Tag Archives: Voltigeurs

Chosen Men. Maybe just the thing for all those 54mm Nappys


A long, long time ago, I used to keep a little notebook I’d take on work travel.  I’d just sketch things down in it, some fiction, and the occasional idea for a game.   Big Danged Boats came out of that notebook.  So did a bunch of other things that eventually saw the light of day.  One of them was an often visited, often alluded to project I called Voltigeurs and Riflemen.  This was a skirmish game I envisioned taking place during the Napoleonic era.  The units were single figures or small groups of up to four figures.

54mm British Riflemen, Peninsular War and Waterloo, Italieri, my collection

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

For my own reasons, I wanted the scale to be 54mm a figure.  I love this size for Skirmish games; they are easy to see and easy to handle, and the size forces the battlefield to be manageable on one table.  My original inspiration was an old book by Paddy Griffith called NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN.  It’s a fun book about several versions of napoleonic games that Mr. Griffith designed over the years.  Nothing I’d try these days, but one design I did really like was his version of a man to man Napoleonic game.  This really doesn’t happen very much in this niche of miniature wargaming.  Napleonics is for big battles, right?  Lovely uniforms, massed infantry formations, artillery batteries, cavalry charges with hussars ranked knee to knee, resplendent down to their pink piping and pigtails.

Well, sure it is.

Still, I often imagine what it’s like in that space in between where the big battalions meet and crash into each other.  There has to be a No-Man’s land where small groups of deployed skirmishers meet each other, for just a moment in time, before the big formations crash into each other.  For that glorious 15 minutes to half an hour, there should be a place on a Napoleonic battlefield where individuals continue to make a difference, where Skirmishers can attempt to pick off officers and sergeants, disrupting the enemy advance.   Such a game would have to move fast, represent individual soldiers by preference, possess command and control tracing back to individual leaders, and somehow represent the impact of that larger battlefield entering their little skirmish bubble during the course of the game.  Skirmishers, after all, were detached from larger companies.  Designated Light formations certainly could skirmish AND form formations.  British Rifle Companies lived in the skirmish zone, their entire purpose in life was to leap nimbly about, find cover and load their slow but accurate Baker rifles to harass, impede and otherwise disrupt enemy attacks by killing the chain of command from a distance.  Napoleon was not as firm of a believer in the rifle, but the Voltigeurs were also trained to screen an advance and act as elite marksmen for the French side of the field.  It’s when these two types of soldiers– the nimble, slow-firing Britons and the nimble, faster-firing but more inaccurate French, intersected as screens for the big attacks, THERE is where a man to man game of Napoleonic warfare makes sense.

The V&R rules (* Voltigeur and Rifleman) I came up with featured breaking a turn down into segments.  Again, this was heavily influenced by the Paddy Griffith book I mentioned above.  You rolled for characteristics of the soldiers in your company, just like a roleplaying game.  STR came in handy for giving more hit points and in melee, DEX allowed you to reload and aim faster and better, MOVE may allow a few more inches of movement more or less a turn, AIM was for firing, LDR was for Sergeants, Corporals, Lieutenants and Captains, and was great for Rallying, Moving men into and out of formation, and giving orders.  As Paddy G. had envisioned it, every action took a segment.  Where he and I parted ways was I thought he got a little too microscopic with his approach to actions and segments.  Picking up a ramrod was a segment.  Cocking a musket was a segment, attaching a bayonet a segment etc.

The “Action Chart” from Paddy Griffith’s ancient Napoleonic Man to Man Skirmish Game. This really impressed me when I was 15.

Every portion of the British Musket drill was broken down into segments.  I thought that was fascinating when I was 15 and read Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun for the first time, but as an adult, now I can see that that would make for a miserable game for modern tastes.  I didn’t have 30 years of experience back then.  I don’t think any player these days, especially convention wargame players, have the patience for such micro management of actions.  So, in fact, would V&R be miserable, as first I imagined it to be.  I streamlined the actions to six for muskets and eight for rifles, seven if taploading– and it still doesn’t play fast enough for me.

Detail from a rogues gallery spreadsheet with many V&R characters rolled up.

I have looked for smaller scale miniature games that might work– I have high hopes for Sharpe Practice by Two Fat Lardies (and purchased it!), but it appears to be maybe one scale size too large, and maybe a little too much for 54mm figures.  Great rules, though.. if I get a whole passle of 28mm Nappy figures, I’m going to be all in for this rules set.

 For 54mm scale, though, I needed a rule set that emphasizes individual actions, not group actions.  That’s why I started on Voltigeur & Rifleman– I still need something that’s relatively fast moving, and the V&R approach won’ t hack it without a lot of re-work and playtesting.

