At the onset of the French and Indian War, the vast majority of “French” troops in North America were in fact, Canadian militia. First raised as early as the mid-1600s, Canadian militias (or “Milices Canadiennes”) compromised some 15,000 troops by the early 1750s. By the time the Seven Years War arrived in the North American French colonies of Canada, the militia was divided into three main government sections of Montréal, Québec and Trois-Rivières. Despite the local makeup of conscripted Canadian men, each militia was commanded by Compagnies Franches de la Marine officers pulled from traditional European training and tradition.
I have a bunch of Canadian militia already in my collection of 28mm FIW figures, but I’m always on the lookout to add diversity. With my latest from Black Hussar Miniatures I’ve found a great assortment of personality and poses which present the irregular nature of Canadian irregular troops of the period.
While some argue that uniform colors conformed to specific regions, most research shows the Canadian militia uniforms were a true mix of equipment and uniforms. Clad in a mix of jackets, frocks and leather leggings borrowed from the style of trappers and local natives, these figures create a great variety in modelling the period in color and texture.
Black Hussar sculpts scale toward the middle of manufacturers in 28mm, but as a unit, they hold together nicely. With a variety of animated poses firing, advancing, at the ready and in command, the molds all a unique quality which differs largely from the more regular casts of other makers.
Mixed with the militia fighting men, I particularly appreciate the contrasting formality of the French officers clad in their pressed European uniforms with one leaning casually on a walking stick. I made swift work of all these figures in the typical mix of blues, whites, red and picked out details, but upon consideration of the photos here I realize one more pass on cleaning up details would be of benefit. Even so, the irregular painting of these irregular militia was a treat and welcome addition to my tabletop forces of the period.
North America in the 17th-and-18th-centuries was a clash European and Native cultures in many ways – ways of life, ways of trade, ways of war and ways of faith. Faith for all people in this era was not an abstract but a truth that informed every part of their existence. Finding ways to incorporate the dynamic push-pull between these faiths into games provides an interesting challenge and opportunity.
The False Face Society figure depicts a member of the Haudenosaunee healer tradition. Wearing a fearsome carved and painted wooden mask and carrying a turtle shell rattle, a member of the society would make rounds twice a year to chase away evil spirits and disease from a village. Masks came in a lot of varieties, including some woven from corn husks, and the healing rituals would also include singing and burning tobacco.
The Jesuit Order was founded in Spain in the mid-1500s and its member missionaries spread through North, Central and South America in the 17th-and-18th-centuries. Rooted in Catholic faith, Jesuits lived a life of meditation and contemplation of Jesus Christ. Intellectually, they sought to bring formal education of languages, history and science in a reform of church leadership.
Missionaries to what Europeans called the New World viewed natives of these regions to be in need of saving through baptism and rejection of their perceived savage rituals and traditions. At the same time, Jesuits were at odds with European secular colonial governments for their documentation of native cultures and languages during their years of living among these people. Effectively living between the two societies, Jesuits were famously the victims of torture and martyred execution by natives who recognized the threat they symbolized.
With no experience in the wilderness of the Americas and only their faith to guide them, Jesuits ventured deep into heart of the country largely unexplored by other Europeans. The Jesuit figure depicts the plain dress and spare possessions of a missionary of the era, clutching a Bible close to his heart and a cross hanging from his waist.
Together, the False Face Society Shaman and Jesuit models depict two competing traditions of faith in the Americas during the era of European colonization. In each tradition, rituals and physical items — whether a turtle rattle, mask, Bible or cross — provide opportunities for contrast but also a shared belief that something exists beyond the physical land where people clashed for domination.
As I have researched, played and traveled sites of 18th-century in America, I’ve amassed a reference library of books, pamphlets and websites I’ve found most useful to those interested in the period. Below is a personal, albeit not comprehensive, list of references useful to amateur historians of the decisive era that shaped the continent and world.
If I were to read just one book, I would suggest Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War which not only covers the major military actions of the French and Indian War but also goes into the effects of the conflict on world politics and conditions that led to the American Revolution. Start with this book and take it from there, and I’ll be certain to update as my reading makes new discoveries in the American wilderness.
Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
———. The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War. New York: Viking, 2005.
Anderson, Niles. The Battle of Bushy Run. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, 1975.
Baker, Norman L. Braddock’s Road: Mapping the British Expedition from Alexandria to the Monongahela. Stroud, UK: The History Press, 2013.
Bellico, Russell P. Empires in the Mountains: French and Indian War Campaigns and Forts in the Lake Champlain, Lake George, and Hudson River Corridor. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2010.
Berleth, Richard. Bloody Mohawk: The French and Indian War & American Revolution on New York’s Frontier. Delmar, NY: Black Dome Press, 2009.
Borneman, Walter R. The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America. New York: HarperCollins, 2006.
Kummerow, Burton K. and Christine H. O’Toole and R. Scott Stephenson. Pennsylvania’s Forbes Trail: Gateways and Getaways Along the Legendary Route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2008.
The Last of the Mohicans. 20th Century Fox, 1992.
Leckie, Robert. A Few Acres of Snow: The Saga of the French and Indian Wars. New York: Wiley, 1999.
Loescher, Burt Garfield. The History of Rogers’ Rangers, Volumes I-IV. Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, 2006.
c, 1754-1760. New York: Routledge, 2003.
May, Robin, and Gerry Embleton. Wolfe’s Army. London: Osprey Publishing, 1998.
McCulloch, Ian MacPherson. Highlander in the French-Indian War: 1756–67. London: Osprey Publishing, 2008.
McDonnell, Michael. Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America. New York: Hill & Wang, 2016.
Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 200
Stark, Peter. Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America’s Founding Father. New York: Ecco Press, 2018.
Tanner, Helen Hornbeck. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
Taylor, Alan. American Revolutions: A Continental History, 1750-1804. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.
Tilberg, Frederick. Fort Necessity National Battlefield Site, Pennsylvania. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, 1956
Todish, Timothy J. and Todd E. Harburn. A “Most Troublesome Situation”: The British Military and the Pontiac Indian Uprising of 1763-1764. Fleischmanns, NY: Purple Mountain Press, 2006.
Treganza, Adan E., and J. C. Harrington. “New Light on Washington’s Fort Necessity: A Report on the Archeological Explorations at Fort Necessity National Battlefield Site.” American Journal of Archaeology 63.2 (1959)
Waddell, Ward and Bruce D. Bomberger. The French and Indian War in Pennsylvania, 1753-1763: Fortification and Struggle. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1997.
Ward, Matthew C. Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.
West, J. Martin (editor). War for Empire in Western Pennsylvania. Ligonier, PA: Fort Ligonier Association, 1993.
Windrow, Martin, and Michael Roffe. Montcalm’s Army. London: Osprey Publishing, 1973.
Wullf, Matt. Henry Bouquet’s Destiny – The March To Bushy Run. Lewisburg, PA: Wennawoods Publishing, 2014.
The War That Made America–Parts 1-4, A Country Between. PBS, 2005.
In the close forests on 18th-century North America during the French and Indian War, the vast majority of the skirmishes and battles among French, Briitsh and Indian forces took place on foot among individual warriors. That said, especially among Europeans, mounted officers still held a place on many battlefields.
Of the hundreds of figures in my collection, few are mounted for this very reason. Aside from that, I’m not a big fan of painting horses although I’ve developed some quick techniques to get tabletop quality mounted models on the table. With this in mind, I recently set to fiishing up some horses and riders for the period.
One other Warlord figure is a plastic officer on a rearing horse. I pulled this figure from the Field Artillery and Army Commanders box made for the American War of Independence. This is one of the few plastic figures in my entire collection, but its sprue provided some options for choices in heads and poses. I’ve modelled mine as a British officer, and atop his bucking horse he is serviceable as a command figure for the earlier period.
Together, this half-dozen mounted officers made for a bit of a break in my usual rotation of purely foot figures. Set at the lead of dozens of other soldiers in the American wilderness, they’ll be a great fit with any number of units of my tabletop.
The majority of my French figures for my French and Indian War collection tend toward irregular Canadian miltia and Compagnies Franches de la Marine troops. To supplement them, I’ve endevoured to add some models to represent more regular French troops to the mix that became a greater battlefield presence particularly as the war went on.
For my French regular troops, I first turned to UK-based AW Miniatures for their stout 28mm scupts which scale well with most of my other figures. To create two units, I picked up two of their eight-packs of French regular infantry (FIW30) and supplemented them with a three-pack of French regular command (FIW31) and one additional standard bearer (FIW37).
Together, this gave me two ten-figure units of French regulars. I like the mix of poses and headwear, as well as their bayonets tipping their muskets. One officer, my favorite of the bunch, sports a broad mustache with a sword at the ready and a commanding hand pointing his troops forward. For the standard bearers, I printed period French flags on paper, attached and stiffened them with white glue.
