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!

My latest article in ‘Wargames Illustrated’

Check out the sixth item down on this list of contents for the forthcoming November issue of ‘Wargames Illustrated’.

Despite the cover illustration, my article has nothing to do with Judge Dredd. But it still fits within this issues’s theme of ‘fictional heroes’ … you’ll just have to wait and see!

I haven’t received my copy of the mag yet, so can’t wait to see what my article looks like finished!



‘The Men Who Would Be Kings’ colonial rules


I bought this set of colonial wargaming rules today from my mate Scott Bowman’s excellent Hobby Corner in his pharmacy at Paraparaumu Beach, New Zealand (probably the only pharmacy in the world that sells wargaming supplies for stress relief!).

My first reaction to the rules? Wow – I think this just might be the set of rules I have always been looking for!!! OK, this still has to be proven or disproved by an actual play-test. But from my first read-through, the design philosophy matches what I’ve always liked:

  • simple rules (which is my most important criteria)
  • elegant mechanisms that are intuitive rather than gamey
  • neither too few nor too many troops on the table
  • scenario-driven
  • a level of unpredictability
  • Hollywood rather than strictly historical
  • a sense of fun
  • an attractively illustrated and motivating book.

Plus I would have to say these are the most readable set of rules I have ever read. It has nice touches of period-appropriate humour dotted throughout – not too much, just enough to make it an entertaining read rather than a dry set of rules.

There’s a particularly clever device for solo-gaming, called ‘Playing Against Mr Babbage’. Apparently your regular gaming opponent, Mr Babbage, hasn’t been able to make it to the game tonight, but he has sent you a set of instructions to follow. It sounds sort of like playing against the AI in a computer game. Ingenious!

As for this set of rules’ appropriateness for my particular colonial gaming preference, the New Zealand Wars? Well, although Maori are mentioned a couple of times, and there is a lavish full-page picture of the NZ Wars, there aren’t any lists provided for this period. However, it should be dead easy to concoct some, so I think there is indeed real potential that these rules will suit well. Let’s wait and see till after I’ve had a chance to play a game or two.



Photo book on Dutch WW2 equipment

Holland Paraat

With the recent announcement of a new range of 28mm WW2 Dutch miniatures, I’m gathering together some research material for when I start painting. So I’ve ordered a copy of the book Holland Paraat – Equipment of the Dutch Army 1939-1940 by  by Jan Giesbers, Rob Tas and Antal Giesbers.

This A4-sized picture book describes the weapons, vehicles, and the organisational structure of the Dutch army during WW2.

The text, written in both Dutch and English, starts with a brief summary of the short-lasting fighting in 1940, and a brief overview of the Dutch army organisation.

The bulk of the book is made up of black-and-white photos, most very crisp and detailed, some large sized, and all printed on good quality paper. Most I had never seen before (though as this is a new subject to me, that might not be so unusual).


There are also a few full-colour pages with photos 0f reenactors, and some nicely-done illustrations of uniforms and vehicles (such as the DAF armoured car below).


Besides the many pics of normal weaponry, transport, armoured cars and artillery you’d expect to see in such a book, it also includes photos of some rather unusual and obscure subjects, such as an ice-cutting truck, cycling bands, searchlight lorries, and semaphore communications equipment. A classic is this photo of a motorcyclist sergeant timpanist!


This book has got me even more enthused about the forthcoming launch of the new range of May ’40 Miniatures. The latest pics on their site show the first pre-production castings from the sculpts by Michael Percy. Heads, arms and equipment will be added before the production figures are ready to be cast.



So why research and play a wargames army who effectively only took part in about five days during WW2? Well, remember that many Napoleonics players concentrate on armies that fought in the Waterloo campaign for even less days than that!

Reading this book and eventually painting these figures will also pay homage to my Dad, who served in the Dutch medical troops in WW2, and later in the Dutch East Indies, before meeting my Mum and emigrating to New Zealand.


See an ad here for purchasing this book in the UK for 24.99 pounds.

