One of the oddest Peter Laing adverts so far wasDecember 1973 typed advert (above) about the benefits of 15mm and the first six figure series or ranges totalling 100s of items that Peter Laing produced in his first year!
“Ifshe* (the little woman – Mum – the Wife – the Girl Friend – or the better half!) complains that your army or collection is taking up too much room (or you are spending too much money) then Peter Laing’s figures could be the answer …”
By Christmas 1973, interest was growing in the new smaller scales of 15mm and 5 or 6mm. Minifigs has also by then launched a 15mm and 5mm Range.
In December 1973 I was still literally cutting my teeth at “Floor Games” level on larger plastic Airfix figures. Ten years later c. 1982/83 I would be buying my first Peter Laing ECW figures with my pocket money and paper round earnings.
This cataloguing and celebrating my Peter Laing figures (all now sadly out of production) is one of my ongoing 2022 projects and New Gaming Year’s Irresolutions, counting down towards the 50th anniversary of the first figures in October / November 2022.
Why do this? Pertly it’s because Peter Laing never produced an illustrated catalogue before the range vanished in the late 80s / early 90s when he retired. Now the moulds have sadly vanished.
Fellow Peter Laing collectors from the MeWe Peter Laing collectors circle have already started to contribute photos of figures or ranges I don’t have and sometimes figures I have never seen.
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.
What do you see when you look at this polystyrene packaging?
Some may look at this as unrecyclable junk.
I look at it and see …
an adobe fort or compound, especially for tiny troops like my 15mm Peter Laing figures.
What do you see or would you make out of it?
Obviously some kind of walkway needs to be improvised inside around the high walls as a firing platform or raised walkway. This could easily be done with lolly sticks or coffee stirrers laid onto matchsticks or cocktail sticks projecting out of the walls, much in the style of the Airfix Foreign Legion Fort.
Similarly doors and repairs to the wall dips and ‘damage’ can be improvised with coffee stirrers and card.
A rough coat of acrylic off-white for the walls and a sandy base colour should not harm the polystyrene (some glues, sprays and paints can melt it).
One project for a rainy day when hands need to be kept busy.
Some 15mm Peter Laing figures for scale…
Around the time this arrived in the house (the family are now well trained to show me interesting packaging before it reaches the bin or recycling), I also bought a handful of Peter Laing 15mm figures from an online dealer. I spotted these Laings amongst several more lots of “Wild West Infantry” figures and cavalry that were confusingly labelled as (but definitely not) by Laing. Nice enough figures but not Laing ones.
For a few pounds I bought ten settlers or backwoodsmen and rarer still, what I take to be a pair of Peter Laing female settlers. They were all curiously mounted individually on metal squares. Even if they are not Laing females, they are a good enough match.
Sadly now Peter Laing figures (the original or first 15mm figures, launched almost fifty years ago in autumn 1972) are long out of production and the moulds vanished, so second hand or recasting is the only way to acquire them.
I have been collecting Peter Laing figures since about 1982 as a teenager when I began my first proper (i.e. metal) wargames army, spending pocket money and paper round earnings on his English Civil War range. He was a efficient and friendly chap to deal with, even with my tiny schoolboy orders. I still have and use these figures today.
Peter Laing figures have a small and loyal following, with a dedicated MeWe online group run by Ian Dury which has replaced the former Google+ community pages. Here we post pictures of our Laing figures and games, as well as highlighting any second hand Laing figures for sale online that we come across. All welcome!
I have acquired second-hand a few dozen of these attractive 19th Century infantry from Peter Laing’s 15mm range, now commercially unavailable as the moulds have vanished.
With the tall shakos or tall kepis with the ball crests and long frock coats, they look mid 19th Century Crimean to Austrian / Franco Prussian Wars. I think they are probably supposed to be French or Sardinian infantry, but they also look like French Foreign Legion 1850s.
They could be 15mm Peter Laing Crimean French (and dual use Franco-Prussian French with tall kepi)
F814 French Infantry advancing
F815 French infantry drummer
F816 French officer
F817 French standard bearer
With almost Napoleonic shakos, they would do well as Imagi-Nation troops for the Bronte juvenile fiction of Angria, Gondal and Gaaldine. I have enough spare standard bearers for alternative flags and nationalities.
I would be interested to hear from other Peter Laing collectors if they have or recognise these figures as mid 19th Century French.
Some other figure suppliers have similar tall shako / kepis.
Interesting post about Franco Prussian War French Infantry (in French) that reminds us that the 150th anniversary is only 2 years away (1870 / 2020). This will no doubt generate more gaming and historical interest in the FPW. The Austro-Prussian War anniversary was I suspect slightly overshadowed by the 1916 WW1 anniversary events.
