Close up you might notice a range of Army Blue troop types.
Above: The first two were once Britain’s Redcoat Guards marching with rifles at slope, followed by two Britain’s Redcoat Line infantry, a Fimo base repair to a damaged footless US Marines figure, (Home cast? type) Officer with pistol and one of my recent Home cast infantry.
From the back – The simple white belts, equipment and cross belts show up more than practical black and gives a proper toy soldier look.
Basing and Painting
A variety of basing can be seen, experimenting with bases for these soldiers to be part of future Close Little Wars skirmish games on the games table or in the summer garden.
Four of them are based on 2p coins, although I am still experimenting with the best adhesive. Wood Glue might not be strong enough. Whilst it was still wet and white, I mixed in some flock to see how this worked. Flock basing is not very traditional toy soldier but then the two pence bases are practical, suitably light but weighty enough, inexpensive and more importantly, to hand.
Recently I have been improvising a WW2 platoon level version of Donald Featherstone’s ‘Close Wars’ rules. These were originally written as an appendix in his book War Games (1962), as suitable rules for 18th Century redcoat versus tribal natives in a cluttered forest or wooded terrain.
I have been looking for very simple platoon level WW2 game rules, suitable for Peter Laing’s limited 15mm WW2 range, which were designed to give “a most satisfactory infantry action game”
Bolt Action they may not be, but it is interesting to look at the background logic, assumptions, simplifications, mechanisms and whys or wherefores involved to make suitable rules and weapons ranges for your style of game.
These simple rules could be used with WW2 infantry action in wooded or cluttered terrain, where vehicles cannot easily follow such as Normandy ’44 bocage hedged terrain (but without armoured vehicles) or early 1939-40 infantry action, the Bicycle Blitzkreig, the withdrawal to Dunkirk etc.
An Operation Sealion invasion of Britain scenario (1939 /1940/ 1941) is also possible with the few WW2 types that Peter Laing made. (I’m source some of them could double up as The Warmington Home Guard as required.)
Once artillery, heavy machine guns, vehicles and other long range weapons are introduced, the distances and ranges become too big for the smaller game boards and tabletops I work with.
Reference to weapons ranges and other scenario rules (buildings, street fighting etc) as situations emerge can be made to the ‘Simple WW2 rules’ that Donald Featherstone includes in his 1962 book War Games; the Close Wars rules are an appendix to this book (shown at end of blogpost).
Using 20mm plastic figures with a wider range of troop types available gives the possibility of an interesting jungle action of cluttered terrain which could be played with a box of Airfix OO/HO Australian / Gurkha infantry or US Marines and a box of Japanese infantry. Get those palm trees out to replace the fir trees.
1 figure = 1 man in skirmish rules.
Small numbers, small tables, short actions or games time = my style of usually solo game.
Aims or Victory Conditions
The aim of each force (as set out in Featherstone’s Close Wars rules) unless otherwise described is:
1. to seek out and destroy their enemy.
2. Alternatively, to get at least 50% of your troops to the opposite enemy baseline
However for each game, you can set your own scenario end or Victory Conditions.
This usually involves fighting to the last man, but occasionally involves rescuing or escorting to safety civilians, stretcher bearers or secret plans.
Infantry on foot move 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares.
Uphill – moves up (opposed or unopposed) hills count as 1 hex / squares or half rate move e.g. 3 inches.
Motorised vehicle e.g. motorcycle despatch rider moves 12 inches per move or 4 hex squares off-road (Plus 3 inches / 1 hex on road). Bicycle moves 12 inches on road / 4 hexes, 9 inches / 3 hexes offroad.
Stretcher bearers move 1 hex per move. They are not armed.
If deemed passable, fording streams take 3 inches or 1 hex to cross. Fording places or bridges can be marked out.
Bogs and marshes (if deemed passable) at half speed eg 1 hex square per move. Other impassable features you can introduce include marked minefields.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS per move.
