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"Anyone Ever Tried 18th Century Air Balloon Wars?" Topic

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Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Sep 2007 8:20 a.m. PST

I'm intrigued with the idea of painting and building some Montgolfier styled hot air balloons for an 18th Century wargame. Has anyone else done something similar? I envision that the balloons would have the national symbols of each country (Austrian Eagle, Prussian Flame Flag with Eagle, French Fleur du Lys, English Cross of St George, Hanoverian Horse, etc.) painted on the gas bag with wicker gondolas (armed with a swivel gun) hanging beneath the bag.

Any thoghts?

zippyfusenet02 Sep 2007 9:21 a.m. PST

Fritzchen, Schatzi! Bubbeleh!

It was only last night I watched Terry Gilliam's 1987 epic The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The Baron escapes from a besieged city and flies to the moon in a hot air balloon tailored up from ladies' knickers. The 'basket' of the Baron's conveyance is a small sailing boat, rigged as a two-masted skiff. Like any well-rigged vessel, the Baron's flies her colors, the jack of the nameless Republic that the Baron saves from the Turk. The little ship's amphibious capabilities prove most efficacious at a later stage in the Adventure.

Baron Munchausen's balloon is not armed, but it might well have been. The weight of cannon and ball would be but a trifle, easily borne by the volume of hot air available. Indeed, Fritzi, I think that in your game any balloon with a gentleman adventurer like Baron Munchausen in her crew should get a bonus for lift.

Many years ago I built a model of the Mad Zeppelin, which had some interesting features. The passenger car of the Mad Zeppelin was also a small ship's hull, with a wheeled, tricycle landing gear. The triphibious capability this gave would put the Captain of such an airship in a fair way to becoming Master of the World. However, the Mad Zeppelin is steam powered, and so is too advanced a design technically for the 18th century.

I wonder whether anyone has ever produced resin castings of Baron Munchausen'd balloon, or the Mad Zeppelin, perhaps as Christmas tree ornaments? I wonder whether anyone could be persuaded?

ioannis02 Sep 2007 10:51 a.m. PST

Nothing to do with ballons, but I am toying with the idea of a squadron of Prussian elephants carrying a 3-pdr and a couple swivel guns. They could have been a gift, no?

Nice idea on the balloons!

Weren't there some ballons early in the Napoleonic wars?

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP02 Sep 2007 12:18 p.m. PST

Zippy: you're on the right track there. There is a company in Georgia (the state in the US) called Ballard Designs that has decorative hot air balloons in two sizes. I've thought about buying a couple of them. I like the idea of a ship's hull shaped gondola, or a swan or some other long platform. Blunderbusses would be a must as well. Foundry has a Prussian freikorps figure with blunderbuss.

ioannis02 Sep 2007 12:46 p.m. PST

Found them…Very interesting!

I can get you all the swivel guns your heart desires. I found a local hobby shop loaded with them and all things required for a 'ship', perfect for 28mm figures!

But, how to 'base' the balloons and how to use them in games? Same for WW1 planes. Sticking them on a plexiglas stick does not do it for me because aerial combat was 3D. It would be nice to have a retracting stick of variable height…

Another idea…A camel corps, a personal gift of the Sultan to Fritz. Again, with swivel guns on their backs.

Who said artillery was not mobile early on???

John the OFM02 Sep 2007 1:18 p.m. PST

Walt O'Hara did a game of balloon races at a past Cold Wars.

zippyfusenet02 Sep 2007 3:36 p.m. PST

Ioannis, I was myself struck with lust for a Munchausen style Turkish army, particularly those elephants with cannon armed towers on their backs. I also want a seraglio tent for the Grand Turk, filled with monstrously fat concubines with wobbling buttocks…but perhaps this isn't the place to go any farther into that. So to speak.

Any 18th century enthusiast who hasn't seen this movie should rush out and do so. Among other delights, you get Uma Thurman on the half shell, which is worth the price of rental right there.

