Brushing up!

It has been quite a few years since I bought any new brushes. Indeed, the last time I bought one was about 10 years ago. However, I did receive one as a gift around six years ago. The remainder of my brushes were acquired somewhere between 20 and 30 odd years ago. I tend to keep my brushes in action long after most people would consider them unfit for service.

So when I was out and about today, I went into an art supply shop to buy new brushes as an unusual treat. I came away with an Art Basics no. 4 imitation sable filbert and a Rekab no. 0 sable-ester and a bottle of Chroma brush cleaner to try and rejuvenate my old brushes.

‘Tis but a flesh wound!

During one of my late night trawls around Ebay I came across an unusual hit location die by Q-Workshop. I immediately recognized its value for role-playing and skirmish games and bought one. The 30mm D12 is for determining where on a character’s body wounds occur and when combined with a D6 or other die can indicate the severity of the wound, hence its usefulness in small scale actions.

Rapier Miniatures Reconnoitred

A couple of months ago, I put in a trial order with Rapier Miniatures for a sizeable sample from their Zulu War range. They turned up reasonably quickly despite the erratic postal service due to Covid.

Miniature goodness!

The service from Rapier Miniatures was first class and the figures arrived well packed. I am quite happy with them as they are crisp, well posed and detailed. They are just good, solid, dependable miniatures and, at around $2.30 a foot figure and $5.70 a mounted figure, they are very reasonably priced. A big plus is that they can be bought individually, but Rapier does also offer packs.

A few samples of Rapier Miniatures.

I bought more than enough miniatures for a British company/unit according to the “The Men Who Would Be Kings” rules. I ordered 12 advancing privates, a bugler, an officer on foot and one mounted, and a small dog. Sadly, I still have yet to decide how to go about painting them and the other items I have in hand. Making that decision is the most difficult part of actually applying the brush and paint to them.

Zulu War British.


Over the past couple of months I have actually done some hobby related stuff. Indeed I even played a wargame when John came over one Saturday afternoon.  We got the paper colonials out and fought a co-operative battle using “The Men Who Would Be Kings” rules against the dice driven A.I., Mr Babbage. John and I commanded the British in a hard fought engagement against “Mr. Babbage’s” Mahdists (sadly no photos). After a near run thing, the British were victorious.

I finally took the time to assemble the paint stand I bought a couple of months back and the two Plast Craft Games kits that I stashed away a few years ago. The Mig Jimenez Ammo “Mini Workbench Organizer” went together easily with just a few dabs of white glue. It is quite a dinky little set up, although I am yet to make any use of it.

Miniature paint rack.

I also retrieved the sci-fi PlastCraft Games model building kits from storage and assembled them. The Consortium Trade Post and House Pod kits went together fairly simply with little wastage. Unfortunately the kits didn’t come with instructions and finding them online was somewhat problematic. Sadly the kits no longer seem to be in production but it may be possible to find some old stock online.

I have of course made some more new purchases but I am waiting for them to turn up in the post. It is anyone’s guess as to when they will turn up as the mail is quite slow and erratic these days.

A helmet, hunting and other oddities.

A whole season has passed since my last post and activity in the garden is naturally winding down; although there is always work to do.  The “reconquest” of the garden is virtually complete and only one small weedy spot remains to be conquered. The vegetable garden, where weeds once grew taller than my wife, again proved productive and largely fed us over the summer. My lovely wife has more than once pointed out that many of the skills involved in managing a garden are equally applicable to the playing of battle games. So I don’t feel guilty about not really doing anything related to toy soldiers and battle games. However, we have been playing some Dungeons & Dragons with friends. My gorgeous wife had not played D&D before, despite having played some other role playing games, and so wanted to experience it.

I have been given and acquired a few things in the months since my last post. Christmas proved particularly bountiful as John gave me some more splendidly painted toy soldiers of British camelry in the Sudan. He also passed on to me bunch of Wargames Factory plastic sprues of married and unmarried Zulus. I think there are enough for a couple regiments of each. I also received a few Zulu characters by Warlord and Redoubt, including one superb mounted Induna, and a small unit of dismounted Natal Mounted Police / Carbineers by Foundry for the colonial forces. As yet I’ve done nothing with them as I am still looking at what ranges of figures and manufacturers I can use to expand them into viable fighting forces. At the moment Rapier is in the lead as they are inexpensive and can be bought individually (I detest buying figures in variety blister packs). I also haven’t decided how to tackle painting and basing the figures.

