A Zulu War game and a South African feast

Searching through a bric-a-brac stall at the local market the other day, I found a couple of tattered old photos of soldiers and warriors in combat.

Looking more closely, these pictures seem to have been taken during an action of the Zulu War of 1879.

Well, actually, that’s all a lie! These are actually photos taken during a wargame a group of us here in Kāpiti, New Zealand, played last night.

Our game pitched Zulus against British, in a test run of Dan Mersey’s colonial skirmish wargaming rules The Men Who Would Be Kings.

Mine host was Herman van Kradenburg, whose collection includes a whole cupboard of figures depicting the wars of his former homeland, South Africa (like the rest of the pictures in this article, click on the photo for a closer look).

Our initial intention was to play the scenario where the British are trying to get a wagon train across the board. However, our memories had obviously failed us, as there is no such scenario in TMWWBK! So we changed to playing a simple meeting engagement, but left the wagons in place anyway. This was just a fun game after all.

The mass of figures that Herman produced from his magic cupboard looked absolutely spectacular on the table.

During the game Herman regaled us with his knowledge of the history of the Zulu War.

Particularly interesting was what he told us about and the different types of warriors and how they used their weapons.

The British also looked splendid in their scarlet coats and white tropical helmets.

The British weren’t all regular infantry, but also included these irregular allies wearing part African, part European clothing.

Right through the game this giraffe was quietly chewing on the leaves of an acacia tree, totally ignoring the tumult of human combat taking place around him.

Here are four of the happy wargamers – Scott Bowman (owner of probably the only pharmacy in the world that has a well-stocked wargaming department!), mine host Herman, fellow South African Rudolf Pretorius, and Ste Haran (like Scott, a British ex-pat).

The fifth happy wargamer was of course yours truly, seen here poring over the TMWWBK rules, whilst Scott considers his next move. [photo by Herman van Kradenburg]

Adding to the African flavour of the night, Herman cooked us a delicious pre-game meal of South African delicacies, including boerewors (sausage), chakalaka (spiced vegetables), samp (maize) and beans, pickled curried fish, bhajia (chilli bites), green fig preserves and home-made bread.

Our pre-game meal was so delicious, and the atmosphere so companionable, that our game started late and we didn’t have time to play to a full conclusion. But, hey, it isn’t about winning or losing – especially with such a wonderful night of feasting, fine figures, friends and fun!

WW2 French anti-tank gun and tractor

The latest additions to my WW2 colonial French army are the Canon de 47 mm Semi-Automatique Mle1937 and Laffly S20TL truck, both made by Warlord Games.

Before the development of the 47mm anti-tank gun, French artillery had used the venerable 75mm Mle1897 field gun in an anti-tank role. But they really needed a more specialised gun that would be ready to fire very quickly, with a good traverse to follow its targets, and that would also be small and lightweight enough to be hidden and moved easily by its crew.

The development of the 47mm anti-tank gun offered them all of these features. The traverse and elevation as well as the speed and precision at which the gun could be aimed were excellent. These features, combined with its outstanding accuracy, offered a gun able to engage and penetrate all German tanks at 1,000 meters.

The 47mm antitank gun was easier for the crew to move alone than a 75mm field gun, and was even able to fire from its towed/moving configuration.

The tow vehicle for my gun is the rather ugly Laffly S20TL (TL being short for “tracteur, châssis long”). This particular model of the Laffly truck was intended primarily to transport men of the light mechanised dragoon regiments. I would probably have been more correct to have a Laffly W15T, which was the low-profile version specially built for towing the 47mm anti-tank gun.

Laffly trucks were characterised by the excellent off-road capabilities and specific trench-crossing features provided by extra rollers at the front and underneath the chassis, uncommon for military vehicles at that time.

I have painted my models to represent (very loosely) the 1st Artillery Regiment of the Free French Army, who had seven 47mm anti-tank guns at the Battle of Bir Hakeim in May-June 1942. Unfortunately for me, the gunners supplied by Warlord Games for their 47mm anti-tank gun are in European theatre uniforms – but they will just have to suffice for now!