Crossing walls, fences etc or other barriers – as required, throw dice 1-3 yes, 4-6 no; takes 1 hex of a move.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of LMG light machine guns (Bren Gun, MG34) – 12 inches or 4 hexes; throw 1 dice for LMG, full score counts as hits.
Rifles have a range of 12 inches or 4 hexes. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy. SMG or Submachine Guns (Sten, Tommy, etc) – 6 inches or 2 hexes; SMG – half dice counts as hits.
Pistols have under 6 inches or 1 hex range. Throw one d6 dice per firing man: 6 scores a hit. If firer is under cover or in buildings, 5 or 6 scores a hit on enemy
HMG (e.g. Maxim gun) – 18 inches or 6 hexes; Featherstone has a Mitrailleuse rule for ACW throw dice 1 to 3 entitles one dice for hits. 4 to 6 entitles 2 dice for hits.
WW1 / WW2 Maxim / heavy machine guns had an effective firing range of up to 2000 metres (effectively 48 inches or 16 hexes) which is too much for our space.
Mortars (2 inch or 50 mm / 60mm) require 2 man crew – target range from 1 hex to 3 hexes. Burst pattern for 50mm mortar is 3 inches or one hex. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 hit target hex; all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Grenades – treat as mortars but with one hex throwing range /burst pattern; all in that square /hex counted as hits. Roll d6 – if 3,4,5,6 – all in nominated hex counted as hit.
Casualty Savings Throws
For each man hit, throw a casualty saving throw.
If fired on, each casualty has a d6 thrown for him. 4,5,6 wounded and carry on. If 123, casualty is dead.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on 1,2,3 dead (except for mortar fire where use above as if not under cover)
You can choose to dispense with casualty savings throws if you wish, after firing and /or Melee. This gives a faster game.
Light Field Artillery
To check line of sight / range of fire, the Lionel Tarr reversed periscope can be used for fun to get you down to table top toy soldier eye level.
2 pounder anti tank gun with crew of 3 (British QF) using Featherstone rules counts as LMG throw 1 dice, full score counts as hits.
2 pdr gun if hit by mortar: 10-12 knocked out, 9 knocked out for 2 moves, 8 knocked out for 3 moves. Crew? Casualty savings throws.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side moves (possible melee)
c) First side fires
d) Other side fires
Throw dice at start of each game turn for each side to see who moves first.
Variations on this include: 1st side Move, 2nd side Fire , 1st side Fire, 2nd side move.
This is the ‘Bish Bash Am-Bush’ bit! Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, rifles, bayonets, entrenching tools, fists or boots, etc)
Remember – We are playing 1:1 scale, each figure represents one man.
Melee is joined when one group of figures invades or faces the other square / hex.
You can add +1 to d6 throw for attacking side (if you choose / remember / can be bothered.) This is what Featherstone calls impetus bonus.
Choose pairs (of attacker vs. defender) and throw 1 d6 for each man involved.
Attacker can have the + 1 added to their d6 dice throw (if you choose / remember / can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser can throw casualty saving throw* to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed 4-6
Continue until each man has been involved in melee.
“Usual dice saving throws for melee Casualties” – Donald Featherstone.
* Or not if you want to speed things up.
Melee Morale Test(if desired / wanted / can be bothered)
At end of melee session, throw d6 for each side to see who wins melee morale test and who loses and retires 1 hex backwards. Some Featherstone versions times the dice by number of each side to come up with a post Melee Morale score.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3in rout, unable to fire or move further that round, effectively in modern games terms “pinned”. Roll again next move to see if still routed and retreating. A suitable coloured marker can be added to remember this.
or throw 4-6 in good order, retreat only one pace / hex.
Movement and ranges
The original ‘Close Wars’ appendix 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 (over 3 figures) 6 inches in cluttered terrain. Natives carrying less and living off the land etc moved 9 inches.
In cluttered terrain, I assume that a heavily encumbered infantryman in WW2 is still carrying about the same amount of stuff and moving at the same speed as his ancestor in the 18th Century. Hopefully his boots and field rations would have improved though!
