EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Monday, September 25, 2017

Action in the Pass

Its been a busy week but today I squeezed in a small Bolt Action game at Ron's, 54mm in Tunisia.
My Recce patrol runs into a Jerry patrol in a pass through some rugged hills.

It was a fun little game but I've rarely seen such a hard to read, poorly written set of rules that can require flipping through 2-4 sections in 2 books to find some very simple, basic, rules buried in a mass of trite trivial narrative in various places.

Losses have been heavy but our plucky lads have given more than they've taken. I feel a counter attack coming on. If we can just hold it... 
I still don't know if I like them once I get past the frustration. Some aspects work well, others just seem odd compared to my reading or against past expectation and habit (which obviously may comfortable rather than right) and seem to lead to unlikely tactics and too many fight to the last man situations. None the less, it was good to get the 54's back on the table and the game was fun and reached a definite conclusion after 4 hours. (Over 1/2 of which time was probably spent leafing through the books or discussing the possible intended meanings of what was found.)

It seems I have developed  a preference for rule books that seek to explain how the rules work rather than trying to entertain.

It was nip and tuck at times but while the Jerries poured in astounding quantities of very accurate fire, our blokes just wouldn't lie down and die. One of their 1/2 tracks did reverse off table at high speed shortly before the end though so I guess the Jerry mucky-mucks will know that we hold the pass.
An update on the War of 1812 in a day or so.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Man Interupted

Strike while the Tin is hot!

Isn't  that what they  say? Well, same thing but different as the idiom would have it. Anyway I have begun, and begun by resurrcting a dusty, abandoned and half forgotten project.

Can't remember when I started this chap, might be over 10 years ago but I found the body and have resumed work. He now has a head with noticeable nose, a flintlock, etc but still needs a right foot and bit of general tidying up and finishing.  
Since last summer, the remaining War of 1812 collection has been tagged to be reduced to a small, Battle in a Box, gridded game, but that wasn't where it started. It was just over 20 years ago that I first dabbled my toes in 54mm gaming and my chosen subject was small actions of the War of 1812, initially centred on the Western campaigns. This was just before the deluge of new plastic soldiers  for adults, so conversions were de rigueur. ( and also back to my roots!).

54mm Variations: L->R: Quebec Sedentary Militia, original Accurate ACW, US 1812.
The outside fellows appeared at Chateauguay, Cold Wars 1998, the first public MacDuff game.
The wargaming side of 54's got a big boost when Pete Panzeri put out a call on r.g.m.h. for 54mm figures that could be used in his La Haye Sainte game at Cold Wars 2007.
My Marx Canadian (ie Mexican) Militia playing KGL manning the sandpit in the foreground, while beyond them, my US regulars, led by a Hoeffler General, are playing Belgians against battalions of their fellow BMC Mexicans used by Pete as French.

So it was that about 100 of my 54mm British, Canadian and American troops played the role of KGL and Dutch-Belgians in public and I met new friends and enough 54mm enthusiasts to set me on my current path and eventually resulted in the Little Wars Yahoo group. It was also the weekend where I met Rob Dean and didn't close a deal on some original 1/32nd Airfix Russians, still in the box. (Still have them if anyone is interested.) It was of course Rob who later diverted me into 40mm and homecasting but that's another story.

Tricky business trying to copy old glossy prints that weren't the best when new.
A 54mm 1812 "get the convoy to the fort" game with Rob & sons en route to (or from?) Louisburg in 1999.
    This is the fort that was cut up to make the current Fort MacDuff.
When I downsized to 40mm I initially stayed with low level actions with the occasional small battle. It was when I decided to re-home the chunkier, detailed half of my 1812 collection to focus on the smaller, shiny toy look and also came to the decision that I needed to cut back on periods and figures, that I decided that 1812 could be relegated to a portable, quick, battle-in-a-box. I wonder if I was just reluctant to resume painting 1812 figures?

Luckily, just in time, along came various blog posts and videos that whetted my appetite to paint  and field some tight packed battalions. My 18thC semi-flats would have served, but only if I dropped NQSYW conventions and tight based them en masse with 20ish man battalions. Putting all that out of my mind, I decided to start rehabiliting some 1812 troops who had been converted to 1839 uniforms.

