Following up my post about Jen B’s version of Featherstone’s Close Wars Rules, fellow games blogger Stealth contacted me to say that he had been playing around with his own variant of Donald Featherstone’s simple Close Wars rules.
These were first published in Don’s appendix to War Games (1962) and Stealth had been looking at my variants Close Little Wars.
Stealth’s rules have a slight D & D influence or feel (see his other blogs) in that carrying or capturing crates forms part of the victory conditions, scoring and scenarios. Interesting idea for ambushing a supply column etc.
I hope you find something of rules variants interest here. I enjoy seeing how people adapt and tinker, go back to basics and then elaborate a bit more.
For a few months my gaming area and tabletop have been covered in broken Britain’s figures awaiting repair, Peter Laing 15mm figures awaiting paint, tools and useful bits of scrap for modelling.
I am as happy casting, repairing and painting figures as I am gaming with them, hence the quote on Man of TIN blog from Donald Featherstone:
The largest hex game board has hung on the wall being a former picture frame – a neat storage solution tucked away in the corner of a shared living room.
As part of the Scout Wide Games research and rules writing, I am not sure if my hex boards will be too small for the 42mm range Scout figures I have painted. Maybe I should have gone smaller, say OO/HO railway or my Pound Store figure conversions? Different size figures, different scale scenarios?
I have been playing around with scale from 54mm superheroes and tiny blocky Minecraft blind bag figures (Heroscape hexes have a 3D landscape Minecraft feel) down to 15mm Peter Laing figures, which give a bigger playing space.
Having a large enough landscape for the Wide Games scenarios is obviously harder with the larger Scout figures 42mm Shiny Toy Soldiers / Little Britons range (from Spencer Smith Miniatures), so the scale and ground space available may shape the scope of future scenarios.
My couple of quick paint conversions of Pound Store figures in a smaller scale may enlarge the territory available to my Scouting games – I can cheaply and quickly knock up a couple of patrols of these to try this out.
Part of the Wide Games appeal is that tabletop Wide Games could equally function as Garden games especially with the largest, simplest 60mm semi-flat Scouts – as pointed by Alan the Tradgardmastre of the Duchy Of Tradgardland Blog.
If only my ageing knees and back and the weather were up to it …
The rest of the space?
A column of Really Useful Boxes divides the playing space from the crafting space. More Really Useful Boxes and Shoe Boxes are stowed away below the gaming table and the chairs.
Acquiring job lots of broken toy soldiers to repair requires storage. The Peter Laing figures, both painted and awaiting paint, require storage. Scrap modelling materials, tools and paints require storage.
For the last few months, wriggling into the old crafting chair has felt like sliding into a narrow cockpit to focus down onto the hand tools, paintbrush and figures in front of me. It’s also meant that I had no gaming space. Shifting these about and restowing boxes has helped no end.
I understand more fully now the points about concentration and wellbeing made in the Models for Heroes videos. There is a mental craft zone that the world shrinks down to.
I am reminded of the ominous episode in Harry Pearson’s gaming memoir Achtung Schweinhund where Harry hears from his gaming best friend about an obsessive hoarder (stereotypically male, middle aged, single). This man’s decaying house is in danger of collapse from an Aladdin’s Cave of stored vintage unboxed figures, magazines and newspapers, yet eerily the paint table is immaculate and ordered. Harry and friend see a vision of their possible lonely futures.
The cutting board and painting space that forms my crafting area has now transferred to the right of the board onto a flap down modern bureau desk, rather than than the traditional modeller’s Roll Top type desk. It fits into the rest of the family without sitting in a room apart. It’s stuffed full of toy soldier things and research notes and books for other work-related projects, protected from paint splatters by a removable cardboard screen. Reorganising the contents means that everything should be able to fold back up out of sight.
The desk top “display” space itself could also do with a tidy up as it is currently piled with figures and books that I have worked on in the last year. Inspiration but it’s also a jumble of what has been inside my head recently.
Next to this sits a small bulging cupboard stuffed full with books, hollowcast figures and hoarded Airfix figures and kits from childhood onwards, again its top piled with this year’s projects. Again all of these could do with a sort through on another grey day.
More Really Useful storage boxes live in the garage for my metal casting kit, buildings, some other temperature proof gaming stuff and metal figures, whilst the indoor storage is reserved for the more vulnerable fragile vintage and childhood plastics figures and vehicles.
