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.
In my recent posting of rebased and reflocked 15mm Peter Laing 17th and 18th Century figures, there were a few Scots figures missing from the first line up.
Here are the missing Scots figures, found and freshly rebased:
The unpainted Lowland troops are mine, ones that I never finished in the 1980s, possibly because I couldn’t find or decide on a suitable colour scheme. The painted ones are a motley and colourful bunch I recently found on EBay and rebased.
For the other Highland and ECW figures, check our previous blogposts
Maybe the closest Peter Laing ever got to a 15mm fantasy range are his Ancients, Dark Ages and Medieval figures.
This very handy Priest with Cross F913 from his 900 Medieval range crops up in several of Peter’s suggested “Dual Use Items” such as using the Priest with his Feudal and Dark Ages range. Watch out for those Vikings!
Not quite as multi period as the useful Peter Laing sheep A921 but still a handy figure to have.
No doubt the Priest with Cross might crop up in a more Orthodox role in the Russian Civil War or the Crimea. Maybe even the Spanish Civil War? The Religious Wars and Dissolution of the Monasteries etc using the Peter Laing Renaissance Tudor range is another possible use.
I know Peter Laing often took figure requests to extend his ranges. I wonder what Peter Laing Dwarves, Orcs or Dworcs (whatever) would have looked like if anyone had asked him to produce some?
A busy rainy day rebasing Peter Laing 15mm figures.
A rainy day today, so after a short while rebasing some recently acquired Peter Laing Ancient Greeks, I had the bulk of my time well spent rebasing and flocking some of my 1980s Peter Laing English Civil War and 17th/18th Century Scots. These were the first Peter Laing figures I ever bought, so greatly treasured.
For the last thirty odd years they have waded through knee-high thick dark green flock grass or over gravel ballast, scrounged from the family model railway scrap box when my pocket money ran out.
To suit the Peter Laing / John Mitchell ECW rules they were originally based in groups of 6, 4, 3, 2 0r 1 to make up small regiments of 20 or 30 infantry, which could have casualties removed in various combinations.
Whilst these strips of figures looked good to my childish eye, for my current skirmish Close Little Wars games, I need figures on individual bases.
I have rebased the figures in my own ‘blend’, a mix of different coloured Woodland Scenics flocks, play pit fine sand, very fine local beach pebbles and some of the original 1980s ballast recycled. A little shadow of the original gravel or dark green flock remains around the figure bases, for old time’s sake to remember my childhood efforts.
In most cases I had based my strips of figures on bases roughly similar in size to the individual bases I use today, roughly 15mm by 15mm.
In some cases I could easily score and cut the original plastic card then simply remove old flock or ballast then reflock. The occasional figure that needed a new base has one made from scrap art mounting board card.
The Scots Highland troops from Peter Laing’s “suitable items from other ranges for use with the ECW (500) range” remain great great favourites.
They were designed not only to oppose Peter Laing’s original Marlburian range “to extend the range to cover the ’15 and ’45 risings “ but also “to provide suitable Scots figures for Montrose’s army.”
I still have lots of Peter Laing musketeers, pikemen and cavalry to rebase this winter as well as finding the Highland Piper and Officer.
Recently I have been painting or repainting my Peter Laing figures as needed using gloss acrylic rather than the original matt enamel Humbrol / Airfix paints easily available or scrounged in the 1980s. I really enjoyed as a child painting the bright colours of English Civil War regiments and banners, so the colourful gloss acrylics should add to this when repainting is due.
I did get around to painting my Peter Laing Lowland Regiments in the mid 1980s but never finished them off with flock or basing, as I probably ran out of expensive Plastic Card. The pocket money ‘war budget’ kept running out, as I usually (over)spent it on figures rather than basing materials.
I have recently acquired on EBay a few more bashed Peter Laing Highlanders and Lowlanders that need repainting, along with a few more Marlburian infantry to paint and base. These were recently obtained from Alec Green, swapped for an strange excess of Marlburian drummers and gunners.
I think that there will be a few Close Little Wars skirmishes and ambushes in the suitably “cluttered terrain” of the Glens this coming spring, once the Highland snow has melted of course!
You can read more about John Mitchell’s English Civil War starter rules and the Peter Laing ECW range here:
The blog title? Borrowed from Meghan Trainor’s song All about the Bass – watch the retro version by the talented Kate Davies and Postmodern Jukebox and other ensemble / tour versions on the Postmodern Jukebox channel on YouTube and ITunes.
Hope you enjoyed some of the fruits of my rainy day at the kitchen table spent “flocking“, as it’s known in my household.
Blog posted by Mark, Mr MIN Man of TIN blog, October 2016. All photos unless stated by Man of TIN blog.
