Greetings from The Christmas Village


American Colonial kept simple without roof windows, OOHO railway figure and vintage Merit trees
Templates to scan or photocopy, scale up and build once you have made the original buildings …
Colonial and Alpine buildings …

Being the Christmas blogpost from the Man Of TIN. No Christmas Railway this year to entertain and entrain the troops, instead the first part of a new Christmas Village.

Build a Christmas Village by Leonard Hospidor, 2011, Sterling Innovations, New York, USA

The pre-punched cardstock buildings come with a sheet of see-through Vellum paper for the window glass, which can have details inked in with a suitable pen or black biro. This window element looks extra festive and good at night if you put a small LED battery candle inside.

Portrait of a very clever man, the author or creator Leonard Hospidor, USA


The box and book were created in 2011 by US papercrafter Leonard Hospidor and published by Sterling Innivation. They are still available online. I bought mine in a shop a Christmas or two ago for about fifteen pounds. The website sadly appears to be no longer functioning.

The pressout buildings seem to be suitable for about 20 to 30mm scaled figures.

What makes this set extra useful is the reusable template section  of the book that can be freely scanned or photocopied and scaled up or down as basic buildings for gaming, such as the American Colonial house for Revolutionary War or Civil War Games. The snowy bits can be overpainted as needed.

We have yet to build the church or English Tudor Revival timber framed building, but the glue supplied was good PVA craft glue that stuck card quickly. There is also a doghouse (small barn for tiny figures?), stark winter oaks and green snowy fir trees. All useful. All a bit of fun for all the family.

I have resisted the masses of  other Christmas village houses and figures, the all-singing, musical LED  ones etc around in the shops at this time of  year, even though the gaming mind thinks “Hmm, useful civilian figures, useful country cottage in snow …”

Wishing all my Man of TIN blog readers and Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog readers a  very happy toy filled Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Gaming Year 2018. 

2017 has been a good hobby and blogging year. Thanks for all your comments, likes and emails this year and for sharing your hobby on your blogs too. It’s been fun! 

Blosposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 22/23 December 2017

Look out for a suitably cheap plastic festive offering on our other blog soon!


Maori Wars update 1846 1916 2017

Interesting  news story about the discovery of a British Army multiple grave in New Zealand from the 1846 Northern War, part of the long running Maori Wars.

According to the Telegraph article: “The men had been buried according to Maori burial rites, along with objects that had been in their possession such as a clay smoking pipe.”

According to NZ archaeologist Jono Carpenter the men died during an attack on the Ruapekapeka pā on 11 January, 1846, in which 1600 British soldiers battled 400 Maori fighters. “Despite the British troops far outweighing the Maori, the battle was seen as a draw by both sides.”

The Guardian article has a few interesting history links too about the Northern War or Flagstaff War of 1845-6.

with some video of the battlefield, Pa fort,  reenactment etc on NZ One News coverage:

The Flagstaff part of the Maori Wars is also covered in a chapter of Britain’s Forgotten Wars: Colonial Campaigns of the Nineteenth Century by Ian Hernon (Sutton, 2003).

Maori Wars Memorial, Auckland War Memorial Museum with British and Gate Pa Maori flag (image: vpassau / Wikipedia)

There is an extensive Wikipedia entry on the Maori or New Zealand Wars,   an interesting Osprey Men at Arms on the Maori Wars, a fair amount online and a short simple set of Maori Wars rules by Andy Callan that he allowed me to reprint on this blog from Military Modelling,  September 1983.

Andy Callan wrote last year “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 remember well the pictures of Peter Laing 15mm Maori War figures (Crimean and Zulu War figure) with a carpet forest.


Those deadly carpet forests ….

Lots of interesting material for both historians and skirmish gamers.  A difficult style  of formal war, siege  and guerilla  fighting to reproduce.

One interesting longlived veteran from this period is Sergeant Edwin Bezar (1838-1936), who wrote his military autobiography in 1891

1916 the Maori “Kaiser”

I was also surprised to read about the “Maori Kaiser” as he was dubbed in WW1, a Maori leader who popped up in 1916, mentioned in this NZ history website on the Maori in WW1 and WW2. One of the last gasps of Maori armed resistance before the civil rights struggle later through the 20th Century.

