Battles for Beginners

What is "Battles for Beginners?"

"Every year non-gamers come to historical miniatures conventions. Some are brought by friends or relatives who game. Others are drawn in by convention advertising. Try to imagine the impression on some one who has never seen even one miniatures game in his life when he sees hundreds of them in one place. While a newcomer might be drawn to miniatures gaming by interests in history, games and modeling common to those who love this hobby, he's probably intimidated by the obvious amounts of time and money laying on those tables.

"While the big showcase games, the ones that turn heads and are talked about for years, will impress and inspire the newcomer, he probably thinks that doing a game like that is beyond his skill, budget and available time. If that newcomer is going to be converted from onlooker to gamer, he needs to see that there is an accessible starting point. Though some can become regular gamers by joining a nearby club, not all are so fortunate. For many, their life in historical miniatures gaming will begin on the dining room table, with a few friends or relatives (or even one) who can be persuaded to play.

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to show potential miniatures gamers just how much game they can get with a nominal effort. Your task is to produce a game that a raw rookie could reproduce, with ordinary skills, in a month or two, for less than $100 and that will fit on a dining room table. Needless to say, the game has to be enjoyable enough that first time gamers will want to reproduce it and their opponents will come back after the first game."

That's how the contest rules began. Recorded on this Web page are the contest entries.

Report on the Contest by Duncan Adams

We set the contest area up as a row of 5 tables, 5'x6', with the center table as a desk than served as the base for umpire and judges.

In each time slot we ran one game to the left of the desk and one to the right. Most of the time the games for the upcoming time slot were set up early, so we usually had four games out for people to see. We had many people checking us out -- new comers and not so new.

All eleven games had enough players to run (always a chancy thing at a convention) and most were full. All the games worked well and the players seemed to be having a good time. Some players went from one BBC game to the next. And, though there were a few visual standouts, I thought that all the games looked good.

For a few of the games we had the minimum three judges and we sometimes had as many as six. I recruited some of the HAWKs to reinforce the judging staff and some of the BBCers judged more than the required four games. The scores really were quite close. If we hadn't prepared specific criteria before hand, I'd hate to have to choose the best by comparing them to each other.

The BBC was conceived to achieve three purposes: to have fun; to provide good, attractive beginner level games at Fall In! 2003; and to produce an anthology of games, instructions and scenarios that can be used by anyone wishing to get started in historical miniatures gaming. The first two were completely successful and you've provided the raw material for the third.

Congrats again to Norbert who took home the trophy and to all the GMs.

The Games

We asked all contestants to submit their game descriptions so that we could share them with everyone. Below are those descriptions that have been submitted. You can either scan the document or click on the name of the scenario in the following table to go directly to it.

54mm Medieval Skirmish GameRob DeanMedieval
Deny It to the Enemy: An American Civil War Game in 54mm Christopher PalmerAmerican Civil War
Reinforcements in DefenseRobert Piepenbrink American Civil War
Quick Start Fire and FuryBob BreenAmerican Civil War
Fire and Sword in the SudanRoss MacFarlane British Colonial
Fold and Fight! Wargaming with Oragami Soldiers Todd Harland-WhiteNapoleonic
Comin' Aboard -- Like It Or NotNorbert BrunhuberAncients
Germans in the MistGeoff Graff1/2400 scale WWI Naval

54mm Medieval Skirmish Game by Rob Dean


My entry in the Battles for Beginners Contest is a man-to-man game set loosely in the 14th century and designed to use 1/35 scale (or 54mm) plastic figures. I chose this project from a list of possibilities for several reasons:

  1. I prefer small (and therefore faster) games to large (and therefore slower) games, which made a skirmish or small battle game a natural choice.
  2. One of my two favorite works of fiction is The White Company, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (more famous for his Sherlock Holmes stories), a story of a young squire and his companions, set during the middle of the Hundred Years War.
  3. I have long admired the Accurate line of Hundred Years War figures and had been looking for a way to build a wargame around them. Large scale plastic figures are relatively inexpensive (50 cents per foot figure compared to a minimum of 90 cents per figure for smaller metal figures) and easier to paint adequately than smaller figures.
  4. My first serious historical miniatures wargaming project when I reentered the hobby as an adult was a medieval skirmish game using 25mm metal figures, and therefore I have had an idea of what I wanted things to look like, and what sorts of situations would be suitable for play.
  5. I thought that most people would be generally familiar with knights and chivalry and would therefore be able to connect with the action of the game.

Wargaming is a modular hobby. Any game consists of four elements—figures, scenery, rules, and situation (or scenario). I will consider each of these elements in turn.


Figures are the heart of a miniature wargaming project. Once a group of figures has been prepared, it may be used with different scenarios or different rules to produce radically different games. They may be used for many years (I am still using some figures I bought thirty years ago) and therefore deserve care and consideration in their selection and preparation.

For this project, I started by buying three boxes of Accurate Hundred Years War English Foot figures (20 per box) and three boxes of Accurate Hundred Years War French Knights (10 foot and 2 mounted figures per box) for $60, giving me a total of 90 figures on foot and 6 on horseback. I began by cutting all the figures and parts from their sprues with a hobby knife. I then carefully cleaned up any flash and mold lines using the knife, taking the figures in groups of six in the same pose. The figures were washed in soapy water, either by scrubbing them with an old toothbrush or by putting them in a covered plastic dish for several days and shaking it up now and then, depending on whether I was ready to start painting the next batch. This is necessary to remove any mold release compound remaining on the figures from manufacture, which will cause problems with the paint if left uncleaned. Based on techniques gathered from the Internet, I usually soak the figures in vinegar overnight after the soap stage. Any figures in multiple parts are glued together using contact cement after the vinegar stage. Once these preparations are completed, I glue the figures onto cardboard strips for painting. Strips of three to six figures are convenient for handling the figures during painting without touching them.

The actual painting of figures begins with a primer coat. I have recently been using Liquitex Acrylic Gesso as my primer coat. This can be applied with a fairly large flat brush. I normally follow this up with a coat of black paint thinned about 1:1 with water. A black undercoating has two main advantages. Any small missed areas end up black rather than white, and are therefore inconspicuous. Colors tend to be less intense over black than over white, which is appropriate for this period of history before the invention of brilliant artificial dyes. Some people object to the use of black undercoats because it can be necessary to use more than one coat of lighter colors to cover them. I find that I end up using multiple coats of darker colors to cover white, so there isn't really much difference as far as that goes.

Once primed and blacked, figures are painted in the final colors using acrylic craft paints. I like to work on groups of figures in the same pose even when painting them in varied colors. I use the method of progressive neatness. I start with the largest areas of color and paint them with the largest possible brush. As each color is added care is taken to ensure that the lines formed by the boundaries with colors already applied are neat. As the areas of color become smaller I change to smaller brushes. A brush with a good point can be used to apply very small areas of color, so I find that points are more important than brush sizes. I used some dry brushing to modify colors and highlight texture on these figures, but neat "block" painting can be very effective on larger figures if you lack time or are uncertain of your skills.

After the colors have been applied, a protective clear coat is applied. This step is crucial. I generally used Liquitex Medium Viscosity Gloss Medium and Varnish for this operation. If all has gone according to plan, this leaves the figures with a clear flexible coating which is resistant to minor bumps and bends. The paint can still be scraped off of the figure with a determined effort, so painted figures should always be handled with some care.

The next stage is to base the figure. I used heavy cardboard for my bases, cutting it into 40mm squares for foot troops and 40mm by 80mm rectangles for mounted troops with a paper cutter. I attached the figures with contact cement, and then painted the edges of the cardboard dark brown for inconspicuous neatness. I don't like the look of figures standing on little mounds in the centers of their bases, so I built up the area around the integral plastic bases by applying a liberal layer of white glue (Elmers or the equivalent) and then dipping the bases in sand. Once the sand layer was dry, the process was repeated with a lighter glue layer and green model railroad flock (Woodland Scenics ground foam) to represent grass. A final spray coat of Krylon matte acrylic clear paint was applied, to reduce the shine of the gloss varnish on the figures and ensure that the flock is firmly attached. All the stages of the basing operation can proceed in large batches, as the actual time invested per figure is minimal.