Info from:

Miniature miniatures – the American Civil War in 13.5mm

A recent issue of Wargames Illustrated came with a free sprue of Warlord Games’ new range of 13.5mm plastic American Civil War figures. I couldn’t resist painting them up as an experiment, as I had never before tried working with miniatures this small.

The free sprue contains 100 (yes, 100!) tiny infantry figures, a mounted officer and an artillery piece with four crew. The infantry come attached in ranks of ten.

I painted the figures with Games Workshop Contrast paints. This made the job pretty fast, as the shading and highlighting happens by itself. But the fine details were still a little finnicky at times. I also had to be careful that I painted the rear of each figure the same colour as the front!

Just to give you an impression if the diminutive size of these little figures, here they are posed alongside a base of 28mm Redoubt infantry.

After removing the supplied bases from the sprue, I textured them with sand and static grass. The flags came from an image I found on the web. The whole regiment looks splendid with all five bases lined up.

The artillery piece is quite cleverly designed. It consists of three pieces: the carriage complete with its barrel, and the two wheels, each with two figures attached.

Just for fun, I tried a little forced perspective. I photographed the line of Warlord figures butted up against some stands of 28mm Redoubt figures. Then I used my graphics program to merge the bases. The four-inches deep set-up now looks like a wide battlefield!

Overall, these are really nice little figures. Whilst I don’t think I will turn this into an actual project for myself, if you are after an army or two of some very nice 13.5mm figures, I believe this Warlord Games range will indeed do the job.

My latest article in Wargames Illustrated

I’ve been lucky enough to have another article published in ‘Wargames Illustrated’. I submitted a piece for their ‘Quick Fire’ series, and was chuffed to see it appear in Issue 397 (January 2021).

In the short article I describe how when photographing miniatures, there’s a real thrill when every now and then one of the pictures unexpectedly stands out from the rest.

The article is accompanied by some examples of what I call my ‘serendipitous photographs’ – pictures that I think came out particularly well, despite no extra effort on my part.

The limitations of a hard-copy magazine mean the published pictures are quite small. So, for anyone who may be interested, here they are full-size (click on the pics to expand).

I liked the way that the trees in my garden accidently came out looking like a castle on a hill overshadowing this unit of Landsknechts. (Warlord Games)

There’s more info on this unit in my old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/lockdown-landsknechts/

This is probably my favourite photo – a recreation of Philippoteaux’s famous painting of the Battle of Fontenoy. (Crann Tara and Minden Miniatures)

There’s more info on the original painting and my diorama version in this posting on my blog: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/01/31/at-last-my-favourite-painting-in-miniature/

British and French third-rate ships-of-the-line battle it out, as a Spanish brig circles warily. This photo was taken with a simple hand-painted sky background, and sitting on the paper sea that comes with the Warlord ‘Black Seas’ starter set. (Warlord Games)

You can find out more about these models in this old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/black-seas-fleets-finished/

A battalion of French light infantry marches forward in the moonlight. (Front Rank)

This is a really old picture. I recall I added in the ‘moon’ using a graphics programme, as the lighting of this photo came out by chance looking just like moonlight (well, I thought so anyway!).

There’s more info on this unit in this old posting: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/tartanish-and-thunderbirdish-napoleonics/

Māori warriors from the colonial New Zealand Wars perform a fierce haka (war-dance) in the face of the enemy. (Empress Miniatures)

There’s more info on this unit here: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/photos-of-finished-colonial-new-zealand-wars-figures-and-terrain/

A pre-war colonial French column of Panhard armoured cars arrives in an oasis village. (Mad Bob Miniatures)

Below is the same picture, but with some special effects to make it into an old-fashioned snapshot. 

You can read more about these models here: https://arteis.wordpress.com/2020/02/15/motorised-foreign-legion-security-patrol-in-1930s-morocco/

Lockdown landsknechts



This pike-block of German landsknechts will always remind me of the Covid-19 pandemic, as they were my main project during our lockdown. I’ve finished them in the nick of time, just as we drop to our single last active case of the virus remaining in New Zealand (touch wood!).


