Monday, May 23, 2022

The Royal Ontario Museum Toy Soldier Collection

Picking up on yesterday’s post’s mention at the end of my visit to the Royal Ontario Museum last Saturday, I’m happy to share some photos of the ROM’s vintage toy soldier collection.  The collection was donated by Henry Jackman, billionaire businessman, Chancellor of the University of Toronto, Lt. Governor or Ontario in the 1990s, Honourary Colonel of the Governor General’s Horse Guards, Conservative Party bundler, so a fairly serious chap.  As a child he played with toy soldiers (I imagine his dad bought him a LOT of them) and as an adult he collected them, so if anyone tells you that you’re not a serious adult because you’re a wargamer, say “Pfffftttttt” and refer them to Hal Jackman.

What a lucky fellow I am, that when we got to the ROM, my beautiful wife told me “You gotta come see the toy soldiers”.  Here they are.  Blessed is the fellow whose spouse takes such an interest in his hobbies and passions.

Marching bands from various countries, including fellows in what appear to be sombreros.

Even the wounded are allowed to take part in the parade, under the careful scrutiny of the nursing sisters.

A Salvation Army band played, and the children drank lemonade.

Zouaves demonstrating their characteristically athletic foot drill.  Kick, one, two, kick, one two!

Not really sure what the brontosaurus is doing here.  Possibly the TARDIS is behind those palm trees nearby.

Some very finely painted knights.

Canada is well represented.

A fine cross-section of modern transport and equipment, including searchlights!

I now have a plan for my miniatures collection, as I approach the checkout lane.   I’m sure there’s a world class museum out there that will want the Peterson Toy Soldier Collection.

Cheers and blessings to your travels this summer!


Sunday, May 22, 2022

Further Down the DBA Rabbit Hole: Chariot-era Battle With Howard


I’m picking up the ancients gaming theme of my last post today, which I finished by saying that I’ve been enjoying my discovery of small-scale ancients and learning to play DBA (De Bellis Antiquitatis), Phil Barker's small battles rules from WRG that have been around longer than many games today have been alive.  I’ve been aware of DBA for years, and was familiar with the usual potted descriptions - “like chess, very stylized, ok if you like fast games, it’s about how many sixes you can rol, etcl”.  I wasn’t prepared for just how entertaining it could be.

Charles, one of the regulars at the Barrie group, has played it for years and was kind enough to introduce me to it, using several of his well-used and much loved armies.  I found that I enjoyed it’s almost zen-like simplicity.  With just twelve units, a few pages of simple yet subtle rules, and sudden death if I lose four units, DBA provides interesting tactical challenges and a clear cut result in an hour.  It’s also a fairly simply gateway into what is, for me, complicated and unfamiliar world of ancients gaming.   Pick a period, pick an army (or borrow one, I’ve found that veteran DBA players have lots of armies and are very generous with them), learn the basic troop types, paint between 30 to 40 figures, and you have an army!

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to play a game with an experienced player, Howard Tulloch, who has organized DBA tournaments in the southern Ontario area for years.  Knowing that I am interested in the biblical period, he brought two chariot-era armies, Cypriot-Phoenician (1/35) and Kushite Egyptian (1/46), both beautifully painted.    I took the Phoenicans, since I have an earlier Sea Peoples army on order from Essex and wanted to see how the Phoenicians as descendants of the Sea Peoples handled.  

I had a bad run of luck with the terrain setup.   Howard placed two dunes in my deployment area, which along with the sea coast really hemmed me in before I could get out the gate.   The only saving grace for me was that, as a Littoral army, the Phoenicians can deploy up to three elements anywhere along the water board edge.  I chose to place my two best Auxiliary infantry units in the middle of the table on the left edge, as a bit of a check on the Egyptians to keep them from swarming me as I emerged from between the two dunes.