I have several books on heraldry on my shelves at home, which provided the necessary inspiration for painting the knights. Men at arms were generally painted in less flamboyant colors, with a lot of gray and brown representing undyed or unwashed cloth. Color schemes can be suggested by the packaging of the figures, various Osprey books, and the N.C. Wyeth illustrations for the Scribners Illustrated Classics editions of such books as The White Company, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Black Arrow.

The many steps needed to prepare plastic take time. I was able to save some time by painting figures in batches, though not as much as would have been possible had the figures been wearing uniforms. Given that I could usually finish the painting of a group of six figures in two one hour lunches, the total time per figure must have been under an hour. Still, something close to 100 man-hours was needed to paint the figures.


Scenery is important to a game for the visual impact. It also breaks the playing area up giving a reason for players to maneuver the figures, and can serve as objectives for the fighting or to allow determination of victory at the end of a game. I did not have a particular scenario in mind when I started this project, so my goal was to construct some scenery which would support a variety of possible situations. I also had only $40 left in my budget to spend on scenery, so I had to stretch my money. I wanted a basic village (at least four buildings), some hedges or walls, some woods (at least half a dozen large trees), some roads or tracks, and a stream. I had also hoped to add a bridge as a possible focal point for action, and a representative length of castle wall, but ran out of time before either of these was prepared.

Ground Cloth: Scenery starts with the ground. I had a surplus store army blanket in my camping gear, which I adopted for this project. It was a slightly mottled olive drab color, which was ideal for this use, and had a slightly shaggy texture, which was also ideal. I priced similar emergency blankets at the surplus store for $11. A piece of sage (not pool table green!) felt would be a suitable replacement, but sage felt is usually only available in 36" widths at my local fabric store, which was either too narrow or which would have required a seam down the middle of the table. (Editor's note: You can find 72"-side sage felt on the Internet.) I also invested about $3 in a bag of decorator moss from Michael's craft store to scatter around the cloth to visually break up large open areas. Most of this material can be recovered after a game and reused. Large rocks were gathered around the house.

Roads and Tracks: The easiest possible system for roads is to pour loose sand directly onto the ground cloth. It also looks good, and would look even better if I could find sand that wasn't bright yellow. I was originally shown this technique by my friend Ross Macfarlane. I counted sand among my salvage items at no cost.

Trees: Because I was using 54mm figures, I wanted large trees, up to 12" tall. Despite the wide availability of products for model railroaders, large trees other than pines are very hard to find and quite expensive. I decided to build my trees using dowel rod cores, over which I added layers of high-density upholstery foam to form to foliage structures. The dowel rods were roughed up with a wood rasp to represent bark. The foam layers were roughly formed with scissors, had holes punched through them for the dowels, and then were roughed up by tearing small bits off to make them irregular. They were glued to the dowels using contact cement. Once the glue had dried the whole assemblies were sprayed with black paint. The foliage forms were sprayed with glue and then sprinkled liberally with the ground foam flocking also used on the figure bases. When the foliage was dry the trunks were dry brushed with a light gray/brown paint. Bases for the trees were prepared by cutting them out of corrugated cardboard, spraying them with glue, and covering them with flock. Bases were sized to carry two or three trees. Trees were attached to the bases with wood screws. More permanent bases could have been prepared in the same way, but using masonite rather than cardboard. I had no scrap masonite handy and no slack in the budget to purchase any. I purchased both the upholstery foam and the dowels at a Joann Fabric store. All foam was on sale that day, but most days remnants of foam are available at a discount. Large pieces are not needed, since it will be torn up anyway. My investment in foam and dowels was a little under $6, and I got seven trees and a lot of foam scraps out of it.

Hedges: Hedges were made by a technique similar to that of the trees. A basic cardboard form in an inverted T shape provided the core of each hedge section. Foam scraps left over from the tree process were applied with liberal amounts of tacky glue. When this was dry the assemblies were sprayed black, then sprayed with glue and covered with flock. A gate was formed for one section with heavy cardboard strips for planks. I had intended to use a similar technique with rocks instead of foam over the cores for walls, but was unable to test it due to time constraints, and the $4 for the bag of appropriately sized stones from the aquarium supply store was therefore not included in the budget. The hedge sections were built entirely with salvaged materials (plus glue) including scraps from other scenery elements and leftover flock, and therefore did not cost anything against the budget.

Stream: I had originally intended to build a stream in sections using cardboard as the base, building up banks with sand and glue, and then painting the stream with the gloss acrylic varnish, but time was running out and it didn't get done. I found a water/wave print fabric at WalMart on a trip to pick up more glue and spray paint, and invested about $4 in a yard of it. A 4-5" wide stream was cut for the project scenario, leaving plenty left over, suitable for additional lengths to allow some variation of stream position in future scenarios.

Buildings: Several years ago I noticed that the large cereal boxes we got from the discount stores (e.g. BJs, Sam's Club) were often made of a thin corrugated cardboard, which turned out to be very suitable for scenery projects. I have accumulated as many of these as possible since then, and had a stack of them ready for this project, as well as a stack of cereal boxes of a more conventional thinner cardboard. Detailed descriptions of building construction can be found on The Major General's Page on the Web and in the Games Workshop book on constructing wargames scenery, which is one of their best products. The basic procedure is as follows:

  1. Draw the outline of the walls and any open windows or doors on the cardboard, using a straight edge and a triangle. Two or three walls can and should be left connected depending on the size of the building and the piece of starting cardboard. (Use the corrugated boxes for this stage.) Draw a separate roof piece, allowing for appropriate amounts of overhang.
  2. Cut the pieces out, using a metal ruler and a hobby knife.
  3. Lightly score attached wall joints before folding them.
  4. Fold all pieces to shape and test fit them. Make L-shaped gluing brackets from thin cardboard necessary. (Rough up thatched roofs if necessary at this stage.)
  5. Glue main pieces together, with optional duct tape on the inside to hold while the glue dries.
  6. Add detail work (doors, shutters, wall posts, roof slates) in thin cardboard.
  7. Paint.

Ross Macfarlane volunteered to help me build the buildings (under direction). We assembled four basic dwellings, a small church consisting of a main building section with an attached square tower section, and a small shed. Thatch work was represented by lightly scoring the roof pieces, and then dragging a dull knife sideways across the score lines. The buildings were built entirely out of salvaged materials, and did not cost anything against the budget. The entire scenery assembly, trees, hedges, and buildings, was done by two people in two ten hour days, with time left over to build some buildings for a different project and play a test game of the convention scenario, so about 40 man-hours of total work was needed.

Things Not Built: I had hoped to add a bridge, which would have required a little more complicated cardboard work, and a castle wall section. I had salvaged several Quaker Oats oatmeal containers to form the basis of round towers for the castle.

Summary: A large bag of Woodland Scenics green blend ground foam flock cost $8. When added to the $11 for the blanket, $3 for the moss, $4 for the stream cloth, and $6 for the tree materials, my total budget for scenery was $32. Total time for scenery construction was about 40 man-hours.


I wanted to find a set of rules on the net for free for this project. I used Google to search and came up with three or four candidate sets of rules, mostly through the Free Wargames site in the U.K. Unfortunately, I also wanted the rules to be simple enough to teach to new players and suitable for use with up to 50 figures per player. I couldn't find anything that met both of those requirements, so I was forced to write some rules for myself. Click here for a copy of the rules. If these rules do not suit the reader's taste, the available free web rules may be substituted. It might also be possible to find a copy of Donald Featherstone's Skirmish Wargaming at a library, through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) if necessary. This book includes a set of general skirmish rules plus the special rules needed to adapt them to a variety of periods, including the Hundred Years War. For someone with less strenuous budget constraints, commercial rules are available. I've used Retinue from Table Top Games (TTG) in the past, as well as Knights and Magick from Heritage, a long out-of-print set of fantasy/medieval/ancient rules for relatively small quantities of figures.


For the convention, a set up something like the above was laid out. The small rectangles represent the buildings, the circles represent the trees, a stream crosses the corner of the table, and the roads are laid out in a broad T shape.

I had 76 figures completed: 19 knights and 57 sergeants, including 12 longbowmen and 6 crossbowmen. Because the 4x6 playing area was fairly small for the amount of stuff on the table, I thought that it would be a good idea to set up a situation to use as much of the area as possible. Therefore I decided that the game would involve two groups from one side (the English) advancing toward the village from both ends of the table, while the other side (the French) started in the center and was responsible for defending in both directions. The story that made sense with this was that a scouting party from an English held castle somewhere in France was caught away from the castle when the French attackers arrived. The English troops arrived through the woods on the right were the scouting party, while those advancing along the road from the left were a rescue force sallying from the castle, which was off the board somewhere to the left. The French, watching the castle, naturally occupied the buildings in the village rather than sleep out in the open. The available figures were divided up with 10 knights, the 12 longbowmen and 20 of the remaining sergeants forming the English side, and 9 knights, 6 crossbowmen and 19 sergeants forming the French. The French started by setting up in and around the village buildings. The English were further divided into two roughly equal groups, and entered the table along the roads at either end on their first move. The objective was simple—the English won by linking up their two forces, which would allow the scouting party to return to the castle, and the French won if they prevented this from happening during the time allowed for the game. This situation would be playable by two people, though a little slow, and was ideal for four, two to be the French and one for each of the English forces. With three, one player would take all the French, and with five or six, I'd move a few more troops to the English castle force and divide it in half.

Other possible situations could be devised using this set up. Two forces entering from opposite sides could attempt to seize and hold the village. A single force could be attempting to loot the village, with the defenders starting on the table, or with part of the defenders entering later as a relief force (especially once the mounted figures are painted). The woods could be arranged to provide cover for an ambush on a party advancing down a road, and so forth. There are many possibilities, and, as with the situation chosen, they can be made to fit the troops available while one is still in the middle of the painting process, so you don't need to wait until everything is painted before trying a game.

Deny It to the Enemy: An American Civil War Game in 54mm by Christopher Palmer

List of Materials and Costs

Included are catalog numbers for ordering from the sources listed in the Acquisitions of Materials section.

1BMC Gettysburg Diorama Playset (BM98530)$30.00
1Box Accurate Union Infantry (AFL3202)$10.00
1Box Accurate Confederate infantry (AFL3203)$10.00
1GASLIGHT Rulebook (LM-GASLIGHT)$16.00
1Thrift Shop or Discount Store Green Blanket$12.00
1Bag 'Reindeer Moss' Lichen$1.99
1Box of 100 Hillman 1-1/2 inch Fender Washers(#740855)$9.60
1Sheet Blue Craft Flexi-Foam$0.79
1Sheet Tan Craft Flexi-Foam$0.79
132oz Jar of Woodland Scenics Medium green Flocking (WDS635)$6.00
420-sided dice$1.60

List of "Free" Materials

You will also need Latex Primer, Craft Acrylic paint, and a Spray lacquer coat to paint the soldiers, and a hobby knife and white glue to assemble the bridge, mulch 'rocks,' and trees.

Estimate of Hourse Needed to Build the Game

45 hours of work. Further hours are need for drying times for paint and glue.

Instructions to Reproduce this Project

Acquisition of Materials

Figures: Try your local hobby store first. If they are unavailable there you can order them from Stone Castle Imports at See the List of Materials for catalog numbers.

Rules: The rules can be ordered from Brigade Games and Hobbies. Editor's Note: G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. is one of the best sets of wargaming rules ever written, and the fact that I co-wrote them has nothing to do with that statement. If you don't own a copy, shame on you! :)

Ground Cloth: For the game I am using a blanket found at my local Goodwill. Most all gamers have access to some sort of thrift store such as the Goodwill or Salvation Army. A sheet or a tablecloth are also good. You can also look in discount outlets that sell overrun and unclaimed stock.

Lichen: This can be purchased at Michaels Craft Store under the name "Reindeer Moss".

Fender Washers: Model #290036. These can be found on the Home Depot website. See the List of Materials for the catalog number.

Flexi-Foam Craft Foam: I purchased mine at Michaels but it is also available at other major craft stores.

Flocking: Try your local hobby shop. If they do not have it you can order it from See the List of Materials for the Catalog number.

Twenty-sided Dice: Try your local hobby shop. If they do not have it you can order them from

Rulers: These can be purchased at Wal-Mart.

Assembling the Project

First paint the figures with the primer. Then paint them with the craft acrylics and afterwards spray them with the lacquer. The figures are then glued individually on the fender washers. Afterward you can glue flocking on the washers.

Trees were assembled by finding tree-like twigs, gluing the 'trunk' end to a small piece of cardboard glued on top of a washer, and then gluing clumps of lichen to the 'branches.' The bag of Reindeer Moss should have enough for 5 trees and enough left over for using as scrub brush on the ground cover. The fences were constructed by cutting twigs into 3-inch lengths and then gluing them in an overlapping manner like a snake fence.

Make a plank bridge by cutting the rounded ends off the craft sticks and then gluing them side by side.

To make rock outcroppings glue two or three pieces of bark mulch in a pile and then paint grey like stones.

Roads were made by cutting the Flexi-Foam into 3" strips and then gluing a small edging of flocking along the edges.

Rivers were made similarly, but were cut to a width of 2-1/2 inches and were made wavy.

The Game

Scenario: Union and Confederate reconnaissance regiments with artillery are each approaching a small river to secure a bridge over it for the advancing main body.

Objective: Each commander's mission is to drive the enemy away from the bridge river crossing and hold it until game's end.

Game Length: Two hours

Orders of Battle:

Reinforcements in Defense by Robert Piepenbrink

Rules: Stonewall Briagde

Scales: Stand of four castings 1 1/2" wide = 100 infantry in two ranks. Stand therefore equals 25-33 yds, or 1"= 20 yds. A gun stand is a section, and a cavalry stand is 40-50 cavalry.

Rally: Routed units rally on a die cast of 5-6, subtracting one for poorly-trained and adding one for elites or for the presence of a general officer. Routed units rallying may not move or shoot until the next turn.

Movement: Infantry in line move 6"/turn; in column 9", and in road column 12". Cavalry in line move 9", and 18" in road column. Charging in line doubles movement. Changes of formation/face cost 1/2 movement if stands are rearranged, or 1/4 movement if stands are not repositioned, as in forming a column from a line by a right face.. Artillery moves 6" limbered across country, and 12" limbered on road. Unlimbered artillery may pivot, or retreat by prolong 3"/turn. (In the absence of limbers, guns may move 3" and fire, and 6" off road or 12" on road if they do not fire.)

Fire: Infantry roll one die for each 4 castings, hitting on a 5,6. Artillery roll 1 die per stand, hitting on a 5,6. Fire effect is halved--hit on 6 only--beyond 1/2 range, or against hard cover. Against cover and range, double firing groups and hit on 6 only. Infantry in column may not fire. When firing at units charging them, smoothbore artillery rolls double dice, and smoothbore muskets hit on a 4-6. Each hit removes one stand or infantry or cavalry. Artillery stands have a saving throw of 4-6.

Ranges: Rifled artillery 72", canister 15": Smoothbore artillery 36" canister 15". Rifled musket 18". Rifled carbine 12". Smoothbore musket 6".