Devon and Exeter Gazette, April 5, 1916

Titled by other papers “Kaiser’s  Maori Ally”

Birmingham Gazette, 15 August 1916 (British Newspaper Archive).
Beverley Recorder Sept 18, 1915

There is a free digitised NZ newspaper archive which features the Maori Kaiser story

Fielding Star 22 February 1916 NZ

The Mercury, Tasmania,  Australia,  4 April 1916

and other Australian digitised newspapers

An interesting article looking on both sides of Maori feeling about WW1 and WW2:

This website features this short summary:

A Māori Kaiser?
Ngāi Tūhoe of the Urewera was one of the tribes that suffered greatly in the 1860s wars. In 1907 the followers of Tūhoe prophet Rua Kēnana established a community in the Urewera mountains, at Maungapōhatu. With the coming of war Rua discouraged his followers from volunteering. Some Pākehā feared that he was a Māori ‘Kaiser’, actively supporting the Germans. A party of 67 police marched on Maungapōhatu in April 1916, to arrest Rua on charges of illicitly selling alcohol. An armed confrontation occurred in which Rua’s son and uncle were killed.

As one Maori concluded, reported in Ian Hernon’s book, eventually the Maori were outnumbered by pakeha foreign settlers and crippled by introduced disease.

“Overwhelming numbers and disease crippled and contained the daring Maori. But the spark of resistance did not die out … in 1928 an anonymous Maori wrote:  “We have been beaten because the pakeha outnumber us in men. But we are not conquered or rubbed out, and not one of these pakeha can name the day we sued for peace. The most that can be said is that on such and such a date we left off fighting.”  (Page 75)

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 20 December 2017.

The Children’s Wargame 1898

Bridlington Free Press, Friday April 22, 1898

The Children’s Wargame

How great the war fever is in New York may be judged from the fact that even children in the streets have taken to playing a game called “War”. It seems to be an adaptation of the old-fashioned “Hop-Scotch” for the board is marked out on the pavement.

The stone has to be kicked out into the little squares at the side of the board, one of which is called Spain and the other the United States. For each point gained a portion of a soldier’s  anatomy is added, until a roughly drawn regiment, armed with straight lines for guns, has been created. The game is said to be exceedingly popular.  

Taken From the Bridlington Free Press, Friday April 22, 1898

A little confusing as a street game but intriguing. This press clipping from the British Newspaper Archive (c/o Find My Past)  is about an unusual street “Wargame” adopted by New York children during the Spanish American War in 1898.

The Hopscotch element may be a little energetic for COW (the Conference of Wargamers)  and Wargames Developments members in their ever enterprising social games after dinner, often featured on WD members blogs. None of us are getting any younger!

Added to the street Hopscotch element, the drawing part of the game is  strangely reminiscent of the spelling game Hangman, adding a stroke or drawn line of the completed figure to complete a Regiment, soldier by soldier,   instead of the Hangman dangling figure on a gibbet.

It shows how children playing in the street in New York have picked up the background story of the Spanish American War.

The kicking out of the stone marker into a side square marked Spain or America to score points and then draw another line of a soldier links to this Wikipedia Hopscotch article mention:

“Although the marker (stone) is most often picked up during the game, historically, in the boy’s game, the marker was kicked sequentially back through the course on the return trip and then kicked out.”  I don’t remember this bit at school.

American Hopscotch pattern 1900, 
From Beard, D.C. (1907). The Outdoor Handy Book: For the Playground, Field, and Forest. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 356–357.

This Wikipedia article also features an American Hopscotch pattern c. 1900,  far more complex than the English ones I remember at school.

Cuban children playing Hopscotch or “Pon” in the street (image source: James Emery /  Wikipedia)

The Wikipedia Hopscotch article also shows a modern photo of Cuban street children playing Hopscotch, ironic in that Cuba was one of the issues or causes of the Spanish American War of 1898.–American_War

What was on the rest of the page … whatever happened to Kaiser Frank Josef? Bridlington Free Press Friday April 22 1898.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, December 2017.

