Dutch Revolting

The table before the action kicked off, complete with brand new windmill

I thought you'd like to share some of the pics I took of the Dutch Revolt game I ran at the club I've started to attend in Devon. I'm not going to write a complete report as I've already written one for the clubs website. You can read it here if you like.

The Spanish forces

What I thought i'd do though is talk about where I'm going with this project, mainly to get my thoughts in place in my head.

First of all. Rules. It occurred to me that I've come at this project from the opposite direction to the way most gamers approach things. A lot of wargamers come at a new project from the rules first perspective. A new game comes out or are introduced to your group/club and you go off and decide which army you want to collect and paint for it. You consider the way the army is built, you base the figures appropriately and you play the game. You can join forums or FB groups that focus on the rules and you share your games and figures that way. Within the frame of the ruleset.

Being a contrary fucker I didn't do this.

The Dutch Revolt has interested me for a long time and I have been hoovering up books when and where I can. I can't remember where I first heard or read about this fascinating, complex, long running conflict but it had me hooked.

Thing was, it wasn't a popular wargaming period. Despite it being stuck in-between the much more popular Italian Wars and Thirty Years War, the 80 years war is pretty poorly served by the war-games industry. The rulesets that are out and about are focussed more on 15mm (Irregular Wars, Spanish Fury) or for other conflicts (Pike and Shotte, Hail Ceaser, 1644, Warhammer ECW) or are sets that require a bit tweaking (7TV,Sharp Practice) and are closer possibilities that came out since I'd started collecting (Donnybrook, Pikemans Lament). All of the games have different basing requirements, different group/regiment/unit sizes. Some of them require much lower numbers of figures meaning I can get games going at an earlier stage, some will require years of daubing away with brushes to get a decent number of figures on the table (and then might not give a satisfactory game). Its a fucking minefield.

Some of the dutch
So in order to navigate this ruleset minefield I have to be as flexible as possible with my basing so that I can play different games at a variety of sizes, from skirmish to big old field battles. Hence the decision to base the figures on pennies and use sabot bases. One problem solved.

Rieters charge across the river
The next thing is which figures to use. Again, not being a popular era means that the choices are really slim. They were even slimmer when I started. I'm a bit picky so I wasn't going to settle for figures I didn't like. My only choices were really the Wargames Foundry Seadogs and Swashbucklers range. A lovely bunch of figures, not the most militaristic figures, but pretty spot on for the early period of the war. In addition to these I found the Gamezone Imperial  figures which gave me some Spanish looking infantry which I was definitely going to need. I managed to get a load of Citadel figures, both the Estalian Swordsmen and Arquebusiers and the Pikemen (Pirazzo's) that came out with the Dogs of War range. Combined with the Gamezone figures and some of the Foundry figures in Morions (as well as a couple of Warlord Games swordsmen) that gave me a pretty solid Spanish force (if your going to do a period that isn't popular your going to have to do both sides!).

Dutch foot take shelter amongst the buildings 
That was the foot sorted. Or so I thought. Arsenal miniatures popped up out of nowhere a few years back and appeared to be perfect. Then they disappeared. Then they got bought by Warlord. Then nothing happened. Then they finally released some of the models. Then they turned out to be tiny in comparison to the Foundry figures...but you know...I'll think about it. Then the assault group announced they were doing a kickstarter for mid 16th century French armies and I got all excited. Then the kickstarter failed to fund (told you it wasn't a popular period) although they have started to do figures and they are a little early for what I want but they are nice. Then foundry re-promoted their ex-citadel, Perry sculpted Wars of Religion range and again they could be perfect but they are small. Then there was the Graven Images Border Reivers range that got sold and moved about and are now with HokaHey gaming but are a bit bigger than the Foundry Swashbucklers, meaning that if I go with them then that rules out any of the smaller ranges. And then there was Vendel range of Border Reivers that got sold off to an american company who seem to have ceased trading. As you can tell. The decision making was tying me in knots. And that was just the infantry! Cavalry is a whole other minefield, as apart from the Foundry range (which are wee) there aren't any ranges in 28mm that I'm happy with. Expect posts about conversions and grumpiness in the future.

