Tag Archives: 54mm

Chosen Men. Maybe just the thing for all those 54mm Nappys

A long, long time ago, I used to keep a little notebook I’d take on work travel.  I’d just sketch things down in it, some fiction, and the occasional idea for a game.   Big Danged Boats came out of that notebook.  So did a bunch of other things that eventually saw the light of day.  One of them was an often visited, often alluded to project I called Voltigeurs and Riflemen.  This was a skirmish game I envisioned taking place during the Napoleonic era.  The units were single figures or small groups of up to four figures.

54mm British Riflemen, Peninsular War and Waterloo, Italieri, my collection

54mm British Light Company, Victrix, my collection

For my own reasons, I wanted the scale to be 54mm a figure.  I love this size for Skirmish games; they are easy to see and easy to handle, and the size forces the battlefield to be manageable on one table.  My original inspiration was an old book by Paddy Griffith called NAPOLEONIC WARGAMING FOR FUN.  It’s a fun book about several versions of napoleonic games that Mr. Griffith designed over the years.  Nothing I’d try these days, but one design I did really like was his version of a man to man Napoleonic game.  This really doesn’t happen very much in this niche of miniature wargaming.  Napleonics is for big battles, right?  Lovely uniforms, massed infantry formations, artillery batteries, cavalry charges with hussars ranked knee to knee, resplendent down to their pink piping and pigtails.

Well, sure it is.

Still, I often imagine what it’s like in that space in between where the big battalions meet and crash into each other.  There has to be a No-Man’s land where small groups of deployed skirmishers meet each other, for just a moment in time, before the big formations crash into each other.  For that glorious 15 minutes to half an hour, there should be a place on a Napoleonic battlefield where individuals continue to make a difference, where Skirmishers can attempt to pick off officers and sergeants, disrupting the enemy advance.   Such a game would have to move fast, represent individual soldiers by preference, possess command and control tracing back to individual leaders, and somehow represent the impact of that larger battlefield entering their little skirmish bubble during the course of the game.  Skirmishers, after all, were detached from larger companies.  Designated Light formations certainly could skirmish AND form formations.  British Rifle Companies lived in the skirmish zone, their entire purpose in life was to leap nimbly about, find cover and load their slow but accurate Baker rifles to harass, impede and otherwise disrupt enemy attacks by killing the chain of command from a distance.  Napoleon was not as firm of a believer in the rifle, but the Voltigeurs were also trained to screen an advance and act as elite marksmen for the French side of the field.  It’s when these two types of soldiers– the nimble, slow-firing Britons and the nimble, faster-firing but more inaccurate French, intersected as screens for the big attacks, THERE is where a man to man game of Napoleonic warfare makes sense.

The V&R rules (* Voltigeur and Rifleman) I came up with featured breaking a turn down into segments.  Again, this was heavily influenced by the Paddy Griffith book I mentioned above.  You rolled for characteristics of the soldiers in your company, just like a roleplaying game.  STR came in handy for giving more hit points and in melee, DEX allowed you to reload and aim faster and better, MOVE may allow a few more inches of movement more or less a turn, AIM was for firing, LDR was for Sergeants, Corporals, Lieutenants and Captains, and was great for Rallying, Moving men into and out of formation, and giving orders.  As Paddy G. had envisioned it, every action took a segment.  Where he and I parted ways was I thought he got a little too microscopic with his approach to actions and segments.  Picking up a ramrod was a segment.  Cocking a musket was a segment, attaching a bayonet a segment etc.

The “Action Chart” from Paddy Griffith’s ancient Napoleonic Man to Man Skirmish Game. This really impressed me when I was 15.

Every portion of the British Musket drill was broken down into segments.  I thought that was fascinating when I was 15 and read Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun for the first time, but as an adult, now I can see that that would make for a miserable game for modern tastes.  I didn’t have 30 years of experience back then.  I don’t think any player these days, especially convention wargame players, have the patience for such micro management of actions.  So, in fact, would V&R be miserable, as first I imagined it to be.  I streamlined the actions to six for muskets and eight for rifles, seven if taploading– and it still doesn’t play fast enough for me.

Detail from a rogues gallery spreadsheet with many V&R characters rolled up.

I have looked for smaller scale miniature games that might work– I have high hopes for Sharpe Practice by Two Fat Lardies (and purchased it!), but it appears to be maybe one scale size too large, and maybe a little too much for 54mm figures.  Great rules, though.. if I get a whole passle of 28mm Nappy figures, I’m going to be all in for this rules set.

 For 54mm scale, though, I needed a rule set that emphasizes individual actions, not group actions.  That’s why I started on Voltigeur & Rifleman– I still need something that’s relatively fast moving, and the V&R approach won’ t hack it without a lot of re-work and playtesting.

Enter CHOSEN MEN, by Osprey Games.

