Wellington on Battle Reports, Balls and History

Peter Laing 15mm M1 Wellington and M3 British Household Cavalry, painted c. 1983. 

The Duke of Wellington dismissively observed to William Siborne,  “You can as well write the history of a ball as of a battle.”

Siborne had asked for the Duke’s memories of the day amongst others to help accurately construct his diorama model of Waterloo, which now rests in the National Army Museum. Well worth visiting in its new restoration.

A short account of this model can be found in Harry Pearson’s autobiography  Achtung Schweinhund! featured as a warning against investing too much money in toy soldiers over the years (whoops!); a longer account can be found in a book by  Miniature Wargames games writer and historian Peter Hofschroer’s cleverly titled Wellington’s Smallest Victory (Faber, 2004).

Having just finished one longish games write up (the longer as sections of it wiped once), I find this Wellington quote interesting as the possible difference between ‘history’ and ‘fiction’ – the point of view (or continuously confusing shifting point of view if you are Virginia Woolf) that it’s written from. Is it an impersonal lab report? Is it the skeleton plot of historical fiction? A confused blend of both?

As I write up recent tabletop skirmishes, I have been thinking about the links between fiction and gaming. Writing  up games reports of past battles, I am reminded of Wellington’s (dismissive?) quote.  Commonly many games bloggers feel that their thrilling accounts can appear  somewhat tedious for other readers.

Some of the more interesting ones (insert your favourites here)  go further than a blow-by-blow account; they  reflect on the rule changes or  improvisations that crop up, being a form of playtesting.

Great photographs of figures and terrain also help, whilst some like the Wargames Hermit now have direction arrows in photos to help you follow the action more clearly.

Such blog write ups become demonstration games for rules, very much in the spirit of H.G. Wells in “The Battle of Hook’s Farm” section of Little Wars or Donald Featherstone’s classic battles in his 1962 War Games. Others like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Yallobelly Times newspaper style battle reports take on a life  of their own.

Games reports also hopefully share and remember the escapist “joy and forgetfulness” that gaming brings with itself.

The full Wellington quotes from the ever reliable WikiQuotes are:

“The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.” Letter to John Croker (8 August 1815), as quoted in The History of England from the Ascension of James II (1848)  by Macaulay, Volume 1 Chapter 5; and in The Waterloo Letters (1891) edited by H. T. Siborne.

“Just to show you how little reliance can be placed even on what are supposed the best accounts of a battle, I mention that there are some circumstances mentioned in General —’s account which did not occur as he relates them. It is impossible to say when each important occurrence took place, or in what order.” Wellington’s papers (17 August 1815), as quoted in The History of England from the Ascension of James II (1848) by Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), being Wellington’s shorter lived contemporary (Wellington lived 1769 – 1852), would have something to say about the value of writing the history of a ball, from many shifting viewpoints and many carefully observed details, especially if you want to point up character. The famous Brussels ball on the eve of Waterloo also features in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847/8).

There is an interesting  social history  book In These Times by Jenny Uglow on the Georgian / Regency background of Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/06/in-these-times-living-in-britain-through-napoleons-wars-1793-1815-jenny-uglow-review

Inside Peter Hofschroer’s book (page 178 ) is another version of the “writing a battle and ball” quote, when Wellington talked about his view the accuracy of Siborne’s Waterloo model (quoted by Hofschroer from Sir John R. Mowbray, “Seventy Years at Westminster”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine July 1898):

“… If you want to know my opinion it’s all farce, fudge! They went to one gentleman and said “What did you do?” “I did so and so.” To another, “What did you do?” “I did such and such a thing.” One did it at ten and another at twelve, and they have mixed up the whole. The fact is, a battle is like a ball; they kept footing it all the day through.”

And to another, Francis Egerton in 1845 (Hofschroer, page 179):

” … of which beautiful work he [Siborne] has made a scene of confusion, such as would be a drawing or representation in one view of all the scenes and acts of a play in five acts.”

Wellington in his old age in his actions towards Siborne does not come out of this account by Peter Hofschroer  too well.

And now for some gratuitous photographs of the few Peter Laing 15mm Waterloo / Napoleonic figures I bought as a young teenager, still much as I painted them 30+ years ago. They are due for rebasing and some odd retouches of paint soon. I wished I had bought more and have since acquired a few additional ones for future small skirmish games.

A very thin red lead line … My smallest Wellington (M1) with M3 British household cavalry and other Peter Laing 15mm British Infantry with a mix of Belgian and stovepipe shako of the Napoloenic period.