The painting above the desk is a recent acquisition, a framed Illustrated London News print of the Lancashire Rifle Volunteers parading at Knowsley Park. Britain’s Victorian Home Guard against another Napoleonic French invasion, and finely dressed at that. One for Marvin at Subterranean Militarism!
So there you are, restored –
an experimental games lab to try out Wide Games or gaming scenarios indoors,
an encouragement to paint and base those Peter Laings stuck in the lead limbo of the ‘work in progress’ painting box,
hopefully a little more presentable part of the Living Room if we have visitors to the house!
Man of TIN AdventCalendarDay3 – Looking up “Toy Soldiers” on the Etsy website is an easy way to lose several hours of an evening (and hopefully not lose or spend too much money).
The Etsy prices are generally not cheap (it is a retro, vintage, crafty, antique sellers platform site) but you do see some fascinating metal and plastic Toy Soldier figures from all over the world including Eastern Europe and America.
Perfect for online “window shopping”.
Shipping sometimes obviously adds prohibitively to costs from outside the U.K.
Disclaimer: Man of TIN cannot be held responsible for the loss of your time or hard earned cash from mentioning toy soldiers and Etsy. Searching for ‘toy soldiers’ on Etsy also occasionally brings up ‘adult’ material / figures.
I have bought from Etsy several times from UK and overseas sellers with no problems.
One set that caught my eye but I didn’t buy (no longer available – ships from Bulgaria http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/RETROne?ref=si_shop ) are these interestingly blue uniformed versions of the Airfix 1:32 British paratroopers with very thick bases – Eastern European clones or copies?
I took a screen shot of these for my toy soldier scrapbook, so that now when they are sold and gone from Etsy, I still have the memory. All good reference and research.
I am always surprised by how rich in ideas Donald Featherstone’s original 1962 War Games book proves to be.
Reading through it as I often do, as its my ‘Desert Island Discs’ sort of book, I came across this interesting paragraph on page 46:
On the other hand, a completely mythical campaign is often conducted, using fancifully uniformed troops of imaginary countries and with highly coloured reasons for fighting the war.
It’s what we would now call Imagi-Nations gaming:
This can be fascinating, as ruling houses, petty dukedoms, jealous heirs and dashing princes provide excuses for one state declaring war on another adjacent dukedom, or fir those gaily coloured Hussars to be sent to the distant frontier where they will due gallantly fighting off the hordes of savage tribesmen threatening their country.
This seems almost Game of Thrones stuff!
Whatever the type of campaign, the first essential is a master map … (Page 46)
The only thing Donald Featherstone doesn’t quite describe in War Games is the 1970s rise in science fiction / space / fantasy style gaming. Or does he? Arguably his Ancients rules demonstration game the “Battle of Trimsos” based on Tony Bath’s Hyboria campaign is kind of fantasy wargaming there in embryo also.
Minus the orcs, of course …
This battle was fought in an undefined period of the chequered history of the mythical continent of Hyboria – a vast land mass dreamed up by Tony Bath of Southampton, which contains nations of almost every type of known warrior of our own world from its earliest times.
These countries fight each other on the slightest provocation, make pacts, break pacts, invade, repel and generally carry on much as did our own ancestors in the earliest recorded days of history… (Page 75)
And as Donald says in his opening chapter:
For the player who finds nothing of interest in this list [of wargames periods] there are imaginary campaigns that he may fight without limit. He can form his own imaginary world, with continents and countries each of which will make war on its neighbour on the slightest pretext.
The French find themselves involved in wars with America,the British take on the Russians in period 1900, and great wars take place between countries who, at the actual period in time when the campaign is deemed to be taking place, were the very best of friends in real life!
Therein lies one of the fascinations of war gaming – one can remake history to suit one’s ideas, can alter the complete trend of events by re fighting a major battle such as Waterloo and making the French win it …
Donald Featherstone’s books are always so enthusiastically written with assured knowledge that you will receive genuine pleasure and fulfilment in this solitary or shared hobby:
There is a great deal of satisfaction in making one’s own armies, either in entirety or by conversions …
It’s true what Don Featherstone says. Who could resist such conviction?
Who could resist that ‘Avuncular’ tone of a knowledgeable ‘Uncle’ Donald ?
My copy of War Games is the sold-off ex-library stock hardback copy that I used to borrow and read as a child. Thankfully War Games has been reprinted recently in paperback by John Curry.