As I’ve covered in past blog posts, I tend to pick up most of Osprey’s “blue line” of wargame rules in a semi-desultory fashion.  Some of them are great, some of them are bad, and some of them are mediocre.  Since they are relatively inexpensive (for modern wargames, most of which tend to be hardbound and full of illustrations to drive the price point up), and even more inexpensive as Kindle publications, I usually put most of them on pre-order as Kindle publications and hardcover if it REALLY catches my eye.  Since this book came out nearly simultaneously with the release of ROGUE STARS*, I said “what the heck” and pre-ordered both in paper.  There’s always something entertaining in a Napoleonic skirmish rules set.  Wow, I’m glad I did.  Immediately, I can see there are many, many elements of what I am looking for in Chosen Men.  The average force size is 3 to 6 units of maneuver of 5 to 20 models each.  I would be reducing that.  The average gaming area will be 4 x 4 feet, I will be attenuating that and rifle/musket range or the riflemen will become ridiculously powerful.  Models have stat lines very similar to the ones I posted about in the illustration above, only it’s Melee (M), Resilience (R), Command (C), Wounds (W), Tactics (TAC) and Stratgy (STG).  Melee is personal fighting skill, with sword or bayonet, Resilience works like Constitution or “Toughness”.  Command is more like Morale in classic game design, as in being “In command, or capable of accepting commands”.  Wounds is self explanatory, Tactics is like “Action Points”, and Strategy is only used by Officers or Sergeants– used to get their units to do special actions, and there is a finite number of STG points.  Dice are all six-sided (I like this, but I don’t require it).  Actions are determined to be successful by performing checks against skills, and two models opposing each other would determine outcome by roll-offs.  There’s a lot more to it, but there is the gist.  I love some of the extra chrome to give it exactly the setting I’m proposing– the skirmish events that take place in the grey area between the big battalions, where they start to encounter each other.  One chrome element that lends “that big battle right over there” flavor is the “Cauldron of War Strategies” table.

The “Cauldron of War” is similar to a random events table that I came up with in V&R that provided that crucial “meta event” that I think has to be there for a game like this, set in this time period.  You KNOW there’s a big event happening just to your flank or behind you– but that may or may not intrude into your personal little bubble of battle space.  The Cauldron of War abstracts this element out nicely.

Chosen Men isn’t perfect for what I want to do with it.  It’s not an exact fit for 54mm scale.  For one thing, formations are still kind of sort of a thing in Chosen Men (though not the focus of combat or movement).  I don’t know how that would fit in a man to man skirmish game– except maybe I do.  Chosen Men measures fire combat and movement from the unit leader– the Sergeant or Lieutenant, etc.  Formations form on him, and ranges also are measured from him.  I’ll have to seriously tinker with ranges, scale and ground scale to make it work with 54s.  I may have to write some conversion rules to make it fit.  For instance, the standard units are like 6 figures for Chosen Men, and I was thinking 3 figure at most for 54mm.  With that said, I like Chosen Men, it has the right feel for me and I’m willing to test this conversion here as soon as my tin soldiers get out of the warehouse.

Riflemen and Voltigeurs, 54mm scale

For my as yet unnamed single figure Napoleonic skirmish game, I have been painting/having painted several 54mm scale figures.  I’m focusing on light troops, so Riflemen and Light Troops on the English side and Voltigeurs on the French side.  More figures as they become available.  Here’s the latest developments:

54mm Voltigeurs

A group of six Voltigeurs from the ALL THE KINGS MEN line. The figures are somewhat more slender and a teeny bit shorter than other figures I am using, either from ERTL or VICTRIX. I think they’ll be fine. Voltigeurs were French light skirmisher infantry and I think the poses show are just perfect for them.

French Voltigeur COMMAND GROUP of an officer and a bugler. This will be roughly the same function as the British officer and drummer on the other side. Leaders and order transmission are part of the design.

British high commander 54mm

British overall (high) commander. Used for morale recovery mostly. There will be a related French figure as soon as I find a suitable figure.

Rifles Officer 54mm

Rifles Officer 95th Rifles, 54mm. Officers on the field are important to organize troops into a firing line and order volleys. They also transmit higher orders and improve morale. This solitary Rifles officer almost looks uncomfortable among all the the Froggy light infantry.

That’s everything. I’ll try to add a few more pictures of these new troops matched against the existing ERTL and VICTRIX figures to give you an idea of how the new ATKM figures match against them. I now have about 11 voltigeur figures, one mounted officer that will do for a higher command figure for the French, about ten light infantry (British) and 8 rifles (British). I have enough to start testing the design now.

More to come on this project, stay tuned!

Fall-IN! 2013 Post 1: the Games I ran

We’re back from Fall-IN! and I will be doing two blog posts on the topic, This is Post 1, the games I ran at Fall IN!, of which there were two.


Friday I ran a game of BIG DANGED BOATS, my 15mm fantasy naval rules set.  This was my event write-up.

F-110 “Fun and Games on the Middle Sea”

It’s a 15mm Fantasy naval extravaganza. Pilot a dubiously seaworthy, slightly ridiculous ship in an all hands battle for domination of the Middle Sea! Rules are Big Danged Boats for 15mm fantasy naval combat. If you’ve had a hankering for a naval game where you can take to the seas riding on a giant steam powered cheese, fighting evil squid headed cultists riding the foot of a dead god (and who hasn’t?), this is the game for you!! Rules are dead simple and aimed at fun rather than statistics. Children welcome, but 12 and under requires a parent to play along with. ROLE PLAYING IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. If you can’t summon an evil nautical Sea Dog persona for this game, please go play Flames of War! They’ll take care of you!

This game was, by my reckoning, maybe the third or fourth game received by the Events coordinator for Fall-IN! 2013.  It represented a significant effort on my part as it’s a bit labor intensive to put on.  Accordingly, I asked for  standard table size of 5 x 8, with a side table to help me set up with.  Somehow, when I showed up with my boxes of stuff  an hour early to set up, the table became a table that no less than three events were scheduled to use the same table simultaneously!  And no side table!  Since the tables had no numbering on them, it became a logistical chore of the first order to unscrew this problem.   Sadly I think I stepped on the guy next to me since my tables weren’t remotely ready, and HE had to move.  I apologize for this, whomever you were.  I attribute the problem to (perhaps) miscommunication on my part with the event coordinate, but apparently I was not the only person who had a table misadventure.  Organizational Note: Numbers on tables helps.  Printing the map of the table layouts so people can read it helps.  Proofing the Convention book helps.  Guidebook Note: break Distelfink map into two maps, North and South, so they are more readable.