2017: Peter Laing 15mm collector and enthusiast Ian Dury set up a Google+ Community page / forum to celebrate these early and charming 15mm figures, which are sadly no longer available.
As Ian Dury wrote: “I hope you will all join and contribute – pictures, notifications of e-Bay sales, personal sales and wants are all welcome.”
“If you know of anyone else who would be interested – please let them know!”
Ian also hopefully mentioned: “For those of you who aren’t already Google+ users, you will probably need to register for a (free) GMail account to make full use of the community. You can link this to an existing e-mail account if you use another provider – but you may need to change your G-Mail settings to do so.”
I’m already signed up with a Gmail account and it was easy enough.
This Google community looks to be great fun. Already featured are Peter Laing blogs including Man Of TIN, lots of figure photos and a full Peter Laing catalogue.
Sadly I never bought any Naval Landing Party figures or tribesmen from Peter Laing, as pictured in the article, I was mostly buying Peter Laing’s English Civil War and Medievals with my schoolboy pocket money in the 1980s. Luckily I have now tracked down some lovely Peter Laing colonials over the last few years.
Maybe in my am-bush version of Featherstone’s Close Wars rules (two page appendix to his 1962 book Wargames) there is future space for some carpet forest terrain on my Heroscape hex bases.
If you want Andy Callan’s whole rules, track down a copy of Military ModellingSeptember 1983 through online magazine auction sites. All I wanted to do was share the atmospheric Peter Laing figures pictures and the lovely carpet forest.
Even this simple set of Andy Callan rules were a puzzle to me in places then but they really do suit the unusual type of Maori fighting.
Another interesting junk shop find, this book of reprinted Six Edwardian and Victorian Board Games compiled by Olivia Bristol.
One of the interesting games is called The Prince’s Quest, a ‘fairy race game’ with plenty of random setbacks, depending where you land, access to secret paths and a starting mechanism of rolling a d6 to find which path you set out on.
One of the drawbacks of the reproduced game (which originally covered three game panels) is the tiny spaces to put game counters on.
Marcia Malia’s comment below suggests that her original game board is quite small, like the reproduction.
One solution is to use 15mm Peter Laing figures on simple small bases – I grabbed the nearest figures to hand but should probably have chosen Peter Laing 15mm Knights to match the theme.
It is perfectly dice led as board games go with absolutely no skill element at all, just the luck of dice, so perfect for solo gaming if you fancy controlling two figures and rolling two dice yourself!
Interesting game and several other techno / scifi almost comedy steampunk games of diving for treasure and an airship inspired A Trip to Mars, beautifully colour reproduced.
To me, gaming since childhood, many rule sets look frighteningly both expensive and offputtingly complex what with ‘combat factors’ and worse still, lots of unfamiliar dice (always a bad sign that there’ll be advanced maths involved).
Airfix have recently launched or franchised a new battle game ‘system’ by Modiphius Games. It looks beautifully produced. You can use your old or new Airfix figures. It uses classic and familiar Airfix box artwork for illustrations. But is it more hidden maths? Is this likely to be as complicated to me as many of those dungeons and dragons rules that I could never understand as a child? (They also had lots of strange dice, another giveaway).
My Bish Bash Am-Bush ‘Close Wars’ rules
I currently use my adapted version of the simple two page appendix rules for ‘Close Wars’ out of the back of Donald Featherstone’s War Games 1962 book.
This book pictured below is a very old favourite: it’s the original copy from my childhood local branch library, withdrawn from lending and sold to me many years later. Still by my bedside and frequently reread.
Simple as Featherstone’s rules are in War Games, these two pages have always been a delight. They make up the core of my own fast quick simple small number of figures game that I can quickly and easily set up and play solo.
“It must be confessed that the question of how to fight a successful action with natives against disciplined troops has yet to be completely solved by the writer.”
This is a gaming problem that Donald Featherstone mentions with several brief solutions on page 58 of his “How to Start a War Game” chapter in War Games (1962). He solves it pretty well in my view in his Close Wars appendix (page 149-150).
A keen Colonial gamer, Featherstone was focussed here on “the type of fighting that happens between small numbers of men in forests, such as in the French and Indian Wars of the late eighteenth century in America” (page 149). Close Wars has many applications to other periods as brutal fighting in forests between organised troops and natives has not changed much since Ancient times.
Look out for future Close Little Wars scenarios and inspirations blogposts.
What do I like most about the Close Wars rules ?
