Upgraded equipment and yet another new mould.

In the past I have used a camping stove to melt metal for casting. However, they do have some safety issues with exploding gas canisters. My wonderful wife, concerned about my safety, urged me to buy an electric hotplate. So I recently bought a cheap double hot plate from Kmart. A quick test has revealed that it will melt casting metal, although more slowly than the gas stove. Better to be safe than sorry.

Electric Hot Plate

The new mould is a recent purchase on German EBay.  It was made by a company called Scad that produced seemingly random moulds of semi round figures depicting various troops of the Napoleonic and Franco-Prussian Wars.  Unfortunately the moulds are no longer produced and the company seems to be long gone. Fortunately, it is still possible to pick up second hand moulds from time to time.

Scad Dragoon Mould

The Scad mould is a French dragoon of Napoleon III from the Franco-Prussian War and will provide me with some more 40mm cavalry for the conduct of little wars. My small collection of Scad moulds is mostly a mix of 1st and 2nd Empire French. The moulds produce nicely detailed castings which paint up handsomely in a toy soldier style but can readily be painted in a more realistic fashion. Consequently, I am always on the lookout for more.

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Napoleonic Medalist

The Napoleonic Wars have fascinated me ever since I can remember and I have always wanted some token (other than toy soldiers) that directly expresses my interest in the period. A few weeks ago, I was spending some late night idle time on Ebay and came across a replica campaign medal. There had been a few bids on it but they were still very low, so I placed a throw away bid on it and went to bed. To my surprise I won it and have recently received it in the post.

Waterloo Reverse        Waterloo Obverse

The replica is a faithful copy of the Waterloo Medal that was issued between 1816 and 1817 to all ranks of the British Army and the King’s German Legion, who served in the 100 Days campaign culminating in the Battle of Waterloo on the 18th June 1815. The reverse of the silver medal features an image of Victory with “Wellington” inscribed above and “Waterloo June 18 1815” below. George, the Prince Regent, is depicted on the obverse of the medal with his name and title. It is a fairly iconic representation of Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars in general, so I am quite pleased to have one, even if it is only a replica. I have plans of placing it in a shadow box for display at some point.

More Prince August Moulds.

PA 54mm Dragoon

Taking advantage of recent sales at Prince August, I have been most fortunate to add more moulds to my growing collection. Cavalry have been added to the small stockpile of “Traditional Toy Soldiers on Parade” in the form of moulds for 54mm dragoons and hussars. The French & Indian War collection has been increased with the French infantry mould, my first purchase from the new 40mm Seven Years War series.

PA 54mm Hussar

I have previously purchased some of the 25mm Fantasy Armies series moulds, mostly as substitutes for various Dark Age types.  I do have a few pure fantasy moulds, so an Orc mould has been added to them. The British infantry mould from the 25mm Battle of Waterloo series represents the start of an opposing allied force to the two French line grenadier moulds I already have.

PA Moulds

In the current May sale at Prince August, I have purchased moulds for the 25mm French Chasseurs of the Guard Trooper, British Life Guards Trooper and one of the Napoleonic Wars Horse moulds. So I am continuing to amass moulds whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

 

Anglo-Zulu Wargaming

Some months ago Jacksarge gave me a copy of “A Wargamer’s Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War” by Daniel Mersey for my birthday. I finally managed to get around to reading it recently. The book itself has been well reviewed around the Internet, so I will keep my own thoughts on it brief. Daniel Mersey, will need no introduction as I’m sure his output is fairly well known by now in the wargaming community.

Anglo Zulu War Guide

The book is divided into seven chapters; the first chapter gives a brief outline of the war and serves as an introduction to the subject. The second chapter summarises the armies, organisation and equipment of the Zulus and the British imperial forces in turn. So while the section isn’t greatly detailed it does provide all the elementary information needed to start putting armies together and includes basic painting guides.

Chapter three discusses the key battles of the war with the exception of Intombi. Even more oddly, Ulundi the climactic battle that saw Zulu power broken isn’t addressed. Each brief description is followed by useful suggestions on how to game the battles. The fourth chapter discusses what factors impact on wargaming the overall campaign in a playable and balanced fashion, including the pros and cons of recycling Zulus (the old bugbear).

