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November Uprising 'Old Skool' 40mm Project

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

I've been wanting to wargame the November Uprising (1830-1831) - one of the nineteenth-century Polish revolts against Russia - for years. I wrote an article on the subject for Miniature Wargames, issue 220 (September 2001), based on a few Polish books, but have never got round to collecting the armies. I now have about a dozen Polish books on the war - more than enough to recreate the armies and uniforms for both sides.

Why this particular war? Briefly, the Poles were not happy after the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which created a 'Congress Kingdom of Poland' with the Russian Tsar as King of Poland. In November 1830, military dissidents from the Polish Army stormed the residence of the Russian Governor of Warsaw, and sent him packing. The Polish Parliament duly dethroned the Tsar, and war broke out in early 1831. The armies were essentially Napoleonic in style, and large: the Poles mustered at least 75,000 men, and the Russians had around 171,000. After a number of campaigns in and around Poland (there was also action in Lithuania and Ukraine), in which the Poles initially managed to disrupt, defeat, and delay the invading Russian armies for nine months, the weight of numbers began to tell, and Warsaw was stormed by the Russians in September 1831, crushing the revolt.

Several things about this war appealed to me. First, I would get to field Polish Napoleonic-style armies in a new context (e.g. loads of lancers), but with a twist (many Polish infantry regiments wore Landwehr-style uniforms): it was familiar and different all at once. Second, who doesn't like bashing (or possibly playing) the Russians? Thirdly, the armies are big enough to hold your interest (with gorgeous uniforms on both sides and a good mix of troop types), while often being fairly manageable when it comes to the battles (a few divisions on each side). There are also proper set-piece battles and small scale skirmishes galore, making the uprising suitable for all levels of wargaming. Accordingly, I decided to base my figures individually but use sabot bases for the infantry to enable playing both skirmish-level and larger wargames.

Figures were not a problem, being Napoleonic in style. After pondering 15mm and 28mm figures, I settled on 40/42mm figures. I have been inspired by "old skool" wargaming authors such as Donald Featherstone, Charles Grant, Paddy Griffith, Bruce Quarrie, and the 1970s "big battalions" style of the likes of Peter Gilder. The shiny look and simple rules of the "old guys" just appeals to me for this project. I also like the idea of painting and using big figures, which allows the 'personality' of each unit and even each figure to come through. My Polish and Russian armies will be a mixture of Irregular Miniatures' 42mm Napoleonic (and other) range(s), and Sash and Saber's 40mm Napoleonics (available from Old Glory UK). I will be using sabot bases for the infantry from Warbases.

Painting big figures is somehow more rewarding than the smaller scales I have done in the past. Painting neatly rather than multi-shading is my approach. I have also settled for stylised unit sizes: 12 men to an infantry battalion, and 4 horsemen to a cavalry unit. Since I am painting in a basic style, the small units will be both manageable (size and cost wise) and retro in appearance (gloss varnished for extra old-school loveliness).

I hope to concoct some rules specific to this war (perhaps tailored to individual units), and put on a trial game some time at the club later this year, and maybe a major battle in the future. Doing the complete campaign might have to wait a while, however!

- Piotr



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