Revisiting a spectacular Battle of Saratoga game


Some of the games I’ve played over the years really stand out in my memory. From time to time I’ll feature these old games here on my blog.  

This particular game stood out because of the amazing terrain and figures.  To my eye, this was a convention-grade game, but played in a garage! I never recorded the date this game as played, but it would be a good decade or two ago now.

This game impressed me so much at the time that I even put together a website about it, from which I’ve copied the following text and pictures.  Much to my surprise, the site still exists – thought my amateur hand-coded HTML doesn’t seem to have preserved the formatting too well.

Before the storm.

The year is 1777 – General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s expedition to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious American states has reached the clearing of Freeman’s Farm. The lines of redcoats form up around the farmstead, whilst a redoubt has been rapidly thrown up on their right. They steadfastly await the Americans advancing from out of the woods in front of them.

Myself and two other New Zealand wargamers, Paul Crouch and Steve Sands, had recently bought a copy of the British Grenadier rules, and we were determined to try them out. One Sunday afternoon the three of us finally managed to get some time off together, and this is the game that ensued.

British lines around Freeman’s Farm.

This closer view of British redcoats from General James Inglis Hamilton’s brigade around the farmstead shows some of the amazingly detailed 28mm miniature soldiers and terrain owned by Paul.

British redoubt.

The scenario rules for this battle state that the troops of Brigadier-General Simon Fraser’s brigade can only leave the confines of their redoubt on the British right after a throw of double sixes. “I never get double sixes,” says Steve, throwing the very first dice of the game – you guessed it, double six!

So Fraser’s light infantry and an artillery piece emerge from the redoubt in the first move of the game, throwing the American plan into disarray before they even start moving.

Poor’s columns advance down the road towards the waiting British.

On the American side, Roly commands General Enoch Poor’s brigade of infantry and artillery. The scenario calls for them to enter by a road on the left of the American position. But instead of heading diagonally towards the British (visible in the distance in this photo), the threat of Fraser’s troops making their sortie out of the redoubt means that the Americans have to change their orders to make a right turn and form their lines more to the centre.

The American advance in the centre.

Poor’s brigade has now been joined by that of General Ebenezer Learned, played by Paul. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold and his aide can be seen in this photo, directing the commencement of the assault on the British line. Unfortunately, another double six means that Arnold is lightly wounded, and so has to temporarily leave the table.

You can also see the amazingly realistic ground-cloth that Paul inherited from the late Jim Shaw. Thrown over a piece of carpet underlay, which in turn is draped over strategically placed objects, it gives a realistic rolling ground effect.

advance the colors
The British line awaits the onslaught.

After moving their line back slightly to form a better defensive position around the farm, the British lines stolidly await the American attack, with some loyalists skirmishing to their front. The redcoats’ objective in this scenario is to hold the farm position.

All the figures used in this game belonged to Paul. They included castings from Front Rank, Foundry and Perry Miniatures. The exquisite flags were mainly by GMB Design.

The lines close.

Slowly, inexorably, the American lines advance towards the British. Because of the extended maneuvering that Poor’s brigade has had to do to avoid Fraser’s light infantry and artillery, it takes quite a while to reach this stage of the game, so we “fast-forward” at this point by doubling a few moves to bring the troops into action.

Movement distances in British Grenadier are randomised, and generally must be taken the full amount. This makes coordinating an attack quite difficult, but true to the period.


Finally the first regiments of the assault charge forward.

The mounted officer in the background is not just for show. These rules have an innovative system where units earn ‘disruption points’ from movement, firing and melee. The more such points, the harder it is to do anything. Generals can help units shake off these points, but only one unit per move, so they have to pick and choose. Thus mounted officers realistically gallop to and fro all over the battlefield.

The second American line in support.

American troops in hunting shirts form the second line.

Under these rules, an attack needs to be well supported, as the disruption points can cause havoc to the first line. On the other hand, you don’t want the second line too close, as they have to move their full distance, so can actually collide with the rear of the first line, causing even more disruption!

The British line holds.

The American regiment on the far left has defeated a British battalion and forced it back. But the British battalion on the right holds out valiantly, whilst General Burgoyne dashes up to bolster its defence. Here yet another double six is thrown, but Burgoyne survives and it is his ADC who is killed.

In the foreground are Colonel Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and light infantry, who have been in front needling the British lines all during the big American assault. Now they can pull back out of the way to let the line infantry do their job.

The Hessians arrive.

The Americans have only succeeded in pushing back one British unit, when to their right they hear the beating of drums as Baron von Riedesel’s Hessians arrive on the battlefield, thus extinguishing any hope of the Americans forcing the British out of the Freeman’s Farm position.

So in our game the British win. This would possibly have had a major effect had this happened in the real battle. It was the British surrender at Saratoga that finally induced the French to take part in the American War of Independence. In our game, this might not have happened ….!


Map of the battlefield.

This overview of the battle shows how the game progressed. You can see where Fraser’s men issued out of the redoubt at the very start of the game, and how they forced Poor’s brigade to make some complicated manouevres instead of directly attacking Hamilton’s position. Meanwhile, the British backstepped to form a better defensive line closer to the farm, and then the subsequent huge American assault on the centre took place. Right at the end of the battle, the Hessians arrived on the British left to cement their victory.


The players – Paul Crouch (Generals Learned and Arnold), Roly Hermans (General Poor) and Steve Sands (British/Hessian), all members of the [then] Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand.


