My inspiration

I happened to be re-watching my favourite episode of CALLAN today (it is ACT OF KINDNESS, and is the episode where Callan attends a wargames show and fights several Napoleonic battles against Heathcote Land) and suddenly realised that the wargames had the ‘look’ I want to achieve with my current project … block-painted, gloss varnished figures and simple terrain.

I know that some people refer to this is ‘Old School’, but it was how most people painted their wargames figures and prepared their terrain back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which is when I bought my first metal figures. It is the style that I grew up with, and it is the style with which I feel happiest.

I know that I am not alone in feeling like this (as recent blog entries and comments on David Crook’s blog bear out) and in some ways I suppose that it is an attempt to recapture a fleeting essence of my youth, but choosing this particular route has brought me great pleasure and enjoyment … and that is an important part of why I like to wargame.


30 Comments on “My inspiration”

  1. A.W. KITCHEN says:

    Callan was very influential to me as a 16/17 years old just starting 'proper' wargaming – I thought if a grown man and a Government hired killer can play wargames so can I without being thought childish !, Tony

  2. Keith Flint says:

    What can I say except…good choice!

  3. My appreciation for simple and shiny came late. I was a figure painter/modeller for a few years before discovering wargames. B&W photos in books and magazines provided little inspiration painting wise and several 70's guides said “matte”. The first shiny figures I saw in colour were Gilder figures shiny but with that dark wash. I liked that look but ws talked out of the shine.

    Didn't finally get on board till this century but I'm there now!

  4. Gonsalvo says:

    Not at all a bad look, and emphasizes the “playing with Toy Soldiers” angle, which is what we really do, after all!

  5. I have been painting all my 40mm figures this way, and I really like it. I am moving to Colorado soon, and have a friend there who is doing the same thing.

  6. Have you seen the four episodes of Battleground featuring Edward Woodward (Callan) describing Gettysburg, Waterloo, and two others. The figures used executed and based by Peter Gilder mostly had that same look. very nostalgic and quite lovely to look at.
    All the best,'

  7. Fitz-Badger says:

    “it was how most people painted their wargames figures and prepared their terrain back in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” – that's why it's called “old school”. 🙂
    There's nothing wrong with it. You're having fun, that's what counts.

  8. A.W.Kitchen (Tony),

    I don't think that you are unique. I think that the fact that CALLAN was on TV gave many of us the confidence to admit to our friends and family that we were wargamers.

    All the best,


  9. Keith Flint,

    Many thanks!

    All the best,


  10. Ross Mac,

    I have been a gloss finish man for most of my wargaming life … and don't think that I am likely to change this late in the day.

    All the best,


  11. Gonsalvo,

    Playing with toy soldiers is what we do … and this is my way of admitting it. The gloss finish also helps protect them from minor damage.

    All the best,


  12. William McHarg,

    Good for you … and good luck with your forthcoming move.

    All the best,


  13. CelticCurmudgeon (Jerry),

    It was the most common painting style when I began wargaming with metal figures … and only went out of fashion when super-detailed, highly animated figures became the vogue.

    I much prefer the simpler 'Old School' figures and painting style.

    All the best,


  14. Stryker,

    Cheers! It's nice to know that so many other wargamers agree with me.

    All the best,


  15. Fitz-Badger,

    I am really enjoying this project … which is probably why I keep buying more figures!

    All the best,


  16. Your old school comment is really interesting. My current project (a runaway monster ATM)involves laser cut 6mm MDF figures (seriously). They are semiflats and I have just fallen in love with them . They remind me of some much larger wooden figures my dad gave me as a kid. They also fit in well with my gaming friends metal 6mm figures so everyone is happy :). I have never pretended that I do anything else but play with toy soldiers and these are simply more “honest”

  17. Robert De Angelis,

    6mm laser-cut MDF figures … that must be quite something to see!

    Playing with toy soldiers is what we do … and trying to hide that fact by using euphemisms (i.e. military miniatures, military figurines) is – in my opinion – merely deluding ourselves.

    All the best,


  18. jhnptrqn says:

    I found the Callan episode on Youtube. I cheated and just watched the wargame parts. I must admit the show makes me want to base figures and fight some games using a set up like that. I also got caught up in the show itself and now want to watch the whole episode.

  19. Jhnptrqn,

    I hope that you enjoy watching the whole episode.

    The wargames featured during the programme were typical of the sort of battles wargamers fought back then, including the use of Average Dice. I think that most of the figures were manufactured by Hinton Hunt.

    All the best,


  20. Pete. says:

    As a relative youngster (born in 78)I've never watched any Callan but gamers of a certain generation often reference it.

    Would it still stand up to being viewed for the first time today or is it only good for nostalgia?



  21. Although I don't varnish my figures (but probably ought to), I do use gloss paint sometimes. But I am definitely old school as far as terrain preparation and army organisation is concerned. To my mind, there is something more … martial … about old school wargaming.

  22. Bob You said

    “6mm laser-cut MDF figures … that must be quite something to see!”

    I have lots of pictures here

    I must be one of the first gamers with a wood mountain to paint heheheh

  23. Pete,

    To be perfectly honest, I watch it for nostalgic reasons rather than because of its production values or story.

    As this episode is on YouTube, it will be worth watching the wargame scenes from this programme if nothing else.

    All the best,


  24. Archduke Piccolo,

    At one time I painted all my figures using a mixture of gloss and matt enamel paint … but the advent of acrylic paint changed all that, and now I undercoat with matt enamel paint, over which I use acrylic matt paints. I then finish the figures off with polyurethane gloss varnish to protect the completed paintwork.

    I totally agree that the 'Old School' look has something very attractive about it … and the older I get, the more attractive I find it.

    All the best,


  25. Robert De Angelis,

    I am very, very impressed! Before looking at your blog I would not have believed that it was possible to laser-cut such small and intricate figures.

    All the best,


  26. I remember the article in Miltary Modelling on the wargame in the film version of Callan. I never watched the film or the TV series but my mother did as she really liked Edward Woodward!

  27. Legatus Hedlius,

    I think that you might enjoy watching this episode on YouTube especially the wargaming scenes. The film also has some interesting wargaming scenes that feature some of Peter Gilder's terrain and figures.

    All the best,


  28. Pete. says:

    I watched the 'Act of Kindness' episode last night on your suggestion Bob- much better than I expected. I plan to watch more of them. Nice to see how the wargames acted like a game of cards in a Bond film (thankfully Callan is less camp) so the main protagonists could face of against each other. The 'Lonely' character wasn't too well realized but the others were interesting- especially Cross as a gentleman psychopath.

    They should keep me going for a while.



  29. Pete,

    I am very pleased that you enjoyed this episode. In my opinion it was one of the best made.

    Lonely is a character who grows and develops over time. By the last ever episode he is quite respectable … but is still the only true and trustworthy friend Callan has. Cross eventually cracks, and is no match for Toby Meres, the man he replaced. (Meres is an ex-Guards officer who enjoys his work, especially if he can indulge his sadistic tendencies.)

    I hope that you enjoy the other episodes you watch … and try to watch the film as well. It is based on the storyline used in the pilot episode, and features Peter Gilder's Gettysburg terrain and figures.

    All the best,


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