Rod has posted photos of some of his imaginative 1960s Airfix conversions of British troops from the Airfix Guards Colour Party and Airfix Red Indians converted and recast as Zulus (in a latex mould made for him by no less than Donald Featherstone!)
I am thinking of adding some more figures to my favourites, my simple Zulu War British Redcoat paint conversions from first version British Infantry Battle Group. I have yet to finish my Airfix Indians repainted as Zulus, “Farsunds of Em …” (well, a few dozen).
Airfix Blue Guards
Army Red, Army Blue, hostile natives, never fails.
A lucky find on a collectibles or junk stall was a £10 teabag box full of a small jumbled collection of miniature ceramic French houses produced by Gault.
I had never heard of ‘Gault Made in France’ but I saw the games potential of this ‘bric a brac’ straight away. They looked close to 15mm scale.
About Gault France ceramic houses
“The magic of Gault houses was born from the combination of the talents of 2 brothers: Jean-Pierre, architect, painter and sculptor, and Dominique, designer and businessman”. http://gault-france.com/gault-history/
Sadly ceramics production of this attractive little French houses by Gault ceased for a while in 2001 and finally by 2010, due to the expensive production costs of these individually made and painted houses, after about thirty years of production.
Judging by the long individual making process, I am not surprised that they had high production costs:
“Two months were needed to produce a house through 14 manufacturing stages. Sculpting of roofs, shaping and modelling of balconies, pavements…Natural drying, firing at 700°C; rinse-bath with oxides, painting, patina, dust removal, cold enameling at 1000°C and shop-fronts miniaturising. All those stages were necessary to produce a piece finally worthy of seal of Gault. The world of Gault: the charm weaves its spell.” http://gault-france.com
The Gault France site (above) by Stephane is the only English language site I can find about them. It is well worth a visit, a real labour of love. It features pages of a rare Japanese book about them, showing the commonest Provence range that my houses belong to and many more ranges on his website http://gault-france.com/
“J Carlton houses are made of resin instead of ceramic and are generally a bit smaller than the Gault Original (ceramic) houses. A key difference between the ceramic and resin houses is that the ceramic houses were entirely made by hand; each one was unique as the window styles, doors, business name and other aspects of the pieces was different on each one of the same model. The resin houses are made from highly precise molds and therefore each one of the same model are identical.” Taken from http://gault-france.com website
The resin replacements of the Gault houses still produced and available on the ‘J. Carlton’ website. These are resin moulded, much brighter and, to me, have far less character or texture than the ceramic Gault originals. Like old metal figures, the ceramics also have a satisfying weighty heft about them.
Dominique Gault personally created the design for the comic little metal figurines, vehicles, and town furniture working with a French sculptor or artist Jean-Pierre Lobel. They do not feature on Lobel’s Art Miniature range, produced surprisingly in the former French colony of Madagascar since 1995. www.figurine-artminiature.com
However the Gault / Lobel figures are still produced in metal, hand painted and sold through J Carlton or second hand online sites. I am not too sure of their size, online auction sites suggest about 1 inch high, but they turn these model French towns into something charming and comic, somewhere between Trumpton and Tintin. http://pxlentreprise.fr/jcarlton/categorie-produit/figurines/
This motley collection of Gault houses suggest lots of gaming possibilities, especially in 15mm (they would probably work with 10mm too). You can mix and move the smaller side buildings around, much as you can in the traditional wooden German toy villages beloved of gamers, to create new combinations of buildings.
It is difficult to resist moving these little houses and outhouses around to make new village or townscapes.
Like all new gaming finds, these houses rearranged into a square, a small hamlet or long street suggest gaming scenarios or just atmospheric scene setting.
With the bell tower, it could a Mexican, Spanish Colonial or southern states desert village for some of my 15mm Peter Laing Boers as cowboys or bandits with other American Civil War figures.
With some Peter Laing 15mm Romans stashed away for Christmas to look forward to as opponents to my Peter Laing Ancient troops, I can see these working as simple Roman buildings. Instead of the maker’s mark of Gault written on the back wall, I may find the words Romans Go Home written instead!
