Saturday, December 22, 2012

My Box of Britians


I have a box of old Britains that have been with me for the past 11 years. I got them from my former girlfriend's father for Christmas and they are still with me even though the girl is not (she ran off with an Italian chef....but I think I may have got the better deal ;)!). Her father was a collector of toy soldiers and some of his collection wound up in the huge collection of Malcom Forbes, so he was a pretty serious collector at that. I managed to get some single figures and a partial "Queens Coronation set" one Christmas from him that are really nice even if a little less than pristine collector quality. As a gamer, I always have a bit of a "beef" against the high prices that those figures are bringing these days.

As I currently struggle with my pencil, pad and calculator to figure out how to make two "Little Wars" armies of the new Spencer Smith Little Britons happen here at the Lead Gardens, I took a few of these old figures out of the box for a bit of inspiration.
A Bengal lancer, of my favorites!
If you look close you can see Her Majesty herself.

...after many years of service, this fellow is in need of some rest...perhaps in a nice RTV rubber mold
This fellow in the pic is an old Britians that I found at a flea market almost 20 years ago with a few guardsmen in home service uniform. I think his is a pretty old vintage as the oval bases I think are pre 1940s.

I always loved this figure because of the stalwart pose and simple lines of the sculpting. I think the figure was repainted by a prior owner. I was thinking about this guy and wondering if I might try to make a rubber mold and try to recast a unit of these. These may be a bit hard to cast at home without a spin casting set up so I'm going to have to do some research to see if is at all possible. I think the horsemen would be difficult as I think they would require a three part mold.

All the figures in pretty tattered shape but they have stayed with me because I don't have the heart to sell them on ebay (even though I would probably sell them if I ever got an offer...)

I'm hoping all of my readers have a peaceful and fun holiday season. I'm splitting time shopping with my wife/taking care of kids with some progress gaming and also making some organizational changes in my gaming space to make the gaming a little more pleasurable and less disrupting to the household.

It seems this time of year is really a time for reflection and remembering the good stuff.
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Musketeers!

 Just finished a new company of 40mm Prince August Homecast...these fellows will do service as a unit of my Imaginations. I'm gradually scaling up my Imaginations collection to 40/42mm to fit in with my French and British so I'm taking my already named units and imaginary history and up-scaling them for my home-casting project.
finished unit with the miscast muskets ready for repair...
These castings are from the newest PA molds that came out last November. As always the PA casting is pretty easy except for some musket barrels that did not cast to the right length. So I used my flat toothpick fix that works really well for most PA musket sword casting repairs. It works as well as the round toothpick solution for wagon/gun wheels.
 I also did a few minor head modifications to get better three dimensionality and some more extensive mods to make a standing flag bearer...but the PA figures (particularly the artillery castings) do well as a base for unusual conversions.

The toothpick fix...super glue works as both the adhesive and as a way to seal the wooden toothpicks.

All painted up, the toothpicks are pretty convincing!

And as a unit, the fix is almost undetectable!

Ready for the field!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Odd Idea

 I was reading the classic "Little Wars" a few nights ago (something I do from time to time to get re-inspired), and an idea was rekindled in my head regarding how to make woods on the gaming surface. H.G. Wells had a set of large rectangles of wood planks that, when stacked, served as hills. Though it's not mentioned in the text (but outlined in some detail in his "Floor Games"), his approach to making woods involved having the hill boards drilled in a grid to take short branch cuttings from actual trees to make his wooded areas. You can just make out the grid of holes in the pictures in "Little Wars". I've always wanted to give that idea a try but never had the wherewithal to tackle it given that it seemed like a bit more than was necessary to produce woods. But the idea still hung around my thinking and finally ran into an opportunity to give it a this is an odd idea for sure as it involves "damaging" a game I own...but I still thought it had good possibilities so I decided to give it a try.
A Reb unit assaults a wood defended by Union infantry and a battery of artillery. (The game board is a bit shiny and I was thinking a quick coat of matte spray might make the whole look of the game a bit more like a tabletop wargame rather than a boardgame.
Basically I took the idea of drilling the game surface to accept trees to one of my "Battle Cry" game boards to try a way of producing wooded hexes without having to use the flat tiles included in the game.

The result is kind of cool, but perhaps a bit "out there" if one wants ever to resell the game. And maybe just a bit too "fiddly"....I just drilled each hex vertices using a small bit (1/16") and sized to take the trunks of some nice little wire trees I got on sale at my local hobby shop. I forget the manufacturer of the trees but they are simple twisted wire trees with some clump foliage glued on. But when you stick them into the board surface it gives a fairly good alternative to the woods tiles. (I think this idea would work even better if you laid the gameboard on a piece of blue styrofoam insulation so the trees would hold better in the surface.

I'm still not completely sold on this idea. I just drilled a corner of one of the two Battle Cry boards I own just to experiment with it. I have to give it a few days to see if I really want to drill all of my boards this way. it just seemed to me that if I was painting the figures I should do a little more with the terrain. It kind of warps the boardgame idea...but the effect is pretty good.

I also want to do the full treatment of this idea for my 40mm homecast horse and musket stuff by doing up some layers of boards drilled to H.G. Wells specs. (...and not to mention the new Spencer Smith 42mm 'Little Britons" has got me on full alert... with calculator in hand trying to work out how to afford a classic set of "Little Wars" toys soldiers! (Many thanks to Ross for the link!)

