Tuesday, December 28, 2010

15mm Chaco War 1: Paraguayan Infantry

The Chaco War is one of those conflicts between the great wars which was fought in the "Back of Beyond" (to use the spirit, if not literally the meaning, of that expression) and has a small but obsessive following amongst wargamers. I like that! So I decided to make a set of models for the war, starting with the basic building blocks. Each army will have an infantry set and a support weapon set, the infantry set having an NCO, an LMG and six riflemen, the support set having a two MG teams and a mortar team.

The first set is done and ready for sale, I'm just waiting for the world to re-awaken from its holiday slumber before releasing them. They are the Paraguayan infantry. Four are barefoot, a condition so common in the ranks of this desperately poor army that the Bolivians called the infantry pilas. The officer has a Luger, the LMG is a Madsen, and the rifles are Mausers (the infantry weapon of this conflict). Three of the poses are wielding machetes, which was the dreaded and nearly ubiquitous close combat arm of the Paraguayan infantry, and also extremely useful in hacking through the tough, dry vegetation that was (and still is) nearly everywhere in the Gran Chaco.

It's not easy to get good information on Paraguayan uniform colours for the Chaco War, but the sources seem to agree that the Paraguayans went over to two green shades before the war began, an olive green and a darker colour. The olive colour had a slightly bluish tinge to it, or at least that's what surviving uniforms indicate.

The modern Paraguayan army units which dress up in Chaco-era uniforms for their annual victory celebrations wear hats and tunics of the dark colour and trousers in the olive colour, presumably as it looks more martial, but the images from the war suggest strongly that any of the items in the uniform -- hat, tunic, trousers -- could be either colour. That said, the one exception seems to be that the dark green would not have been worn without at least one olive item, so at least one element in every man's uniform was olive green. That is how we have had the models painted.

Next up will be the Bolivian infantry, called affectionately by myself and the sculptor the "milkmen" due to their uniforms. They are sculpted and I received them today in the post. I will be sending them off to the caster in a day or two and they should be available within the month.

The sculptor is making some other models now, including the Thanksgiving Contest models for Capt Jake, and command for the Arach spiderheaded infantry (for my upcoming sci fi black powder range, Rise of the Garn), but after those he will make the Bolivian and Paraguayan mortar and MMG/HMG teams. The Bolivians will be provided with Vickers MGs, the Paraguayans with one Vickers and one Colt -- they had very many captured Vickers in particular.

The mortar for both will be a Stokes-Brandt. The Bolivians actually began the war with almost none of these useful weapons as they scorned it as "poor man's artillery," but learned from bitter experience to acquire quite a few of them. The Paraguayans could not afford as many of the big fancy field pieces, so had a near monopoly of the "lowly" mortar in the first of their many victorious campaigns, when its mobility and high trajectory proved invaluable. When the Bolivians bought mortars the Paraguayans captured no small number of those, bolstering their arsenal still further.

If the line sells relatively well I will make SMG teams as well as artillery crew and perhaps even high command on horseback. If it amazes me and actually takes off, I may even have some of the aircraft of the war made, like the Curtis Hawk for the Bolivians and the Potez for the Paraguayans. (But don't hold your breath.)

Then again, who knows? It's one of those interesting interwar conflicts that are ripe for gaming using Flames of War, and can focus on the infantry combat as there were virtually no tanks or mechanized transports involved -- the tiny handful of tankettes used by the Bolivians being quickly dealt with by the Paraguayans.

The differences come largely from the style of infantry combat. The Paraguayans, whose officers admired the devestating German stormtrooper tactics they saw on the Western Front when observing (as guests of the French) during WWI, used those tactics very effectively. On the other hand, the tradition-bound Bolivians used denser and less fluid combat techniques, largely due to the leadership of a European high commander (ironically, a German). As a result, when they were on the attack they often launched frontal attacks and were mowed down in bloody heaps by the defending Paraguayans. Paraguayan attacks (and that was the more common occurrence) were usually handled better, with infiltration and envelopment being key to their many victories, along with the indomitable spirit of the Paraguayan infantryman himself. This fellow might not have been much to look at, but was arguably the most effective infantryman in South America.

Alternately these models, with their extremely obscure uniforms, would make ideal "generic" infantry for Red vs Blue wargaming, and would also make very colourful planetary defense forces for sci fi battles, something for your higher tech troops to chew up, or reinforce, as the case may be.

First release in a week or two ....


  1. The minis look great. I love the barefooted soldiers. I will use them for Traveller.

    I looked up the Gran Chaco War and the War of the Triple Alliance too. Aweful, bloody contests.

    Looking at the population density distribution of Paraguay toady, they have done absolutley nothing with the territory they gained in that war.

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  3. Very Peter Pig feel about them. Make me think again about a 20's/30's Very American Civil War alternate to VBCW.

    They could also potentially be used as SCW Thaelmanns or similar.

    Starting fresh I'm not so sure about using Flames of War for the Chaco War. Too Fat Lardies have a range of products that would be more suited and give more character to the conflict IMO such as IABSM, TW&T, Triumph of The Will and Through Mud & Blood.

    There are dedicated Chaco rules based on DBA:



  4. I am currently reading the "Green Hell" about this war and have found an old Military Modelling with colour plates, I will buy some as soon as I can and I will of course by the Vickers tanks, who cares about reality they look so cool in a Heath Robinson sort of way.


  5. I like these as well. I'd make use of them in a "Day After Ragnarok" campaign, as Poisoned Lands fighters. These, alongside some ACW and Road Outlaws, would make a cool retropocalypse force.