EXCERPT 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

Saturday, July 16, 2011

After Effects, Random Thoughts and Future Games

A 1/48th ish die cast Motor Car from the Flea Market. As I suspected, it fits the Zinnbrigade seated 1900 Prussian gunner perfectly. Only 2 questions remain: what exactly am I going to do with it and  why the Heck didn't I buy the other one?

The inevitable result of exposure to many different games, not to mention  the result of playing 6 games of Charge! and lots of time to think on the less busy stretches of highway, is an evaluation of plans and possibilities. Luckily, this year, there was nothing to upset any apple carts, just food for thought. In no particular order:

1. Terrain. Once again, I came across  a  realistic terrain layout that impressed me. By realistic, I don't mean heavily dry brushed with oversized, over detailed buildings but a layout that reminded me of what I see when I climb the hill across the road and turn around. Naturally rolling hills, fields marked out, subdued greens and browns in many hues, trees and houses looking in scale nestled beside the inevitable too small figures.   As often, this was a terrain board. I did a series of these in the 80's and was happy with them till I got tired of the limited arrangements and difficulty of storage that discouraged me from doing more and finally resulted in their damage. An alternative that I have used with success in the past is a cloth laid over hills but this is not friendly to singly mounted  40mm figures. I still think my planned 3/4" pine boards cut into step hills, painted to match may give a suitable basis for an acceptably pleasing rolling toyish country to play over with just a touch of a Wellsian or Grantian air.  If not, there is always the 1/72nd ACW armies which will stand well on a rolling cloth.

2. Toy Soldiers vs Elements. I'm not talking basing here but of the general thrust of the toy soldier style of treating a figure as a figure (whether based singly or on multi-figure basing) vs treating a unit as a unit. I find merit in both approaches  and some projects will be one and some the other but my main 40mm project has hung in the balance for several years now as I flip flop between the two. Last year it tilted again towards the old approach and last week's Charge! games and contemplations about big battles vs small actions has only strengthened that.

3. Scalability and Historicity.   These are   two completely separate issues that just happen to come together. The two opposite ends of the pole are what I have called "the universal soldier" like Charge! or TSATF where the same figures and rules are used for skirmishes and battles but neither are quite right or at least not consistent in detail and scale, as opposed to a series of separate projects, different rules, different organizations, often different figures sizes, all for the same campaigns (eg 28mm skirmishes, 10mm big battles etc). I like the idea of the universal soldier concept for my current main project (Mid-19thC Not Too Historical Toy Soldiers) but it inevitably bumps into the  question of historical "accuracy" and "scale". When I wander about and look at games where consistent scale and historical accuracy of organisation etc are paramount, (usually big or medium sized battles) and compare them to other games, including  Sci Fi games, where things are subordinated to the story, the game experience, the look of the thing, and "feel" (usually semi-skirmish games) then I invariably prefer the latter. When I get home, I find myself starting to obsess again about consistent scale and big battles. I think I need some kind of 7 step program  to cure me.

Big Games with Small Figures vs Small Games with Big Figures. This is closely related. (Small games with small figures and big games with big figures are quite different topics.) It seems to me that "serious" historical wargaming cries out for large armies of small figures deployed on big tables. I saw several such games at Historicon, some very impressive looking and once upon a time I might have been inspired but I didn't feel the slightest regret at not being signed up to play. Part of me mourns this lack of desire but mostly I wonder why that lack should bother to me. Looking back over 40 odd years, the vast majority of games that bring the fondest memories have been of the toy soldier, off scale, high-imagination, low recreation, story heavy games. So why am I finding my self stuck in between these days, not quite doing either?  There is some internal source of confusion that I am missing.

So?  There we are, added together, I think it means that in theory, I am on the right over all track for me but that I need to reverse last year's decision to drop the fictional Oberhilse & Faraway setting in favour of alternate history. Some how a completely fictional setting is more liberating, at very least reading history won't conflict with what I'm doing.  It also means that I'm glad I have side projects, perhaps one of these could be more historical? Mind you another conclusion reached is that I need to focus a little more........  plus ça change......

 One from the archives. A game that never actually was.

Quick Fall Plan. Here's what I see myself doing in the  near future:

1) 16thC. Time to break out the Rough Wooing lads, play some games, paint a few figures, (not many) Cast more, and try out some scenarios.

2) Portable Wargames. Finish up my 18thC Turks and get some games in with Ron
3) 1/72nd ACW. Kidnap Jerry and force him to play a game.