“Small numbers of men in forests”, possibly large figure sizes
I’ve always liked these simple fast Bish Bash Am-Bush rules using about 20 to 25 odd figures each side. If rules have figures representing more than 1 figure: 1 man I get brain freeze and lose interest …
With such small numbers, you can also have Close Little Wars games set in many periods with only needing a few figures each side. Alternatively as I usually play Bronte style “imagi-nations”, I often mix the periods up if suitable figures aren’t around; this is not far from the plot of the 1969 Dr. Who ‘The War Game’ episodes (still available in book, audiobook or DVD form). https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_War_Games
2. “The terrain must be crowded with material”
“To play chess one needs a chessboard”, Featherstone writes as his opening to chapter 3, “How to Lay Out a Battlefield”.
After years of raiding and returning natural materials to the garden and yard for Close Wars terrain, I tried not very successfully making my own interlocking paper hexes (a bit like those “endless landscape” cards from Tobar / Hawkin’s Bazaar). Fiddly and unfulfilling. Much more happily, I then found on Ebay several damaged starter boxes of plastic MB ‘Heroscape’ sets, bought mostly to acquire the interlocking plastic hex tiles of rock, water, mud (and whatever else you paint them as ).
The starter sets include some useful fantastic / fantasy figures, dragons and usual (to me) incomprehensible rules. I think this game system bombed in the US and UK, apart from a very very niche cult following, hence the cheap starter sets around. I bought Heroscape partly so that I can build quick 3D landscapes for these Close Wars scenarios.
Heroscape is almost a 3D kind of early Minecraft but also combines well with natural materials. You can use the hexes as they come already coloured. Alternatively you can flock them, gravel them with railway ballast or fine beach sand / stones or paint them.
Piled up with garden or hard sourced twig logs, stones, lichen and moss bushes and other impassable features, these Heroscape hexes work really well with even just a small tray or table for a short skirmish. Being hexes, with adapted rules, there is no need for rulers and measuring inches.
“Fill any bare spaces with pieces of twig to represent fallen logs and trees …” Donald Featherstone.
Using natural materials to enhance the hex boards feels a little like the joy of Garden Wargames but with the comfort of indoors! A little less fuss about wet weather and creaky knees but still retaining some of the childhood fun of “fight them on the beaches” (sandpit), the “landing grounds” (lawn), the “jungles and forests” (shrubbery and flower beds) of childhood. A bit of dirt, some fresh air and sunshine, all that the childhood gurus want for modern children held prisoner indoors by tiny screens. Maybe Heroscape hexes are the indoor Terrarium or Bottle Garden version of garden wargaming, but it’s not far off the improvised spirit of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games and Little Wars use of real sprigs of bush and hedge trimmings.
I have also rediscovered on Project Gutenberg the original HG Wells Little Wars rules that I read once as a child in reprint and could never borrow again from my local branch library. It’s charmingly illustrated with line drawings in a suitably childish toy soldier way. Floor Gamesby Wells is also available on Project Gutenberg.
3. Flexible scales and figure sizes
My version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars rules and these interconnecting Heroscape hexes work really well with my original childhood 15mm Peter Laing English Civil War figures. I have been buying up some EBay oddments of Peter Laing figures, becoming more collectable now that Peter Laing has retired and the moulds vanished. (More on collecting Peter Laing in future blogposts.)
The rules and hexes work equally well with Airfix OO/HO or 1:72 figures.
As I scale up to DIY made ‘cakes of death’ figures (round about an inch high) or 30 to 40mm Prince August and Schneider home cast figures, I shall have to rethink the original Close Wars inches or my hexed up Bish Bash Am-Bush movement and shooting ranges.
Keeping the same inch / hex move and fire ranges for different scale figures presents some problems. Presumably the bigger the figure, the shorter the time period each hex move represents (if you simplistically keep to the same hex movement ranges) ? This doesn’t solve the firing range problem though.
There are some interesting thoughts on scaling up and down ranges and distances on the Sheil’s USA simple ‘sandpit’ rules for using plastic pound store figures on the Sheil family’s lovely USA Toy Army Men section of their Thor Trains website, adaptable to the garden, beach, sandpit or floor (though even these rapidly become a little complex for me).
“You decide what the basic range is. All others are multiples of that range.”
The Sheil family “Jersey Shore Battle Games: The Basics”
More on ranges and scales and Sheil family rules etc on a future blogpost The Sheil Sandpit rules seem to be in the spirit of H.G. Wells’ original rules.
And finally …
Close Little Wars, Bish Bash Bush! or Bish Bash Am-Bush!