I didn’t use the plastic bases supplied in the Warlord box, as I thought the figures looked too widely spaced on them. So I made my own cardboard bases 30mm wide and 35mm deep. Each base carries three or four figures, and there are a couple of half-bases for the arquebusiers.

The bases are treated in my usual style, using coarse beach sand,and a mixture of various static grasses and tufts. This time I tried something new, adding some model railway lupins. I was pleased how they add some more interest to this already very colourful unit.


Here’s the middle rank of the pike-block so you can see the officer in full armour and the halberdier. It’s been really fun coming up with all these zany and different colour-schemes, too.

As mentioned in my previous postings during my painting progress, I have used GW Contrast paints and Army Painter Quickshade (strong). I have made absolutely no attempt myself at painting any shading or highlights on these figures – what you see here is how they turn out painted straight from the pot! I did make up a couple of new colours myself by adding a few drops of Vallejo paint to some Contract medium. 

I was particularly pleased with how the armour came out. It was simply painted silver, then washed with a mixture of black Contrast paint diluted with Contrast ink medium, and finally coated with gloss Quickshade. You can enlarge the picture for a closer look.


This side view shows the drummer and a couple of the flags. You’ll also see here how my smaller handmade bases make the pike-block look packed together.

temporarily placed the arquebusiers at the front in this photo. In fact, I have ordered a set of advancing pikemen, with which I can add another rank or two at the front of the pike-block if I want.


I didn’t have quite enough pikemen to fully populate the back rank. So you’ll see there are only three figures across. However, it still looks OK from behind, I think. And, again, all those wonderful colours!

The box only comes with one flag-bearer, so I converted a couple of the figures to take two more flags. The paper flags themselves came with the set. I’m not sure if these patterns would’ve all appeared in the same unit, but I can always easily replace them if necessary.

So there we have it: my first-ever Renaissance unit. Now I just have to steel myself to start all over again and paint another block of them – but let’s hope I don’t need another lockdown to get them done!

Liking and loving Landsknechts


Well, I think this might be becoming a period for me. In a previous posting I mentioned that I was painting a freebie sprue of plastic landsknechts that had come with Wargames Illustrated, just for a spot of fun.

However, I’ve become more and more entranced with them, bought a full box which I have started painting too, and now I have just put in an order for even more of them. So this is starting to look official now!


The fun part is dreaming up colourful schemes for each figure, the zanier the better. This does make it a slower job than mass-painting a regiment of uniformed Napoleonic troops. But it sure keeps the interest alive, with each figure being a one-off.

Someone did tell me I should replace Warlord’s lances with 8cm broom bristles, as they are too short and too ‘spear-pointed’. But I think it would be very difficult to cut the existing lances away from the arm holding them. And I’m not too worried about accuracy, to be honest. I know absolutely nothing about this period, so if these figures just have the right feel, that’s enough for me.

I’m using my new method of painting, consisting of GW Wraithbone spray undercoat, GW Contrast paints, Army Painter Quickshade, and then a final Vallejo matt undercoat over all non-metallic areas.


One thing I did wonder is if the guys wearing front-plates should also be painted with back-plates under their cross-straps, instead of the cloth undershirts I have given them? For example, see the chap in green-and-yellow second from the left (click on the image to have a closer look).

As for basing, rules and so on, I have no idea yet. This is a case of nice figures coming along well ahead of any thoughts as to what to do with them!

Anyway, if you like landsknechts, keep watching this space …

Wargaming Illustrated’s freebie sprues strike again!


Wargames Illustrated’s promotion of plastic kits by providing free sprues with their magazine really works. I can say this with some authority, because I myself have just been captured by this cunning ruse. As a direct result of painting up a set of freebies, I have now been enticed to buy a box of figures for a period I have never considered before! 

As I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts, I am kind of doodling with figure-painting at the moment, as I have no major projects on the go. Having painted every miscellaneous metal figure I have got on hand, my eye turned to the various plastic sprues lying around.


