Sunday, 22 August 2021

Who remembers Historic Battles?

 I don't, and I'm sure I would have done.  It was a sticker album full of pictures of famous battles with blank spaces where you inserted the the numbered stickers to complete the image.  It was published by Cox international of Antwerp and the text is in French, German, English, Italian and Dutch, there's nothing to indicate the date of publication but it does appear to have been distributed in the UK.  

This is the cover of the album with examples of the stickers and the packets they came in, you got two stickers in each pack and you needed to collect 306 different ones to fill all the blanks.  Before the advent of the Almark and Osprey uniform books I used to rely mostly on postcards, cigarette and bubble gum cards for uniform info, and I would have loved this.

There are 17 Battles depicted and the  album opens with the Salamis then runs chronologically through to the Six Day War.  I think the illustrations are amazing, just the sort of thing I rely on to give me a bit of inspiration when the toy soldier spirit is flagging.

Each Battle covers a double page spread and I've endeavoured to get as much of each one as I could into the photo.  There are a few surprises among the conflicts included, this is Wahlstadt (1241) fought between the Teutonic Knights and the Mongols, I've never heard of it before.

One of my favourites is Lepanto, shown above, but my absolute favourite has to be Adowa in the two pics below.

I heard about the album from friends in Germany where it's available quite cheaply still on ebay, I got 200 packets of stickers with it but still need about another 100 to fill all the blanks so there are lots of doubles.

Peeling off the stickers and pasting them into the pages is a very therapeutic way to spend a few hours!

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Batalla del Metauro

 From the same stable as the Battle of the Little Big Horn game that Anthony and I played back in June comes this Punic Wars game based on the Battle of Metaurus.  Originally designed and published in Spain by Rojas y Malaret, as part of a series of games called "Great Battles of the World" then subsequently produced under licence in Germany by O.M.Hausser.

This is the box art for the German version of the game, which Anthony acquired and then had the board copied onto a 6'x4' mat so that we could play it using 54mm toy soldiers.

It's a different layout to the Little Big Horn game but you can see that the graphics are the same style.  This is the Carthaginian end of the board, forces start with the river behind them and on the base line behind the river, either side of the tree, are two standards, the object of the game is to kill the enemy General or capture both standards.  Possession of the elephant should have been a game winner, sadly I proved to be no Hannibal!

At the Roman end of the board the troops start off in wooded country and have two cavalry units, pitching mobility against the greater combat strength of the Carthaginian elephant unit.  In the centre of the board there is an impenetrable mountain range with surrounding woods and an area of ruins.

Terrain features such as woods, ruins and the mountainous areas in orange are accessible only to infantry, but the lines of rocks are unpassable to all.  These features provide cover and give a combat bonus to the infantry occupying them.  The river can only be crossed at the three fords.

The figures we used were 54mm Romans and Carthaginians made by DSG of Argentina.  The dark line running across the board is just where the original board was folded, it has no bearing on the game.  

The ruins in the centre of the board became the focal point of the battle and changed hands several times.  The trees, rocks and ruins don't come with the game, we just added them to improve the visual aspect.

The Roman cavalry were put to good use running rings around the slower moving Carthaginians.  We played the game using the original rules and numbers of  figures, combat and movement are similar to the LBH game so very easy to pick up quickly.  With the original game you could also buy add on units to represent different troop types and there was also an additional rule for combat with elephants.  The game took about an hour to play and going forward we agreed that it would give a more challenging and better looking game to increase the number of figures used.

This is the contents of the Hausser box, the infantry and cavalry are 40mm Elastolin figures, they incorporated the original elephant made by Rojas y Malaret from the Spanish version.  This box has had an add on set included as the Metauro game only came with one elephant, there was another game based on the Battle of Zama, which had two elephants.  The Zama game also has a different board layout, it is played across an open area with stockade encampments at either end.

These are a couple of the figures from the original Rojas y Malaret game, the infantry (which I couldn't find when photographing this) are a bit over 54mm, the riders here are 54mm but you can see that the horse and elephant are not to scale.  The elephant is a solid one-piece plastic moulding.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

100 Beautiful Dioramas

 The latest edition to my bookshelf, building dioramas has always been a prominent feature of the toy soldier collecting scene in Germany and this book illustrates 100 of the best from museum exhibits to examples in private collections.  30mm flat tin figures predominate, as you might expect, but there are plenty that include modern solid figures from 54mm down to 20mm.  

The architectural and landscape features are often the most impressive elements in the displays but what they all have in common is that they are exquisitely executed.  The dioramas are organised in chronological order of historical period depicted from prehistoric times to WW2.

The subject won't appeal to everyone but if your eye is pleased by pretty pictures of miniature figures then it probably will.

Compiled by Dr Egon Krannich and Walter Brock, 114 pages, illustrated throughout with about half the pictures in full colour.  The text is in German but after the Introduction this is mostly limited to a description of the diorama, who made it and where it is, finally there is a directory with brief notes on the diorama builders and other books in the series. ISBN 3-933124-07-7 I bought my copy through

A sample page from the book.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Battle of the Little Big Horn

Anyone who was a schoolboy in the 1960's will remember the Waddingtons board game of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it came with some rather nice 40mm figures of General Custer, his 7th Cavalry and the opposing Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.  Well sometime last year Anthony had the original board copied onto a 6'x4' mat for use with 54mm toy soldiers but the ensuing pandemic has prevented us playing it, until today, which by the purest of coincidence happens to be the 145th anniversary of the actual battle.

The Indian camp beyond the Little Big Horn river, the red triangles show the starting places for the Braves on foot, the blue triangles are the starting positions for Custer and the 7th Cavalry.  Model trees and tepees give a bit of definition to the flat board.

At the other end of the board the red triangles show the starting places for the mounted Indians and their Chiefs, rock formations give a 3D effect to the board.

The figures we used were from the Britains Deetail range, the beauty of these is that they have metal bases which prevent them falling over all the time.

Victory conditions for the 7th Cavalry is either to escape across the river and exit the board with their flag or kill all of the three Indian Chiefs.  Victory conditions for the Indians is to kill Custer, his two officers and capture the flag.
We played a trial game with the original rules and number of figures, we were surprised at how subtle and tactical the rules were, mistakes were inevitably made on both sides but in the spirit of good gamesmanship we helped each other to avoid the most disastrous outcomes.  The game took about two hours to play and as you can see above it reflected the historical outcome.  It was great fun, surprisingly challenging and we felt the game system could easily be adopted to other low intensity irregular conflicts, I already have a late 1940's French Indochina project in mind.

For those who like a bit of toy soldier trivia with their wargame reports this is the first version Zang/Herald tepee from the Indian encampment set.  I don't know if you should call this rare or just hard to find but it differs from the ubiquitously common second version by having a short entrance flap with four diamonds above while the later one has a larger flap with just two diamonds above.  Not many people know that.  You really do have to be a boring old fart to be interested in this sort of minutiae! 

And yes, it really was a complete coincidence that we played this game on the anniversary of the actual battle. We got so drawn in we could almost have been there on that fateful day in 1876, imagination can take you to these places, good job they don't let children get a taste of it.