  • Publisher: Giesbers (2011)
  • ISBN-10: 9080933929
  • ISBN-13: 978-9080933927
  • Blurb: May 1940: The Dutch field army had to oppose a mighty enemy that was able to beat down the resistance of the Dutch army in five days. In this photo album we shed a light on the equipment with which the Dutch army went into battle – an amount of vehicles that comprised both kooky Dutch designs and foreign weaponry, whereby newly-acquired weapons were sent into battle alongside totally obsolete ones. The photos in this photo album therefore encompass a wider time frame than just the mobilisation and the battles of the May days in 1940, but in their totality give a good overview of the equipment with which the Dutch army confronted the German invader.

Napoleon’s dinosaur-mounted carabiniers?


Stumbled across this book in the Young Adults section of our the local library today.  Could be … interesting …

Can’t be any less intriguing than another book about Waterloo I recently got from the same library, The Sage of Waterloo, describing the famous battle from a rabbit’s point of view!

Anyway, I will report once I’ve read  Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo.

Sacré bleu, a horse-and-musket gamer goes WW2

Who would’ve thought it … me, wargaming WW2?! Why, I haven’t collected WW2 since I was a spotty teenager infuriating my club by building up a wildly inaccurate Dutch Marines army converted from plastic Airfix figures! Since then, I’ve been a died-in-the-wool ‘horse and musket’ wargamer, and wouldn’t touch any period with khaki uniforms.

But now something has grabbed me and is pulling me into this period, which I could never have imagined happening. Partly it was a WW2 history paperback I was given for my birthday by a relative who thought that because I was a wargamer, I must enjoy reading about WW2. I felt obliged to at least give it a few pages out of politeness, but much to my surprise I soon found I was totally engrossed in Max Hastings’ All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945.


That book alone, though, wouldn’t have been enough to pull me into wargaming WW2. The next drawcard was finding out that several fellow gamers were getting into the period with 28mm miniatures, using the Bolt Action rules from Warlord Games. I’d seen plenty of Flames of Wars games being played over the years. But 15mm fugures never really do it for me. The beauty of Bolt Action, however, was  not only that they were figures in a scale I liked, but also the entry-level armies in this skirmish game aren’t too big. So cost and painting time wouldn’t be too exorbitant.


Of course, having decided to make the jump into WW2, the next question was which army? That Dutch Marines army I had as a teenager denotes one of my gaming peculiarities – I always prefer going for something a bit esoteric whichever period I play, rather than the stock-standard big armies. So I certainly wouldn’t be doing British, German, American or Russian.


Dutch was always a possibility. After all, my father was in the Dutch army in Holland at the start of WW2. But there aren’t any good 28mm figures or vehicles available for this minor player … not yet, anyway. So Dutch has to go on hold till someone produces the figures. Hmm, what else then?


And then I saw one of the latest offerings from the Perry twins: a wonderfully eccentric Dodge ‘Tanake’ armoured truck used by both Vichy French and Free French Forces. And  I recalled that when reading Max Hastings’ book, I was surprised at the amount of fighting that took place between the Allies and the Vichy French in North Africa and the Middle East, something I never knew about. Zut alors, there was my army choice – French who could fight on either side!


Of course, having decided to collect French, who could resist going for the famous French Foreign Legion? There was even a personal factor in this choice, in that one of my car-pool buddies is a Kiwi ex-French Foreign Legionnaire (though of course he didn’t fight in WW2, unlike the chap portrayed below!).


I’ve decided to be a little ahistorical with collecting my French desert army. I don’t want to be bound by any specific year or theatre – if it fought for either French side at any point during the desert war, it’s game for my army!


I’ve started by ordering a few miniatures to make up a 1000-point Bolt Action force themed on a mobile column patrolling in the dessert. It’ll have a couple of sections of Legionnaires transported in two boxy Berliet VUDB armoured personnnel carriers. As described by Martin Windrow in Military Modelling March 1981 (see, saving old those old MM magazines from my teenage years has paid off!), the VUDB was ‘a four-wheel drive car bearing a strong resemblance to a hearse … guns could be mounted in any of four ports at front, back and sides. With a crew of three and a box of grenades, these underpowered but reliable old buses proved their worth many times over’.


My two VUDBs will be escorted by the crotchety old AMD White-Laffly armoured car armed with a machine gun and a paltry 37mm cannon. Both this and the two VUDBs wll be models by Mad Bob Miniatures.


I’ve also added one of the ubiquitous French 75mm guns to give at least some relatively effective firepower. To keep costs down, I haven’t got a towing vehicle for it yet – I imagine it won’t move too much in an actual game.


