A Gentleman’s War goes to New Jersey


Matt Rector and I ran a large, well-received game at NJCon yesterday. I won’t give you a blow by blow account, except to say that at two hours the French had won, at two and a half suddenly they had not, and at three, finally, they had. Don’t assume that because you have units across a bridge, the bridge is yours!

The French form up to attack.

The British do the same, with cavalry on their left.

And then they went at it!


Terrain WIP(s): Part 1

Two or three years ago I bought a couple of plywood boxes, about three feet by two, with three inch walls. These were someone’s abandoned project – no idea what – and I got them for a nominal price at a flea market. And then I couldn’t decide what to do with them. Then I had an idea. One would be a Chinese garden, the other a creepy cemetery (although it might double as part two of the Chinese set up).

First I  drew basic plans, then cut up a thin layer of foam, and a thicker , one inch (pink) piece. The river sections join between the two models, through an imaginary tunnel.

I merged the layers of terrain, then washed it over with a thin coat of Durham’s Water Putty, a durable plaster.


Slightly out of sequence here, a base coat of brown paint for the land, blue and green for the water.


Back a bit, we paint the rockwork.

And then we start on the walls, using Hirst Arts moulds to look like Old ruined stonework.  But we’ll get to that as we go along.

‘A Gentleman’s War’ available now

AGW March 17 20

I’ve been telling you, possibly incessantly, for ages about our shiny toy soldier rules, ‘A Gentleman’s War’.

A few years ago my regular gaming partner, Dan Foley, bought some 42mm toy soldier castings from the UK and painted them in bright, glossy, traditional style. I had previously had a dalliance with painting 54mm recast Britain’s figures a decade or so before, enjoying the simplicity and freedom of painting figures that didn’t demand complex shading and lining. But I wasn’t about to start a new scale, a new project – – –

So I painted some buildings for Dan, because that’s not actually starting a project, is it? And then I got some ‘free money’ from the French edition of one of my novels, and, well, after due consultation with my wife (after she’d just spent $200 on hobby stuff in my presence – cunning, huh?) it was decided that orders should be sent for what I thought would be almost everything I needed for French and British armies circa 1900, and that’s how it started for me.

Thus having acquired the correct figures (by virtue of Dan sending money to Peter Johnstone at Spencer Smith, and Ian Kay at Irregular) we tried Neil Thomas’ One Hour Wargames, which are likeable but – we thought – too abstract for toy soldiers. They ought to shoot and fight as individual figures. We tried Ross MacFarlane’s ‘With McDuff to the Frontier’, but the version we had seemed to be a mix of several incarnations, occasionally contradicting one another (as rules generally do, if you read them from first draft to finished). So we just stole stuff from both, added some Larry Brom, and made up the rest. That’s how we professional rules designers do things, you know – – –

We kept things simple, as far as possible, and ‘true’ to an ethos of brave lead men and slightly dubious (but always patriotic!) nineteenth century history, rather than the sort of painstaking analysis that has no place here. Where the rules don’t cover an issue that comes up in a game, we implore players to make something up in the spirit of the game, to avoid quarrelling, and to roll a die each―highest wins―if something seems intractable. You aren’t creating a legal precedent, you are just moving the game along.

Here’s the very start of the rules, to get into the spirit of the thing:

“A Gentleman’s War is intended as a simple game involving toy soldiers of the classic style. It isn’t intended to be ‘realistic’ in any sense. Rather, it’s the friendly collaboration of two wargamers of mature years, with getting on for a century of playing with small but lethal figurines between them. It is a relaxed and relaxing game, where enough depends on the turn of a card and the roll of a handful of dice to say that our disasters are pure chance, but enough cunning decision-making to claim our victories as acts of brilliant generalship.

“There are lots of six-sided dice, saving rolls, distances in inches, and a general sense that there ought to be salmon-and-cucumber sandwiches and tea (or beer; Dan’s family owns a beer store, and I salute him for it).

“You are allowed―nay, encouraged―to alter rules as appropriate if playing in other time periods. Indeed, there are many areas where the players are expected to work out a polite and civilized solution to a question. We’re not barbarians.

“Our models are very brave, obedient, and generally do what we want them to. They fall over when ‘killed’. Players are expected to behave in a friendly manner, and conduct themselves as gentlemen (or ladies, as appropriate).

“There are no rules for ground or time scales. We’re past that.”

More in the none too distant future.blog image2

Buy the rules and cards here:


or here:


Among other places —



Games Wot I Didn’t Mention



Our small but perfectly formed group meets most weeks, either at one of our homes or at Toy Wiz, the game store in Nanuet. This is the scene of a Rebel victory, using Dan’s 15mm figures he painted during the 1992 Olympics. Dan and Matt look assured of victory.

This is an affair in the American Revolution, won by the redcoats in a fierce struggle that only just went their way.

Here, for a change, is a Sci Fi squabble using my never quite finished Alien War rules.

It’s like a Kung Fu movie!

I had no plans beyond something small to play on my kitchen table. I’d been collecting Chinese temples, as one does, so I thought we’d try some criminal activity in the mysterious East, with a sorcerer hiring bandits to steal an amulet from some peaceful monks.

So, that was me, and Dan the evil mage and his minions.

Who behave badly, but not that effectively, being bandits. Still, the monks were outnumbered.


The sorcerer sent in his daughter, a swordmistress, who did some efficient slicing and dicing.

Meanwhile the sorcerer and his other daughter wire-fu’d their way to the highest of the four pavilions, pursued by the master of the monastery – –

C45F7A6E-3DA2-401A-9C2E-E0838573AF44Which makes for a great cliffhanger. Because I have no photos of what happened next.

‘A Gentleman’s War’ at Cold Wars


It’s been a couple of weeks, and I still haven’t written this up. At Cold Wars I put on a ten player game of A Gentleman’s War, set in the late American Disturbances, using the now famous comic book flat armies. It was based on no actual battle or OB, but featured far too much cavalry and too many native warriors,  cardboard building from the 70s, flat wooden trees and an absurd Kelly green cloth.

The players were broken up into pairs, five Redcoats and five Rebels, each pair sharing a deck of cards for activation. It doesn’t matter where other players are in their own turn sequence as long as the two matched players follow the fall of cards in their own deck. A couple of times in this game, one player found himself under attack by not merely his direct opponent, but the player next to him.

The British player in the centre rashly attacked at what must be regarded as uphill odds, which meant that, after this early failure, he spent the rest of the game desperately fending off an overwhelming number of irate colonial fellows. The Hessians to his right, despite gallant efforts, failed to clear away the American left flank, and mostly seem to have decided to desert in favour of farming in Pennsylvania.

On the far flank everything went very well for the forces of the Crown, the Americans falling back outnumbered. Gallant cavalry charged in ways that would surprise a student of the campaign.

After a couple of hours of conflict, it was clear that each side had won on one flank. A sudden rainstorm, courtesy of a random ‘What Luck’ card, was taken as reason to call the game, both sides write home of their great victory.

Few  of the players had payed AGW before, but all seemed to pick it up quickly — it’s fast and simple — and the multiple decks of cards meant the whole thing moved along at a fast clip.

I think everyone enjoyed it, which is all I can hope for.

you can get paperback copies of the rules at


while a pdf version, and the cards, can be found here: