Friday 13 October 2023

German Wargame Rules from 1917

 Strategie und Taktik des Spiels mit Bleisoldaten (Strategy and Tactics for games with lead soldiers) 

Pentagon Publishing, Stuttgart, 1917 78 pages monochrome.

I had been hunting this little tome for many years but it constantly evaded me until last year when I bit the bullet and treated myself for my birthday!

There is a pencil note inside the front cover; 20 Pfg Berlin Katz 31.13.35.  It must have passed through many people's hands, or perhaps just a few.

After a Forward and Introduction the Chapters are: 
1. The Ground 
2. Tactical exercises in Company column 
3 Small off road exercises 
4. Exercises in larger groups 
5. Exercises with Army Corps 
6. The Battle Game 
7. Fantasy Wars 
8. The Strategic deployment 
9. Creating the preconditions for the Battle 
10. The course of the Battle 
11. Closing remarks

Quite a lot packed into such a small book and it appears to be much like a military manual for linear formations.

My schoolboy conversational German has long since escaped me, along with his French counterpart, so I'm struggling with this antiquated gothic text.  If you are more comfortable with it please give us all a precis of the Forward and Introduction shown here.

It contains two maps, the larger fold out one above showing the Battle of Leuthen and a smaller "Sketch of the battle of Pirot" (Serbo-Bulgarian War of 1885 - no I hadn't heard of it either)

Chapter 7 Fantasy Wars, gives listings of  the disposition of Army Corps for Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Russia, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Rumania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal.  

Bearing in mind this was printed in 1917 here's what it has to say about England:

 "Similar data can hardly be given for England, since universal conscription was only introduced during the present war, the standing army was formerly only small in number in peacetime, and was largely fragmented in foreign possessions, and the division into army corps and other tactical units took place entirely according to the needs and circumstances.  During the Boer Wars, England brought out a total of about 228,000 men, i.e. about 6 army corps according to our estimates"

Saturday 7 October 2023

More on John Ruddle

 Further to my last post, many thanks to Brad DeSantis for directing me to the excellent articles about John Ruddle's garden by Bob Cordery on his Wargaming Miscellany blog.  Bob has captured every photograph of John's garden that I think I've ever seen published and will give you a good flavour of what it was like:

And here is a link to the short film report for the Nationwide TV programme in 1978 discovered by Brian Cameron and mentioned in Bob's post of 23rd may 2023.

John Ruddles garden 1978

They're both well worth a look.

Thursday 5 October 2023

John Ruddle 1932 - 2023

 I don't normally buy Toy Soldier Collector magazine, because it mostly seems to be about reviewing new product, but flicking through the latest issue I noticed two articles of interest.

The first was a three page tribute to John Ruddle, who sadly passed away in February, written by James Opie, with photographs taken by Paul Cattermole.  John will be well known to most people who visit these pages due to his internationally renowned model garden, which has featured in numerous wargame publications down the decades.  I didn't know John well but he only lived about a mile away from me and kindly invited me over to visit on a couple of occasions.  He was a great character with an unbridled passion for the hobby, both collecting and wargaming with Britains 54mm hollow cast lead toy soldiers.

So much so that he had landscaped his garden to represent different continents complete with buildings built from concrete in the relevant styles of architecture.  The beds on the left represented Europe, with areas allocated to England, France, Germany and Italy, also a small area for Belgium which included the Mons canal.  The large lawn in the centre of the garden represented ocean, and John had made fleets of battleships which he'd cut out of aluminium sheet so that the wouldn't rust because they were left out all year round.  

If I remember correctly the end of the garden had a large rockery with a hill fort and village to represent the North West Frontier and Africa.  There were two ponds which fed streams representing rivers and the canal mentioned above, that ran through the countries.  There was also an O gauge railway, originally clockwork, John told me that when he had his house rewired the electrician was so taken with the garden he offered to electrify the railway, he installed a transformer and built a control panel for John to operate it.

On one occasion John was in the process of building a palace with harem for a Turkish Sultan, to be situated on a point between Africa and Europe.  He had laid out a square wooden frame on the ground and filled it with sand, into which he would make an imprint of the building facade, and then pour in concrete.  He explained that on some of his earlier buildings he'd had a problem with cracks in the concrete due to frost until a builder doing some work on his house advised him to add sugar to the mix to prevent this.  A lot of the buildings had removeable roofs so that figures could be stored inside them, nothing vintage but ones that he cast himself, and each year he would give their paintwork a touch up, he also had to spring clean the buildings because mice would nest in them over the winter!

