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.
After an evening fiddling with Heroscape terrain hexes on my two portable gaming boards, I finally had a suitably cluttered landscape for an interesting solo skirmish game using my recently rebased vintage Airfix OO/HO American Civil War figures.
These veteran Airfix figures had been stored away and not seen any action since the late 1980s!
Landscape and scene setting
First of all, using hexes to cover the two wooden box lid portable game boards, I built a straight ridge (one hex wide and two hexes high) across the centre half of each board topped with grey Heroscape hex tiles to suggest a ballasted railway line.
A strip of blue felt between the two box lids suggested a ravine with fast flowing Hicksville River, too wide and deep for troops to cross except on the railway bridge. This river was effectively one hex wide but deep and steep edged.
This river crossing instantly created a defendable feature that bottlenecked any troop movement from either side.
The straight track from my “Train in a Tin” set (Apples and Pears or Fred Aldous Ltd) was laid along this grey ridge.
A very quick railway plank bridge had to be made. This was constructed with coffee stirrers, superglue and fast colouring with dark brown felt tip pens and black Sharpie pen edging. Not quite an atmospheric American covered wooden railroad bridge but functional enough.
A simple platform was made in the same way for the small backwoods forest halt of the good old AT & PR Railroad to match the tiny wooden railway hut that has featured in several games.
Other ridge features were set up along the box edges to create a pine ridge with some stony high ground and cleared forest with some impassable forest hexes with vintage Merit pine railway layout trees.
These Merit trees were the type that you see in Donald Featherstone’s photos in his 1962 book War Games; I bought some last year secondhand ‘For the Christmas Decorations Box’ – cunning. Indeed the rules used are my hex version of Donald Featherstone’s Rules for Close Wars appendix to his War Games, blended with some of his Horse and Musket era rules for the American Civil War in the same book.
Simple rules a dice thrown at each turn beginning to see who moves first, then who moves second fires first. Basically Move (Melee?) / Move (Melee?) / Fire / Fire. Casualty savings throws (d6 roll a six) to survive were used for casulaties hit by enemy firing only, not for Melee casualties.
Melee was done using the clever Kaptain Kobold dice reduction of my Duelling game, taken from Donald Featherstone’s excellent simple chapter ‘Wargaming in Bed’ in his Solo Wargaming. Each figure in melee is given two life or combat points (using counters or tokens), and the attackers declared as whichever side moves into Melee. Using one d6 dice, two opposing figures battle it out.
1-2 Attacker Hit (lose 1 point)
3 Both Hit, each lose 1 point
4 Neither Hit
5-6 Defender Hit (lose 1 point).
Firing range was four hexes for a rifle or musket, two hexes for a pistol.
Movement range for infantry is two hexes at a time, whilst climbing a hex high hill takes a whole move. Heights of two hexes or more are impassable without any form of adjoining slope with one hex at a time step up.
This deliberately narrows the movement options and crossing points.
Playing 1:1 skirmish level, 1 figure equals 1 man.
The year is late 1861, early enough in the American Civil War for the colourful Zouave uniforms to still be in confusing use and not have quite fallen apart.
The scene is way out into the back woods, mountains and pine forests of America.
The usual timetabled AT & PR railroad train is believed to be carrying Union troops and supplies through the Pine Ridge mountains over the steep and fastflowing impassable ravine cut through the mountain by the Upper Hicksville River.
Before the train reaches the stone edged tunnel through one of the Pine Ridge Mountains many steep and forested rocky ridges, it has to slow to cross the simple railroad bridge over the river ravine and also to pick up any passengers, mails or freight that might be waiting at the tiny wooden AT & PR halt.
Coerced or cooperating with Confederate forces, the AT & PR railroad official (seen wearing the bowler hat) has not warned the train crew that the track on the halt side of the river is blocked by several large tree trunks.
Have these logs ‘fallen’ or been placed there to stop or derail the train?
If they had wanted to, of course, the Confederate forces could have blown up the track, the bridge or the tunnel. This would inconvenience them as much as the enemy. Disrupting rather than destroying the railway line or capturing the train and any enemy troops or supplies it carries is a far more attractive proposition.
Stopping the train and destroying its union troops is the first Confederate priority.
For the Union forces, clearing the track and keeping the railroad going as a supply route to their forces throughout these hostile mountains and forests is the main Union priority.
Being captured for either side is not an attractive proposition, judging by reports of the disease-ridden prisoner of war camps run by each side.
Initial dispositions on each side are about 25 troops each with the option of reinforcements later (3d6 rolled to see which turn these arrive).