When I painted these Warlord Games German Landsknechts, it certainly wasn’t with any intention to take up this period, but purely for a spot of painting fun.

However, the resulting colourful figures are just so darned nice, I have now succumbed to ordering a whole box of them from my friend Scott at Kapiti Hobbies ( the coolest pharmacy in the world, selling wargaming supplies alongside dispensing medicines!).


So far I have left the figures with their coat of gloss Army Painter Quickshade varnish. But I will re-coat them with matt varnish. Though I must say I secretly quite like the jewel-like effect of gloss  on these colourful figures.

I know absolutely nothing about this period. I have no particular plan to use them for games. I just like these figures!

Doodling with miniatures during lockdown


As I near the bottom of my lead-mountain during the Covid lock-down, I have been doing the modelling equivalent of doodling. I’ve been filling time by painting miscellaneous miniatures that will serve absolutely no purpose at all in my wargaming armies.


My two latest figures have been a couple of freebies that came with my Black Powder rule books, depicting the characters on the front covers.


First up is a Scot serving in an 18th century British army.  I used GW Contrast paints entirely, with no additional shading or highlighting, other than that provided by a coating of Army Painter’s Quickshade pigmented varnish.


The other figure depicts another Scot, this time from the Crimean War. I don’t have any Crimean armies, so he will be my sole representative for that period!


Here they both are again. You can see that the GW Contrast paint gives some interesting variations of colour.

Overall, the effect is a wee bit impressionistic. For example, I only hinted at the tartan design. They won’t withstand the same close scrutiny that a carefully painted figure with lots of blending, shading and highlighting can. But they are very quick to paint (each figure took only about an hour) and will work well on the tabletop – if they had any comrades to be on the tabletop with, that is!

Captain Jack Aubrey and GW Contrast paints


When I bought Warlord Games boxed Black Seas set recently, it came with a free figure depicting none other than Captain Jack Aubrey, ostensibly from the Patrick O’Brian novels, but more specifically based on Russell Crowe’s portrayal in the movie ‘Master and Commander’.

One of my Napoleonic third-raters from Warlord Games

Whilst it is indeed an exquisite figure, the model is quite large, more like about 35mm. So it really doesn’t fit with any of my 28mm Royal Navy figures in my Napoleonic period armies.

However, with my lead mountain reduced to scraps during the Covid-19 lockdown, I decided to paint this figure for something to do. And what a pleasure it was!

I decided to restrict myself to Games Workshop Contrast paints, and they worked beautifully.  No part of this figure has been shaded or highlighted – what you see here is how the Contrast paints come straight from the bottle.

Actually, the model in real life looks even better than these pics (which in such extreme close-up show how I wasn’t quite painting inside the lines!).

But, as Aubrey himself would doubtless say about Contrast paints, ‘Quick’s the word and sharp’s the action!’


Black Seas fleets finished


A couple of postings ago I wrote that I was working on constructing, painting and rigging a couple of fleets of ships for Warlord’s Black Seas game. Well, they’re finished!

In the picture above you can see a French third-rate ship taking on a similar British vessel, whilst in the background a small Spanish brig scurries away.


My fleets consist of the three sizes of ship shown here, from the large third-rate at the back, to the frigate, and finally the small brig in the front.


This photo gives a good view of the rigging. It was a bit fiddly to do, but worth it for the overall effect. Note how scrunching up the paper flags makes them look realistic.


The French and British third-rates get to grips, whilst two brigs hover in the background.

The shrouds and ratlines for climbing the masts are clear plastic. Most of the time this looks fine, but occasionally they shine when the light hits them. I did try painting some of them with matt varnish, but they ended up cloudy – not recommended!


The sterns of the third-rate and the frigate are very ornate, and come up really well with a combination of dry-brushing and washes. The brig’s stern is more simple (I’ve just noticed that the join line is visible, and needs sanding off!).

For those who are interested, the water effect in the above photos is from the sea mat supplied in the Black Seas starter box. I painted the sky myself.