Donald Featherstone’s unusual take on Casualties and Campaigns

Evening News September 13 1952 (Sports Desk)

Medical Science
The part played by medical science in the treatment of injuries to footballers is the subject of an interesting article by Mr Donald F. Featherstone, physiotherapist to the Southampton FC in the current issue of the Football Association Bulletin.
Mr Featherstone keeps a daily log book in which details of injuries and the treatments given have been set out. In addition weekly charts have been kept showing in graph form the rise and fall in injuries and treatments as the season progresses.

The facts help in ensuring that eleven 100 percent fit players go out to the field for each game. The policy aimed at is that the player, theoretically at least, should be ready to take his place in a team immediately his injury clears up.

In other words ‘treat and train.’
Evening News September 13 1952 (Sports Desk)

Another unusual Featherstone article for someone to track down.

This is an early press mention of Donald Featherstone in his physiotherapist years, several years before he wrote his book on sports injuries and before he was regularly (writing about) wargaming.

What interests me is the connection or overlap between a football team as a trained uniformed unit fighting a series of battles (matches) over the course of a season (or campaign)  having to deal with injuries (battle casualties) and the war games campaigns that he would shortly be involved in and writing about.

This seems to me be an interesting overlap between Don Featherstone’s professional working life and his busy recreational gaming and writing life.

Football injuries and wargames campaigns? 

I was reminded of this clipping whilst listening to the Veteran Wargamers podcast with Jay Arnold in  America, interviewing Henry Hyde about his forthcoming book on Wargames Campaigns.

Henry and Jay talked about how battles are changed  in real life and on the table if you are playing or disengaging from action as part of a campaign. In this situation, you are aiming to inflict as much damage as possible whilst conserving your men and materials for the next battle, whilst considering how to return the wounded or injured to front line service. Jay and Henry both mention various sports and also sports based RPG or board games in their discussion.

Calculations of 1/3 casualties are dead, 1/3 are wounded in hospital  and 1/3 return fit for the next match (the remount department) are something that Donald Featherstone suggested in the Campaigns chapter of his first games book Wargames (1962).

Usually some kind of victory conditions are involved in the rules or scenarios  – reach the enemy baseline with half your forces (sounds a bit chess-like here) or entirely defeat the enemy as in Featherstone’s Close Wars. Alternately in other rules or scenarios you might have to retreat or concede when you have lost over fifty percent of your army, a certain number of army points etc.

Victory conditions mentioned on page one of Close Wars, this handy two page rule set by Donald Featherstone from War Games (1962).


There would be none of the usual  fight to the finish as my small skirmish games are, despite using  such simple rules as Featherstone’s Close Wars useful appendix to his War Games book with its varied victory conditions.

No doubt when Henry Hyde’s Wargames Campaigns book comes out, it will be compared with Donald Featherstone’s original 1970 book on Wargames Campaigns. Copies of Wargames Campaigns are available secondhand online or reprinted fresh via John Curry’s the History of Wargaming Project website

Football otherwise didn’t  often make it into Don’s wargaming books, except a suggestion for high-kicking Wild West saloon  girls in Skirmish Wargaming converted or being made from Airfix 1:32 Footballers.

“For dance hall gírls, and those who cannot afford Rose Miniatures’ classy ladies, try converting an Airfix 54mm footballer. Adding certain natural attributes with Plasticine, trimming the waist suitably and dressing her in tissue petticoats – a high stepping Mama emerges!” (Figure sources and ideas, p.97 Skirmish Wargaming,  Donald Featherstone.)


Can you spot the future high kicking saloon girls? (Image from EBay)

No game of mine has ever required this radical gender reassignment or conversion.

The mention of high kicking dancing girls reminds me of one of his other  non gaming books, 1970/1:

Advert from The Stage newspaper, c. Late 1970/ early 1971

A glimpse of Donald Featherstone’s other life as a physiotherapist and author of such books as treating injuries to firefighters or Industrial injuries: Their prevention and treatment (1964)

Interestingly Donald Featherstone and Southampton FC were well known  enough  to have the following news widely reported in sports pages in March 1955:

Birmingham Post, March 25 1955.

What an amazing and varied career.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, December 2017

Quick wrapping paper grid game board

A new gaming use for wrapping paper at this festive time of year.

As it is fast approaching Christmas, there is lots of wrapping and dispatching of parcels in our house at the moment.