Melee: Only the front rank of stands participates in melee. Roll 1 die per stand, hitting on a 5,6. Charging units add one to their die cast, but may not fire and charge. Subtract one vs. troops in cover. Units hit flank or rear cast only one die. At the conclusion of one round of melee, the side which takes the most losses casts for morale. If they stand, the winner casts for morale. If both stand, the units remain locked in melee for another turn. Artillery never rolls more than one melee die per battery.

Morale: Units cast morale when taking casualties from fire, when charged, when routed past (within 6" ) be friendly infantry or cavalry, or on the death of an attached brigade commander. Units stand on a 3-6, adding one for veteran infantry or any artillery, subtracting one for green troops and for each stand removed from and infantry or cavalry unit. A friendly gun section touching a green infantry regiment raises its morale one point, but this is not cumulative with the bonus for a general. A commander attached to a unit raises morale by one. Units failing morale rout back one road move, and must be rallied. Artillery routing when charged abandons its guns and is removed from play.

Commanders: Single commanders represent brigade commanders. Two-casting command bases represent division commanders. Commanders may attach themselves to regiments of their command to raise morale or improve chances of rallying. Commanders not so attached may not come within 18" of the enemy. Commanders attached when the regiment takes casualties roll 2D6, and are killed on a roll of 12.

The Scenario: Reinforcements in Defense

(Based on the Charles S. Grant scenario and Gettysburg Day One.)

Union forces consist of a blacking force and a relieving force. The blocking force is determined by die roll:

  1. Cavalry Brigade of two regiments (each 5 stands) armed with breech-loading carbines and a battery of three rifled guns.
  2. Cavalry brigade of three regiments (each 5 stands) armed with muzzle-loading carbines and a battery of three rifled guns.
  3. Regular infantry brigade of two regiments (each 4 stands) veterans with rifled muzzle-loaders, and a battery of three smoothbore guns.
  4. Regular infantry brigade of three regiments (each 4 stands) veterans with rifled muzzle-loaders and a battery of three smoothbore guns.
  5. Militia infantry brigade, two green regiments (each 4 stands) with rifled muskets and a two-gun smoothbore battery.
  6. Militia infantry brigade; three green regiments (each 4 stands) with rifled muskets and a two-gun smoothbore battery.

Union blocking forces will be marked with flags in the center of their positions, but troops will not be placed on the board and types revealed until Confederate forces are within canister/musketry ranges.

The relieving force will begin marching on on Turn One in road column, and will consist of two brigades (each of four regiments of 4 stands of veteran infantry with rifled muzzle-loaders) and a three-gun battery. 1-3 smoothbore, 4-6 rifled.

The Confederate force shall consist of (1-3) a division commander, two brigades of four regiments (six stands) of veterans with rifled muzzle-loaders, and three mixed two-gun batteries, OR (4-6) three brigades of veterans, armed as above, but organized in 12 four-stand regiments, again with three mixed batteries in support. Confederates will begin marching on in Road Column on Turn One.

Victory Conditions: CSA wins if at any time prior to the conclusion of Turn 16 CSA has a 2-1 advantage in troops in good morale on the ridge. All other conditions are a Union victory.

Special Rules for Dismounted Cavalry: Union dismounted cavalry are presumed to be armed with breechloading carbines. They fire at 12" range, but roll double dice. If meleed, they roll 1/2 dice. Mounting and dismounting take 1/2 movement.

Special Terrain Rules: Troops do not get charge movement bonus going up the hill. The rail fence confers a one pip morale bonus on troops behind it. The orchard reduces line movement or any artillery movement to 1/2. It also provides cover against long-range fire. Only units moving entirely on the road get the road column movement rate. Others may not exceed column rate.

Bill of Materials

Rules & Scenario--included above. Free. If the rules aren't to your fancy, try the "Horse & Musket" rules in Donald Featherstone's War Games or the American Civil War set in Featherston's Complete Wargames, or the "Horse and Musket" set in Joseph Morschauser's How to Play War Games in Miniature all available from a good public library. All work on approximately the same level. Free
"Battle Cry" figures. Made as replacement sets for the Hasbro/Milton Bradley game, I bought just the figures and decals direct from Hasbro. $54 bought me two forces of 240 infantry with far more cavalry and artillery than are needed in support. (NB: kit includes both standard bearers and sticky decal-type Union and Confederate standards.) I also bought one box of Eagle Games pieces at my local hobby shop for $15 to provide a different casting for dismounted cavalry. $69.00
Mounting the figures: All were based on 1 1/2" square pieces of mat board from a framing operation. Commanders were mounted on round pogs, but this was not strictly necessary. $4.57
Playing Field: Wal-Mart sells a 36" X 8' roll of green felt at Christmas for $4. One cut yields a 4' X 6' table. $4.00
Hills: sheet foam rubber of roughly 1/2" thickness, purchased from craft shops, cut to approximate shapes & painted or dyed. I've always had more scrap foam than I needed, but I did price foamat Hobby Lobby. Say $1 per hill. $2.00
Roads: "Camel" felt available from craft shops at approximately 14 cents/sheet, and cut to a width to match stands.$0.28
Fence: for a "snake" fence, use a base of large "craft" stick, 6" long. Fences of matchsticks. All sprayed flat black. Craft stick base is then "grassed" and matchsticks damp-brushed in grays. Cost approximately $5 for bag of 100 craft sticks and nearly infinite supply of wood matchsticks. $5.00
Woods: golf tees glued to cardboard and primed brown or black. Green pom-poms 1-1/2" or 2" diameter glued to tee. Cut the card in irregular shapes and flock. Given time, dip pom-pom portion of finished tree in a mixture of water, white glue and green acrylic paint, then in a dark flock. Cost approximately $1.67 (Wal-Mart) for 75 golf tees, and larger pom-poms 9/$1 for 1 1/2" and up to 6/$1 for 2" (Hobby Lobby). Thus $3.67 for 15 mixed trees and $11.67 for 75 trees. $3.67
Gaming Accessories: Two rules @ $0.27 at Wal-Mart, one steel tape $2.00 at Wal Mart, and 10 dice @ $0.50, with 4 counted as free by contest rules. $5.54
Total cost of project$94.02

Costs not included: white glue to base castings, exterior wood glue for building trees and fences, acrylic paints for castings and terrain, and a protective sealant. Strictly speaking, the castings need not be painted, as the troops come in blue and gray, but a good looking battle is one of the joys of miniature wargaming. I have also "flocked" troop bases, rail fence bases, and (sometimes) trees. Again, unnecessary tacticaly, but vital aesthetically.

Quick Start Fire and Fury by Bob Breen


This is not a new game idea, but rather a way to get started in American Civil War Gaming for under $100. While it may not have the "eye candy" of a lobby game at a convention, it basically allows a new comer to experience all aspects of creating a game and then dazzle his friends and family with an historical miniatures game on his dining room table. This will hopefully begin an interest in the hobby, never again to spend only $100 on a game!

The Concept:

By using the Fire & Fury rules, the beginner not only gets a complete and well written rule set, but information on painting figures, making scenery, etc. So without ever going to a convention or club event the person is introduced to the hobby.

The key to affordability is to use a mounting system of 1 figure per stand. No it is not a skirmish game, and while it may look like "squads" rather then brigades on the tabletop, you do get to fight a relatively big battle. Each infantry stand still represents 200 men; each stand of artillery represents 8 guns.

After you've bought the rule book and the figures, the budget will not allow you to buy any elaborate scenery, but get a piece of duck cloth and some paints from around the house and paint yourself a battlefield.

The Details:

Fire & Fury rules - this is easy, just buy it ($15 is a recent price I've seen). Also check out the Web sites for "free scenario ideas."

Figures -- Let's use 15 mm - a popular size for ACW (so whatever you do this time can be used for later gaming). I'll use 3 bags of Old Glory 15 mm ACW figures:

(Note: I actually counted the figures in the bags I bought and found a few extras.)

Three packs will cost you $69. You might be able to fine tune the price, selection and figure variety by shopping around for the smaller packs of other companies, but a new person to the hobby will have some difficulty doing this unless in a store or at a convention. (Note: if you buy it at the convention and you get a friend to buy a set as well, you can share the usual buy 5 get a 6th bag free Old Glory promo, so your figure cost is only $57.50 - more to spend on scenery.)

You're also making compromises on the variety of figures, unless of course you have that friend with you to buy 6 bags and split them. I suggest buying the union figure bags and painting the rebs in gray uniforms, rather then the "ragged rebs" options of some of the rebel figure bags.

Painting the figures -- follow the directions in the book. I think the contest rules don't require including the cost of paints, but while you should follow the suggestions of the book, paints from you local craft store might be more affordable.

Mounting the figures -- I would prefer to use metal bases (because I can make the labels removable and use a magnetic sheet for transport), but since I'm doing this on a budget, this time I would use either balsa wood or heavy cardboard - I'll choose free beer coasters from the local tavern (contest rules do not require to include the cost of the beer). For base sizes use the sizes in the F&F rules that would be used for 3 or 4 figures per base. The reason is that first you don't want to modify the rules in your first game and second when you start adding to your collection with multi-figure bases, you can continue to use your starter figures as extra units.

Flags -- Grab a couple of images from a web page, size them for your need and print them on a color printer. See for some examples. Depending on your (or your children's) computer graphic skills you can do some graphic editing of the image. A sharp knife will facilitate cutting them out. It would be easier to just buy two flags sets, but then again there is that budget constraint. Anyway learning how to use the web for this does give you access to a variety of unit flags as well. So if you are ambitious with this aspect of the figures you could have both national and unit flags for all brigades - something not seen even in many more elaborate games. If you need extra flag bearers, just add a "wire" flagpole to a figure with an outstretched arm.

Overall army size -- Between the infantry, command packs and extra artillerist you get enough for about 190 figure bases and twelve gun bases. You probably can't use every figure. You should have enough for about 9 union brigades and 11 rebel brigades - troops and leaders. An adequate number to play the Gettysburg day 1 scenarios in the rulebook -- do have to assume the cavalry is dismounted, since those figures mounted were not in the budget. I did use cav flags for them, but did not cut off the bayonets!

You also will have to employ the concept of "dead men rising". As casualty figures are removed from the initial play, they become the recruits for the re-enforcements to arrive later. I've also added an option to the rules to allow you to remove a unit from the field that is out of infantry fire range (8"), and all the troops, not the flag stand to become reinforcements.

This process for re-enforcements will present some decisions to be made in that a unit may not be at full strength when its arrival turn occurs. Do you bring it in early with reduced manpower, or do you wait until it is at full strength? Sounds to me like a decision a General might have to make. Attached is the modified deployment sheet for Scenario 1 - The Gathering Storm -- from the F&F Rule Book consistent with the overall number of figures outline above.

Okay, almost done (which is good because you are almost out of money - by my count you have $16 left (assumes no discount on the figures). Time to get very creative. Go to Wal-Mart (or some other inexpensive cloth store and for $9 you can get a 5' x 6' piece of heavy duck cloth -- I suggest you get natural color. Use the remaining $7 for materials to create your scenery of choice - might be Styrofoam, toothpicks, lichen (or floral moss), small stones, etc. Alternatively you might be able to find this stuff for free in which case you can spend your $16 scenery budget on some other neat stuff at the local hobby or craft store.

Now to make your tabletop battle map, take map 1 of the first day of Gettysburg from your rulebook and "paint" it on the duck cloth. Make sure you have something under the cloth when you paint and thin out the paint. Your task is as creatively as possible make a two dimension map come alive - paint the roads and trails brown -- the water is of course blue - the rest can be one or two shades of green (or whatever old paint you have in the garage or workshop). Don't worry too much about how it looks -- it will get better with age and you can always add details later.

Optional painting approach -- Use some clothing dye and spray paint the Gettysburg map, with the same technique used for t-shirt painting. With a little practice, you might have a second career selling battlefield prints at the local ACW Re-enactor events.

Wherever you have a hill, is where you can enhance your battlefield with a piece of Styrofoam to fit your painted map, slope the edges and give it a coat of paint. After it dries you will put your Styrofoam hills on top of the 2D hill you painted on the map.

Look around the house for other free scenery material. You can make fences out of tooth picks or (used) wooden matches, stone walls out of kitty liter or fish tank gravel, some small pieces of decorative stone on a piece of felt can designate the rough terrain, some scrap greenery (eg lichen, floral moss) on green felt can designate woods, buildings may be available from your holiday decorations, a model railroad set might have some usable scenery, there are numerous articles with ideas for cheap trees (eg twisted wire glued to a penny base, covered with lichen or scenery grass), etc.

Put your low budget armies on the table, recruit an opponent and give your first ACW F&F game a try. Remember to take a picture so in the future when you build that dream tabletop for your 2,000 figure army, you can look back on how it all started.

Footnotes and after thoughts:

The above contains a complete description of one implementation of the concept. Additional surfing of the web might identify some other cost reduction possibilities -- i.e., a no cost set of stand based rules, other scenarios and map sources.

The one figure per base is obviously a budget compromise to be able to field about 20 ACW brigades in order to do a "big" battle. While it is clearly a visual impact issue, it does not impact any aspect of the rules. As an alternative you could consider doing this is 6mm, although I think that works better in Napoleonic's than ACW. 10mm figures are also a possibility, but I think you will have to change the base sizes, movement and fire distances.

Having only "kepi clad" figures for both sides is another compromise, but it does make the painting a little bit easier, in that it is basically the blue against the gray.

Base labels and other game markers can be made with the Microsoft Excel spread sheet software, glued to a piece of cardboard and cut to size. Probably can even do a better job with some of the Publishing software, but that is not my area of knowledge.

Painting a 2D map will take some time. If you are not familiar with Gettysburg the research will help to educate you about the terrain and give you some insight into why some things happened historically they way it did. It's also the least expensive way I know to incorporate terrain features into the game play. It's also quick to set up. If you do a good job it might be a wall decoration. And if you are doing this project with a son or daughter this is something they can do in the garage while you are painting up the figures. But some green felt, a bag of brown roadway scenery, those Styrofoam hills, and some scratch built scenery can also work.

List of Materials:

Total Cost -- $93 (or $7 for anything not really free)

Estimate of time:

Adapting Scenario 1 - The Gathering Storm, for Quick Start F&F

Corps Commanders -- you need 4 (2 union, 2 CSA) - use 4 horse mounted leaders from command pack. In the standard F&F Rules you would usually use 2 mounted leaders per stand to represent a Corps Commander, so ultimately these figures would become Division Commanders if you expand your army.

Division Commanders -- you need 11 (7 & 4) - use individual infantry command figures. Put something else on the stand - eg a "rock". In the standard F&F Rules, Division Commanders are one horse mounted leader per stand. As you expand with more leaders you can use these figures in brigades to designate the exceptional leaders.

Brigade Flag Stands -- you need 31 (14 & 17) for the scenario. Even though you can't have all the units at full strength initially do make up all the flag stands. You will probably have to use a few figures with an outstretched arm and a piece of wire to get enough flag stands.

Artillery -- you need 20 stands (8 &12). You have 12, with two artillerists per stand. Paint up 5 union and 7 rebel gun stands.

Troops -- you need 203 (90 & 113). From what is left from the above you should have ~142 figures. Paint up 61 union and 82 rebs.

Order of Battle -- Arrival Schedule and initial manpower. (Remember you use losses to build up later arriving units.) Numbers in '( )' represent initial available strength '(*1*)' is a unit that needs to be completed.