A small section of Confederate Zoauves and other Confederate infantry (overall about 25 men) lie in wait on either side of the bridge, focussed and ready, aimed at the Union side of the bridge as the train slows down. A proper ambush has been laid.
On the left side of the track are grey coated Zouaves with red hats carrying a “first National Flag” of the Confederacy, a section of McClellan’s Zouaves from Charlestown, South Carolina.
As the Union troops detrain to investigate and move the blockage, the Confederate troops are ready to open fire. A d6 dice roll ( Detrain 1-3 on left side, 4-6 on right side) was thrown for each section of Union troops to work out where they would detrain. Detraining both on the right, the train provides some shelter from the Confederate bullets on the left. First casualties occur on either side from rifle and musket fire along the river bank.
The Union Zouaves with red caps, blue jackets and red trousers with white spats or puttees are a section of Union 14th New York Volunteers (later the 84th New York Infantry Regiment) known as the “Brooklyn Chasseurs”. They are accompanied by a section of more normally clad Union Infantry. Again, overall about 25 Union troops.
Turn 5 – the train steams carefully away, unable to continue and heads back to pick up more Union reinforcements (3d6 rolled for the when return turn) and how many (3d6 for number of reinforcements).
Union troops can fan out across the few crossing points where the hexes alongside the train line are shallow enough to allow access on or off and across the track. This is all part of building a cluttered terrain that dictates or restricts movement and the shape of a solo game.
A bird’s eye view was taken (from an observation balloon no doubt) at a break in the game when the game boards were lifted off the table for a while (Folks gotta eat!)
The quickest way for Union troops to clear the track was to rush the bridge, despite the risk that they were advancing right into the killing zone formed of overlapping Confederate fire.
A game rule that a man could not climb any height higher than one hex at a time taking one whole move to do so meant that the railroad embankment formed quite a barrier to movement across each board.
Turn 5 – As Confederate and Union troops spread out and exchange fire along the river bank, the Confederate Infantry Officer is killed. Advice is rolled for morale on loss of officer aD6 roll 1 to 3 steady, 4 to 6 retreat in disorder. Troops affected roll again each move until they are steady and able to fire or move as desired.
Off His Own Hook
As in most of these Close Wars small skirmish games, troops shoot at each other or charge ‘hell for leather’ towards each other or their objective, fairly regardless of personal safety and often without much input from officers. Loss of officers does not bring my games to a halt. This creates a good, fast and gutsy game.
Reading the Osprey Combat book Union Infantryman versus Confederate Infantryman Eastern Theater 1861-1865 by Ron Field, this does not seem too unrealistic:
“…the Infantryman usually found himself fighting independently or to use the contemporary term “off his own hook” when engaged in close combat with the enemy. Only then did the true qualities of courage, mixed with a string survival instinct , blend with drill and training in order to define the infantryman of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 (Field, page 5) …
“However as the Civil War unfolded, attacking forces were not necessarily mown down before they arrived in near proximity of an enemy armed with rifled weapons, but – due to the effect of black powder smoke, which obscured visibility – often managed to get within close range , where they exchanged fire until ammunition was expended. … Despite advances in tactics and technology, and rigid textbook training, the infantryman in close combat inevitably fought independently and “off his own hook” throughout the Civil War as the din of battle and loss of leadership took its toll. Thus, survival and success were dependent on personal courage, and on the drill and training received in preparation for battle.” (Field, Page 8)
” Off His Own Hook” – this is very much the case in my skirmish games.
By Turn 7 or 8 it was fairly clear with the steady losses that the game would soon be over so I decided to add reinforcements. 3d6 were rolled to see when Union reinforcements would return by train (Turn 12) and how many (15 troops). To be fair, Confederates were given the chance of reinforcement through the safety of the empty railway tunnel – so with 3d6 rolls, 10 more brown-coated Confederate Louisiana Tiger Zouave reinforcements will arrive in Turn 10.
Turn 9 – Melee on the bridge and amongst the track blocking logs. A Melee of Union officer versus Confederate officer, Bugler versus Bugler, infantryman versus infantryman – saw all three Union Infantry troops lost. Disaster!
The lone Union Infantry standard bearer from this unit is left alone on the Confederate side of the bridge and has to race back (Turn Ten) to his own side to avoid capture of himself and national flag. One of the Confederate Zouaves fires a shot and sets off after him …
I found that too many colour or command party troops means that this reduces the fighting numbers of infantrymen, so I deemed a quick new game rule that officers and standard bearers carry sword and pistol, whilst buglers carry a rifle (just like the Herald 54mm ACW Bugler) for firing and melee purposes.