The offending blue of too many tiny Prussians (if you were Wellington) … Peter Laing Napoleonic era Prussians.  F13 Prussian infantry drummer, F12 Prussian infantry advancing, F15 Prussian Landwehr advancing, F16 Prussian Landwehr firing.
Flower of Scotland … Painted c. 1983 and in need of a repaint, my Peter Laing 15mm Napoleonic / Crimean War Highlanders, from left these are F811 Highland drummer, F813 Highland standard bearer, F810 Highland private advancing, F812 Highland Officer.
“Pour L’Empereur Petit …” Painted c. 1983, these are my Peter Laing 15mm French Napoleonic infantry with shako plumes. F7 French infantry advancing with shake plume, F10 French standard bearer, F11 French infantry officer, F9 French infantry drummer, F8 French infantry firing.
L’Empereur petit … Peter Laing 15mm M2 Napoleon, along with F10 “eagle” standard bearer and F23 French imperial guardsman advancing.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, 25 August 2016.

Peter Laing American Civil War Skirmish

The old recently abandoned old Mitchell farmstead and farm plank bridge. The Union aim to hold the crossing …

Sometime around Spring, 1863. Lower Hicksville Valley, “somewhere in the Midwestern States of America”. A swampy river and marshy  area  with a grand small farmhouse (the old Mitchell farmhouse) from a past attempt at scratching out a living from farming, logging and mining in the valley.

Recently abandoned, the old Mitchell farm gives its name to one of the two basic badly damaged plank bridge crossings  (Farm Bridge and Rocky Bridge) over the Hicksville River.

Dead Tree Ridge / Rocky Bridge. The Confederate aim to hold the crossings ….

Dividing the western river bank in half  is an impassable sheer rocky outcrop crested with dead trees known as Dead Tree Ridge. On the other bank, dense tangled pine forest runs down the centre of the valley towards the Eastern river edge leaving very few clear areas to cross the raging river, fuelled by snowmelt. Patches of impassable swamp grass, scrub and pools dot the edges of the valley.

Cavalry scouts on either side reported from afar off possible enemy movements and smoke from encampments in the remote rocky and swampy valley.


The Lower Hicksville Valley, divided Northwest to Southeast by the Hicksville River and east to west by impassable Dead Tree Ridge and impenetrable dense forest. Edged by thick scrub and impenetrable  swamp grass.

Forces involved

A small scratch scouting force of Union troops from the USCT and  26th Minnesota Infantry (Wobegon Volunteers) led by Captain Bunsen some 30 strong were spared to march North up the Lower Hicksville Valley  to investigate and secure if needed any river crossings.

Over this jumbled territory a small slightly larger force of 39 Confederate infantry (the source of the campfire smoke?) are marching South down the Eastern bank of the Lower Hicksville River.

The Blues and Greys are destined to clash near the farm and plank bridges, ahead of larger forces, fighting for control of the bridge crossing and any possible mining and forestry resources.

Entering from the Northwest top left marching south for the Confederacy are the Tennessee Butternut Infantry followed by the South Virginians  (red arrows). Marching North for the Union to the southwest / bottom left are the Wisonscin (Wobegon volunteers) and to the south east on the east bank are the USCT US Colored Troops (blue arrows)

The Greys or Confederate infantry marching North  were split into two. First to arrive were a unit of 18 scruffily attired ‘Butternut’ Infantry, a small part of a Company C of the 16th Tennessee (Nashville) Infantry in slouch hats and grey / brown motley Butternut uniforms which blend well with the rocky forested terrain.

They are followed by the rest of their Rebel force, a small part of 20 more sprucely attired grey coated Confederate infantry, Company B of  the 24th  South Virginia  Infantry in light blue kepis and trousers, led by their young Lieutenant Wallis.


The Blues or Union infantry  (3/4 smaller in number than the Confederates) are similarly split into two small units, a small advanced scouting section of 8 USCT (United States Coloured Troops). These former Southern slaves who have escaped to the North are led by a white Yankee sergeant. These USCT troops are moving along the forest edges on the Eastern side of the river.

USCT troops  often being former slaves were sometimes very badly treated if captured by the Confederates.


The other larger force of 28 Yankee infantry of A Company, 26th Minnesota Infantry (Wobegon Volunteers) are led by their officer, Captain Bunsen along the rocky Western bank of the river.

Neither side has any cavalry or artillery support. They are travelling light and carrying several days rations, living off the land by hunting and foraging and any farmsteads they find as their horse and baggage supply train would find this current terrain almost impassable without engineers to assist with bridging and road building.

For both sides, the troops are travelling as light and bivouacking as best they can. Heavier back packs and greatcoats are piled in base camps further up the valley. The infantry are carrying rifles, bayonets at the ready, and an adequate supply of dry rations and ammunition.

Setting out the troops – dispositions

Before the first Turn, a d6 (standard six sided dice) was rolled for each side. The resulting dice score was the number of figures removed from each side as having fallen out sick or left on guard in base camp along the march. The Greys left one man behind, the Blues left five infantry  behind from their respective dice rolls.

As this game was being played solo, I needed to randomise arrival and disposition of forces over the randomly generated terrain.