Initial rounds saw my getting a lucky victory over the Egyptian light cavalry, but then Howard’s royal archers shot my own cavalry off their horses, tying the score at 1 to 1.    Our psiloi (light infantry) faced off on the hill to the right, but never actually exchanged blows, while Howard checked my Aux infantry with two stands of his own.    One of the things I’ve learned about DBA thus far is that when the odds are basically even, as they were on our flanks, battles can easily go either way and leave one in the hole on the lost unit count.  Better to seek a win where you can mass more units against you opponent and thus stack the odds in you favour.

Which was exactly what happened.  In the centre left, you can see two units from each side facing in a kind of “Z” shape, with each side having a unit on the other’s flanks, known as “closing the door” in DBA terms.    Once a unit is flanked, if it loses a combat and has to retreat, it is destroyed.   Thus, whoever would win this fight was almost certain to win the game, and it stayed locked that way for FOUR TURNS, with both of us rolling the same numbers to tie, forcing the battle into extra rounds.  Finally I was able to get my chariots into Howard’s archers, and with two lucky die rolls I managed a 4-1 victory, though it could easily have gone either way.

Moved up in the painting queue as a result of these games is a clutch of 15mm figures, which when finished should allow me to field an Early Hebrew or Syro-Canaanite army for DBA.  I was originally intending these figures for an ADLG army, but I think I’ll go the DBA route to get armies on the table sooner, which makes sense, as there are DBA players to hand and no one in our group plays ADLG.

For extra ancients inspiration, Joy and I visited the Royal Ontario Museum yesterday, where we had the classics section to ourselves for a brief while before the parents and kids arrived.  Here’s a lovely Corinthian style helmet for you to admire, supposedly found at Marathon and dating to about 500 BC, though there is some uncertainty about its provenance .


Blessings to your die rolls!


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Some Ancients Gaming: Clash of Spears at the Club

Hello friends and welcome back to this semi-moribund blog.  April was a bit of a write-off for me, what with the Easter season (a busy time for a wargaming vicar) and then winding down my contract at All Saints, King City, which ended on 1 May.   Since then I’m not sure if I’m retired or just between jobs.  Next week I have a chat with my bishop, who will try to tempt me into another gig of interim ministry, so May has been a bit of a rest, getting the garden ready, and some gaming.  

Recently I was at what passes for our local club in Barrie, Sir Games-a-lot, playing Clash of Spears with my friend Charles.  CoS as I’ve mentioned here before is currently getting a lot of play, it’s a skirmish level ancients game that might be compared to TFL’s Infamy, Infamy.  In this recent game, I took my freshly painted Victrix Germans and Charles took a Punic (!?) force.   Not sure what they were doing in the forests of Germania, but my guys wanted to send them home.  In this scenario, both sides are competing to control the green/white star tokens.

I was more fortunate in the terrain selection this time, giving Charles fewer opportunities to get all his troops into action.  Here a swamp on the left and woods on the right allow me to defeat one of his light units early on.    I quickly learned that while my German barbarians come be had cheaply on the points list, thy aren’t much good without sufficient leaders.  I had seven units and only two leaders, so six command points between them each turn, which wasn’t enough to take advantage of my numbers.

Charles’ auxiliaries don’t fare much better vs my raging tribesmen.  The dead chap on the dial marker is used to indicate fatigue.  Units acquire fatigue quickly in battle, and unless thy can be pulled out of the battle line for a breather while a fresh unit steps in, things go badly quickly.

I quickly learned that light horse archers can be deadly.  I pushed a unit forward in the wide open area on the right of the battlefield, the horse archers came up a half move and shredded the lightly armoured barbarians, then rode back, then did it again!   I have invested in some Victrix Gaulish horse to stand in as mounted Germans, not plentiful on the CoS Germanic list (found in their Clash of Eagles supplement for the early Empire era) but there if you want them.   


Final stage of the fight.   Both of us ended controlling an objective marker, but lacked the strength to take the second.   With those deadly light horse supporting Charles’ heavily armoured foot, I decided to split the honours.