I have tried the smaller Gault buildings out on 4.5 cm Heroscape hexes and they work quite well in a token ‘toy town’ kind of way.
However they do well enough on a felt gaming cloth.
Behind the scenes and underneath Gault Houses
For those who know such things, here are the maker’s marks or catalogue numbers of the pieces I picked up.
Looking on online sites, now that these Gault ceramics are out of production, even the smallest outhouse seems to be selling for at least twice the price I paid for the whole cardboard tea box of jumbled houses. A lucky day.
So I can now say that I own a property in Provence or two … albeit in miniature.
This is partly because the game board was a “take it as found”, scrounged before skipped notice board, rather than a purchased or commercial notice board as I think Bob Cordery used. Bob may have put his board dimensions on his post.
Recent Heroscape hex-periment blogposts
I have been intrigued and quite curious to see how Bob Cordery will incorporate these into his Portable Wargame set up. I enjoyed his stylish and smart coastlines, well worth looking at these on his blog:
The Heroscape hexes are versatile enough that you can flock them, paint them or plant a tree on them.
The Heroscapers gallery section on terrain https://www.heroscapers.com/ has some interesting ways of building walls, hedges, fences and walls of buildings around the outside of the hexes so that you can place figures inside. Something to try perhaps for a French-Indian War or Civil War stockade fort section.
Bob Cordery measures Heroscape hex tiles at about 4cm across, but add the locking bits and I reckon that this is almost 4.5cms.
So the ‘seven hex’ almost snowflake pattern plates in my recent post about Peter Laing and Base Overhang are about 13.5 / 14 cms across at their three hex widest point on any side.
Heroscape Hexes also come in ones, twos, threes, snowflake sevens and 24s giving a variety of possible 3D or 2D shaped terrains.
The eight large plates of 24 Hexes (which that fit onto my board to make the 192 hexes of Joy) are the standard Heroscape large base plate. These are about 6 Hexes wide or for each plate 24 cms at widest, 6 hexes long about 27 cms longest edge. 2 of these combine however to make a rough rectangle of only 38 cms long, as seen making up a quarter each of my hex base board (above top).
My big 192 Hex board (an old possibly handmade but disused noticeboard) is around 79/80 cms long and 54/55 cms wide. This includes 2cms of trim at each end – effectively the trim and painted wooden gap round the edge are about 3-4cms wide, almost one hex wide.
My smaller portable game boards are two wooden box lids of 54 Hexes each. These are used as bought / found, being no carpenter, bring 40cms long, 30 cms wide including 1cm lip (3cms deep) around each side. There is some wasted space around the hex edge to box lip which I infill with AstroTurf strips for rough grass scrub. Together they make up a board of 108 Hexes, good for small fast games.
Together they would make up 300 Hexes of Joy!
I have yet to put all three hex boards alongside each other, mainly as I don’t yet have a table quite big enough. I have no games room so the smaller boards have the advantage that they can be lifted off a table and put on a shelf if things like meals claim the table. The bigger board after gaming when stripped back to the 8 interlocking big hex base plates can be stowed away easily enough or even hung on the wall as modern art.
Heroscape tiles by Hasbro / MB are currently long out of production but the starter Master Sets are fairly cheaply available on UK eBay (usually the first Master Set called Rise of the Valkyries) and with more variety on American eBay including the Superhero variants.
On Amazon pricing is bizarre – complete Heroscape new starter sets and sequels are in the £200 to £300 plus region!
However on EBay you currently pay anything from £20 for just the completist set of hex tiles through to £50-60 for a used slightly bashed starter set; Some people split sets and sell components. Beware that you can pay a lot of money on some sites for individual specialist tiles, trees, mountain sections etc. More about these sets and web links on
These master starter sets contain 85 interlocking tile sections, made up of:
8 x 24 tiles, enough for the base of my board of 192 Hexes of Joy!
and then the interesting extras that give the 3D-ness:
2 ruin corners, which need a bit of work like upper floors to make them useful
10 x triple hexes (like a triangle),
10 ‘snowflake’ seven Hexes,
10 double hexes,
26 single hexes
21 fairly flimsy thin blue water tiles.
These hexes are in a variety of colours: sand, grey rock, green grass.
