Building a Wargames Army 101, Part 1 - An Introduction

The lead elements of the army of King William III at the Battle of the Boyne
Clarence Harrison - This article is is the first in an ongoing series that will document the continuation of a project I started long ago and have recently returned to. I've been collecting forces for the war in Ireland between King James II and King William III for a long time. I recently reached the initial goal I set for Williamite army and am now ready to start on the Jacobites. These articles are aimed at newcomers to the hobby, though should prove useful to gamers wading into this period for the first time as well. Although I'll primarily be discussing my LoA armies, I follow the basic same outline when building forces for any new project (you can check out my growing AWI project over on the Quindia Studios blog).

My first step is always research. This means hunting through appropriate military history books, sorting through my Wargames Illustrated collection, asking questions at the Fighting Talk forum, and surfing the web sites of other gamers and painters who share an interest in the period. You can avoid a lot of mistakes and get some great ideas at the same time by seeing what other wargamers have done!

The first stop for me were Mark Allen's articles in Wargames Illustrated. The primary books I used were Michael McNally's Aughrim and Battle of the Boyne 1690, The Boyne Water by Peter Ellis, and Sapherson's titles on the period. 

I also read through various rule sets and searched for reviews of these online as well. The rules you intend to use will have some bearing on your collection since you need to determine how many figures you need to a regiment. Of course, I'm building my armies primarily for Beneath the Lily Banners, but my units will work for most modern sets and some old ones (like an old favorite of mine, Piquet) as well by using rosters rather than model removal for casualties.

You also need to consider the realities of wargaming. Are you going into the project with friends or will you need to collect armies for both sides. How big is your wargame table? If you want to play games in 28mm and only have a 4x6' table, your initial collection doesn't need to be thirty units a side!

After reading a general overview of the period and details about the armies, I try to find a small battle with a good mix of troop types that I can use as a model for the collection of a core force. I don't often intend to refight historical battles and may have fictional units mixed with actual ones in my army, but choosing a historical action helps me come up with a more realistic force. For the LoA period, I chose the Battle of the Boyne. There were large armies present, but only relatively small forces that actually engaged in the fighting. The entire Jacobite force engaged in the main battle around Old Bridge was six battalions of foot (some sources say seven... more on that in a future post), four regiments of horse, and two regiments of dragoons.

The Blue Guard of King William III
As I mentioned at the outset, I started with the Williamite army. Basically I wanted to paint the Dutch Gadre te Voet or Blue Guard. I used the order of battle from Michael McNalley's Battle of the Boyne 1690 campaign book from Osprey as my guide, supplemented by The Huguenot Soldiers of William of Orange by Matthew Glozier, Danish Troops in the Williamite Army by Kjeld Galster and direct correspondence with Dan Schorr. I also sought advice from Barry and the Fighting Talk Forum. 

Unlike the Jacobite army, there are a pile of Williamite units that ford the Boyne. However, not all were directly engaged and most of the horse arrive late in the contest. It is conceivable that if Tyrconnel managed to break the Blue Guard and initial wave of Huguenots and Danes that the battle may have been over before the arrival of the Williamite horse. You could set up a convincing refight with only part of the Williamite force and add a time limit for the Jacobites... If they can't win by turn x, King Billy will arrive from the south and sweep them from the field!

Next week I will run through the units in my Williamite army and the reason behind my initial choices.