I was surprised, whilst painting Airfix Paratroops and re-reading Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Airborne Operations (1977) to find a rare mention of Peter Laing’s “growing range of 15mm metal figures of World War Two infantry“.
This Peter Laing WW2 range never grew very big, not much bigger than that listed above.
This is a bit of a surprise as these mid 1970s figures must have been some of the first 15mm WW2 figures. 25 to 30 years later, 15mm WW2 Flames of War figure and vehicles were all the rage.
Part of this “growing range” was probably the dual-use steel helmeted infantry, guns, wagons and others items from Peter’s extensive British, French and German WW1 range.
I use these figures interchangeably for WW1/WW2, as with Peter Laing’s deliberate under-detailing, the figures are easily converted by paint or file to other periods.
Some further Peter Laing WW2 German Infantry figures to be used as Paratroops and British Infantry / Home Guard have been stuck on my painting table for months, ready for a ‘Sealion’ type skirmish. Airfix figures keep just jumping that queue and getting in the way!
Who knows I might even have painted them all in time for the Peter Laing 50th anniversary 2022 next year.
Next autumn 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the first 15 mm figures and the first Laing ranges being advertised for the first time in October / November 1972 Military Modelling magazine (starting with his Marlburian range).
Some of my original samples of 15mm Peter Laing WW2 ranges, bought and half painted c. 1983 (British, left and Germans, right)
I wish I had bought more Laing WW2 figures at the time but with limited pocket money funds and a good selection of Airfix WW2 figures, vehicles and scenery at the time, I focused my Laing purchases on periods and figures not covered by Airfix that Laing did such as the ECW.
The same “Airfix or Laing?” debate continues in my gaming and collecting to this day.
Pictures of Peter Laing WW2 figures on Tim’s Tanks blogpost
This simple WW2 range for platoon level action is highly praised for its balance on the Tim’s Tanks blogspot, which gave me my glimpse of the Americans for the first time (albeit doubled up as British Paratroops) :
Tim’s Tanks: “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)
Sadly, Peter Laing figures are no longer commercially made, whilst the moulds appear to have vanished after Peter Laing retired and sold the moulds to the late John Mitchell.
Your best chance of finding any Peter Laing figures is on eBay where – warning – not all ‘Peter Laing figures’ are Peter Laing, often they are early Minifigs. The strange Laing horses are often a clue Some ranges of these second-hand figures now command good prices!
There is a small and friendly Peter Laing collectors group set up by Ian Dury on the MeWe platform, a good place to flag up any Laing’s figures on sale, get figure IDs etc.
You won’t find a Peter Laing 15mm WW2 Western Desert range as his WW2 range was a limited WW2 range of Americans, British and Germans.
Now that the Peter Laing figures are sadly no longer available and the original moulds probably lost, there will be no specific WW2 Western Desert range. However the slight detail of Peter Laing’s 15mm figures, which were painstakingly carved from laminated plasticard, here proves to our benefit:
“Detail is kept muted so there is no overscale effect, the detail in the figure depends on the amount that is put in the painting.” (Peter Laing Catalogue intro)
“It is naturally difficult to cover every Army type, but I have tried to give a good representative range to enable satisfactory games to be played. In 15mm scale it is possible, by judicious use of paint, to vary one figure to represent various army types, and of course the use of a file and knife can extend the utility of a figure even further.” (Peter Laing Catalogue Ancients section)
Conversion was something Peter encouraged through his suggestion of Dual Use Items / Suitable Items from other ranges.
As Peter produced an unusually comprehensive WW1 range at a time when few makers (except Airfix) had any WW1 gaming figures, there are perfectly good WW1 Late German infantry and artillery that can be used for WW2 troops.
F743 German Infantry Advancing, Steel Helmet
F745 German Infantry grenade thrower, Steel Helmet
This set of unpainted WW1 German figures came with a few Feldgrau painted figures, some with red insignia and piping etc of a WW1 German soldier or a colourful early pattern camouflage of a Stalheim or Steel helmet.
At some point when I have acquired enough Peter Laing British steel helmet figures, picked up online in ones and twos, I shall paint these spare British infantry in desert colours for a small WW2 desert skirmish force. Some of the khaki Indian infantry with Turbans would complement these well.
I have also experimented with filing down the pointed dome of the pith helmet on some spare WW1 British Infantry Tropical Helmet F748, working on spare figures who have broken bayonets etc, in order to make more of a steel helmet WW2 “desert rat”. They already have the desert shorts. I should be able to make a scratch rifles Platoon / section for small skirmish games in this way.
Peter Laing 15mm WW2 figures
I have posted previously about Peter Laing’s WW2 range and skirmish games
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.
“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.
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!
I only bought these four sample 15mm World War Two figures from Peter Laing back in the 1980s and now wish I had bought more.
Peter’s range was very limited, British and German infantry and some American infantry which I never bought.
These Peter Laing metal 15mm figures had to compete for my limited pocket money with the burgeoning and cheaper 20mm plastic figure scene (Matchbox, Esci, Atlantic, erratic Airfix) in the 1980s. I wish now that I had chosen differently, although my love of cheap plastic figures still extends to Vintage Airfix, Britain’s Deetail (not so cheap), Atlantic Wild West figures and pirated / pound store plastic warriors.
Luckily I am now collecting and painting my way towards Peter Laing WW2 infantry tiny skirmish games “at platoon level … To give a most satisfactory infantry action game” as Peter Laing describes it in his catalogue.
I have been lucky enough to spot some distinctive Peter Laing WW1 and WW2 figures in job lots of other 15mm figures recently.
As Peter Laing didn’t make vehicles for WW2, I intend using the troops as he intended “at Platoon level” wood field and forest bocage bolt action and bayonet game version on suitably cluttered terrain hex boards of my usual Little Close Wars games.
The bulk of the WW1 Peter Laing Germans in my collection are wearing Steel Helmets and carrying rifles, so will easily suit. A couple of Peter Laing WW1 maxim guns F746 and loader gunners F747 will pass muster for German Machine Gunners with Steel Helmets.
These rules for natives versus troops will require a little alteration to incorporate machine guns, light mortars, small field guns and motor cycles! No natives but plenty of awkward terrain and no vehicles. Still an infantry slog!
The various WW1, native and late Colonial figures I have would also make an interesting African campaign:
” Few collectors seem interested in World War 1 , although there is much of value to be found in the battles of 1914 and 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East Africa fighting in which natives can be used.” Donald Featherstone, War Games (1962) , p. 20.
These figures came with a small online job-lot of what may be Peter Pig 15mm WW2 figures, some of which are similar in style and scale to Peter Laing figures. There are a number of peaked cap officers, some French resistance ladies and some paratroops with bikes to add some variety. It may be possible to mix a few of these in as needed with the Peter Laing figures. Peter Laing purists, look away now!
I even have a few surviving unmade card sheets of John Mitchell’s card buildings to make up to match Peter Laing’s catalogue suggestion that “these items can be used in conjunction with John Mitchell’s building sheets … to give a most satisfactory infantry action game.”
A lovely couple of posts on the Tims Tanks blog about meeting with Peter Laing and showing some of his WW1 / WW 2 range. I too found Peter Laing was always very helpful, encouraging and efficient dealing with young gamers with small pocket money orders by post. Often Peter included a free sample figure or two from his new ranges to offset breakages and postage costs – and no doubt to tempt more purchases. Smart marketing!
Note some interesting post blog comments (June 2016) that the elusive Peter Laing moulds may have turned up in the collections of the late John Mitchell with many Peter Laing figure fans interested in re-establishing these ranges. Me too!