I am not generally a fan of painting white uniforms, but the blue waistcoats, lapels and cuffs, as well as the yellow-trimmed tricornes, provide a pretty stunningly graphic contrast. Once deployed, twenty of these French regulars on the table in a double-ranked firing line really present an imposing force as they must have in the many of the pivotal FIW battles in which they fought.
Fan favorite Galloping Major Wargames launched its second Kickstarter campaign in July 2017 with a line featuring Compagnies Franches de la Marine. Billed as “regular soldiers recruited in France for colonial service,” this 28mm campaign added seven new packs to their catalog, plus a single character figure which instantly became one of my favorite.
I ordered three packs of figures (FIW FCFI, FIW FCF2 and FIW FC3) featuring soldiers and command clad in “Canadian/outpost” clothes and wearing a mix of bonnets and tuques. I chose to paint them up in a variety of colors so they mix equally well with my Canadian militia units or stand alone as recruited French soldiers.
These soldiers were commonly posted at forts and fought in battles all across the French and Indian War era, so they come in pretty useful in a lot of gaming scenarios. Overall the poses are pretty basic in loading, at the ready, advancing and firing, with a little extra personality in the command figures. Other figures in the Kickstarter featured more formal short jackets and tricorne hats, and the entire range is now available for sale through the company’s website.
Quite some time ago, I wrote a round-up of my favorite boardgames of the French and Indian War. Since then I’ve been focusing pretty exclusively on the FIW using 28mm miniatures and Muskets & Tomahawks. I’ve also spent a lot of time over the past year reading about the period and visiting historic sites in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia that tell the story of the FIW.
Between travel, research, painting miniatures, building scenery and running through tabletop scenarios of the period, I’ve continued to build up my collection of FIW-themed boardgames. With that, I have a second list of more of my favorites from this empire-defining conflict in North America.
Released in 1972, Quebec 1759 was one of the first block wargames produced and has remained in print for 45 years as a game perfect for entry level players as well as those experienced in the hobby. I’ve been trying to track down a first printing of the game for a while for the embossed blocks, but I couldn’t pass up a great deal on a 1980s edition with 50 stickered blocks for $20 at a convention flea market a couple years back.
Map and wooden blocks from Quebec 1759
Playable in about an hour or so, this classic abstractly captures the meeting of the British forces led by James Wolfe and the French defenders commanded by Louis-Joseph de Montcalm in September 1759. The decisive Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City left both men dead and was the beginning of the end of French rule in North America.
Typical stickered wooden blocks from a mid-1980s edition of Quebec 1759
My near perfect copy captures the charm of the original edition with its signature wooden blocks, 10″ x 32″ elongated heavy cardboard map and a mere four pages of rules. The game is played over 16 turns with each side — British and French — plotting their moves in advance on paper and then simultaneously revealing them. There are no spaces on the map. Instead ten road-connected land zones and a bisected St. Lawrence River.
The game has remained a classic for a reason, notably its fast play that rewards numerous replays and taking turns on either side.
My copy of Command #46 featuring End of Empire just prior to punching the counters
End of Empire covers a wide period from King George’s War, FIW and the American Revolution. Over a dozen scenarios allows play of specific conflicts or campaigns in a few hours, and a full game is playable over the whole period that will run to more than 15 hours for truly committed players. The game is regimental in scope with a huge hex map spanning the entire North American East Coast and contains hundreds of color counters representing British, French, Spanish, Indian and Colonial forces. For a real deep dive into nearly 40 years of colonial conflict, this is the game.
Wilderness Empires (Worthington Publishing)
I’m a big fan of Worthington Publishing’s games. I have three of their American Revolution games – New York 1776, Trenton 1776 and their latest, Saratoga 1777. The simple graphic maps and wooden blocks make Worthington’s games easy to grasp while also providing some great strategic play specific to the conditions of certain battles and campaigns.
Map detail and wooden playing pieces from Wilderness Empires
With Wilderness Empires, most recently reprinted in 2016, Worthington captures the larger scope of the grand strategy of the FIW in a mix of point-to-point movement, blocks and cards. Designed by my pal Bill Molyneaux, a FIW reenactor and game designer, the game is steeped in real history while producing introductory level play of the period for 2-4 players.
French (top) and British (bottom) cards from Wilderness Empire featuring original art by Don Troiani
The components are hefty 1″ wooden blocks with nicely rounded corners representing French, British and Indian forces. Indian towns, special wood dice, a large board and cards featuring beautiful original art by Don Troiani round out what’s in the box. Their artwork aside, the cards provide tactical play of reinforcements, leaders, campaign actions and specific play of historical units such as Rogers Rangers and Indian allies.
