Friday, 5 September 2014

Canadian conversion conundrum

Back in June I had an email from Jeff Chorney of the "For Honours Sake" blog to say that he was getting out of wargaming and would I like his collection of 54mm figures.  "Well of course I would but are your sure?" I asked.  Jeff explained that he had too many hobby projects on the go and needed to focus elsewhere, I guess we can all relate to that, so for just the cost of the postage I was please to take delivery of the following:

Possibly more than one unit here.  The numbering on the Union flag (XXVII) leads me to surmise that at least some of them represent the 27th (Inniskiling) Regiment of Foot but don't hold me to that.  I foresee these turning up in Crimean and Sepoy Mutiny scenarios that I've been mulling over recently.  I particularly like the staff officers in the foreground. 

Royal Horse Artillery?

I'm guessing that these chaps in top hats and variously armed are the Fenian Brotherhood or some such other rebels.

These chaps have me foxed, green tunics with yellow facings and dark grey trousers, does anyone out there have any ideas who they are meant to be?

And finally some local militia, no prizes for guessing the original figures they were made from but it's interesting to see the variety that can be achieved with little more than a head change and how a uniform painting scheme can make diverse figures look like a cohesive unit.

There is more but these are the units that I'm struggling to identify.  Jeff told me they represented the Fenian raids in Canada and the War of 1812, and were the work of Ross Macfarlane so I'm hoping to get a bit more background on them.  I was sad to hear that Jeff was leaving wargaming and closing down his blog but I'm grateful for his generous gift and at least I can assure him that they have found a good home where they will see plenty of table top action!

Oh, and my apologies for the rather naff title of this post.

Friday, 1 August 2014

German East Afrika in 40mm

I spotted this rather nice collection of German Colonials at the London Toy Soldier Show in March but somehow the pics slipped below my radar and have just come up for air.  They are mostly Schneider semi-flat homecast figures but they've been converted to Schutztruppe etc. which I think is rather neat.  

In the foreground and left native figures provide the Maji Maji rebels, behind them the German Colonials in tropical uniform and squeezing in at the back right are the Schutztruppe Askaris

A closer look at the Askaris with some rather nice standard bearers line infantry and jaegers.

"Hey they gotta' band"  well sort of.

The natives work tirelessly in the cowrie shell fields.

There was also a clutch of scratch built buildings to go with the figures, this is the Colonial Government House and to the right of it is on of the native huts.

Lets face it the original figures are so crude and common that they're barely worth the metal they're cast from but with a bit of work and imagination there's a lot you can do with them, why did I never think of doing this before?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Plastic Warrior Show 2014

Well, as I said in an earlier post, the Plastic Warrior Show is over for another year and I am late in getting around to commenting on it so here are a few pics I snapped to give a flavour of the event:

A Roman marching fort (from Hadrian's Wall?), it looks like an upscale of the Airfix 1/72 model much beloved in my youth.  There is an article on the building of this fine piece in the latest issue of Plastic Warrior magazine.

One of the rather more organised tables.  PW is a fairly small show, relatively speaking, with rarely more than 60 sellers and over the years has resolutely resisted the temptation to expand in order to specialise in old plastic toy soldiers (from 1/72 to 12") exclusively.  It is a place where most tables are taken by collectors looking to turn out their spare or unwanted items so you never know what is going to turn up.

This table is more typical of the eclectic mix, piled haphazardly box on top of box, it is a burrowers cornucopia.

It's always worth a look under the table too!

A rather nice old zoo made by Binbak, the entrance gatehouse has a revolving turnstile which I thought was a nice touch.  Behind that some Marx 12" WW2 British infantry, only issued in the UK and not seen very often, complete sets of the 12" WW1 French infantry and Highlanders had already sold by the time I got my camera out.

I didn't catch the name of who made this rather fine circus train but I think it is French, anyone from the Soldat Plastique 1/32 forum able to help with this?

The star of the show as far as I was concerned was this boxed Cherilea Cleopatra set.  Previously I've only ever seen a smaller boxed set containing just the Egyptian figures with the sphinx (lower left and  right) but the palm trees are a nice addition as is the pet cheetah.

A close up on the cheetah, I think it's actually the lioness from the zoo set but with a bit of chain wrapped around it's neck and spots painted on, now that's what I call adding value!

That's all from the show till next year folks.