Once the territory was mapped out into game or map squares, 2 d6 could be rolled for which of the 12 letter squares A-L and one d6 for the number square axis the force would appear at.

Once this was arranged, a d6 was thrown for each of the four smaller groups as to which turn they would arrive on the board at their respective points. None threw a 1!

Aims or Victory Conditions

The aim of both sides is to hold the crossings and see off the enemy, inflicting as many casualties as possible.

A d6 roll was rolled to decide when the retreat or fight on situation begins for each force. Roll 1-3 when down to a quarter of the troop numbers, roll 4 – 6 when down to a half of the troop numbers,  throw a d6 to see if they retreat (1-3) or fight on to the last man (4-6).

In this situation, we rolled a 3, meaning that this retreat or fight situation will be triggered when down to below  10 Confederates and below 8 Union troops.

Tennessee Butternut Infantry emerge cautiously through the edge of the swamp onto the Western bank of the Hicksville River.


Turn 1 began with no troops on the board on either side.

In Turn 2 the first USCT troops emerged onto the western bank, heading fast for the Mitchell Farm and bridge crossings.

In Turn 3 the Tennessee Butternut infantry appear to the north on the eastern bank heading for the bridge. Such is the bottleneck of marshy ground and narrow river bank that only 12 of the 17 Butternuts make it on to the board area, being confined to 4 men per hex.

In Turn 4 the USCT reach the crucial bridge crossings and narrow neck of the valley between the forest edge and the river. In Turn 4 the rest of the Union (Minnesota) troops appear to the south on the Eastern bank, their view of the Confederate troops obscured by the impassably steep high rocks and skeletal boughs of Dead Tree Ridge. They too head for the Farmstead and the crossings. As with the Confederates, only 20 Minnesotans make it onto the cramped edges of the river bank, 4 are still in the troop trays off the board.

The Confederate bottleneck becomes more of an issue in Turn 5 as the first 11 of the dapper Kepi-clad  Confederates from South Virginia  make it onto the board.  All 21 Butternuts of the Tennessee (Nashville) Infantry are now on the board.

Glimpse from the rocky forest edges, the Confederate forces are bottlenecked or confined to one bank on the Western side of the Hicksville River.

Finally by Turn 5 the first units had sighted each other and the first shots were exchanged between the USCT and the Tennessee Butternut infantry exposed crossing the bridge. The first Confederate Butternut is killed.

The first casualty – Turn 5 – looking North, one of the Butternut infantry taking the Farm bridge crossing is shot down by the USCT troops on the far eastern bank.

Crossing Rivers dice throw rule – throw the same number of d6 as there are troops who cross or are on the bridge. A dice score of 1 means that person has fallen into the river and is lost unless a further dice throw of a 6 is thrown as a casualty savings throw.

Turn 6

Union troops throw highest d6 to move first. The USCT move forward to the lee shelter of the woods overlooking the Farm bridge, whilst the first 8 of the other Union troops begin to cross the Rocky Bridge. D6 are thrown – No Union losses into the raging Hicksville river. The Butternuts crossing the bridge are not so lucky, one of their number falls in and is lost (failed casualty savings throw).

Bottlenecked into the river crossings area, the line of sight for Union and Confederate troops is often obscured by their own men at this stage. This is checked using a Lionel Tarr style Reverse Periscope. Fortunately the troops on each bridge have a good clear view of each other. These small groups exchange fire; the USCT troops shoot 1 Butternut on the bridge  and in the Confederate return fire at the USCT troops on the bank, one USCT infantryman is killed.

More Butternut infantry fire at the exposed Union troops crossing the bridge leads to 3 Union troops killed.

Casualties in Turn 6 – 2 Confederate Butternut infantry, 4 Union troops.

Turn 7

Greys dice and move first, having highest score. By now all South Virgianian and Tennessee Butternut Confederate infantry are on the board.

The first 4 Butternuts over the bridge surge into melee with three USCT. (No impetus bonus used and no melee casualty savings throws)

1 Confederate and 1 USCT  infantryman each are killed, several coloured  d6  thrown – the USCT sergeant is the casualty! The remaining 2 USCT infantry lose the melee morale throw but retreat in good order.

To decide what to do with these 2 USCT troops on their move, I set up a d6 throw: 1 – 3 push into melee back up or 4 – 6 circle round to Farmhouse. They throw a 3 so circle around past the gravestone and a patch of forest towards the farmhouse.

In turn the remaining USCT infantry move forward  into Melee with the three Butternuts; in the ensuing melee all three Butternuts are lost along with a further USCT infantryman. (No Melee Morale Throw is needed as all the Butternuts involved have been killed).

The Tennessee Butternuts and the Union troops from Minnesota  fire at each other, one Butternut on the exposed bridge is killed but who is the Union casualty?  After rolling a coloured dice amongst the appropriate number of d6 for the Union targets, it turns out to be their Union Officer Captain Bunsen who is hit  (who fails his casualty savings throw).