Fire and Sword in the Soudan by Ross Macfarlane

The 19th Century saw many little wars in which cultures and technology clashed. This is one of 4 or 5 favorite periods for wargaming. It provides a romantic background for both sides, on one hand the native armies fight for freedom and the old way of life, on the other the forces of Imperialism bring modern civilization and a new order. This era also allows the gamer/modeler to field everything from rifles and machine guns to spears and swords, all eras rolled into one. It is also an era when uniforms were simple and easy to reproduce in miniature and where miniature soldiers are easy to find.

The set up I am going to describe can be adapted to various theatres of war. The forces can be used for dozens of scenarios and can easily be expanded in modular fashion. To recreate this game you will need the following:

Itemized list of materials, including costs.

  1. 5 boxes of Armies in Plastic 54mm soldiers. 2 of #5426 Egyptian Infantry in Summer Uniform, 1 each #5440, 5441, 5442 Ansars, Fuzzy Wuzzies, Riflemen. (From Buy 3 get 1 free) $15 x 4 = $60
  2. 1 Timpo Gattling Gun () = $6.50 (optional)
  3. 1 BMC Civil War set for Mounted Officer and Gun () $6.50
  4. Cloth for table top $9 purchased from remnant bin at fabric shop.
  5. Houses Mine were made from salvaged foam core but any bit of cardboard should do. Check damaged bin at art shop $5. (see for instructions on building houses.)
  6. Bag of lichen $5 any hobby store
  7. Bag of bark chips for rocks $5 Garden store or collect rocks from back yard
  8. Cardboard for bases $2.00 From damaged bin at art store or salvaged.

Total : $99

Other materials:

  1. Hills: salvaged scraps of foam or wood, books, cardboard or any scrounged material
  2. Rules: Free for rules
  3. Paint and brushes: Acrylic craft paint such as Ceramcoat or Apple Barrel recommended. Can be found as cheap as $1 a bottle.
  4. White glue for bases.
  5. Varnish. Sand for the bases (optional) Spray paint for cloth.

Estimate of hours needed to build the game

To assemble and paint figures and scenery: 40 hours


Choosing Forces

I have chosen to field 1880's Egyptian and Mahdist Sudanese armies composed of the sets of 54mm figures produced by Armies in Plastic (AIP). There are other manufactures such as Conte, A Call to Arms, Lone Star which provide suitable 54mm plastic figures. The same game could be played using British soldiers instead of or in addition to Egyptians, French Foreign legion vs Arabs or using British vs Zulus, Boxer Rebellion Chinese or Afghans. It is also possible to buy metal figures in various scales including prepainted toy soldiers. Any figures from 20mm to 60mm may be used without any change. For those on a very tight budget the game could be put together using 20mm plastic figures for a third of the price although the colonial sets are not always available.

For this game roughly even forces are used, since the Egyptians are all armed with modern rifles and have plenty of ammunition while the Mahdist forces include many spear and sword armed figures, the Egyptians will be outnumbered. If high morale British forces are substituted then even fewer should be used.

The Egyptians

I purchased 2 boxes of AIP figures. Each box contains 20 figures in 10 poses, 2 officers and 9 soldiers. Since I decided I wanted to add a cannon or machine gun for variety, I divided the force into 4 companies each with an officer and 8 soldiers. This left me with 4 soldiers to form a gun crew. There are various guns available but for fun I chose a Timpo recast Gattling Gun, not 100% accurate, the Egyptian army normally used Gardiner machine guns but the only model I could find of these was an expensive model one and as the effect on the table was the same, I made the assumption it had found its way into Egyptian hands, perhaps off an English gunboat. I trimmed the rifles out of the hands of 2 of the crewmen to add to the look of the thing.

Now, I needed a commander. It would have been possible to organize the Egyptians into 3 units each of 11 men and an officer or reduce the gun crew to 3 strong and paint one soldier as a sergeant to replace an officer but I wanted a mounted figure. Reisler makes a suitable Egyptian figure but it is hard to find and the metal ones available are expensive so I decided to convert a mounted American Civil War officer to fill the role. I used one from my spares box but BMC sells a cheap set of soldiers which provides 2 to choose from and also provides 2 guns. the soldiers them selves could be converted easily to more troops but I left that for now. The conversion is a simple one as the only item that needs adjusting is the hat. Simply trim the brim off the hat with a sharp knife to turn it into a fez. If desired a little bit of epoxy putty can be used to build up and shape the crown and add a tassel.

The Mahdists

For the Mahdist forces, I used 1 box of each set AIP produces. This gave me 40 spear or sword men and 20 riflemen. I split these into 3 spear armed units each 12 strong and 3 rifle units each 6 strong. This left me 6 figures which I used to make a 4 man gun crew, a flag bearer and an Emir. With a little bit of work it would have been possible to make a nice Emir out of the other ACW officer but I left him on foot for the time being. I again trimmed the rifles from the gun crew. The ACW cannon from the BMC set is perfectly fine as an old gun taken over by the Mahdists but I decided to add a square breech made of epoxy putty to make it look more modern, it is not an accurate model of a Krupp by any means but gives that general impression. To make the standard bearer, I cut off the sword from 1 figure, drilled a small hole in his hand with a pin drill and pushed a piece of wire through the hole. I downloaded the flag from and printed it then folded in half and glued it to the staff. It could have been painted by hand instead of printing.


Wash the figures with hot water and dish or laundry soap to get rid of any grease then undercoat. I usually brush on Liquitex Acrylic Matte Medium but various spray primers will do. One of the nice things about the AIP figures is that the box provides a reasonable painting guide. I like to paint in groups of 8-12 figures at a time. I glue them temporarily to a strip of cardboard or a piece of scrap wooden strapping. Then I go through painting the same colour on each figure, e.g. all the white, then all the flesh etc. Some people like to start with the flesh but I usually start with the largest colour so that I can slop it on. A batch of this size can be prepared and primed 1 night and finished in 2 sessions each an hour or so long. Don't worry about making sure each figure is absolutely perfect. once placed on the table en masse, individuals won't be noticed.

Egyptians: Paint the figures white overall (I had some already done in blue winter uniforms so I used them but the all white summer uniform is more appropriate.) Sometimes white doesn't cover well so check the figures and touch up or apply a second coat where needed. Once that is dry, add a little bit of brown to some white paint, thin it slightly and using a fine tipped brush (0) add shadows in the crease in the clothing, the bottom of the tunic etc. The officers are different, they wore dark blue coats and pants so paint them with a Prussian or Midnight blue and add a bit of black for the shadows.

Now paint the flesh parts with a dark flesh paint. I don't like to do the whites of the eyes, its a lot of work to get a good result and usually leaves a weird wide eyed stare. A small black dot is best with a thin black eyebrow above it. Use a fine tipped brush or else a microtip felt pen. (.05) Now paint the rifle brown then add black belts, boots, hair and rifle barrel. The rifle barrel can be left black or mix in a touch of silver and add just a few highlights. Do not paint the barrels bright silver. If you're feeling fancy add a black dot where the buttons will go. Paint the fez dark red with a black tassel. Add a gold dot over top the buttons, paint on the officers lace and give the bayonet scabbards a gold (brass) tip. Choose 1 figure in each company as an nco and paint 2 or 3 small chevrons on 1 arm. Once the figures are painted and dry, they will need a good coat of acrylic varnish to protect them.

Mahdists: Again white is the dominant colour so paint them all white. For the riflemen and the Ansar figures in turbans use the slightly darker white/brown mix to add shadows as before. For the wilder Fuzzy-Wuzzy or hadendowah figures, mix a slightly darker shade or use some sandy coloured paint and thin it down until it is a milky consistency and then using a soft larger brush, brush it over the figures making sure it runs into the folds of cloth and doesn't collect too much on top of the folds and on any flat areas. It will stains the whole figure a dirty off white while shading at the same time. Let this dry thoroughly before proceeding. Many of the Ansar are Arabs so apply a dark, suntanned flesh colour. The Fuzzy-Wuzzies will be darker skinned as are most of the riflemen so use a dark brown for these. I have a walnut paint that I like. Now paint in the belts reddish brown and paint the hair black. Do the eyes as before. When painting the rifle barrels, you may add a bit more silver than you did for the Egyptians as the Mahdists polished their rifles. Spears may be painted in a light brown or as darker, polished wood. For the spear tips and swords, paint them using a silver/black mix then when dry add silver highlights along the edges. This will finish the Fuzzies but the Ansar and riflemen will need to have patches added. Look at the box for examples and carefully paint on the patches. Varnish as above.