Paul’s son Rylan enjoyed the game too!


‘Sharp Practice’ game report – Fondler’s Colonel

British infantry in town

“With his ‘extensive’ Militia (sorry, Miwitia) background, Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies felt it should be he, not that guttersnipe Captain Fondler and his Rifles (sorry, Fondwer and his Wifles), who should be the one to rescue (sorry, wescue) the beautiful spy, the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca (and no doubt weap whatever wewards were on offer).” 

Back in May 2009, the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website published the following game report of our first game of the Too Fat Lardies’ Sharp Practice rules for skirmish battles in the age of black powder. As this was our first game with these rules, we got a few things wrong. But overall the rules worked, and a story emerged from the chaos.

I thought it was such a fun game report, that it’s worth re-publishing here for your entertainment.

The scenario we played was Fondler’s Colonel from the The Compleat Fondler scenario book, also by the Too Fat Lardies. Captain Richard Fondler, of course, is a take-off of that well-known mullet-wearing 95th Rifles officer, Richard Sharpe.


The premise of the game is that the British are to pick up a Spanish spy, the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca, who is currently under the care of Abbott Costello at a local monastery. At the same time, they are to deliver a cart-load of gold to a Spanish guerilla chieftain, El Cascanueces. Meanwhile, Colonel Daniel Laroux of the French Imperial Intelligence Service is setting a dastardly trap to capture his hated nemesis, Captain Richard Fondler.

Before you continue reading this game report, you might like to scroll to the bottom of this page to read the scenario notes leading up to this battle. Spoiler alert: if you intend to play this scenario, be aware that there are some spoilers contained in the scenario notes.


(above) Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies, the new commander of the South-East Essex, leads the column to rescue the Marquesa.

With his ‘extensive’ Militia (sorry, Miwitia) background, Grabbe-Ghoullies feels he should be the one to rescue the beautiful spy (and no doubt reap whatever rewards are on offer), not Fondler and his Rifles (sorry, Fondwer and his Wifles). No low-born guttersnipe who has become an officer out of the ranks (sorry, wanks) will outshine him. So he orders Fondler’s Rifles to a lowly wagon-guard role. The scenario rules state that the Rifles can’t do anything major until they are either fired upon or the redcoats suffer three or more casualties.


(above) French voltiguers under the command of Caporal-Bugler Petain (don’t ask – I just didn’t have enough ordinary French NCO figures, so used a bugler instead!) open fire on the British column from their eyrie amongst the rocky outcrops.

Lieutenant Harry Cost peels his company of redcoats away from the column to chase off these pesky skirmishers.


(above) Oh dear, the skirmishers score a kill on Lieutenant Cost’s company. Captain Fondler and Sergeant Paisley of the Rifles look on helplessly, still being under Grabbe-Ghoullies’ orders to stay out of the fight and guard the wagon.


(above) Caporal-Bugler Petain’s cornet catches the sunlight, making a perfect target for the redcoats. A bullet flies right down the cornet’s tube, badly wounding the caporal-bugler. His voltiguers obviously don’t think too much of him, because he is left lying in the hot sun for the remainder of the game, instead of being carried to the rear.

Shortly after, Sergeant Ducrot, another French NCO, runs up the hill to take over command (not in this picture yet), so no major damage is done (other than to poor Petain and his cornet, of course).


(above) Harry Cost’s men blaze away furiously, while Fondler grits his teeth and wishes they would just get up there into the outcrops and weed those Crapauds out – or send in the Rifles to do the job. Even his wagon has been taken away from him now.


(above) Grabbe-Ghoullies finally gets his column moving – or inching- along the road, taking the gold cart with him, ordering Fondler to deal with the skirmishers at last.


(above) But hark, what is this? Do you hear the sound of drums coming from up the side road?


(above) Four companies of French infantry, lead by the Colonel Visage de Vache, hasten towards the battle. They were supposed to close the trap after the British passed the intersection, but their attack is launched prematurely and they march steadily towards the intersection before the British get there. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ducrot and his voltiguers continue peppering the British from the rocky outcrops.


(above) Colonel Visage de Vache proudly leads his column out. The grenadier company takes the lead.


(above) “Hop to it, mes amis, form line, and let’s give zese Ros Bifs some French dressing!” roars Colonel Visage de Vache to his men. The four companies swing into line with well-drilled precision.


(above) Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies looks around wildly. A Fwench line in fwont of him, skirmishers to his left … maybe he should’ve stayed in the compfowtable miwiltia officers mess back in Bwighty.


(above) A pall of smoke drifts between the two formations, as the British column is decimated by the disciplined fire from the French line. The British companies suffer so much shock that after two volleys they begin to lose their bottle, and the game ends with a British surrender.

Oddly, it wasn’t till after I took the above photo that I noticed that Grabbe-Ghoullies, who had supposedly been badly wounded in front of his men by the French volleys, had not been wounded at all, but merely scarpered into cover (those sneaky British players!).

And so, what was the outcome?

Grabbe-Ghoullies, only his dignity harmed, will be captured by Colonel Visage de Vache. No beautiful Marquesa to entertain tonight, only a few wats in a locked woom behind the Fwench lines.

