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

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bringing up the Big Guns

Blue artillerymen prepare to fire their 4.7" gun. The Bombardier is taking one last check through the telescope before giving the order to fire which will be done by the gunner jerking the lanyard attached to the trigger which will release the spring loaded breech, sending a metal shell hurtling across the table.

The Zvezda 1/72nd Russians are marvelous little figures a tribute to what can be done in way of sculpting and molding. However, I didn't enjoy trying to trim and plug in the teeny tiny little arms on the first fellow and assembling a Hat 75mm gun had me muttering under my breath (I breathe rather loudly on occasion). On the other hand the suggestion that a 4.7" gun would not look out of place beside 40mm figures lead me to set up this shot and had me grinning widely. Certainly looks like a BIG GUN but for a Toy Soldier game, not out of place at all.

A 54mm figure from Armies in Plastic, an original Britain's Naval Officer in Standard size and an Irregular Miniatures 42mm Guardsman. 

The evolution of toy soldiers?  You could believe that the last 2 figures standing beside each other, one being either really tall or the other really small depending on what size the rest of the figures were but the AIP fellow.would be a true monster with a head the size of men's chests if stood in the middle of a company of old Britain's. No wonder that the gun which was after all a toy designed to go with Standard sized figures, looks only a little over sized next to the 40mm figures. After all, it WAS a BIG gun. See some of the pictures of the real thing as well as the original toy here. I suppose for the Boer War, I'll need to track down an original without the gun shield, an affordable one, yeah, could take a while.  

In the meantime, what else could I do but see if the 40's would fit on my experimental battle mat? This was an old wargame table cloth designed for draping over hills. It was just a cheap remnant of drab cloth over sprayed lightly years ago. I did think of cutting a wooden board but this seemed easier to make, store and carry and anyway I haven't decided on a final design yet. 

Free standing or on 60mm bases, these 40mm troops fit nicely on the board, at least as long as the trees don;t get in the way.

Rather than drawing on the full grid, I have drawn the outside and marked the corners of each square. The result is a bit wonky since 'draughtsman' and 'patience' are two of the many attributes that I lack.  It looks more like a conventional table than a chess board but its still easy to see the grid. One advantage of the cheap cloth is that one could actually paint on roads, rivers etc for specific historical battles or scenarios and just store them away. Each cloth would only cost $2 or $3  and take little space. That was actually my original idea but the only one I did was the first. In 1998 I did a mat for the Battle of Chateuguay. I only fought the battle 3 times but the cloth has done sterling service over the years in many scenarios. (see Ambushed)

 Another thought, for the lazy among us (yes 'lazy'  is one of my attributes),  is that by adjusting the grid to 10 squares by 14, one could easily scale down the many Grant and Asquith scenarios designed for 5x7 table using a square = 6",  This wouldn't be an easy travelling board unless you used small squares but it would be compact, 2'6" by 3'6" if using 3" squares. and would have all the ease of set up and play of a gridded game.

 I need to make some hills, for now I have some scraps of nominal 1"x3" strapping which look promising. I'll give them these a quick wash of paint but they'll need a bit more design thought to achieve a finished look. Single trees are also in short supply and only a few of my buildings will fit even a 3" grid so that also needs to be addressed. Depending on the period, ruins or flat topped houses are both attractive options but I've been wanting to build some more small footprint houses that will hold a stand of troops so its just a matter of shrinking the foot print a little more to fit the grid. (or increasing the grid to 4"). 

Perhaps the 1/72nd toys do look slightly more at home on the 3" grid.

The decision which way to go for a final gameboard, along with the size and style of the figures and scenery,  is a design decision to be put off until I see how much I enjoy the game.


  1. A very handsome setup. I would recommend going with the cloth rather than the making a board option, particularly if you intend to take the game on the road at any point.

    I'm finding that I may have to do a bit of poking to make my current set of buildings so that they work on my five inch hexes.

  2. Ross Mac,

    The 40mm figures look great alongside the 4.7-inch gun ... and are not too out of scale with it.

    The gridded battlefield you have made looks better than both my vinyl chessboard and the board I built for SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES. I have still to find the large pieces of green and sand vinyl battlemat that I bought some years ago from Games Workshop. When I do, I may well emulate the simple method you have used to mark the grid on your cloth.

    All the best,


    PS. You suggestions for improving my rules have been extremely helpful. I am very grateful that I have a 'critical' friend like you making such practical suggestions.

  3. The 20mm toys certainly look as if they have plenty of 'elbow room' on the 3in squares, althought the 42s are nice. I have a few AIP figures and have noticed that they are big lads - certainly compared with old Britains or Tradition figures. I wonder if there is a scale that the 4.7 gun doesn't look good with...

  4. Conrad, My only concern with the cloth is that it needs a surface to sit on. But at 24"x24" I should be able to find a table easily enough. I did have grand visions of a carrying case full of troops and dice which unfolded to make a playing surface at the pub but cooler heads prevailed.

  5. Bob, I can't take credit for the corner only grid, I've seen it used for hexes by various people.

    The idea of a chess board appearance also has its appeal though, and may be especially well suited if introducing a person to the hobby. I think the idea you had of alternating different coloured flock is interesting. If I had the artistic skill, a graphic representation of plowed fields and pasture would be good but green and brown flock would serve.

    As for rules, I'm glad you are open to suggestions and questions and able to take what you like and leave the rest. I've benefited alot from other's input in the past, even the things I have considered and rejected.

  6. Tim, I remain to be convinced that 2mm troops look good with anything :)
    A portable game cries out for 10mm troops but I don't want to shock any of my friends.