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, October 1, 2011

Pondering Imponderables

Is More less? and Less more? Or, is More more?

Or is it all equal in the end, just different?

Having been indoctrinated to assume that the ideal and standard normal game should involve lots of figures on a big table and a fair amount of time, and still being convinced that that is sometimes a Good Thing, I have none the less found myself playing and enjoying small games more and more often and contemplating many small projects, "games in a box" vs a few larger collections. This cropped up again as I was reorganizing my 1812 clunkies and realized that I already have almost everything I need for all the North Western campaigns and found myself contemplating all shiny toy armies for 1813/14 in Upper and Lower Canada rather than the proposed amalgamation of the two.   This on top of the looming specter of Mexicans as well as Mahrattas.

Various factors to consider:

  • I like painting figures but don't like painting a lot of the same thing and rarely feel in the mood for "serious" painting these days. "Churning" out simple, glossy toy soldiers while listening to music or the radio is relaxing and enjoyable. Once in a blue moon I get the itch to do some serious painting or modelling, until I get frustrated at not being able to see anymore or get interrupted or am too tired and  put it aside till I feel better, so a project that calls for a small number of  mini-dioramas, each a work of art isn't as appealing as it would have been 20 years ago. A plan that calls for a larger number of varied units each of  a dozen or score of figures makes sense.
  • .The idea of a numerous collection of large figures for use with a small table, is not that I'll be popping 1,000 figures down for a game but that I will have every possible odd unit and support group when called for in addition to the line troops as well, perhaps, as a variety of enemies.. These means painting up lots of figures that will rarely be used.
  • The idea of  many small collections is that I would be able to indulge in a wide variety of interests  without any of them needing a large commitment of time, space or resources. But if I had say, 24 projects, all completed, how often would any one of them ever see the table? or would they become games in boxes that stayed in boxes, sort of a series of "forge and forget" works. 
  • I tend to get the urge to paint for whatever game I am preparing to play and to a lesser extent an urge to play what I have just painted. It would seem to make sense in either case, to keep all projects open ended so I can keep adding to them and never finish.
At the same time, my 2nd permanent Wargame Table has been dissembled and reduced and reinstalled as a temporary table while I ponder its final configuration. I have always kept in mind the theoretical possibility of adding an extension for special events, in this case a yet to be designed 2'x5' extension or maybe 2 x 1'x5' extensions to bring the table to 8' x 5'. The idea has always been, however, that the main table would be sufficient for 90% or more of my gaming needs.

Today, as I contemplated the idea of a table that would be suitable for 2 players seated, facing each other to play a portable wargame or similar or for 1 player to play without having to move around the table, it occurred to me that a permanent 4'x4' table or maybe even 3'x3' table  would serve that function and could easily be the base for a traditional temporary 8' x 4' or 8'x5' table top which could be deployed only when required.

This would leave more space in the room between large games, might even leave enough room for a convenient second work table so that I would never end up using my games table as a work table and thus the games table would always be available at the drop of a die. Ok so that last part is fantasizing

Would I ever bother deploying the big table for solo games? or would this default to only playing small games? Lets see, I'm lazy, poorly organized, ... hmmmm I'd better get a bigger battle on the table soon to remind myself why I decided that I needed at least 5'x6'.

In the mean time the table is in the process of being set up for Tamarac Island, a small Hearts of Tin game game inspired  by the Battle for Mackinac, a game that could easily have been designed as a Portable Wargame with a 3" square grid and  7 British & Indian units vs 10 American units. .


  1. Ross Mac,

    You and I both seem to be struggling with a similar problem; a desire to rationalise without reducing our options.

    For example, I have a set of two tables that give me a 3' x 4' in their usual configuration (and are therefore ideal for my Portable Wargames) but can be extended to 6' x 4'. That said, I cannot remember the last time they were set up in their larger configuration.

    I have a large collection of 20mm WW2 figures, but most are based for Megablitz, which is really suited to big battles. I have been buying lots of 15mm tanks and vehicles because I have a long-term aim to refight the opening moves of Operation Barbarossa, and cannot envisage doing that in 20mm (although I am thinking of using small 20mm figures with the 15mm vehicles in order to get some use out of the pile of unpainted figures that I own).

    I also have the late nineteenth/early twentieth century imagi-world project I am working on. This will have lots of small 'national armies' (and navies) and battles will be fought using my PW2 rules. Each army will have 20 to 30 figures, although some will eventually be larger. I think that I can paint that number of figures in 15mm quickly enough not to loose interest in each army before I move on to the next.

    Good luck with you next battle. I look forward to reading your battle report.

    All best,


  2. Hi Ross,
    I guess the ideal would be: I'm lazy, poorly organized... and satisfied with what I have.

    Not that I've ever been there.

    There is a popular belief amongst minigamers that if you ever paint the last of your lead pile, you die. In which case we should all live forever.


  3. Hi Ross

    Interesting set of thoughts. Something for me to think about for myself.


  4. A thought provoking post Ross - I've been thinking along the same lines myself of late.

    I think in some ways it helps to define what it will take to make you happy.

  5. Thank you, Ross. As usual you've addressed an interesting issue.

    I've been toying with the idea of trying some of Grant's "Programmed Scenarios" for some solo play at some point . . . and, like you, I will need to consider just how many troops I want to use.

    -- Jeff

  6. Thanks you all for the comments. I'm just back from 2 days of gaming which has added more thoughts for the grist-mind.