In the monastery, Colonel Daniel Laroux jumps up and down in frustration (then promptly falls over as he forgets he is tottering round on high heels). His carefully-laid plan to dress up as the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca (who is safely closeted miles away in a prison cell) and so ensnare Fondler to finally get his revenge for the false teeth his arch-nemesis had smashed in an earlier encounter, has been foiled by the over-efficiency of the line infantry officers. “One day, Capitaine Dick Fondler … one day I’ll get you!”

El Cascanueces, however, is pleased. He had thrown in his lot with Laroux. But with the British surrender, he has got his gold without having to risk anything at all.

Abbott Costello sleeps blissfully on, happily drugged with several bottles of cheap French plonk provided by the beautiful (but rather hairy and with big hands, now that he comes to think of it) “Marquessa de Una Paloma Blanca”. He remains totally unaware of all that has happened today.

Meanwhile, Captain Fondler and Sergeant Paisley beat a hasty retreat to the British lines. Fondler will have to report to Wellington that he has lost the gold and not rescued the Marquesa. But the two riflemen are sure to march together again one day soon, and retrieve Fondler’s honour.

OK, probably not the best of games for the British players, but that wasn’t so much their fault as that of the game-master (er … me) who let the French fusilier battalions come into the battle far too soon, and thus prevented the latter stages of the scenario from playing out. However, it was our first time, so lesson learned!




Scenario Notes

Based almost entirely on the scenario Fondler’s Colonel in The Compleat Fondler scenario book by the Too Fat Lardies.


“I see, Captain Fondwer, that you and your men weah the uniform of the Wifles. Is there a weason why you do not wish to be a pawt of my wegiment?”

Whatever Captain Richard Fondler had expected of the newly appointed colonel of the 1st Battalion of the South-East Essex, Sir Henry Grabbe-Goullies was not it. After three years fighting in Portugal the British Army had weeded out most of the stuffed-shirts amongst its commanders; they either learnt to fight or had been replaced. But the Army must’ve missed Sir Henry.

“No, sir.” Fondler fixed his eyes on an imaginary mark some six inches above the colonel’s head. “I am proud to command the light company of the South-East Essex, but I and my men are also proud to be riflemen, and we continue to wear this uniform as a mark of that.”

The colonel paused, his knuckles turning white as he fought to control his anger. “I must say, Captain, that I disappwove of your attire and, sir, of your wifles. Why, you’ve even got some Portugwese with your wiflemen! I am a fiwm bewiever in discipwine. My expewiences in the Miwitia have taught me that a unit that has dissipwine fights well. Your wiflemen and Portugwese do not have dissipwine!”

Sir Henry paused to wipe the spittle from his chin. “It is my intention to wemove your wifles and weplace them with muskets so that your men may line up with the west and fight as men!”

The colonel paused and stared at the rifleman before him. He had heard much of Captain Fondler, and none of it he liked. Now he could see that the rifleman was fighting to control his anger, confirming Sir Henry’s suspicions that Fondler would not be a good man in battle, would not have the clear head and cold heart needed for command; traits that Sir Henry had, he was sure, in abundance. He stroked his moustaches and allowed his lip to curl into what was both a sneer and a smile of victory. Order would be maintained.

CRASH! The door did not so much open as erupt, and a large man with a mop of unruly red hair wearing the uniform of a major of engineers flooded into the room. “Top o’ the mornin’ to you!” the newcomer bellowed.

Major Michael O’Stereotype was well known to Fondler; as well as being a major of engineers, he was one of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s exploring officers, roaming through the Peninsula in an attempt to discover information that would harm the Corsican Tyrant and assist the cause of His Britannic Majesty King George.

“Tis a fine day to be meeting yourself, Colonel.” The big man had turned to address Sir Henry. “I am havin’ your orders from Sir Arthur with me here, to be sure. Gather round this map and I’ll tell all.”

Sir Henry was aghast. He had been told to expect the major, and knew that the man was one of Sir Arthur’s most trusted confidants. It seemed clear, however, that the army in the Peninsula had lost all sense of discipline and propriety. First a guttersnipe who had been promoted to a captain, and now this bog-trotting buffoon!

The buffoon spoke, and Sir Henry had the distinct feeling that Sir Arthur’s orders were being conveyed to Captain Fondler rather than himself.

“You’ll loike this, Dick, it’s a cracker! One of our main agents in Spain is the beautiful aristocratic Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca, the wife of the suitably absent Marques who happens to be many thousands of miles away in South America, and is probably impotent anyway. Now, the Marquesa has, through her incredible beauty, sophistication and not entirely appropriate behaviour for a married woman, penetrated the French intelligence network headed by Colonel Laroux of the Imperial Guard, a truly evil man whose sadism knows no bounds – oh, I forget Dick, you and he have already met.”

Fondler looked grim. He and Laroux had indeed met, and on several occasions the rifleman had been instrumental in foiling Laroux’s dastardly plans. In an act of revenge that he now felt he may come to regret, he had smashed the Frenchman’s false teeth.

“Well, the Marquesa has been unmasked,” the big Irishman continued. “It seems that she was caught whilst getting her hands on a list of French spies in Lisbon and only just escaped with her life. In a desperate act the Marquesa made contact with one of Spain’s most notable guerrilla leaders, El Cascanueces. He is escorting her to the Monastery of Madre de Deus, where Abbott Costello, one of our agents, will protect her until we can arrive.

