dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Funny Little Wars

The Square Pegs

The time has come for me to unveil my most recent Enthusiasm;— viz.:

The Square Pegs

The Square Pegs are a motley collection of 54mm Toy Soldiers constructed from clothespins, pipe cleaners, and other accoutrements.

Why 54mm Craftees?

In the summer of 2012, I found myself assessing my increasing pile of unpainted lead; simultaneously reflecting upon my diminishing space for storing my soldiers and scratch-built terrain; and finally, lamenting the little time I have to devote to hobbying. In a flash came the perfect solution;— why not embark upon a project in a new, larger scale, which would entail constructing (and storing) all new buildings and terrain, and which would require me to create all of my own figures from scratch? Thus began the madness!

But First, the Back Story

The Anglo-Zulu War, rendered in clothespins

Examining the history of my browser would reveal the following artifacts;—

For years I have been ogling (in a good way) the clothespin creations of Mr. Kenneth Van Pelt one might find at The Penny Whistle (website of the Secondhand Lions Wargame Club) — 54mm Zulu war Brits and 1:72-ish biplanes, all constructed of parts plundered from the laundry;

Though I have a well-thumbed copy of Wells’ Little Wars, I was strangely compelled to purchase a modern update — Funny Little Wars by Padre Paul Wright — published by the Virtual Armchair General; and finally,

Really shoots!

How could one not be captivated by the Toy Making Dad’s tutorial for constructing a little wooden cannon that really shoots?

One horrid day these Ætheric contagions took hold of my feverish mind. I realized that I possessed the necessary skills and modest pecuniary means to construct 54mm soldiers and the artillery with which to shoot them dead.

Looks of grim determination, astride stoic steeds

Thus was born the Square Pegs!

Creating little clothespin people did have several qualities to recommend it. One of my other (too numerous) hobbies is carpentry, so the concept of combining woodworking with miniature wargaming was appealing. I embrace any opportunity to employ my costly collection of tools, and better yet, welcome any excuse to purchase new ones! This may seem strange, but by creating craftee warriors, a certain pressure was off. I am not at all a skillful painter, and I frequently “psych myself out” (as a Victorian gentleman might remark) by admiring the Olympian Heights of painting technique displayed on the interweb. When I compare the Picasso-like results of my brush strokes (and not in a good way), I admit I become Discouraged, to say the least. The main reason I originally took up 15mm figures (for example) was so that I wouldn’t have to paint eyes!

Officers and a Lady

Working in the “laundry appurtenance” medium, however, equaled Freedom. There were few ultra-skilled craftee-devotees to outshine one, and, in the end, as I often remind myself, “Self, it’s only a clothespin.” Occasionally, when I catch a glimpse of those furry blue arms, they afford a Muppetational quality, which plunges me into to the depths of Despair …  Perhaps my time has been wasted? I suppose that one could say that about any of one’s pursuits when examined with excessive scrutiny and cabernet sauvignon.

Men and supplies

In the end, I think I’m decidedly Pleased, and I harbor Grand Plans for the Square Pegs. As the cooler months are descending, I have time to amass forces for an epic spring Garden Battle, … and then I could double the size of the plans for the Gary Chalk river steamer and repurpose my figures for pulp/penny dreadful VSF in Darkest Africa  … and then I could make “proof of concept” models of fantasy figures for a truly expansive garden hexcrawl… and then if I made pirates, I could construct 1:32 ships armed with those shooting cannons, spread out so blue canvas on the lawn … and then …

Three infantryman from Army Black, before being issued arms (You may, in fact, regret having found this site…)

Funny Little Wars

My current Enthusiasm involves a return to the origins of another hobby — miniature wargaming. H.G. Wells’s Little Wars an Floor Games were the foundational texts for adults to engage in warfare employing tiny metal models.

One can have for himself the text of both books via Project Gutenberg, should he desire an authentic return to roots.

For a modern day re-imaginging of Wells’ rules, along with a plethora of ancillary accoutrements, Padre Paul Wright’s Funny Little Wars is highly recommended. The rules for battle are all there, both for using little Wellsian cannons (that really shoot) and modern day dice-rolling. There’s a points system for assembling balanced opposing forces in a rainbow of hues (Red=Britain, Black=Germany, &c.).

I particularly enjoy the little touches — aircraft for reconnaissance (never combat)… rules for caring for wounded in field hospitals… sartorial suggestions and culinary guidance for players new to a more civilized style of gaming.

The soldiers themselves — old fashioned 54mm tin soldiers — are breathtakingly dear (in two senses — cute, as well as, you could never afford them) but Padre Wright provides Ætheric addresses to purveyors of plastique proxies. I, myself, have chosen a Different Path, about which more anon.

Even if you never make it outside to gaming in the garden, Funny Little Wars is a delightful read and contains a bit of history about the origins of wargaming. I’ll keep Readers up to date as my Enthusiasm unfolds….

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