As someone once said, is furies Romae, Romano vivid more, or to translate, when the other guys are playing ancients, play ancients also.   I once swore that I’d never take up ancients gaming, and had a lot of fun with CoS, so I’ve taken one step into the 28mm world, and have some Victrix early imperial romans on order, on the theory that one should always have two armies for solitaire gaming.  

I also have some adventures in smaller scale ancients gaming to report on, so my next post will describe how I discovered and enjoyed DBA.

Cheers and blessings to your die rolls,


CoS haClash of Spears

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Terrain Tuesday: Adventures in Basing and Building

Recently I mentioned that our guest on Canadian Wargamer Podcast #11 was Joe Saunders, who runs a small but mighty enterprise called Miniature Landscape Hobbies.  I was so impressed with his method for large scenic bases that I tried it, and here’s the result.

To back up a bit, my previous method was to cut a piece of MDF purchased from a DIY store.  This was never very pleasant or satisfactory because I used a craft knife and could never get the lines straight enough, and it was also very taxing on my hands and wrists.  There was also the very real worry that I might inadvertantly cut myself.  Once the MDF was cut, I would texture it with plastic wood (usually from Lepage), use diluted white carpenter’s glue to apply texture (usually model railroad ballast) and then once dry paint brown, two successive drybrushes (yellow ochre first, then maple tan) and then apply flock and seal with a matte spray.

Joe’s technique is explained in this video.  Not to describe the whole method, but in brief I used two sheets of cut boxboard with the corrugations going in opposite directions.   I them coated it with diluted matte Mod Podge mixed with brown umber craft paint, and while it was wet I applied the grit (ballast mixed with some clean cat litter).   The next step according to Joe is to mix rubbing alcohol with brown acrylic ink and then use a pipette and apply the ink mixture while holding the base at an incline to allow the mixture to run freely. 

I didn’t have brown ink but I had some green ink, so I thought I’d experiment.  What I got was a pleasant greenish hue and in a few places the green ink turned the grit a bright green, suggesting clumps of foliage.  I showed this image below to Joe and he thought it was a “happy accident” and suggested a tan dry brush before adding flock. 


Here’s the finished base on the left, with the Warbases cottage from their Prussian Napoleonics range of buildings.   I spent much of the winter cutting up cereal boxes to make the tiles on the roof of the cottage, until some bright chap told me to by the pre-cut roof tiles from Sarissa.  I did that for the Warbases Prussian barn on the right, but couldn’t resist the allure of the cereal box and also cut out the stones for the first floor of the barn walls.  The base of the barnyard was also made according to Joe’s recipe.

I wanted some texture on the walls of the cottage, which were plain MDF sheets, so smeared them with carpenter’s plastic wood filler to give the impression of stucco.    I did the same with the wall section on the barn beneath the wood timbers.  Thankfully the wood timbers were all one laser cut piece so quite simple to apply onto the plastic wood before it dried.

Some 28mm figures shown for scale.  The barn is a beast!  It won’t be hogging a standard sized table for a big battle, but it will wok for a skirmish game such as Sharp Practice, with Prussian jaegers defending against marauding cossacks, I think.

Another view of the stone wall on the ground floor of the barn.  Not sure what door halfway up is all about.  In my part of Ontario you sometimes see barns with an earthen ramp leading up to a doorway which I am guessing is for transporting hay bales and fodder.   I should consider constructing something similar out of styrofoam.

Friday, March 25, 2022

The Canadian Wargamer Podcast Episode 12 Is Out!

 I’m totally remiss in not posting more frequent updates on the Podcast.   We’re at Ep 12 now and closing in on 4000 downloads.  Woot! 

Cynthia Jing is the youngest person to appear on our podcast to date, and is arguably the most famous, because she and her group have been featured on Little Wars TV, and we haven't (not that we're jealous).  Cynthia is part of the Laurentian Tabletop Organization, a Canadian club that supports college and university gamers in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.

