Note – all images used in this post from Perry Miniatures
The Great Paraguayan War, or War of the Triple Alliance was a mid 19th century conflict fought in South America. It pitted Paraguay against the (triple alliance) of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. It is a relatively unknown war in the anglo-sphere, but with a little bit of digging there has been enough on offer to whet the appetite as a period of study. There have been a couple of Osprey’s produced providing enthusiasts with a nice overview of the armies and campaigns of the conflict.
Without diving into a full bibliography, I can recommend the (unfortunately) hard to find Independence or Death! by Charles Kolinski and the more readily accessible To the Bitter End – Paraguay and the War of the Triple Alliance by Christopher Leuchars…both are excellent books. One book you must try and get your hands on however is Wargame Foundry’s The Paraguayan War by Terry Hooker – indispensable!
The war has many unique elements and from a miniatures gaming perspective it has attracted its followers over the years who have had to, for the most part, rely on figure conversions of existing figure ranges to field their armies. The unique looking Paraguayans have always held back many from taking the plunge or ‘properly’ doing the period. A number of years ago I dabbled in this period but for lack of suitable miniatures the project fell by the wayside.
All that changed a few weeks ago with the (out of the blue) announcement by Perry Miniatures that they will be undertaking a range covering the Paraguayan War. This range is sure to unleash a flurry of avid gamers into this fascinating period….when the Perry’s ‘build it’ others ‘will follow’. They have already posted a number of mouth watering photos to excite the imagination and speak of the range going ahead. For this collector it comes as most excellent news.
The existing figure range has an initial 13 pack codes with Paraguayan, Brazilian and Argentinean foot figures. This will be enough to get things going. The sculptor, Alan Perry, has said that the Uruguayan ‘foot’ is on the way as well as cavalry and artillery, and some ‘special’ units also. This looks to be a superb range, and as always with the Perry’s, it should be a well received range despite its relative obscurity.
The current Perry Miniatures figures from this time period, particularly their ACW range, will add further variety as much American Civil War surplus equipment and uniforms were purchased by the combatants, principally Brazil. The Perry’s, in all their goodness, have provide uniform painting guides and flags to go with their figure release – nice works gents. You can check them out on the Perry Miniatures Facebook page, but just incase you do not have Facebook access I’m going to put them on this post for convenience (see below).
So the question then becomes, how should these new figures be used – battle games, skirmish games?
Engagements of the period do allow for battle games to be fought as many ‘big battles’ occured. The bloodiest engagement in South America was fought at the Battle of Tuyuti comprising multiple divisions, with approximately 60,000 men on the field of battle . Many other smaller brigade size and smaller actions were fought so this ‘big battle’ scale certainly has an appeal. Most of these battles occurred in the first few years of the war before the weight of numbers of the Triple Alliance, mostly Brazil, began to whittle the Paraguayan army down to a shadow of its former self, mostly caused by brutal frontal assaults by Paraguayan commanders. An excellent adaptation for battle based games is done by Fire and Fury games with their War of the Triple Alliance supplement.
One downside to the battle game level is off course the number of figures needed. This has never stopped others from diving in deep to a period simply because of the numbers involved! However, I generally don’t go to esoteric in 28mm battle game scales, typically sticking to mainstream periods where I often get ‘double duty’ for the investment in time and resources that go into making a fully fledged 28mm army. Additionally, the ‘infantry only’ release means that the important cavalry and artillery arms will not be able to represented just yet.
In some respects I still prefer 18mm as the scale for battle games over 28mm. 28mm is however my scale of choice for lower level ‘mass skirmish’ games as the many pages of this blog can attest. With the limited release of figures thus far and concentrating mostly on foot, this seems like a natural fit. The many engagements that occurred at the battalion and below level also suit this level of play very well with a wide variety of scenarios possible…a Paraguayan infantry raid on the ‘at anchor’ Brazilian navy anyone?
So for now, the decision is made – it will be single figure based 28mm mass skirmish gaming! Let’s just sneak in another of those lovely Perry miniatures photos shall we 😉
Ok, so what rules? For battle rules we have already touched on the use of Regimental Fire and Fury. A close cousin of the Fire and Fury family is the very well regarded Bloody Big Battles rules, who have already got a First Battle of Tuyuti battle scenario available for free download. Naturally Black Powder (2nd ed) would be an eminently suitable candidate as would any other brigade/divisional or battalion/brigade level system.
At the skirmish level there are a few choices but for me at this point it’ll be the readily accessible, Rebels & Patriots by Osprey Games. From the stable of Daniel Mersey/Michael Leck, these rules pitch the scale of action at the company level with each side fielding somewhere between 40-60 figures a side. These will most likely be the rules I will use as they are flexible in they way they portray units to account for each side’s attributes as well as being highly playable. The game incorporates a better ‘battle feel’ to the system IMO as opposed to The Men Who Would Be Kings, which is more suited to true colonial clashes which feels like quite a low-level skirmish set between asymmetric armies – both rules sets deliver excellent accessible games and are recommended.
So with a view to using Rebels & Patriots I’ve worked up army lists for the respective forces. I have written them in the form of specific unit types and their attributes. By building a force of 24-48 points you would be building a company sized force, or perhaps a bit bigger and/or with attached assets of the respective unit you are basing your force on.
Interestingly as I was compiling the lists I noted a number of contradictions between unit organisation and weapon allocation from various sources, perhaps each reflective of different times throughout the conflict.
If your research indicates something other than shown it may well be perfectly correct but indicative of a different time or organisational structure that I have complied the lists for or mentioned in the supporting notes.
The war’s supply chain and organisation for all armies was marginal at best so some flexibility in organisation, ratings and weapons is perfectly reasonable. Take them as they are, tweak them if you like, but I think they provide a fair representation of the respective forces and provide the basis for others to work off. If anyone spots glaring errors please let me know 😉
I hope they are of use.
One more pic if you please maestro… 😉
As mentioned above, I’m putting the Perry paint guides and flags here for download for those that do not have access to Facebook, and as a convenient place for my own use! All images (in this post) credited to Perry Miniatures.
Note - all images used in this post from Perry Miniatures