British “Squares”

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Since seeing “The Four Feathers” (1939 version if you please!) film as a child the idea of a British “square” formation has been ingrained in my brain (not that it appears in the film at all but vaguely the idea is there when the Fuzzy-Wuzzies attack at dawn the lone company of Captain Durrance -already blinded by the Sun- and Burrows and Willoughby of course!

The reading many years later of SMALL WARS revealed to me nothing “new” but it is a book I recommend because it is a compendium of “obvious things to do” (but easily forgotten)… it took me a long time to read and digest (meaning that since begun I read and finished a lot of other books) because it was interesting and meticulous. It has been a long time since I recommended a book!

So today I chosed some old pics from my personal Vault to illustrate the point. Maybe when I get the remaining 16 figures from DORSET (sorry IMPERIAL MINIATURES nowadays) I will indulge in a new series with Khaki clad warriors.

Maybe you already have seen them but anyway…

Enjoy!

A Major (later Colonel) in the Artillery… and specially useful if you are a colonial wargamer or buff. Not the edition I’ve got… but that’s the one!
54MM “square”
A variation of my first one with Perry’s added to my Old Minifigs.
The 54 mm version (aka ULUNDI times)
I even did it with customized Playmobils (75mm).
Ulundi in 6mm (Baccus minis)
Not forgetting 6mm Baccus
I used those well known pics on the cover and backcover of my Spanish Second Edition (unavailable because of the I.R.S. that was pesting me every year!… I am not American you kow… and I pay my taxes in Andorra!) So I deleted the books from amazon and that put an end to the harassing.

The second and final English Edition (try ebay if you must)

FREE BOOK : MY TOY SOLDIERS AND ME (second edition revised & updated).

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You can download for free on the top right column clicking on the cover… it would take a minimum of time (about 3 minutes) because of the original colour pics (BTW the captions of them are silly printed at the end of the book… I do not know why but in 2016 it seemed a good idea!).

To cut a long story short one day I read you could edit and publish a book quite easily! (autoedit a book using createspace)… just on the point of ending my professional life as an architect I decided to write a book about my experiences with Toy Soldiers (my daughter counseled that better than writing about urban planning&landscape because I would hurt less people).

So I did, for a while I sold copies through amazon.com and amazon.co.uk (and even a Spanish version in amazon.es)… guess that I sold around two or three hundred copies including the kindle version. So far so good.

Then the IRS started pestering me about my supposed benefits… the correction of the English version costed far more that the pitance I got from the book returns… and I simply retired the copies from createspace. No vanity after all… it was fun for a while.

Then one day I asked my eldest son (a computer engineer with a doctorate and several masters I do not know how to explain myself…) if it would be possible to hang in this present webpage a downloadable free copy… and he said yes no problem!

So, there you have it!… the first drafts date back to 2006 or 2008… it was first written in Spanish (my maternal language)… and I assure you nobody was interested in Spain at all!… LOL… So I translated it myself to English (where the hobby still exists… I thought!) with awful results (the black cover first edition) and then once the critics in amazon said it was good intentioned but ilegible… I decided to put a remedy and then I paid for the services of a profesional corrector (something the IRS does not take account for). and there you have it.

BTW I pay my taxes in Andorra dutifully!

What happened after 2016 is in the Facebook Group under the title (obviously) MY TOY SOLDIERS AND ME…and this webpage/blog.

Enjoy!

James Opie

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Scot’s Greys on foot… he loves them!
The hardback copy (must get one pronto!)

Somewhere else in this collection of posts I have already mentioned his great contribution to Toy Soldier literature (specially Britain’s), and still consider his book COLLECTING TOY SOLDIERS “the” reference book. Of course he advises Auctions and has a job connected with buying and selling items… but this is not here not there. He has (still) a fantastic collection (much revised and streamlined if you know what I mean). So he deserves a Post of his own. Enjoy.

Paperback (the one I own)

After 2016… (III)

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After taking a peek at the Outro of my book I guess it is time to say that 6mm won. The decade or so that I toyed with Playmobils is gone forever, mind, it was FUN and no dealing (well a bit) with paints and rigid figures (lead toy soldiers have a definite “position” and you can not change it) was a novelty for me -of course I could not resist painting some extra details on them- but what was really amusing was to dissemble them and do other figures exchanging parts- that way you could get the soldiers Playmobil never produced (even if they produced the parts!).

The more convoluted and complicated conversions/customizacions I ever did with Playmobils. Now in the Armies of my grandchildren!

