“Gone all Countrified”

home view

Another Christmas and New Year has come and gone since my last blog post and I have “upped stumps” and moved house. The experience of moving isn’t one I want to repeat for a very long time, if ever. However, it’s done and we are settled in to our new home in the country. We aren’t at all far from a sizable town but the aspect is decidedly rural. It is a real pleasure to watch the local livestock grazing and to look up and see an eagle fly over or to hear singing larks rise from the surrounding fields.

My toy soldier / wargaming collections survived the move without any major losses. The only casualties were a box of Vikings that I dropped from a small height. Thankfully they will mostly just need some weapons reattached and some retouching of the paint work. Only one chap was a write off, as he broke at the ankles.  Admittedly I could repair the damage but I never liked that figure anyway. He will in time be reincarnated via the casting pot.

One aspect I did enjoy about packing up my collection was rediscovering projects and miniatures that had been buried deep in storage. There were many exclamations of “ooh”,” ah”, and “I had forgotten about that!” Sadly a lot that stuff has once again been put into deep storage but there is the future prospect of a bunker / man cave where they can be stored more readily to hand or even displayed. However the journey of rediscovery has prompted much rethinking about where I want to head with gaming and collecting, along with thoughts about past inspirations.

I have made a few gaming related purchases both before and after the move. Before moving I acquired some pre painted miniatures from the long defunct Havok Skirmish game and a couple of Plast Craft Games sci-fi buildings. After our big move, I took advantage of some pre-Christmas sales and bought two rule books from Osprey and more moulds from Prince August. However most of my campaigning over the summer involves doing jobs around the house and the application of various edged weaponry to tame a heavily weed infested and over grown garden.

Unfortunately the two Osprey rule books were water damaged in transit. I contacted Osprey and they are kindly sending replacement copies. The books were the Dan Mersey rule sets “Dragon Rampant” and “Lion Rampant”. I have played the medieval set “Lion Rampant” before but didn’t own a copy of the rules. However I enjoyed the game enough to warrant buying a copy to put on my shelf. “Dragon rampant” is new to me but it seems like they will be a fun set of rules to play. I’m not sure when I will get around to reading or playing either of them as I still haven’t done anything with the “The Men Who Would Be King” rules I bought months ago.

pteravore

karn battle form

The Havok miniatures I bought were unopened “new’ old stock consisting of 3 boxes of Pteravore Razors and a boxed Karn Battle Form. I have added these to my Havok Skirmish collection that I originally acquired more than twenty years ago. As I am intending to do some generic sci-fi gaming down the track, I am attempting to build on the stuff I already have.

I have also been on the hunt for suitable sci-fi terrain. To that end, I bought the trading post and house pod to use with the Havok figures. The Plast Craft Games sci-fi buildings are pre-coloured and cut, so I only need to assemble them at some point.

My new moulds from the pre-Christmas Prince August sale are fairly diverse.  I bought an additional horse mould and mould two of the “Great Britain: 1st Foot Guards” from their Napoleonic range.  I also acquired an eighteenth century cavalry trooper and trumpeter from the PA French regiments range of moulds and a Prussian infantry mould from their Seven Years War series. Lastly but not least, I bought  the Black Watch highland regiment mould set from PA’s 54mm Traditional Toy Soldiers On Parade.

pa mixed moulds

Prince August had another sale after Christmas, so I’m now waiting for even more moulds to add to my ever growing collection. I occasionally think I am turning into the toy soldier collector / wargamer equivalent of a “prepper”, just hoarding in case of a doomsday scenario.  I did do some 40mm casting before we moved but the figures were destined to be given as a birthday gift. However if civilization should be destroyed tomorrow I will still be able to play with toy soldiers…eventually!

house

In the post-Christmas sales I picked up a ready-made cardboard house ornament in a local craft shop for five dollars. The model house with a little work and some basic painting will prove suitable for gaming in a wide range of periods. Although it is a bit big for 40mm figures it will work well with 54mm toy soldiers. I have, however simply added it to my stash of gaming stuff for the time being.

I will continue to stockpile casting and gaming stuff when the opportunity presents itself. Hopefully sometime soon I will return to painting and gaming with renewed enthusiasm. In the meantime my new home and the garden demand my full attention.

 

Advertisements

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.

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.

 

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.

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

garde-mobile-parade-front

garde-mobile-march-past

garde-mobile-parade-rear

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.

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.

world-uniforms-and-battles

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.

military-uniforms19th-century

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.

waterloo

“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.

napoleonic-infantry

napoleonic-cavalry

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.

generals

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.

pirates

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.