I noticed on this Sainsbury’s brown wrapping paper with  festive shiny red dots that they have a handy small square grid marked on the back to help with tidy cutting and wrapping.

Like most gamers, my brain instantly thought of gaming applications. I quickly wrapped a spare piece around the backing part of a redundant picture frame – one instant portable game board.

I had put this wooden picture  frame aside for future game board use, when its glass broke long ago (Reuse Reduce Recycle etc.) It still has the string on the back,  so I can hang this board out of the way somewhere on a spare wall when not in use.


Testing the board out with my Poundland 36mm plastic warrior conversions 


I tried the grid board out with the nearest figures to hand, some of my recent Poundland 36mm colonial plastic conversions


Up close view of the grid – they fit reasonably well the size and bases of my converted 36mm Poundland colonial figures, which are mounted on pennies. 

Marking out grid lines on the game board can be tedious and intrusive. These wrapping paper lines are very faint and instant!

With two sides to the frame backing board it would be possible to use either side for game play or more tediously reverse the frame backing board each time. Undoing of the tiny metal clips is fiddly  and not a long term solution.

Changing the hanging strap arrangement (D-rings to the side, string with some kind of clips?) would help in making a two sided game board more flexible.

This would allow the same board to be easily used on either of the two sides for two different grid sizes, different terrain habitats  or flexible grid sizes.

If I decide to keep this paper grid long term, I will think about pasting the paper down as wrinkle free as possible (possibly with spray mount?) and a coat of varnish to  probably help keep it neat. I shall test out on a spare scrap of this wrapping paper to see if some light watercolour terrain patches cause any wrinkling.

Peter Laing 15mm redcoat colonials cautiously approach the desert style building as night falls. 

I tried the hex board out with some smaller vintage 15mm Peter Laing figures, smaller figures suit the hexes even better.

Obviously such a square grid could feature small size squares or larger squares made of four small size squares.

When I get tired of this grid paper, I can paint over what was before and mark up a fresh new grid board for quick skirmish games.

This gives me a variety of sized hex and square portable game boards, without any carpentry at all!  You can see more of them on various of my blog posts including:

Grid Based Wargaming

Lots of interesting discussion of grid based wargaming, both hex and square,  on the gaming web including these three excellent blogs:

Author of The Portable Wargame blog and book, Bob Cordery’s Wargaming Miscellany blog features  links to his other blogs including The Portable Wargame!

Both Peter at Grid Based Wargaming and Bob Cordery sometimes use 15mm Peter Laing figures on their grid based portable games, making them even more worth looking at!


As for Christmas, I have some Peter Laing 15mm figures to look forward to,  already wrapped and packed away,  embargoed throughout the last few months until Christmas Day. Something to share on the blog in the New Gaming Year of 2018.

Happy wrapping. Happy gaming to all my blog readers.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 8 December 2017




Donald Featherstone Tabletop Generals Daily Herald article, March 21, 1961


Don Featherstone’s famous sandtable and American Civil War troops, 1961. A similar set up is shown in the ACW game in War Games 1962.

Tabletop Generals – Daily Herald article, March 21, 1961
A group of men who take toy soldiers seriously prepare for a council of war – article written by Jon Akass.

Refighting a war with hindsight often plays tricks with history. Donald Featherstone recreates a battle in the American Civil War.

Mr Donald Featherstone sent his cavalry charging towards me over the creek. I was pinned down, doomed.
“This,” I said, “seems a good time to surrender.”
“I see what you mean,” says Mr Featherstone, “but it goes to prove, doesn’t it, that you are not half as good a general as Stonewall Jackson.”
It did, too. For the battle we are fighting was one of the most elegant set-pieces of the American Civil War – the Shenandoah Valley in 1862, in which Jackson pinned down a Federal army which out-numbered him three-to-one.
With me in command, this classic encounter had turned into a dog’s breakfast.
Playing with toy soldiers is a very complex business. Mr Featherstone himself says it is like playing chess with a thousand pieces – and Mr. Featherstone does not exaggerate.

There are only about 20 wargame enthusiasts in the country and next month about half of them will attend a council of war at Mr Featherstone’s home in Southampton, another ten or so will come from abroad, one from Aden, another from Chicago.