I take each 3 inches to be a Heroscape hex square.
Featherstone has a ‘Rifle’ range in his simplified WW2 rules and in Close Wars appendix rules both as 12 inches (which I take to be about 4 hexes) so assuming 500 metres to be 12 inches or 30 centimetres / 300mm, this gives us a rough working scale of a 3 inch hex equals 125 metres.
1 inch equals 42 (41.6) metres
1 centimetre equals 17 metres (or 16.666 metres)
More in our blogpost Researching WW2 equipment ranges, matching the limited weapons ranges shown in the Peter Laing range to the rules.
It is possible to scale this set of rules and ranges up to 54mm skirmish games by simply doubling the ranges etc set out above. This would allow the use of 54mm Airfix, Britain’s Deetail or Pound Store plastic figures; I intend in better weather in future to try these Close Little (World) Wars rules outside as a garden game fought “on the beaches and on the landing grounds …” Sorry, on the flower beds and garden terrain. Could be fun!
This Father’s Day gift this year has a double significance.
My late father had a small and much loved collection of lead toy figures during the Second World War.
Somehow these figures did not survive the war, given up for the war effort or passed on to other children. I can’t recall how they vanished but I kept a look out for suitable lead toy soldiers for him as possible birthday presents.
My grandfather was a professional driver and later chauffeur and probably handyman / gardener to one of the directors of a prosperous southern English building firm. My grandfather was given some lead toys to pass on to his little boy such as a 1930s coronation coach that had carelessly been dropped by his employer’s children into the garden pond.
This driver grandfather went on to serve in the RAF, driving airfield vehicles such as petrol bowsers throughout the bombing of airfields during the Second World War.
My father as a wartime child in his Morrison shelter played with a plaster and lead barrage balloon toy, hoisting it up through the mesh sides. (William Britain’s made such a toy). He also had a small plane carved out of aircraft crash turret Perspex, long since lost.
I recall my father talking about a boxed set of Britain’s RAF firefighters that he was given amongst his lost legions, but never found such a replacement figure for him as a present.
The choice makes sense with his father’s RAF ground crew wartime experiences, who would have seen these RAF firefighters in their protective Asbestos Bestobell Suits.
Maybe these strange figures were all that was available when the supply of toys became scarce as companies including Britain’s turned their factories over to war production. I think he also had some Britain’s peaked cap khaki infantry firing.
Apparently this Britain’s Firefighters of the Royal Air Force set no. 1758 of 8 figures (or 2 in larger display set 2011) was only produced for a short while, introduced circa 1939 /1940 to 1941, which explains why it took too long to track one down.
I wonder if my interest in toy soldiers, replaced by plastic by the time I was born, came from my father’s lost legions?
Dad was always keen when I was small to join in toy figure games on the floor, garden or tabletop. Later he encouraged my collecting of yet more Airfix or other plastic figures with the gift of history, modelling or gaming magazines; I’m sure he enjoyed reading the history articles on the train home.
He had many stories to share from his National Service years in the British Army, which I will save for another figure and another blogpost.
That was the history of my family in toy soldiers part 1.
An attractive paint scheme (if poor face painting) for a Charbens G I American infantryman figure of hollow-cast lead.
This colour scheme would work well in gloss acrylic on pound store plastic figures.
This figure in my collection is one half of a stretcher party, Charbens figure set No. 210.
They are notedly similar in style and paintscheme to Timpo lead hollow-cast GI figures of the 1950s.
Some of the other Charbens GI figures in my collection appear to have been simply repainted (by their original owners?)
Made of hollow-cast lead, they have an animation to them that you could see followed through into plastic figures like Airfix, Timpo, Crescent and Lone Star / Harvey. The lack of bases to the kneeling figure or minimal bases on the Grenade Thrower are ways of saving expensive metal and similar in this way to the American ‘pod foot’ dime store figures.
Their modern plastic pound store warrior equivalents often have similar minimal plastic saving bases, making them cheap but annoying if they keep falling over!
