Welcome to this new forum for ideas and images associated with the Helion & Company Ltd series of Paper Soldier books Battle for Britain.The first title: Wargame The English Civil Wars 1642-51 is being launched this weekend at Salute 2016, where Andy Callan and I will be on the stand to show the made up models and to talk about our plans for future titles to anybody who shows even the very slightest interest… take this as a warning.
There is nothing new about printed soldiers; they were widely available long before metal casting became the thing, and they have never really gone away. I’ve been intrigued by them for donkeys’ years and tried in vain to harness the printing press to my love of wargames in my youth. Nothing I had seen currently in the paperworld set my pulse racing like the 1870s Imagerie d’Epinal cut-outs I’d met in the Army museum in Paris as a teenager.
I’d pretty much given up on the idea of making my own until a couple of years ago when an idly concertina-folded piece of scrap paper struck me as resembling a line of soldiers in ranks as it fell on my drawing board. Within a few minutes I had knocked together the thing in the picture, and next to it are some of its children. The ‘Paperboys’ as Andy dubbed them, were born.
They were designed from the start as stands of wargames figures. Glue laminated paper makes a pretty durable material for them, and call me biased, but I thought they had some of the character of the Epinal figures. So, I set about exploring some of my favourite military history subjects, with a British Isles theme, and the results will be released by Helion over the next year in the form of five books. My pal Andy Callan, ever a man interested in wargaming innovation, (he of the hair roller armies), came on board early with rules ideas and the papery battles began.
There is something in the human brain which seems to convert a little set of card cut-outs into a perfectly acceptable substitute for a mob of real soldiers. The overlapping ranks create a sense of mass often missing from their 3D cousins, and they hold their illusion pretty well until the last moment when an acute angle gives the game away.
The highly illustrative nature of the ‘Paperboys’ means the cutting out looks daunting. It isn’t. They fold conveniently for cutting before they are based up and, even if you haven’t ever wielded a pair of scissors in anger before, a slow steady beginning will soon make those fine motor skill connections that will have you snipping away with the best. The payoff is adding a crisp, newly-made stand to the unit, rapidly forming before you. It becomes compulsive.
There are detailed making instructions in the books, and I was even persuaded to demonstrate on this video, so there are no mysteries about the way to make them. Send us your pictures, and write up your thoughts for inclusion in the comments below. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you and bouncing some papery ideas around.
Paper Rules by Andy Callan
When Peter asked me to write some “easy” wargames rules for this series, I didn’t realise how difficult this was going to be. I have been writing rules for more than 40 years; occasionally for publication in magazines but mostly for use amongst friends in the privacy of our own homes. But writing something for a mass market – potentially including readers who might never have done any wargaming before – is quite another matter.
We decided that we needed to provide an introductory-level game – to get beginners started – and then a more advanced set of rules for more experienced players. The game mechanisms had to be simple throughout (so no complicated ‘Command and Control’ rules and no requirement for any fancy dice), but I was determined that simple wouldn’t just mean “simplistic”.
Players might think they are just rolling lots of dice but in the process they will be learning how battles were fought. Despite a deceptive simplicity, the games are designed to produce battles that look and feel historically “right”, and where players will find that using the correct tactics of the day and behaving like the generals of the time is their best route to victory (the will of the dice gods permitting!).
I have tried to have everything clearly spelled out in plain language, avoiding any ambiguities. But this is no easy task; it is a challenge that has faced authors since the earliest days of the hobby, and I found myself in full agreement with these words of H.G. Wells, written in 1913: “At last our rules have reached stability…and arrived at precision after much tribulation. There is not a piece of constructive legislation in the world… that we do not now regard the more charitably for our efforts to get a right result from this apparently easy and puerile business of fighting with tin soldiers…”.