So, the movements Up & Down in scale after a deep crisis with my beloved for years 25/28mm ended with an exclusive dedication to 6mm. I sold or gave as gifts to my grandchildren the vast majority of Playmobils and kept some for good old times sake. Currently in my office Cabinets there are only the Trooping of the Colour set, and the complete 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn (1/5 aprox scale)

Baccus 6mm has won the contest without doubt and it is a scale I am really satisfied with for wargaming purposes. Gone are the days of detail obsession, fear of derision at doing something wrong on the painting scheme (never painted “eyes” on my 25mm), the ever present search of the perfect set of rules, and other aspects that were nagging me as the lack of room to maneuver, the always secure flanks, the difficulty to present the tail of an Army, Lines of Communication and so on. There were intelligent tricks to represent all this on the tabletop in the larger scales… but got fed up with them in the end: dice to see if that flanking troops arrive!; dice to see in which place of the table!; take a chance card! etc. It was becoming Monopoly.

Maybe I should have explained earlier that for me not all the fun comes from winning a wargame, not anymore, it is equally interesting the disposition of forces in a marching Column, its movements, the scouting ahead and the flanks and rear, and the correct orders and ways to attack or pin down and flank an enemy position that a battle head to head so many times done in 25/28mm. I can move troops in 6mm! Suddenly couriers and vedettes have a meaning, where the troops “are placed” also, and moving them around is a serious business I enjoy. This of course is mainly done in small Colonial periods aka Punitive expeditions in the NW Frontier, Desert warfare in North Africa with the XIXth Corps (French you know), Tamai affairs (Osman Digna), Custer’s Battalion movements (an interesting mystery), Doomed Charges of Cavalry (or not), they all have the BONUS of space in my old tabletop. Of course that not exclude big battles as in the ACW period but are today less of an obsession and not the only target.

So, to sum up and end this post 2016 actualization:

1) I have a nice -for me- 54mm traditional New Toy Soldier Collection on display and add items to its themes very very slowly and carefully!… It is real interesting when I find a firm as Replicametalsoldiers&models (Andrew Stevenson) who can do “special things” on demand. No change of main themes in the offing, but toying of with my own version of A GENTLEMAN’S WAR with 54mm… will keep you posted about that (a 2020 project).

2) Playmobils are in my past. But I still skirmish or parade them when my grandchildren are in the mood… not often enough.

Naval battles no more…

3) 6mm is my actual passion, I keep saying to myself: This is the last order… this is the last parcel to the painters… I have to write down some really good rules for 6mm just in case my brother turns up unexpectedly and we have a game like in the good old days… only reason why I built those ACW Rebels!.

4) The old Boardgames of my childhood have new figures (METAURO has Baccus 6mm), and Little Big Horn has kept the only 25/28mm figures I own today a mix of Dixon’s for the 7th and Old Tradition of London for the Native Americans… Nowadays waiting for the release of the Hostiles by Baccus to get even another possible way to game the LBH outside the limits of the old boardgame. Incidentally I must mention that I have over one hundred books about the LBH alone… quite obsessive about it! And even a couple of Hex based Boardgames like my brother enjoys!

And I hope that makes clear what I am up to at the beginning of 2020!, finally decided to build a 54mm force to “play with” NOT a cabinet display unit… jus a FUN purpose game. Blame Mr. Howard Whitehouse book “A GENTLEMAN’S WAR”.

For old Napoleonic good times sake let me recommend to you those imprescindible books by HEIMDAL… The French Line Infantry is due in May 2020. Still wondering if I will indulge on the period again… OMG!.

Foot Imperial Guard.
Horse Imperial Guard.

American Civil War (I)

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Baccus 6mm Rebels deployed. Painted by Turbil Miniatures.

ACW was my first love, it still is, and thats that. The main reason of wargaming again the ACW (must be my sixth try), this time in 6mm, is because it is well balanced and a “compact period” 1861-1865.It all started with John Ford and the movie “THE HORSE SOLDIERS” which I saw so many times when a child that it left an everlasting impression, and I did not dig all the nuances until I was older, for me it is a masterpiece of condensation, nearly everything on the ACW is there. If you add to that my old 54mm soldiers, AIRFIX 20mm period, MINIFIGS, FOUNDRY. DIXON, TO THE REDOUBT, PLAYMOBILS and finally BACCUS… Well… Recurrent is the word you are looking for…

Of course it was not only the movies… I enjoyed reading SHELBY FOOTE three Volumes, a real tour de force! So packed with information that I had to read slowly to digest it -meaning I read a lot of other books at the same time- even about the ACW too!

Of course refighting historical battles as they do in LITTLE WARS TV is Ok, but I always enjoyed “doing my own”… it is very hard to simulate in the Tabletop the disinformation of the real Generals (The overestimation of The Southern Armies numbers by the Union Generals -aka little Mac- is a well know fact!). Still even so Bull Run (1st Manassas) is a favorite up to a point… But to be honest I mainly I build a scenario with a bit of fog of war, try to enlist some generals from my brother downwards and that’s it. Fictional battles are for me so much more fun after-all, in real war you can not pitch Stonewall Jackson against U.S.Grant for example… in real life they never fought each other.