With that aim I went rifling through the spares boxes for some of the round hats and 1812 US shakos that I had made and cast in 1805.  I found some, but also found a forgotten, unfinished, 1812 US infantry master. Hmm...just needs a head and some finishing up..hmm...I have a head....I also have a gallon of rtv on its way....shame not to use him....  and so it was that the decision was quickly but thoughtfully made to resurrect the original 1812 project aimed initially at the 1812/1813 raids, ambushes and small battles along the frontier from the Richelieu to to Lake Erie but with the option to expand into the 1814 and/or the western campaigns as well.

After some deliberation and checking of table space, ranges and troop numbers versus various historical battles and skirmishes I have settled on a theoretical base scale of 1 inch to 20 yards (or 1 grid square = 80 yards) and 1 figure to 20 men.

With a standard wargame line infantry battalion being 18 figures on a 6" frontage  but possibly being 24 or 12 figures in some scenarios, and my grid being of 4" squares, it won't be a conventional gridded game after all. However, if I can't make the grid work for me for measuring at least, then I can always resort to my measuring sticks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The last two months have been a bit frustrating. Although I have managed a reasonable number of games and sorted a few things in my mind, I have been making very little progress on filling out orders of battle, writing up back stories or managing a mini-campaign or even a couple of battles in a row in the same war.  There is a long, boring list of non-hobby related  things that have interfered and the next 2 month aren't likely to be much better as I move farther into the fall/pre-winter outside Must-do list. Still, there is more to it and indecision as to which way to jump is playing a role.

I think its time to have a look at what needs to be done, look at the issues and obstacles and decide on priorities and a plan.

For those who'd like something more interesting that me waffling, here are some video's to watch.

 Brian's Toy Soldier Collecting blog has links to videos showing Britain's toy soldiers being made in 1949 and  in 1965. After watching them,  I found myself watching a 3 part  Russian look into the history of toy soldiers (dubbed in English) that I had seen once sometime (years?) ago.  
Watching this video left me with a burning desire to cast and paint more soldiers!

OK back to my planning. Chronologically, the top 4 candidates for some focused attention this fall are:

A.Prince Micheal. The big thing here is to be ready to take an 8 player game to Huzzah in May. The three main things are: to settle the details of the scenario, assess the requirements for figures and terrain, and identify and rectify any deficiencies. I'm fairly confident that this only needs a week or three of winter leisure to polish up, mostly a matter of some basing and some paint enhancement on some second hand figures.

B. NQSYW. I have a vague consensus with myself on organization and rules but all that needs to be sharpened. Then there are uniform decisions, decisions on refurbishing old units, back stories, and on and on. I don't want this to languish nor do I wish to rush it, especially not the wrong way. I think another game within the next few weeks then put it off till the weather  turns cold and then see about ordering some new guns and settling down to planning followed by execution.

C. War of 1812. This limited scope collection is bugging me because it is almost but not quite ready.  It seems silly to start with the one that I am least likely to want to campaign in but it would be good to have a small, complete, Canadian history, 40mm, game, ready to go.  All presentable and proper like.

It also wouldn't take much. A few dozen existing figures to touch up or rebase, perhaps 50 or 60 new homecast figures, some finishing of bases. It would just seem smart to get it out of the way to reduce the clutter and distraction.

D. The Great War.    This has my eye at the moment and is really where I want to spend the most time next year but there is a lot of work to be done to get me to where I want to be and I don't want to rush into production until I know what I need. There is a need for several new figures to be sculpted and cast and there are some issues around obtaining artillery and mg's to be resolved which may mean finding either funding or a spark of cleverness, not to mention the need for mountains. In short there is a lot of planning and work to be done.

I confess, this has been complicated and escalated by the possibility that if I arrange to have sufficient historical figures for an historical 1912 Caucasus game then I might be able to take said game to Huzzah should it happen that they decide that the 100th Anniversary of the last year of WWI would be a fitting theme. Not THAT important but it would be nice to be in step for once, well, sort of in step.

Actually now that I have written it down. The 1812 stuff makes sense as it needs almost no planning, just doing. Planning on other things can theoretically proceed in the background.

Could be brought home by Christmas if I settle to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter

For a number of years now (too many) I have been slowly working towards reducing the numbers of armies and campaigns represented on my shelves in order to make time and space for the chosen few. As part of this process, in 2014, I embarked on an entirely new collection (I know, I know), essentially a Centennial, Shiny, Homecast, Toy Soldier, Not Quite World War One  (NQWW1).  It got off to a great start but I soon found that I needed to make new masters and moulds to continue much farther but had run out of materials and budget.

Instead of pushing ahead anyway and making do, I decided to switch focus to work on other things until I was ready. As I grew near to despairing that the time would ever come, things suddenly came together while I wasn't looking. I have new green stuff, I have a a gallon of good liquid rtv en route, I still have the desire and best of all, I have a plan!

