EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


The last two months have been a bit frustrating. Although I have managed a reasonable number of games and sorted a few things in my mind, I have been making very little progress on filling out orders of battle, writing up back stories or managing a mini-campaign or even a couple of battles in a row in the same war.  There is a long, boring list of non-hobby related  things that have interfered and the next 2 month aren't likely to be much better as I move farther into the fall/pre-winter outside Must-do list. Still, there is more to it and indecision as to which way to jump is playing a role.

I think its time to have a look at what needs to be done, look at the issues and obstacles and decide on priorities and a plan.

For those who'd like something more interesting that me waffling, here are some video's to watch.

 Brian's Toy Soldier Collecting blog has links to videos showing Britain's toy soldiers being made in 1949 and  in 1965. After watching them,  I found myself watching a 3 part  Russian look into the history of toy soldiers (dubbed in English) that I had seen once sometime (years?) ago.  
Watching this video left me with a burning desire to cast and paint more soldiers!

OK back to my planning. Chronologically, the top 4 candidates for some focused attention this fall are:

A.Prince Micheal. The big thing here is to be ready to take an 8 player game to Huzzah in May. The three main things are: to settle the details of the scenario, assess the requirements for figures and terrain, and identify and rectify any deficiencies. I'm fairly confident that this only needs a week or three of winter leisure to polish up, mostly a matter of some basing and some paint enhancement on some second hand figures.

B. NQSYW. I have a vague consensus with myself on organization and rules but all that needs to be sharpened. Then there are uniform decisions, decisions on refurbishing old units, back stories, and on and on. I don't want this to languish nor do I wish to rush it, especially not the wrong way. I think another game within the next few weeks then put it off till the weather  turns cold and then see about ordering some new guns and settling down to planning followed by execution.

C. War of 1812. This limited scope collection is bugging me because it is almost but not quite ready.  It seems silly to start with the one that I am least likely to want to campaign in but it would be good to have a small, complete, Canadian history, 40mm, game, ready to go.  All presentable and proper like.

It also wouldn't take much. A few dozen existing figures to touch up or rebase, perhaps 50 or 60 new homecast figures, some finishing of bases. It would just seem smart to get it out of the way to reduce the clutter and distraction.

D. The Great War.    This has my eye at the moment and is really where I want to spend the most time next year but there is a lot of work to be done to get me to where I want to be and I don't want to rush into production until I know what I need. There is a need for several new figures to be sculpted and cast and there are some issues around obtaining artillery and mg's to be resolved which may mean finding either funding or a spark of cleverness, not to mention the need for mountains. In short there is a lot of planning and work to be done.

I confess, this has been complicated and escalated by the possibility that if I arrange to have sufficient historical figures for an historical 1912 Caucasus game then I might be able to take said game to Huzzah should it happen that they decide that the 100th Anniversary of the last year of WWI would be a fitting theme. Not THAT important but it would be nice to be in step for once, well, sort of in step.

Actually now that I have written it down. The 1812 stuff makes sense as it needs almost no planning, just doing. Planning on other things can theoretically proceed in the background.

Could be brought home by Christmas if I settle to it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter

For a number of years now (too many) I have been slowly working towards reducing the numbers of armies and campaigns represented on my shelves in order to make time and space for the chosen few. As part of this process, in 2014, I embarked on an entirely new collection (I know, I know), essentially a Centennial, Shiny, Homecast, Toy Soldier, Not Quite World War One  (NQWW1).  It got off to a great start but I soon found that I needed to make new masters and moulds to continue much farther but had run out of materials and budget.

Instead of pushing ahead anyway and making do, I decided to switch focus to work on other things until I was ready. As I grew near to despairing that the time would ever come, things suddenly came together while I wasn't looking. I have new green stuff, I have a a gallon of good liquid rtv en route, I still have the desire and best of all, I have a plan!

"The one on the left, I think." ... "Yes sir, just the thing we need!"

The book they are looking at is Henry Harris's "Model Soldiers", my entry drug. 
The other was given to my mum by her dad, a reservist recalled to the RHA in 1914. 
Some young kid seems to have flipped through the pictures too often. 

Now, it pains me to say that part of the deal with myself is that I will drop various stalled or played out campaigns and collections and either reduce them to a small "game in a  box" or re-purpose the figures even where this means stripping, re-converting and  re-painting. It also means that once again, I will have to "correct" certain details of the fictional history of Northern Atlantica (the "Colonial" half) but that will be for a separate post. Suffice it to say that there are likely to be some sheep skin caps and maybe the occasional small turban, fez or other cap.

Its time to get back to:

Three years gone by and still not over the mountain yet!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Wood of Tears

Tuesday Morning.

The sun rises over St. Margaret's Bay as the tide moves in. If I had swivelled 90 degrees, due south  towards the narrow mouth of the bay, and if the world was flat, I could have taken a picture of Bermuda roughly 1,250 km away.   

Civil Wars in 1/72nd plastic became an accidental theme for the weekend as I broke open my Portable Russian Civil War carrying case. I do have my own rules but the portability just cried out for Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame.

Red artillerymen await the order to open fire while the Generals breakfast together. 
The basic playing field was a Hotz Desert Mat with 3" hexes and dabs and sprays of green paint. Having,  somehow, not brought the log cabins for the scenario I planned to play, I just threw a low ridge line with scattered woods to one side and dealt out two balanced armies, each of 15 units plus a general, for an encounter game. Both sides would begin off table with the goal of seizing and holding the ridge. The exhaustion level was set to 8 for each side and simple elimination was agreed upon. All units were average.

The armies, whose composition was heavily influenced by the contents of the boxes they came in as well as by the failure to equip the large numbers of recruits in holding camps, were composed of:
General with staff, 5 cavalry, 6 infantry, 2 field guns, 2 MG (one of White's being a Tchanka) and 1 machine gun armed Armoured Car or Light Tank. An insufficient number of limbers were treated as window dressing.
Game 1. The Red army swiftly seizes the ridge line before the White's have even arrived on the field. and it waits, and waits, and...
 I don't particularly like dice activation systems since there is no way to avoid the chance of infinite rolls of '1' in a row so we opted for the solo card draw. Not having brought 2 decks of cards we just extended the range to two higher and two lower and used the two Jokers. The first game saw 3 Red cards then a Joker, which allowed me to grab the ridge before Rob moved a finger. That was then followed by a seemingly endless stream of high Black cards interspersed with Jokers. At that point I suggest we ditch one of the Jokers since the pack was small and things went a bit more smoothly with me being able to get off a shot or two before the game ended. 8 vs 2 was the score in Rob's favour.

Each coloured ring marks a lost unit from that army.  In the background a hint of red marks what Rob later christened the 'Wood of Tears'. 
 The day was young and the game fast so we reset and this time the cards behaved normally with occasional short runs but basically balanced. The game played out very differently with Rob's tank cutting a  swathe through my left flank cavalry then running amok amongst my guns. Only the courage of the dedicated patriotic gunners which inspired them to keep retiring their guns rather than running saved the day. At last more Red Cavalry galloped up and finished off the isolated tank. Losses were fairly close at 6 a side until a dashing Red assault tipped them over the edge. It didn't end the game though and has his shells crashed down on my troops I feared a draw but when counter battery fire, directed by General Ross himself, finally smashed the last White field gun, it was all over. They couldn't advance and were out of range of the ridge which I occupied. A narrow win but my one win of the weekend!

Game 2. A Red victory! Urrah!
(The red discs indicate that enemy artillery has ranged in on that hex.)
 At this point Paul stepped in as Red commander. Rob, already seasoned in the rules, handled him very roughly at start, aided by his ally, the sequence deck, but Paul doesn't give up easily nor do card runs last forever and soon the game was being very hotly contested.  In the end Rob's third victory of the weekend was stoutly contested but a victory none the less.

The terrain was laid out by instinct for balance rather than deeply planned but the right most wood, lying across the centre line turned out to be a key position for a flank march covered from direct enemy artillery fire. By the end of the third game some 9 or 10 infantry units had died trying to take or hold this little grove:
The Wood of Tears.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Veterans in Action

Earlier this week I made the trip due south to the Atlantic coast at St. Margaret's Bay  for two days of jawing and gaming (etc...) with Rob (Captain's Bog) and Paul, two friends I first met and gamed with on my 3 month posting to HMCS Ottawa in 1977.

It seemed only right that I bring along my 20mm ACW since Rob was the friend who had passed me the accumulated hoard of ACW figures by several anonymous Halifax gamers which had been passed around in search of a home for who knows how long.

The rules were a quickly drawn up non-gridded version of the last gridded ACW game I played. There were a few oopsies where I had missed something but over all I think it worked. A nice hexmat would have been good though.

The scenario was  .....'inspired by'.. or perhaps "a rough translation of" the Bridgehead Breakout from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames, using what I had to hand in my travel kit.  By a non-coincidence, I have vague recollections of a multi-player 15mm original F&F  version of the game at a Game Day at Dalhousie back in the early 90's which featured my and Rob's Confederates against Ron's Yankees (I think Doug Burrell and possibly others contributed troops as well, it was over 25 years ago!).

The game begins with Rob launching a quick and unreasonably  successful attack on a stone wall which had marked the Yankee front line.
With Rob in command of the Rebs, Paul was conscripted as Yankee commander while I, as playing GM, took one of 4 Yankee brigades (That's me with the Zouaves comin' o'er the bridge )

With all that settled the fighting began.

Paul getting to grips with the measuring baton. 

Paul and I had a rough plan, Rob it would appear had a better one. In addition, the old Maxim held true that fortune favoured the bold. His weak left flank quickly attacked and hemmed in the right hand Yankee bridgehead. It took us the whole game to recover our start line.