As for modes of enlightened balloon combat, swivel guns and blunderbusses are well and good, but I have no doubt that after the great guns had discharged, the Baron would grapple and lead his gallant crew in a fierce boarding action, lopping off heads until the foe cried for quarter. "Berthold! Make yourself useful! Do I have to do everything myself?"

11th ACR02 Sep 2007 6:42 p.m. PST

Here is a section of my rules for Napoleons Campaign in Egypt and the Holy Land.


k. Aerostiers (Balloonists). In the original plan for the invasion of Egypt by General Bonapart, the French brought three Observation Balloons along with them. Napoleon was lukewarm toward aerial observation. Unfortunately they were still onboard the ships of the French fleet when on the 1st – 2nd August 1798, the French Fleet was destroyed at the Battle of the Nile (Aboukir Bay).

A few months latter the Aerostiers had build a replacement Balloon that was used mainly for festivals and demonstrations in and around Cairo.

The following rules will be used for the use of Observation Balloons.
Observation Balloons may not operate in Gusty Wind, Rain or a Stormy condition.

It will be represented by a two inch by two inch (2" x 2") base and will have two (2) figures mounted on it. This is representing that the Observation Balloon tethered to the ground so that the Observation Balloons dose not drift, and its Aerostiers crew and a small security detachment.

An Observation Balloon will have no shooting capability. If it is attacked in close combat it will defend at zero (0) defensive points, and it may not be used as a supporting unit. It will move at the speed of a beasts of burden when being transported by ground. If it is set free from its tether then you will use the following wind rule, as per XIII. Optional/Special Rules: a. Gunboats and Transport: wind direction.

Note: One roll for wind as per below is all that is needed if using Gunboats/Transport and Observation Balloon in a game.

For the direction of wind go to XII. Optional/Special Rules: – m. Weather: Wind:

It will take an Observation Balloon unit one hour (2 turn) to setup for flight or tear down for movement. And during either movement or setup/tear down they may not be assisting in observing of the enemy.

The following distances will be used for observation of units from an Observation Balloon.
All units in the open in day light, ninety six Inches (96").
All units in the open at night, two inches (2").
All campfires in the open at night, ninety six Inches (96").
All units observing in to Orchards, Woods and Built-up areas (city, towns and villages) ten inches (10").

If a unit is hidden, and moves or performs shooting combat it is no longer hidden.
An observation Balloon will be able to observe troops behind terrain features (hills ridges and in depressions), and behind city walls or in towns and city's (in the streets).

The Gray Ghost03 Sep 2007 2:17 a.m. PST

I'm currently converting ships from the weapons and warriors pirate games into floating ships.

Supercilius Maximus03 Sep 2007 8:30 a.m. PST

Did you know that Zeppelin was attached to the Union Army as an observer during the ACW? Apparently he became highly interested in the Army of the Potomac's balloon section, during the siege of Yorktown (yes, same one) in 1862.

The Gray Ghost03 Sep 2007 9:19 a.m. PST

I have found that the blades off those 2.00 hand held battery fans work well as propellers.

abdul666lw04 Sep 2007 5:26 a.m. PST

Great topic!
For me I'd be careful, when spicing a Lace Wars setting with a pinch of Sci-Fi, not to overdo it (I like mid-18°C warmaging as Grant's 'The Wargame' and would fear to turn it into WWI wargaming in costume). Yet, it may be avery enjoyable experiment.
How you endvisage your balloons models is mouth-watering. I firmly hope we'll be allow to photos! Alte Fritz, please don't be ashamed to 'spoil' your blog with them.

Personal logo Der Alte Fritz Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Sep 2007 4:14 p.m. PST

For example, I could see dropping "bombs" from the airship and you would roll dice for windage and then maybe have a 50-50 chance that the bomb would explode. Or maybe drop round shot and see if it hits anything (instant death) on the strike and then roll to see where the round shot bounces.

abdul666lw08 Sep 2007 6:44 a.m. PST

beware `Sadler's Flying Artillery'!