I have never bought the Hexon 10cm hex system that many other gamers like Bob Cordery also use for their games. I get the feeling from other blogs that it is quite expensive but you may prefer the look, size and flexibility. Each to their happy own!
I generally want smaller hexes in a smaller cluttered playing area for skirmish games like Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ (appendix to his 1962 book Wargames) so the 4/4.5 cm hexes suit me from 15mm and 20mm through to 40mm figures. It might even stretch to 54mm figures on the usual 2p bases for very small skirmishes or duels.
I recently rediscovered a wonderful little article in Railway Modeller April 1976 issue in its ‘Junior Modeller’ section. It was written by 15 year old Julian Chambers, based around his WW1 battlefield light railway using WW1 Airfix figures, tank and airplanes.
I read and reread this article many, many times as a 1970s child. I had these figures myself. If only the tiny men could be moved about though …
I have scanned the whole article and its photos onto my Sidetracked blog, to share it and also that I can’t lose it again for the next thirty / forty years. Enjoy!
This has distracted or Sidetracked me only momentarily from an 1840s railway linked gaming scenario with Airfix figures that I am currently working on … and given me few ideas how to do this. Back to the painting and research desk!
On a rainy day on a recent seaside holiday, various members of my family booked in for a ‘paint your own ceramics’ workshop for a couple of hours including tea and cake.
As the only man there that afternoon amongst assorted female holidaymakers of all ages, I declined the more floral patterns and the seaside inspired designs to design and paint my very own ceramic toy soldier parade on a plate.
Thinking of those wonderful Herald plastic toy soldier guardsmen or the Britain’s hollowcast lead bands and parades, the Airfix Guards Colour Party set amongst others, I sketched these figures freehand out on an unfired ceramic plate in pencil.
I wanted a 1950s / 1960s nursery tea set ceramics feel, so kept the design nice and loose.
What was so different from painting real toy soldiers with acrylic or enamel model paints, matt or gloss, is that ceramic paints are a different colour (almost pastel and chalky) from how they appear on ceramics when fired.
With ceramic paints you have no strong idea how the design will look when finished, other than the helpful colour range plates to look at when choosing paints. These have the final fired colour and paint name marked on, which gives you some idea which ceramic red paint is closest to a Guardsman’s scarlet jacket for example.
The eventual fired richness of colour and coverage were not always in places (such as deep blue trousers) what I had envisaged or was used to from a model paint tin but I was still very happy with my first attempt.
Several days later, the collection and reveal of the fired plate was quite exciting, wondering – Had it survived firing? Would it look alright?
The original light touch pencil sketch marks are burnt off in firing, which makes outlining the fine detail difficult on faces for example. You cant see where you have outlined in paint and what is pencil. None of yer fine finicky model paint brushes here either!
As well as painted detail, you can scratch lines into the ceramic paint to create the shiny white dot of well polished black boots or a line of braid, then picked out with yellow paint.
Two to three hours of design and paint, tea and cake, quickly shoot by, so you have to restrict the complexity of your design to what can be finished in the time. This is why I kept the toy fort sketchy in outline.
The whole circular parade on a plate design started with this rushing private soldier, who has either just slipped or is rushing to catch up the others. He has earned a suitable glare from a stern looking Sergeant Major.
The toy soldier plate will eventually be framed and hung above my work desk at home as part of my toy soldier collection.
I enjoyed the experience very much. I hope one day to do another session and paint a toy soldier design on a different object such as a mug to store my paintbrushes and pencils in.
In this second part of 192 Hexes of Joy, I shall look at the (not very) important overhang issue of base sizes – Are they too big for 4cm Heroscape Hexes? Do they need rebasing?
It is also an excuse for some Peter Laing eye candy, if you like slender 15mm.
There also creeps in a comment or two on basing, related to “one man equals how many?” sort of maths, ground scale, unit frontages and stuff that makes my brain hurt at times.
Overhang, Rebase or Disregard?
To start with, I laid out part of my 15mm Peter Laing colonial flying column of British Redcoats and their artillery to see how they would fit onto the Heroscape hexes.