And of course there’ll be that curious Dodge Tanake, also armed with a 37mm cannon.

So, on order tonight:

  • 2 x Berliet VUDBs (Mad Bob Miniatures)
  • 1 x AMD White-Laffly armoured car (Mad Bob Miniatures)
  • 1 x Dodge Tanake armoured truck (Perry Miniatures)
  • 1 x 75mm light artillery piece (Perry Miniatures)
  • 2 x sections of FFL infantry in kepis, including a couple of light machine guns and some anti-tank grenades (Perry Miniatures)


The oldest item in my bookshelf – an 1854 map of Waterloo

map bookThe other day I pulled a book out of my bookshelf, and noticed a scruffy little green cover peering at me from the shadows at the back of the shelf. I reached in and pulled it out, and was overjoyed to see that I had at last re-found my long-lost antique map of Waterloo, the oldest print item I own.

Quite a few years ago, some British friends of my mother-in-law visited New Zealand. They knew of my interest in military history, so presented me with this lovely bound map of Waterloo. I placed it on my bookshelf, where it eventually fell behind some other books. For years I’d thought I had somehow lost the map.

So it was with great pleasure this Waterloo bicentenary year to find it again!

a_IMG_3696At the time I was presented with this map, I knew little about it, other than it was by a Sergeant-Major Edward Cotton, and published in 1854. But finding it again has spurred me into a doing some research on the internet.

According to family historian Gordon Childs:

Sergeant Major Edward COTTON was born on Isle of Wight around 1792 and served at Waterloo in the ranks of the 7th Hussars which was part of General Grant’s brigade – the 5th British Cavalry Brigade. Fortunately, Edward Cotton survived the carnage of the battle on that fateful day of 18 June 1815, in which there were over 50,000 casualties of the some 150,000 troops engaged, to become a local hero.

He particularly distinguished himself by saving fellow hussar Gilmoure as he lay trapped under his wounded horse in front of the main battle line. Cotton could see the French cuirassiers coming on again and, knowing that they rarely spared a foe outside of the protection of the infantry squares, he sprang from his horse and rushed to extricate Gilmoure and to bring him back to safety as the army of French horsemen came up to Wellington’s line.

After leaving the army, Cotton lived at Mont St Jean village (where the battle was centred) where he soon gained a reputation as a fine battlefield guide. In 1845, the Naval and Military Gazette described him as an intelligent, active and good looking man of fifty-three and the very cut as a Hussar. From the many fellow Waterloo veterans who visited the battlefield, Cotton built up a formidable knowledge of the battle and published a book called ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. His collection of memorabilia occupied a building at the base of the Lion Mound, but has now been dispersed.

“I sincerely hope,” wrote veteran, Lieutenant-General Sir Hussey Vivian, to Cotton in 1839, “that occupation which you have undertaken, you will derive the means of passing the remainder of your days in competence and comfort; and thus heap the rewards of your intelligence, on a field where you had proved your courage.”

Edward Cotton died on 24 June 1849. He had been ill for some time but had soldiered on and, only two days before his death, he had shown an English family around the battlefield. He was buried in the gardens of Hougoumont, and rested there until the 18 August 1890 when he was disinterred for reburial at Evere Cemetery in the north-east suburbs of Brussels.

Handy pocket-sized maps like this one would have been carried by his visitors to the battlefield. This particular edition was printed a few years after his death, and was drawn from his 1846 book  ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. I wonder if a 19th century visitor carried my actual map in his or her hands as they tramped over the battlefield.

a_IMG_3996Opening the green linen cover with its gold-embossed title, you first come to a small overview map of the Belgian countryside over which the Waterloo campaign took place.

It is a bit confusing, though, that this map places north at the bottom of the page instead of the more usual top.

a_IMG_3695The main page unfolds to display a beautiful hand-tinted map of the field of Waterloo as it was towards sunset. The Allies are shown in red, Prussians in yellow, and the French in blue.

Extensive information is provided in the keys on each side, which link to the exact location for each brigade and military group, including Napoleon’s positions and places where certain officers were killed. For the modern reader, following the Roman numerals is quite onerous, however!

An inset table gives the number of men and guns available to each side. A narrative also recreates the final hours of the battle.

