame, with the scope and potential to play the grandest of battles, all on the size of a coffee table (or a tea tray if I want to play a small encounter). I painted both my armies (British and French - about 200 miniatures) in a single day, and Hils painted both my battle boards in a few hours on day two.
I immediately ordered more troops (less than five euro with postage) and now I have enough spare soldiers winging their way to me for me to be able to create an entire Prussian army (under General Blucher of course) , and a spare Brunswicker and Austrian one too.... Oo how about a regiment of The Kings German Legion while we are about it, maybe a few 95th Riflemen to keep Sharpe company. Add a few more maps, and I could literally fight The Battle of Waterloo on the same size as it might take to play an average game of Zombicide.
So, it`s quite amazing , really the tides of fate. As it is, I return full circle to my first ever love... wargaming in the Napoleonic era. Which suits me perfectly. No matter how much I enthuse about Doctor Who, Batman, Judge Dredd, Zombies, or any other imaginary genre of the hobby; my first love will always be historical. And as I have boxed up all my other historical subjects and projects... for now, until we move house and I am settled once again in the games room of my dreams: this new Travel Battle set will adequately meet all my needs in the more serious side of my hobby, the part of me where so much of my gaming passion resides. This may be small, but oh boy, this really is a complete diminutive hobby in a box with room to expand it as much as you want.... or simply keep it a game in a box. The choice is yours.
£50 well spent I think. Especially as Warlord Games are currently charging zero postage for this game to be delivered (in Britain and throughout most of Europe). And with individual components available separately (from Perry Miniatures themselves) at such reasonable costs, I think this game is an absolute winner for any gamer who has the occasional call to indulge in the historical side of the hobby. For me this all fits as a perfect accompaniment alongside my other Sails of Glory Napoleonic naval wargame).
Interestingly, the scale of the ship miniatures is almost spot on with Travel Battle too. Cool coincidence huh?
Suddenly, Napoleonic wargaming is within my grasp. I embrace it with a will. 1815 and Napoleon`s last campaign.. "The Hundred Day War" is the satellite I have chosen to focus on, and I have to say, even at this early stage of my new found delight, I`m having an absolute ball.
Article by Steve