“The pleasure does not begin and end with the actual playing of the war-game. There are many pleasant hours to be spent in making model soldiers, painting them, constructing terrain, carrying out research into battles, tactics and uniforms …”
This is one of my favourite or reassuring quotes from Donald Featherstone, War Games 1962 when my gaming life seems to be too much preparation time, not enough games time.
Part of the interest (or irritation?) of researching and amending games rules is working out ranges of weapons etc. over time compared to each other.
I have been looking at adapting my hex version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games from 18th century forest skirmish to running simple WW2 platoon level games inspired by rediscovering a handful of childhood Peter Laing WW2 15mm figures.
Lots of questions arise from adapting or thinking through rules and ranges:
How far / fast can a man move on average carrying battle kit and weapons?
How fast is a loaded infantryman on a bicycle? Off road / on road?
How fast is a despatch rider off road / on road?
Movement and firing ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ rules by Featherstone has a Redcoat / Infantry man in the French and Indian Wars travelling at 9 inches in loose formation under 3 figures or in formation 6 inches in cluttered terrain (natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches).
We take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
A British, German or American infantryman carrying their weapons and field kit is probably carrying as much stuff and clobber (weapons, ammunition, backpack, tools, food, spare uniform, water) as their ancestors 200 years before.
Effective Firing Ranges
Looking at effective firing ranges there is an interesting range of Wikipedia sites to research the weapons that the Peter Laing small WW2 platoon range are likely to be carrying.
In Featherstone’s simple Close Wars appendix, firing is 12 inches range, presumably for a Brown Bess musket , which I also take to be the firing range for native bow and arrow, spear etc., treating all the same just for simplicity.
Featherstone’s figures for his demonstration battles vary from 30mm Spencer Smith figures to 20mm Airfix figures without any alteration of any firing range.
A Brown Bess musket used from 1722 to 1838 by the British and American army (and beyond in many countries into the 1860s) had an effective firing range as a flintlock muzzle loading musket of 50 to 100 yards (or 45 to 90 metres). This would give us only around a 1 hex firing range. Even once converted slowly to the percussion cap from 1838 onwards, its effective range would only increase to 300 yards (270 metres or 2 hexes).
David Nash’s War Games book (paperback, 1970s) is an unusual colourful offering for the time with some uniform plates, being mostly information for those researching their own rules, working out weapons and army lists. He has an interesting weapons graph comparing a British 303 WW2 rifle compared to a French musket:
Weapons graph from David Nash’s Wargames (Hamlyn, 1974)
In Featherstone’s WW2 rules and in ‘Close Wars’, a rifle fires up to 12 inches. In his Horse and Musket / American Civil war simple rules in War Games, this is slightly more complex. Featherstone rules that a Rifle (still counted as a volley) can fire from 6 to 24 inches with a more effective hit rate the closer the range / target. Carbines have a shorter range of 12 inches and light troops are given an effective firing range of up to 30 inches, presumably to cover the introduction of rifles and sharpshooters?
“Like most muskets the Brown Bess was not very accurate because the ball had to be quite loose for ease of loading. It would be very hard to hit another soldier by deliberately aiming at him at ranges greater than 100m. This inherent lack off accuracy was compensated for by having a large number of men fire their muskets at the same time at very short range, sometimes less that 25m.” http://waterloo200.org/200-object/brown-bess-musket-bayonet/
In his simple Ancient rules in War Games, Donald Featherstone lists Longbow / crossbow etc having a range from 6 up to 24 inches. Javelin / spears are 3 to 9 inches (Roman Pilum are 3 inches only). So we are blurring it a bit making all distance weapons at 12 inches but it makes for simpler faster game play.
“This range was ahead of its time and the figures surprisingly well thought through. For each nationality (British, U.S. or German) there was a sidearm equipped officer figure, a SMG armed NCO, an infantryman advancing with rifle at high port, an LMG and No.2 and a Light Mortar and No.2. Lovely figures, perfect for the task”. (Tim’s Tanks Peter Laing WW2 themed blogpost)
Researching WW2 weapons effective firing ranges
Featherstone has ‘Rifle’ in his simplified WW2 rules in War Games as 12 inches (or 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm on our games table, this gives us a rough working scale of:
3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
Standard WW2 British Rifle – assumed to be Lee Enfield 303 rifle with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard WW2 German Rifle – assumed to be Mauser KAR 98k – also with effective firing range 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard WW2 American Rifle – assumed to be the M1 Garand – also with effective firing range of 450 to 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard British WW2 SMG Submachinegun – assumed to be the Sten Gun with effective firing range 100 metres. The Thompson SMG (see below) was also used by Commando forces etc. (3 inches or 1 hex)
Standard German WW2 SMG Submachinegun – assumed to be the MP35 SMG at 150 – 200 metres or the more common MP40 SMGwith effective firing range 100 -200 metres (or 3 inches or 1 hex)
Standard American WW2 SMG Submachinegun – assumed to be the Thompson or Tommy Gun with effective firing range 150 metres. The later 1944/45 M3 Grease Gun is often shown in many plastic figures with effective firing range / sights set to 91 metres (both sets at 3 inches or 1 hex).
