Home Forums General General the appeal of the ordinary

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    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Polybian Romans or Gustavus’ Swedes. Napoleon’s Guard or WW2 SS. It is historically valid to create armies that are comprised of a preponderance of elite units.

    They tend to be small (more later), have cache & are generally hard to beat in tabletop games.

    I tend to have a predilection for the opposite. Armies with units mostly or exclusively average or poor units seem to fill my wargaming rosters.

    I have Celts, Covenanters, Napoleonic Prussians (notoriously Guard-free) and WW2 British & US armies. There’s something about the underdog that makes these sort of forces far more interesting.

    There are downsides. As these armies are always far larger than their elite opponents, there is an economic & time cost in acquiring & painting them. At least with my lack of inspired generalship, they often lose. When they do win, it tends to be a case of blugeoning through numbers rather than any tactical finesse.

    Do you prefer the extremes?



    Avatar photokyoteblue

    I run middle of the road units. I lose a lot thou.


    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    I kinda favor tribals, militia and insurgents. No elites, just half-organized mobs of ordinariness as far as the eye can see, but lots of variety. Here’s a pic of some Kushites I had out for last night’s game:


    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoSteve Johnson

    Standard units for me by and large. I’ll go with so called elite units if they fit in with a historical action I’m playing.

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    As a “collect both sides” hobbyist, I like both extremes and the middle ground too. Variety and contrast.

    And I like being able to modulate a force so it can be elite in one game and quite basic in another.

    Avatar photohammurabi70

    It depends on what action you are trying to represent.  If divisional games then you can have a 100% elite if you want.  We normally have a representative allowance of them while the bulk is retained as the standard line.  Personally, I enjoy the quality of numbers of the likes of the Soviet Red Army.

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    Avatar photoirishserb

    Celts against the filthy Romans, Spanish in Span-Am War, French in 1940, PAVN in Nam.

    Avatar photoEtranger

    Although I’ve got the odd elite unit, most of my armies are composed of ‘ordinary troops’, who after all did most of the fighting (& dying). There’s also an added satisfaction when they do beat the ‘Death Commando Guard Rangers’ in battle!

    Avatar photoThorsten Frank

    Don´t know if this fits to this topic. Currently starting a new collection (skirmish/28mm sci-fi). The current idea is to start a solo campaign with rather clueless characters. I´m a bit inspired by a story of two private military contractors (that what once called mercenaries) in Iraq which had no previous military experience and the “reality” tv show Gold Rush (and the clueless Todd Hoffmann and his 316 mining company). Including the always annoying camera operator standing in their way.
    My previous 6mm sci fi armies where mostly made of rather “normal” units with only a few elite or special forces units.
    This “always the elite and the best” is one of the things why I despise WH40k. And this despite the fact that GW encourages, through their pricing, policy to collect the opposite.

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    Avatar photoMartinR

    I collect both/all sides, usually based on historical force compositions for the period I’m interested in, so I end up with a bit of a mixture. Tbh 1866 era Prussians are always going to a bit unstoppable, but exactly the same toys get used for 1870  where they get mown down in droves.

    Romans are Romans, hard to do the Punic Wars without them.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    Virtually all my “armies” are of the ordinary sort.  Some have a sprinkling of “better” troops.  In my WW2 German forces of several hundred figures I have Volkssturm, Auxiliaries, standard (horse drawn) infantry, some motorised and a few armoured units but only a single company of Waffen SS (20 or so figures).

    I prefer the “average” or “ordinary” as I get more variety and more toys to play with.  The armies with “elites” built in are my Romano British which has Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, Early Imperial Romans have a Praetorian Guard cohort (not by design I picked up the wrong box in the shop), Saxon hearthguards and a few other personal boduguard units.



    Avatar photoMcKinstry

    I tend to focus on painting up all the militia and regulars before I even consider adding elites. I invariably need way more average to poor for most OOB’s so they get priority.

    The tree of Life is self pruning.

    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    I lean towards the elites. I find them more interesting visually plus uniformity in pose strikes me as indicative of better training. Better than the hoi polloi would have in real life but they do have in miniature form.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
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    Avatar photoMartinR

    There is also the case that these things can change, the British Army of 1918 was a terrifyingly “elite” war wining combined arms machine, but they were wearing exactly the same uniforms as their poorly trained and poorly led pals who were mown down in droves in 1916, so I see no great need to paint special elite 1918 units (unlike those pesky Stosstruppen). The 1918 chaps might have rather more tanks, heavy artillery and ground attack aircraft than 1916 of course.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoBeardgoblin

    I tend to have a preference for the fast, light units, regardless of quality or genre!  The sorts of units that are either destroyed horribly early doors for no gain, or that get pressed into some terrific ‘do or die’ action late in the third quarter.