We had a great chat with Cynthia about how her group is firmly rooted in tabletop miniatures gaming, particularly at the crunchy end (Napoleonics and Seven Years War) while, thanks to Covid (thanks, Covid! >said ironically<), has pivoted to digital platforms such as Tabletop Simulator and Twitch.   We talked about how Laurentian helps college-age gamers discover the hobby, about the secrets of running successful campaigns, and about how it's cool to be a nerd.  As two aging nerds in cardigans, James and I were grateful to learn that we're cool.  

One of the secrets of getting people into historical gaming is playable rules that have complexity but are not ridiculously complicated, have a strategic aspect for campaign games, and which can play to a quick conclusion.  We talked about how Sam Mustafa's horse and musket rules, particularly Blucher and Might and Reason, work well for this purpose.   Cynthia recently hosted a fascinating chat with Sam on her Twitch channel and there's a link below.

We also talked about how the folks in Cynthia's group move between tabletop gaming (or it's digital equivalent) and highly complex video strategy games like Hearts of Iron (think Avalon Hill's Third Reich crossed with Sid Meier's Civilization.  Cynthia's contribution to our CWP Digital Library includes a publisher of these games.

In a shortened conclusion, James and I talk about Hotlead (just around the corner!), and the difficulties of finding joy in the hobby during this stressful time of war that lives on our phones and tears our hearts.  We'll be back soon with a post-Hot Lead episode.

Links to This Episode:

Our Guest, Cynthia Jing:  

Laurentian Tabletop Gaming Organization:

Cynthia's Channel on Twitch:

Cynthia's Interview with Sam Mustafa:


Cynthia's Game Recommendations for the CWP Virtual Library:

Paradox Interactive:

Our Closing March

The Great Little Army (Kenneth J. Alford), Quick March of the Canadian Army


Contact Us:





Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Another Year, Another Painting Challenge Done and Dusted

On 21 March, the first day of spring, Curt Campbell (aka The Snowlord) called Time on this year’s Painting Challenge.   I’ve taken part in these efforts off and on over the last decade.   The AHPC has become an international hobby community with painters of all different skill levels and interests.  It’s a fascinating snapshot of the miniature hobby landscape.

Here's the happy builder and painter with his total output for this year's Challenge.

This year I focused mostly on 6mm historicals, but thanks to the special theme rounds or mini-challenges I was inspired to paint this set, The Triumph of Frankenstein, sculpted by Bob Murch of Pulp Figures.

It was also an opportunity to play with my new 3D printer and try make some scenery for a mini diorama:

My post for the Challenge, with more pictures and some “How I Made This” details, is here.   

Taking a break to paint these figures was a welcome rest and an enjoyable diversion.  Sometimes I think we get too focused on our big projects in painting and wargaming, and we forget the pleasure of just doing something for fun.  

Cheers and blessings to your brushes,




Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Games at Hot Lead 2022

Hello friends:

On of Canada’s most well-known miniature tabletop gaming events is now in the books, and can be counted a success.   After two years of Covid-induced suspension, the games were back, the players were a little fewer in number and all masked and well behaved.   Congratulations to my friend James and his crew of redshirts for making it a success.  You can read James’ account of HotLead and see his own photos here.  There are lots more photos and videos on the Hot Lead Facebook group page here.

This was the first time I’ve stayed over at the Arden Park hotel, the venue space.  Previously I’ve cheaped out and couch surfed at my friend James’ expense, but this time I went all out and my lovely bride Joy came with me to sample Stratford’s shopping delights and to do some anthropological studies of the wargaming tribe.  She said “your friends are weird but nice”.  Truth.

My own brief account of what I played in and what I saw begins on Friday night with on of Dan Hutter’s signature multi-player rules, where no one is a friend and the guy sitting beside or across from you is probably gunning for you, so best gun him first. The game was set in Somalia during the disastrous UN intervention there in the early 1990s: several factions of Somalis, UN peacekeeping troops, and secretive mercenaries all had their own agendas and bullets soon flew in all directions.  Rules were a very simple and mostly playable version of FUBAR.  Grand start to the weekend.