Casualties of  Turn 7 – 5 Butternut Confederates and 2 Union infantry (USCT sergeant and Union Officer).

A brief pause of a day to gameplay at the end of Turn 7.

Turn 7 – Looking South: The two pivotal bridges and the narrow strip of river foreshore that holds the key to controlling the crossing. Two USCT troops are circling round the forest at top left to reach the Farmstead.

Bird’s Eye / aerial view at end of Turn 7.

North and the Confederate forces to the right, South and the Union troops to the left.

Turn 8

Union forces have the highest score on dice roll so move first, to a Melee by 4 Union infantry into the flank of the 4 Confederate Butternut infantry on the bridgehead. 3 Butternut infantry are lost for the cost of 1 Union soldier. The Union soldiers lose the Melee Morale Throw d6 so retreat 1 hex but in good order, able to fire this move.

Note: No impetus bonus being used in this game so no melee extra +1 on first round for assaulting the enemy flank.

Disastrously  3 of the Union troops crossing the dilapidated Rocky Bridge lose their footing and are swept away and lost, failing their throw a six on a d6 and survive savings throw. Some engineers are needed on these rickety bridges!

Confederates move second – the 5 Butternut infantry at the bridgehead check orders on which way they are to turn. We reuse the Union d6 decision throw from Turn 7: roll 1-3 head for Melee, 4-6 circle round for farmhouse.

Melee is the outcome – 4 Butternut infantry head straight for 3 U.S.C.T infantry. All 3 USCT are lost at the cost of one Butternut infantryman. (No Melee Morale Throw required as Union USCT troops are all gone from that Melee hex area.)

The remaining light blue kepi-clad South Virginian Confederate infantry  cross the bridge or take up firing positions along the bottleneck of the Western Bank.

Disaster strikes as the officer and standard bearer rush across the river by the Farm bridge. The Standard bearer of the South Virginian Infantry slips and is swept away downstream (failing casualty savings throw) with the unit’s flag.

Turn 8 (indicated by the two dice) looking south as the Confederate standard bearer fatally slips into the Hicksville River.


Rule idea to ponder – what effect should the loss of a sergeant, officer or standard bearer have on the rest of the unit? Should it trigger a morale throw?

Union forces fire first. One Butternut infantryman is killed heading up the slope towards the cover of the Mitchell Farmstead, ahead of two nearby USCT troops. 7 Union (Minnesota) infantry in firing range kill two more Butternut infantry.

Confederates return fire, including a group behind a log barrier ‘cover’ on the Western Bank, firing from under cover gives them a 5 or 6 to hit on a d6, increasing their killing power. 3 Union troops on the Eastern bank are killed. Other Confederate forces cannot fire without hitting their own men or are just out of range.

Turn 8 – summary – 8 Confederates lost including standard bearer, 10 Union troops lost (4 in Melee, 3 crossing river, 3 shot).

Interval and Ideas from the Wargames Hermit

Between turn 8 and 9 there was a game pause of several days. Figures were left in place on the portable boards, photographs taken and a few end of turn notes made. During this time, I read the game reports by fellow Peter Laing enthusiast John Patriquin The Wargame Hermit blogger in the USA at http://wargamehermit.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/two-skirmish-wargames.html

John had been gaming an American Civil War skirmish using cluttered terrain  and two sets of rules for comparison. The first game was with my amended Close Little Wars rules, the second with Horse and Musket 2.0 rules.

In a good looking (Close) Little Wars game with Peter Laing figures, John decided that Featherstone style savings throws were slowing everything down so abandoned them quicker skirmish.

I do this when time is short, so opted to play the second half of the Hicksville skirmish with no savings throws for Melee or Firing.

Turn 9 – The Confederate officer Lieutenant Wallis and two infantry have glimpsed two USCT troops heading for possession of the Mitchell Farmstead and so they too head toward the house, screened from Union fire by the other South Virginian troops.

These two groups heading for the Mitchell Farmstead clash in Melee. The last Tennessee Butternut infantryman is lost but so too are the last 2 USCT troops. The Confederate Lieutenant Wallis survives. No Melee Morale Throw needed.

In the exchange of firing, two Union Minnesota  troops and one Confederate South Virginian infantryman are killed.

Turn 10 looking south


Turn 10 – Union forces dice highest so move first into a series of two melees at the bridgehead area, followed by Confederates moving into Melee on their move  – six Union and three Confederate troops are killed. During this brutal slugging match, the Confederate officer and his infantryman escort move into the Farmhouse.  One further Union infantryman is killed by Confederate fire.

Casualty summary of Turn 10 – 3 Confederates and 7 Union lost. This now brings Union forces to a quarter of their number, so triggering the retreat (throw 1-3) or fight to the last  (throw 4-6) d6 dice throw for the Union Minnesota Infantry (Wogebon Volunteers).  The dice throw of 1 means the Wobegon boys will retreat to fight another day for the Union.

Turn 11 – the Union Retreat

Which way will the last few Union infantry retreat? Will it be risking the  crossing of the bridge to the East bank (1-3) or remaining  and retreating  via the West Bank (4-6)?  The dice is thrown and staying on the  West bank chosen.

Far away from their officer, the South Virginian troops decide how to react to the Union retreat (roll 1-3 give chase, 4-6 head back to find their officer). Swept up in heat of the  skirmish, with a Rebel Yell the South Virginians chase off after the fleeing Union troops. Disastrously three of them running across the Farm Bridge  slip and fall into the Hicksville River and are swept away (each failed saving casualty throw of a 6). These rickety bridges are proving as lethal as Yankee guns, boots or bayonets.

Turn 10 into Turn 11 – looking North, the Union view of the Confederates, as the Union troops decide to retreat.


Despite the pursuit and retreat, each side looses off shots in the firing phase leading to one further Union and one Confederate casualty.

Casualties in Turn 11 – 4 Confederates (three lost in river) and one Union casualty.

Turn 12 – The Confederates roll highest on d6 to move first, meaning they can catch the rearguard of the retreating Union troops.  In the ensuing Melee another Union infantryman is killed alongside 2 Confederates. However the Confederates lose the Melee Morale Throw and retreat one hex backwards in disorder, unable to move or fire until a 6 is thrown.

This infantryman is in effect “pinned” and a dice placed next to him to remind me of this. He is also partly blocking the flow of Confederate pursuers and firing range / line of sight. Again sporadic wildly aimed firing takes place as they pause to reload and catch breath but with no casualties.

Turn 12 Casualty summary – 2 Confederates , 1 Union killed.

Turn 13 – the last two Union infantry move first with 5 Confederates in close pursuit. During the firing phase, one further Union infantryman is killed.

The final Turn, Turn 14 opens with the dice throw, the Union score highest so move first.

The remaining Union infantryman retreats rapidly off the game board to safety with a dozen or so Confederate men behind him, thankfully most of whom blocked each other’s shots.

View  from the west up on Dead Tree Ridge of Turn 14 as the last Union infantryman escapes the gameboard, pursued by the South Virginian Confederate infantry. The “pinned” infantryman has a dice by him as a reminder.

Will the surviving Union infantryman raise the alarm?

The view of pursuing Confederates over the last Union Infantryman’s shoulder in Turn 13/14.


The last Union Infantryman  clears the game board with Confederates not far behind him.

Surely this last Union Infantryman from his decimated small unit of Minnesota Infantry (Wobegon Volunteers) deserves a name. As he did some pretty fast running (whilst the  Olympics was on television in our house afar off during each gameplay), he is christened Private Bolt.

After the Battle

The victorious Rebel troops gather at the old Mitchell Farmstead to listen to their officer, the  young Lieutenant Wallis.

The battle, he said, may be over but only for a brief while. Soon they must dig in and await reinforcements. A scouting party must be sent to find the other Confederate forces. Sentries and pickets must be posted. There are dozens of dead to be found and buried. The missing colours to be found downstream …

The Lieutenant starts dividing his men up after a quick meal into different working and sentry parties. The Confederates left a guard with their haversacks, greatcoats and baggage in a base camp  further up the valley. Other supplies of weapons , ammunition and supplies can be scrounged from the Union and Confederate fallen.

How long will it be before more Union forces arrive attracted by the sounds of skirmish?

When will the Confederates be able to reinforce them to secure the valley crossing?

The fleeing Minnesota Union infantryman has five sick colleagues further down the valley, also guarding the baggage. How soon will they be able to contact the rest of the Union forces for reinforcements? Will Confederate scouts find them first?

An interesting scenario is emerging in my mind as a follow on – guided by Private Bolt, but unsure of surviving Confederate numbers, some Union reinforcements head back into the valley to attack the surviving dozen prepared Confederates. A dice dictated element of turn delay for the  Confederate reinforcements could be interesting.

Post Mortem Questions

The Officer problem – what effect if any does their presence or loss have on a small skirmish game?

Similarly what effect does the loss of their colours or standard have on troops in this backwoods skirmish kind of situation? Protecting their standard could be written into the scenario aims.

Falling off a slippery plank bridge accounted for a high number of drowned casualties, maybe the savings throw could be adjusted to something less harsh than throw a 6 to be saved. To be fair in most periods and areas before the early 20th century, the average person probably couldn’t  swim, especially not encumbered with heavy uniform and kit in the raging spring snowmelt torrents of the Hicksville River.

