Tipped off by some blogposts about the delights of the “Home Aquarium” section of pet stores and garden centres, I recently popped into a Pets at Home branch and spotted a 3 for 2 offer (buy 3 get cheapest free).
I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming.
This offer and their reasonable asking price (6 pieces of terrain for around £30) made affordable what I think are sometimes overpriced pieces of potential games terrain. I understand that it is not cheap to produce these if it has to be a certain type of safe resin and safe paint to protect the fish from chemical harm.
Some features like the old fishing boat seems Chinese or Japanese.
What I like about many of these generic buildings or features are their versatile uses. They could equally grace a garden game and stay out in the rain or appear on a games table.
With some imagination, the rope bridge could be a vital but damaged rail bridge with a narrow piece of rail track across it. It could be in Southeast Asian Jungle or the Amazon, Darkest Africa or the Wild West. It could be built in many time zones. It works across different scales or sizes of figures.
Similarly the tree houses could be on Fantasy or alien planets, or in Darkest Africa or Asia in a Colonial campaign.
All good Indiana Jones stuff.
A little bit of cutting and glueing work to put some balsa wood floors into the buildings should make them even more versatile. The cluttered temple floor might need some clearing or building up to be able put more figures inside.
Once again 15mm Peter Laing figures seems to suit these buildings quite well, as well as Airfix OO/HO.
I was quite intrigued setting up future game scenarios how helpfully camouflaged or painted the temple is for example when used with WW2 figures. I haven’t done matt grunge khaki camo painting for over twenty years but I found a few things in my surviving box of battered Airfix vehicles.
These were painted up in the early 1980s for Donald Featherstone WW2 rules (War Games 1962) and go quite well with these North Africa / Med / Middle East / Italy temple ruins. About time these had an airing on the games table with whatever I have left. WW2 Vehicle and camouflage scheme purists look away now!
With my small WW2 15mm Peter Laing force I can stage a few skirmishes. I have A few spare German WW1 steel helmet infantry to be painted up in Afrika Korps / desert camouflage to take on my WW2 British infantry.
These six aquarium buildings cost (after 3 for 2 discount) only around £30 in total but they offer lots of interesting possibilities for scenarios in many time periods and scales.
Ever since gazing into those childhood fish tanks, I have long had a bit of a fascination with the kitsch nature of aquarium ornaments. There is something suitably Gothic, melancholy, Romantic (and Bronteish), out of reach or abandoned about these drowned ruins and wrecks. In many cases it’s the plain surreal weirdness and lack of taste in some of the designs, they truly are the garden gnomes of the aquarium world in their “love them or hate them” colourful and kitsch nature.
I have had one aquarium piece for years, a ruined castle frontage which was free or unwanted from a bundle of aquarium stuff that someone brought into work. It has moved from house to house or garden to garden with me over many years.
This weekend would have been my late Mum’s birthday (she died last Autumn in her early 80s). Some of these tiny painted plaster houses (no doubt birthday presents) and her other collections have now been sold to make a donation to a medical charity on her / our family’s behalf but family members were all able to choose a keepsake or two.
I chose these two Lilliput Lane buildings for my gaming table.
They were two of my favourites amongst her remaining collection. They are
St. Kevin’s, a typical early Irish stone church in Wicklow
Tumbledown “Cobbler’s Cottage” (in Northants) with damaged roof.
Most Lilliput Lane houses are based on very well kept and very well groomed buildings. Both these choices looked the most wonky or battered and timeless, so most versatile as centrepieces of any gaming scenario.
The white window frames might need a little dulling down but they are well matched for size by my Peter Laing 15mm figures.
It was the detail of gravestones and flowers or the old wheel inside a shed that I found especially fascinating. I often used to wonder who lived in these houses. I half expected the door to open and a Peter Laing 15mm sized figure to come marching out or come whistling round the corner. I partly blame the 1992 BBC TV version of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers for that.
Although I admired them on their cabinet shelf, I wasn’t allowed by Mum to use them in my gaming with my 15mm Peter Laing figures. Being made of painted plaster, they are quite easily damaged and quite fragile unlike most resin games buildings. These two buildings both need a little bit of paint repair.
They are a nice way to remember my Mum, every time these are out on the gaming table or on my desk.
Lilliput Lane ceased manufacture in November 2016 with few buildings left in their online shops. Another small British company sadly bites the dust.
“The factory has been trading at a loss for some time now and we have reached the point where this is no longer sustainable. It has been a long journey since Lilliput Lane started in 1982, we have enjoyed the support of many thousands of our loyal collectors at hundreds of events all over the United Kingdom and overseas, many friendships have been made and good times had by all. It is now at a time of changing consumer tastes that the demand for our products has declined to the point where it is impossible to go on.” (Website statement)
Other stockists may have stock, along with collectors’ fairs and the usual online auction sources.