The Game Itself

Big Danged Boat Ships (from Summer Camp)

BDB is a pretty easy game to play, but it has tons of components, ships, crews and whatnot to set up, all of which takes time to break out.   I’m going to an hour and a half setup time, because clearly, an hour isn’t nearly enough.  I am not happy with the rules as written so I haven’t really thrown the printed rules out there for a game, preferring to run it from my tablet computer.  I had some gentle criticism about not having a lot of paper charts for everyone to refer to.  I’ll fix that.

After being rattled during setup over the table fiasco, I didn’t get going until ten minutes after start time, and so it goes.

Factions were: The Gnomes of Battenberg  The Iron Dwarves, the Bone Brigade, the Imperial Navy of Stahlhelm (making its debut), the Cult of F’Vah, The Sea Elves, The Orcish Revolutionary Council or O.R.C. (also making a debut), the Rat-Men of Ingoldsby and The Pirates of Stinkwater.

Deployed, but not selected, were the Wood Elves of the Father Tree, The Seng, the Holy Brothers of Saint Brendan.

The Imperial Ram of Stahlheim chugs into battle, aiming for the Bone Brigade’s doughty Deadnought

Like most games we started with the ships entering the battle area from the surrounding ring of the table side. As a special incentive there were two maxi-kegs of Boom Powder on Skull Island to bring the action into the center. It was minimally effective.

The Rat Men steamed for the island, and got into a little contretemps with the Bone Brigade, firing on them and causing more holes in their wormy hull. The Bone Brigade in turn did their best to fight the Gnomes of Battenberg, killing more crew than they did damage.

Stahlheim’s Imperial Ram avoided direct confrontation and chugged up the starboard flank, turning sharply to bring on an engagement with Bone Brigade.

Crowded below decks on the Imperial Ram of Stahlheim

Some long range shots were fired but it didn’t deter the fight between the Bone Brigade and the Gnomes; boarding and counter boarding was attempted, decimating both crews. Neither the Gnomes nor the Skeletons of the Brigade enjoyed the experience, as the counter-boarding by the Gnomes broke off and they ran back to their ships, leaving two gnomes on the Bone Brigade Galley behind them. Presumably, to a fate worse than unDeath.

The Siege Machine Chugged onward to inevitable confrontation with the Ram of Stahlheim, and for the first time in the engagement deployed the fearsome Big Bopper ramming weapon to moderate effect.

Machen mit der Gross-Bopper!

Through a chain of circumstance mostly brought on by reckless over-gearing and stressing their steam engine, the Gnomes then had a critical overload in the engine dept, instantly annihilating their craft.  You just don’t get a better result than that, and even the kid who rolled 12 on the critical hit table (exploding his boat) recognized the Ragnarok-style entertainment of the moment– especially as he had an action card that stated “from Hell’s heart I stab at thee”.. which was perfect for this moment– it almost took out the ship next to it..

The Iron Dwarves with Mortar and Spotter rowboat steam out to engage the Sea Elves. Beyond the Sea Elves are the Dread Rot Pyrates on the Stinkwater.

The Iron Dwarves fought a somewhat isolated battle with the Sea Elves and the Dread Rot Pyrates at the far end of the battlefield. The Pyrates did what they could do which was mostly gun fire. The Sea Elves actually got involved in a boarding action (on the receiving end) after taking a lot of casualties.

Chaaaarge! into the Sea Elves!

That was quite late in the game, and good news for the Dwarves. The Elves tried to ram the dwarves and missed… sliding along the edge of the Red Menace and setting up boarding conditions perfectly.

Meanwhile, the O.R.C. player had deployed his Revolutionary Martyr rafts with their hand held spar torpedoes. The rafts sailed up to the Cult of F’Vah player and torpedoed the Foot, blowing themselves to mist in the process.

In Response, the Cultists summoned the Squid God.  In the background, the Primus fires on the Gnomes and the Black Galley sails by, peppering them with arrows.

The Cultists Summoned the Squid God (for free, using their card). It did lots of damage to the O.R.C. ship, but it was still afloat and pouring iron into the Foot. The Cultists can continue to summon the Squid God for 2 Magic Points per turn until they are depleted, but at that point they have to start sacrificing crew to bring their Magic Points back up again. The Cultist player was undeterred (perhaps some of the beers helped his belicose attitude) and consigned one of his crew to the altar of sacrifice with a casual “Ah, there’s plenty more where he came from…”.

About this time, we had to pull the plug for time reasons. I performed the new victory point calculations. Did anyone sink a ship? 5 points. 2 ships? 10 points. 3 ships? nobody sank 3 ships. How much damage have you taken? Who has the least? 3 point bonus. Did anyone perform a successful boarding? 5 points. How many Shining Moment Coins are left? Add them in to the total on a 1 for 1 point basis. Our victor was the reluctant Cultists of F’Vah (Player: Scott Landis), who was doing everything in his power (including donating coins!) to give the victory to one of the younger players, which just made him even more nice. 😀

Summary: I got a little rattled by the truncated setup due to the table fiasco, which was too bad because setup is important in BDB. I think we all recovered nicely. I had a great time playing it and I think the players had a great time too.