Charge after charge was thrown back by the Rebs but at last we managed to get enough troops over the bridge to drive off his cavalry wing, flank the infantry at the wall and slowly force them back.
On the other flank Paul put up a stubborn fight but a grand battery on a hill managed to blow huge holes in the Blue line as a grey tide surged forward once and again, and again, until, after a desperate struggle, that bridgehead was crushed.

Even Cesar's Zouaves were unable to take the wall after two bloody charges. At this point, my own personal figured had been lying wounded at the foot of the wall for some hours!

By the very strictest letter of the victory condition we could have argued for a draw since we still held a portion of the bridgehead but since we had failed to take any of the high ground, had lost 1/2 of the bridgehead and one of the bridges and had suffered heavier losses, we readily awarded a victory to Rob.

It was time for supper and a switch from wargaming as Paul's wife joined us so I will end here and leave the Portable Russian Civil Wargame for the next post.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Battle of Whitebridge


The following dispatch has been received from our correspondent  on the North East Frontier.

Brooklyn, 9 Sep 1867.  On Friday, the 8th, I learned that General Milne was hastening to Whitebridge to oversee the recall of a substantial portion of Colonel Otter's Column from their posts along the Little Blue River and decided to accompany him to the front.   There appeared to be little indication of Blue activity in the North East. The main army, including troops from both Oberhilse and her nominally independent ally Hougal, was reported to be gathering in the centre.

The garrison in Whitebridge consisted of five companies of infantry drawn from the Belmont Rifles, Victoria Rifles and the York Volunteers, supported by one squadron of the Queen's Lancers and one from the Kapelle Mounted Rifles who had been sent back from the Oerberg Frontier as the threat of renewed war with Oberhilse grew. A train which was on its way to collect the infantry was rumoured to be carrying a Naval Landing party with one of the new Gatling Guns to reinforce the defences.
The troops scheduled to rejoin the main army were already fallen in by the Station when the Blue guns suddenly galloped into sight, deployed, and opened fire.
The red coated companies of the Belmont Rifles were already fallen in, waiting by the station, and the train was in view when Blue's advance elements appeared and a battery opened fire on the town. With great steadiness the Victoria's supported by the York Volunteers returned the enemy's fire.

A courier soon arrived with an order for the Belmont's to commence boarding and depart as soon as possible. This order was greeted with a murmur of dismay but it was obeyed even though a second column of Blue troops had now appeared some distance south of the town.

The Belmont Rifles depart to re-enforce the main army.
While Blue's infantry kept up a hot fire on the town, the Blue Guards could be seen slogging across the ford and forming in the woods.

At last the Guard Lancers, resplendent in their gold laced, blue hussar tunics and fur caps,  emerged from the woods and trotted forward. Lowering their lances, they charged forward, routing the Queen's Lancers and then driving back the Mounted Rifles. It was a magnificent spectacle despite the  unfortunate defeat of  our  brave men.

General Milne himself was forced to rally our horsemen in person while ordering the Gatling to deploy and cover the gap.

Modern warfare, the Gatling routs a company of the Blue Guards.
What a contrast in traditional and modern warfare. The age old clash of lance and sword followed by the chatter of the Gatling as it cut swathes through the ranks of the Blue Guards, driving them back in disorder.

Stubborn fighting as Blue regroups and attacks again.
The Blue Guards are not easily thwarted however and the attack was renewed time and again while only the intervention of General Milne at the head of the now dismounted Kappele Mounted Rifles saved the Gatling from a flanking attack from the Guard Lancers.

As Blue's infantry was forced back all along the line, Blue's gunners took up the duel, forcing the Gatling to retire with heavy losses.

Blue's General took advantage of this to finally launch his infantry over the bridge. If only the Gatling​ had been entrenched at the head of the bridge, how could any troops force the bridge against such firepower?

Recognizing the value of the Gatling, and never forgetting the need for reinforcements for the main army, General Milne ordered the Gatling to fallback, escorted by the Mounted Rifles, and march to the main army.

As the sun sinks, the fighting in the town rages.
With the thinning of Red's ranks and the absence of the Gatling, Blue intensified their assaults on the town from both sides of the river. Again and again Blue was hurled back but eventually numbers told and house by house the Victoria's were forced out.

Gathering the tired survivors, General Milne put himself at their head and led them forward with the bayonet in a desperate counter charge. Alas, a bullet found the brave General and those young Riflemen lifted him back onto his horse and retreated.
'B' company of the Victoria Rifles escorts the wounded General Milne to safety.
So, in the end, the sun sank on a bloody and hard fought field as the dishearted young soldiers retreated carrying their brave leader while their comrades rushed sling the rails to join the main army and perhaps earn fresh laurels.

Behind them the bloodied Blue soldiers regrouped and began to dig in. Was this attack a distraction or is this where the main thrust of a new offensive.