As soon as you field balloons the opposition will model Flak pieces for your next battle!

At it happens I just posted on the Presipality of Monte-Cristo blog:
a few illos of what would be `futuristic weapons and engines' in a mid-18°C setting. The posts are entitled MC Mil R&D I to IV and labelled LaceW SciFI.

Actually 7 pictures only may be of some general interest, being 'authentic':
-a Thomas Rowlandson etching depicting `Sadler's Flying Artillery' (1798) (was this Mr Sadler the same as the 1st British aeronaut?);
-a Bonapartist `Seelöwe' dream, representated by 3 early 19°C drawings, with warships, balloons and even a tunnel under the Channel;
-an early 19°C French vision of 'future war' with balloons shooting in direct support of land troops;
-a late 18°C project of man-powered helicopter;
-a picture of a 'flying man' from the novel "La Decouverte Australe par un homme-volant", Restif de la Bretonne, 1781.

Unfortunately the originals in the books were quite small.

{Otherwise you'll merely recognize the Ferguson rifle, Puckle & Reffye machineguns, caronnade ('avanced' by the WAS), Cugnot's and Fulton's steam-driven vehicles, `Turtle' submarine.…}

[ I also posted some personal comments about the addition of Sci-Fi (or Fantasy) elements to the background of a Lace Wars wargame campaign, and about the claimed ‘serious' /'adult' historicity of some wargames.]

The most relevant here is the (fully historical, if only as a project) `SADLER'S FLYING ARTILLERY' design –as you'll see, a coach armed with twin-linked swivel guns. It can be the prototype of a whole family of variants, including several SPAA types: the most straightforward –and historical- would be a quadruple mounting of Puckle's machine guns….

abdul666lw19 Sep 2007 12:46 p.m. PST

Victorian Sci-Fi Cloudships here:
Some designs are too 'modern', but the 'Martians' types are inspirational: just have them hanging under a balloon!

Well, some decoration of the balloon (in the imitation of the 1st, very adorned Montgolfieres), adding a swan's front part to the prow and the rear part at the stern, painting some details in Louis XV furniture style, would be required to fully give them a 'Lace Wars' look.

Anyway, they are to for sale… but you can find some ideas there.

Festus Haggen19 Sep 2007 1:30 p.m. PST

> It would be nice to have a retracting stick of variable height>

I'm using car antennas.

abdul666lw24 Sep 2007 12:13 a.m. PST

A few new relevant illustrations added to the post MC Mil R&D IV-Air Mobility on the Monte-Cristan blog:

abdul666lw17 Oct 2007 12:29 a.m. PST

Thanks to "Yours in a White Wine Sauce!" : H&M Sci-Fi (Napoleonic) rather than 18th C. -the shakos & also the 'jet' propellers are too 'modern' for the Lace Wars- but enjoyable and potentially inspirational nonetheless: link
[3Dmark 2006 rendered ! (Cannon Flight)]

Supercilius Maximus17 Oct 2007 2:19 a.m. PST

In terms of visualising balloon combat, you might care to look at "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" where the French and German pilots fight a duel in balloons over the reservoir next to the airfield. I believe that the scene replicates an actual event during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.

Kilkrazy17 Oct 2007 4:37 a.m. PST

A long time ago when I was little, there was a children's Napoleonic adventure series on UK TV featuring two officers who worked in a kind of secret intelligence unit.

One of the dastardly French plots they foiled was to invade Britain by means of an armada of hot air balloons.

A little bit of historical licence is all you need to make dirigible balloons for 18th century warfare. The first useful steam engine was invented 1n 1712. Just make it lighter and use less coal and it could supply both hot air for lift and power some kind of propulsion system -- huge swan-like wings, or helical screws, would be more 18th century than propellers.