Friday, 27 June 2014

War Game of the Middle Ages and Ancient Times - part 2

So how did the rules work out?  Well I have to admit when I was drafting the quick reference sheet I had grave misgivings.  Players dice to see who goes first in each game turn, the winner moves, fires and melees, then the loser does the same, actions are consecutive not simultaneous.  Movement distances and terrain penalties are sensible and not over complex, the same goes for firing ranges and effect, so it's all fast moving.  So far so good.

The French Battle advances, crossbow companies in the lead followed by knights on foot and heavy infantry.  The mounted knights hold back while the footmen test the softness of the ground and clear a path through the English men at arms.

The only difficulty we had was with the melee system, the rules state that when a figure from one side moves to within half an inch of an enemy they create the "contact point" and that all figures within an infantry move (i.e. 12 inches) of said point are included in the melee. Seems straightforward but in practice so many troops are drawn in that it just becomes one almighty bundle, perhaps it works better with 30mm figures?

First blood to the archers, three companies of French crossbows get off the first string of arrows and annihilate the Burgundian bowmen.  Realising the threat of being unable to reply to the enemy archers the English light horse charge and catch them unsupported in open ground as they ride them down.

The melee is a two stage process, first you asses which side has won then you calculate the casualties.  And this is where the difficulty comes in, different troop types (see QR sheet at bottom of post) have combat values which vary depending on the troop types opposing them.  This is fine when both sides have the same troop types in the melee but with the 12 inch inclusion zone described above it is inevitable that you will have mixed arms (heavy/light cavalry, heavy/light infantry etc.) on both sides and we found it nigh on impossible to figure out who had won the melee, try it yourself and you'll see what I mean.  

To simplify the situation we broke the melees down into a unit on unit calculation rather than the 12 inch free for all and it seemed to work okay.  Once the winner has been decided, casualties are based on a simple calculation which ensures that the larger side always wins, very similar to the system in H G Wells "Little Wars"

The footmen of both sides lock horns as they slowly splash through the soggy marshlands.

In the melee we found that when the heavier armoured French eventually came to grips with the enemy they bludgeoned their way through the lines but the greater numbers and mobility of the lighter Allies meant that they could quickly plug the gaps to blunt their advance and wear them down by attrition.

Four companies of English men at arms hover like mosquitoes around the edges of the wetlands.

Over the years I've been picking up bits and pieces of Timpo knights on the cheap - a pair of legs here, a torso there, from the junk boxes at shows and when I started to put all the bits together I found I had a decent enough quantity to field an army with no painting involved.  The only drawback being that there is a preponderance of Crusaders which seem to have been very much more common.  The idea of using them as a Crusader army in the Holy Land doesn't really float my boat and I can't see me picking up enough Timpo Arabs to make that feasible so I have decided that any figure in a white tunic with a red Cross of St. George will be English.

After riding down the French archers the English cavalry have overreached themselves and are charged in the flank by the French heavies.

I think it's fair to say that some rather basic tactical errors were made on both sides, notably advancing archers unsupported in an attempt to close the range for them (I might consider extending the bow range to 3 feet in future games).  With the loss of all the archers the game turned to one of local melees erupting all over the field and with no morale rules to break the tension these became a fight to the finish slugfest.

The English numbers hold up well against the heavier strength of the French knights and both sides are worn down by attrition until the allies decide to slip away leaving the French in command of the field but too depleted to follow up.

So all in all a fun fast play game, we both agreed the rules worked well as the core of the system but they need a little bit more built around them like something to cause a unit to break and run or even refuse to fight.   Our aim was to play the to game as close as we could to the original rules, or at least our interpretation of their intention and I think we achieved that, although I would love to have tried them using 30mm flats.  This was just a trial run so we kept the scenario simple but tried to include as many of the troop types and terrain features as possible, the original manuscript offers additional features such as constructing earthworks, sieges, supply etc. And for the Ancients there are chariots and auxiliaries, all the more reason to buy the book (see last post)

The quick reference sheet for the rules, should anyone wish to give them a spin!  Oh I think I forgot to mention that the loser of a melee falls back 1 move, quite important that. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tony Bath - War Game of the Middle Ages and Ancient Times - 1956

Following on from the Herring War game a few weeks back (see earlier post) AM and I made tentative arrangements to meet again across the table of  Mars, AM chose the period, Medieval, so I got to choose the rules.  I was a little surprised at the choice, but pleasantly so as I'd been spending a little too much hobby time working on the 17th and 19th centuries recently and a change is as good as a rest etc.