Chapter five is all about choosing the right set of rules for you to game the war with. A list of rules is provided along with a handy synopsis for each rule set and some discussion of their strengths and weaknesses. The sixth chapter is basically a list of miniatures along with brief descriptions of each range. Neither section is exhaustive in its compilation.

Chapter seven gives outlines of scenarios inspired by actual events from the Zulu war. This particularly useful section discusses the forces, table set up, victory conditions and rules considerations for each scenario. The book also features in its centre 8 colour pages of miniatures in action.  Finally, tacked on the end is an appendix of further reading.

“A Wargamer’s Guide to the Anglo-Zulu War” packs a lot of useful information and concepts into what is quite a compact book. It is definitely a solid introduction into gaming the Anglo-Zulu War and is a worthwhile addition to the colonial gamer’s bookshelf. Overall I found the book an easy but informative read and something of an inspiration.

Indeed now that I’ve completed reading it, I have been enjoying contemplating how I would game the Zulu War and what figures I might use. I have over the years started to venture down the path of gaming the war but have never made it very far. So in my own stash I have British imperial infantry well covered. Somewhere hiding away is a box of 15mm Stone Mountain miniatures, some 28mm Black Tree (I think) and some 30mm zinnfiguren. I also have one 25mm Irregular Miniatures Zulu acquired in the now dim past.

Out of the Zinnbrigade moulds I have, I could easily create a passable imperial force in 40mm but Zulus would be a problem. Unless I could cast my own, I would have to totally rely on the 40mm colonial range from Irregular Miniatures. That is an expensive proposition even at the low prices that Irregular charge. The only thing I can be sure of is that I would want the shiny steadfast toy soldier look in whatever size / scale I chose. In any event it would be a long term project but I can make use of Junior General paper figures in the short term, so I could have the odd game and keep the dream alive. Especially as Daniel Mersey’s “The Men Who Would Be Kings” colonial rules have just turned up on my doorstep.

 

The long silence!

It has been more than a few months since I last posted on this blog and many a moon has passed since I last had a wargame. The last game I played was over a year ago. It proved not to be an enjoyable experience, so I have not bothered with playing wargames at all since. My more recent lack of posts is largely due to a sense of wargaming ennui and some real life unexpected events.

I haven’t been doing much painting either. Although I have made a little effort and daubed a bit of paint on some Tasmanian 40mm toy soldiers. Currently awaiting completion is the company of Launceston Rifles, that I started some time ago, and some Tasmanian Permanent Artillery. There is also a painted but un-based and unvarnished Viking that has been waiting to be finished for a very long time. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it as I find that I now prefer and enjoy a simple toy soldier figure style.

I have continued to develop a few wargaming related projects since my last post and have acquired a number of books as gifts and purchases. My collection of moulds for metal casting has been growing apace with acquisitions made from Prince August during their sales. I really like the idea of moulds as they are full of potential and can just sit in a box until you need a few figures.

PA Colour Party

The Prince August 54mm Traditional Toy Soldiers on Parade Colour Party was a particularly welcome addition. I have also bought some of Prince August’s 25mm fantasy moulds that I carefully selected for their usefulness in creating Dark Age armies. The cannon and crew moulds from the Prince August Wild Geese series have also been picked up to further round out my stockpile of moulds for the French and Indian War. I should probably explain that as I don’t think I have mentioned the project before.

I have long desired to do some aspect of the SYW and originally I had intended to do it in 30mm, using a variety of figures including zinnfiguren and old Spencer Smiths. However the cost of going down that path proved too prohibitive so I started to look around for an alternative. I then remembered Prince August had an assortment of moulds suitable for producing toy soldiers for the SYW in 40mm, a size of figure that I really quite like.

So I narrowed down the focus to the FIW, making the project more achievable. As a result, I have been buying and stockpiling moulds from PA’s Wild Geese, French and Karoliner series, along with moulds from the old Holger Eriksson Cowboys and Indians range. I chose these rather than the newer SYW range because they are more complete and being a bit more generic I can use them for both sides. However, I do want to collect the more recently released SYW moulds down the track.

While my focus has been on stockpiling moulds, I have had other projects on the go. Some of my hobby time has been spent making alien style plants for future sci-fi battles. My major project, however, has involved the continuing effort to gather a 54mm medieval battle host using Britain’s Herald and Deetail toy soldiers.

