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.

A Gentleman’s War Approacheth

We are getting very close to releasing ‘A Gentleman’s War’ as a set of hardcopy rules and a pdf. Right now Roderick is adjusting photos on the layout, and then we’ll be ready to go. This is a game for gentlemanly gamers, not too long in play, not too complicated, not too abstract. It’s a toy soldier game.



It’s a deliberately old school game, using a standard card deck, handfuls (although not buckets) of dice, saving throws and removing casualties one by one. That said, we’ve avoided the mathiness of actual 1960s and earlier rules, because  we didn’t come here to play arithmetic.

Everyone is very brave. You don’t take a morale test to charge, because we encourage that sort of thing. And a unit ignores casualties until it’s taken one third casualties, and then one half.


You can play with any figures, really, but the mood is set for very traditional figures. Ours are 40-42mm shiny toy soldiers for the Victorian era, but my AWI collection is plastic flats in around 30mm.

I will keep you posted!


Multitudinous and Various


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I’ve been woefully neglectful in updating this blog lately, so here’s a photographic tour of games I’ve played in the last few weeks.

So, first off, some pics of last week’s game at Toy Wiz, largely to try out a melee system I’ve been playing with, based on the one in Flint and Feather, but fantasy, so more geared to heroes who slay minion after minion. Mostly they didn’t, though, because Matt Thorenz managed to roll astonishingly bad dice. Come on, when you have a 7-1 advantage, a draw isn’t a good result.

Next up, for the previous week, is more or less the same set up, but infested with cats. Maisie on the left, Eliza on the right, plus part of Elmore.

And, last up for now, is an American Revolution battle using my comic book flats armies and the AWI variant on A Gentleman’s War. A tied battle, but a good one. My artillery hit nothing at all for several turns, but made up for it when, in time of crisis, it inflicted five or six casualties on the approaching Green Mountain Boys, who then failed morale badly and ran away when, frankly, I could have been in trouble. A lot of trouble.



Stony Point Battlefield


I visited Stony Point the weekend before it closed for the season. Lovely autumn weather and leaves. But, mostly, I came for the argument that happened in 1779. It was in all the papers.

Tents and camp equipment. There was a re-enactment scheduled for the following day.

Dioramas, very small scale. I’d have upped the green, less brown, and gone wild with the Woodland Scenics,  it that’s just me.


A map, based on a period map, but legible. That’s helpful.

It would be wrong not to have photos of weapons. They take away your wargamer’s licence.

And, of course, ee, it’s nice outside. The Hudson Valley at its best.


Fort Montgomery

I decided that, as October ends and the museums close for the winter season soon, I’d visit the local American Revolution sites. I started with Ft. Montgomery, on the Hudson just north of Bear Mountain. It was built by the Americans to cover the Hudson passage, but was assaulted and captured in October 1777. However, the surrender at Saratoga caused the garrison to withdraw to New York.


it has a very nice small museum, with some good uniformed mannequins and dioramas. There’s a short film, with cheesy dialogue but excellent work by re-enactors.


My favourite display is what I believe to be Keith Richard and Brian Jones in some sort of psychedelic photo shoot.


I find this British Sergeant to be, well, creepy. He is not allowed within 200 yards of a playground.


I didn’t wander the actual works on this trip, preferring to watch a very good display of musket drill put on for a high school field trip, then talked with the two interpreters until I had to go.