Still in search of the Mahdi.

The preceding months have also seen me build a new stock of hobby paints, something that has not happened for all most fifteen years. I was so sufficiently impressed by the Citadel contrast paints my darling wife gave me back in September of last year that I slowly acquired all the colours that I felt would be most useful. I suppose it demonstrates that there is at least the intention to do something. As my “paint table” is not permanent (it also is used for many other purposes), and measures a measly 34 cm X 53 cm, I bought a Mig Jimenez Ammo “Mini Workbench Organizer”. I hope that will at least allow me to keep the stuff I am using to hand. The whole having to find everything you want, get it out and set up is a major disincentive to do any painting.

My grandest acquisition, a present to myself, was a combat ready helmet to add to my small armoury. It is practical piece of armour in the Late Roman style with brass decorative florets. I will need to either buy or make a helmet stand so I can display it properly. Alternatively, perhaps in the distant future I could acquire an armour stand. 

I am still working through all the colonial books I bought last year. I read in fits and starts but that doesn’t deter me from buying more books. Consequently, I have added “The Indian Army” by Boris Mollo to the colonial pile. Mind you, I also have piles of other books to read on subjects from gardening to blacksmithing and swordsmanship.

As a break from colonial wars I also bought and read “Dinosaur Hunter”. I’ve long wanted to do a “dino hunt” scenario and some time ago started to do a paint conversion of a 40mm home cast figure into a big game hunter but sadly didn’t get very far. I saw the book when it was first released by Osprey six or so years ago and intended to buy it then but promptly forgot about it until recently.

“Dinosaur Hunter” is set in alternative present where time travel is possible and affords the very rich the opportunity to hunt dinosaurs located in game reserves throughout the Mesozoic. It is set out as a guide for prospective hunters and outlines the type of animals, both big and small, likely to be encountered and the environments they inhabit. “Dinosaur Hunter” then offers stories of a number of hunts, most of which do not end well for the hunters, as a demonstration of the dangers of hunting dinosaurs.  The book is liberally illustrated with fine line drawings of the various “beasties”. It is inspirational source material for all those game scenarios involving dinosaur hunts and an entertaining read. So it may well be time to finish my own big game hunter.

Colonial Piles

Colonial piles is not some affliction that one suffers in a far flung tropical outpost of the empire but rather an assortment of second hand books I have rapidly acquired over the past month or so.  It all started with me innocently watching my worn old copy of the movie “Zulu Dawn” and idly pondering the recently reinvigorated Jacklex range of colonials on their new website. That prompted my interest and led to me buying a couple of books on the Zulu War and then everything just snowballed from there.

Colonial Pile No. 1
Colonial Pile No. 2

As an odd bit of synchronicity, the shiny British Camel Corp chaps on the mountain of books (presumably seeking the hordes of the Mahdi), were a gift from John during a visit for an enjoyable meal. The figures are 54mm Armies in Plastic toy soldiers that John had splendidly painted. We also had a fun colonial game utilising some old paper flats and a colonial variant of the One Hour Wargames rules. It was the first outing for the paper flats for about 12 years, since the last time I was last bitten by the colonial bug.

Splendid chaps bound for Khartoum.

The bulk of the books are on the Zulu War, that being what originally pulled me down the rabbit hole. It has long been of interest to me, mostly because there are two great films set during it and I had a copy of Cy Endfield’s book “Zulu Dawn” in my formative years. The Sudan Wars also constitute a good proportion of the books; while the North West Frontier is in a very poor third place (I will try and remedy that). Of course there are plenty of other colonial campaigns that are of interest but I will have to stop somewhere. However, I now have plenty of reading material to entertain me over the summer days and provoke dreams of colonial adventures!

The start of a new pile!

A Napoleonic Trio.

My book collection on the Napoleonic Wars increased over the past few months with a trio of vintage books. A lucky buy on EBay netted me the oft coveted Airfix magazine guide no. 4 “Napoleonic Wargaming” by Bruce Quarrie. I was able to acquire this splendid little book for a pittance, instead of the usual extraordinary prices it commands. “Napoleonic Wargaming” was published in 1974 and while I was aware of it the time, I simply didn’t have access to it.  The book is something of a time capsule in regard to wargaming the Napoleonic Wars in the mid 1970’s.