The last time I met John was at the London Toy Soldier Show where Paul Morehead and I interviewed him about his memories of Major Henry Harris, but that's another story for another day.  He was also selling off part of his collection so I bought several units of German and Russian cavalry from him, he was very pleased that they would continue to serve in games on the table and in the garden.

Which leads me neatly on to the second article of interest and this is two pages written by Paul Holcroft Wright about the new edition of Funny Little Wars, a reworking of the original layout with all new illustrations and incorporating a lot more background to H.G. Wells.  I know that several other bloggers who visit here are fellow members of the FLW group and will already have the new edition but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give it a mention.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Japanese Warrior Monks

 Many many moons ago Chinese firm Hing Fat produced a set of Ninjas, quite nice little figures and all in original action poses with a variety of suitably Japanese weaponry.  You used to see them everywhere, but nowadays not so much.  Now my understanding is that Ninjas are some sort of super stealthy assassin, so not the sort that you want whole armies of, with that in mind I turned some of them into Warrior Monks:

I converted these six just to see how they would work, I think they're good enough to justify making up to a unit of twelve, then maybe another sect in blue.  I like the idea of having varied units that can act as allies to the main armies of a period, it makes the converting and painting less onerous when you know you only have to make a few.

This is a modern solid metal figure made by Frontline, from a set of medieval cavalry that were given away with magazine partworks, they came freestanding without a base, which makes them prone to falling over as they are rather heavy and have a high centre of gravity

This was the only Samurai figure they made in the range, shame really as they are beautifully painted, I added the base for stability and it makes a very welcome addition to the collection I am slowly building up.

Friday 15 September 2023

Irish Warband

 Irish sea raiders were pillaging the coast of Saxon Britain long before the Vikings arrived, they later opposed the Viking incursions into Ireland and continued fighting alongside anyone who would pay them until well after the Normans appeared on the scene.  So a useful addition to any Dark Ages collection, sadly nobody ever made 54mm toys soldiers depicting Kerns or Gallowglass, so I gave them my own twist:

In the centre is a modern metal figure of an Irish Chieftain made by Del Prado, he needed a warband to follow him and that kickstarted this little project.  Irish warriors are depicted wearing predominantly ochre cloth (wool dyed with urine) so I used this colour liberally to pull the figures together as a unit.

They also used a hotchpotch of  weaponry and armour, when they had them, so this allows considerable licence when selecting figures and converting them, the chap centre front is throwing a dart, a uniquely Irish weapon of the period.

Wealthier warriors and sub-chieftains were better armed and armoured than the hoi-polloi so I've included a few of these.  They won't win any prizes for historical accuracy but were fun to paint and being of Irish heritage myself I have a certain fondness for them.

Friday 8 September 2023

Elastolin style trenches

 Following on from the previous post, here is a command post I made many years back in the style of the old Elastolin modular trench sections:

For many years (more like decades!) I had been bidding at various auctions on original Elastolin entrenchments but without any success.  It's not that they're rare, they come up all the time, it's just that they are desirable and always sell for silly money.  So I decided to make my own.

Based roughly on an original model from the 1930's the basic structure is formed from polystyrene packing, the whole thing then covered in papier mache and sprinkled with sawdust for texture.  The entrance posts and lintels were provided by the stick from a firework rocket and the steps just cardboard folded into a concertina shape.  The paint scheme follows the original, an overall wash of earth brown with a drybrush of grass green and the odd highlight of drybrushed yellow.

The only problem is storage, the figures are 7cm tall so it's a big old piece of kit and the only place I can find for it at the moment is balancing rather precariously on top on another glass display case!

Friday 1 September 2023

Shell craters

 Feeling the need for some crafting therapy I cast around the projects I've started over the years but left unfinished, there were plenty to choose from.

Motivated by the recent acquisition of some rather neat First War tanks I opted to finish the shell craters I started before lockdown.

Several years ago I started making modular trench sections in the style of the old Elastolin accessories, (they've still yet to be completed) and these shell craters were to be  an addition to the project.

The wooden tanks are decorative items, artisan made, in a small workshop which I have been unable to track down.

The figures are mostly conversions of Armies in Plastic and various Cherilea bits, the explosion is a resin recast of an original Elastolin item. 

This is how they started life, various sized circular lids glued to cardboard and bulked out with polystyrene packing chips (this was as far as I got before getting bored first time around), an irregular shape built up with air drying clay, the outer walls given a coat of PVA glue then a mix of sawdust with scatter sprinkled over the top.  I gave the crater a coat of  burnt umber with a wash of black around the inner walls to simulate the heat of the explosion and dry brushed grass green over the sawdust on the outer slopes, the centre painted dark grey to represent pooled water.

Already feeling better for having achieved something.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Something to aim for?

 The last post elicited some very helpful feedback about basing which I have taken on board.  While going through this thought process it occurred to me that I already had some figures mounted on poker chips with a mix of flock and scatter so broke them out for a look.

These are mostly Barzo resin toy soldiers, physically they look rather slight but their poses have a wide gait, so I mounted them on poker chips for added height, also the larger diameter accommodates the spread of their legs and provides good stability.

I do like the flock effect, I just don't like it to be overemphasised, these woodland Indians should probably have had purely grass covered bases to suit the terrain they operated in, but I prefer the more varied appearance of broken ground.

The figures themselves have been glossed to protect against handling but the bases are left matt, I think this combination works quite well.  The rifles on these Barzo figures are very prone to breaking so the stability of the larger bases helps protect them from toppling about on the table or in storage.

Note to self: must remember to paint those tree trunks!

Sunday 20 August 2023

The perennial problem of basing. It's boring I know!

I collect old toy soldiers, I wargame with 54mm toy soldiers, and I have got too much stuff.  Like everyone else I have too many collections, too many projects on the go and to be perfectly honest it's all become a bit of a mess.....actually it's a lot of a mess.

To impose some semblance of order on the wargame bit I plan to review what I've already got then for each period create initial core armies of 100 foot, 20 mounted and 2 guns.  These numbers were suggested by H G Wells as sufficient for a game, and this seems eminently sensible to me, when I reach the required numbers I will stop and move on to something else.  That's the plan, in so much as there is a plan.  Anyway it's the only plan I've got so with this in mind I broke out my Celts:

Here is the current foot contingent........and already we have a problem.  

I have sufficient toy soldiers to make up the requisite number of foot, the mounted are based, undercoated and awaiting paint, there are also enough bits waiting to be assembled into 2 war chariots. The figures hail from a number of manufacturers including Italieri, HaT, Cafe Storme and Expeditionary Force.

I started this project by painting up units of foot, then got bored and moved on to something else.  Then several superbly made units came up for sale and I couldn't resist the opportunity to jump start the project again.  The problem is integrating my existing figures on the smaller bright green bases above with the new acquisitions on larger flocked bases.

I always base my toy soldiers individually.  Here my old ones are on 2p coins while the new acquisitions are on flocked poker chips, so there is a noticeable size difference.  I don't get worked up about frontages and larger bases are fine for irregular troops but I do care about the overall appearance and want them all to look roughly similar as this pulls them together visually as a unit, also the new ones look like they are running across someone's carpet!

So what to do about this?  I don't think the new additions will give up their poker chips easily but I could probably scrape some of the plush flock back, at the same time fixing the older figures to washers which would give them a similar base size.  have I just answered my own question or can you think of a better solution?  All suggestions gratefully received.

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Feast and Famine.

 We're already heading towards the end of the car boot season, and this year the pickings have been very thin, but last weekend there was a bumper crop:

The complete haul above cost less than £20 in total, particularly pleased to get the Tudor houses in the background which are ceramic ornaments and in scale for 28mm figures (but will work fine with 54mm).  The vast bulk of WW2 Airfix are conversion fodder destined to become medieval footmen.

I needed some French para's to go with my Viet Minh for the Indochina project but don't like to mess about with vintage Starlux if I can help it so these Hugennot copies will do the job just fine.

Some of the better odds and ends will be gifted or end up in the junk boxes at the Plastic Warrior Show next year.

At first I though the crude hollowcast copies of Britains Zulus were homecast and planned to repaint them but when I checked the markings under the base I saw they were made by Hanks, so I'll probably keep them as they are. 

Saturday 20 May 2023

Plastic Warrior 2023 - Conversions

 Apart from collecting old toy soldiers and gaming I also like to convert and paint figures, sadly I don't get enough time for this part of the hobby but it gives me a great appreciation for the work of other people.  Here are some I picked up at the show which will be gracing the games on my table at some point in the future.

These British cavalry and the German infantry below are the work of Eric Kemp, owner of Helmet Models and well known converter of plastic figures.  The riders are made from Armies in Plastic mounted of horses from various makers, they will form a reconnaissance unit, shame there were only three, if there had been more I'd have bought the lot.

Not sure what part these will play but it never hurts to have the odd vignette for table dressing and I just couldn't resist this pair, the dog and motorcycle are metal castings.

Eric's painting style is very distinctive, especially the faces, I've picked up some of his figures before and you can tell it's his work the moment you see them.  I bought a dozen of these, enough for a Sturmer unit, the kneeling officer is a metal casting.

