Wooden Building Blocks

When I began to build my modular fortress, I started to look around for additional sources of suitable wooden bit and pieces for future projects. Surprisingly this turned out to be more difficult than I had expected. I visited several specialist toy shops, but they either did not stock suitable wooden building blocks (I wanted a selection of blank blocks, not ones that were all the same size with letters and/or numbers on them) or they were very, very expensive.

In the end I came across a company called TOYS & INTERIORS who had exactly what I wanted available online … 100 assorted wooden building blocks in a linen sack.

A set of blocks was on sale for £14.92 including free delivery (they were originally on sale for £22.95) … so I bought two sets.

One of the reasons why I found these particular sets of building blocks so attractive was their similarity to those used by H G Wells in his book FLOOR GAMES, as can be seen from the following photographs:

I am not sure how I am going to use these building block when they arrive, but when I do I will be able to think of myself as following in the footsteps of H G Wells.

Wooden warships … and fun wargames!

One of the blogs that I follow is Foss1066‘s Skull and Crown. This features all sorts of wargames that use laser-cut wooden figures … and wooden warships.

The most recent blog entry describes a naval battle fought at the South Bay Game Club. The two sides fielded a range of warships, including an aircraft carrier (and aircraft) apiece.

Judging by the write-up this was a wargame that was enjoyed by young and old alike, and struck me as being akin to the sort of naval wargame that H G Wells might have developed, had he ever got around to doing so.

Latest Funny Little Wars publications arrive!

Some time ago I ordered FUNNY LITTLE WARS and LITTLE CAMPAIGNS (both of which were written by the Reverend Paul Wright, Chaplain Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst) from Patrick Wilson at ‘The Virtual Armchair General‘ … and they arrived today courtesy of USPS!

FUNNY LITTLE WARS was originally published in 2009, and is on sale from ‘The Virtual Armchair General‘ for $40.00.

Front Cover

Back Cover

The book is divided into seven chapters, seven appendices, and several extraneous sections.

  • Chapter One – An historical introduction to H G Wells
  • Chapter Two – Playing Little Wars Yesterday
  • Chapter Three – Playing Little Wars Today (including sections on: 1. What You Need; 2. The Basic Points System; 3. Levels of Command; 4. Victory Points & Objectives; 5. Troop and Figure Types; 6. Basing Your Figures; and 7. Formations)
  • Chapter Four – The Basic Game (including sections on: 1. Basic Precepts; 2. The Game Turn; 3. Movement; 4. Charges; 5. Artillery Fire; 6. Small Arms & Machine Gun Fire; and 9. Melee) [I don’t know what happened to 7. and 8.!]
  • Chapter Five – Optional & Advanced Rules (including sections on: Orders & Dispatches; Unknown Terrain; Morale; Quartermasters and Supply; Aerial Observation; Engineers/Sappers; Signalling; Bands & Chaplains; Spies; Field Hospitals; and A Word on Umpires: The last Word)
  • Chapter Six – Some “Top Tips” for the Better Sort of Chap
  • Chapter Seven – Two Classic Scenarios
  • Appendix A: Building an Army
  • Appendix B: Figure & Accessory resources
  • Appendix C: Suggested Bibliography, Further Reading & “Talking Motion Pictures”
  • Appendix D: A New Use For The Garden
  • Appendix E: The Army Lists
  • Appendix F: The Shape of Games To Come
  • Appendix G: A Funny Little War from the Sidelines
  • A Last Word
  • A “Well Done You All Round!” to These Splendid Chaps!
  • The Roll of Honour
  • Game Playing Aids & Record Sheets

LITTLE CAMPAIGNS has only just been published, and it is also $40.00 from ‘The Virtual Armchair General

Front Cover

Back Cover

The book is divided into five chapters, six appendices, and several extraneous sections.