Again, north is at the bottom.

a_IMG_3697Here’s a close-up of central area of the battlefield. Click on the picture to expand it to a size where you can see the amazing detail and the sheer beauty of this wonderful old map.

I’m really pleased to be re-united with this treasure. I’m thinking I might place it in a box-frame to preserve it, and to give it some more prominence than being stuffed down the back of my bookshelf!


Make your own hardcover ‘eye candy’ book of miniatures


Jealous of the Perry Twins having a full colour hard-cover book featuring their own miniatures? Well, don’t be any longer, because you too can have your own version of Masters in Miniature! Above is a pic of a coffee-table book I created this week containing loads of pictures of my own figures.

Recently I discovered SnapFish, a web-based company that does all sorts of photographic printing. You just go to their site, upload the images you want printed, pay by credit card, and a few days later the prints arrive at your door. But they don’t only do prints.  They also have a range of other products on which your photos can be printed – including books.

So when SnapFish announced a sale on books (only $NZ15 for a twenty-page 20cmx28cm hardcover book), I came up with the idea of making a book of the best photos I’ve taken over the years of my miniatures.

You can choose all sorts of backgrounds for the pages on which your photos will be displayed, but I thought a plain black background would distract less from the figures.  There are also all sots of graphic embellishments you can add, but again, I thought simple is best, and so ignored these.  I also decided to leave the book text-free.


When the finished book arrived in the mail today, I was absolutely delighted with the results. Just look how lavish the front cover turned out to be.

When I was ‘making’ the book, I had been a bit worried about the low resolution of some of my shots.  But in the end they all came out perfectly well. Slight focus issues didn’t stand out as much in hard-copy as they did viewing the photos online.

Overall, I’ve ended up with a coffee table book that shows off my collection – my very own Masters in Miniature. I just can’t stop picking it up and browsing through it!

What’s more, if anyone was so foolish as to want a copy of my book, they can easily purchase their own copy direct off SnapFish using this link!

If you’re interested in this idea for yourself, but you’re not from New Zealand, I’m sure other countries will have similar companies to SnapFish.

Here are pics of a few pages from the book. Remember, even when you’ve clicked on the pics below to enlarge them, they’ll still only be about half the size of the pics in the actual book!





Predictions about wargaming in 1981 – right or wrong?


Being a bit of a hoarder, I’ve kept nearly every wargaming magazine I’ve ever bought, right from when I was a teenager through to now in my late fifties.

I love occasionally leafing through an issue. I especially enjoy it when the authors of the time tried to predict the future of the hobby.

Recently I was browsing through the April 1981 issue of Military Modelling, and two predictions particularly interested me. One writer had got it totally wrong; the other was more spectacularly correct than he could conceive.

Firstly, here’s an excerpt from Terry Wise’s Observation Post column:

At one pound for two cavalry – and no doubt the price will go up again during 1981 – it is obvious to me that the days of big 25mm armies are numbered. In the years to come, the percentage of wargamers with 25mm armies must inevitably shrink, for this latest price rise must be the death knell of large armies of 25mm figures (I mean 500 and upwards) and of wargaming as I know it and love it. Those yet to join our ranks, or those buying additional armies, are almost certain to go for skirmish 25mm or armies in smaller scale figures. Before much longer I, and others like me, will be like the dinosaur – though very rich dinosaurs! The 25mm man will eventually become a collector, like those eccentric retired colonels and their 54mm armies of days gone by.

Well, 34 years later, I can certainly count at least 500 figures in my Napoleonic French army alone, despite it being by no means the largest 25mm army in my neighbourhood. And I hope I’m neither a dinosaur (I’m definitely not a rich one!) nor an eccentric retired colonel.

Now, here’s a sentence from R J Marrion’s report on the 50th Model Engineer Exhibition:

In retrospect, I believe the military classes reached their high point about four years ago with a number of up-and-coming young modellers such as the Perry twins delighting us with many of their scratchbuilt creations.

Well, Mr Marrion, who seemed to be a pretty tough critic of the military modelling entries submitted to the exhibition, was dead right about the ‘up-and-coming’ young Perry twins – but little did he know exactly how far up Alan and Michael Perry would come in the hobby, nor how much their modelling efforts would continue to delight so many of us.