“The monastery is two days from here. Dick, I need you to deliver a consignment of gold and powder to El Cascanueces. I fear that he is an untrustworthy ally, little more than a bandit in fact, and we need a gift to ensure he fulfils his part of the deal. Ten thousand guineas in gold should do that.” He looked across the map at the two faces, grinned and reached towards the colonel’s brandy decanter. “Now, let’s drink to your success, Dick!”

The colonel spoke first. “Hold with that bottle, sir! You pwopose, Major, to send Captain Fondwer to undertake a mission of such import?”

“I do, Colonel, and what is more, I know that he will not let me down.”

Sir Henry spluttered in amazement. “You, Major, may be pwepared to leave matters such as this in Fondwer’s hands. I am not. I can see now that life on campaign has been too fwee and easy these past years, and that a lack of discipwine permeates nearly all stwata of our army. Order must pwevail!”

The engineer’s expression had changed, his drink now forgotten. “Colonel, I will not release the consignment of gold and powder to any man other than Captain Fondler. These are my orders from Sir Arthur himself.”

In the ensuing silence Fondler could almost hear Sir Henry’s brain at work, his discomfort and anger as clear as Fondler’s had been earlier in the conversation. Then the colonel spoke.

“Vewy well. Captain Fondwer and his wiflemen may escort the gold, but it is my intention to lead this wescue mission, and fwom that you may not divewt me, Major. The Captain may guard your pwecious wagon. I think, however, that you will find that it is my wedcoats and their muskets who do the gweatest service.”

The colonel turned to the rifleman. “Captain Fondwer, be weady to march at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.” Then, secure in the knowledge that he had out-manoeuvred both the captain and the major, he dismissed them from his presence.

O’Stereotype and Fondler walked together across the main square. “Mary, Mother of God,” the Irishman blasphemed, “you’ve got your work cut out with that eejit, so you do. You take care, Dick. Laroux has his men combing the mountains looking for the Marquesa. I can only pray that you get to her in time. Between you and me vital information is haemorrhaging out of Lisbon all the time and things look bleak for old Nosey. The sooner we get a list of Laroux’s agents the better things will be.”

Fondler’s face was troubled. “Aye Mick. If we fail we shall die at the hands of Laroux. If we succeed Sir Henry will claim a victory for the musket and we shall lose our rifles and, most likely, our green jackets too.”

British big men

Collated cards


Flats – two dimensions instead of three


Too many years ago for me to recall, as a callow twenty-one year old youth, I made my first overseas trip from New Zealand. This was during my first bout of enthusiasm for the wargaming hobby (my present involvement in the hobby was rekindled in my 40s), so I made a point of visiting some of the European shangri-la’s of miniature soldiers.

One of the most impressive of these was the Plassenburg Castle. This medieval fortress, nestled picturesquely above the beautiful Bavarian town of Kulmbach, houses a museum containing literally hundreds of thousands of flat tin soldiers, or “zinnfiguren” as they are known in Germany.

I couldn’t resist buying a few flat miniatures to keep as souvenirs. When I got back home to New Zealand, I painted the figures and arranged them onto bases. Since then these dioramas have accompanied me through the various flats and houses I’ve lived in, surviving my abandonment of the wargaming interest for twenty years, until my return to the hobby four years ago.

Over that period, they have survived remarkably well, considering their fragility. One halberd has snapped off, and the varnish has yellowed somewhat. But otherwise they are all still as good as new.

I’m afraid I can’t tell you too much about the painting techniques I used, as I’ve forgotten, it was so long ago. I’m not even sure if they were done in enamels or acrylics!

Here then, for your enjoyment and edification, are pictures of the flats in my small collection.


The first diorama, containing figures made by Maier, depicts a laboratory in the Plassenburg in 1677. The alchemist Krohnemann is showing Margrave Christian Ernst something that might just be gold (but probably isn’t!). There is also another gentleman and his lady friend, a priest, and an assistant. Even the table and stove are completely flat. As I recall, I made the bricks for the base out of Das modelling clay. The rather ugly title was made with Letraset (remember, we didn’t have PCs with printers back then!).


The next diorama depicts the great German writer Friedrich Schiller reading from his drama “Die Räuber” to his friends. He attended the Duke of Wurttemberg’s military academy, the Karlsschule, and was forced by the domineering duke to study medicine. After graduating in 1780 he became an army surgeon, attached to a military life he abhorred. He wrote “Die Räuber” in 1781, so perhaps this group of friends are fellow officers from the Wurttemberg army. The tree (also flat) came with this set, but I made the stone fence and the terrain from Das modelling clay. The ground has been covered with static grass.


The final group shows a princely travelling carriage, circa 1560. The carriage is accompanied by a horseman and two halberdiers. At one stage I did know who was in the carriage, but unfortunately I have long since lost those details. If I remember correctly, it was a wedding ceremony of one of the Kulmbach nobles. I never got round to basing this group (which probably accounts for the fact that this is the only group that has incurred some damage over the years – one of the halberdiers now has a broken weapon).

So, there we are, that is my small collection of flat figures. They certainly have a charm of their own. The animation and anatomy are perfect – the makers were true artists. Of course, they are of no use whatsoever for wargaming, but they certainly look nice in my study!

This article first appeared on the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website on 10 September 2003. The story still holds true today thirteen years later, though I did have a wee  accident and dropped the top base, so it needs some touching up.  