“Napoleonic Wargaming” covers everything from Napoleonic organisation and battle, strategy and tactics, and running wargames campaigns.  The guide is lavishly illustrated with diagrams and black and white photos of games and miniatures.  Also crammed into its 64 pages is a fairly detailed set of playing rules, complete with the mind boggling tables and charts beloved of rule rules writers in the mid-seventies to eighties. The most notable feature of the rules is the use of national characteristics to define how the troops of different armies manoeuvre and behave in combat. This was somewhat controversial at the time and prompted many letters arguing for and against in “Battle for Wargamers” magazine. Some 46 years later, Airfix magazine guide no. 4 “Napoleonic Wargaming” is a fascinating journey into the history of wargaming.

“Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars in Colour 1796 – 1814” by Jack Cassin-Scott, with text by Philip Haythornethwaite (published in 1973), was bought as it was surprisingly absent from my collection of uniform guides. I had the others in series but previously had only borrowed “Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars” from the public library. I felt it was time to remedy that omission. The book, like others in the series is full of lovely colour plates featuring soldiers of the period in various uniforms, with potted information about them. It is a very useful ready reference for uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars and a fun way to spend some idle time just looking at the colour plates.

Last, but by no means least, is a book that lodged itself in memory some forty-odd years ago. It took some hunting but I eventually found a copy of Osprey Wargames 2   “The Campaign of Leipzig 1813” by Jeff Parker and Peter Gilder. The book was as the blurb said, “Written and illustrated by wargamers for wargamers”. It is in the usual Osprey “Men at Arms” format and covers the armies and manoeuvres of the campaign leading up to, and including, the battle of Leipzig. The text is illustrated and supported by line drawings, maps, and 7 colour plates.

It was during one of the family “day trips” to Launceston, a few hours travelling distance from home, that I first encountered this book as a youngster.  The year was 1979, when the book was newly published, and I found it in a bookshop (long gone) on the Quadrant Mall. Having discovered the book on the shelf, I spent quite some time leafing through its pages and gazing in wonder at the colour plates before the family moved on to the next shop of our trip. I was very taken with the book at the time but didn’t purchase it. I certainly would have had the means, having saved my pocket money. However, I was undoubtedly saving my coin for spending in Birchalls (also now closed), which was for me the most wonderful shop of all, with its boxes of Britains Deetail toy soldiers and seemingly endless variety of model kits.

But I digress, the plates that fascinated me so much at the time and lodged themselves in my memory for decades were scenes of Leipzig played out as a wargame using the talented Peter Gilder’s beautifully painted figures and amazing terrain. “The Campaign of Leipzig 1813” certainly provoked a sense of wonder all those years ago and still has that power, even for a somewhat older, jaded, me.


Over the past couple of months I have acquired more vintage “Battle for Wargamers” magazines from random years.  I find these old magazines fascinating as they present lots of well written, informative articles on a wide range of topics from uniforms to scenarios for games. The old advertisements for wargaming miniatures and the like are quite interesting to see. The letters to the editor are also highly entertaining reads. Not bad for magazines that are more than forty years old.

My lovely wife on a recent visit to a games shop decided to buy me a couple of pots of the “newish” Citadel Contrast Paints to see if it would encourage me to paint some miniatures again.  I ended up with Black Templar and Apothecary White. I did daub some paint on a couple of old figures as an experiment and found the black worked better than the white. The contrast paints certainly appeared to do what various reviewers have said and I can see they could be quite useful depending on what your painting goal is.

Contrast paints will surely allow miniatures to be painted quickly to an ok standard but if you want anything fancy then they will require overpainting and proper highlighting. However that can be said about any medium and method. It is reasonably easy to replicate contrast paints using various concoctions but there is a lot to recommend the convenience and consistency of it coming straight out of a pot.

The Art of Warfare on Land.

Continuing my quest for wargaming books that influenced my early ideas of wargaming and military history, I recently bought a copy of the late David Chandler’s massive “The Art of Warfare on Land”.  Chandler doesn’t need an introduction to anyone with an interest in military history and his book on land warfare is still one of the best general introductions to the subject, despite being originally published in 1974. If you want to know what a double envelopment is or analyse and learn about the other manoeuvres used by great generals throughout history, then this is the book to read.

“The Art of Warfare on Land” by David Chandler.