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

As I’ve covered in past blog posts, I tend to pick up most of Osprey’s “blue line” of wargame rules in a semi-desultory fashion.  Some of them are great, some of them are bad, and some of them are mediocre.  Since they are relatively inexpensive (for modern wargames, most of which tend to be hardbound and full of illustrations to drive the price point up), and even more inexpensive as Kindle publications, I usually put most of them on pre-order as Kindle publications and hardcover if it REALLY catches my eye.  Since this book came out nearly simultaneously with the release of ROGUE STARS*, I said “what the heck” and pre-ordered both in paper.  There’s always something entertaining in a Napoleonic skirmish rules set.  Wow, I’m glad I did.  Immediately, I can see there are many, many elements of what I am looking for in Chosen Men.  The average force size is 3 to 6 units of maneuver of 5 to 20 models each.  I would be reducing that.  The average gaming area will be 4 x 4 feet, I will be attenuating that and rifle/musket range or the riflemen will become ridiculously powerful.  Models have stat lines very similar to the ones I posted about in the illustration above, only it’s Melee (M), Resilience (R), Command (C), Wounds (W), Tactics (TAC) and Stratgy (STG).  Melee is personal fighting skill, with sword or bayonet, Resilience works like Constitution or “Toughness”.  Command is more like Morale in classic game design, as in being “In command, or capable of accepting commands”.  Wounds is self explanatory, Tactics is like “Action Points”, and Strategy is only used by Officers or Sergeants– used to get their units to do special actions, and there is a finite number of STG points.  Dice are all six-sided (I like this, but I don’t require it).  Actions are determined to be successful by performing checks against skills, and two models opposing each other would determine outcome by roll-offs.  There’s a lot more to it, but there is the gist.  I love some of the extra chrome to give it exactly the setting I’m proposing– the skirmish events that take place in the grey area between the big battalions, where they start to encounter each other.  One chrome element that lends “that big battle right over there” flavor is the “Cauldron of War Strategies” table.

The “Cauldron of War” is similar to a random events table that I came up with in V&R that provided that crucial “meta event” that I think has to be there for a game like this, set in this time period.  You KNOW there’s a big event happening just to your flank or behind you– but that may or may not intrude into your personal little bubble of battle space.  The Cauldron of War abstracts this element out nicely.

Chosen Men isn’t perfect for what I want to do with it.  It’s not an exact fit for 54mm scale.  For one thing, formations are still kind of sort of a thing in Chosen Men (though not the focus of combat or movement).  I don’t know how that would fit in a man to man skirmish game– except maybe I do.  Chosen Men measures fire combat and movement from the unit leader– the Sergeant or Lieutenant, etc.  Formations form on him, and ranges also are measured from him.  I’ll have to seriously tinker with ranges, scale and ground scale to make it work with 54s.  I may have to write some conversion rules to make it fit.  For instance, the standard units are like 6 figures for Chosen Men, and I was thinking 3 figure at most for 54mm.  With that said, I like Chosen Men, it has the right feel for me and I’m willing to test this conversion here as soon as my tin soldiers get out of the warehouse.

Riflemen and Voltigeurs, 54mm scale


For my as yet unnamed single figure Napoleonic skirmish game, I have been painting/having painted several 54mm scale figures.  I’m focusing on light troops, so Riflemen and Light Troops on the English side and Voltigeurs on the French side.  More figures as they become available.  Here’s the latest developments:

54mm Voltigeurs

A group of six Voltigeurs from the ALL THE KINGS MEN line. The figures are somewhat more slender and a teeny bit shorter than other figures I am using, either from ERTL or VICTRIX. I think they’ll be fine. Voltigeurs were French light skirmisher infantry and I think the poses show are just perfect for them.

French Voltigeur COMMAND GROUP of an officer and a bugler. This will be roughly the same function as the British officer and drummer on the other side. Leaders and order transmission are part of the design.

British high commander 54mm

British overall (high) commander. Used for morale recovery mostly. There will be a related French figure as soon as I find a suitable figure.

Rifles Officer 54mm

Rifles Officer 95th Rifles, 54mm. Officers on the field are important to organize troops into a firing line and order volleys. They also transmit higher orders and improve morale. This solitary Rifles officer almost looks uncomfortable among all the the Froggy light infantry.

That’s everything. I’ll try to add a few more pictures of these new troops matched against the existing ERTL and VICTRIX figures to give you an idea of how the new ATKM figures match against them. I now have about 11 voltigeur figures, one mounted officer that will do for a higher command figure for the French, about ten light infantry (British) and 8 rifles (British). I have enough to start testing the design now.

More to come on this project, stay tuned!

Review — British Napoleonic Peninsular War Flank Company [VX5401]


See previous review of Victrix Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805-1812

This is a follow up purchase to the Victrix Voltigeurs I picked up last month.  I have been acquiring and painting up 54mm Skirmisher figures for an ancient game I idea I had about man to man skirmishing in the Napoleonic era.   For the game to see fruition I’m going to need a relatively small group of figures from each side (8-10 maximum).  I want to ultimately pit Riflemen versus Voltigeurs from the late war era.  I own and have painted up about 10 of the Italieri 95th Rifles but they are a little largish compared to the Victrix Voltigeurs.  So I picked the British Peninsular Infantry Flank Company box as well.  This makes sense.  The flank company is sculpted and detailed to be a set of light infantry troops, which are sufficiently animated that they would make great skirmish troops.  I would have liked at least a couple of crouching/firing poses but these are probably sculpted to be deployed in formations, not as skirmishers.   No matter.  There’s enough variation in the basic body types that they look pretty animated to me.

Box Cover from Victrix Site

Box Cover

As before there are five or so sprues of various body parts and bodies to create customization with. From what I’m seeing here you can create a maximum of 16 figures from the sprues included. There are two officer figures and a drummer boy as well as several infantry in action or marching.

Group

Group of 5 sample figs: Drummer, Officer, and 3 Infantrymen

Closer: Drummer, Officer, Infantryman

3 infantry poses

I’m going to use the basic redcoat/grey trousers/black shako paint scheme for these guys, as generic late war period infantry British infantry types. Here’s a picture of the Victrix site’s suggested paint scheme:

Suggested paint scheme

Suggested Paint Scheme

The figures out of the box are made of a durable hard style plastic that assembles very quickly with styrene glue (Testors, in this case), which bonds quickly and holds well. Out of the box they are slightly oily, which is probably mold release spray residue. Recommend an overnight soak before painting. Flashing is minimal. There were some mold lines on the sides of the shakos that needed trimming but I found nothing else that required a lot of work– some poses require a little attention while the plastic cement welds are curing.

Though they aren’t exactly cheap (say, compared to Italieri’s molded plastic figures, at about 15 dollars more on average, US retail prices), they are wondrously flexible in their approach to customization. I really like these releases and I certainly plan on buying and building more. I won’t be fielding large armies of these, ever, but they are great value for the money and I enjoy the detail, sculpting and utility of Victrix 54mm scale figures. If this is a scale and period you are interested in, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Small Wars — Victrix 54mm French Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805 – 1812 [VX5403]


I have wanted a small group of reasonably detailed looking French Voltigeur figures in 54mm for a while now, and last posted on the subject in 2010.   I tried picking up HaT Voltigeurs but didn’t like either the detailing, the busby, or the style of plastic HaT uses.  It’s too soft.  The sculpts are also small and too thin compared to the figures I’m using for British Riflemen.

Victrix Ltd. has been active in expanding their line greatly in the last few years, and have been primarily producing 28mm hard plastic figures in the Napoleonic era.  In recent years, their 54mm line has increased swiftly.  They still haven’t made a pack of purpose built 95th Riflemen yet, but they have made British Peninsular Flank Infantry Companies which I might find useful.

Victrix also recently released a package of Napoleonic Voltigeurs good for conflicts from 1805 to 1812.  This is essentially a set of pieces– bodies without arms or heads, but molded with jackets and trousers.  A selection of arms in a multitude of poses.  Usually a left arm holding a musket.  Separate backpacks and bayonet frogs.    A variety of right hand poses, allowing an extensive level of customization for the finished figures.   Each box has 16 possible figures, with the possibility of 10 figure groups– there are two shako types– one with the tall pom pom, the other with the short, and two bare heads.  There are two “officer” bodies with a nicer uniform and a coat over one shoulder at a jaunty angle.

Voltigeurs were Imperial light skirmishing style troops, and I am painting up the high-pom pom variant shakos for individual bases for the skirmish game I’ve been planning in a desultory fashion over the years.   So I have created the 2 bare headed chaps as leaders (a veteran sergeant and an officer) and all the high pompom Voltigeurs into a 8 figure skirmishing band, which should match my rifleman figures nicely.

As for quality, I’m very much impressed..  each Victrix figure I construct is significantly different from the other.  My only complaint being that I could only make TWO firing positions from this package!  However, there are many other possibilities from the arms and musket poses that are left, and since the loading of a musket is a series of steps, it actually works to have multiple custom poses of the Voltigeurs fiddling with their muskets.  Indeed, the game design I’m working with will be focusing on the firing and loading process as a multistep action, so it’s all entirely appropriate.

Last night, I assembled what I had left, which was six extra figures with the smaller pompom shako types.  I like these so much, I’m going to paint them up too, just with a slightly different Voltigeur uniform.

54mm Voltigeurs from Victrix.

Officer figure and two Voltigeur figures Closeup

More Voltigeurs, Closeup

I’m VERY pleased with Victrix 54mm figures, and I expect I’m going to buy some English and other nationalities as they become available. Keep up the good work, Victrix!