The Peter Laing British colonial artillery pieces in this colonial flying column do fit onto one hex, but the limbers do not quite fit one hex. Limbers are definitely a two hex piece even with base trimming. Two cavalry or four Redcoats fit one hex comfortably.
The geeky Peter Laing figure ID bit: British Colonial figures 600 range
F603 British infantry advancing with F609 British officer standing
M602 British cavalry walking and A623 British Muleteer with A625 Pack Mule
Not too good on my guns but probably A609 15 pdr field gun, A610 Limber and A611 seated gunner for limber, A607 again and for limber M606 Artillery horse with rider and without rider M607
Gun crew A613 Gunner with shell, A603 British Gunner kneeling and A604 British gunner, field glasses (A602 Britsih gunner kneeling with ram not shown)
Hopefully these are correct, I will amend if told otherwise!
My Peter Laing ECW cavalry are still mostly based and ballasted as they were done in c. 1983 / mid 1980s. I thought that these ‘lobsterpots’ were the finest of 15mm figures, apart from his ECW Dragoons, except I was unsure if they had very fragile short swords or pistols.
My 15mm Peter Laing English Civil War cavalry shown here fit two by two, side by side comfortably on one Heroscape hex.
I may rebase these double cavalry figure bases eventually and add some flock variety to the bases. They were based on scrounged spare railway ballast, which could do with some partial flocking for a bit of variety. Painted in my Matt Grunge Airfix / Humbrol enamel phase, I think a recoat in gloss varnish should bring the figures out more.
More Geeky Peter Laing figure ID – skip if you wish! ECW Cavalry 500 series
Left to right – M511 Mounted Officer in Helmet (definitely Cromwell!)
M510 Mounted Officer in Hat. This could be used for Cavalier officers or Royalist generals – I used a Merit OO/HO railway small dog and on occasion a Peter Laing sheep with painted ears to represent Boy, Prince Rupert’s dog.
M506 – Mounted standard bearer in hat alongside M505 Mounted trumpeter in helmet.
and the bulk of my Roundhead Cavalry – M501 Mounted Trooper in Helmet (with sword or pistol?) Lovely figures.
Other 19 Century / WW1 cavalry shown above were bought second-hand, mounted three to a base. With the more obvious overhang, I think these will need rebasing at least onto two horses per base, but probably singly.
Bob Cordery pointed me in his comments on my last blogpost (Part 1 of 192 Hexes of Joy) that the overhang issue is often a “perceptual problem rather than a real one”, depending on the exactness of your gaming style. Bob also pointed me towards a interesting post by Archduke Piccolo on grid wargames, columns into line and such manoeuvres.
To be fair, my ‘Close Wars’ type Featherstone skirmish level games hardly use many cavalry or artillery in the cluttered skirmish terrain that disrupts and defies column, line and square manoeuvres, let alone easy artillery moves. But with a bigger 192 Hexes of Joy game board, who knows what changes of game style might result?
Will I need to rebase?
My Peter Laing ECW cavalry and ECW artillery are set out on bases in about 1983 to use them with the very affordable John Mitchell ECW rules sold by Peter Laing.
Looking up close at my John Mitchell rules, 1983 based English Civil War artillery, I think these are probably influenced by reading Terry Wise. He has much the same vignette triangular layout for artillery in his Airfix Guide to American Civil War Gaming, all to do with measuring firing angles and whether the guns need to be manhandled and relaid to fire at a different target.
There is a clear overhang of one hex from such vignette artillery basing. In fact seen overhead, this gun base spreads over 3 to 4 hexes, plus limber another one to two hexes.
To be honest, I am not that finicky now about rules for relaying guns, angles or lines of sight basing.
Looking at the photographs however I think that I may need to more compactly base or rebase my Peter Laing artillery onto a smaller near one hex affair.
Limbers, however, are as long as they are, even if bases are trimmed a bit at either end.
In real historical battle situations, the artillery train of limbers, horses and supply waggins were a bit of a nuisance or an encumbrance to the manoeuvrability of troops from one attacking or defensive position to another. Maybe they should occupy two hexes and also be classed as impassable or not allow troops to pass through them. This should add some clutter to the battlefield, much as terrain features do.
Defending such slow-moving vehicles such as baggage or supply wagons, limbers or ammunition caissons, along with their attendant civilians and family members proves for an interesting scenario.