Another modeller with a very distinctive style is Vince Mattocks, who made these knights from the Hundred Years War, again I'm a great fan of his work and pick them up whenever I can. 

The donor figures will be easily identified by most collectors and have had only minor changes but enough to give them a unique character of their own.  

Vince is very knowledgeable of this period, all the coats of arms and liveries are accurate, which saves me an awful lot of work.  Helpfully he also writes the name of the knight portrayed under the base and signs it.

I don't know who made these, the Roman sling thrower was made in Russia (but I can't remember who by) and isn't a conversion but I might use him as a pattern to make some more, the mounted Roman can take command of a Legion I've been working on and the French standard bearer will join the ranks of the 7 Years War collection.

Peter Bergner came over from Germany with a box full of these Cafe Storme figures, beautiful sculpts by military artist Eugene Leliepvre, they were oddments and damaged, so came cheap as chips and just what I wanted for a number of conversion I have in mind.

That's all for this year.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Plastic Warrior 2023 - New stuff

 Peter Cole of Replicants usually launches his new figures at the Plastic Warrior Show and here is this year's offering.  Two sets (4 figures in each) of medieval peasants, and they are revolting, as they did!

Rising up from their labours are a builder with giant mallet, fishwife with a cleaver, serf with a sickle and a minstrel to tell the tale of revolution in a ballad.

The second lot are better armed and mean business, I picked up a couple of sets of these, a chap with slingshot that could easily be used for any ancients army, one with a flail who will be joining my band of Japanese Illo-Ikki, a farmhand with pitchfork and his wife with, I'm not sure what but lets just say a rolling pin.

Steve Weston had a few of the new Chintoys sets, I thought these were made in Russia but I'm told they're produced in Ukraine (I haven't checked this out), which makes me feel a lot easier about buying them.  These are the Saracen Warriors, beautiful sculpts but on the large side, about 57mm and chunky with a very thick base which makes them look more like 60mm figures.  

Steve also had sets of the new Gangsters and Police but I passed on them, again they are nice figures but not my thing and way to big to go with my existing Marx Untouchables figures.

This is my first 3d printed figure, another medieval peasant though not revolting this time, a forester with felled tree and chopped woodpile.  I guess this is the future of the hobby and it certainly opens up whole new possibilities, this figure is made by Warhorse Miniatures and came courtesy of Paul Stadinger who came over from USA.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Plastic Warrior Show 2023

 The PW Show has been running annually since 1985 (2 years COVID lockdown excepted), and on Saturday someone said to me "It pretty much runs itself now doesn't it".  Well, no it doesn't, there are always problems, there are so many things outside of our control, and the Gods love to have fun with mortals who make plans.  This year they had a lot of fun and we had a lot of challenges but the support and camaraderie of the enthusiasts who overcame the travel problems and turned up carried the day.  So if you were one of them, thank you, you're the ones who really make the show.

I always use the show as an opportunity to clear out stuff I no longer need, stuff that has sat in a cupboard unloved, unlooked at and unused for years.  I wanted it when I bought it, perhaps on a whim, or maybe for a project that never came to fruition (plenty of them!), some stuff was just picked up to save it from the skip or the ravages of tiny fingers, whatever.  

The important thing is that it gives someone else some pleasure in acquisition, takes up their storage space and ultimately becomes their problem.  It also frees up space in my cupboards and in my head for me to get more stuff.  This was my haul for the day (plus several bags of Hing Fat WW2 out of the pic), by coincidence I ended the day with as much cash in my pocket as I started it, so in my personal microeconomic view I got all this stuff for nothing.

This is the Garibaldi Red Shirt set made in Italy by Co-Ma, I've only been searching 40 years for them so I expect they'll be turning up all over the place now.  Very similar to Atlantic in style but a bit smaller at about 50mm tall, four of them should have muskets in black plastic, I'll give them Timpo ones.

I do like to see English cavalry in a pillbox cap, this composition figure was made in France by Bon Dufour, badly damaged but condition has never been an issue for me.

Some odds and ends for various collections, a couple of Natives from PZG of Poland, some composition figures gifted from Andreas Dittmann who came over with the collectors from Germany and some French infantry by Toumoulage that will find employment in the International Brigade for my Spanish Civil War project.

I usually try to get lots of photos of the tables to encourage more people to come to the show, this year I didn't really have time to wander around taking pics but here are a few bits that give a flavour of what it's all about.  

When I got home I took a few more pics of the stuff I bought and I'll try to get them posted up over the next few days.