  • Chapter 1 – War Game Campaigns
  • Chapter 2 – The Map Campaign System: A Simple Model
  • Chapter 3 – Some Enhanced Rules for FLW
  • Chapter 4 – The “Ferree-Wilsonian” Computerized Video Battle System
  • Chapter 5 – A Campaign Example, “The Herring War, 1908”
  • A Last Word And Some Sound Advice From HGW
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix 1 – Additional Army Lists
  • Appendix 2 – Miniatures Sources
  • Appendix 3 – Top Tips for Titivating Terrain
  • Appendix 4 – A Lady’s Complaint
  • Appendix 5 – “Mentioned in Despatches …”
  • Appendix 6 – Game Record Sheets


This includes:

  • A four page mock-up of the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS that relates the history of “The Herring War”
  • The copies of a campaign map
  • Four sheets of map counters (two in red and two in black)

The LITTLE CAMPAIGNS GRAPHIC SUPPLEMENT is also available from ‘The Virtual Armchair General‘ for $12.00.

As yet I have only had the chance to skim through everything that arrived today, but there appears to be a lot of stuff that will be of great interest to me.

COW2013: A short photo-report

During COW2013 I ran/attended seven sessions … and what follows is a photo-report of what I saw and did.

Gumbinnen 1914
This session was devoted to a recreation of the Battle of Gumbinnen in 1914. Ian Drury ran the session and used Richard Brooks’ OP14 rules, and players were not allowed to deploy their forces onto the tabletop until they could see or could be seen by the enemy.

The battlefield before the session started.

Each player represented a Corps Commander, and they were subordinate to an Army Commander, with whom they could only communicate by written message. The messages were passed to and fro via a communications umpire, and my role in the game was to act as the Russian Communications Umpire, (The Army Commander was Michael Young, and his Corps Commanders were Tony Hawkins [XX Corps], Peter Grizzell [IV Corps], and Robert Plumb [III Corps]).

One of the innovations Ian introduced into the game was the use of a number of small pinboards, to each of which was attached a map of the battlefield. Each Corps Commander plotted the positions of the units under their command on the map, and this was used by the umpires to adjudicate when opposing and friendly units came into contact.

Peter Grizzell (the commander of Russian IV Corps) using his pinboard map to plot the positions of his troops.
Tony Hawkins (one of the German players) places his Corps on the battlefield. He and the umpire (Nigel Drury) are using the pinboard map to position each of the Corps’s units correctly.
The battle is in full swing, and most of the Russian and German Corps Commanders are now sat around the battlefield. The German Army Commander (and his Chief-of-Staff) can be seen in the background, with their backs to the battlefield so that they cannot see what is happening.
Peter Grizzell moves some of his Russian units forward … and into a swamp!

The Russians ended up losing the battle, but they were out-generaled on the day.

The battlefield at the end of the session.

Operation Vijay
I ran this session about the Indian ‘invasion’ of Portuguese Goa in 1961. Each team of players (one each for the Indians and the Portuguese) was given a detailed briefing of the background to the invasions, the forces under their command, and limited intelligence about their opponents. They were then sent off to plan what they were going to do.

The Indians …
… and the Portuguese.

Once the planning stage was over, each side’s plans were gamed through on a large-scale map of Goa, and any fighting was adjudicated by the umpires.

The Indian Army units are advancing whilst Indian Air Force aircraft bomb the only airfield in Goa. Off shore, the Indian Navy is preparing to strike.

The session went very well, and the result was very similar to what actually happened. This was the first time I had ever written and staged such a game … and I certainly think that it will not be the last.

Fletcher Pratt on Grass
This game was staged by Wargame Developments Demonstration Team North (i.e. Tim Gow, John Armatys, and Martin Rapier) and was a recreation of a naval action that should have taken place in the Straits of Gibraltar on 11th September 1940. Three French cruisers, accompanied by three destroyers, passed through the Straits on the way to Dakar in West Africa. The Royal Navy misunderstood where they were going, and failed to stop them as they passed through the Straits. Once the mistake was realised, Royal Navy ships, led by HMS Renown, set off in pursuit … but the French got away.

The French squadron.

In this game the British were on the ball, and realised what the French were trying to do … and sailed out to stop them. The rest, as they say, is history.

To make the best use of the large lawn that is available at Knuston Hall, all the weapon ranges used in Fletcher Pratt’s rules were doubled. In order to ensure that it was possible to see the model ships in the grass, they were all mounted on large blocks of wood so that they stood proud of the top of the grass.