Train crew variously carry rifles and pistols in hostile territory.
When in doubt, playing solo, dice options were written down such as in the Turn Ten picture. Here the small command group of Union Zouaves had the d6 dice option 1 to 2, stay put in / move into safe firing position, which they did, 3-4 retreat or 5-6 move forward into melee / rush bridge again.
Equally a random dice or card option to ‘do nothing’ or to ‘retreat in disorder’ could have been added.
Turn 10 – Ten Louisiana Tiger Zouaves appear through the tunnel, making the few outnumbered Union survivors doubtful of whether they will survive the onslaught. Only five scattered Union Zouaves survive including their officer, standards bearer and bugler, alongside one lucky Union infantry standard bearer.
Luckily a d6 dice roll (1,2 or 5 no train sound heard or 3,4 or 6 returning train hoot heard) means that the survivors hear a distant hoot and hold on, awaiting the train for rescue or reinforcements.
Alternatively if no sound was heard, a dice could be thrown to see if they stay put or retreat. They stay put, whilst the surviving Union standard bearer is sent back down the track to brief the reinforcements on the train about the situation at the bridge and river crossing.
Turn 12 – When the train finally arrives, the train crew and Union reinforcements come under Confederate rifle fire. Throw d6 for undercover train crew in cab – 1-5 no damage to train crew, 6 train crew hit, throw casualty savings throw of 5 or 6 to survive. Luckily no train crew casualties but already one Union reinforcement is brought down as he detrains.
The train departs again in Turn 13, before it can be captured and giving space to Union troops to move across the bridge again.
By Turn 19, only two Union standards bearers are left after several disastrous melee sessions for the Union and some well aimed fire from the Confederate troops on the other side of the river.
The timely return of the train forces a few of the Confederate Louisiana Tiger Zoauves back across the bridge, whilst pistol and rifle fire from the train crew supports the retreat of the two Union standard bearers. In melee, one of the Union standard bearers is killed.
Turn 21 – Leaving his usual flag safely on the train, the lucky Union standard bearer (from Turn 10) leaps down to retrieve the fallen Union standard, before the Confederates capture this.
The last shots of Turn 22 ring out as the fallen standard is carried back to the train, which steams backwards in retreat.
This last heroic act earns the lucky Union standard bearer my medal of honour for bravery (inscribed underneath his card base for future reference).
PR (short for Battle of Pine Ridge) is inscribed on the base of each of the surviving Confederate and Union troops.
An enjoyable game, with a Buchanesque ending, a game which could have a sequel if wished in future. Will the train with reinforcements return to unblock the crossing?
Playing 1:1 skirmish level, 1 figure equals 1 man, I was pleased to get a few of these vintage Airfix troops into action, albeit at Sergeant led Section level (15 – 30 men) or Corporal led Squad level (8-16 men) rather than Regiment or its ten companies of 64 to 101 men, or Platoon level (30 to 50 men). So I had a few more buglers, officers and standard bearers than strictly necessary for atmosphere or the look of the thing. Squads were apparently, according to Ron Field, divided further into 2 or 4 man skirmish groups known as ” comrades in battle”.
Who was that brave standard bearer? If I had had more preparation time, instead of making bridges, I would have ascribed individual names to the colour / command party figures and to the standard Union and Confederate regiments involved.
Now off to watch Buster Keaton jousting logs off the track from the cow catcher of a speeding Civil War train in his silent 1926 masterpiece The General … blazing covered bridges, cannons, troops and all. Marvellous clip at https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aaWhqGVXILQ
Thankfully this was online rather than on foot. (Maybe I should have sought sponsorship for charity for this pointless minor achievement?)
I’m not sure how many thousands of photographs that I have looked at of buildings, bridges, ruins and towns, barns, lots and lots of barns, but I worked through the Forgotten Georgia website County by County on the A to Z listings. Strangely there was no Hazzard County.
After looking at all these decaying or restored buildings in Georgia, I am quite tempted to order this winter some of the old Airfix OO railway building range of plastic kits, now manufactured by Dapol.
There were some innovative conversions to typical American Civil War / Wild West buildings using the basic Service Station, Signal Box and Booking Hall kits suggested by Terry Wise in the Airfix Magazines in the early 1970s (see the links to the Vintage Wargaming website)
These buildings would be a fine setting for my surviving OO/HO Airfix American Civil War troops. Flip open the pages of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 Wargames to the section of rules for Horse and Musket battles and then you’re away …
Dicing with Dragons – “Long before Peter Jackson made it respectable, teenage boys fought imaginary orcs and dragons”.