[Man of TIN Note: the one from Aden must be Carl Reavley].
The basic rules for the British school of war games are usually taken from a book written, astonishingly, by H.G. Wells.
This is called “Little Wars” and involves actual little guns which fire actual little shells knock actual little soldiers flat on their backs.
“We have dispensed with the guns,” said Mr Featherstone, “because we now go to a lot of time and trouble to get the soldiers and uniforms exactly right.”
“We don’t want to knock them about all the time.”
Mr Featherstone, a rosily-fit physiotherapist of 42 was a sergeant in the Tank Corps, during the last war, serving in North Africa and Italy.
Modern wars, though, bore him. His speciality is the period 1861 to 1890.

“This was the last time colours were carried into battle and the troops wore elaborate uniforms. Modern war is too messy and the fire-power is too great to make a game interesting.”
He makes his own soldiers, mostly out of lead, moulded in plasticine and baked in a gas cooker. In the three and a half years since he took up the wargame he has collected 7000 soldiers ranging from Spartans to commandos.
A battle often last longer than a test match – and an entire war can linger on for years.
Playing against a Southampton accountant, Mr. Featherstone fought every ditch of the American Civil war over two years. This ended with the Federal troops screaming for mercy outside Washington.
“We sometimes get results like that because we can avoid the mistakes made by the losing side. The Indian Mutimy, for instance, always ends up with the total defeat of the British. We try to be as realistic as possible, but there are limits.”
Mr Featherstones’ version of the war games works like this.
The two opposing generals work out their first manoeuvres on maps, each trying to outwit the other, until they area ready to do battle. This usually happens at the same place as the original life-size battle.
They then go upstairs where Mr Featherstone has a table laid out with wet sand. The terrain is moulded and painted and a screen put across the middle so that the generals can deploy their forces in secrecy.
The screen is taken away and … bang. Well not quite bang. A wargame, like chess, moves very slowly and the contestants are lucky if they get through five moves in an evening.
Everything is taken into account. If a general loses two battles in a row he is deposed and the morale of his army goes down appropriately.
Troops moving across rough country are put at a disadvantage and special account is taken of things like fatigue, disease, fear and panic.
Incalculable factors like accuracy of aim, alertness, courage and so forth is taken care of by the dice.
“At first I was dissatisfied with the dice,” said Mr. Featherstone. “It seemed unrealistic. Sometimes you have a run of bad luck, throwing low numbers all evening.”
“But then, as I studied the subject, I realised that this made for more realism, not less. Even the greatest generals had days when everything went wrong. Many battles have been won through sheer good luck.”
A special refinement of Mr. Featherstone’s game is that tactics employed in a later war cannot be used in an earlier one.
“If you are fighting the Marlborough campaigns, you can’t use the tactics of the Napoleonic Wars,” he explained.
This makes an already difficult game totally impossible for the beginner – unless he is prepared to spend months mugging up on military history.
For all that, Mr. Featherstone’s game is simple compared with the variations of other players.
One enthusiast, a brigadier at Sandhurst, starts from scratch. [Man of TIN Note: This suggests Peter Young?] He has invented a completely new world, divided into completely new, peaceful countries.
When these countries quarrel as they must, they have to raise armies in relation to their budgets, industrialise, build munitions factories and engage in frantic diplomatic quests for allies. All this has a direct bearing on the outcome.
The game is conducted by post, many contestants live overseas, and the rules are so fantastically complicated that they baffle even Mr. Featherstone.
Another man, who plays all by himself at Exeter, is a stickler for realism. He specialised in the Russian front of the last war and has now carried the German advance as far as Stalingrad. [Man of TIN note: this must be Lionel Tarr of Bristol].
Americans have already adopted the war game for domestic use. For around £3 you can buy the “Gettysburg” kit, which comes complete with original mapboard and markers for the actual units used at this crucial stage of the American Civil War.
Individual soldiers are not used and the units can only be bought in at the time and place they really appeared. Opposing generals tick off their moves on the time-sheet divided into hours. At night a unit’s movements are restricted.
Advertisements for this “adult game” in sophisticated magazines like The New Yorker stress that “the South can win.”
It is all good clean fun and it goes to show jolly war can be. For generals.