Standard British WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the Bren Gun with effective firing range 550 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard German WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the MG34 with effective firing range of 1200 metres or from 1942 the MG42 with effective firing range 200 to 2000 metres. (As this is potentially over 24 inches / 8 hexes, this could be standardised to between this or down to that of the other nations LMGs, 12 inches or 4 inches)
Standard American WW2 LMG light machinegun – assumed to be the Browning Automatic Rifle BAR with effective firing range 600 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
The WW1 Lewis Gun was also used early in WW2 mostly with Commonwealth units.
Standard British Light Mortar is the 2 inch light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 460 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard German Light Mortar50mm / 5cm Granatwerfer 36 light mortar (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 50 to 500 metres (or 12 inches / 4 hexes).
Standard American Light Mortar is the 60mm M2 light mortar (crew of 2 -3) with an effective firing range of 180 to 300 metres (or 9 inches or 3 hexes)
Standard British Heavy machinegun HMG is the Vickers (crew of 2-3) with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Standard German Heavy machinegun HMG is the WW1 Maxim MG08 (crew of two) with an effective firing range of 2000 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Standard American Heavy machinegun HMG is the M2 Browning HMG (crew of 2) with an effective firing range of 1800 metres (or 48 inches / 16 hexes).
Grenades – the German WW1 /WW2 M24 stick grenade had an effective range / throw of around 30 metres, twice that compared to the British Mills Grenade at 15 metres. You can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.
As can be seen from the similar effective firing ranges of HMGs at around 48 inches or 16 hexes makes them almost to big for the average small skirmish gaming board.
Pistols – The Webley British pistol had an effective range of only about 50 yards / 45 metres. The German Luger equivalent also had an effective firing range of about 50 metres. American officers may have carried a range of revolvers including the semiautomatic M1911 pistol . These are effectively melee weapons but you can give them a range effective up to 1 hex.
Scaling up to 54mm skirmish games
As Featherstone was playing / writing rules in War Games using 20 to 30mm figures, and we have been pushing this down to 15mm, scaling up to 54mm skirmish games in the tabletop of the garden could for simplicity require a simple doubling of the inches or hexes noted. A rifle in 54mm games could therefore fire up to 24 inches (two feet) or 8 hexes, easily achievable in the garden / yarden.
Weapons of other nations
Peter Laing sadly did not make WW2 Soviets, Japanese, jungle or desert troops. However items from his WW1 range could be used or simple paint conversions done, which Peter Laing’s simple figures lend themselves well to. His WW1 German infantry paint up well as long trousered Afrika Korps. Tim in his Tim’s Tanks blog has for example painted the Peter Laing American infantry as British paras.
Readers will need to research the respective nation’s weapons or simply adapt the standardised ranges we have for different weapon types carried by whatever troops or figures you use. Donald Featherstone in his WW2 rules or elsewhere in War Games rarely distinguishes by a nation’s choice of weapons for simplicity’s sake.
What is effective firing range?
All references to firing ranges etc. are from that excellent, most accurate and occasionally mocked source of knowledge, Wikipedia!
I wanted in this skirmish games to get a motley collection of Peter Laing 15mm British and German infantry into action, WW2 figures bolstered by late war WW1 British and German Infantry in steel helmets.
I wanted to fight another skirmish over the hex terrain portable game board that I had laid out for the American Civil War skirmish a few weeks previously.
I also wanted to test out a platoon level infantry scrap with few heavy weapons and almost no vehicles using a mash up of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ appendix rules to his 1962 War Games with a few additions from his simple WW2 rules in that book.
A lucky find of some Peter Laing WW1 / WW2 figures (lots of Sapper figures) amongst a job lot of 15mm WW2 figures of various manufactures gave me just enough for a small platoon level skirmish. Sappers and others had rifles added by me from finely carved slivers of wooden coffee stirrers.
This gave me a scratch force of British infantry:
Three 5 man sections of pioneers or sappers with rifles and shovels (handy in a scrap!)
1 light mortar team (2 men)
1 Light Machine Gun (Bren Gun) team
1 motorcycle despatch rider
A light 2pounder anti tank gun team with three men emerge in Turn 5. A spare Bren gunner was also found to join the British several turns in.
Versus a much larger but slightly lightly equipped German infantry group:
A larger infantry force of German infantry consisted of:
Three cycle reconnaissance troops
1 German despatch rider
Five x 5 men rifle squads directed by 1 officer with pistol
1 light machine gun (MG34) team of two men
1 light mortar team of 2 men
Officer and two rifle men
The game was played solo over two evenings with a skirmish figure scale of 1 figure = 1 man.
