WAR of 1812 Wargaming

Developing new rules for the War of 1812

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Monday, April 03, 2006


In six years and a bit, we’ll reach the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812. I imagine that should give me ample time to come up with the manner of wargame rules I’d like to have on hand to help mark what should be a interesting three years of history, ceremony, and maybe even some needed civic reflection.

My four year old son will be ten, and he and one or two of my daughters still shy of the hardened years of teendom will be at a good age to absorb, understand, and even enjoy what often seems at first a very odd pursuit. With wargaming - yes, playing with toy soldiers - delving past the shock and dismissive giggles is certainly awkward for a few moments, yet I still believe it manages to combine creativity, art, skill, amusement, intellectual challenge... and most importantly sparks a life-long historical thirst, curiosity and questioning.

Living the vast part of my life in Southern Ontario, the War of 1812 has always been around...discreetly. Growing up in the early 1960s, the differences between Canadians and Americans were still very much in evidence. History was not hidden away, and in Toronto it was not hard to have glancing reminders of this old North American conflict. I recall old uniform plates of the conflict’s units framed and on the walls of the long-gone central Toronto Public Library. In public school we always took trips to Fort York - squirreled away amid the rail lines and pillars and platforms of the Gardiner Expressway - or Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, or to Brock’s Monument at Queenston. This was very much a standard part of the older Ontario education. And still very Canadian in their role almost as backdrops, rather than solemn pilgrimages or hectoring shrines of bellicosity.

Additional family trips to the Niagara area deepened the connection to all of this; it continued one of the first family trips I remember when about kindergarten age - we lived in Montreal at that point, and struck out for Fort Ticonderoga.

As a tiny boy, noticing that ones parents obviously cared rather a lot about our history only reinforced the idea that somehow all this mattered. And when harnessed to universal childish imaginations amid dark cold stone walls (‘Where’s the dungeon?’), amid flags, drums, guns, costumed men and women...well, it leaves a a strong impression.

During the 1960s and 1970s, before the savage funding cuts of the last two decades, public libraries in Toronto were extremely well-supplied with new books of all types. In different branches I had countless books on history, forts, uniforms that only help feed youthful enthusiasm and curiosity. One of the heavier books published in the flush of histories around the years of Canada’s Centennial was all about the forts of Canada. I hadn’t looked at it in decades, but when I did recently, I smiled when noticing a photo of square drill at Fort Henry in Kingston. The caption mentioned that the famed Fort Henry Guard was a summer employment for students from Queen’s University. Naturally I ended up at both places...and had forgotten about this little seed planted about when...well, yes...I was the age my son will be in six years and a bit.


At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff! I just had a chance to read through your page and I'm very interested in your developing War of 1812 rules. Lke you, I'm from southwestern Ontario and have always been aware of the war, and have visited most of the same forts, battlefields and monuments.

I'm going to follow along with great interest, and thanks for putting up the print and play troop blocks. That'll come in very handy for the dismally slow and easily sidetracked painters like me!


At 12:23 PM, Blogger Chris J said...


Very glad to see your blog. For a long time I thought I was the only wargamer at all interested in the War of 1812, at least I hadn't met anyone else who was. In the late 1970's and early 1980's I co-edited an 1812 journal with Donald Graves, then was basically on my own again until I met Ken Cliffe of All the Kings Men. He started making and selling 54mm American Revolution figures, but his real passion is the War of 1812. His Yahoo group is very interesting. The files section contains a large number of 1812 scenarios and uniform pics contributed by yours truly. (I'm so modest, eh?)

Best regards,

Chris Johnson

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Chris said...


Do you have any info on what uniform(s) Porter's brigade wore during the 1814 Niagara campaign? Various sources simply say "militia", which is not too helpful, given the plethora of uniforms they wore during the conflict.


Chris Johnson

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Forrest Harris said...

I was wondering if you would consider adding a link to Knuckleduster Miniatures; I now have 24 packs of 1812 figures, and I'm releasing several new packs per month.
Nice site!
All the best,
Forrest Harris

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Forrest Harris said...

Porter's militia was equipped by the US government before marching for the Niagara peninsular, however their uniforms were still very irregular. I would portray them with lots of short grey coats (roundabouts), maybe a few civilian coats, government-issued accouterments, and a mix of round hats and shakos. Also, they were ordered to go bare-headed at Chippewa in order to avoid confusion with the Canadians skirmishing in the woods.


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