Both sides used torpedoes in abundance … but to little effect!

The War of Freedonian Succession
Jim Wallman organised a wonderful large-scale battle using a slightly simplified version of H G Wells’ LITTLE WARS rules. Great fun was had by all … and we have already decided that we shall stage another battle next year!

The Cordeguayan Army moves forward to assist its allies.
A peaceful hamlet is defended by two units of Infantry.
Two gunboats (FRS Firefly and FRS Cornetto), packed with troops, sail towards the port.
The Flying Column advances overland from the river towards the enemy.
The Infantry of the Flying Column are left behind by the rapid advance of the Cavalry and Motorised Artillery.
The gunboats FRS Firefly and FRS Cornetto.
The landing force disembark from the gunboats and try to advance inland.
One of the Infantry units defending the hamlet. This is a Line Infantry Battalion.
The other Infantry unit defending the hamlet are Guards.
Cordeguayan Cavalry move forward to engage the Flying Column. They are vastly outnumbered … but they are Cordeguayans and do not know the meaning of fear!
The ‘Monster of Walthamstow’ (AKA Ian Drury) aims at the advancing Cordeguayans.
After quite a fight the remnants of the landing force begin to advance on the hamlet.
The Cordeguayan Cavalry charge home … and get wiped out to a man!
The Motorised Artillery of the Flying Column. The driver of the towing vehicle (a Rolls Royce no less!) is a Mr Parker, who is thought to have driven for royalty during his career. It appears that he admits to having been ‘at Her Majesty’s Pleasure’ on several occasions during the past.
Infantry vs. Cavalry: Who will come off worse in this encounter?
The Infantry manage to inflict some casualties, but are forced to retire. Only eight of the original twenty figures remain standing at the end of the melee.
The main body of the Cordeguayan Army arrives at the hamlet.
The two gunboats bring up more reinforcements. At this point both sides agreed a truce.

All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor
Jim Roche’s session was based around his father’s service in the Royal Navy from 1937 until 1949, and included such wonderful items as Lieutenant Commander Tommy Woodrooffe‘s famous/infamous description of the 1937 Spithead Coronation Review.

Jim Roche and a picture of his father, Paddy.

The session was interspersed with a lot of singing by the attendees, including such famous songs as ‘WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THE DRUNKEN SAILOR?’, ‘ALL THE NICE GIRLS LOVE A SAILOR’ (including the ribald version!), and ‘WE’LL MEET AGAIN’. It was a great evening’s entertainment!

Ironbottom Sound
I had never used any of the versions of the naval wargame rules GENERAL QUARTERS, so I was really looking forward to Ian Drury’s session about the attempts by the Japanese to disrupt the landings at Guadalcanal.

I was given command of a Japanese squadron that was tasked with making a night attack on the invasion fleet. My ships included the heavy cruisers Atago, Furutaka, Kako, Kinugasa, and Aoba, the light cruisers Tenryu and Yubari, and the destroyer Yudachi.

We brushed aside the American picket destroyer but later ran into a couple of Allied heavy cruisers and some destroyers, and in the short-range melee that took place both sides suffered losses. In my case my flagship (Atago) was sunk just after I had handed over control of the squadron to Chris James.

The fighting took place at extremely short range. The white arrows show the tracks of torpedoes.
The Japanese squadron appears to be chasing the off the Allied cruisers. My flagship (Atago) is already on fire (this is indicated by the red counter) and has been hit by at least one torpedo. She sank soon after this photograph was taken.

This was a great battle, and the rules produced a very realistic result in a relatively short time.

Wars and Rumours of Wars
This was a briefing/talk by John Bassett about the possible problems that are likely to affect international relations in the near future.

Even more Black Watch Highlanders!

Today’s post brought some more additions to my Funny Little Wars army … some more Black Watch Highlanders (or proper soldiers, as Tim Gow would say!).

I now have 12 of them, including two officers, and they look mighty fine ‘on parade’.

