Wargaming: Join our new ‘paperboys’ and enter the paperworld with illustrator Peter Dennis

Wargame the English Civil Wars 1642-51Welcome 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 anPeter Dennis Blog_cropped 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.

P1000652_croppedIf you’ve taken the trouble to seek out this blog, the many advantages of printed armies won’t need explaining to you (not that this will necessarily stop me at a later date).

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.

Items needed to craft your own 'paperboys'

Items needed to craft your own ‘paperboys’

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.

Happy snipping!

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.

P1000632_croppedWe 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…”.

See you at Salute 2016: 2060_Salute_FBbanner2


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25 Responses to Wargaming: Join our new ‘paperboys’ and enter the paperworld with illustrator Peter Dennis

  1. Graham Cummings says:

    Received my ECW set on Saturday and all I can say it’s great, what a fantastic way to try out a new period, new rules etc. Without spending a lot of time buying and painting figures.
    It won’t stop me gaming in 28mm figures but it will allow me to try other periods.
    The rules themselves look pretty good to so once the figures are assembled ( doesn’t take long ) looking forward to trying them out.
    Hope this series is a great success.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your very kind feedback Graham. We are very pleased you are happy with the set, which is intended to provide a cost-effective, fun alternative to traditional metal miniatures. No need to stop with 28mm figures – enjoy the best of both worlds! Do send us your photos of your soldiers when they are on their feet, we would love to see them!

  2. Antony Spencer says:

    Peter, Andy et al,

    Great to meet you all at Salute and congratulations on a superb book. Pulling in the materials to start putting together my armies of ‘paperboys’. A lot of variety in the book but is there any possibility of making a green coated regiment available at sometime to represent Tillier’s/Broughton’s Regiments and/or the Farnham Greencoats?

    Greatly looking forward to the next in the series.

    • Peter dennis says:

      Hi antony
      I made the yellow oat regiment with the idea that you could easily convert it to a green coat one with a bit of blue watercolour or thinned acrylic. Print what yellow coat sheets you will need, then add a wash of blue to make green coats. Simples!
      Glad you like the book, don’t forget to send us some photos when you get the regiments on their feet.

  3. Zoran says:

    It started in this way.
    When I was on dull night duty in the end of February when searching Internet for ideas how to make authentic flags for my thirty years war regiments I have found the preorder for the book “Wargame the ECW1642-1651”. And I was doomed from that moments onward.
    I fell in love instantly and couldn’t wait for book to arrive. And when book arrived-very punctually, it was pleasure pure.
    The look of soldiers, terrain and the instructions how to make paper boys are crisp and clear, rules and game mechanics simple and concise.
    All kudos to the Peter and Andy and my true wish and hope is that you will we in future also venture to the fields of thirty years war in Holly Roman Empire.
    Regards Zoran

    • Peter dennis says:

      Hi Zoran
      I keep thinking of huge landsknecht blocks. It would be perfect for paperboys.
      A few subjects on the list first, but I hope to visit the Renaissance before too long.

  4. Bob Duckworth says:

    I pre-ordered the ECW book from Caliver Books, who sent it to me very promptly after they collected their copies at Salute (thanks Caliver!)

    And thanks to Peter and Andy – and Helion – for producing such a fantastic book!!! You have a definite pre-order for the forthcoming titles in this range!

    I have been trying to paint 15mm Napoleonic miniatures for **years**, but I am no artist, and it takes me a ridiculously long (and stressful) time to paint them, and I have very little to show for it. The biggest issue is that it takes a long time to produce a unit of 24 figures, I need good natural light, and the set-up and pack-up time around the whole process is considerable. I have to work long hours and in reality I just don’t have enough time to devote to painting the minis. Whilst I like the ECW, I therefore have no chance to produce and ECW army.

    Until this book – these ‘paper boys’ are brilliant!! As stated, I am no artist, but it takes me 6 hours to produce a unit of 72 of these figures, and the mass effect of them is simply excellent; and the nicest thing is that these six hours can be divided into easy divisible ‘chunks’ of time: half an hour to score and cut the six strips from the A4 paper, including flags, command, shooting musketeers, and sergeants; an hour maybe to glue them all; half an hour to cut out each strip (so, 10 minutes per set of four figures, easy to do one or two while having a break); half an hour for pikes, replacing figures with commands, sergeants, etc.; an hour for basing and tidying up. Cavalry take less time. I am close to finishing all of the participants in the battle of Tippermuir (which is one of the three scenarios in the book), and that over only a few weeks in reality due to work commitments.

    I was worried about my lack of ability causing me to screw up whilst cutting round the soldiers, etc. but if you follow the guides in the book and the video, it is easy; I have inadvertently beheaded a few guys, or cut their muskets, but the process leaves plenty of ‘spares’, so the appropriate surgery has been performed and they look absolutely fine. I would recommend using exactly the same glues as Peter uses in the videos, as they achieve exactly the right results.

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

    Best regards


  5. Peter Dennis says:

    Well done, Bob. Very good to hear of your progress. I hope we can see some photographs of your armies when they are ready!

    • Bob Duckworth says:

      ‘Real Life’ has got in the way of making much progress, but I do have a couple of photos: where should I post them?

      I have also just received the 1066 and WoTRoses books: very nice 🙂

      And The Armada is coming… that looks very cool indeed!! I hope you will be able to include some small privateer battles in there too.

      Best regards


  6. james prior says:

    I have a copy of your English civil war and can’t wait for your war of the roses. Will you be bringing out any napoleonic or 7 years war figures, many thanks james

    • Peter Dennis says:

      We will be visiting the Napoleonic wars. It’s a massive subject though, and I’m contemplating working my way in with a go at the early campaigns of Bonaparte, perhaps starting with Egypt, or Italy. There’s a lot of reading to do first though. I love those revolutionary wars French infantry in ragged trousers and clogs, and a paperboys column of enthusiastic revolutionaries is a great temptation!

  7. David Bagnall says:

    Recieved my copy of this book this morning and was utterly delighted with it. When I was a teenager I made paper toy soldiers that I enjoyed ( I still have a few) but my efforts were as nothing to what Peter has produced. This has been both a trip down memory lane and an exciting new/old look at the idea of toy soldiers. Thank you very much for creating such joy. I will be buying the other books as soon as they appear!

  8. Stuart says:

    Congratulations on the first book in the series….great idea, which is surprisingly easy to put into practice…rules refreshingly as well

  9. I`ve wanted to `get into` ECW wargaming all my life, and the chance so nearly cam recently (with a complete 28mm plastic army in a box), but the lads wanted to game another period more, and so once again my dreams were dashed. Then I spotted your Battle For Britain, and Bingo!!! all my hopes were answered in one fell swoop. I have ordered my book and am now waiting for it to arrive. This will be for ME, and I will play it solo and have a darn good time doing so no doubt.

    Two quick questions if I may.

    (1) Can you please tell me roughly the figure scale.. I`m hoping you say about 25/28mm so I can add in other paper terrain I already own.

    (2) I know you say to cut round the figures, but I have other paper figures that do not have this done to them. Can I just cut them out and fold (as is) without having to cut round each stand?

    Thank you kindly in advance, this `game` truly looks to be the answer to my dreams.


    • Peter Dennis says:

      Hi Stephen
      You will know by now that they are 28mm to eye level, so that should fit nicely.
      Cutting out is the only way to get the effect you see in the book photos. Take your time and follow the instructions in the book and the video, it’s not difficult , but if you find it tricky at first just keep practising. You will soon get used to the rhythm of it. I’ve made hundreds of stands and I still get a kick from lining up the finished stands at the end of a cutting session.

  10. Sorry, just another question. I am a little confused. Do I have to copy (in colour) each page of figures (gulp* at Irish print prices, that’s a euro a page) or can I actually cut them from the book itself…. sacrilege I know, but I believe this book contains plenty for my needs and wont be needing additional numbers. So I`m hoping this is `ready to go` as it were. Only reason I asked is that, looking at the purchase I just made, in the `blurb` about it, it shows black and white figures, which seem to need to be coloured in. Can you confirm the book has colour plates and I can cut them straight out?

    • Peter Dennis says:

      You really need to copy them, as they are printed both sides. There are lots of soldiers on each sheet though, so a regiment of six stands, at your prices, will cost two euros. Cheap surely!

  11. Gary Stride says:

    Waiting for my copy of “war of the roses” think excellent way to keep the grandchildren away from my priceless “metals”
    Now guys you have to do Rorkes drift, even in 15mm I don’t think I will ever have enough Zulus.
    Come on Peter get your creative head on.

    • Peter Dennis says:

      When we have worked our way through next year’s projects, I want to start tackling popular wargames periods , and the Zulu war would be a perfect subject. All those Zulus bearing regimental shield colours would look great in the masses you can get with paper. Rorkes’ drift would naturally feature too in the buildings in the book, along with a Zulu kraal. Oh yes!

  12. David Bagnall says:

    Tremendous! I have now bought the first three and love them! I am busy painting some 3D Romans at the moment but am looking forward to cutting out some of these splendid chaps. I used to produce my own paper soldiers years ago, but they were nothing like this. I am deeply grateful to you for reviving some very happy memories. I am also very taken with the rules which I will use with other figures I have. Thank you very much for producing a book that has given so much joy.

  13. Kenneth Armstrong-Taylor says:

    I can not wait for a similar production for the 18th century.Rewoke the boy in me.

  14. Lex Nosworthy says:

    Dear Mr Dennis,
    I recently purchased the first three books – and have been having a great time making up the 1066 armies. Much fun and boy, do they look nice en masse! I’ve found that using a craft “scalpel” and a cutting mat is a lot better for me and getting consistently good results, rather than scissors. A nice by-product is that it’s prompted some good reading on the topic.

    I’m looking forward to the Romans, but would love to see some other topics one day – especially samurai (think warring states period a la Ran, Kagemusha movies) and napoleonics (the colour and variety).

    Thanks indeed for your fine efforts and inspiration.

  15. Mik Isaac says:

    Hi. Immensely impressed by the quality of the artwork, I have just purchased the Wars of the Roses and the American Civil War books. However, after a read through, I can only find confirmed base sizes for the artillery pieces. There’s nothing obvious to indicate how large the foot or horse bases should be. Is it just me??

    • Mik Isaac says:

      Apparently, it is just me! – I was just not reading the base sizes carefully annotated on the illustrations. Oh well… I blame the lack of little grey cells!

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