But, apart from other lines of entertainment with Baccus figures, at the moment it is the ACW who wins all bets. I have the Armies, the scenery and the will, but must write some easy to understand home rules for my grandchildren, always have loved simple rules but with a twist some place.

Confederates deployed for action.

So, to sum up my progression: I started wargaming when a kid in a rudimentary form on the floor with 54mm “rubber” soldiers (1). I then -in my early twenties-discovered the plastic AIRFIX whole range in 20mm -in fact 4 different boxes; Union Infantry (blue), Confederate Infantry (grey); Artillery (medium brown) to be used for both sides; and finally US Cavalry (Blue) that you had to paint for the Rebs- and went for them boxes like the quest of the Grail! (2).

In due time I discovered MINIFIGS 25mm, then based at Southampton, so I graduated to “metal” and their Catalogue (which I still have) was my companion for years! (3). I still recall the sorrow when a Zouaves unit got “lead rot” and become unusable… of course I dutifully bought them again and painted them even better… those were my painting years. Afflicted by a bout of Napoleonic megalomania I swapped my 25mm Union Army for my brother’s Napoleonics (same trade mark) to do not have to transport them up and down because we lived 200 Km away from each other. It was a satisfactory solution, and I went to complete all Napoleonics nations as a result.

Then FOUNDRY started an ACW range and I could not resist buying ACW UNION Cavalry under “THE HORSE SOLDIERS” influence, by then I was mixing riders and horses (Dixon) and making conversions -nearly military modeling- one thing lead to another and I got some Artillery… and then why not? some Infantry -you need some at Brandy Station I reasoned- of course I bought the Confederates too… That was my fourth effort! (4). Finally, crisis struck again and my faith in 25/28mm was shattered… regretfully I sold them all. Some of them -those Union painted by me- became property of my brother who had the Rebs and no crisis of confidence with that scale. We even exchanged some Napoleonic’s for them… I kept the 25mm Napoleonic’s longer than the rest… but they were sold too in the end!

With the funds obtained I started building Playmobil Armies for my (then) first two grandsons… once organized I thought it was a way to confront brother against brother in a too realistic way and scratched out the project… Sold them all again. (5) And went “tricorne era” fictional Playmobil Armies much more clean in spirit, and much more toy soldier like, a la Charles Grant Jr.

And where was I?… Reading Practical Wargamer… and there I found Baccus ACW Cavalry on the cover of one number!… nothing less than East Cavalry Field (again)… months of musing about it… I bought POLEMOS ACW rules from Baccus… and fell in l love with the color pics (eye candy) -Rules as it is I prefer my own as always- And then to make a long story short I went Baccus ACW 6mm for both sides (6).

Do not pity me!… I had tons of FUN in the whole process that lasted years and years… and I am certified as SANE.

So there you have it, I have build six times the period and have read a long list of books about it, by the way Paddy Griffith is very good at it!. There are two very good books to own by him: BATTLE IN THE CIVIL WAR Generalship and Tactics in America 1861-1865 with stunning artwork. And then BATTLE TACTICS OF THE CIVIL WAR. As per uniforms information the best to my knowledge apart from the Osprey’s, old Blanford, and Troiani’s and Kuntsler’s and Rocco’s paintings the best single volume is: La GUERRE de SECESSION Les armées de l’Union et de la Confederation- by HEIMDAL in France.

Very good textbook.
Excellent Illustrations. A must have book.

Now, as I have in my modest collection enough troops to have fun -megalomania is a pest to avoid- and all the references of the Baccus Catalogue! I am satisfied. I must confess the range is splendid and one of the best in Peter’s production.

I use the ACW limbers and caissons also in colonial affairs mind, and also the horses for dismounted Cavalry. I even have some Rapier Union Infantry to add a bit of variety to the collection and also Rapier Cavalry on both sides. I even mixed minis from other periods getting French with kepi from the Franco-Prussian Baccus range too… anything to add variety. Im my opinion one of the best Baccus packs is ACW7 because it has hat and kepi figures and some with rolled blankets across the chest -always a favorite of mine- so, if I started anew building Baccus ACW Armies I would surely get all the packs but ACW7 would have the lion’s share of the purchase (the only drawback is ACW7 has only one standard-bearer!).

If you are new to the period I can recommend:

ACW Filmography: GONE WITH THE WIND, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, GODS AND GENERALS, GETTYSBURG, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, GLORY, MAJOR DUNDEE, SHENANDOAH, THE FIELD OF LOST SHOES, CLASS OF 61, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL and THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE UGLY… to name about a dozen… real fans should also see THE BIRTH OF A NATION and THE GENERAL (Buster Keaton) both silent movies.