    From a modellers perspective, I find veteran units are the most fun to create – being able to go to town on each individual with unique gear, battle worn/mismatched uniforms and other such touches, then tons of stowage on their ride (for units that get one!) are much more engaging than hordes of identical rank and file.

    Avatar photodeephorse

    “so I see no great need to paint special elite 1918”

    The same principle generally applies to WWII, which is my main area of interest and collecting.  A Panzer IV looks the same whether it is crewed by men just out of training school or grizzled veterans of the Eastern Front.  Likewise the infantry. My chaps in field grey can be the rawest of recruits or the best that Grossdeutschland can offer.  I don’t go to the extent of applying divisional markings to vehicles, or cuff titles to 20mm figures, so pretty much everything is generic and it’s just the scenario details that will determine morale and training levels for them. Yes, there will be recognisably ‘elite’ units such as figures in paratrooper uniforms or certain types of camouflage clothing, but they only make rare appearances on my table top.

    Play is what makes life bearable - Michael Rosen

    Avatar photoCerdic

    Yep, I like the ‘ordinary’ as well.

    When picking a small WW2 force I chose…Italians! And just ordinary Italians. None of yer poncy bersaglispagetti chicken hat fellers for me!

    My Napoleonic French get Line infantry, Dragoons, Chasseurs A Cheval….

    Well, you get the idea!


    I went through a phase of buying Armies for both sides so as not to be reliant on an opponent bringing the baddies. My 15mm Peninsular British Army was historically accurate, the best collection I’ve ever owned. Then I came to the French and built them entirely from the Imperial Guard because… they looked nice!

    "Wot did you do in the war Grandad?"

    "I was with Harry... At The Bridge!"

    Avatar photoChris Pringle

    In the contest of Quality vs Quantity, I think it is natural for an individual to identify more with a small number of plucky heroes than with a faceless horde, as witness every heroic war movie ever made. I’m sure we all like to think we’re special in some way, and elite forces strike that particular chord. I’ve also noticed some wargamer friends whose real lives aren’t great (economic disadvantage, disability etc) clearly enjoy being exceptionally powerful on the tabletop.

    On the other hand, commanding masses of inferior underdogs has its appeal too. There’s the ‘tall poppy’ element – who wouldn’t relish rolling the dice that result in the Soviet factory militia taking down the elite SS parachute panzers? And it is quite liberating to be able to order huge mobs to steamroller forward heedless of losses because you have so many troops and besides, it is all for the greater good. (Or to watch your rabble disintegrate and say “I knew I couldn’t win with that lot anyway”.)

    As for The Ordinary, the line troops in the middle: perhaps the appeal there is at the meta level, in that they represent the core character of an army and that’s what attracts us to collecting it in the first place? We want Napoleonic Austrians for white-coated ponderousness, WWII Brits for itchy woollen battledress and obstinacy and cups of tea, and so on.

    As I mostly play historical battles, I will happily command whatever the army in question actually had on the day; no preference either way, for elites, or for rubbish, or indeed for the average troops of the line.

    Though I’ll admit that when I used to actually paint and model troops more, I definitely preferred painting the ones that were more ‘special’. Drummers and standard-bearers etc always got painted first. They then often had to wait a while to have anyone to lead …


    Bloody Big BATTLES!




    Avatar photoNot Connard Sage

    I stick with ‘ordinary’ wherever possible for the simple reason that elites the Horse and Musket period have far too many frills and flounces to paint.


    I hate painting 🙂

    Obvious contrarian and passive aggressive old prat, who is taken far too seriously by some and not seriously enough by others.

    Avatar photoGeneral Slade

    I mainly do Napoleonics and I find it hard to get excited about the ordinary.  I’ve painted an awful lot of French line infantry and they all look the bloody same and when you are done you can’t tell one regiment from another.   I like Polish Lancers of the Guard and Scots Greys and Royal Welch Fusiliers (in the bearskins they never wore in battle) and Russian Pavlovsk grenadiers.  Basically anything but French line infantry.

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    I tend to go for the most common grunts, but I have a big soft spot for armies that put up a good showing despite having no hope (Polish in WW2 f.x.)

    When I did WW2 Germans, I did a paratrooper platoon for the elite fix and a Volksgrenadier “Sturm” platoon for the “hapless conscripts” fix.
    Of course for many armies, as Martin says, you can just say they are whatever they need to be for the scenario.

    Of course “elite” can also be up for debate. Some units just got lucky or never fought anyone that was a serious threat but as wargamers we love to classify 🙂

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