Nothing like some experiments to get the gaming juices flowing!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


 This week has been very productive here at the Lead gardens both because I am approaching the end of the teaching term and have a bit more time and because of the trip my wife and oldest son took to New York this past few days has given me the run of the house with my youngest daughter who is pretty easy to take care of. I managed to get some pre-dreadnoughts built and painted and had a few fun games to get me into the "holiday mood".  This afternoon I made good progress on painting up the Union figures for my Battle Cry game. Late today I was ruminating on the "Memoir of War at Sea" rules and had an, "oh wait, I have something that will work for this!" moment. So I went out to the garage (where my "gaming stuff" is stored) and I unearthed a box of 1/600 sailing ships that I had built more than 20 years ago when I was first living on my own after my first marriage went kaput. In those few months I spent in a sparse apartment without much in the way of furniture, and lots of time on my hands, I bought a bunch of Airfix 1/600 "Victory" and Heller 1/500 "Le Superb" plastic kits and set to building converting and scratchbuilding a small French and British fleet of sailing ships.
The original 1/600 Airfix kit
 I really got into it and the results were very satisfying even if I had no really good rules to use for solo gaming in the period.
This is the Heller 1/500 Le Superb unfortunately I think out of production, and I've got only four unbuilt kits left. The Victory is still available.
 I learned a lot about scratchbuilding back then and I still have a few kits left unbuilt. The scale is great for small actions.
 So I'm thinking a variant of the variant "Memoir of Battle at Sea: Age of Sail" is in order...and this afternoon I sat down with pencil and paper to do just that. As soon as I get a draft up I will post it and see what my readers think.
Some of the smaller ships were entirely scratchbuilt...and unfortunately are in need of some repair

 The scale of 1/600 is really beautiful for sailing ships and a good size if you want to do some basic rigging. The scale works also because ratlines can be simulated with a triangle of window screen cut to the proper size.
A big French three decker...the 120 gun "Orient"
 I tried to model each of these after a real ship and for this rule variant I thought a nice goal would be to make a simple game that still was able to account for different ship armaments. I've got some simple formulas cooked up based on the broadside weight to rate the ships for number of battle dice to roll and and the tonnage to give a damage value. Next I'm cooking up some sailing rules that will hopefully keep everything really simple  and in the spirit of Bob's variant on the M44 rules approach.
Some of the smaller ships are pretty damaged but I think in time I can bring them back to full glory! This is the British 44 gun frigate "Sprite"

The whole collection.
I'm pretty excited about this new direction, but of course, as always, the specter of being spread over too many projects looms on the horizon...but what the hell, I never let that stop me before!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Admiralty's Response

Two new British cruisers (small) are added to my British fleet
After the "world turned upsidedown" debacle on the high seas, the British Admiralty has ordered two new cruisers to be constructed to accompany the sister ship of the now sunken "London" to hunt down the Brandenburg and disable or sink her.

 Some pics of the finished cruisers and my attempt to make believable smoke using pins and cotton balls.

 ...And here they are in action in confined waters....made using new hex blocks I just got in the post to enhance my M44 and Battle Cry games from RDOXX Inc. They worked pretty well to make headlands at the mouth of an estuary that the British are attempting to leave while the Brandenburg lurks in the distance.

 It was interesting to see if the large ships could be played on a very small table ("30ish" inches diameter...small and simple is always my goal..)
 Again, these hexes are too small for the scale of the ships, but that will be remedied soon...but still it was an interesting action and the simplicity of the "Memoir of Battle at Sea" Rules made playing it solo easy even with my little ones clamoring for attention.
The hex blocks are exactly scaled to M44-C&C game hexes and are very nicely made and well worth the reasonable price... my hexes are just a bit bigger, hence the gaps.

The Brandenburg barely skirts the headlands to make her escape

This time the battle was a draw with the Brandenburg escaping after heavily damaging a cruiser and the battleship and taking heavy damage herself, so the British commander decided to break off  try again another day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Encounter on the High Seas

HMS London and SMS Brandenburg closing range.
 The newspapers are unclear as to why this incident occurred, but word from the admiralty has it that German ambitions in East Africa were in need of a stout pounding!
An early critical hit slows the Brandenburg but she still packs a dangerous punch
 I managed to get my first two pre dreadnoughts at this larger scale  painted up in late Victorian livery, and decided to give them a go with a single ship to ship action set up the hex board I made a week ago out of the back of a Christmas tree mat. The hexes are M44 sized and I plan to get/make a larger hex mat with 5" hexes soon but until then, I just assumed the ships were located in the bow hex and it all worked out pretty well.
The London changes course to close range and sustains a hit in her forward turret.

The "iron dice" are rolling hot for Brandenburg's gun crews and the London begins to take significant damage as the range closes.

at 4.000 yards both ships run parallel courses and trade pounding broadsides.

Both ships are approaching their "break off" point with the London taking another hit on her guns.

Final turn of the game finds the London battling a fire and attempting to escape, but the Brandenburg gets in a final broadside that completely disables the London and she starts to list and the captain reluctantly orders "abandon ship!"

"Londoners were shocked at the news in the morning papers..."-

I'm really enjoying Bob Cordery's "Memoir of Battle at Sea"...and the great potential for adding "chrome" to the basic rules. The ships painted up pretty well and look the part so I started a couple of British cruisers to beef up a retaliatory strike on those overly ambitious Germans!

And finally to the stout fellows who graciously honored me with a Liebster Award for my blog please know that it was really appreciated and I'm working on posting my favorite 10 blogs that I think are tops...(I know, not the exact rules of the game...but I follow and enjoy 160 blogs on a regular basis and I thought that it would be good to honor the top ten...maybe I'll do a "Lead Gardens Top Way Beyond Cool Gaming Bogs Award" ...suffice to say I'm compiling that list right this minute and hopefully will be my holiday "shout-out" to all my favorites who give me so much pleasure and inspiration...Thanks Everyone!