Game Two, Saturday 1400 to 1600 (approximately)

The Great Big Diabolical Dukeroo!
Distelfink (apparently on the table we were assigned)
Rules: The Magi (home rules)

In the long years since the disappearance of Graros the Unspeakable, your standard Vanished Evil Dark Lord that seems to be in every one of these stories, there have been many promising characters to step into his wormy shoes. The semi-annual Wizard’s Duel attracts many aspirants to leadership. Will you survive to become top wizardly dog? Oh, we’ll see.. We’ll see (evil laugh). Rules are “The Magi”, a miniatures variant of a very old postal game called Waving Hands, a game of casting spells with hand gestures. In this game, players will ALSO be using hand gestures to cast spells that do various things good or bad. Can you fire off that Lightning Bolt before your opponent casts an Impervious Shield? Was that a Shield spell, or does the Caster have Saint Vitus’ Dance? It’s all in the hands…
Simple rules, Children welcome (though 12 and under I’d wish to have a parent playing too).

THE MAGI debuted at Summer Camp, August 2013. It was a huge hit with children.

Essentially, this is a wizard’s duel game where movement and combat are standardized and the focus is on casting spells. Dice are not used. Instead, the wizard players use HAND GESTURES which are dealt to each of them on cards. The player builds the spell in front of himself, and casts it when it’s ready. At all times you have to to keep close track of what the other players are doing and when they do it, as well as keep something building and up your sleeve at all times. This game started as WAVING HANDS (a pencil and paper postal game) in England, and I adapted it (with kind permission from its creator, Richard Bartle) to a miniatures format. I love this game– it’s visual and easy to grasp, yet very challenging. There are three versions of the game I run, based on the audience. I ran the medium version, which requires spell cards to play face up so the opponent can see what the player is creating (or trying to) on the other side of the table.

Rules for everyone fit on index cards so it was astonishingly simple to teach.

Dueling Wizards: Weenus Bitterkins (right) casts a SUMMON SKELETON on Elric Firethrone (left) who responds with a SUMMON OGRE (a far worse monster). Oh Woe!

We had a nice turnout, about six players which is about right. Garrett (my son) played a wizard as part of that group. We ran OCK THE CAVE SHAMAN, WEENUS BITTERKINS, ELRIC FIRETHRONE, SELIM THE MUSSELMAN, SPLENDORA DEATHFIELD, and DOCTOR FATE in this game. I’m contemplating a campaign game of sorts, where frequently reused characters get a small bonus as their “Experience” at the start of the game– the same wizards get chosen so frequently. Essentially they all started on the edges, sidled into the centre, started fighting each other as fast as possible. The thing about this system is to get spell gesture cards put down as quickly as possible. EVEN IF THE OPTIMAL SPELL GESTURE CARDS AREN’T COMING ALONG. Something will work out, there are dozens of spells, and I’m going to add more. Players are slow to pick up on this and spend too much time trying to get the optimal combination. Shorter, tactical spells are often more effective than that Finger of Death you’ve wasted much of the game setting up for your ONE shot spell.

Oh well. It was a blast. Here’s a small slideshow, click on the picture below to see.


So that’s the games I ran. Overall it was a very enjoyable exercise, though BDB could have been a fiasco with the gaming table situation. Fortunately the guy whose spot *I* usurped was cool about it. See you all at COLD WARS 2014!

54mm Troll Shaman painted up for the Magi

54mm Wizard figures are few and far between, and usually cost a lot. A happy exception is the Iron Wind Metal’s Spellcaster line, which has about ten good figures in a useful scale for my game of THE MAGI. I’ve collected most of the entire run of SPELLCASTER line of 54mm Wizard figures over the years, from a variety of sources.  I’ve found extras of a couple of them– the Barbary Mage and the Human Mage are both figures I’ve found as extras in “buckets of stuff” in flea markets.  The only one I don’t have is the Elf Mage that comes with the Spellcaster game, and that probably isn’t worth buying a thirty dollar game (still! and it didn’t sell!) to get one figure and a repeat of a figure I already have (Moon Witch) to get.

In any event I was recently lucky enough to pick up two that I had not had any luck with in a long time, the LizardMan Shaman and the Troll Shaman.  It’s my intention to paint up at least these two– of what I have left in my “big Wizards” queue, I have the Lizard Man, the Lich, the extra Human Wizard, and a Tom Meier 54mm Wizard guy.

I got the Troll Shaman done over the weekend.  Here we go:

Ain’t he a handsome feller?

Top View

Full on

I painted him basic Greenskin with some green ink shadowing. Brown Skins with a tattered dark red cloak. All over wash in a brown tint to get the shadows and warts, with some highlighting and sprayed with Dull-Coate.

I like him. There’s a lot of detail here and he even has an interesting expression on his face. He’ll fit right in!

Stand Up Spell Markers: Where to get more

The first testing of “The Magi” has started, and I’ve discovered a need for spell markers to represent durable effects in the game.  I’ve hit upon these stand up circular markers I picked up from a vendor at a HMGS convention.  Does anyone know where I could get more of them?  Color really doesn’t matter, but the size is generally important.   They have to be readable.  As you can see there’s two sides to a spell counter: what everyone else sees and what you see.  As The Magi is a game where players perform actions with limited/imperfect knowledge of what the other player is doing or planning, it becomes imperative to hide what spell has been cast on a Magi player from everyone else, while the player himself would have knowledge of it.  So each marker has an arrow pointing towards the circle on one side (what the public sees) and an arrow moving away from the circle with the word “you” printed in tiny letters on the side of the base (what you, the target of the spell, see).  So you get that imperfect intelligence effect.  Some spells will require several gesture cards to be cast, so will be “building” over several turns.  I won’t need a lot of markers for those, maybe 1 or 2.  But others, like SHIELD in the back there (the 4 green ones in the back) are simple, useful spells that will be cast frequently.  So I have determined I will need more than I thought.  Does anyone out there know where to find these?  I think Koplow was the creator, but it isn’t this item here, that features a circular area the size of a dime (I think).  The ones I am using cost more and are about the size of a quarter.  I could not find them in the Koplow catalog.  Any help is appreciated.