Finishing Up. The AIP figures have good steady bases and they can be used as is if you paint the bases sand colour but I like to mount them on cardboard squares to give a collection of figures from different manufacturers a uniform look. In order to accommodate the wide stances of many plastic figures, I have adopted a standard size of 1.5" by 1.5". Glue the figures down with white glue then once dry paint an earthy colour, I use Territorial Beige. Once that is dry the bases can be further enhanced if you coat the base in white glue using a toothpick to push it up to the figures feet, then dip the base in sand (I use a bit of traction sand saved from the previous winter's supply). Press the sand into the glue, shake off the excess and set aside to dry.

Houses. The arab houses are simple boxes made of cardboard or foam core board. I scrounged some and have also used ordinary corrugated cardboard as well. There are plenty of good tips on the web: especially but in brief, I decided on a standard size (4"x4" in this case), not too big so that I can group a couple of houses into a village without dominating the table top. I cut out a door on 1 side and a window on another, trimmed back the inside on the sides so that the back and front will slot into them for a smooth joint and glued them together. I added strips glued inside to support the roof and glued it into place. When dry, I painted the houses beige then while it was still wet I took a largish brush with white paint and daubed it on to give a textured look fading from almost white up top to near beige at the bottom.

Other Scenery. It is possible to get quite elaborate with scenery but as I have limited storage and need to travel with it, I tend to go for very simple stuff. I start with a visit to a sewing supply store and check their remainder bins for a left over end of khaki coloured cloth. To make it look more natural, I buy small spray cans of flat green and yellow or brown and spray irregular splotches all over the cloth. For hills I use scrap pieces of foam insulation, offcuts of wood, books, what ever I can get my hands on that have the right size and shape and build the contours on my table them drape the cloth over top. Now I scatter lichen (bought from a hobby store) and rocks (bark mulch from a gardening store plus real rocks) to form areas for the native troops to hide in. Trees may be made by gluing lichen to a twig and if you keep an eye on dollarstores you can sometimes find cheap palm trees.

Scenario: situation, objectives, and orders of battle.

It is 1883. Rebellion is spreading across the Sudan. Word reaches the governor that a rebel leader has arrived with a cache of arms and money in a local village. If he can seize them, maybe he can stamp out this insurrection and return to Cairo with honour...


Select 1 of the 2 table set ups below. 'E' marks the Egyptian entry point. Set them up with 12" of the entry point. 1/2 the Mahdist forces must begin in the villages, the rest may be hidden behind the hills or in any of the rough areas marked on the map.

Victory Conditions

Egyptians must capture all of the houses within 2 hours of playing time. The Mahdists must try to stop or delay them.

Fold and Fight! Wargaming with Origami Soldiers by Todd Harland-White

I found the instructions for folding these Napoleonic soldiers on the Web one day, located at Done by Wayne Ko, the pictures of the troops looked terrific, and Wayne allows folks to download his original set of directions. I asked Wayne if I could use his patterns as the basis of a convention game – he said yes and the rest is history. The game has been play tested prior to this competition at Coldwars and Historicon 2003, where I included the chance to fold a soldier or horse of your own to take home after the game.

Wayne’s figures are for 15mm gaming. I can’t handle making them that small, though they do look great at that scale. So I have rescaled the figures to about 50mm, using 120mm squares of paper for the horses, 90mm squares for the cannon bases, 60mm squares for the figure bodies and legs, and 40mm squares for the heads/hats. Other than that, I pretty much use the patterns as presented at Wayne’s website.

To have an excuse to play with the figures, here’s a Napoleonic scenario:

Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807 to close down the last ports in Europe friendly to England. Unfortunately, the Royal family escaped Lisbon only 1 day ahead of his troops, and begged England for help. England answered the call with both troops and ships.

Now, by 1810, the French have been driven out of the country twice. But the English leader, the Duke of Wellington, knows the French are coming back with an even larger army for the third try. Secretly he starts preparations for a wall of fortifications near Lisbon – "The Lines of Torres Vedras" – to protect the Portuguese and the British troops. Think of part of the "Great Wall of China" – built over a single summer. Wellington’s strategy proved successful, with the French army coming to a stunned stop at the base of this unexpected country-wide wall, and then dying by the thousands of starvation and disease while the Royal Navy kept the Portuguese and British well supplied. Finally the French retreated, beginning a hard-fought multi-year withdrawal from Portugal and Spain that finally ended across the Pyrenees in France with Napoleon’s defeat.

To keep the French from discovering about the wall and reaching it before it was ready, Wellington sent his elite Light Division under Robert "Black Bob" Craufurd to harass the on-coming French and keep their scouts from getting any hint of what awaited their army. But, patrolling near the River Coa by the Portugal-Spain border one day, Craufurd runs into trouble on 24 July 1810 when a French scouting party he attacks turns out to actually be a much larger portion of the full French army under General Ney.

Stuck on the wrong side of the River Coa, can Craufurd’s troops escape across the only bridge for miles in either direction before being decimated by the French? (Historically, Craufurd’s troops did escape, but with such high losses that Wellington was irate with Craufurd and didn’t forgive him or trust him again for many months.)

So, to go with that scenario, we need some troops. I'm afraid I have to admit that the colors of the uniforms aren't necessarily quite what the troops in this battle were actually wearing -- but they are a) faithful to the forces that were in Portugal at this time, and b) use standard origami paper colors.

British, divided up between either 2 or 3 players:

French, divided up between either 3 or 5 players:

The battlefield includes the River Coa along the Portugal-Spain border with a small bridge across it, a road along the Spanish side of the river that includes a cross road across the bridge, and some hills and trees that will be minor obstacles to movement and lines of sight. The British are near the bridge in their typical line formations, and rapidly approaching along the road are all the columns of French and allies, with some skirmishers also coming from between the hills. (The setup is shown on the next page.)

I use the "Milk and Cookies" rules found in the book Big Battles for Little Hands by Buck Surdu and Rob Dean (which also contains "Blood and Swash" rules and much else of interest on tactics and scenarios and game building for the beginner). "Milk and Cookies" uses troops in groups of four, and I give each player 2 groups of four, so there are 3 British players and 5 French players, and 64 total soldiers to make (plus 16 horses and 2 cannon). Alternately, give each player 3 groups of four troops, with 2 British players and 3 French players.

Total chargeable costs for the game as you see it are 23 hours and $58.99. Details are in the table on Pg 4. Preparing the figures worked out to a bit over 12 minutes each: that is just a tad under the time it takes for me to paint store-bought figures so I guess I saved money but not time. I was certainly making figures faster at the end and maybe I had the time reduced to under 10 minutes apiece -- adding the guns and uniform belts and basing starts to take as long as folding eventually.

Have fun, and happy folding and fighting to you!

Comin' Aboard -- Like It or Not! by Norbert Brunhuber

This was the winning entry in the Battles for Beginners contest!

Itemized Costs:

Each ship includes:

Purchased Materials:

Subtotal $31.25

Purchased Figures (Navigator Miniatures 25mm):

Subtotal $44.80

Total Cost of Materials: $76.05

Excluded items:

Estimate of hours needed to build the game:

15 hours. It would take about a week's worth of evenings and a weekend to finish up. Weekday evenings work out well because some steps are short and require overnight drying times.