ACW Bibliography: THE CIVIL WAR (Shelby Foote), THE CIVIL WAR (Bruce CATTON’S trilogy), CLASHES OF CAVALRY (Thom Hatch), BATTLE TACTICS OF THE CIVIL WAR (Paddy Griffith), BATTLE IN THE CIVIL WAR: GENERALSHIP AND TACTICS IN AMERICA 1861-65 (Paddy Griffith), DON TROIANI’S CIVIL WAR, BATTLEFIELD ATLAS OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (Symonds), All Ospreys on the subject MAA and Campaign, “THE” Blandford book about Uniforms: UNIFORMS OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR 1861-65 -the first one I ever bought myself!- LA GUERRE DE SECESSION (HEIMDAL Jouineau-Mongin), THE QUEST FOR ANNIHILATION (Cristopher Perello), GETTYSBURG (Stephen W, Sears), GETTYSBURG: THE STORY OF THE BATTLE WITH MAPS (David Reisch and David M. Detweiler), THE CIVIL WAR: THE STORY OF THE WAR WITH MAPS (same), and of course hundreds more…

And as an afterthought on ACW Historical Fiction: THE KILLER ANGELS, SHILOH, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, CONFEDERATES, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, THE MARCH, STONEWALL’S GOLD, UNTO THIS HOUR, THE NORTHERN WOLF SERIES (5 books I guess) RUTLAND’S BLUES AND GREYS, CIVIL WAR STORIES (A.Bierce)… Frank Yerby, John Jakes, even the great Bernard Cornwell did 4 novels (probably not his best novels though) about it!

And in the End…

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Slightly smaller than DUCAL but exactly as BRITAINS or DORSET SOLDIERS.

The games you play are equal to the games you make…

I could not resist it, saying farewell and knowing when to quit is very difficult.

I have painted a “new old toy soldier”… a 54mm (ReplicaMetalSoldiers Andrew) a mounted Inspector General of the NWMP in a dark blue patrol jacket – I enjoyed so much the painting of it that I am currently pestering Andrew for a variation on the theme…- and all just because a childhood memory. I was very young when I got a box of mounties (I already had a lot of them) but in that one proudly in front of the lot there he was… a mountie with a dark blue tunic -and yellow gauntlets!- of course it was the commander of the unit!… I always had a crush for that figure (and of course never found one alike)… so in the end I decided to make my own and quite satisfied I am going full circle. Of course the original one was lost forever, but I have still 3 “mounties” over 65 years old.

I am going to update this post with pics and slowly edit the rest, meaning that I think there is always room for improvement.

There he is on its proper place before saluting the flag of the parading mounties.

It was a pleasure comparting posts here… and sure I will post more pics!… and edit existing posts but that’s all. To elaborate would be just a copy/ paste of what I said in my book “My Toy Soldiers and Me” so just peruse sometimes to see editions to come (of the posts of the blog not my book!).

Playmobil “mounties”… customized… and of course the dark blue patrol tunic is there too! Not very good light on that pic. See OSPREY MAA.

Editing this blog would be much more interesting that writing new entries, just yesterday I got one half of my last REVEILLE Leven buildings (Daniel Hodgson is the chap you need for your scenery!), vaguely colonial they would be pressed into service at the battle of Maiwand, NWF and North of Africa indistinctly.

Renaming and ordering the Posts of the Blog by subjects and categories nowadays.

Original pic of my DUCAL mounties in the garden (Pal in ANDORRA) not Canada at all I am afraid.

Summing up, my interests on “toy soldiers” are wide and large. I do not restrict my activities to a single field or even scale, neither period. No original at all, as you can imagine there is nothing more conservative than the Household Division to collect in 54mm, and the rest of my 54’s are in three main themes: French Foreign Legion (with some Chasseurs d’Afrique); Tel el Kebir/Rorke’s Drift aka Brits colonials before khaki; and last but not least NWMP/RCMP. As you can see in Collecting I the minis collected in 54mm have been subject to buy/sell, Scot Grey’s cometh and goeth, same with US Cavalry in gala uniform, Denmark Royal Guard, and some mat finish Spanish miniatures I had because a compulsory swap was made. That is Collecting for me, something alive but with periods of lethargy. Not Original at all I am afraid but a rewarding pastime.

I dedicated a chapter of my book to Collecting (my own experience mind) but the books you need is the one by James Opie: Collecting Toy Soldiers, and THE COLLECTOR’S GUIDE TO NEW TOY SOLDIERS by Stuart Asquith. The former has written many excellent books about Britain’s but THIS ONE is the best of all his production IMHO.

Indispensable.
By now it should be named The Collector’s Guide to “OLD” New Toy Soldiers. How time flies by…

Guess it is time to start making lists again… first objective get the remaining ACW brigades organized (after a bit of checking up what minis I have used so far), deciding who is gonna paint what… and put a perspective into new projects, mainly completing “things” already exist… Will keep you posted.

Cheers.

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