Spell Markers

Spell Markers… from .. Koplow? Chessex?

Review — British Napoleonic Peninsular War Flank Company [VX5401]

See previous review of Victrix Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805-1812

This is a follow up purchase to the Victrix Voltigeurs I picked up last month.  I have been acquiring and painting up 54mm Skirmisher figures for an ancient game I idea I had about man to man skirmishing in the Napoleonic era.   For the game to see fruition I’m going to need a relatively small group of figures from each side (8-10 maximum).  I want to ultimately pit Riflemen versus Voltigeurs from the late war era.  I own and have painted up about 10 of the Italieri 95th Rifles but they are a little largish compared to the Victrix Voltigeurs.  So I picked the British Peninsular Infantry Flank Company box as well.  This makes sense.  The flank company is sculpted and detailed to be a set of light infantry troops, which are sufficiently animated that they would make great skirmish troops.  I would have liked at least a couple of crouching/firing poses but these are probably sculpted to be deployed in formations, not as skirmishers.   No matter.  There’s enough variation in the basic body types that they look pretty animated to me.

Box Cover from Victrix Site

Box Cover

As before there are five or so sprues of various body parts and bodies to create customization with. From what I’m seeing here you can create a maximum of 16 figures from the sprues included. There are two officer figures and a drummer boy as well as several infantry in action or marching.


Group of 5 sample figs: Drummer, Officer, and 3 Infantrymen

Closer: Drummer, Officer, Infantryman

3 infantry poses

I’m going to use the basic redcoat/grey trousers/black shako paint scheme for these guys, as generic late war period infantry British infantry types. Here’s a picture of the Victrix site’s suggested paint scheme:

Suggested paint scheme

Suggested Paint Scheme

The figures out of the box are made of a durable hard style plastic that assembles very quickly with styrene glue (Testors, in this case), which bonds quickly and holds well. Out of the box they are slightly oily, which is probably mold release spray residue. Recommend an overnight soak before painting. Flashing is minimal. There were some mold lines on the sides of the shakos that needed trimming but I found nothing else that required a lot of work– some poses require a little attention while the plastic cement welds are curing.

Though they aren’t exactly cheap (say, compared to Italieri’s molded plastic figures, at about 15 dollars more on average, US retail prices), they are wondrously flexible in their approach to customization. I really like these releases and I certainly plan on buying and building more. I won’t be fielding large armies of these, ever, but they are great value for the money and I enjoy the detail, sculpting and utility of Victrix 54mm scale figures. If this is a scale and period you are interested in, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Small Wars — Victrix 54mm French Napoleonic Voltigeurs 1805 – 1812 [VX5403]

I have wanted a small group of reasonably detailed looking French Voltigeur figures in 54mm for a while now, and last posted on the subject in 2010.   I tried picking up HaT Voltigeurs but didn’t like either the detailing, the busby, or the style of plastic HaT uses.  It’s too soft.  The sculpts are also small and too thin compared to the figures I’m using for British Riflemen.

Victrix Ltd. has been active in expanding their line greatly in the last few years, and have been primarily producing 28mm hard plastic figures in the Napoleonic era.  In recent years, their 54mm line has increased swiftly.  They still haven’t made a pack of purpose built 95th Riflemen yet, but they have made British Peninsular Flank Infantry Companies which I might find useful.

Victrix also recently released a package of Napoleonic Voltigeurs good for conflicts from 1805 to 1812.  This is essentially a set of pieces– bodies without arms or heads, but molded with jackets and trousers.  A selection of arms in a multitude of poses.  Usually a left arm holding a musket.  Separate backpacks and bayonet frogs.    A variety of right hand poses, allowing an extensive level of customization for the finished figures.   Each box has 16 possible figures, with the possibility of 10 figure groups– there are two shako types– one with the tall pom pom, the other with the short, and two bare heads.  There are two “officer” bodies with a nicer uniform and a coat over one shoulder at a jaunty angle.

Voltigeurs were Imperial light skirmishing style troops, and I am painting up the high-pom pom variant shakos for individual bases for the skirmish game I’ve been planning in a desultory fashion over the years.   So I have created the 2 bare headed chaps as leaders (a veteran sergeant and an officer) and all the high pompom Voltigeurs into a 8 figure skirmishing band, which should match my rifleman figures nicely.

As for quality, I’m very much impressed..  each Victrix figure I construct is significantly different from the other.  My only complaint being that I could only make TWO firing positions from this package!  However, there are many other possibilities from the arms and musket poses that are left, and since the loading of a musket is a series of steps, it actually works to have multiple custom poses of the Voltigeurs fiddling with their muskets.  Indeed, the game design I’m working with will be focusing on the firing and loading process as a multistep action, so it’s all entirely appropriate.

Last night, I assembled what I had left, which was six extra figures with the smaller pompom shako types.  I like these so much, I’m going to paint them up too, just with a slightly different Voltigeur uniform.

54mm Voltigeurs from Victrix.

Officer figure and two Voltigeur figures Closeup

More Voltigeurs, Closeup

I’m VERY pleased with Victrix 54mm figures, and I expect I’m going to buy some English and other nationalities as they become available. Keep up the good work, Victrix!

