My official excuse for buying dwarves on eBay is to put together the entire forces of the Blood on the Snow scenario from White Dwarf 91. It occured to me that, given reasonably priced old school dwarves are hard to come by (but plenty of manufacturers make compatible humans), my non-orc force could be the human elements from that scenario plus (initially) a few of the dwarves.
I thought I'd look a bit into which period of European history most closely relates to the Warhammer 3rd edition Empire, so as to be able to interpret historical figure manufacturers' catalogues. It's commonly known that Brettonian armies are early medieval and Empire armies are late medieval / renaissance, but what does this mean in terms of dates (or, more importantly, historical wars and hence figure ranges)?
There is clearly some hand-waving involved, however taking Warhammer Armies* as a reference point my guidelines were -
- The dominant infantry weapons are the halberd and crossbow
- Pikes and spears are also in use
- Arquebuses are used but unreliable
According to Wikipedia -
Arquebuses were first used in any significant numbers by the Black Army of Hungary (1458–1494) but this was unusual for the time. They started to come to the fore when pike and shot formations were developed by the Spanish following their defeat at the Battle of Seminara (1495), with the first notable success of this tactic being the Battle of Cerignola (1503). By the Italian War of 1521 these formations were starting to dominate the battlefield. Battles such as the Battle of Ceresole (1544) still have a Warhammer 3rd ed level of technology, but it seems to be that the Empire is earlier than this.
Halberds were a primary infantry weapon during the Burgundian Wars (1474–1477) and Wars of the Roses (1455–1485) - though the English used bills. Pike regiments at the time also incorporated halberds or zweihanders when fighting other infantry but when the role of pikes became primarily protection for gunners the role of halberds declined. The English retained the bill (in conjunction with the longbow) for some time after the pike and arquebus were adopted on the continent, with the Battle of Flodden (1513) being notable amongst other things for being a contest between the two systems.
So where does this leave me? It seems somewhere between about 1470-ish and 1521; perhaps if I had to go for a specific date then 1493, the start of the reign of Maximilian I as Holy Roman Emperor.
I could have reached a very similar conclusion by noting that Wargames Foundry sell their ex-Citadel Empire figures as Wars of the Roses, and that the Perrys have similar ranges both for WotR and European Armies, 1450-1500. However I wouldn't have learned so much in the process, for example why historical Burgandian armies are also a good reference, or why Foundry's gendarmes seem as appropriate as their Renaissance knights as Empire substitutes.
As an interesting aside I came across a useful Brief History of WFRP Time in my search which states that Sigmar's real world equivalent (except without the godhood, obviously) is from around 714-814, which might be an interesting campaign one day.
* For extra old school appeal I could have used Ravening Hordes and the results would have basically been the same. WA is handy though because of the additional illustrations