Britains Deetail Knights

I am a natural collector of things but these will, I hope, occasionally see some table top action rather than just be dust accumulators. I will blog about those in more detail another time. I hope to resume casting in the autumn and I am rather looking forward to start casting some figures for the FIW. So, as you can see, I am still doing hobby related stuff despite my long silence.

 

Plaster Panzers and Plasticine Hills

While I am still not in a painting and gaming mood, I am continuing to read about playing with toy soldiers and military history. Indeed my last book was one that proved seminal to the rise of modern wargaming. A little while ago I was fortunate to secure on EBay a 1972 edition copy, in good condition, of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 book “War Games Battles and Manoeuvres with Toy Soldiers”. Reading it proved to be a fascinating journey into the past and the start of wargaming as a popular hobby.

War Games

After a foreword by the esteemed Brigadier Peter Young, the book explains what wargames are and how you go about setting them up. Campaigns are broadly described and solo games are also briefly covered. Having elucidated wargaming to the reader, Donald Featherstone provides a collection of five rules for gaming periods from the ancient world to World War 2 (or Modern as it is referred to in the book). The rules are supported with exciting battle reports and photographs showing how the conflicts play out.

The first rules, by the revered Tony Bath, cover ancient warfare. These are demonstrated by the fantasy battle of “Trimsos” between the Hyperboreans and the Hyrkanians using zinnfiguren. The second set of rules address horse and musket warfare. These are illustrated by an American Civil War battle called “Action in the Plattville Valley” where blue and grey shiny toy soldiers fight over hills made of plasticine. The venerable Lionel Tarr’s highly detailed modern (i.e. WWII) rules are the next to be explained, followed by a simplified set for less rigorous games. The simple modern rules are then exhibited through a WWII “Tank and Infantry Action on the St James Road” between British Grenadier Guards, with supporting miniature tanks, and the Herman Goering Panzer Grenadiers, with homemade panzers of plaster. The last set of rules, “Close Wars”, appear in the appendices and are designed for skirmish actions in the French and Indian War of the 18th Century.  The appendices also contain instructions for making Lionel Tarr’s wargaming periscope.

While “War Games Battles and Manoeuvres with Toy Soldiers” may not be as relevant to wargamers as it was when it was first published some 55 years ago it still inspires. It certainly gives some insight into the thinking of past wargaming worthies on rules and playing wargames. The rules supplied within the book are quite playable and the thrilling battle reports are still a pleasure to read. The book also demonstrates quite brilliantly that good fun games can be played without all the frippery and paraphernalia of modern wargaming. In short, the book is a word to the wise and a tonic for the jaded.

Prince August Toy Soldier Moulds

During a recent sale on the Prince August website I was able to buy the boxed “54mm Toy Soldiers on Parade Moulds”. Indeed I was fortunate enough to have a voucher which meant I only paid a couple of dollars for the set, including postage. I’m looking forward to casting some figures from the moulds and painting them in the full splendour of the shiny toy soldiers that captured my imagination so long ago. The moulds don’t represent a move to another size of wargames miniatures; they are simply a welcome return to creating and collecting traditional toy soldiers.

PA Toy Soldier Mould Box PA Toy Soldier Moulds

Solo Nostalgia!

After a long search I managed to acquire a book that had considerable impact on how I have viewed wargaming since my teenage years. I found “Solo-Wargaming” by Donald Featherstone during a late night trawl of EBay a month or so ago and at a ridiculously low price compared to the few copies I had seen on sale previously. Upon its arrival in the mail, I voraciously read “Solo-Wargaming” from cover to cover. Every page proved so familiar to me and inspiring despite the years that have passed.

Solo Wargaming

I believe “Solo-Wargaming” was one of the first books on wargaming that I read. I can’t be entirely certain (My memory is a bit fuzzy these days). It was an old book by the time I found it on the library bookshelf and I had long been aware of wargaming as a hobby through reading wargaming articles in “Military Modelling” and watching episodes of the television spy series “Callan”. I had even managed to play games using basic rules of my own devising and then with rules obtained from a shop in distant Launceston.