The Waving Hands in Three Dimensions project

For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to play WAVING HANDS with miniatures.   What’s Waving Hands, you ask?  A mostly pen and pencil (and online PBW) game about spellcasting and wizardry.  Why is it interesting to me?  Because the “combat system” is quite unique and magic oriented.  In fact, it’s entirely about magic– the foundation of the game is a system of gestures the wizard makes with left hand, right hand, or both.   Waving Hands began life as a postal game by one Richard Bartle, published in his gaming Zine SAUCE OF THE NILE.  Richard designed the game as a teenager, and lacking the resources to publish, he decided to go the zine route.  Kind of a pity, that.  It would have made an excellent commercial game, I think.

In any event, the game rules are written with pen and paper in mind.. much action and reaction is abstracted to make game play more intense.  Waving Hands has jumped over the cyber barrier and is now a game playable via a website (ravenblack.net) or mailing list (firetop mountain).  In both instances, the game, which uses simple text codes for magic gestures, adapts perfectly to the media being used to present it.   I’ve played it many times on ravenblack, but I keep visualizing the game as something I could, and should, put on as a miniatures based game.  And if I’m going to miniaturize it, I really should go large scale, neh?

I envision: a game played using a slightly modified version of the core WAVING HANDS RULES with edits to allow for movement and one more layer of physical attack and defense.   Each player would run one large wizard figure (54mm for the visuals), representing himself casting spells and depicting where that wizard is in relation to other wizards in the playing area.

Barbary Mage: Spellcaster

Spellcaster Figure: Barbary Mage, copyright Iron Wind Metals

Now, there’s the rub.  There are enough 54mm scale wizardy-looking single figures in existence that I could pull this off without trying to convert green plastic army men into wizards or something silly like that.   That’s almost the easy part.  Iron Wind miniatures, in its Ral Partha incarnation back in 2004, created a very decent wizard duel game called SPELLCASTER that had a line of 54mm wizard figures to go along with it.   The problem I have with Spellcaster is that it is far too linear and narrow of focus to work for a game of miniatures, in my opinion.   Spells pretty much seem to do the same things.   The miniatures seem to be nothing but tokens moving on a board in this game.  No matter.. the figures will adapt nicely for Waving Hands.  I have a few of them now, namely Dark Elf Sorceress, Elf Half-Demon Sorcerer, Barbary Mage , Gnome Conjurer w/”pet” dragon , Human Necromancer , Litch,and Sorceress .  In addition I have the Eldash Nasdra Evil Sorceror and Wizard figures (somewhere) and the Good and Evil wizards from Valiant.  So quite a few of the principle characters in this game, namely, Wizards.  But that’s not the only figure being represented in this game.

Painting 54mm figures always has been a bit of a challenge for me, as the expectations for this scale are always higher than my workmanlike paint jobs can deliver.  Usually I don’t have the time to lovingly lavish detail on several 54mm figures that need to be painted at once (see my long-standing gladiator games for visual examples of rush jobs on several 54m gladiator figures).   Fortunately I know of a few decent resources online to assist painting in  large scale.

The bigger issue for me was finding 54mm scale summoned fantasy creatures and spell effects to run the game with.  Spells are not just fun words to say in this game; they create things.  Something external to the wizard that can be “seen” in game terms, is usually the result of a spell.  Often, they create critters.  How to simulate this?  For instance, in the original Waving Hands by Bartle, there is a whole category of Summoning Spells that create a single creature that can attack other wizards physically.  This is the element of the game that turned it into a miniatures game in my mind– implicit to the assumption of summoned creatures are design elements like movement, combat, protection, facing, lethality..  these are straightforward in the pencil game, but in three dimensions, they will require a little more conversion.  And critters.  Where will these come from?

Here is the section on Summoning from the original text (text in italics, my comments not italicized):

Summon Goblin

gestures S-F-W. (Note for the reader– S-F-W is shorthand for the magic spell gestures.  In this case, the spell would require “Snap” “Fingers” “Wave” to summon a goblin) This spell creates a goblin under the control of the subject upon whom the spell is cast (or if cast on a monster, the subject monster’s controller, even if the monster later dies or changes loyalty). The goblin can attack immediately and its victim can be any any wizard or other monster the controller desires, stating which at the time he writes his gestures. It does one point of damage to its victim per turn and is destroyed after one point of damage is inflicted upon it.

The summoning spell cannot be cast at an elemental, and if cast at something which doesn’t exist, the spell has no effect.

(…)  (condensing this quoted text, Ogres are like Goblins with two hit points.  Trolls are like Goblins with three hit points.  Giants are like Goblins with four hit points.  Elementals are unlike goblins and have some special rules attached:

Summon Elemental

gestures C-S-W-W-S.  (for those following along, that’s “Clap”, “Snap”, “Wave”, “Wave” , “Snap” to summon an Elemental) This spell creates either a fire elemental or an ice elemental at the discretion of the person upon whom the spell is cast after he has seen all the gestures made that turn. Elementals must be cast at someone and cannot be “shot off” harmlessly at some inanimate object.

The elemental will, for that turn and until destroyed, attack everyone who is not resistant to its type (heat or cold), causing three points of damage per turn. The elemental takes three points of damage to be killed but may be destroyed by spells of the opposite type (e.g. fire storm, resist cold or fireball will kill an ice elemental), and will also neutralize the canceling spell. Elementals will not attack on the turn they are destroyed by such a spell. An elemental will also be engulfed and destroyed by a storm of its own type but, in such an event, the storm is not neutralized although the elemental still does not attack in that turn. Two elementals of the opposite type will also destroy each other before attacking, and two of the same type will join together to form a single elemental of normal strength. Note that only wizards or monsters resistant to the type of elemental, or who are casting a spell which has the effect of a shield do not get attacked by the elemental. Casting a fireball upon yourself when being attacked by an ice elemental is no defence! (Cast it at the elemental…)

Now that’s a neat visual.. I’m already seeing panicky wizards running from summoned goblins, trolls, ogres and giants in my mind’s eye.  The problem is, there aren’t a lot of named fantasy figures of the “cheap cannon fodder” style in 54mm.  I had hoped that I could find some plastic dollar store game sets with 54mm fantasy creatures, but surprisingly this is just not a niche that never seems to have caught on in the States.  Plastic green army men, yes, but no orcs and trolls and goblins.  Bummer.  However, I did manage to find some dandy bargain plastic skellies on Amazon for pennies a figure (yay!).