The lay of the land at the start of the game.  The flower of French chivalry confidently line the southern hills on the left while the bawdy English and their brutish allies the Burgundians are jostled into line along the northern slopes opposite, between them the marshes in the valley floor are swollen from the incessant rains

I mentioned in a previous post here that I had stumbled across the first set of wargame rules written by Tony Bath, founder of the Society of Ancients, in 1956 and since then I have been looking for an opportunity to try them out. 

The English lights - cavalry and infantry rush into the fray

There's something that appeals to me about the idea of using old rules for playing with old toy soldiers.  Now, my medievals don't hail from 1956, they're mostly from the 1960's, (well, some are) so not too far out. When I first read the rules I assumed they were written for 54mm soldiers because the movement distances were what I would expect for larger size figures and of course that was the type most widely available back then.  Also there was something about the game mechanisms that reminded me very much of Wells' Little Wars rules.

The well appointed French heavies - cavalry, infantry and swarms of crossbowmen begin a ponderous advance over difficult ground

Tony Bath actually used 30mm flat zinnfiguren which he imported from Germany for his games as the Ancient and Medieval periods were barely covered by the toy manufacturers of the day and this was long before the advent of the 20mm wargame miniature or even that pillar of the hobby soon to be known as Airfix.  By contrast the historical coverage of the flat manufacturers was, and remains, phenomenal.

Faced with the prospect of a charge from the heavy French horsemen, the English infantry make for the relative safety of the marshlands

Although the name of Tony Bath has become synonymous with the Ancient period it was to be several years after writing these rules that he founded the Society of Ancients and it is clear (apart from the title) that he intended them to stretch to cover at least the Hundred Years War as there is specific provision for "dismounted cavalry in full armour armed with shortened lance as used by the french at Poitiers".

The French crossbowmen have secured the ruined abbey

So, very much an old school game was had, with books under sheets for hills, pine cones for bushes, marshes hastily cut for the occasion from card and aquarium ornaments for ruins.  The Anglo-Burgundian force were mostly Timpo swappets with a hindrance of militia provided by Elastolin Saxons and stiffened by a phalanx of Deetail pikemen.  The French were mostly conversions, some painted in heraldic livery and finished in the toy style.

First blood to the French, the heavy cavalry on their right charges into the first line of Burgundian men at arms while a body of militia forms a hedge of pikes to protect themselves from the onslaught

We wanted to play the game as true as we could to the original rules without any tweaks and we could see that they depend on testing combat strength v mobility between the various differing classes of troops, so to give them a good first run out we made the opposing armies very different in composition.  The French were much heavier with greater firepower, about  30 heavy cavalry, 30 heavy infantry and 30 archers.  The Allies were much lighter but greater in number: 15 light cavalry, 60 light infantry, 10 militia, 10 heavy infantry and 10 archers. 

On the French left more heavy cavalry approach the marshes but are checked and look for firmer ground through them

I was given permission by the British Model Soldier Society to reproduce these rules for enthusiasts but before I got around to doing it I discovered they had been published as part of the History of Wargaming project, edited by John Curry, in Vol 4 - More Wargaming Pioneers so if you want to give this game a spin I would urge you to buy the book, it costs less than £12 and is part of a project that deserves all our support.  What I have done is produce a summary of the rules in a quick reference sheet which I will make available in the next post, but you really should still buy the book because there's a lot more in it.

The English men at arms jeer at the French knights from the relative safety of the wetlands egging them on to come forward

Monday, 26 May 2014

New Replicants figures for the Battle of Lewes

Well the Plastic Warrior Show has come and gone for another year, after all the build up and anxiety it's suddenly all over as though it had never happened.  As usual Replicants showcased their new product at the show, this year there are just two new figures to add to their range depicting the Battle of Lewes in 1264.  Only two? I hear you ask.  Yes, the sculptor Peter Cole has been working on a cartoon booklet and set of postcards depicting actions from the battle (using Replicants figures and conversions from various makers) for the Lewes Castle Museum.  So here are the latest:

The two new figures from Replicants, on the left is Prince Edward and on the right is Silas a mounted Man at Arms who features as a character in Peter Cole's booklet. 

The same two figures seen from the other side, the rearing horse is a particularly nice sculpt.

So what else did I buy.........well not a lot really.  There was plenty to see, lots of rare stuff and lots of bargains had by other people but I had decided to run a stall myself to shift some of the surplus that invariably builds up over the years and that kept me so busy I didn't have the time or mental faculty to go around buying.  Ah well there'll always be another show or ebay or whatever to spend the money I took.  More pics of the show etc. to follow in another post.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Williamite War at the March 2014 London Toy Soldier Show

 A couple of weeks ago I went along to the March 2014 London Toy Soldier Show, I would have to say that since the move to the new venue this show has been in something of a gentle decline.  To spruce things up a bit the organisers have decided that the December 2014 show will be a two day event, the existing Toy Soldier Show to be held on the Saturday and on Sunday the venue hosts a modelling competition and exhibition.