Test of Honour samurai game going down on Friday night, lovely table. 

 Chris Robinson, a friend of the Canadian Wargamer Podcast and normally an historical guy, put on a Star Wars game that looked quite attractive.  It was good to hear that the young players enjoyed it.

 Some of the Hot Lead crowd were playing this impromptu Victorian SF game on Saturday morning, involving big steam powered clanks AND dinosaurs. 


Saturday morning I played in this beautiful WW2 game hosted by Joe Saunders of Miniature Landscape Hobbies.  Joe is a friend of the Canadian Wargaming Podcast and a lovely guy. 

 This scratch built railway gun was done by Joe and part of the table dressing.


The game was called “Countdown to Launch” and featured the Germans trying to delay the Allied onslaught long enough to fuel, arm, and fire off this V1 rocket.  

 It was quite an onslaught.  The Germans died in droves but managed to fire off the rocket.  I confess that tanks massed track to track are an example of why I don’t personally like Flames of War, but it did deliver a fast game, and at this sort of event, with three hour game slots, you need quick fast games.

 This beautiful medieval game, the Battle of Tewkesbury, was hosted by Ian Tetlow, who always puts on good looking games at Hot Lead.


 On Saturday afternoon I played in Sean Malcomson’s “Hard Brexit” ancients game using Too Fat Lardie’s Infamy, Infamy rules.  The object was for the Roman players to move a herd of (unfairly) taxed cattle across this table to safe harbour.  The British, strong believers in No Taxation Without Representation, were trying to stop them.

 Some of Sean’s beautiful ancient British figures.   The British deployed from a series of ambush points.

 Life got quite difficult for the Romans.   Their legionaries stood in line like rocks while their auxiliary reserves ran back and forward plugging gaps and counter attacking.  

The British skirmish cavalry, seen entering here, were annoying but not decisive.   In the end, we ran out of time but called it a British win.  I found these rules similar enough to Sharp Practice that I got the hang of it fairly quickly, and would try them again as an excuse to get some Romans to oppose my Germanic war band.


My last game at HotLead was on Saturday night.  Brian Hall, one of our local masters of 6mm, hosted an ACW corps-level game featuring the Battle of Cedar Creek.   Since the battle began in confusion and alarm for the Union, both forces started under blinds, with three of the four Union corps well back from the start of the action and thus the Union in a poor position to stop the Confederate advance. 

 By this point the Union had stabilized a line and were beginning to hold.    The rules were Altar of Freedom, which I found fast playing and quite bloody.   With each manoeuvre unit in the game a brigade, whole divisions were being quickly shattered, but the rebels lost too many men to sustain the assault, ending in an historical outcome.

Since a lot of my playing is solitaire, I found the points bidding initiative system in AofF to be a bit of a turn off, but as Brian noted to me, a card drive initiative system could easily be bolted on to the core combat rules for solitaire gaming.




Finally, it wouldn’t be a convention report with the usual haul of goodies.  My dear friend MikeB gifted me these Warlord Crimean War sculpts by Paul Hicks for use in my Alt-ACW project, which was kind of him.

Another friend sold me these antique Avalon Hill rules for Napoleonics, which are more of a collector’s item than a viable gaming system, though I gather they were once influential and I will try them out some day.  I gather it was AH’s equivalent of GDW’s System 7 Napoleonics, though the cardboard counters in the AH set were designed to give players a taste of the system and motivate them to buying miniatures.  There are some vintage adverts from minis companies of the era in the rules books.

And I stocked up on tree and basing material.

So that was Hot Lead.   I ran out of stamina after four games in 1.5 days, but as I said goodbyes on Sunday it was grand to see the crowd getting ready for the traditional mass VSF game.  

Huge congrats to James, Elizabeth, and the crew for making this revered event happen and I look forward to returning next year without a face mask!

Cheers and blessings,


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