I hope you have your own ‘desert island wargames book‘, the one you keep going back to and finding fresh ideas (despite the familiarity) for your own real world or imagi-nations gaming.
War Games is my ‘go (back) to’ book for ideas or just comfort reading. What’s yours?
Happy gaming! Leave comments, explore past blogposts or follow my blog.
More about Imagi-Nations on a previous ‘Tintin’ blogpost:
I’m preparing a series of solo skirmish games this winter once I’ve worked out the (confusing) imaginary kingdoms or Bronte 1820s/30s Imagi-nations of Gondal, Gaaldine, Angria and Glass Town, for which a Bronte sketch map exists!
This along with my ‘Generic-an forces’, from my fictional country of Generica, should prove to be an interesting winter’s gaming.
And the Title of the blog post? Imagi – Seven Nation Army?
Check out the fabulous and irresistible sultry ’30s New Orleans sleaze’ / Jazz rendition by singer Haley Reinhart and the U.S. band Postmodern Jukebox of this modern White Stripes number, available on I-Tunes but to view free on YouTube! Just type in Postmodern Jukebox on YouTube and enjoy the many musical styles they play with in their ‘musical time machine’ … Or visit http://postmodernjukebox.com
Happy Listening! Happy Gaming!
Blog posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.
The Duke of Wellington dismissively observed to William Siborne, “You can as well write the history of a ball as of a battle.”
Siborne had asked for the Duke’s memories of the day amongst others to help accurately construct his diorama model of Waterloo, which now rests in the National Army Museum. Well worth visiting in its new restoration.
A short account of this model can be found in Harry Pearson’s autobiography Achtung Schweinhund! featured as a warning against investing too much money in toy soldiers over the years (whoops!); a longer account can be found in a book by Miniature Wargames games writer and historian Peter Hofschroer’s cleverly titled Wellington’s Smallest Victory (Faber, 2004).
Having just finished one longish games write up (the longer as sections of it wiped once), I find this Wellington quote interesting as the possible difference between ‘history’ and ‘fiction’ – the point of view (or continuously confusing shifting point of view if you are Virginia Woolf) that it’s written from. Is it an impersonal lab report? Is it the skeleton plot of historical fiction? A confused blend of both?
As I write up recent tabletop skirmishes, I have been thinking about the links between fiction and gaming. Writing up games reports of past battles, I am reminded of Wellington’s (dismissive?) quote. Commonly many games bloggers feel that their thrilling accounts can appear somewhat tedious for other readers.
Some of the more interesting ones (insert your favourites here) go further than a blow-by-blow account; they reflect on the rule changes or improvisations that crop up, being a form of playtesting.
Such blog write ups become demonstration games for rules, very much in the spirit of H.G. Wells in “The Battle of Hook’s Farm” section of Little Wars or Donald Featherstone’s classic battles in his 1962 War Games. Others like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Yallobelly Times newspaper style battle reports take on a life of their own.
Games reports also hopefully share and remember the escapist “joy and forgetfulness” that gaming brings with itself.
The full Wellington quotes from the ever reliable WikiQuotes are:
“The history of a battle, is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.” Letter to John Croker (8 August 1815), as quoted in The History of England from the Ascension of James II(1848) by Macaulay, Volume 1 Chapter 5; and in The Waterloo Letters (1891) edited by H. T. Siborne.
“Just to show you how little reliance can be placed even on what are supposed the best accounts of a battle, I mention that there are some circumstances mentioned in General —’s account which did not occur as he relates them. It is impossible to say when each important occurrence took place, or in what order.” Wellington’s papers (17 August 1815), as quoted in The History of England from the Ascension of James II (1848) by Thomas Babington Macaulay.
Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), being Wellington’s shorter lived contemporary (Wellington lived 1769 – 1852), would have something to say about the value of writing the history of a ball, from many shifting viewpoints and many carefully observed details, especially if you want to point up character. The famous Brussels ball on the eve of Waterloo also features in Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847/8).
Inside Peter Hofschroer’s book (page 178 ) is another version of the “writing a battle and ball” quote, when Wellington talked about his view the accuracy of Siborne’s Waterloo model (quoted by Hofschroer from Sir John R. Mowbray, “Seventy Years at Westminster”, Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine July 1898):
“… If you want to know my opinion it’s all farce, fudge! They went to one gentleman and said “What did you do?” “I did so and so.” To another, “What did you do?” “I did such and such a thing.” One did it at ten and another at twelve, and they have mixed up the whole. The fact is, a battle is like a ball; they kept footing it all the day through.”
