Saturday 9 February 2019

Go East Young Man

As I mentioned, the striving at present is based around a quest for world wargaming in the early modern period. The reason for this is the rise of world history, which gives us some interesting comparisons to the rather well-worn topics in European history of the period, particularly, in military history that of the gunpowder revolution (or not).

The quest has been much aided by my former self, who created armies for most of the major protagonists in the DBR army lists before he learnt better. These were based around 100 AP ‘condensed scale’ forces, although it is admitted in one of the lists that a 100 AP Inca army cannot be described as small. In fact, I seem to recall that painting a seemingly interminable tide of Inca ‘hordes’ was what finished the project finally anyway.

Still, the project requires rebasing my armies from the original thin (and now, after two house moves, bent) card to more substantial plastic card bases. Neatly, this avoids repainting the armies, on the whole, although last week’s Mughals had to have their infantry redone. I think that I was rapidly expanding them to fight a 1618-Something battle, and a goodly number of infantry had been based without trousers (oo-er missus) or at least with metallic trews. That took a bit of rectifying as there are, as the photograph last week might have suggested, a lot of Indian infantry.

This week we move a bit north and rather east, to Tibet and China. First, the Tibetans; I confess I had forgotten that I had these until I started going through the storage containers. The figures are Irregular and are, I suspect, based around earlier figures for the period when Tibet was a bit of a local power and not formed of competing states. I also have a complimentary batch of Mongols, but no photograph.

The main Tibetan strength is in their cavalry, aided and abetted by some archers, slingers and hordes. I have no idea how they actually perform in action.

Next up, or rather across, are the Ming. Again, Irregular figures; I cannot say that I am that much of a fan of them, but there is nothing else for the period that is even close. Even then, the array here is rather cobbled together from Colonial and Medieval or Ancient ranges. I have, in most cases, forgotten which specific figures go for what. Still, any army with rocket launchers is a fun army to me, and this one packs two such fearsome beasts.

While the Ming deploy more gunpowder firepower, the main infantry strength seems to be in bows. This adds grist to the idea that the only advantage muskets have over bows is that the former requires less training initially before sending the solider out with a potentially deadly weapon.

I mentioned before the problem in historiography of assuming the answer and then looking for evidence for it. The Ming, and China generally, is a good case in point. Our views of the history of the place are rather constrained by the spectacles we view it through, and that tends to be the colonial defeats inflicted on the state in the late nineteenth century and the collapse of the government in the early to mid-twentieth. In fact, occasional disasters notwithstanding, the Manchu state of the later seventeenth century and into the eighteenth was an effective and expansionist one.

The collapse of the Ming state, as well as the collapse of the nineteenth century Manchu state, were largely due to what I suppose can be described as ‘imperial overstretch’. The Ming were dealing with the Manchu invasion as well as a peasant insurrection, and these were, more or less, at opposite sides of the country. China is big. The threats could not be contained by the government and it collapsed, fairly slowly, as generals and officials had to choose which side had the mandate of heaven.

In a similar way, the colonial demands and forces were matched by those internal stresses within China known as the Boxer rebellions. The state could not simply deal with both at the same time, and the result was the collapse of the government. Given this sort of history, perhaps the current attitude of China to both its coast and internal dissent is hardly surprising. We could, incidentally, also argue that current US policy (such as it is) is that of a cultural and economic (although not territorial) empire attempting to protect an overstretched domain.

Anyway, the history of China does give wargamers a nice leg up, because the Boxers were traditionalists and so the colonial ranges have, in their Boxer troops, suitable figures for earlier times. The Boxers, of course, had the misfortune of coming up against regular Western troops with modern firepower. I won’t go into details but they did not win.

Anyway, last up for cobbled together Eastern armies are the Manchu.

These are slightly more cavalry heavy than the Ming, and deploy some light horse, but they are basically similar with bows and muskets deploying the firepower. After not very long in China, the Manchu started to assimilate Chinese troops into their armies as technologists and specialists and, ultimately I suppose, became more Chinese than the Chinese.

Again, the troops in the picture are Irregular, cobbled together from various ranges. The original Manchu seem to have been sort of Mongols, so some of the horse archers are Mongol figures. One of the light horse bases also seems to a Mongols, while the others are, as I recall, Manchu light cavalry from the colonial range. Again, I have little idea which figure codes are which.

You might notice that there are no heavier weapons in the above armies. This was entirely deliberate. 100 AP in DBR does not give a lot of wriggle room when it comes to artillery, so there were none in the armies. As this was a campaign game, rulers could elect to raise a train of 100 AP of heavy weapons and guards, basically the non-compulsory troops from the lists. As I recall, a siege train could also be raised, and for an army in an adjoining territory, an extra 50 AP was added for the first, 25 for the second and so on. Thus I landed up with a rather large battle in India and had to rapidly expand the army.

Anyway, next up in my world expansion are the Koreans and Samurai, of whom (the Samurai) I seem to have vast numbers.


  1. I really enjoyed this and the previous post. It is a pity that there aren't more 6mm ranges for these Asian states during this period. Maybe an opportunity for hobby expansion?

    1. I am glad you like the. I'm also sure that there are opportunities here, but that volumes would be so low that most manufacturers would be unwilling take the plunge. Mind you, a burgeoning Far East wargame market might persuade some...