Forward into the past with SPI Wargame Miniatures

I was going through some old (very old) SPI era Strategy and Tactics magazines when something familiar and yet unfamiliar struck my eye.  15mm Napoleonic miniatures attached to wargame counters, played on a blown up paper hex map, as pieces.  Apparently this was a real product for sale at some point in the distant past– called SPI WARGAME MINIATURES.  I can find absolutely nothing about it on my go-to reference sites like Boardgamegeek and Web-Grognards.   I am almost old enough to have seen this in a store, but I have no memory of ever seeing it for sale or played.. anywhere.   I kind of doubt it was popular, in retrospect.

SPI's Wargame Miniatures

SPI's "Wargame Miniatures" Ahead of their time?

Now that’s an interesting juxtaposition of my two favorite hobbies, years before Battle Cry made it on the scene.   It’s interesting that SPI tried to make this work, to create a mini-boardgame fusion, as it were, years ahead of time.  The practice is quite common with publishers nowadays, of course, but using colorful plastic bits.

SPI Wargame Miniatures deployed on table

SPI Wargame Miniatures deployed on tabletop

Looking at this old ad copy it seems somewhat evident by modern standards that this was a clumsy first step on SPI’s part.  They are selling the beauty and tactile sensation of Napoleonic miniatures (in this case, Heritage 15mms), yet their ad copy is black and white and the miniatures remain unpainted.  I doubt that this ad set the world on fire with enthusiasm.  In addition, the miniatures appear to be mounted on cardboard chit counters, so it is clear that the only purpose they have is to represent a much larger formation, as a wargaming chit in 3d.

SPI Wargame Miniatures

SPI Wargame Miniatures, what you get...

SPI didn’t have a good idea of what to do with miniatures, it seems.  Really, these are just cardboard pieces using little statues to illustrate the unit type.  And the pieces don’t even seem to be fitting on the map very well.   Still, for what they are trying here, it seems almost.. modern.  I never really played with Heritage 15mm Napoleonics much myself.  They were a pioneer in the early days and went under some time in the 1980s.

From what I can determine, there were two SPI WARGAME MINIATURES  sets, Wagram, and the Battle of Nations (Leipzig).  The Wagram set came with 98 miniatures, 47 French and 52 Austrian.  The Battle of Nations box contains 99 figures- 35 French, 26 Russians, 14 Austrians, 3 Swedes.   Each set also had a standard wargame map blown up substantially to fit the troops upon.

I have no idea what the box looked like.. I never saw SPI WARGAME MINIATURES played.  I would be interested to hear from people who have.

(later edit: if you search for “Napoelonettes” from Heritage, you can find a few examples of how the product was packaged…)

The Boxed Product: Search for "Napoleonettes" instead of SPI Wagram.


3 responses to “Forward into the past with SPI Wargame Miniatures

  1. dennis largess

    Walt, if my sludgy memory is correct, this was mostly the results of Duke Seifried trying to expand Heritage’s market by trying to make a crossover with boardgamers.
    Duke was chief salesman at Heritage and the Napoleonettes line was not growing, so he suggested this to someone at SPI. At this time, SPI flat box games were in upscale places like Brentanno’s, so a tie in could lead to a whole new class of miniaturists. I think Red Simondson, the artistic director of SPI, hated the idea. That is why the photos are so blah! He had to produce them, but had no confidence in the idea.
    Pretty certain that if they had used some of Duke’s well painted figures, the idea might have been given a try by borderline boardgamers. As it was, I think the ad only ran for two or so issues, and then sank out of sight, like a “lead zeppelin”.
    Bear in mind that the original Strategy&Tactics included a lot of miniatures articles. The first issues had an ongoing game on “The Siege of Bodenburg”, and Ray Johnson had a regular column on miniatures.

  2. And how the hell were you supposed to STACK your counters with minis on them?? I wonder how long someone tried to play before discovering that little bugaboo.

  3. Chris Johnson

    Stacking wasn’t an issue, as that series of games allowed only 1 unit per hex. I bought both sets, but never got around to painting them up.