I am sure that they will be the backbone of my Highland Brigade, and will serve with distinction alongside my other Highlanders, the Seaforths.

As I expect most of my Funny Little Wars battles will be fought using half-size units, I decided to see what the Black Watch looked like as a half-size battalion/regiment.

Not bad, eh?

(The two ‘missing’ figures will probably serve on the Brigade or Divisional Commander’s staff. The officer will be an aide de camp and the piper will no doubt entertain the Officers’ Mess on formal nights … and scare the willies out of the enemy the rest of the time!)

PS. I did buy some more Seaforth Highlanders via eBay … but they have yet to arrive.

Another six and eightpence!

No sooner had I written my earlier blog entry of today about my latest additions to my Funny Little Wars army when the doorbell rang … and a courier delivered two more boxes of 54mm Britains figures!

The latest additions are twelve Welsh Guards …

… and the eleven Seaforth Highlanders.

Some of these figures are over thirty years old, and have one or two minor painting errors or chips … but for the moment I intend to use them ‘as is’.

I have some more Highlanders that are yet to be delivered, and when they arrive I will try to arrange a ‘parade’ of all the Britains figures I have recently acquired.

Send another three and fourpence … better make that six and eightpence!

Not one but TWO packages arrived in the post today … and one of them contained two boxes of Britains 54mm figures to add to my growing Funny Little Wars army.

One box contained six members of the Black Watch …

… and the other ten soldiers of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

I now have the beginning of an Army Red … although I will have to come up with a ‘proper’ name for it in due course.

As to the other package … well more of that later!

Send three and fourpence …

Some further Funny Little Wars recruits arrived in this morning’s post (the first of several tranches I hope to receive this week!) and they have joined the ranks of my US Marines.

I now have 22 US Marines … which is enough figures to form a full-size Funny Little Wars Battalion/Regiment (the two terms are interchangeable in Funny Little Wars) or a small two-Battalion/Regiment-strong Brigade for half-size Funny Little Wars battles.

I have several more ‘units’ on order, including some Black Watch and Seaforth Highlanders (the latter being in campaign rather than parade dress), members of an English Line Infantry Regiment (the Yorks and Lancs), and some Guards (Welsh Guards to be precise).

Rest assured, as and when they arrive, they will be featured on a blog entry.

My latest Funny Little Wars recruits … out of their boxes!

Some years ago James May bought a boxed item of Hornby model railway rolling stock at an auction as part of his TV programme about his Top Toys. (I think that it was a ‘Car-a-belle’ … but I am not sure.) He bid against a number of collectors … and some of them were shocked when he stated to camera that he fully intended to take it out of its box and run it on his model railway at home.

Well today I am going to shock a few collectors of Britains toy soldiers … because I have taken my latest Funny Little Wars recruits out of their boxes … and here they are!

I think that they look great … and cannot wait for an opportunity to try them out on a tabletop (or even a lawn!) battlefield.

My latest Funny Little Wars recruits

The recent spate of blog entries about the half-size Funny Little Wars battles that have been fought in Sheffield by Tim Gow and Martin Rapier has encouraged me to think about staging some similar battles. I have quite a few artillery pieces and four infantry regiments (and some cavalry) in my Cordeguayan Funny Little Wars army, but most of the toy soldiers are plastic Britains Deetail figures … and these have a tendency to fall over rather too easily if the terrain is not very flat. I have, therefore, been looking for some additional, all-metal figures to supplement my existing collection.

The Cordeguayan Funny Little Wars army is almost exclusively made up of American Civil War and Wild West figures, and I decided that the most obvious thing for me to do was to look for metal Britains figures that would fit in with my existing figures … and discovered that the company had produced a range of US Marines in ceremonial dress (dark blue jackets, light blue trousers, white peaked cap) and sets of these figures were available at reasonable prices on eBay … so I bought some!

So far I have bought a box of six marching US Marines …

… and a box with eight marching figures and two standard bearers.

I am on the lookout for some more of these figures so that I can field at least one large ‘regiment’ of marines for full-size Funny Little War battles … which will also allow me to have a small ‘brigade’ for half-sized FLW ones.