Kapiti Fusiliers – 40mm Perry Napoleonics


Back in June 2008 I posted this article about my first 40mm Peninsular War figures onto the now defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website.  For your viewing pleasure, here is that article again, as the latest in my series of resurrected articles from the old Kapiti Fusiliers website. 

For those of my readers who are not so familiar with the hobby of wargaming, 40mm figures are seen by gamers as somewhat unusual in that they are much larger than the more commonly used 28mm or smaller figures.  

40mm Perry Napoleonic figures

Perry Miniatures have a very attractive range of 40mm Peninsular War figures. Fusilier Roly Hermans has painted his first few British and French figures for a future skirmish gaming project.

A group of British riflemen and light infantry face off against a similar number of French voltigeurs.

Private Costello, heavily laden with a cooking pot and his officer’s shoes to repair, joins another riflemen as they are beckoned into an ambush position by their sergeant.

A British rifleman and rifles officer (certainly not Sharpe, as he wouldn’t have been seen dead wearing a foppish pelisse!).

Two British light infantryman, their sergeant, an elegant officer, and the company bugler in reversed colours, about to cross a stream.

A French voltigeur cornet in yellow tunic with blue facings, an officer and a voltigeur in waistcoat order.

Three French voltigeurs advance in skirmish order.

A French voltigeur firing line in action.

An officer points to the way to the enemy.

British light infantry and riflemen engaged in a skirmish somewhere on the Iberian Peninsula.

Postscript, July 2013: As mentioned, the above article first published in 2008.  Since then I’ve added a few more figures to the collection (including some rather more Sharpe-ish figures) by the Honourable Lead Boilersuit Company, Sash and Saber, and Trident Miniatures.  I’ll try to photograph these over the next few days and show them in another posting.

But, sad to say, I’ve never really gotten any further than one test game to actually using my 40mm figures.  This is partly because I made a mistake in glueing them onto such light plastic bases, as the added height and weight of 40mm figures make them too top-heavy, and they fall over at the drop of a hat. 

But even though they haven’t been gamed with, I enjoy the look of these figures, and they form a treasured part of my overall model soldier collection.


Kapiti Fusiliers: Battles of Rusty Creek and Gettysburg

Getty_9This weekend marks 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg, the iconic battle of the American Civil War.  

To commemorate this historic engagement, you could re-visit two old postings about my time as a Confederate soldier during the massive 135th reenactment event way back in 1998, first here and then more photos here.


Or you could read the following one of my resurrected postings from the old Kapiti Fusiliers website describing a Civil War game. Originally posted on September 2005 by Fusilier Paul Crouch, who had recently moved up to Auckland, it describes a spectacular game played on John Berry’s 14′ x 6′ table …



We played an American Civil War game. There were four on each side, so eight of us all told, including all my old wargame friends from many years ago. Fusilier Mark Strachan was along there too.

The rules used were a set put together by the group up here. They really do work well and capture the flavour of the American Civil War and the ebb and flow of battle.


John and the boys certainly put on games ‘in the grand manner’ and there was no lack of troops on the table. It was a magnificent sight. As you can see from the photos we reckon there were up to two thousand 25mm figures on the table.  They were mainly Dixon, but Wargames Foundry were in there too.

I tried to focus as many as possible of the photos on John’s buildings to let you get the feel of them. Hopefully you can see the work he does on them. The close-up of the forge (below) is brilliant.  He scratch builds a lot of the stuff you see in these pictures. Also the limbers and wagons in the photos are all John Berry originals.

rustyforge close up

The game was a fictional encounter somewhere in Georgia called Rusty Creek, late in the war … a last desperate attempt to throw the Damn Yankees out. I fought with the Johnny Rebs, and held the left flank with two brigades of infantry and artillery.

I was attacked repeatedly throughout the game – in fact my flank was under pressure from the word go. I had three brigade generals killed during the day, a battery of artillery smashed to pieces, and one of my brigades shattered – but they all died gallantly for the cause!


Above: My own Confederate troops make a guest appearance on the left flank. Under pressure for most of the game, and suffering heavy losses, they held the flank with honour.


Above: Brewer’s Farm, the centre of the Confederate position.


Above: Confederate troops mass around Brewer’s Farm.


Above: Through the cornfields come the Rebels under the command of our host John Berry, on their way to prop up the left flank. This shot reminds me of a scene from the movie Gettysburg … stirring stuff!


Above: Union troops – loads of artillery. Note the wagons that John Berry has made.


Above: Reb cavalry under Forrest move out on the right – almost to a man these brave lads were wiped out before the Reb infantry arrived.


After the smoke died down it was decided that (as in all these large games) a fighting draw was the outcome. The Union hadn’t really coordinated their attacks, and the Rebs had defended stoutly in the face of the blue tide.


Pendon Museum – the ultimate in scenery


Juicy pics of exquisite scenery feature in this latest of my resurrected postings  from the old Kapiti Fusiliers website.  Originally posted on May 2008, this photo-article describes a describes my visit to the Pendon Museum of Miniature Landscape and Transport during a trip to the United Kingdom.  Don’t forget to click on the photos – I’ve made them quite big so you can get the full effect! 


Like many wargamers, I’ve always had a fascination with the hobby of railway modelling. As a child, I was presented with a beautiful book of photos of model railways from round the world. I recall being particularly impressed with the pictures of a layout of exquisite Lilliputian cottages known as Pendon. During my trips to the UK in the late 1970s and 80s, I tried to visit Pendon, but for some reason I never succeeeded in getting there.