If you’re lucky, you can track down this recently out of print game in gift shops at various historical sites and forts in the northeast for a great intro to the period.
1759: Siege of Quebec (Worthington Publishing)
Worthington has also produced a new spin on the famed siege of the era with 1759: Siege of Quebec. The game presents a bit like the classic Columbia game covering the same battle but with a unique 2-in-1 package that allows for both 2-player and solo play, a rarity for games of the period.
The beautiful map for Worthington’s 1759: Siege of Quebec
This game is gorgeous. The area movement map is bisected with by the St. Lawrence River and has defined deployment areas for stickerless blue (French) and red (British) blocks. In the 2-player game, separate hands of Command Decision cards and Command Field Orders books allow each side to make selections on what they do each turn. Cards are revealed and resolved, with casualties and morale tracked toward victory. The solitaire game uses a separate set of cards but plays out in a similar way.
The game falls into the modern string of fast-play “lunchtime games” which typically run less than a half-hour, making 1759 a great modern spin on the often-covered battle.
1754: Conquest – The French and Indian War (Academy Games)
The game, 1754: Conquest, follows the same basic mechanics of 1775 and 1812 and rounds out Academy’s trilogy from their “Birth of America” game series. All three games feature wonderfully colorful maps with area movement of small cubes using small hands of action cards keyed to historical events and personalities.
One of my many plays through 1754: Conquest
In multiple plays of 1754, I’ve found it to be the most challenging in the series. Fortifications, muster points for militia and harbors for arriving British and French reinforcements all reflect the major points of control important to the war. As with all games in the series, this one serves as a great entry into wargaming the period while also providing a challenge to more experienced gamers.
Bayonets & Tomahawks (GMT Games)
One of my most anxiously-anticipated games is GMT’s Bayonets & Tomahawks which has been on their P500 pre-order since 2015. There’s been a steady drip of development and playtesting articles over the game’s long gestation, and in late 2019 some near-final box art was made available.
A 2018 playtest map for Bayonets & Tomahawks, slated for delivery in late 2020
As with all things that come out of GMT, the looks like its going to be a beauty with custom dice supporting a unique battle system and full-color round, square and triangular counters for different forces, fleets, forts and game conditions. The playtest map looks stunning. The game will play over shorter scenarios or the full war with raids, battles, construction, sieges and naval actions. Cards will support historical events and military actions. Having not gotten my hands on it as of yet, I can’t wait to unpack and punch this game when it becomes available, hopefully in late 2020.
In my recent quest to add more variety to my French and Indian War Native American forces, I’ve had to look a bit beyond the usual FIW miniatures manufacturers. My core requirements in seeking new models is that they are metal, a reasonable representation of tribes present during the FIW period and that they scale well at 28mm with my other models. With this criteria in mind, I was happy to stumble across a rack of Knuckleduster Miniatures at a convention earlier this year.
Knuckleduster, as the name evokes, focuses largely on an expanding line of Old West themed miniatures in 25mm, 28mm and 40mm scales. Beyond this core offering, they also have a small selection of British, American and Canadian soldiers for the War of 1812. And, it’s within this era’s figures where you will find a small collection of Native Americans usable in the FIW.
Packaged as “Grand River Nation” Indians, Knuckleduster offers two packs of six models, one in summer dress and one in winter clothing, plus a two-model leader pack. I picked up the summer dress pack for $10, a pretty good deal for a half dozen metal models cast at a true 28mm scale. These are really beefy models with lumpy facial features but with some nice detail in jewelry and clothing. Their dress generally depicts the European-influenced style from trade goods many Indians wore during the FIW era. And, it is their scale, style and variety that makes these a great hidden find for my Native force collection.
With the majority of my core 28mm forces for my French and Indian War gaming complete, I’ve been focusing on filling out my model variety with more Indian figures from a number of manufacturers. The FIW lends itself to having a lot of different Native American models on the table, given the numerous North American tribes which participated in the conflict. Most of my Indians are from Conquest Miniatures distributed by Warlord Games but my next few posts are focusing on some small units I’ve been adding from other makers.
First up are a half dozen figures from North Star Military Figures. Until recently, Northstar was manufacturing figures packaged specifically for use with the very popular Muskets & Tomahawks rules set. With a second edition of M&T pending at some unnamed future date, Northstar recently put their figure line on hold.