Supercilius Maximus18 Oct 2007 2:43 a.m. PST


Yes, I remember that programme too, but not the name. They were two naval officers – I think one was "Lieutenant Lamb". Not sure if there was more than one series, but I do recall them also trying to stop the American Mr Fulton from building a submarine which he intended to offer to Napoleon (who duly rejected it as "ungentlemanly"!).

Kilkrazy18 Oct 2007 11:11 a.m. PST

Yes, it was Lieutenant Lamb.

Here we go…

It must have been repeated later since in 1961 I was not yet a twinkle in my father's eye.

Eisenstein19 Oct 2007 1:00 a.m. PST

I like the idea for something like this. Instead of hot-air balloons you could use ….. dragons. (I like the Temeraire books of Naomi Novik) You could use them in battle formaties with light dragons acting as frigates, nice! In China the dragons are part of society so why not using them in a wargame?

Supercilius Maximus19 Oct 2007 2:39 a.m. PST


Excellent link – thanks. I was only 2, so like you, I cannot have seen the original broadcasts. However, I don't recall Matthews playing either of the two main characters (I'm sure I would have remembered him, as he was a well known face on British TV in the 60s), so maybe there was another series made?

Kilkrazy19 Oct 2007 3:03 a.m. PST

There was-

Triton apparently remade in 1968 with different actors.

Pegasus broadcast in 1969 is obviously a sequel, probably the one with the balloons in.

This is the one I particularly remember. I was seven and a half.

As both are black and white they will probably never be shown again.

Supercilius Maximus19 Oct 2007 5:32 a.m. PST

That's the one! Well done.

Might have a word with a mate at the Beeb and see what happened to them (a lot of b/w stuff was chucked once colour came in). If there's any joy, I'll post back here.

abdul666lw21 Oct 2007 7:43 a.m. PST

"A long time ago when I was little, there was a children's Napoleonic adventure series on UK TV featuring two officers who worked in a kind of secret intelligence unit.
One of the dastardly French plots they foiled was to invade Britain by means of an armada of hot air balloons."

Actually several contemporary etchings depict the idea: I reproduced some on my post devoted to 'Air Mobility':
Even a tunnel under the Channel was proposed as part of a combined 'See Löwe': a (very small, unfortunately) illo at the end of: link


The Gray Ghost08 Jan 2008 12:07 p.m. PST

The best battlefield weapon for them would be spikes that could be dropped onto infantry, ala S1889, but that seems a little un Munchausian.

abdul666lw09 Jan 2008 10:33 a.m. PST

"spikes that could be dropped onto infantry": I agree, cheap and efficient, but without panache / glamour. But you could fasten whistles and long, brightly colored ribbons to them, in order to reach a minimal degree of (quasi-Chinese) elegance?

Then, what about hand grenades? Not the common, merely explosive type: rough, brutish, common, trivial – inelegant again. But grenades lauching fireworks, for instance: they would provide a pleasant spectacle, a welcome relief for all those poor souls in bloodbath -almost bring a litle poetry to the battlefield.
And they would play hell, not only with horses, but with zamberek camels, jingal elephants and any other exotic weapon systems with which some fancy Sovereigns may wish to spice Western European warfare, somewhat insipid despite tasty Hussars and Pandours brilliance.

Now, Medieval Chineses had a peculiar 'nauseous gas stunning grenade' -basically filled with a mixture of sulphur-enriched black powder and dried feces. Many soldiers -simple minds, to tell the truth- would enjoy its humorous nature.

abdul666lw04 Feb 2008 8:47 a.m. PST

& Ionnis
"Another idea…A camel corps, a personal gift of the Sultan to Fritz. Again, with swivel guns on their backs."

Why don't you model them? Together with a jingal elephant with sveral swivel guns in the howdah, abtained by the Sultan from India through Persia, and also given to Der Alte Fritz as a token of anti-Austrian sympathy?

I dare you!

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