Arrival of different sections and weapons at a different times and locations was staggered by dice throws d6. The two board(s) being roughly marked with 6 by 6 squares A to L and 1-6, arrival of different sections was diced for using 1 d6.
Indirect artillery fire could be plotted in using this grid system and dicing to see which turn this lands but none was used in this game.
The Germans started with their reconnaissance troops (3 rifle equipped bicycle troops) in place at the river crossing and to the North a British 5 man pioneer unit of sappers and officer and the Bren Gun team on the board.
Dice thrown at start of each move to see who moves first, other side second, first side also fire first, other side second – highest score wins first move.
To speed things up, no casualty savings throws were used after Melee.
In Turn 1, Germans moved first and shots were exchanged without casualty between the British motorcyclist and the German cycle troops who were behind the cover of the stone farm walls.
In Turn 2, the British despatch rider was not so lucky! In turn the first British rifle volley brings down one German infantryman.
Playing solo, deciding which of the two possible British infantry targets the German troops fire at is decided by dice throw: roll 1 to 3 aim at Bren gun team on left, 4 to 6 at British infantry on right.
The terrain is the same portable hex wooden box lid territory as used for the American Civil War skirmish, but with the house location moved and a small wooden hut used instead.
The high rocks and the forest either side of the river are deemed impassable, the river unfordable. This concentrates the efforts into dominating the crossings and the ground between them with all available firepower.
The Peter Laing WW2 German officer and infantry with rifles are really WW1 Germans with steel helmets.
Turn 3 sees more infantry on each side appear on the game board. Line of fire is checked with a reversed Lionel Tarr style periscope (from another appendix in Featherstone’s 1962 War Games).
Turn 4 sees the British move first and a further British rifle squad appear near where their despatch rider was killed. They close in melee with the German cyclists and two are killed for the loss of one British infantryman.
Turn 5 sees more German troops emerge onto the board. The German motorcyclist emerges onto the board only to be blocked and killed in melee with three British Infantry.
One of the British Bren Gun team is hit – I diced quickly to see if another nearby British soldier could help man the gun and it to remain operational. It did and brought down a German infantryman, as did the light field gun. Fortunately for the Germans the British light mortar team is just out of range.
In Turn 6 the German Light Machine Gun MG34 and light mortar teams (each of two men) make it onto the Board at G and J on the German / South side of the river.
This mortar team in Turn 7 take out one British infantry, whilst melee and rifle fire take out 3 German infantry and 2 further British.
The forest, impassable scrub, rocky ridge and river crossings continue to create safe spaces or bunchings but once the mortars come into action, lobbing their shells over trees and obstacles etc, these safe spaces are no more.
The British field gun is a board game piece from childhood.
In Turn 8, this gun begins to damage the hut and the Germans inside it. Melee, mortar and rifle fire brought down 8 German infantry including their officer and 3 British including their officer.
By Turn 9 , a stalemate has set in – the British mortar team from behind cover takes out the German Light Machine Gun team. Positions are consolidated. Both sides have lost their officers.
If the German infantry remain in the cover of the hut, they will eventually be killed by the 2 pounder which is just out of rifle range.
The British bridge position is now covered by one British mortar team and two Bren gun teams.
In Turn 10, the German mortar team move closer towards the British position whilst four German infantry take cover behind the stone wall to give themselves a better field of fire onto the British dominated bridge, should anyone try to cross it. Many of the German and British troops are now out of sight of each other and out of rifle range.
A lucky ‘counter battery’ hit by the British mortar team on their German rival reduces the last opportunity of the Germans to dislodge their opponents without a fatal rifle charge.
Turn 12 – the German infantry dice to advance or stay put. They stay put but a further German infantryman in the hut is then killed by 2 pounder fire.
By Turn 14, one of the British mortar team is hit crossing the British sector bridge. The last German in the hut retreats over the German bridge behind the stone wall.
Turn 15 – no movement, just British gun and mortar fire.
Turn 16 – The 5 Germans behind the stone wall must decide what to do as they are now within British mortar range. 1-2 Advance, 3-4 Retreat, 5-6 Stay Put. They roll d6 – advance.
3 Germans killed are crossing the bridge under rifle and gun fire; the bridge is destroyed (d6 1-3 destroyed, 4-6 intact). In the return fire, a further British infantryman is hit.
Turn 17 – German infantry retreat behind wall out of rifle range, their bridge blown.
The game is at an end, nominally a British victory but all depends on whose reinforcements turn up first.
Play testing these Close Little World Wars rules
The increasingly dominant force in this game were the heavier weapons – mortars, light machine guns and the light field gun. It would be interesting to play / replay this game at rifle squad level without (some of) these other weapons.
This and the restricted terrain created the shape and the pressures of this solo game.