4) 22mm Ancients. I don't know.  Ron is working on a hex based new 25mm Romans vs Gauls game and I think rather than worry about it, I'll just show up and play (I've painted 1/2 or more of the Gauls anyway). Some of the other guys have been poking at Basic Impetus for big 25mm or 15mm and if I feel ok Sunday I'll drive out and play but I have no desire to get back into face to face games. I may just putter away in the background doing my own solo campaign in old 25mm.

5} The Main Event.   I think I'll let it slide for a few weeks then kick into gear as we get into fall. Winter of 2011/2012 HAS to see armies, terrain and rules including some VSF aspects to ensure no one takes it seriously, all starting to flow and be presentable. Mini-con ready if you will if not con ready.
I have decided to resurrect Faraway for the 3rd time. The question remains do I push on to India? Its almost too late if I want to consolidate. In an imaginary setting, masses of  Mexican like lancers and white clad infantry in shakos or sombreros manning hill forts with geurillas hiding in the mountains along with tribes of spear and shield wielding natives and irregular mounted Boer or Metis style hunters would seem to tick enough of the boxes. Needs thought, fictional background and sample figures. This is the as yet undrawn land south of the mountains, who knows what really lies there?


  1. Yes, how could you pass up an old motor car that fits your seated figures?
    Makes me think of Ruritania, "The Great Race", that sort of era/feel. Pre-WWI, small "ImagiNations", small unit actions. Maybe Just slightly post-VSF? With a more pulp/cinematic approach rather than a wargame/simulation approach? Story rather than history?

  2. Ross Mac,

    What you wrote had a considerable resonance with me as it reflects many of the things that I am feeling at the moment. I am still in a sort of hiatus, but gradually things are beginning to resolve themselves. I suspect that I will be following a somewhat similar path to yours with regard to my equivalent of your 'Main Event'.

    Mine will be initially set in the late 19th/early 20th century, and will involve some small countries that have a history of animosity. Lots of opportunity for me to use my imagination!

    I will follow your progress with interest.

    All the best,


  3. Fitx-B. In my defence, I wasn't sure they were the right size. The homecast figures that I have that go with them are the 1900 Prussians that happen to also fit the Crescent 18 pdr (which I need a couple more of) and the Britain's 4.7" gun. The problem that I have is that pre WWI conflicts with a fledgling 1/72nd collection and my original Britain's. It does make more sense though as buildings etc would be compatible with my mid-19th C troops, and scruby may re-release the compatible Victorian colonial and parade figures. and I have been toying with Boer War, Oh my. Something to put off till 2012.

  4. Bob, nice to know there are adventures ahead, just waiting to be imagined.

  5. Been down both roads.

    I am also viewing the 28mm++ as skirmish forces (or story telling) more than 'main battle' forces.

    I guess I am still too much of a Napoleonic fan to give up on the 'big battles', since I still would love to have 6mm forces and tabletop supports for such actions as Leipzig or Borodino or Wagram ... even campaigning beyond that with the potential to have continental battles taking place at the same time at the same convention (ahh the wild visions)!

    Ahem, so back to possibilities, by having 28mm skirmish ready forces and 6mm main battle elements I can see that a great set of stories can be told. Some would prefer to stick with the more limited scope of the 7 years war or earlier period, still others would like to concentrate on the late 19th or early 20th century via Colonials or Pulp story actions.

    In the end, for me, they all pale in comparison to the color and pageant that is the Grand Battle action.

    So I keep in mind that the early skirmish and final retreats are all started and ended with smaller actions ... something that the skirmish game and 28mm figs are uniquely suited for. Along with some really great story telling ... like the Ratisbon bridge over the Danube.

  6. I'm not sure that I'm really finished with big battles though the Crimea or ACW are more likely than Nap's. 10mm had crossed my mind but I'm hoping that next time the urge strikes, 1/72nd will be small enough if I'm clever enough.

  7. If I was a really sad person, I would recognise the car as a 1911 Renault, Models of Yesteryear model Y-2 - oodles of 'em on eBay. Your Prussian gunner might object to the nationality as well as the necessary time travel, but Models of Yesteryear must be a ready source of useful models for building specials - scales vary a bit, but I never thought of them as useful in this field. Plenty of vans and stuff.

    Oh yes - the remainder of the post was pretty good too!

  8. I'm not implying anything but, underneath it does say "Leslie" (maker of Matchbox), Models of Yesteryear and some other stuff that I need to put my glasses on to read. Judging by a quick search on the net, I should have bought the rest if only to resell at 500% profit!

    1911 is about what I had in mind though. (phew)