For decades I never gave Pendon much more thought, until this year when my family and I went to stay with my sister-in-law in Oxfordshire for a week. I was idly browsing through a local map of their district, when the name ‘Pendon Museum’ jumped out at me. “Oh, that’s in Long Wittenham, just a few minutes down the road,” I was told.

So, a childhood dream came true when we drove into a pretty little village and parked outside a rather modern structure housing this famous layout. I dreaded that my family, who had also come along, would quickly get bored and want to pull me away to other sightseeing, but fortunately this turned out to be a magical experience that entranced all of us for hours.

When Roye England moved to the Vale of the White Horse during the 1930s, he was so concerned at the changes happening in the local landscape that he conceived the idea of preserving it in miniature. The result is a huge layout (some 2000 square feet) that depicts an imaginary tract of the Vale in 1:76 scale, with villages, farms, quiet lanes, a railway and all the other features of the 1930s English countryside.

Although the model was begun in the 1930s, and the museum itself established in 1954, the project is nowhere near finished. Each structure or piece of terrain is a mammoth project, involving many, many hours.

Of course, from a wargamer’s perspective, this model of an idyllic sunny summer afternoon in the mid-20th century Vale only lacks one thing: a shower of miniature German paratroopers dropping in on some stalwart British Home Guardsmen!


The village of Pendon Parva. The yellow building on the right is the Waggon and Horses Inn, finished by Roye England in 1936, the first model in the layout. Note: click on this and the other pictures in this article to enlarge them.


This house is known as “77”, and is a replica of a real building in South Marston. Like the other buildings in Pendon, it is made out of cardboard to a scale of 4mm to the foot.


This deceptively simple model of a Victorian cottage shows the delicately handpainted brickwork that is a feature of the Pendon models. Each brick, only 1mm high by 3mm long, is embossed into the cardboard and then individually painted with watercolours.


The farmyard at Bradbury Farm. I love the intricate cart models.


The thatch on the roofs of many of the Pendon models is painstakingly recreated using small bundles of plumber’s hemp. Every flower in the garden is individually modelled.


A chalky junction in the quiet village. Doesn’t it just need a jeep and a motorcyle courier, with the drivers looking at a map to see where they are, to complete the scene?!


A lane winds off into the distance. Note the vegetable garden – it is said that the smallest model in the layout is a moth on one of the cabbages.


A GWR delivery truck is reflected in the quiet waters at Upper Mill. And, yes, most of the trees being made for the layout these days are based on Woodland Scenics.

You can visit to find out more about this wonderful museum.

Kapiti Fusiliers – ‘PRATZEN … DRATZEN! A Napoleonic game report’


This resurrected posting was one of the most popular on the old Kapiti Fusiliers website.  It describes a huge Command Piquet game that took place back in April 2005.  The article was originally written by Fusilier Brian Smaller (who now has his own fascinating Woolshed Wargamer blog) and the  dramatic pictures were taken by Fusilier Paul Crouch.


Above: Fusilier Greg Simmonds debuted several bases of Russian generals in this game. These are beautifully painted mini-dioramas, featuring various Front Rank and Foundry figures, many of them heavily converted.

The opportunity to play a Napoleonic war game on a 12’ by 6′ table with over a thousand painted figures doesn’t come along every day, so when Fusilier Greg Simmonds suggested such a game we jumped at the chance. The players who made it to the battle were Fusiliers Greg Simmonds, Peter Haldezos, Shane Saunders and of course, myself. The game was played in Greg’s lounge room, on a table suitably stabilized with six trestles. Given the weight of metal I think Greg’s field engineering was commendable.

The Scenario
The table was a scaled down section of the field of Austerlitz with, from the French perspective, a village on the right flank, a plateau in the centre and large expanses of open fields on the left. As this battle was a small part of a larger affair, the armies were deployed very close – in some cases infantry regiments were already in long musket range of the enemy.


Above:  Approximate positions an hour after hostilities commenced. Note that what appears to be an odd mixed cavalry/infantry formation in the right foreground is actually two cavalry units in the process of passing through the lines of an infantry battalion.

The Armies
The Allied army consisted of Greg’s Russians and Peter’s Austrians and Prussians. The French army consisted of everything I had painted, so was a bit of a grab bag of units that included two Italian, two Swiss and a Bavarian battalion. It was supported by a strong relief force of Fusilier-General Roly’s French, but the story of that command will be told later in this article.

Unfortunately, all our armies are uniformed for the later Napoleonic Wars, but we did not let that get in the way. Not only were they wearing these later uniforms, but we also rated them for the later Napoleonic Wars. We were therefore using 1813 armies to fight the Austerlitz situation.


Above: Russian general staff direct their formidable infantry forces forward. Greg’s Russians are Foundry and Front Rank figures, many with head-swaps and changed poses.

The Rules
The rules were Command Piquet which have already been reviewed on this site. Both Shane and I had played Piquet once or twice before, but never this variant. Greg and Peter managed to keep us on the straight and narrow.

The Game
The battle started with an immediate Austrian attack on the small village that anchored the French right flank. This position of honour was held by a crack brigade of Swiss with a battalion of Bavarians and a small Bavarian battery in support. Their mission was to hold until reinforcements arrived. For the entire duration of the battle the Austrians tried to break into the village and to cut it off from the French centre but were repeatedly repulsed.