The joy of random dice throws for the solo gamer to create decision paths works well for me, creating the ‘random’ or unpredictable element of another player’s decisions or of the chaos and heat of battle / fog of war etc.

Did the randomly generated (d6 /map coordinates) terrain points with a river with few crossing points create too much of a bottleneck? Did it and the forest and rocky ridge barriers  dictate too much of the flow of battle?

Probably not, as Close Little Wars and Featherstone’s wonderfully short original rules thrive on the simplicity of impassable forest, sheer rock face, limited visibility and restricted movement choices. Real battles are also partly dictated by trying to choose whatever natural advantage the ground gives.

I was also surprised how little effect the rapidly built John Mitchell tribute “Mitchell Farmhouse” had on affairs, but it was randomly plotted fairly out of the crux of events between the two crossings.

I look forward to using the same terrain layout / boards for the follow up skirmish or the second Battle of the Lower Hicksville valley, and for trying different periods and scenarios out over the same limited ground. Next on the painting board is a WW2 skirmish group of Peter Laing originals and conversions …

Naming of Parts  – naming figures and units somehow changes your (emotional?) relationship to them. What will happen to Private Bolt and Lieutenant Wallis in the next exciting instalment? Will they live long enough to achieve promotion? Maybe the eleven other surviving Confederates require or deserve names?

Picking up and stopping the game at several points was like interrupting a ‘page-turner’ of a  historical novel or cliff-hanger TV series. It’s also tempting after contemplating the Angria Rebooted scenarios based on the Bronte’s tiny books and early juvenilia to use it as a basis for rewriting in different point of view styles as a historical fiction, rather than a dry battle report.

This is the first time these newly painted American Civil War Peter Laing figures have been in action and whilst they lack the finer detailing of another rainy day’s painting, they looked good enough to me on the game board.


The Peter Laing figures who survived on either side had ‘Hicksville’ inscribed on the underside of their bases, their first battle honours. Private Bolt is also now named on his base. The dead had simply a small “H” inscribed underneath in one corner.

These are the dead of the first Battle of the Lower Hicksville Valley, kept aside in some handy spare movement trays to tally losses.

This hectic game with simple aims or motivations for the troops on either side, despite several day or two pauses in game play, worked well for me as a solo game.  I looked forward to picking up where I left off.

This ACW game of Close Little Wars  was played in the spirit of the American Civil War general quoted in Donald Featherstone’s 1970 book  Battles with Model Soldiers:

Perhaps the American Civil war cavalry leader, Bedford Forrest, best summed up the situation when he said that his principle of war was “to get there fastest with the mostest.”

Blogposted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, 21st August 2016

John Mitchell Card Buildings

40 years on from their first design, I’m making one of the late John Mitchell’s  card buildings for 15mm figures as a small and ongoing tribute to John in my tabletop games.

mitchell cottages


mitchell farm
John Mitchell 15mm building sheets no 1 and 2 (JM1 and JM2?)

As mentioned in my previous tribute to the late John Mitchell,


here are two of my surviving unmade John Mitchell buildings photographed so that fellow Peter Laing enthusiasts can build again and attack or defend their own John Mitchell tribute town.

What finer tribute can there be for a wargames designer’s products than for them to live on and give pleasure long after him?

Scalpel –  check. Cutting board – check. Peter Laing Union rifleman to advise on scale – check. John Mitchell Building Sheet No. 2 Farmhouse – check. Ready to go!

My original John Mitchell card buildings from the 1980s have not survived.

Luckily two of my spare original sheets have survived. I scanned and printed these onto card to preserve the originals.

Cutting out the farmhouse pieces.

40 years after they were designed in 1976 by John Mitchell, these buildings are back being made on my cutting board. They were first designed not long after Peter Laing launched his first 15mm figures in 1972.

I remember making this farmhouse before c. 1983 and had few difficulties.

The farmhouse chimney sits a little oddly, so needs an additional flap added along on its left side before you cut it out.

Additionally a larger fold-over flap at the top of the single house wall with door is needed to get a level roof; just align the new flap with the height of the other wall with a door.

The finished basic Farmhouse model defended by my small advisor. I’ve marked up in red on the cut-out sheet overlaid on the original where flaps need to be altered or added in future.

John Mitchell made suggestions for adapting the basic card model as “base for experimentation e.g. Painting walls in poster colour, texturing walls and roofs in plastic filler and adding beams and window frames in balsa wood.

John mentioned his intention to work across “all periods of history” towards “Castles, and other large constructions” not just these slightly humbler 15mm dwellings.

Launching his buildings not long after Peter Laing launched his first 15mm figures in 1972, the only other building I came across mentioned (but sadly never bought) was the JM5 desert type dwelling mentioned in this Peter Laing advert in the early to mid 80s, a snip at 40p.

Not sure what the Barrack Room range was.