Writer and Presenter Kim Newman celebrates Dungeons and Dragons’ early days through interviews with Gary Gygax and others of the Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone era failing to get a bank loan for setting up Games Workshop. It mentions needing to buy the original Chainmail ancient Wargames rules as well as the early D and D books.
Repeat of a Documentary originally made in August 2004 – Radio 4 Extra Debut / repeat, find this at:
Made in 2004 it speculates about when RPG gamers give up, along with the lack of women RPG players at the time. They do find and interview one female “Dungeon Master”. I imagine this aspect may have changed since 2004, as the few female gamers whose blogs I have come across tend towards Sci-Fi and Fantasy rather than Historical Wargaming.
Available online on BBC Radio Iplayer for about thirty days till late July /early August 2017, it may well be around in the BBC Radio Iplayer documentary section afterwards. This may not be available to some overseas readers.
I have spent several happy evenings over the last week when I could have been gaming or painting, instead looking through the thousands of photographs on the Forgotten Georgia blog / website that I mentioned last week. http://forgottengeorgia2.blogspot.co.uk
This website is such a rich visual and historic treat for modellers and military historians.
I showed this website to a work colleague who models American railroads and he was excited and very intrigued at all the construction details revealed as many of these buildings slowly collapse.
There are many American Civil War sites from railroad stations to the last Confederate wooden flagpole in Georgia, Confederate CSA memorials and grave markers.
There are also historic sites and cemetery markers for the War Of 1812, American War of Independence, pioneer times and the numerous Indian Wars, separation from Spanish Florida etc.
There are turpentine tree stumps, preserved or faltering buildings from Black or African American schools to small chapels, covered bridges to rusting tin roofed wooden shacks and barns, Edward Hopper style town houses, mercantile stores, post offices, cotton gins, mills and businesses right up to the Fifties and Sixties. Sometimes all that remains is a chimney stack in a field or a small family cemetery of a few graves.
Lots of interesting stories, some known and well documented, others as forgotten as the ruined buildings themselves. Some photos have captions from the family, some proudly talking about their restored or surviving buildings, others about their family ruin. Some other sites or buildings have informative Georgia Historiacal Society metal plaques. http://georgiahistory.com
One story I noted was Dutchy, an unfortunate and unloved Confederate memorial, demolished by its own townsfolk.
” Dutchy” was the first monument made in Elberton in 1898 as the town’s Confederate Memorial. The town’s people were not happy. They thought he looked too squat and said he looked like a Yankee, “a cross between a Pennsylvania Dutchman and a hippopotamus,” thus the name.
In 1900 a group of young men, tired of others making fun, pulled him down and buried him in a deep grave. He was exhumed in 1982 and is on display at the Granite Museum in Elberton.
Demolished by his own side! The photograph of Dutchy and text are courtesy of Jim Williamson and the Forgotten Georgia website.
The Georgia map on the Elberton sign thankfully includes the missing or lost County of Dade GA, isolated up in the far Northwest of Georgia:
In 1860, residents of Dade County voted to secede from the state of Georgia and from the United States, but no government outside the county ever recognized this gesture as legal. [On July 4th] 1945, the county symbolically “rejoined” Georgia and the United States …
Shortly after the Georgia State Quarter was released by the US Mint , Dade County gained attention because of an apparent mistake in the design. As shown on the quarter, the state appears to lack Dade County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state. Some accounts in 2012 suggest the exclusion was intended to refer to the local legend of Dade County’s secession from Georgia [Wikipedia entry for Dade County, Georgia USA]
Arguably the finest Confederate statues are the tiny Airfix OO/HO Confederate Infantry. These 1960s and 1970s plastic figures are slowly getting brittle, sadly not all of my original boyhood figures were fit for parade.
And apologies to Canadian readers – happy 150th Canada Day on the 1st of July.
Blog by Mark, Man of TIN blog, Blogposted (but not born) on the 4th of July 2017.
Sometimes out of curiousity when visiting another games blog, I press the ‘next blog’ link at the top to see what may turn up.
“Forgotten Georgia” is a lovely blog site of ghost signs and Old West buildings with a forlorn Urb Ex ruin about them. Perfect as I’m rereading Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone Days, a book of almost autobiography and Imagi-Nation or Imagi-County. Enjoy!