However my motivation for buying this book was its impact on my formative years. As a youngster I repeatedly borrowed it from the local library and read it to learn how the great generals of the past from Hannibal to Zhukov out manoeuvred their opponents. The other attraction was all the copious colour and black and white pictures.

Among the featured illustrations, there are three sets of photos that particularly inspired my young mind. The images, including double page spreads, illustrated the battles of Daras, Waterloo and Gettysburg, played out as wargames with commentary. The photos that most captured my imagination were of Byzantines, commanded by Belisarius, fighting the Sassanid Persians at Daras in 530 AD

The battle of Daras.

The consolation of books and a garden.

Cicero said “If you have a library and a garden, you have everything you need”.  While I am not that certain a library and a garden will provide you with everything you need, they are certainly a source of some consolation when dark times arise. I, however, cannot claim to own a library but certainly do have more than a few books and a reasonably sized garden.

In the past few years I have engaged less with toy soldiers and battle games as I realised that I wasn’t getting the enjoyment I used to and found the modern requirements for a “good” miniatures wargame too onerous. Consequently, I have channelled most of my available resources and efforts into gardening, which I have found, for the time being, to be more worthwhile. My lovely wife has also taken up gardening as we have discovered it gives us something to focus on and to gain a measure of solace after so much death.  Indeed, as my wife has pointed out to me, gardening uses many of the skills required of wargaming, strategy and tactics.

I haven’t completely abandoned the world of miniature warfare but my efforts are mostly, though not entirely, confined to reading blogs and books about it. I am admittedly more interested in the earlier years of the hobby and the books and miniatures that have meaning to me than I am in chasing after the latest and greatest new releases. Consequently over the past months I have added a number of old hobby related books to my collection.

PSL Guide

The “PSL Guide to Wargaming”, compiled and edited by Bruce Quarrie (as it says on the cover) is one of those books that captured my imagination long ago. It was a book I didn’t own but borrowed regularly from the public library and I have fond memories of reading it on the backseat of my father’s car while on family country drives. It does provide a good outline of the various periods from ancients to WW2 and presents rules to game each era with.

Ancient Wargaming

Battle Jan 1977     Battle Nov 1977

The AIRFIX magazine guide No.9 “Ancient Wargaming” by Phil Barker was a book I didn’t have access to but was aware of during my formative years. So it gave me great pleasure to acquire my own copy for little outlay. The book is often referred to as the “purple primer” and it can certainly still fill the role as an introduction to ancient wargaming. At about the same time I purchased “Ancient Wargaming”, I was able to buy “Battle” magazine for January and November 1977 (The finger, in the photo, performing the war gamer’s point belongs to my gorgeous wife). Both magazines were delightful reads.

Discovering Wargames     Wargaming 18th Century

I received “Discovering Wargames” by John Tunstill and Stuart Asquith’s “Wargaming 18th Century Battles” as gifts. “Discovering Wargames” is fascinating little book that develops a “scientific” approach to wargaming and also provides a general introduction. “Wargaming 18th Century Battles” does as the name suggests and outlines a number of battles of the period and how they can be gamed. The rules for marlburian warfare are a very useful inclusion.

Nash Wargames

The Hamlyn all-colour paperback “Wargames” by David Nash is a beautifully illustrated book that discusses the history of wargaming, and basic and advanced wargames. It then further discusses the Napoleonic and American Civil Wars and WW2 in reasonable detail considering the small size of the book.


“Wellington The years of the Sword” by Elizabeth Longford was a discovery at a local Op-shop and cost me the princely sum of three dollars. It is a detailed biography of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, and his military career to the end of the Hundred Days Campaign and Waterloo. It is a mighty tome that will take me a while to get through at the glacial speed I read these days. There is, apparently a second volume that presumably covers his political career but I am not likely to go out of my way to get it.

Arms and Armour

The “How and Why Wonder Book of Arms and Armour” was another op-shop find. I had this book as a child and read it constantly until it fell apart, so seeing it again brought back a wave of childhood memories. I really bought it only for the wonderful illustrations. Two particular images from this book stayed in my memory all through the years. The first was of a Byzantine cavalryman from the time of Belisarius and the Emperor Justinian. The second was of fanciful Arthurian British.

Byzantine Cavalry     Arthurian Cavalry

So plenty of reading material, some of which I have read in full and others that I am still working through. Of course there are even more books on the way, as I still don’t yet have a library full!