Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Of Eyes, Stomachs, and Armies

This last week has been full of nostalgic pleasure.

Long before I was a wargamer I fell under Henry Harris's spell and converted all my old Britain's Toy Soldiers into Model Soldiers. I hacked and glued and puttied and painted to make unique poses and uniforms. From there I went on to smaller figures and detailed, shaded, matte finish models for wargaming. Even when I started buying recast Britain's 20 years ago I turned them into models. Now that I've started painting simple glossy 40mm toy soldiers it was easier to finally undertake proper renovations to the antique toys that have come to me.

What a joy it has been to start producing proper toy soldiers for wargaming!

Vintage Britain's Gordon Highlanders. The 3 kneeling and standing firing figures have been repainted, the Officer was converted from a broken firing figure, the prone figure shows their original condition.
The helmets and belts are a little too white but I Like'em!

Originally the Highlanders probably came with an officer with binoculars, but if they did he was lost before they came to me. There were 4 broken figures out of 9 though so I decided to convert a broken firing figure to an officer. His body pose was all wrong for adding binoculars but seemed suitable for a highland version of Britain's iconic sword and pistol officer pose.

Highlanders from Andrew Rose's Collector's Guide to Toy Soldiers. Note the two officers with movable binocular arms. CIV Officer from Andrew Rose's Collector's Guide to Toy Soldiers.

Now, this is officially a small, limited project. I have planned six forces in all: Canadian, US, Cree, British, Zulu and Boer, each initially to be of less than 50 figures and preferably closer to 30 where possible. All armies were to be recruited largely from what I already had on hand or could cast. 

I had started off with 4 figure units for the NorthWest but upped it to 6 because I was enjoying painting and converting the figures! I had ample figures and moulds on hand so upped the numbers to indulge myself. For South Africa I decided to try cutting down the British units to 4 figures so that visually the Zulus would out number them even if they had the same number of units. It seemed like a good idea to keep things standard though so I made a note to reduce all regular units in all the armies back down to 4 as well.

Four men might make a company but it wouldn't use all the figures in hand or look like a battalion so I proposed fielding 2 companies from each regiment to allow a variety of uniforms even in a small force. Once I reviewed what I already had, I found elements of at least 10 British/Canadian infantry regiments. If you add cavalry and artillery we're edging up on potentially 30 tactical units each occupying 1 square. My table is 12 squares wide. Even if I made two separate British forces that never saw each other, they would each still be too big to fit!

When I was young my Mom used to tease us about "our eyes being bigger than our stomach" if we took too much and couldn't finish it, an expression passed down from my grandmother and who knows how many generations before. That was basically the case now. I had starting to plan bigger armies than I was likely to finish or could use or display if I did. I needed to scale back and field fewer but slightly bigger units.

58th Foot, now 4 strong with 2 more waiting. The officer has been "rebadged" from the Hochelaga Fusiliers (headswap and repaint - See him in action with his old unit in Dec 2015 here). Having talked myself out of doing realistic but un-Britainlike stained helmets and belt, I decided to be truer to history, toy soldier history that is, and removed the pointed, laced cuffs. If Britain's did facings you got a swipe of colour and that was it!  

I like the single rank look for this period so I have decided to revert to the existing plan of 6 figure units grouped into "brigades" of 3 or 4 "companies" plus a Mounted Officer. This will accommodate most of my existing 54mm figures with just a few small additions (apart from the non-existent Boer force).

For my South African British force I just need to add 2 figures to the 58th, refurbish 2 more Gordon Highlanders, add another company of British infantry in helmets, refurbish enough sailors to field a Naval Brigade company, convert 4 lancers to sun helmets, convert a gun crew to helmets and paint up a mounted Brigadier in helmet. Then I'll start the Boers, being mounted infantry they will get only 4 figures per unit like the cavalry (unless doing 25 conversions leaves me wanting to do more!) . I'm not sure yet if I will rebase the Zulus onto slightly larger bases to allow an increase to 8 or 10 figure units or just field more units!


  1. Interesting project - especially your account of the thoughts and planning going into it. For some reason I am vaguely reminded of the war games of R.L. Stevenson and Lloyd Osborne, with their 4-figure regiments.

    1. I have a long-standing urge to once again copy Joe Morschauser's 4 men on a stand Basic Units but some of my armies are committed to 60mm square bases and I am trying to standardize all of my bigger figures for convenience of terrain and for cutting of bases. It would be interesting to see if I could get my head around 4 man Regiments.

  2. I think your 4 figure units in previous post look great. 54mm Toy Soldier games seem to really suit the smaller units. Your highlanders look great!

    1. Thanks Jon. It's taken me awhile. When I built my first 54mm armies they were in 20 man battalions.

  3. Ross,
    Ah -hah....figure Conversion IS indeed fun - and particularly in 40mm and 54mm doing your own thing to get the figures you need is just so gratifying- well done. Cheers. KEV.

  4. Ross Mac,

    I think that your newly renovated and re-painted figures look great! Very inspiring,

    Have you thought about adding some Afghans/Afridis so that you can fight battles on the North West Frontier? Having watched THE DRUM yesterday, my own thoughts have turned in that direction.

    All the best,


    PS. THE DRUM has some great dialogue, especially between the Sargeant and Private Kelly. Something like 'Do you know what a look of rapture is Kelly?' 'Isn't it the look on Gunner Smith's face when he tried to pick up the howitzer?'

    1. Bob, it's highly unlikely. As odd as it seems to me Britain's never did any Afghans or Mahdists. One can do it all in big chunky plastic now but that's a whole other thing. Beyond that is the question of 54mm mountains. I have yet to try making Major General style 2d mountains. In any case I have my hands full with the current plans for a year or three and get to go to the 25mm Indian Northwest Frontier at Ron's.

      The Drum is on my must watch list though.

  5. Thanks for posting your work on these figures!
    Champion efforts!
    I so remember having some of these these when I was a kid, no idea what ever happened to mine though???

    1. Thanks, these were part of a collection I got from the elderly widow of the original owner who had treasured them since childhood without adding to them as an adult. She wanted them to go to someone who enjoy them for themselves rather than as collectibles to be bought and sold. I do my best! There are still a few of my originals doing service though.

  6. The highlanders look stunning. I am learning to love the simplicity of figures brightly painted in the style.
    (Adding The Drum to my must watch list).

  7. When I started in this hobby, my first figures were painted KILIA fkats from Aloys Ochel in Kiel (I had little faith in my artistic ability at age 13!). They came in sets of 20 infantry (with a mounted colonel), 10 Cavalry, or 2 guns with crew. My introduction to the hobby was Morschauser and then Jack Scruby's "Fire and Charge". As a result, my Napoleonic armies are organized into infantry units of 3 stands of 6, Cavalry into 4 stands of 2, and artillery into 2 stands, each with 3-4 crew and a gun. Aside from a brief, misguided foray into "Historical Organizations" back in the mid 1970's, I have retained this organization (and the 25/28mm scale) pretty much my whole gamimnh career, which has certainly made building and basing my collection much easier. DIto for WRG basing for my Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance troops. "If it ain't broke" and all that! :-)