Rules adapted from ‘Close Wars’ the 2 page Appendix of Donald Featherstone’s War Games (1962) in respectful tribute to Donald Featherstone (1918-2013)
Fast, simple and often fatal rules for small troop action versus ‘natives’ in cluttered bush terrain on a small scale table or hex grid for 15mm and 20mm troops or even outdoors with 54 mm troops in the garden, yard or sand pit.
Suits Cowboys, Indians, Bandits, Pirates, French-Indian wars, Natives and others … Whatever you have …
Especially suitable for solo play.
Donald Featherstone sets out simple aims or what would now be called Victory Conditions:
The aim of each force 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 the Governor General’s Daughter (always the same handy Airfix Wagon Train girl or lady civilian) or the secret plans.
Natives on foot move 9 inches per move or 3 hex / squares.
Troops in groups of 3 or less also move 9 inches or 3 hex / squares.
Uphill moves count as 2 hex / squares or half a move e.g. 4.5 inches.
Troops in groups of 4 or more move only 6 inches per move or 2 hex / squares. (Uphill moves of 1 hex square).
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 or 2 hex squares.
Moves on clear paths or roads (if they exist) have 3 inch extra or 1 hex extra BONUS.
Firing (if range of fire clear)
Range of rifles and longbows or crossbows (slingshots?) – 12 inches or 4 hexes
Pistols and spears half range – 6 inches or 2 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.
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 deaded.
If casualty under cover, 3,4,5,6 wounded and carry on. 123 deaded.
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.
Turns consist of four sections:
a) First side moves (possible melee)
b) Other side fires.
c) First side fires
d) Other side moves (possible melee)
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 Move, 1st side Fire, 2nd side Fire.
Melee / Messy Bish Bash Bush bit!
Assume each man has something to fight at close hand with (pistols, clubs, swords, rifles, bayonets, fists or boots, etc)
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 / 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 or can be bothered).
Highest score wins, loser throws casualty saving throw to see if killed 1-3 or only wounded / unharmed.
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 retires 1 hex backwards.
Then d6 again for losers to see if routed:
Throw 1-3 in rout unable to fire or move further that round. 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.
Not really got round to adding cavalry or cannons yet in this Last of the Mohicans / Robin Hood / Hollywood B Movie cowboy ambush bash up or mash up.
Featherstone also adds the final paragraph section about attacking troops in the flank or rear that you can choose to use or not. Keep it as simple as you like.
Ancient warriors rules
If using your Knights, ancients or partly armoured men, Featherstone (and Tony Bath?) Ancients rules from War Games (1962) had various protection/ survival elements modifying casualty saving throws after firing or melee. Use as you see fit:
If casualty unarmoured and without shield, throw 6 to live.
If casualty wearing armour or shield, 5 or 6 to live.
If armour and shield, 4,5 or 6 to live.
Unarmoured cavalry 5 or 6 to live (6 saves rider alone).
Armoured cavalry 4, 5 or 6 to live (4 saves rider alone).
Inevitably over time, new troops acquired will need new rules. What about cavalry, if they can operate in such Close Wars terrain? What about artillery? It might be a small forest outpost fort you are defending with your single gun … An artillery train would be near impossible in such cluttered terrain as the British fought over in America.
Close Wars has many possible small fort scenarios – awaiting the relieving column, escorting a supply wagon, sending out or rescuing a patrol.
Most important rule
If you’re ever not sure of the rules or what to do next, especially if playing solo: If in doubt about a decision or situation devise a suitable d6 dice throw e.g. Roll 1 to 3, group retreat to safety, roll 4 to 6 attack nearest enemies.
Another example of a rule that was needed on the spot when troops had some rescued civilians / the Governor General’s daughter with them and were surrounded in a building: If figures are holed up in a building, throw 6 for automatic risking breakout (unless group decide or are ordered to leave). But then do civilians always follow orders? Throw again: 1 to 3 non combatants stay, 4 to 6 non combatants or civilians leave with the troops.
Another example of a “made up dice throw rule” which emerged: Crossing bridges (or fordable rivers)
Throw d6 for each man, roll 1= Lose footing and lost in river, to be eaten by crocodiles and piranhas etc; you can use casualty saving throws or not as required.
Officer casualties: If needed to determine an officer casualty amongst group, throw a coloured dice (for officer) amongst X others for correct X number of men. Lowest score loses etc. To be fair, officers don’t have much of a magical morale rule or role anyway in this Close Little Wars scenario.
Add rules or make them up as needed, play as you go …
Misquoting Miley Cyrus, “This is our house , this is our rules …” and I’m sticking to them for now. Anyway I don’t tend to argue with myself, playing solo.