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.



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.



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.


Garde Mobile Toy Soldiers

This batch of toy soldiers are from Irregular Miniatures’ 42mm Franco-Prussian War range that I have painted up as some better equipped Garde Mobile from 1870. They are, as usual painted using acrylics and varnished liberally to give them that glossy toy soldier look that I have come to prefer




The Garde Mobile came into being in 1868 to provide the French with an army reserve in the fashion of the Prussian Landwher. However, they were a somewhat neglected force and the quality of training and equipment they received was quite variable , those from rural areas being worse off compared to those units from the large towns and cities.

I also have some more French in the form of home cast Napoleonic voltigeurs but I haven’t photographed them yet. They will be the subject of my next post.


Battledress Brown, Hedges and a Highland Fling.

With an impending WWII game, I felt that I should finally finish some British for Normandy and the European theatre.  The figures are, I believe, old Hinchcliffe 20mm that I bought of EBay a couple of years ago and promptly stored them. Most of the figures are riflemen in various poses, with one officer and a PIAT. I originally had not intended to paint them as I thought they were already painted to a reasonable standard but I noticed the paint work was worn in a few places and one thing led to another. I completed the repaint back at the start of the year but have only just flocked the bases.





piat  british-officer

I have also recently completed some hedges. I made four lengths of hedge from an old unused luffa sponge.  It had been knocking about in a draw for quite a few years while I worked out the best way of turning it into a useful piece of terrain. I cut the sponge into quarters along the axis and then glued the pieces to MDF. I added some gravel to texture the bases and help conceal the bottom of the hedge. I spray painted the lot in dark brown and then over painted it to provide some contrast. Finally I flocked the top of the hedge and the base. The photo below is a sample to show how they turned out.


Last weekend my wonderful wife and I went to see the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in concert and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, my darling wife being particularly enamoured with men in kilts. The theatre was fully packed and the audience very appreciative of the performance, resulting in two encores. There was plenty of singing, sword dancing, piping and drumming, to stir the blood. Indeed it has taken a full week to get one my favourite tunes, “The Black Bear”, out my head.


A Bevy of Books.

It has been a while since I have been able to update this blog, so I thought I would write a quick post about my book purchases over the past few months. I have read a couple in full already and will gradually read all of them as time and inclination allows.

First up: “World Uniforms and battles 1815 – 50” by Philip Haythornethwaite and Michael Chappell. It is a book with which to while away time looking at fabulous uniforms of the post-Napoleonic period until the middle of the Nineteenth Century, before uniforms started down the path to practicality. The many colour plates and descriptions provide plenty of inspiration for toy soldiers. This second-hand book was published back in 1976 as part of the excellent Blandford Colour Series on military uniforms. This series provides my favourite “go to” books on military uniforms.


Another second-hand purchase was “An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Military Uniforms of the 19th Century” by Kevin F. Kiley and Digby Smith.  As the name suggests, this book covers in reasonable detail the uniforms of the combatants in the various wars of the Nineteenth Century. It is beautifully and lavishly illustrated and is sure to provide further inspiration for toy soldiers.


I found “Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles” by Bernard Cornwell at a local bookshop and bought it on a whim. I am very familiar with Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series and was quite intrigued how his first foray into factual history would go. I found it a very enjoyable but informative read. It is an accessible and refreshing look at a battle that has probably had more books written about it than any other.


“Napoleonic Infantry” and “Napoleonic Cavalry” by Philip Haythornethwaite from the Napoleonic Weapons and Warfare series, published by Cassell, were a serendipitous find in a local second-hand bookshop. While I have not read these as yet, the books endeavour to provide an overview of the weapons and tactics of the mounted and foot arms of Napoleonic armies.



I picked up “Generals: Ten British Commanders Who Shaped the World” by Mark Urban on the sale table of a local bookshop.  I have only just started reading this but it seems a quite interesting history of a selection of generals from Monck to Montgomery.


From the same sale table came “How History’s Greatest Pirates Pillaged, Plundered, and Got Away with It: The Stories, Techniques, and Tactics of the Most Feared Sea Rovers from 1500-1800” by Benerson  Little. The title says it all. I have read a few chapters of this entertaining book, despite the over the top title.


I hope after this little literary interlude to have some more toy soldiers to show,  it is simply a matter of me getting motivated enough to apply the final finishing touches to them. In the mean while I am greatly looking forward to attending a concert by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards next month.


Tasmanian Toy Soldiers

For my first batch of 40mm home cast toy soldiers I wanted to do something unusual but meaningful to me. I decided my first lot would have to be a Tasmanian colonial unit. I chose the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment / Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment.

Little Wars

Until 1870 Tasmania was protected by imperial forces but in 1859 the Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery Corps was formed. This was followed by more local units, including quite a few of rifles.  In 1878 the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment (TVRR) was created with four companies based in the South and two in the North.

TVRR parade front

In 1880 the two northern companies were split off to form the Launceston Rifle Regiment and the remaining companies became the Southern Tasmanian Rifle Regiment. In 1897 the regiment was incorporated into the Tasmanian Regiment of Infantry of the Tasmanian Defence Force. (The Queen’s and Regimental Colours of the TVRR were eventually laid up in St. David’s Cathedral in Hobart in 1922 and 1949 respectively).

TVRR rear view

Tasmanian contingents served with distinction in the Second Boer War and earned two Victoria Crosses and battle honours. After the formation in 1901 of the Commonwealth of Australia, the successors of the Tasmanian Volunteer Rifle Regiment continued to serve with excellence and are now represented by the 12th/40th Battalion Royal Tasmania Regiment.

TVRR march past

The figures are home cast from Zinnbrigade moulds depicting late nineteenth century Prussians and glued to standard size MDF bases. They were painted using acrylic paints in the fashion of the old toy soldiers manufactured by Britains. The figures were then lavishly varnished to produce a suitably high gloss. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of casting and painting these figures and I am now looking forward to completing some more and having a game with them. In the meanwhile my first company of TVRR shiny toy soldiers stand ready to defend Queen and Empire against all comers.