And to another, Francis Egerton in 1845 (Hofschroer, page 179):
” … of which beautiful work he [Siborne] has made a scene of confusion, such as would be a drawing or representation in one view of all the scenes and acts of a play in five acts.”
Wellington in his old age in his actions towards Siborne does not come out of this account by Peter Hofschroer too well.
And now for some gratuitous photographs of the few Peter Laing 15mm Waterloo / Napoleonic figures I bought as a young teenager, still much as I painted them 30+ years ago. They are due for rebasing and some odd retouches of paint soon. I wished I had bought more and have since acquired a few additional ones for future small skirmish games.
As a tribute to the late John Mitchell, one of figure designer Peter Laing’s colleagues in early 15mm wargames products, who died in June 2016, I am posting my battered copy of what I believe are John’s typed English Civil War 15mm starter rules (with my childhood pencil additions).
As far as I can remember, these rules were bought from Peter Laing c. 1982/3 and are focussed around the figures and artillery (A501 Culverin, A502 Saker) in Peter’s English Civil War ranges.
As far as I know, the rules have probably not been sold for many years since Peter Laing and John Mitchell retired. They are posted here in tribute.
John Mitchell sold starter sets of 15mm (hand painted?) Wargames armies.
The advert here does not mention ECW specifically …
… but in this advert from Military Modelling October 1983 it gives more details:
Send no SAEs for details, as sadly John Mitchell has passed away but how many wargames enthusiasts started with one of these sets?
Hmm, If you could whizz back to 1983 in my Man of TIN Tiny Tin Time Machine, which starter army or armies would you choose?
Did you get figures for both sides, so both Roundhead and Cavalier?
I presume many of the starter set figures came from the Peter Laing range. The historic periods covered in the adverts match Peter Laing’s extensive 15mm catalogue well, including his trademark Marlburian figures, the unusual Crimean and Franco-Prussian War ranges and the smaller, almost half to a third of the cost for the WW2 starter set as Peter Laing only made a small WW2 infantry range which we have featured on another blogpost. The costs varied quite a lot in price!
If anyone was lucky enough to be bought or to buy one of these 15mm Starter Armies, I would love to hear more about them in detail. Did they spark a lifelong gaming interest? Did it lead to a wider collection of Peter Laing figures? I hope that you liked them, although Peter Laing figures have both admirers and their detractors on many gaming and figure forums.
As a young gamer I could never afford a hand painted starter army – I hand painted my own choice of Peter Laing figures instead. I would have counted how many unpainted Peter Laing castings at 6p or 7p per foot figure I could have bought for the cost of a starter army.
These rules were an interesting specific set for the ECW to supplement the simple rules for other periods available in early Donald Featherstone books. They served me well for my first few teenage years of English Civil War gaming.
The supportive business relationship between John Mitchell and Peter Laing is hinted at often throughout Peter Laing’s catalogue:
More about John Mitchell’s 15mm card buildings and building sheets in my next Peter Laing related blogpost.
Hopefully John Mitchell’s hand painted 15mm starter armies were the introduction to the scale and our hobby for many of today’s gamers.
John Mitchell, remembered wherever and whenever his hand-painted starter sets of tiny 15mm metal soldiers fight for his card buildings, by happy gamers across the world enjoy “a most satisfactory infantry action game.”
Tribute posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, 19 August 2016.
Following up my “favourite Peter Laing figure?” Blogpost, I asked knowledgeable enthusiast Ian Dury about 15mm Peter Laing figures whether Peter Laing had ever made a 15mm photographer figure, knowing how much Ian and others liked his Victorian Parade Range.
As far as Ian was aware, Peter Laing hadn’t made such a figure, so the natural thing to do was a quick conversion.
A colonial British infantry heliograph operator in pith or foreign service helmet (A605) made a good basic figure for a photographer with his tripod. The addition of a tiny black plastic Qixel cube or square bead roughed in for the clunky camera or early cine film apparatus. Until I find a smaller cube, it’ll do.
I let this tiny ‘blogs of war’ photographer loose on the my portable game board ‘battlefield’ of an impending North / South skirmish to take the combatant’s pictures. I think some time travel will be required if he is to document other such skirmishes.
More pictures of my newly painted and based Northern and Southern / Blue and Grey infantry on my next blog post.