Fortunately I had grabbed a pack of Indian reinforcements at a convention earlier this year. The six models, armed with muskets and hatchets, all come with nice detail of equipment, jewelry and some hooded frocks. I chose to paint them in colorful reds, greens and blues, reflecting the steady trade of European goods during the era. The sculpts are solid with a real 28mm feel a bit larger than my Conquests which stand closer to 25mm. With these Northstar Indians, my native forces have grown in variety and scale as I build out a larger group of allies for my French.
The construction of 17th and 18th-century European fortifications were revolutionized by the writing of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the French military engineer and author of A Manual of Siegecraft and Fortification. His formal star-shaped forts of the era defined military and city defensive architecture throughout Europe and in overseas colonies.
North American wilderness warfare of the French and Indian War often called for more hastily-built backcountry defenses. A paper by Military Architecture of the American Frontier, made available online by the National Park Service, provides an overview of how Vauban’s and other writings of the period influenced fort building in a very different environment. Blockhouses and stockades were common, and some reconstructed examples like Fort Necessity and Fort Ligonier can be visited today. Given even less time and planning, dirt, plentiful trees, and woven gabions filled with rocks could be used to create a somewhat formidable defensive position by throwing the strong backs of soldiers and hired civilians into the effort. While some Vauban-style grand forts of the period like Fort Niagara and Fort Ticonderoga still stand centuries later in the United States, countless small, temporary fortifications have been long lost to time.
A plan of Fort Ligonier, Pennsylvania from “A Set of Plans and Forts in America. Reduced from Actual Surveys” by John Rocque (c. 1750)
My local club Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY has hundreds of pieces of terrain in multiple scales spanning many historical eras. Some of these pieces are decades old, once belonging to members who have long since moved on. They reflect different wargaming modeling techniques of the past and some bear the markings of manufacturers long gone.
I’ve taken it upon myself recently to rebuild and refresh some of these pieces, particularly a number of 28mm buildings and scratch built terrain models appropriate to 18th-century scenarios of the French and Indian War era. With this in mind, a large, banged-up and dusty wilderness fortress piece recently caught my eye on the club’s shelf and I set to work making it usable again.
A decades-old scratchbuilt piece of terrain in need of repair
Mounted on a piece of quarter-inch plywood measuring about 8″ x 18″, this hefty model features three canon positions on a plaster raised earth mound surrounded by resin-cast wicker gabions and sharpened wooden stakes. The years had not been kind to the model. Original trees had snapped off long ago, several breaks in the plaster were evident, grass had worn off, fences were broken and overall, the whole model had taken on a drab appearance.
Some initial repairs and a fresh coat of paint
The first step was to clean the model of the layers of dust accumulated over the years, remove remnants of broken trees and trim off flaking and broken bits of plaster. Next, I filled cracks and missing areas of plaster with lightweight wood filler. All the earthen areas then received a fresh coat of dark brown paint over which I dry brushed varying layers of browns and gray paints.
With the base repainted, I made small glued repairs to broken fencing. I also added a few spare sticks and a barrel to bring some detail to the model as if repairs were an ongoing part of the fortification’s use. From there, the logs, fence, sharpened stakes and gabions were repainted and weathered using more dry brushed coats of browns and grays.
New trees are glued to the model
With most of the new painting done, I turned to adding new trees. I drilled and glued nails into the trunks of pre-made trees from Woodland Scenics which were then glued into holes in the base at the rear along the fence. The trees added textural and vertical interest to an otherwise flat model and also provided some additional color to the overall earthiness of the terrain.
A layer of new groundcover is applied over the model
Further texture and color was added with my favorite Adirondack Blend from Scenic Express. This material contains grass of varying color and texture along with other larger bits of scattered twigs and wood chips which give a highly detailed look that reflects the ground of the North American wilderness. To attach, I heavily brushed white glue on a section at a time all around the base of the fortification and then shook a thick layer of the grass over the glue. Some areas around the logs also received a bit of grass to break up the sameness of the main battery area. Once dry, I lightly tapped the excess grass off the model, carefully scooping up the extra for use again. Finally, a couple small bits of clump foliage were glued around the trees and in random areas along the model’s base. With everything dry, the model got a matte spray coat to hold on the grass and seal the new paint.
In less than a couple hours work, the whole model popped back to life after sitting unused for years. The fortress also has a look more consistent with some of my other terrain pieces, allowing for a more unified look on the table. The project has inspired me to have a look at rebuilding other long-ignored pieces of terrain at the club, bringing them into a new century of miniature wargaming for hopefully years to come.