These repainted figures with few colours are not unlike some of the postwar paint colour reductions by figure manufacturers. To keep production costs down, an increasingly smaller palette of colours was used by many figure manufacturers. Some figure painters were paid according to / by the number of colours per hundred figures completed.
Reference numbers are to the Charbens figure list in Norman Joplin’s The Great Book of Hollow-Cast Figures (New Cavendish, 1993/99) which shows this range on page 77 / plate 143.
All these figures are postwar hollowcast lead figures produced by Charbens (London, 1920-66) from 1945 to 1960s when lead figures were phased out in favour of plastic.
The Charbens name came from brothers Charles and Benjamin Reid who set up their own hollowcast business in the early 1920s, one of them having previously worked for William Britain.
What I like about gaming and toy soldiers are all the incidental things you learn.
Such “Hobby Learning” you might assume to be all about battles, weapons and suchlike.
“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 …”
Donald Featherstone, War Games 1962
However you find out a lot about many other subjects, including art and painters such as Andrew Wyeth.
I had only known of Andrew Wyeth (1917 – 2009) through his famous and much reproduced Americana painting Christina’s World.
However reading Richard Scholl’s Toy Soldiers book about the Malcolm Forbes Toy Soldier Collection (2004, Courage Books USA) I came across this delightful ‘Borrowers’ style tiny figures by a sunlit window frame sketch by Andrew Wyeth, a 1962 painting known as “The British at Brandywine.”
After Richard Scholl’s book I looked up “Andrew Wyeth” + “Toy Soldiers” or “Military Miniatures” and found an interesting YouTube video “Andrew Wyeth Military Figurines” (Lora Engelhart, 17 April 2012) about his dimestore / composition collection of American Toy Soldiers at his house / studio being curated and conserved.
I have a few of these interesting American and composition figures in my own collection.
There are lots of other YouTube interviews and features about Wyeth and his artistic family and landscape to follow up.
Wyeth’s world was the terrain of the American War of Independence and where the Battle of Brandywine Creek was fought. Hence the gift of the Revolutionary War soldiers being highly appropriate.
Andrew’s father N.C. Wyeth was a well known illustrator of books featuring historical topics. He was part of the Brandywine School of painting, an artist’s colony set up by American artist and illustrator Howard Pyle, famous for his pirate and battle paintings.
The Brandywine School was a style of illustration as well as an artists colony in Wilmington, Delaware and in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, near Brandywine River. Both were founded by American artist Howard Pyle (1853–1911) in the late 19th century. Many of these pictures were widely published in adventure novels, magazines, and romances in the early 1900s. http://www.rockwell-center.org/essays-illustration/the-nation-makers/
As well as N.C. Wyeth, one of the other pupils that Howard Pyle tutored was American illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith. Wilcox painted this interesting illustration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Land Of Counterpane poem, about which we will post a separate future blog post on gaming and toy soldiers in bed.
The things you learn … All good gaming inspiration.
My first Man Craft Hero featured on this blog is shown here from the August 1983 Military Modelling magazine, one of the early editions of this magazine that my Dad bought home for me.
I love this fort (based on Ladysmith Barracks in Manchester) which matches the style of old toy soldiers, an excellent simple display frame for these figures.
There is a nice depth to this fort and a lovely inner courtyard. Although designed for display, this is a fort that any child would want to play with. It has a lovely ‘toy’ feel to it.
Being myself a bit ‘cack-handed’ in the area of craft and woodwork, at the time I read this I was struggling through school woodwork lessons, so I was especially impressed that this obviously proud disabled young man called Nicholas managed to create this beautiful fort. It must have taken a great amount of time and effort. One deservedly very proud grandfather!
I have always found the pride in his handiwork by Nicholas and his grandfather inspiring.
The barrack gateway is nicely recalled in Nicholas’ fort. This gateway is all that remains of the Ladysmith Barracks which was demolished in 1985, two years after Nicholas made his model.
Once home of the late Manchester Regiment, the Ladysmith Barracks is pictured on the following web sites: