The Only Book on the Seven Years War at my Public Library

I was excited at even the notion of a novel set during this time period being purchased by my library.  So I rushed down, snatched it up quickly, and started reading it at my office.  The book?

 Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon.

I didn’t know what I was getting into, but by page 14 he’s already into a relationship with his second lieutenant.  Somehow, I don’t think this is going to be informing my wargaming all that much either.  Sigh.


  1. My journey through the SYW has been fasinating. Most particularly trying to find good books on it at the library or cheaply.

    Luckily, I have stuck with it and was able to purchase a few good ones and my library even had a copy of a long OOP book on Frederick the Great by Christopher Duffy.

    Would you like a list of wargamer relevant SYW books that I have aquired or read? I also have a list of “expensive” but relevant books that I don’t have or have not read yet as well?

  2. How can I say no to a man who has the same name of the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church? I have read (and will soon be re-reading) “Military Experience in the Age of Reason” and “Fire and Stone” by Duffy.

  3. As an Episcopal I am asked if I’m any relation once in awhile too. 🙂

    My interest is mostly with the Austrian Army, specifically Duan and Loudon.

    I ended up having to buy most of the books below. At first I didn’t want to, however, since my local library only had one of them and none of my gamer or historical friends have an interest in the period I thought it worthwhile to buy a book a month.

    Here is my list, it’s mostly Duffy works and I’ve purchased them from when I couldn’t get them on loan from my library. These are books that cost me less than $50.00 in 2006-2007. The price I paid is on the right. Some F&I war books may still be on the list though I tried to remove them.

    The Army of Frederick the Great – Duffy, Christopher – $18.90

    Military Experience in the Age of Reason – Duffy, Christopher – $11.44

    Instrument Of War: The Austrian Army In The Seven Years War -Duffy, Christopher – $43.61

    Frederick The Great: Instructions for his Generals – Frederick The Great – $1.99

    The Seven Years War – Marston, Daniel – $14.95

    Prussia’s Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen 1757 – Duffy, Christopher – $30.25

    When Britain Ruled the Philippines 1762-1764: The Story of the 18th Century
    British Invasion of the Philippines During the Seven Years War Fish, Shirley – $15.00 (ONLY ON AMAZON, not bookfinder)

    Frederick the Great- A Military Life – Duffy, Christopher – I get this from the Library. Highly recommended.

    Russia and the Outbreak of the Seven Years War Kaplan, Herbert – $9.99

    The Campaigns in India during the Seven Years War 1756 – 1764 Kirby, Mike – I haven’t found this Miniatures Wargame Publication yet.

    Frederick the Great: The Magnificant Enigma Asprey, Robert – $6.70

  4. Witterquick,

    Good luck on your new gaming project! I remember my own initial foray into the period quite well, and a large part of that is due to the fact that I recorded it–but on paper since blogs weren’t around yet.

    When I started my “big battalions” project in 1998, I also decided to start a journal to record my thoughts and acquisitions. I got the idea from an article written by Hal Thinglum in his MWAN magazine.

    Parts of my original journal ended up transcribed in various letters, so let me quote one to Hal:

    I have been enjoying MWAN since around 1998 when a fellow member of the Lone Star Historical Miniatures (LSHM) club in San Antonio brought several back issues to the group and gave them away to anyone interested. I picked up a couple, and my miniatures gaming has never been the same.

    One of the issues was #86, which had two very important articles in the changing of my interests. Up until then, my wargaming had been firmly in two camps: Napoleonics and DBA.

    So what was in #86 that changed things for me? First, there was Brian Carroll’s “Birth of a Notion” article where he described his “big battalions” Marlburian project. The combination of studying the period, planning and building big battalions, how he put the project together, in fact the whole article just fascinated me. It still does; whenever I want to rekindle the gaming flame, I reread it again. The other article was Charles Sharp’s “Furious Reason” rules for 18th century warfare. Together, these two set me off on a number of new and exciting wargaming directions.

    I started with 15mm, and even ran a trial Furious Reason game at the new game store location of LSHM. But I didn’t really understand the rules and everyone was pretty disappointed. At that point, [two club members brought out] their quick-play Seven Years War rules. These have the quaint and never-to-be-forgotten name of “SYW Rules.” Lots of dice rolling, stand elimination, march moves, and a whole lot of fun. Mark, Steve, you guys really should think about sending them to Hal! [Note: a cleaned-up version is linked from my blog: ]

    Anyway, those rules together with the megalomania induced by MWAN started me to putting together a 25mm project of the SYW. I mentioned it in a letter…published back in MWAN 101. Units are battalions (24 men) and squadrons (6 troopers), with two-gun artillery batteries with limbers. Very similar to your SYW project as outlined in MWAN 87. Currently I am closing in on finishing my base Prussian force: 16 battalions, 30 squadrons, and 2 batteries. My Austrians are getting started, but have a long way to go to reach the required size to outnumber the Prussians. And along the way I diverted myself long enough to pick up a French force of 4 battalions, 4 squadrons, 2 guns, and a like-size English force.

    Along the way I had help and inspiration from a number of people. Jim Purkey, aka Der Alte Fritz, was at the time editor of the Journal of the Seven Years War Association. He pointed out several books to get me started:

    For uniforms and painting, a good starting point is the inexpensive Bill Biles books from

    1-18260 Biles, William S. drawings by Darrell Capshaw UNIFORMS OF THE SEVEN YEARS WAR:Volume #1 Prussia, England, Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, Brunswick Uniform detail, Flags, Standards, organization for Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. B/w line drawings biblio, index. 1 vol, 64 pgs 1997 HOPEWELL, OMM PUBLISHING
    NEW-softcover ……$15.00

    1-18270 Biles, William S. drawings by Darrell Capshaw UNIFORMS OF THE SEVEN YEARS WAR:Volume #2 France, Austria, Bavaria, Saxony and Wurttenberg. Uniform detail, Flags, Standards, organization for Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. B/w line drawings biblio, index. 1 vol, 51 pgs 1997 HOPEWELL, OMM PUBLISHING
    NEW-softcover ……$15.00

    1-18280 Biles, William S. drawings by Darrell Capshaw UNIFORMS OF THE SEVEN YEARS WAR:Volume #3 The Reicharmee(German States), Russia & Palatinate Uniform detail, Flags, Standards, organization for Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery. B/w line drawings biblio, index. 1 vol, 58 pgs 1997 HOPEWELL, OMM PUBLISHING
    NEW-softcover ……$15.00

    For a general “feel” for the era, Jim recommended and I endorse the book by Christopher Duffy, “Frederick the Great: A Military Life.” Its ISBN is 0415002761, and I read mine through interlibrary loan. By the way, check out local colleges for these kinds of books, too. Other potentials for good overviews are the West Point Military History on the era, and the Osprey “Essential History.” These last two are high-level, though, so don’t look for stirring battle descriptions.

    I also would like to respond to a couple points you raise in your blog: rules and attitudes.

    Interestingly, you point to “Emperor vs. Elector” as “notoriously insular and resistant to innovation.” Wow! If ever there was a group of gamers that I would have NOT slapped that label on, it would be the E vs. E group. I think you will actually find them a very welcoming and open-minded community.

    As to “Old School,” that refers more to an approach than a particular set of rules. Although many people associate the approach with the old rules from the era of Charles Grant, et al. In fact, if you enjoy Warhammer Fantasy Battles, you are playing Old School style rules already: lots of dice, single figures, saving throws, and an emphasis on fun.

    There are as many rules as you can find gamers. Probably more. “Warfare in the Age of Reason” (AOR) once had a huge following and is still popular. A number of people are dragging out “Charge!” and Grant’s “The Wargame,” and you can find the new “Batailles de l’Ancien Regime” (BAR) getting a lot of press time, especially from Bill Protz the author and Der Alte Fritz, playtester #1.

    AOR has the great benefit for a starter set in requiring relatively few figures. Most infantry units are 12 figures strong. You can start building armies with this, and then move on to larger sets. But beware! It takes careful planning to do so. In particular, I am about ready to forever swear off multi-figure stands in 25/28/30mm and always base them singly, and then use movement trays to make up bigger bases.

    Which is exactly what BAR suggests you do. BAR also is “scalable” in that it has suggestions for 24-, 48-, or 60-figure units.

    I started with both 15mm and 25mm, and only recently sold off my 15s to another club member. He is also one of the authors of our local rule set, and the figures were based for that set, so it was a good fit. My large collection of 25mm figures is also based for these rules, and sadly will not easily be expanded to use with full-size BAR in the 60-figure giant economy package. But with something like 1,400 figures already based for those rules, I don’t relish the idea of rebasing them anyway. Perhaps with some judicious partial rebasing…

    A completely different approach from these rules is “Volley and Bayonet.” In case you are not familiar, VnB uses a single 3” x 3” stand to represent an entire brigade. So your role as player is completely different from the other, more tactical rulesets. VnB has quite a following on line, including some rules for ImagiNation campaigns as well. Check out the VnB Homepage and the Duke Elector King site: .

    Personally, I have a long-standing interest in the minor countries in the history of war. Everything from the Brazilians and Slovaks in World War 2, through the Confederation of the Rhine in Napoleon’s time, back to the Reichsarmee of the Seven Year War and earlier. So it is no surprise to me that the ImagiNation concept is so popular. I have been mightily tempted to do the complete fictional country, but since I also aspire to huge historical armies, I’m letting the real uniforms of small countries like Brunswick stand in for my legions of Hesse-Fedora. And I’m working on my best gaming friend to bring him over to the Dark Side…errr…Urope.

    I hope you find the above interesting or helpful. You asked for help, and I meant to provide it in a fun way. Again, good luck in your endeavor and I hope to read more about it on your blog and TMP.


  5. Ed, thanks for the feedback. I would like to say, in my own defense, that I wasn’t knocking E vs. E per se, just some of the sites that use it as a hub. I don’t want to get into a finger-pointing kind of thing, but there’s a few in there from whom I practically quoted word for word. What makes me sad about that is, I don’t think people think they are being difficult. They just employ the lingo without pausing to consider that people don’t necessarily know what they are talking about.

    I’m reading AOR right now, and I’ll give you an example. AOR says that a infantry are in a “12 man unit mounted on 4 stands of 3 figures each.” Easy enough (although would it have killed them to describe the stand as 1.5″ WIDE and 1″ DEEP?). Then, on the next page, it says that starting players should “command a brigade of about 4 units plus artillery.” Down the page it says “Infantry brigades may be no smaller than three battalions and no larger than 5.”

    Now, is a battalion a unit, which is to say four stands of 3 figures? Or is it something else? Then it says “cavalry brigades are normally 1 or 2 regiments.” Is a regiment a unit? Can I have a brigade with 3 infantry units and 1 cavalry unit? WHY DON’T THEY DEFINE WHAT A REGIMENT IS?!? The reason: because I should obviously know, being familiar with military and wargaming terminology. Let’s not forget, we are talking about something as fundamental as army composition here. Would it have killed someone to put in a glossary? Or at least a better developed index?

    This is the unintentional screening that goes on in historical games.

  6. David,

    I guess I can see your point. The authors presume some level of familiarity with the subject matter, unlike WHFB for example. Just so you know, there ARE some historical sets (the out of print Napoleon’s Battles, and Volley & Bayonet) that have such introductory matter.

    However, not all is clear in Mudville, either. My copy of WHFB 7th (the little book from Skull Pass) says what a unit is, but in the Infantry section on page 7 just throws in the word “regiment” while the cavalry doesn’t. Oh, and the GW “Battalion Sets” muck it up even more; in most armies, a regiment is composed of several battalions, not the other way around.

    Just wait until someone starts throwing French and German around!

    The West Point or Osprey books would be particularly good introductions in this area. But I’m quite happy to give you any pointers if you care to ask. Does your blog show you my email address?


  7. I think it would add a whole new dimension — one that many might not anticipate and that might spruce up your gaming a great deal — if you suddenly had one of your commanders cook up a candlelit dinner for one of the enemy commanders.


    I know….Try it! Then report back how it went.

    *sits back to wait*

  8. Okay, to help you, here are some of those “basic terms” explained.

    BATTALION — this is the basic foot unit of the period. While exact size varied from country to country, it was usually in the range of 600 to 750 men.

    Battalions were composed of smaller sub-groups called companies. Company size varied greatly between countries, but were combined to form battalions of the size mentioned above.

    REGIMENT — used in two ways. For infantry, a “regiment” was composed of a number of battalions. This could be one, two, three or more battalions in a “regiment”. This varied not only from country to country, but within each country as well.

    Despite this, infantry regiments frequently did not fight together. Often two battalions of the same regiments were in totally different areas. The battalion remained the organizational level used on the field.

    The second use of “regiment” is when referring to mounted units. Again, size varied from country to country . . . but regiments were comprised of various numbers of “squadrons”. Interestingly enough, “squadron” size was relatively consistent from country to country of 120 to 150 troopers (although “field strength” was often lower). And, again, it was not at all unusual for the squadrons of a regiment to be in various different places.

    So, “regiments” were organizational, not necessarily tactical units.

    BRIGADE — brigades were a collection of units (battalions or squadrons) placed under the command of a “Brigadier”. A “Brigadier” was of a higher rank than a Colonel, but only commanded infantry units OR mounted units. A “General” could command BOTH infantry and mounted units.

    Brigades could vary considerably in strength, but were often of the size mentioned in your rules. In many armies, there were no “set” brigades. Instead they would be temporary organizations for a particular battle.

    Incidentally, a “Legion” was sort of like a brigade, but was composed of both foot and mounted units — but it was far smaller than what a “General” typically commanded.

    Mounted units could be composed of various different types of mounted units. Chief among these were the various forms of “Horse”. These were the “heavies”, such as Cuirassiers (whose “cuirass” aka breastplate was often underneath the coat).

    Dragoons were a lesser form of mounted troops. Originally they were mounted infantry, but by this period they usually operated as cavalry. It should be noted that they had much poorer mounts and were paid a lot less than the “true” cavalry.

    Hussars were the most common form of “light horse” in the SYW. Other types were Cossacks (essentially tribal units) and Uhlans (armed with a lance). Most “light horse” did not serve so much on the battlefield as they did as screening and scrounging forces.

    I hope that his helps.

    — Jeff

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