The website catalogue / website shows how these fine plaster buildings were carved or moulded in wax, handcast in silicon mounds and then hand painted.
It has been a brilliant first year. Having the blog, especially for a solo gamer, encourages you to finish stuff off, get it photographed and written up to share with others.
It’s an online diary, bullet journal, declaration of intent or New Gaming Year’s resolutions in public. It’s my reading journal, book and figure review column.
For example, having posted and photographed about my Bronte inspired skirmish in Angria this weekend, I noticed that these faded old plastic fir trees worked well enough centred on a hex (albeit attached with white tack). I have had these bashed old trees since childhood. So this week I “F and B’d” them – Flocked and Based – them.
They should continue to work well for my Close Little Wars forest skirmish rules based on Donald Featherstone’s two page appendix to his 1962 book War Games.
What have I enjoyed about Blogging?
Blogging is like an online wargaming clubor convention and a free gaming magazine, available more than monthly. I check some ‘portal’ and my blogroll sites quite often daily. In fact, my irregular consumption of gaming magazines has dropped even further. I find now when I flick through the magazines in W.H. Smith’s, that I can find much of this inspiration and advice online.
I wonder if blogging this year has taken up valuable time for gaming?
Possibly not, as I think becoming part of the blogging community as a reader or a blogger encourages you to try new things, learn new tips or rediscover old figures. It also encourages you to go completely off at a bizarre tangent like a war games butterfly in search of the new, colourful or shiny. Whoops!
Thanks to all who have stopped by and read my blog in its first year, taken time to “like” a post or have written a positive comment. I’ve really enjoyed replying, whether it has been chatting to fellow Peter Laing figure collectors, Donald Featherstone rules enthusiasts, getting tips on repairing old bashed Britain’s 54mm toy soldiers or being in contact with people who wrote inspiring articles in the games magazines of my childhood. An enduring hobby indeed!
Thanks to all those who have signed up as followers or posted a link to my blog on their sites. It is really appreciated – I can see this works in the “referrer” blog stats. Cheers!
I don’t put much store by checking blog stats regularly but for my 125 blog posts in 365 days (blimey! that’s almost one post every three days on average), over four thousand readers have stopped by once or more, leading to almost eleven thousand views from 75 different countries. Most of my blog readers are from the UK and the USA but there are also regular readers from Ireland, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, (Flanders) France and Spain. (“Over the hills and far away …”)
My occasional “little sister” blog to this one, Pound Store Plastic Warriors since September 2016 has itself attracted over 400 readers, and 1000 views.
So to James, John, Ian, Bob, Alan, Ross, Tony, Jon and many other readers … thanks!
Here’s another year of homecast or homemade figures, solo gaming, toy soldier repair, pound store plastics, portable game boards, flocking and basing, bizarre tangents, Donald Featherstone, vintage Airfix, Peter Laing figures and making the most of the stock in hand.
Here’s to some fine weather for back garden games and skirmishes in the sandpit.
Here’s to another year puzzling out the fictional Imagi-Nations of the Brontes!
Maybe I should have had a First Blogaversary cake made? Topped of course with homemade Fimo Polymer Clay “cakes of death” cake decoration mould soldiers. Huzzah!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 25 May 2017 my first Blogaversary! Huzzah!
It has been a few weeks since I ran a solo game bigger than sword fighting and Bartitsu duelling. I feel that I have neglected my Peter Laing figures of late. To be fair I’ve been busy making the fortified Signal Tower as well.
I wanted to get a quick evening game in, based on the Bronte family’s Imagi-Nation of Angria, having read more of Charlotte Bronte’s Tales of Angria and the Oxford Companion to the Brontes. Both these books are slowly helping me work out maps and scenarios based on more of Bronte’s fictional realms or paracosms.
Small Angrian Skirmish Scenario:
By March 1836 – half of Angria is “in possession of our foes”.
During 1835-37 The Second Angrian War, Civil War between Angria and the Verdopolitan Union is happening at the same time as the Ashantee threat.
Early 1836, Angria, Western Central Africa: A group of invading Ashantee bowmen, part of Quashia Qamina’s forces, have discovered an abandoned Angrian supply waggon and remain in ambush on the rocks overlooking the crossing.
They are backed by a small sword and musket group of Sir Jehu MacTerrorGlen’s rampaging Scotsmen and Highland Warriors, led by one Captain Scotte, who are aiming to capture the river crossing and loot the abandoned Angrian supply waggon.
Location: The river crossing eventually feeds into one of the many tributaries of the River Olympia or Calabar, running down to the sea.
This waggon was part of a supply column along one of the many roads to the regional or provincial capital of Adrianoplous, all aid and supplies to The Duke of Zamorna. Zamorna is fighting to protect the Angrian province (that he is named after) against this invasion of Ashantees and MacTerrorGlen’s unruly Scots.
A rebellious and unruly kilted Highland Regiment in Africa? Many of the original settlers of the Bronte’s fictional realm of GlassTown and Angrian area of West Africa were of Scots, Irish and Yorkshire origin.
Coming to recover the waggon of supplies are Angrian forces under the Blood Red banner of the Rising Sun. These include a dismounted group of smart red-coated Angrian “Dragons” or Dragoons, along with some men of the “Fighting Fifth” (or “Filthy Fifth”), the 5th Angrian Infantry Regiment in homespun and motley campaign dress, led by a young Lieutenant called Prunty.
The scruffy nature of the Angrian Regiments on campaign in the ‘East’ in the Angrian Civil War is reminiscent of Confederate Butternut Infantry towards the end of the American Civil War. Their scruffy dress is commented on by one of Charlotte Bronte’s cynical narrators in the smart Regency Colonial society of the cities.
The Angrian dragoons had dismounted, leaving their horses up the valley and with the 5th Angrians in two groups were scouting the river, half their number in reinforcements a mile or two behind.
D6 dice rolls saw these troops delayed arriving, until the 5th and 6th turn in area 5 and 6 on the Angrian baseline.
The turns were short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust melee or duelling rules.
1-2 Attacker Hit
3 Both Hit
4 Neither Hit
5-6 Defender Hit
Melees occurred from group stage in adjacent hexes or who have charged into their opponents. The Pell-Mell, Hell for Leather pace of the game meant that there were few casualties from rifle or musket fire, many more from Highland claymore, bayonet, short sword and rifle butt (and no doubt boot and fist).
Turn 1 and 2 saw rapid movement through the cluttered terrain towards the first shots and melees of Turn 3.
Turn 3 saw 9 Angrian troops and 12 of MacTerror Glen’s Scots killed, mostly when the Highland claymore warriors charged the Angrian troops.
By Turn 4, some of the outnumbered Angrian forces on the board retreated to await their reinforcements (D6 dice roll 1-3 Retreat, 4 Stay, 5-6 Advance).
This didn’t stop one party of three Angrian 5th Infantry being surrounded and outnumbered on two sides by Scots around the bridge. Luckily supporting fire from the Angrian command party and standard bearer picked off two further Scots musketeers.
In Turn 5 the advancing Scots moved into Melee with the Angrian Command and Colours party, leading to a doubly fatal duel between Highland claymore against Angrian officer’s broadsword.
Thankfully the rest of the Angrian Dragoons and Fifth Regiment arrived in Turn 5 and 6. Just in the nick of the time …
These Angrian reinforcements pushed back and pursued the last of MacTerrorGlen’s troops and the Scots command party and colours back over the bridge. They made their last stand outside the crossing hut. The Scots colours were lost when the command and colours party decided to fight to the finish (dice roll d6 roll 1-3 surrender, 4 – 6 fight on).
Throughout the early part of the battle, the Ashantee Bowmen on the high ground rocks were out of range and sight of many of the Angrian troops. Overall they played very little part in the whole battle, not even firing many volleys of arrows before they were engulfed in melee. Their officer or chief Khla managed to escape to carry on the invasion with the other invading Ashantees under Quashia Qamina.
At the end, the Angrian Armed Transport Corps hitched the abandoned supply waggon to their horses and slowly dragged this back up the valley to where the dismounted dragoon horses and horse holders would provide further armed escort back to Adrianopolis, Zamorna or Edwardston as needed.
Discarded weapons and the captured colours of MacTerrorGlen’s Scots are sent back onboard the supply waggon as victory trophies to inspire the flagging Angrian forces.
The remaining two Angrian Dragoons, Angrian standard bearer and drummer remain behind in the bridge crossing hut. Suitably armed with discarded carbines, muskets and ammunition, they make themselves busy fortifying this outpost and guarding the crossing until further Angrian reinforcements arrive. Burying the dead will have to briefly wait, but not too long in these African “Yorkshire Tropic” climes.
Arise Angria! Raise the Blood-Red Banner of the Rising Sun! Huzzah!
Figures and Terrain
All the figures are from the sadly now discontinued Peter Laing range of 15mm figures.
The Ashantee bowmen are from the Ancient Egyptian range (Nubian Archers F452 and their officer F453 Nubian Spearman).
The “Angrian Dragons” are ECW dismounted dragoons firing, F515, one of my favourite Peter Laing figures.
The homespun 5th Angrian Regiment in campaign dress are the ACW butternut infantry advancing F3012, along with the Boer Rifleman advancing at trail F622.
I quickly made and coloured an Angrian flag and added this to one of the Boer figures to make a standard bearer.
The Heroscape hex terrain terrain on my two portable gaming boards tries to create that curious mix of European and African or Yorkshire Tropical that exists in the Bronte’s limited but imaginative view of the world outside their native Haworth and Yorkshire. This was backed by PECO Scene Backgrounds Medium SK 44 Country with River with its great view of mountains and stone bridges over streams and slightly incongruous European stone farm houses, obviously in the Yorkshire / European influenced Angrian settler style.
Pine trees, impassable rocks, a raging stream or river form all part of a rugged and Romantic, almost Gothic landscape of hills, fields and craggy mountainous peaks of how the Bronte children saw Angria (West Africa). This fits well the restricted routes and impassable labyrinths of trees, logs and rocks that suit Donald Featherstone’s original Close Wars rules for forest skirmish that I have tweaked for hex board or garden games. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/
The waggon was an underscale diorama piece from the 54mm Safari figures Wild West Settlers Toob. Its eventual escorts were Peter Laing Boer War cavalry M603 or M605 Imperial Yeomanry figure.
This was a great fun game for an evening. Using the Gerald De Gre duelling rules in Kaptain Kobold’s simplified dice version for the first time as the Melee section with the rest of the Little Close Wars rules led to quick fast and murderous melees.
The look of the board / game?
I like the portable hex game boards but I would like to flock or sand more of the Heroscape hex pieces, and glue and flock some of the pine tree bases permanently to hex bases.
Part of the early evening was spent tidying up the portable game boards, removing the temporary masking tape letters and grid numbers and sanding the edges before rewriting them in a neater fashion. Eventually I think I will wood stain the outer edges and possibly acrylic paint (sap green) the inner sections of game board that show up as bare wood in the middle and edge. Hopefully they will look less intrusive but still allow each board to be used separately.
A swift outcome of a minor skirmish in the Angrian Civil War, a minor victory in a disastrous campaign.
This campaign led to Angria’s defeat at the Battle of Edwardston 26 June 1836, which saw Zamorna exiled and Angria savagely occupied by Ashantee and MacTerrorGlen’s forces throughout the rest of 1836. Angrian troops fight on in the hills.
Victory does not come until Zamorna returns and leads his forces to victory at the Battles of Leyden, Westwood and Evesham throughout 1837.
Hopefully Charlotte and Branwell Bronte would approve, their imaginary worlds having been sparked by a gift from their father of a box of toy soldiers.
I have posted two new posts on my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors, all about the fun of making this semaphore signal tower for coast, mountain or desert from available scrap, a suitable toy soldier type fortified building for 30 mm to 54mm figure games.
A successful bid on an online auction site around New Year brought a kilo box of lead figures for spares or scrap for recasting, all for £10.
Among them I thought I had spotted some 15mm Peter Laing figures in the single photo of a mass of random lead. Now that Peter Laing figures are no longer made, finding new ones is exciting.
So throughout the last two weeks in odd moments I have been sorting through this random mix of Napoleonic troops of many nations, a few ancients and even the odd space figure.
It’s like a gamer’s owl pellet, ready for dissection. Mostly painted, with few broken figures.
Two weeks on and off spent flocking and basing and I am still not through this kilo of this scrap lead mountain. Almost all will return to active service, few will end up in the casting ladle.
Most are 15mm to 20mm with many different manufacturers, with some good matches for Peter Laing 15mm figures and others of the gnome type of chunky 15mm that I thankfully bought very few of in my early gaming years.
I was right that there were Peter Laing figures in that kilo of lead – sadly less than I thought – but I really like the randomness of the other figures.
The Peter Laing figures match quite well with some of the other figures.
Some of the figures I recognised from the amazing collection of Peter Laing figures by John Patriquin the Wargame Hermit blogger.
The rest of the kilo of mostly Napoleonic era troops in their distinctive shakos, bicornes and helmets will be organised with minimal repainting into Gondal, Gaaldine, Glasstown and Angria forces for my Bronte juvenilia inspired skirmishes later this year.
They all look battle-hardened figures with battered bayonets and muskets to be carefully straightened.
Just one interestingly shaped Peter Laing horse – not sure what – distinctively shaped even amongst a jumble of figures.