Instructions that a brand new gamer could use to reproduce your project:

To build a ship, you first take a 1/4"x4"x24" piece of basswood and round off the ends with a Dremel. I rounded the “front” of the ship into a more pointy shape to suggest a ram, but make sure it is not too narrow because the figures will need room to cross over from the bow during the game. I then cut strips of wood from the smaller pieces of basswood to make the vertical skirts on either side of the ship’s beam. The skirts should run nearly the length of the ship and be about up to the waist of the figures. I glued these onto the ship with white glue. Similarly I glued the curved wooden piece of wood onto the stern of the ship to suggest the curved back that triremes are constructed with.

The ships are then painted brown with cheap craft paint. I painted the skirts and end piece in one color to represent teams (ie red team’s ship, blue team’s ship, etc.). Once dry, I used the ink pen to draw thin lines on the floor of the ship to indicate wooden planks. I also drew in three squares which are painted black. One in the middle is small and represents where the mast goes, two others are about as wide as the washers used to mount figures. These represent holes in the floor to access the levels below deck. Figures can be pushed down these holes to get them out of the action; the mast hole is only enough to make them trip and fall.

The accessories for the ship are easy to make. Cut the dowel into waist-high pieces for barrels. I painted them brown and used the ink pen to draw in lanking. Gangplanks can be cut from the smaller piece of basswood and painted colorfully. Grapples are made by cutting string about 3-4" long and tying a hook into one end. Again, as a rule of thumb try to use sizes that are to scale with the size of the figures.

The figures have their bases shaved of any flash, glued to washers with white glue, and then sprayed with primer. After painting the figures, I painted the washers all the same color within a squad to help identification during play. Once painted, you can coat them in clear acrylic varnish (available at craft stores) to protect the paint job.

Scenario: situation, objectives, and orders of battle

Comin' Aboard -- Like It or Not!

Ever wonder what it was like on an ancient trireme just after being rammed? Here’s your chance to take command of a squad of marines as they attempt to board and take over an enemy vessel in this skirmish level game set in the time of Alexander the Great’s Successors, the Diadochoi. The Diadochoi lived for glory – here is your chance to see if you have the mettle to match.

During the course of any ancient naval battle ships would try to ram into an opponent and sink them. If the ship was not sunk, the captain could elect to send over his men to capture the opposing ship by disposing its defenders. This is a short (2-hour) game about that boarding action between 2 ships with an emphasis on fast and fun action. The rules are simple and each ship can accommodate between 1-3 squads meaning that the 2-6 players can play at a time.

Each player gets a squad that includes hoplite marines, an archer, and some deckhands arranged wherever the player wants them on the ship. The hoplites can obviously fight well, but everyone is useful. This game rewards creativity. You can do things like roll barrels down the length of the ship, or shove opponents overboard. But beware of that ballista. Its bolts can shoot right through multiple people! The objective is to completely eliminate the opposing team, thus gaining control of the ship.

Germans in the Mist by Geoff Graff

It's another day of patrol for your squadron, a sweep off the German coast - in the foggy south North Sea. The mess room coffee helps as you end your watch with the rising sun. You peer into the darkness as the black night turns to gray. Then the lookout shouts "enemy ships to port!" Join in another swirling, deadly fight between the light ships of the German and British navies in World War I. A time before radio, radar, aircraft and submarines were around to confuse the issue. Today it's just iron ships and steam, men and guns. No pre-registration please; walk-ups only. Specifically, this game represents a meeting engagement between German and British ships, somewhere off the coast of Germany. This kind of situation was very likely, and happened several times during World War I. I prefer hypothetical match-ups like this, because most historical actions were not evenly matched. It is especially important to play balanced scenarios when learning the game. I have done several 'unbalanced' scenarios in the past, and find them enjoyable, but not everyone enjoys playing a game where they are outgunned, and win by escaping in good order.

The Components

The ship models are 1/2400 scale: 1 inch on the model represents 2400 inches of the original ship. Or the say it another way, 1 inch on the model equates to 200 feet on the real ships. The models are available from several sources; CNC, Viking Forge, Panzerschiffe and GHQ are the sources I have acquired from. For purposes of this game, I am using models from GHQ and Panzerschiffe. GHQ is considered to make the most detailed models, and the most expensive. Panzerschiffe makes their models in plastic (all the others use metal) with less detail, and theirs are the least expensive. They also have the most complete range of ships. Available on request are a few copies of contact information for GHQ and Panzerschiffe, and lists of the WW1 ships they carry.

The paint schemes I used are relatively simple. By mid-war the British were using these, plus several variations and several different camouflage patterns. Available on request are a few copies of one person's description of the paint schemes for all the major WWI navys.

After trimming off any imperfections or mold seams on the models, the models should be washed lightly with soap and water to remove any residues. Then the models should be spray painted with a base coat. I cheat here by spraying with the basic color for the ship. Three colors will be enough, light grey, medium grey and charcoal grey. Other colors will be brushed on to finish the model. Several other shades of grey, off-white, a cream, red-brown, rust red and black are what I use most frequently. Very fine point brushes are needed for this. Most gamers use acrylic paints, which are water soluble. This makes thinning the paint and clean-up very easy.

The rules I use are General Quarters 2. They are available from several different venders. I like them because they give a good feel for naval warfare, but do not include a lot of fine detail, which can slow down a game. I have modified the rules somewhat, as most historical miniatures games do, whatever rules they use. I have added a torpedo template. If you wish to use my rule modifications, I can send you information on how to create this template. My e-mail address is

The cloth cover used to represent the ocean is simply a piece of 56 inch wide blue cloth from a fabric store. You can use it at 56 inches wide (less than 5 feet), but I like it wider. For my purposes I own use I bought 6 yards of cloth (18 feet). I cut off 6 feet, and cut this in half, yielding one piece almost 5 feet wide and 12 feet long, and two pieces about 2 ½ feet wide and 6 feet long. I sewed the two smaller pieces along one side of the longer piece, and now have a gaming cloth 12 feet long and over 7 feet wide.

It was suggested that a naval game would not be the best choice for the purposes of this contest, and the ocean does not have any scenery, and the game would not be as attractive as other submissions. I fixed this by creating scenery for my ocean, I built fog. I cut out irregular shapes of acrylic to represent fog banks, from about 10 inches to about 30 inches wide at the widest point, and sprayed a mist of light grey on them to make them 'foggy.' I mounted them on 1-1/2" long dowels (also painted grey) to keep them abouve the ship models. The acrylic I use to mount the ships and to represent the fog are found in any hardware store. To cut the model bases I used a special acrylic knife (about $3.00), but to cut the fog I used a fine toothed blade in my jig saw. Ten-sided and 6-sided dice are needed. I find it better to have one set of dice for each player. Smoke markers are pipe cleaners, and small cardboard game markers are used as shot markers. You can use small pieces of cardstock to create shot markers.

Contact information

Project Costs

Below is a price list for the items needed specifically for this game. Dice and paints are the major items not on this list. The ships listed are enough to run an eight player game!

Ship Models, Panzerschiffe
-4 light cruisers per side (total = 8) @ $2.50 each$20.00
-6 destroyers per side (total = 12) @ $1.35 each$16.20
Rules, General Quarters 2$6.95
2' x 4' sheet, 1/16" acrylic$13.69
Blue broadcloth fabric, 56" wide4 yards @ $3.00 to 5.00 per yard$20.00
Two 4' wooden dowels, 3/8"$ 2.00
Screws, #2 x 1/2"$3.00
Pipe cleaners$2.00

I have used several GHQ models in my game, to show the difference in detail between the GHQ models and the Panzerschiffe models. The additional cost to substitute some GHQ models would be:

Add ship models, GHQ: 2 light cruisers @ 7.75 each = $15.50, 3 destroyers @ $1.95 each = $ 5.85, for a total of $21.35. Subtract the cost of the following Panzerschiffe models, replaced by the GHQ models: 2 light cruisers @ 2.50 each = $5.00, 3 destroyers @ $1.35 each = $4.05, for a total of $9.05. This changes the game total to $96.14, rather than $83.84.