Ground Scale, Bases and Unit Frontages
At this point I usually get a little frustrated with rule sets that start to fret about one man equals so many others on a set ground frontage of such and such. Buildings on this ground scale etc, frontages etc. My brain doesn’t do such maths on its hobby days off and as I am not playing set rules in competition at big brigade, division or Battle level, there is no need.
That is what I play 1 figure: 1 man small skirmishes with ground as it is, buildings as they are, often from another scale too – 15mm games with OO/HO railway huts or buildings etc., from whatever I have in stock.
A typical example from my childhood branch library is David Nash’s interesting little 1974 Hamlyn All-Colour Paperback book Wargames, pages 27 to 30:
Some of David Nash’s rule ideas I found completely bizarre, such as the “I can’t see you” correct or incorrect line of vision over a hill, where “line of vision must relate to the ground scale”. Of course those two figures could see and shoot at each other! A Lionel Tar reversed periscope could have told you that.
Otherwise I found David Nash’s curious little Wargames book a thought-provoking and well illustrated read from the local library, especially when thinking through rules. I now own that exact same well thumbed library copy (with the beautiful Dewey Decimal System number 793.9) Certainly a book worth revisiting in a future “on my bookshelf” style blogpost.
Here are more puzzling pages from books that I had or borrowed as a young gamer, including the affordable but strange little Know the Game – Wargaming booklet by Phil Barker / Wargames Research Group that I (was) bought as a youngster (EP Publishing, 1976/8).
Time Scales, Troop Scales and Ground Scales were earnestly explained. I stuck to 1 man equals 1 man until the John Mitchell ECW rules set out unit sizes.
Elsewhere in time I have stuck to 1 man equals 1 man, which David Nash concludes:
“For modern warfare, it is usually accepted that one piece represents just one piece … This is because there has been a change in the form of warfare. Up to about 1860, unit cohesion was of a paramount importance, but thereafter improved weapon technology increasingly demanded a much looser type of warfare.” (David Nash, Wargames, p. 30, Hamlyn, 1974)
Phil Barker’s Know the Game: Wargaming book was part of a series of 1970s illustrated individual booklets that were advertised as covering “every major sport and pastime … from archery to yoga.” This somehow put me playing with Airfix figures on the same level playing field (!) as Rugby, Football and every other major sport.
“A figure representing a Roman legionary … [herein a bit of maths] …represents 20 men in 4 ranks of 5.” Help, my brain is beginning to hurt here.
However some passages in this odd little booklet made instant sense, such as staggered figure basing for Ancients, admittedly using Airfix Ancient Britons rather than grown-up metals on my childhood budget.
At the end of all this careful explanation in books, I still think what suits me and my style of gaming best is 1 man equals 1 man, 1 gun equals 1 gun etc. at any scale above my handful of 1/300 figures (Imagine individual skirmish figure games at that tiny scale!) So I will slowly base or rebase on these lines.
Note to self at any point during reading the above books:
Remember Mark, relax, it’s just a game, just a board game, an elaborate game of “chess with a thousand pieces” as Donald Featherstone and others described it, each piece with its own movement and attack rules as you / each gamer decides, tinkering with other’s rule sets as we all do.
After considering such (not very) important issues as basing and frontages, ground scales, troop scales and time scales, it must be time for some reckless time-distorting chariot racing around a hex board circuit.
Rules to follow, but a good bit of fun … Ancient Britons versus Ancient Egyptians versus Assyrian chariots anyone?
I hope you have enjoyed the Peter Laing eye candy, and enjoy the comment by Phil Barker in Know The Game – Wargaming on suppliers under Obtaining Metal Figures c. 1976/8 on Peter Laing’s expanding range:
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 3 August 2017.
Meanwhile over on Sidetracked, literally my Man of TIN gets Sidetracked blog for anything to do with trains, https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com, my 15mm Peter Laing figures try not to blow up trains too much in the big desert wastes of 192 Hexes of Joy.
If you have enjoyed this blogpost, please ‘like’ my post or leave any comments, disagreements etc via the comments page. Thanks, Mark, Man of TIN.