4_done_a1Above:  The Prussians and Austrians march forward, supported by artillery. These are Peter’s Calpe and Front Rank figures with GMB Design flags.


Above: Austrian infantry attack the village.

6_done_f13Above:  Austrian artillery bombards the defenders of the village with close range artillery fire. More of Peter’s Front Rank figures.

In the centre, both sides battled for possession of the high plateau. Massed Russian infantry attacked the French centre but were beaten off by the 12-pounders of the Imperial Guard and repeated charges by the Grenadiers-a-Cheval and Gendarmerie d’Elite. Meanwhile, the French reserves climbed the plateau and took possession of the flat ground overlooking the enemy centre.


Above:  Russian infantry advance to the attack. These are some of Greg’s Foundry figures, whilst the flags are by GMB Design.

8_done_f5Above:  Grenadiers-a-Cheval and Gendarmerie d’Elite throw back the Russian advance in the centre.

9_done_f1Above:   Italian infantry march forward to consolidate the gains in the centre. These are Brian’s figures, which consist of a mixture of makes, including Connoisseur, Front Rank and Hotspur.

10_done_f4Above:  French reserve divisions advance. Again, these figures show the wonderful mixture of manufacturers in Brian’s French army.

On the left, the French attacked with great élan but despite some initial success with their dragoons and lancers, were stalled when their cavalry brigades were repulsed by concentrated Russian artillery fire and Austrian cavalry charges.


Above:   French Lancers charge to force back advancing Russian infantry.


Above:  But Russian artillery and Austrian cavalry are ready to repulse the French cavalry.

On the extreme left flank only the heroic actions of the 1st Battalion of 15th Legere managed to salvage what was becoming a serious problem for the French. A brigade of Austrian Dragoons and Hussars had broken the French dragoons and sent them scuttling backwards, but the feisty 15th Leger drove off the Austrian cavalry brigade with several well aimed volleys.

13_done_r9Above:   Austrian cavalry ready themselves to charge the French dragoons, before being themselves being driven off by the fire of a French light infantry battalion. Front Rank figures.

Late in the day the battle was going well for the French, or so it seemed. Their line was unbroken and they had possession of the high ground. The village was still in their hands and the serious position on the left flank had been stabilised. However, the repeated attacks had degraded the fighting capability of almost all brigades and looking across the field of battle the French commanders could see fresh divisions of uncommitted Russian troops and a huge cavalry reserve that had not yet entered the fray.


Above:  The Russian cavalry reserve awaits orders to advance.

The long hoped for French reserves had taken a wrong turn and in a prelude to the terrible events of 1815, had not marched to the sounds of the guns.

At the time we called a halt, I believe that nothing short of a miracle would have saved the French army. While most of the French army was intact, it had fought itself to a standstill. It is almost certain that one more push by the Allies would have seen the right flank collapse. If only the reserves had arrived……

We played about five or so hours at a fairly leisurely pace. I can only talk for myself of course, but I quite like the Command Piquet rules in that they give a fun game with a lot of surprises. What I don’t like about them is the all-or-nothing nature of combat. Shooting/Melee either does huge damage or virtually none. Still, you take what you can get, aye?


Above:  Fusilers Shane Saunders and Brian Smaller (French), Greg Simmonds and Peter Haldezos (Allied) holding a mascot in between them. Not in this photo are Fusiliers Paul Crouch (who took these superb pictures), and Roly Hermans (who failed to bring his French reinforcements to the game, but who designed this web-page).

PS: For the eagle-eyes, here’s a challenge – in one of the above photos, can you find the Seven Years War figure that had to be pressed into service for our game?!

Kapiti Fusiliers – ‘A quick and easy basing method’

Picture 008



This article was originally published on the now-defunct  Kapiti Fusiliers website in November 2003 (eek, that’s nearly a decade ago – how time flies!).

A couple of notes first:  

  1. I gather PVA glue is called Elmers in some parts of the world.  It is a very common white wood-glue that dries relatively clear. 

  2. There is no reason why you can’t use this technique on commercially-produced plywood bases instead of home-made cardboard ones.

Even the crudest-painted figures will look great if they are placed on attractive bases. And, conversely, even the most attractively painted figures will look terrible if placed on crude bases. Here is Fusilier Roly Hermans’ simple method of making your bases look good with a minimum of effort.

1. Cut the bases from heavy card, and paint the sides matt black.

2. Smear the base thickly with Selley’s “Liquid Nails” (or a similar builder’s glue), then push the figures into this glue in the positions you want them. Also push in one or two pieces of broken pumice or kitty-litter to represent rocks – don’t overdo this effect, though. Leave overnight to dry.

3. When the glue is dry, paint with a mixture of PVA glue, a little water, and a few drops of flesh or brown ink. Carefully avoid the shoes and hooves of the figures.

4. Coat this PVA mix liberally with sand. Rather than buying ground material, I prefer the sand you find in the garden, as it is quite coarse and unrefined, and includes lots of interesting foreign bits and pieces! Let dry.

5. When the sand is dry, paint with patches of the PVA mix, then sprinkle with coarser sand to represent areas of pebbles. I actually use crushed seashells (found in patches on the seashore) as they contrast nicely in colour with the sand.


6. When this is dry, I glue on a few more tiny pieces of broken and ground pumice to represent small bits of rock. Like my other effects, I do this in patches, rather than spread evenly across the base.