Cheap Plastic Skellies, all painted up, like.  Size is perfect.

As something like 20 or so come in the bag, I immediately have made Skeletons my easiest to cast critter in the miniatures version of Waving Hands.  I wasn’t going to use single figure metal 54mm collector style miniatures for Orcs or “Goblins” (there are a few, here and there) as the cost would incredibly prohibitive for a game that uses summoned critters as a disposable commodity.  Again, I lucked out!  On ebay, doing a search on 54mm Orcs, I found a Russian company that makes 54mm figures of a distinctively cartoon like quality.

Russian Plastic Orcs

Russian Plastic Orcs. No idea who makes these.

Who makes these things??? I don’t read Cyrillic very well so I’m at a loss for what company actually manufactures this in Russia.  As my standard authority for researching foreign plastic manufacturers seems to be a little distracted right now (that’s another story), I hope someone reading this can come to my assistance with a website for the manufacturer.  Just for my own curiosity really.    In any event, I ordered a box– they are pricier than the skellies but still pretty cheap at about 8.99 for five figs with a nice level of detail.   So they will be my next-highest figure in terms of cheapness and availability (and the spell will be “Summon Orc”.. for two points each).

(late breaking note: the company appears to be TECHNOLOG (link is to a translation of the Russian website).  They are the same folks who make interesting plastic kits for cyberpunk settings.  I like this stuff, might get more… Thanks and a tip o’ the chapeau to the folks on TMP for finding this.)

My plan is to use the D&D miniatures (new plastic ones) HILL GIANT figures to represent OGREs, who will be a three point figure, and last and greatest cost, the “LARGE FIRE ELEMENTAL” from the same line to represent elemental creatures– there are two in the game, Ice and Fire, and I will just have to shop around until I find a decent collectible miniature game figure of the appropriate size and look.  Elementals from the D&D Line are largeish but not 54mm.. I can get away with using them because..well, what’s the “right size” for an elemental anyway?

So, in sum, figures are going to be problematic here and there.. but not impossible.  I’ll have fewer than in the core rules but I can compensate by maybe summoning TWO skellies, which I have a ton of, in the “Summon Skeletons” spell.  That would make it tactically more appealing than “Summon Orc”, and a lot cheaper than “Summon Troll”, which is just an Orc with another point but at the cost of two more gestures.   Elementals seem quirky enough to keep in the game.. sufficiently different than any other summoned monster that I’ll keep them in.  Four summoned monster types should be enough.

With figures accounted for, how to represent the actual spell effects in the game?  How would the spell effects translate into three dimensions?  Should I build Ice storms and Fire walls and walls of thorns and such?  Well, maybe some day if this catches on.. i love visuals.  But right now?  I think I can make some simple templates that could fit the gaming surface.   I’ve resolved that the action will transpire on a two or three inch hex grid– fairly easy to make templates for, easy to regulate turning and movement.   So a simple Games Workshop Cone and Circle template should handle a lot of spell effects for me.. as well as range.  Range isn’t a factor in the pen and pencil game.  I will have to retro edit the spells to work in a three D universe.

The most challenging part of the pen and pencil game was keeping track of spells YOU are casting, while planning on and avoiding the spells your OPPONENT is casting.  In this sense, Waving Hands is a giant memory game.  “Was that S-P- (aha! he’s staring a summon Skeletons!) on his left hand or S-W (Yikes!  It’s a Summon Fear coming.. i have to get a counterspell ready!)?” This game has some devious angles.  So I’m preparing a series of Spell Counters in Inkscape using Public Domain clipart resources.  The counters will have an icon representing the spell, title and a number of stars to indicate the number of gestures each spell requires.  I plan on printing these out and gluing them to the bottom of large flat decorative  glass beads, the kind you see in aquariums sometimes.  This way you can keep the token face down near you and your opponent can’t see what you are on about.   They will also make a nice token for persistent effects like Confusion, Blindness, etc, but turning them upside down behind the Wizard figure.   Here’s a sampling of the counters so far:

Spell Tokens
Spell tokens (in work) using Inkscape

I’ve put them in distinctive color groups, as well, to aid in the visual sorting.

Mechanics are going to need a little work.  No less a person than Richard Bartle himself has suggested (on this blog in fact, read the comments here) that his plans were always to have the game feature spatial movement and combat, but he had to tighten it up for publication.  Bartle suggests a game sequence like so:

Actions (1 spell gesture per hand, combat, defense)

From the horse’s mouth, as it were: Hmm, I’m not sure I kept a copy of the original rules anywhere, but it’s possible they could be mouldering in the attic somewhere. As far as I recall, I tried both a movement phase and a move-as-an-action phase. I think I went with the former, but I don’t remember whether I had it before or after the gestures phase. I also tried integrating the two, but not entirely successfully…

Mister Nizz asks: How far did the wizard move in a turn?

It was on a hexagon-shaped battleground with hexes to move over. There’d be about 15 or so hexes from one side to the other, and I think wizards moved 4 spaces, less if they were injured or slowed, more if they were hasted.

That sounds like a good place to start to me.   Wizards all start as movement 4 unless modified during the game.  Half movement at half hit points (they all get 15 at start).  I’m thinking I’m not going to make facing particularly complicated.. allow a Wiz to orient him/herself to a hexside for free at the end of movement.