However, reading “Solo Wargaming” back then proved an absolute inspiration and provided me with an understanding of how greater depth and enjoyment could be had out of games using a wider variety of devices than I had previously been aware of. Re-reading it so many years later I was struck by the elegance of those mechanisms and that even now they can provide real depth in both solo games and those against opponents. Indeed, many of those ideas are still being used in wargaming today. After some forty-four years since it was published “Solo-Wargaming” by Donald Featherstone still inspires and is still relevant to every gamer.

Reading Roundup

Summer is now long past but I haven’t as yet resumed painting toy soldiers and I don’t have much inclination to do so at the moment. However, I have acquired some new books over the past few months. The first of these was “Great Military Disasters from Bannockburn to Stalingrad” by Julian Spilsbury. It proved to be an accessible read that gives some interesting perspectives on how great military disasters arise. While the causes prove to be many, good old human incompetence tops the list. Of course the book equally demonstrates how great victories were achieved by the opposing forces, and it certainly proves what a perilous undertaking it is committing your forces to battle.

Great Military Disasters

Next on my list of new books is “Wargaming an Introduction” by Neil Thomas. As the name suggests it provides an introduction to wargaming the major periods from Ancients to WW2. It also provides some excellent rules for gaming each of those. I read this book some nine years ago when I borrowed it from the local library. I enjoyed reading the book then and appreciated the elegance of the rules. The book still stands up as an enjoyable read and rules are still well-designed even all these years later.

I was prompted to buy “Wargaming an Introduction” after reading some online reviews of the WW2 rules it contained. I had been looking for a set of WW2 rules that weren’t too tortuous to play. I have played the WW2 rules contained in “One Hour Wargames” by Neil Thomas and enjoyed them immensely but I wanted to try something that could handle larger and more varied forces. I haven’t as yet used the “Wargaming an Introduction” WW2 rules but I look forward to doing so.

Wargaming an Introduction

“The Battles of Tolkien” by David Day I picked up in a local bookshop. It is a beautiful book to behold with its many gorgeous illustrations and faux tooled leather cover. The book came plastered with the warning “This work is unofficial and is not authorized by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers”. However, it proved an interesting read that more addressed what inspired Tolkien’s depictions of warfare in Middle Earth than an analysis of the weapons and structure of the forces involved. More care should have been taken in the preparation and production of the text in “The Battles of Tolkien” as there are some issues with its clarity and typography. The battle maps could also have been clearer. Despite that, the book is a handy reference and would bejewel any bookshelf.

Battles of Tolkien

My most recent acquisition is “The Soldier” by Chris McNab and was procured from ABE Books for a tiny sum. I bought this book after reading a very comprehensive review of it on the Man of Tin blog. The edition I have was only published last year and is very up to date. The book endeavours to describe the personal experiences of soldiers from the Seven Years War to present conflicts. It is a really well put together book filled with useful information and excellent illustrations and detailed colour plates of uniformed soldiers. It is best described as an “Eyewitness Guide” style book for adults.

The Soldier

Napoleonic Voltigeurs and a Small Mishap.

I completed the 40mm French Napoleonic voltigeurs some time ago but only finally varnished and photographed them in December of last year, so I thought it was about time I actually posted them. I am very pleased with how they turned out as they capture the shiny toy soldier look rather well. The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds and painted with acrylics and then gloss varnished.

voltigeurs-front

voltigeurs-rear

The voltigeurs will join the nascent French army opposing the equally growing Tasmanian and Imperial forces.  They will of course, and despite any anachronisms, participate in future battle games involving a fictitious Victorian conflict after the fashion of “The Great War in England in 1897” by William Le Queux.

voltigeurs-march

voltigeurs-advancing

On a more frustrating note, a few hours before I prepared this post I was moving stuff around and managed drop a tin full of the 20mm WWII British that I posted about last November. It proved to be something of a disaster as I now have a tin full of figures with chipped paint and bent weapons. There is also one figure that will probably require some deft work with the soldering iron. The temptation is simply to ditch the figures and buy replacements to paint or to strip them back entirely and repaint them from scratch.

I have, for the moment, set them aside until I can do an assessment with a calm analytical eye. I may simply get away with careful retouching of the damage but it is still immensely disheartening. Needless to say it will be a long while before my WWII British will be ready to take to the field again.