Another Peter Laing  range I wish I had bought more of along with John Mitchell’s card JM5 desert buildings. Oh well,  there’s always the Airfix Desert outpost and Foreign legion fort.

So if JM1 was the Elizabethan house, JM2 the Farmhouse / Barn and JM5 the Desert building, does anyone know or can show what JM3, JM4 and JM6 onwards were?

I’d be interested to see more of them.

Unpainted John Mitchell card farmhouse JM2 ready for action with garrison of Peter Laing Northern troops on my portable hex game board. (Photo / figures: Man of TIN.)

Enjoy building your John Mitchell tribute houses and may you have many happy hours with these as a pivotal battlefield feature to defend or attack in John Mitchell’s memory.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, August 2016.

Simple ECW starter rules: a John Mitchell tribute

ecw cover
Rules for Beginners 15mm English Civil War (collection: Man of TIN)

As a tribute to the late John Mitchell, one of figure designer Peter Laing’s colleagues in early 15mm wargames products, who died in June 2016, I am posting my battered copy of what I believe are John’s typed English Civil War 15mm starter rules (with my childhood pencil additions).

Send no cash or stamps for samples as Peter Laing has now retired! 1982 Miniature Wargames no. 1 (Figures: Man of TIN)

As far as I can remember, these rules were bought from Peter Laing c. 1982/3 and are focussed around the figures and artillery (A501 Culverin, A502 Saker) in Peter’s English Civil War ranges.

As far as I know, the rules have probably not been sold for many years since Peter Laing and John Mitchell retired. They are posted here in tribute.

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Authentically foxed, blotched and aged paper from these (JohnMitchell?) 15mm starter rules reprod(uced)and sold via Peter Laing?

John Mitchell sold starter sets of 15mm (hand painted?) Wargames armies.

The advert here does not mention ECW specifically …

John Mitchell starter 15mm sets advert (magazine and date unknown, c. 1982-3)

… but in this advert from Military Modelling October 1983 it gives more details:


Send no SAEs for details, as sadly John Mitchell has passed away but how many wargames enthusiasts started with one of these sets?

Hmm, If you could whizz back to 1983 in my Man of TIN Tiny Tin Time Machine, which starter army or armies would you choose?

Did you get figures for both sides, so both Roundhead and Cavalier?

I presume many of the starter set figures came from the Peter Laing range. The historic periods covered in the adverts match Peter Laing’s extensive 15mm catalogue well, including his trademark Marlburian figures, the unusual Crimean and Franco-Prussian War ranges and the smaller, almost half to a third of the cost for the WW2 starter set as Peter Laing only made a small WW2 infantry range which we have featured on another blogpost. The costs varied quite a lot in price!

If anyone was lucky enough to be bought or to buy one of these 15mm Starter Armies, I  would love to hear more about them in detail. Did they spark a lifelong gaming interest? Did it lead to a wider collection of Peter Laing figures? I hope that you liked them, although Peter Laing figures have both admirers and their detractors on many gaming and figure forums.

As a young gamer I could never afford a hand painted starter army – I hand painted my own choice of Peter Laing figures instead. I would have counted how many unpainted Peter Laing castings  at  6p or 7p per foot figure I could have bought for the cost of a starter army.

These rules were an interesting specific set for the ECW to supplement the simple rules for other periods available in early Donald Featherstone books. They served me well for my first few teenage years of English Civil War gaming.

The supportive business relationship between John Mitchell and Peter  Laing is hinted at often throughout Peter Laing’s catalogue:


More about John Mitchell’s 15mm card buildings and building sheets in my next Peter Laing related blogpost.

When Peter Laing retired, John Mitchell bought the Laing figure moulds whose whereabouts are currently unknown – probably.

Hopefully John Mitchell’s hand painted 15mm starter armies were the introduction to the scale and our hobby for many of today’s gamers.

John Mitchell, remembered wherever and whenever his hand-painted starter sets  of tiny 15mm metal soldiers fight for his card buildings, by  happy gamers across the world enjoy “a most satisfactory infantry action game.”

Tribute posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, 19 August 2016.




Peter Laing 15mm blog photographer

Following up my “favourite Peter Laing figure?” Blogpost,  I asked knowledgeable enthusiast  Ian Dury about 15mm Peter Laing figures  whether Peter Laing had ever made a 15mm photographer figure, knowing how much Ian and others liked his Victorian Parade Range.

As far as Ian was aware, Peter Laing hadn’t made such a figure, so the natural thing to do was a quick conversion.

Peter Laing tiny 15mm photographer conversion with Northern infantry in the background beyond the bridge. (Photograph / figures/ Man of TIN)

A colonial British infantry heliograph operator in pith or foreign service helmet  (A605) made a good basic figure for a photographer with his tripod. The addition of a tiny black plastic Qixel cube or square bead roughed in for the clunky camera or early cine film apparatus. Until I find a smaller cube, it’ll do.