Tabletop Generals – Daily Herald article by Jon Akass, March 21, 1961

Transcribed from the British Newspaper Archive by Mark at the Man of TIN blog. The Daily Herald ran from 1912 to 1964. The writer on the Daily Herald was Jon Akass (1933-1990)

I found this a fascinating  account of Don Featherstone’s early battles, admittedly at second hand through the eyes and lively pen of a Fleet Street journalist like Jon Akass.

This article was written the year before War Games was published in May 1962. Written in March  1961, when there were “only about 20 wargame enthusiasts in the country,” the next month  in April 1961 appears to have been the date of the proposed War Games conference in Don’s house. Pictures of his event can be seen here at

Some of the names of people are left out in the article such as the Southampton Accountant as Don’s early contestant, who must be Tony Bath, featured or mentioned in War Games 1962.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 1st December 2017.


Donald Featherstone’s BBC radio talks 1962 1963


All we need to do is build a time machine and head back to the morning of Thursday the 19th April 1962 and tune in or listen in to “This is the BBC Home Service …” we could have heard Donald Featherstone on the radio.


DONALD FEATHERSTONE explains how a man of action can spend two years fighting the American Civil War in Southampton – and the South can win! He himself caused the Romans to lose the Punic War, and Napoleon to triumph at Waterloo.

Contributors / Unknown: Donald Featherstone

I doubt if a recording exists but  good news (from  a BBC archives email received today 1st December 2017) both scripts still exist, albeit I have been warned in variable quality,  at the BBC Written Archives at Caversham. I am having copies made and if transcribable, I  will discuss with John Curry whether (with suitable copyright / BBC permission) they could be reprinted in future.

1962 was a prolific period for Donald Featherstone. He published his first gaming book on War Games in 1962, around this time. He had also written  about wargames in Tackle Model Soldiers This Way (Stanley Paul, 1963).

According to his many obituaries, he had been wargaming as an adult since the mid 1950s and organised the first U.K. wargames tournament  in Southampton in 1961 with a national championship planned for 1963. He was involved with the UK side of The Wargames Digest around 1960 and set up Wargamers  Newsletter in 1962.

A year later in 1963 Don Featherstone was on the radio again and we could have tuned in to the programme TWO OF A KIND on the BBC Home Service (Basic) on Tuesday 15th October  at 9.05 am (and repeated on Thursday 17 October 1963 at 13.40). We would have heard Don as one of two speakers (hence the programme title “Two of a Kind”) on the theme of Models. The first speaker: Father’s Dolls by KATHLEEN BINNS
Playing with Soldiers by DONALD FEATHERSTONE
Introduced by presenter JACK SINGLETON.

This BBC genome website was based on old copies of the Radio Times.

From Battle Interview Peter Gilder interviewed by Donald Featherstone in 1978 Battle magazine, shown in / courtesy of Peter Gilder A Life in Wargaming website.

I came across this BBC Radio scripts link whilst searching online for an article or interview that Donald Featherstone wrote for She Magazine (a women’s magazine) around 1962. Peter Gilder was shown the She  magazine article about Don’s  wargames by his wife, and the rest is gaming history …

I wonder if anyone still has that 1962 She magazine edition, if that is the correct magazine in Gilder’s memory many years later?

I asked John Curry who knows Featherstone’s books well and neither this nor the BBC scripts has not been reprinted in any of the excellent Featherstone reprints by John  Curry.

Is it in some gamer’s scrapbook?

It seems rather improbable that Donald Featherstone should be writing in or be featured in a woman’s magazine like She Magazine. As a sports physiotherapist,  he had written a book on Sports Injuries in 1957 and later on dance injuries, Dancing Without Danger (1970/71) but I can think of no obvious link.

I have done a quick online search. Past editions of women’s magazines from 1962 seem pretty scarce on EBay and other old magazine sites, unlike the many hoarded back issues of men’s magazines on transport, modelling  and hobbies.

I have recently found an early press article or two about Featherstone which I will transcribe shortly. Donald Featherstone’s first book War Games was published in this period and as one of my favourite gaming books, it is good to recapture the early improvisational spirit of these games.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 29/30 November 2017.