"The one on the left, I think." ... "Yes sir, just the thing we need!"

The book they are looking at is Henry Harris's "Model Soldiers", my entry drug. 
The other was given to my mum by her dad, a reservist recalled to the RHA in 1914. 
Some young kid seems to have flipped through the pictures too often. 

Now, it pains me to say that part of the deal with myself is that I will drop various stalled or played out campaigns and collections and either reduce them to a small "game in a  box" or re-purpose the figures even where this means stripping, re-converting and  re-painting. It also means that once again, I will have to "correct" certain details of the fictional history of Northern Atlantica (the "Colonial" half) but that will be for a separate post. Suffice it to say that there are likely to be some sheep skin caps and maybe the occasional small turban, fez or other cap.

Its time to get back to:

Three years gone by and still not over the mountain yet!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Wood of Tears

Tuesday Morning.

The sun rises over St. Margaret's Bay as the tide moves in. If I had swivelled 90 degrees, due south  towards the narrow mouth of the bay, and if the world was flat, I could have taken a picture of Bermuda roughly 1,250 km away.   

Civil Wars in 1/72nd plastic became an accidental theme for the weekend as I broke open my Portable Russian Civil War carrying case. I do have my own rules but the portability just cried out for Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame.

Red artillerymen await the order to open fire while the Generals breakfast together. 
The basic playing field was a Hotz Desert Mat with 3" hexes and dabs and sprays of green paint. Having,  somehow, not brought the log cabins for the scenario I planned to play, I just threw a low ridge line with scattered woods to one side and dealt out two balanced armies, each of 15 units plus a general, for an encounter game. Both sides would begin off table with the goal of seizing and holding the ridge. The exhaustion level was set to 8 for each side and simple elimination was agreed upon. All units were average.

The armies, whose composition was heavily influenced by the contents of the boxes they came in as well as by the failure to equip the large numbers of recruits in holding camps, were composed of:
General with staff, 5 cavalry, 6 infantry, 2 field guns, 2 MG (one of White's being a Tchanka) and 1 machine gun armed Armoured Car or Light Tank. An insufficient number of limbers were treated as window dressing.
Game 1. The Red army swiftly seizes the ridge line before the White's have even arrived on the field. and it waits, and waits, and...
 I don't particularly like dice activation systems since there is no way to avoid the chance of infinite rolls of '1' in a row so we opted for the solo card draw. Not having brought 2 decks of cards we just extended the range to two higher and two lower and used the two Jokers. The first game saw 3 Red cards then a Joker, which allowed me to grab the ridge before Rob moved a finger. That was then followed by a seemingly endless stream of high Black cards interspersed with Jokers. At that point I suggest we ditch one of the Jokers since the pack was small and things went a bit more smoothly with me being able to get off a shot or two before the game ended. 8 vs 2 was the score in Rob's favour.

Each coloured ring marks a lost unit from that army.  In the background a hint of red marks what Rob later christened the 'Wood of Tears'. 
 The day was young and the game fast so we reset and this time the cards behaved normally with occasional short runs but basically balanced. The game played out very differently with Rob's tank cutting a  swathe through my left flank cavalry then running amok amongst my guns. Only the courage of the dedicated patriotic gunners which inspired them to keep retiring their guns rather than running saved the day. At last more Red Cavalry galloped up and finished off the isolated tank. Losses were fairly close at 6 a side until a dashing Red assault tipped them over the edge. It didn't end the game though and has his shells crashed down on my troops I feared a draw but when counter battery fire, directed by General Ross himself, finally smashed the last White field gun, it was all over. They couldn't advance and were out of range of the ridge which I occupied. A narrow win but my one win of the weekend!

Game 2. A Red victory! Urrah!
(The red discs indicate that enemy artillery has ranged in on that hex.)
 At this point Paul stepped in as Red commander. Rob, already seasoned in the rules, handled him very roughly at start, aided by his ally, the sequence deck, but Paul doesn't give up easily nor do card runs last forever and soon the game was being very hotly contested.  In the end Rob's third victory of the weekend was stoutly contested but a victory none the less.

The terrain was laid out by instinct for balance rather than deeply planned but the right most wood, lying across the centre line turned out to be a key position for a flank march covered from direct enemy artillery fire. By the end of the third game some 9 or 10 infantry units had died trying to take or hold this little grove:
The Wood of Tears.