Smoke drifts across the battlefield 
So what's so interesting about the Dutch Revolt anyway? I reckon it must be the plight of the Underdog. Up until Maurice took over the military direction of the states army (after the assassination of William the silent, the first head of state to be killed with a handgun) and transformed it into a cutting edge military machine which was the template for armies and tactics throughout the the next 60 years or more, the Rebels army was a rag tag collection of volunteers, sympathisers, pirates and mercenaries. Troops came from the Low countries, France, England, Scotland, the Empire and many other places. They tended to be paid for by cities or towns or by local 'notables' and there efforts were often uncoordinated. They were up against the most professional troops in the world and it was an uphill battle. When William of Orange and his brothers managed to organise large armies to invade the Low countries they were generally made up of foreign mercenaries and either mutinied for want of pay, were woefully outmanoeuvred or savagely beaten. This meant that for the first part of the war it was the localised forces, often led by people who were little better than local warlords (check out Lumey or Maaretn Schenk to name but two of the more famous 'Captains'), who did the majority of the fighting. These 'Actions' or 'Little war' were often based around sieges. Ambushes, Skirmishes, Sallies, Raids, Foraging and all manner of other Actions were the meat and potatoes of the Dutch Revolt for a long time. Battles such as Zutphen were a prime example of the sort warfare that was endemic throughout the Low countries in the first period of the war. It's this crucible of warfare where adventurers could learn their trade fighting against the worlds largest empire for the noble cause of a free people that seems so perfect for playing wargames.

Spanish shot try to clear obstacles on the bridge
Of course another reason for building up forces is that the world was a pretty fraught place in those days. Not only can I use the figures I'm collecting to play games set just over the border in France during the French Wars Of Religion or the other side of the Rhine in the Cologne War but we could venture over to Ireland and play games set in the interminable wars and rebellions that the Elizabethans fought against the native population. We could raid the Spanish ports of the main land and we could attempt to intercept the gold caravans in the Spanish Main. Scottish wars caused by Mary's poor choice of bed mate? Border warfare? Danzig rebellion? Eastern european warfare? European settlers in North America. I've got lots of choices.

Spanish Horse tussle with Dutch foot
So where am I going with this?

Well, I'd started playing a small scale loose campaign that included some supernatural (well, Fantasy) elements and I enjoyed that but i'd been kind of ploughing on with the focus of having more troops on the table. However, I recently read Roundwoods World and he has a long term project set in the Netherlands (just 100 or so years later than my chosen period. Incidentally he's contributed to the War-games, Soldiers and Strategy magazine that is due out very soon and focusses on the Dutch Revolt, can't wait!). He is looking to build a campaign based around the defence of a fictional town (Laarden. Well he is affiliated with Too Fat Lardies so you can't blame him!) He has maps of the local area showing important features and routes to help guide the campaign. He has also started described units and characters involved in the politics and defence of the town.

Musketeers take advantage of the height of the mill
This strikes me as an ideal route to take. A town in south Holland who's town council have contracted a Captain to bring companies of soldiers to act as a garrison and to defend the local from the Spanish. Thankfully the Lardies published a version of their Sharp Prcatice rules in their 2017 Summer Special  called 'Sharply Buffed' which is set specifically in the decades covered by the early decades of the revolt. They also produce an excellent guide to running campaigns called 'Dawns and Departures' which is ideal for running the kind of campaign I'm started to picture in my head. I like the idea of tracking the fortunes of the different companies within the garrison and how their Captains fortunes rise and fall. The same could be done from the Spanish point of view. They may already have besieged the town and have deal with their supplies being raided, scouting parties being ambushed, outworks being counter-sieged and all the other 'Actions' that might be taking place. They themselves would have to stops reinforcements getting into the town, ambush shipments of powder, attack counter siege works etc etc. Plenty of scope for a wide variety of games.

Dutch officer heroically drives the Spanish back
Part of the campaign would be about placement of your forces. Where your forces are, what kind of state they are in, how well are they supplied, where are you going to move them to next, are you going to scout that area first, have you split your forces up, where are the nearest reinforcements. All of this is easily tracked using the 'Dawns and Departures' mechanics and some sensible mapping. Campaign turns can be done on a map and any point the two forces meet will produce a game. Fabby. All I need to do is find other people who want to play!

The end is nigh


  1. Great post. I shall look forward to more, whatever figures hoh decide to buy, rules to use and period in history you offshoot to. All sounds fab to me!

  2. Colin this is awesome and inspiring. I can’t wait to see his this project expands. 😉

  3. Sounds like a great campaign. The challenges of picking a figure range though...ouch!

  4. Top notch pictures, figures and terrain are superb, brilliant!

  5. Very cool project. In terms of cavalry the only real choice is perhaps the Graven Images figures, though the horses are not great. TAG figures are good and would generally be able to fit but they are much smaller than Citadel, Foundry Swashbucklers, or the Graven Images. Very difficult indeed.


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