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

Friday, September 10, 2010

Base Designs

I don't think it's much of a secret that I have a 'thing' for glossy toy soldiers but it may surprise some that I have a  strong attraction for element based rules. By element based, I am not referring to any rules where multiple figures are mounted on a base  but ones where that base or element is a playing piece or unit with its own properties. In some cases, these elements might operate as part of a group but essentially each is a unit in its own right. (DBA & V&B are probably the 2 best known modern versions of this concept but Joe Morschauser's book is the oldest published rules that I am aware of that use the system.)

Since I was exploring Morschauser at the same time that I was discovering the Scruby and Zinnbrigade figures its no surprise that I soon found myself in conflict: Toy Soldiers' natural mode is as groups of individuals but I was focussed on the element as the basis of a game. After basing and re-basing several times in a search for a final solution, I think I may have it. There are 3 key components:

a) toy soldiers mounted individually
b) rules built around implicit rather than explicit elements of 4 infantry and 2 cavalry which means they can be used either way without upsetting too many apple carts. (hmmm there is one that suddenly comes to mind, something to think about later)
c) the magic ingredient: 40mm toy style figures that are light enough that a magnet will hold them! Magnets and some form of movement tray were an obvious solution but most of my 40mm figures are large and clunky  and early experiments failed miserably with figures toppling at the slightest tilt. (I know that more powerful magnets must exist if I looked hard enough and paid enough but I'm into cheap and easy).

 However,  recently I tried one more time but with one of the smaller, lighter, Scruby figures and to my surprise, they held! I started working on designing big movement trays for 8 or 12 figures but having borrowed some troops on my preferred  4 man permanent stands,  I was reminded how much I liked them. It suddenly occurred to me that if I took the stack of abandoned Litko 60x45mm bases that I had originally planned to use (see the header picture), turned them sideways, added some sticky magnetic paper, also still waiting in the cupboard and some strips to give my fingers something to grip I could have both at once, and all that money spent in the past would no longer be wasted! Without more ado:

  Fixed element on left vs new temporary element on the right. Note angle of dangle. They will usually hold even perpendicular to the ground as long as you hold the base not the figures. Sash & Saber and Trident start falling off at about 30 degrees even though mounted on the same washers.    

 4 man stands vs 8 man ones: More fiddling to move a unit but experience tells me 4 out of 5 games won't bother to turn more than a few figures on the end when they go into march column! 

At the moment, my rules are unit based rather than individual based or element based but I'm happy that I can proceed with basing and handle all 3 rule concepts without further basing, The best of all worlds?


  1. Hi Ross,
    RE: magnets: is .20 @ too much? If you buy 200, you can get them @ .17 @.

    This is where my techno-geek friends get thier magnets:


  2. Ross,

    The neodymium magnets are very small and very powerful . . . you can find a number of suppliers on eBay (type "neodymium magnets" or "rare earth magnets" into the search.

    As you may recall, I also like the four-man 2x2 square base format as well.

    One thing to remember . . . how often does one really end up "tilting" bases once they are on the table? In my experience, not very often.

    I suspect that the sheet magnets, even with the heavier figures, will work for the most part . . . although they might not travel well.

    -- Jeff

  3. Thanks John, I actually have enough of the Litko sheet magnet leftover from my experiments 3 years ago to set me up for my current and near future needs. but I'll keep the other in mind.


  4. Hi Jeff, once I make my new vertical slope contour hills, (some day) tilting shouldn't be much of an issue. I don't find I need them on my 25's but the 40's are alsmost twoce as high with the same foot print so even when moving a unit more than a few inches, a clutz like me has been know to tilt a non-magnetic tray enough to drop figures!

    The real problem at the moment though is my sloped hills some of which are quite steep. Steep enough to tumble single figures if the point of balance is too high or they are leaning the wrong direction. the new magnet sheet bases and the toy style figures overcome this magnificently. I'm not worried about the heavier figures as they don't belong with this project anyway and are being phased out.

    Thanks for the comment and suggestion.