I let this tiny ‘blogs of war’ photographer loose on the my portable game board  ‘battlefield’ of an impending North / South skirmish to take the combatant’s pictures. I think some time travel will be required if he is to document other such skirmishes.

Our tiny 15mm Peter Laing blog photographer focuses in on Southern troops (F3009) advancing, led by a scratch-built Fimo polymer clay standard bearer with his home spun Southern flag. (Pictures / figures: Man of TIN)
Our tiny photographer captures this image of Butternut Southern infantry (F3010) heading into action. The famous Peter Lang sheep can be seen in the background near the Northern infantry.  (Photograph: Man of TIN blog staff photographer)


And again in colour …

More pictures of my newly painted and based Northern and Southern / Blue and Grey infantry on my next blog post.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, August 2016.


Maori Wars update

My Peter Laing Colonials and Blues and Greys versus the Generican Natives – Not quite the Maori Wars (Figure / Photos: Man of TIN)

imageAs a follow up to my earlier Maori Wars and Peter Laing related blog posts, here are the Andy Callan rules in full – or so I thought!

John The Wargames Hermit blogger in the USA was interested in these Maori bush wars rules and as back copies of this issue of Military Modelling magazine are probably quite scarce (I have hacked most of my magazines to pieces), I have added the missing section.

The amended Maori Wars rules by Andy Callan in Military Modelling, December 1983.

However, flicking through my box file, I found that the above rules as printed in September 1983 Military Modelling had some errors – they were corrected by Andy Callan in a half page erratum page in Military Modelling December 1983.

I also noticed in the book list that the Ian Knight who wrote the excellent Osprey book on the New Zealand Wars had also written a couple of interesting articles called “Fire in the Bush” in Military Modelling  in April and November 1980, worth tracking down.

I also found some interesting articles on the New Zealand Wars in that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Wars featuring the unusual war memorial


These entries also features some interesting pictures, including:

The Death of Von Tempsky 1868 by Kennett Watkins. Wikipedia Public Domain source

An atmospheric view of the terrain is shown  in “The Death of Von Tempsky at Te Ngutu o Te Manu”, a portrayal of an incident in the New Zealand wars on 7 September 1868. Apparently published in the New Zealand Mail, last produced in 1907, this Lithograph from 1893 by William Potts (1859-1947) was made from a painting by Kennett Watkins (1847-1933). Wikipedia image in public domain.

Utu is a New Zealand Maori Wars film from 1983/1984 (with director’s Utu – Redux  cut issued about 2013) that I have never yet seen, here described: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086497/ 

My Peter Laing Reenactment Society – the Maori Carpet Wars re-enacted in black and white  (Figures / photo: Man of TIN)

For my previous posts featuring the Maori Wars:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/peter-laing-figures-in-carpet-forests/  featuring the rest of Andy Callan’s article



Happy (Maori War) Gaming.

Blog Postscript (B.P.S.)

I had an interesting email from Andy Callan last week about his Maori Wars rules, surprised to see his Maori rules and hair roller armies still in use.

Andy Callan: “Wow! That’s a real blast from the past. When I wrote these rules I saw them as a sort of Victorian assymetrical Vietnam equivalent – high tech westerners vs wily bunkered-down natives…
I’m still actively wargaming and writing new stuff. Have a look on Amazon for Peter Dennis’ Battle for Britain and you will see what I am currently up to … Good to hear from you. What a great hobby this is – it is still keeping me busy nearly fifty years after I started out!” 

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, August 2016.







My favourite Peter Laing figure?


imagePossibly my favourite of Peter Laing’s 15mm figures, this is the dismounted Dragoon firing (figure F515) from his English Civil War range.


I’m not entirely sure why it’s probably my favourite Peter Laing figure (at least of the non marching advancing figures). Is it the colour scheme or the slightly independent elite status of dragoons?

Anyone else got a favourite (Peter Laing)  gaming figure?

I’m not suggesting however that we start a Peter Laing “guess my  favourite figure” charades competition as some gamers allegedly do for Airfix figures, according to reliable sources in Harry Pearson’s autobiography  Achtung Schweinhund! That would be little too niche …


I have a few spare unpainted ones of these figures already destined to become 7th Cavalry or dismounted Union Cavalry in a very different Civil War, so will see how that paint conversion works out.

Happy gaming!

Posted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, 1st August 2016.

Peter Laing “PL P.S.” postscript

Lovely to hear from several Peter Laing fans and Bloggers on favourite figures – both John The Wargames Hermit and Ian Dury liked Peter’s Late Victorian Parade figures, bicyclists and goose stepping figures.

Ian Dury sent me this picture of his favourites. Thanks Ian for sharing these:

Peter Laing enthusiast Ian Dury’s favourite goose-stepping Prussian figures from his 19th Century collection, beautifully painted.  (Photo: Ian Dury)