7. Again, leave to dry. When finished, paint some more patches of PVA mix, then push in some fine bits of the green leaf material that comes from Woodland Scenics. This represents clumps of weeds or coarser grass.

8. When dry, paint more patches of PVA mix, then sprinkle with Games Workshop static grass. And, hey presto, all done!


If this whole process sounds laborious, it is actually easier than it appears. The hardest part is the careful painting of the PVA mix at Step 3 to ensure you don’t accidently get glue on the figures’ boots. The subsequent steps don’t take long, and you can do them at about one hour intervals. I usually fit them in amongst my normal family or social goings-on!

Note: There is some discussion in the modelling world whether or not it is a good thing to use PVA glue, as its acidic content may contribute towards lead rot over time. I paint the bottoms of my figure bases to reduce the possibility of this happening, but if you are concerned about long term conservation of your miniatures, you may wish to research this further.


Kapiti Fusiliers: ‘Effective Use of Basecloths for Terrain’


The following article on terrain cloths first appeared in 2005 on the site I used to maintain for the Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club, our very loosely-formed gaming group.

That website (and the ‘club’ itself) has now long gone, but I do still have it on my hard drive. So I intend to occasionally re-post some of the more popular articles here on my blog.

This particular article on terrain cloths was often the subject of links from discussions on various wargaming forums, so obviously grabbed the interest of gamers.  So, here it is again, eight years later.  Enjoy!

Effective Use of Basecloths for Terrain

by Fusiliers Roly Hermans and Mark Strachan


When you look at a display game, what is the first thing that you see? Is it the beautifully painted figures? Their colourful flags? The realistically flocked bases? The exquisite buildings and trees? No, most likely the first thing that hits your eye is the “ground” itself – after all, it is by far the part of the game that has the biggest surface area to catch your attention.

If the first impression of the ground is a good one, then you start homing in on the details, such as the figures and terrain. But how often have you seen games marred by poor ground effects: a garishly coloured cloth, for instance, ill-fitting terrain squares, or maybe unrealistic stepped hills?

But making a realistic ground effect needn’t be an expensive or complicated business. Paul Crouch, a member of the Kapiti Fusiliers, has put on several demonstration games in the past which have caused a lot of complimentary comments for their realism, but which use an incredibly simple system to attain those magic effects.


Here’s how he does it.

Firstly, Paul arranges a few objects around the table which establish where he wants the ground to rise. Nothing too difficult here – anyone who has ever used a basecloth for a game (which is most of us!) will be familiar with this step.

Now comes the magic part. Before draping the table and objects with the basecloth, Paul first covers it with a large piece of carpet underfelt. This is a very heavy pressed fibre material, that in the carpet industry has now been mainly replaced by waffle rubber and recycled polyurethane foam chip underlays. But you want the old-fashioned thick underfelt without a rubberized backing, which looks like it is made of pressed wool fibres.


When this is draped over the objects, its heavy weight means it conforms to the objects underneath without creasing, making nicely-shaped gentle slopes which will carry model soldiers without sagging.


The basecloth is now draped straight over the underfelt. In Paul’s case, this is a very old baize cloth (in fact, it was a bequest to him from an old wargaming friend who had it for many years himself before passing away). The baize in question is called “card table baize”, a much lighter material than billiard table baize (much lighter in cost too). Baize, by the way, is the name of an often bright-green cotton or woollen material napped to imitate felt and used chiefly as a cover for pool, billiards and card tables.

The secret here is what has been done to the original colour of the cloth.. Paul’s cloth has received many light coats of various coloured spray-paints, such as light greens, tans, and even very yellowy-greens. This gives it a patchy mottled look, rather than a single hue.

There is particular skill to spraying the cloth, otherwise it can become blotchy and look like a rather poor camouflage paint scheme. The art is to spray from a good distance away (300-500mm) so that you achieve a feathered edge. Start with a mid-brown first, then a forest green, followed by a bright green and finally with bright yellow as a highlight. The final effect is impressive and even more so when used in conjunction with the carpet underfelt that softens the contours and prevents the baize from moving.


The overall effect is a lot lighter and more vivid a green than one would expect. But when you see aerial photographs, you’ll note that grass is a much lighter green than the dark pool-table cloths we see so many wargamers use. Here’s a photo of the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand, home of the Kapiti Fusiliers, for instance – look at the colour of the grass.


A final touch is to add some more texture to the cloth by lightly sprinkling some old flock and small pieces of lichen around the table. In fact, these need not be collected at the end of the game – just fold them carefully into the cloth, and they’ll be mixed up even more for the next game.

Now your table is ready for the addition of scenery items (another hint: don’t skimp on the trees – the bigger your trees, the better the scenery will look), buildings, and troops.

The disadvantages of this system are that you cannot recreate really rugged scenery this way; roads and rivers are merely placed on the table rather than carved in; and delineation of where a hill’s slopes start and stop is not definite.

But, notwithstanding those slight disadvantages, the good points of this system are: it is quick and easy (once you have spray-painted the cloth); very flexible; holds miniature soldiers well; realistic for creating rolling country; and – best of all – is guaranteed to make your game-play more enjoyable as you feast your eyes on that fantastic-looking landscape!

To see more photos of Paul’s terrain in action, visit these three gallery websites:

Saratoga – the Battle of Freeman’s Farm

Battle of Guilford Courthouse

Last of the Mohicans