One manufacturer which has been around for a long time is Alexander's Toy Soldiers, who have generally concentrated on making white metal figures of the Napoleonic Wars.  I've tended to bypass their stand in recent years because I've had a bit of a downer on that period but as things were a bit quiet I took a closer look and I was very glad that I did.


They have a small but rather delightful range of figures depicting the Williamite Wars which just happens to be my personal historical plat du jour.  I have been lead down this dimly lit road in the quest for Jacobitism, the well trod path lead off towards Scotland but a narrow lesser known track took me towards Ireland, where I have greater familial associations, and brought me into the sunlight and the gleaming vista that is..... The League of Augsburg blog.


This post is pure indulgence on my part but I'm confident dear reader, that you will agree these figures are very easy on the eye.  Did I buy any? er.......well no.  But that's because I'm already in the process of converting some figures into Dutch chaps like the ones seen above, so expect to see a bit more of this period here at some point in the future.


However I didn't emerge entirely unscathed financially from the ATS stand as they were selling a range of spare parts and I managed to pick up some heads in mirleton caps which I have been searching for to make some Seven Years War Hussars........Hurrah!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Anyone for Herring?

With the recent upturn in the weather we had been eagerly awaiting our first outdoor Funny Little Wars game of the season, the plan was to run an amphibious landing, set during the "Herring War" between Norway and Denmark, with a fortress assault in the style of Port Arthur.  Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men etc..... the weather turned, rain stopped play and the game was taken inside:

The layout of the table after the first few moves had been made, The Norse have occupied some of the houses and dug in along the tree line at the far end while the Danes tentatively approach the town.

The plan now was to try out some rules for fighting in built up areas, the scenario was to occupy an inland town with the objective of taking the strategically important coaling station.  AM and JW lead the Norse while PW and I played the Danes.

As the game unfolded, snipers became increasingly active.

Danish Jaegers advance supported by the Royal Guard and heavy artillery.

The artillery might have dominated the game if not for the erratic marksmanship displayed by both sides!

A shell bursts over one of the houses which has already been pounded to rubble.

Lessons learnt: troops sheltering in houses attract heavy bombardment and the concentration of so many men leads to high casualty rates, by contrast the resulting piles of rubble provide a bulwark that can subsequently be easily defended.  A fast furious game played with about 100 infantry and three guns a side it turned into a real slugfest with lots of hand to hand melee among the ruins, great fun and all done in about three hours.

I'll leave the reader to identify the figures used, the Danish expeditionary force was cobbled together from various units in the spirit of Put Everything on the Table.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Plastic Warrior Magazine hits 30 and I have a late life crisis.

At the weekend the latest issue of Plastic Warrior Magazine hit my doormat, I opened the cover and browsed the contents which are headed by a statement "The original plastic figure magazine first published in 1985" and then it hit me this means PW has now been in continuous uninterrupted publication for 30 years.  That has to be some kind of a milestone, there aught to be a party at the very least.  I remember the excitement of receiving the very first issue and the magazine has been a constant element for more than half of my lifetime.  But where have all those years gone?  I don't feel any different now from then but I see myself in a recent photo and I could be looking at a picture of my Dad and it all happened in the blink of an eye!
It's okay just a momentary wobble, here's the latest issue:


Inside you'll find: News, Views and Other Stuff, an in-depth research of Britains Eyes Right U.S. Sets, a look at the collection of one of the readers, an interview with new manufacturer Austin Miniatures, Readers Letters, Book Review - Spot On models, Elastolin 40mm siege engines and artillery etc. New Products - from Pvblis, A Call to Arms, Armies in Plastic, Pegasus and Expeditionary Force.  Converters Corner: the Brooklyn Red Legs from the ACW.  A review of plastic models of Napoleon.  Minor Makers - VP Boxed Set. Wot The !&*$? identification of readers unknown figures.  Media Models - featuring the work of Joe Black. and last but not least Readers Small Ads.

Posts have been sparse this past nine months as I have been back at work, a simple, undemanding 9 to 5 job which I assured myself would not affect my work/life balance.
Alas this is not working out as planned........... ho-hum.