Should I roll for actual combat?  I’m still pondering that one– it’s almost automatic unless a Shield is cast in the paper game.   I hate to mess with the elegance of the original system in any way, but I also hate the notion of automatic damage.  Oh well, there may be enough checks with the gesture-magic subsystem that rolling may not be needed.

There is much to work out– paralysis, invisibility movement on the board, the proper hex size, spell templates, the perfect game sequence.  I plan on having the players actually MAKE THE GESTURE with their own (human) physical hands and that will be the sum total of visual clues the opposing players get for indication of intentions– so I won’t have to make “spell cards” up, just a cheat sheet for every player, and maybe a dry erase status sheet that will hold a spell token for each hand and indication hit point status.

So that’s where I am with this project, which is looking to see the light of day not at Cold Wars (good Lord, no!) but certainly at HISTORICON 11.  As Dr. Bartle suggests:

What I’d suggest is that you play it, tinker, play it, tinker, play it, tinker, and so on until you reach a point where you get something that works.

… which is what I plan to do for a few months before this project debuts.

More Projects than a Hydra has heads

54mm Gladiators

Mosaic, 4th century BC, showing a retiarius or...

Image via Wikipedia

Remember me picking up the Italeri 54mm plastic gladiators at HISTORICON? I started painting them last night. Italeri basically either starts with big figures and scales them down, or vice versa, because the 1/32 (54mm) kit is basically two identical sprues from their 1/72 (20mm) release, “made all big and stuff”.

Italeri 1/72 scale gladiators, couldn’t find a picture of the larger figs. The poses are identical

Italeri released their 1/72 gladiators in a big box that included a chariot, a “death stroke” vignette, and one other retiarus pose (the figure on the right above), combined with the rest of the figures on the sprues above and below. Apparently they have released the remaining figures as a follow on to the 1/32 scale release. I don’t know as I’ll buy the second box; all I would be getting that I could use would be the other Retiaurus figure. On the other hand, I am very pleased with the 1/32 gladiator set they did release. The repetition of sprues gives me two of everything, but that can be handled with a paint job. Besides, that gives me TWO lions and TWO bears. It wouldn’t take much to find a tiger in 54mm scale, and then my gladiators will be singing “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh MY!” With that said, I do have to take issue with the poses on some of these figures.

Second part of Italeri 1/72 scale gladiators, couldn’t find a picture of the larger figs. The poses are identical

The Retiaurus (net and trident guy, second from left) has his trident on the ground at rest, with no net is in sight. The axe wielder (left of him) looks even MORE at rest, almost like he is having a coffee break.. Otherwise, I love this set.

I didn’t know this before doing a Google on the subject, but Irregular Miniatures makes a small line of 54mm Gladiators. I have no experience with them but I already prefer their Retiarus to the plastic ones I have. So I will at least get that, and maybe one of their myrmillos.

The contra-Retiarus, Samnite and Secutor all appear to be interesting choices. I certainly may find my interest piqued by Irregulars one of these days.

NOTE: if you know of a good loose netting or mesh, roughly in scale, that would make a good net for a 54mm Retiarus, please let me know.

Last, and sadly, Alpha Miniatures has given up the ghost and will no longer be operating as a company. This New Zealand company made some quirky gladiator figures. One thing I like about them is that they truly covered the waterfront in terms of choices and they usually offered up more than one figure in each category. On the down side, some of their sculpts are decidedly… er.. unheroic looking, I guess. Like flabby, balding gladiators.

This may be just my perception. There certainly are some heroic sculpts, as this effort on the Miniatures Page Painting Studio attests to. On the plus side, I managed to scoop up as much as I could get in Alpha’s going out of business sale (including two dwarf gladiators) and I can attest that they fit in very well with the Italeri plastics.

Pegoso Models (from Italy) has four beautiful g;ladiator sculpts in 54mm, a Secutor, a Myrmillion, a Laequarius (spearman), and “Spartacus”. Simply gorgeous. Check out this detail!

These are great models and Pegoso makes other Ancients that will certainly do for gladiators. Alas, they are priced far to high for me to afford.

Bronze Age Miniatures has a small and growing 54mm line, nothing period specific yet, but they are promising “Greeks and Romans” and they appear to have some fantasy figures in the works, too!

Rosedale has some cool Gladiator figs, but really, these are 100mm so you would have to buy all of them and just game with them.

Verlinden has a sweet Gladiator vignette that is wonderful and in scale, but essentially useless for gaming.

If you want to go in a more, er, “whimsical” direction, there’s always STIKFAS, which makes a dandy ROMAN LEGIONAIRE FIGURE that can be customized with gladiator gear. At 19.99 each, this might be an expensive game, but since gladiator fighters are usually small scale affairs, you don’t need that many to get started.

That’s all I have for review at the moment. I haven’t ordered the Irregulars yet. I won’t order them until I finish painting what I have in the hopper now.


There’s a bunch of small cottage industry rule sets for Gladiator combat. I have RUDIS by Tabletop Games, which I have always liked. I also have Gladiator by Fantasy Games Unlimited which I thought was cumbersome and headache inducing. There are some big professional efforts, like the confusingly named Gladiator Wars from Westwind (which I have not heard many good things about) and em4’s own gladiator in a box game, Ludus Gladiatorus. Likely, however, I will use Steve Gibson’s homemade Gibsonsystem Gladiator rules for this game, they do a fine job of depicting “blood on the sand…”

Note: “Zgeist” has collected a lot of the same information on gladiator figures and rules on his blog, HERE

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