Saturday 30 November 2013


The past month has been, and the next month will be, a very busy time for me, with the usual festive preparations being particularly hectic this year. I head for Thailand next week (staying at - can't wait), and have a demanding (in a good way) business schedule too at the moment, hence the infrequent posts.

However, I do intend to have a game with this collection (as it stands so far) early in the New Year, and am building up some bits 'n' bobs whilst the main infantry units are being prepared by Mark and James.
Tomorrow I get to pick up the second Pils Holstein infantry battalion, currently being dressed for action by Mark.

In the meantime, I want to share with you some of my own painting creations, as I am tinkering around the fringes of the collection:

First, some Pils Holstein light guns...

 Figures are from the Perry AWI range.

Next, a unit of fictional cavalry...
...The Transvladak Uhlanen (from Transvladachia, a region of mountains and forests in the SE of Europe... these rascals are fierce mercenaries, and the Pils Holstein purse has attracted them to defend against the French border incursions.
You may remember one of their officers (Major Ligue) mentioned as Tessa Pepisa's ADC in an earlier post.

Figures are John Ray unique originals.

This is a single squadron unit.
Whilst infantry are standardised at 30 figures (with the exception of combined Grenadier battalions which will be 24s), I am allowing some latitude in the sizes of cavalry units.

Sad News and Perspectives...
on Friday 8 November as I was about to begin a seminar, I received some bad news. The previous evening, Lee Maxwell had passed away.
Lee had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease around a year ago. Graham (see Scotia Albion blog ) had kept me appraised of the deterioration in Lee's condition, but I wasn't prepared for the Lee I met at Partizan, for the last time, in September.

I prefer to remember the jolly giant of a character, the rugby loving, humorous, wonderful gentleman wargamer. The guy I roomed with when we did a refight of Blenheim for the 300th anniversary in 2004, and who sat up most of the night discussing plans for large battalions of Staddens (this was pre- "old school" days). The guy who was the life and soul of many weekend games, such as those held at faraway places such as Dumfries and darkest Lancashire.

Many readers may remember Lee as one of the Teeside Triumvirate (as Duncan MacFarlane referred to them) or Redcar Rebels, putting on games at shows (with his compatriots, Graham Cummings and Gordon MacLean) - some of the finest games on the circuit. They were featured in the hobby press often, most notably for their Killiecrankie game which was in Wargames World issue 3 (the yellow magazine that Duncan produced as a Wargames Illustrated supplement many moons ago).

Lee was always a real "wag", a hoot to wargame with... always quick-witted, and self-deprecating when the dice were not going for him. On one occasion as a whole cavalry brigade was wiped out in a large multiplayer game, he simply called out "Shovel!" and made to motion as if sweeping the detritus from the table!

My one regret is not getting one more game in with him when Graham and I had hoped we would.
I feel so sad for Lee's family and friends, and particularly for Graham who has lost his closest wargaming pal.

Lee Maxwell loved the 18th century period. I know that up there, somewhere, he's got those cavalry back and they are launching another charge. He will be missed.

Monday 18 November 2013

The Pils Holstein Leibgarde

The first unit rolled off the production line recently...
Figures painted by Mark Allen; flags by yours truly.

So, the game's afoot. The project really feels underway now that the infantry are starting to appear.

More to come shortly...

Tuesday 17 September 2013

A Cast of Thousands

Well, not quite thousands... yet.
But hundreds... six hundred and forty to be precise.

Yes, I picked up the infantry castings from Griffin Moulds yesterday: boy am I delighted!
Clean castings; they stand up flush on the desk without having to spend hours filing the underside of bases! Remarkable!!

Anyway, here's the lead mountain...

Remember, this is just the first tranche of the project.

And here are a couple of samples I painted of the pre-production castings a couple of weeks ago, just to play around with painting style and colours a little. These are in the colours of a couple of my Pils Holstein regiments.

Right, the game's afoot...

Sunday 8 September 2013

Commitment: Flagging Already

Don't worry. It's not what you think.
Let me explain the deliberately ambiguous post title (I know, I'm a tease aren't I?!)

For this new 18th century project, before painting the figures (in fact before having even got the master figures finished) I decided to invest in all the infantry flags.

Now, this might sound mad, but... was for 2 reasons:

1. to make me commit fully to the project. I was committed anyway, but there's nothing like commissioning Mark Allen to paint all the flags, and investing that cash up front, to prove the commitment.

2. to commit to the specific orbat. Many projects suffer from the "ooh, must have that unit" syndrome, which leads to diversions and distractions. It's no good starting a project only to drift off into just having the exotic units. How many times do we see Napoleonic collections where the wargamer has got only two or three line battalions, but a plethora of highlanders, 95th riles, and so on, facing the French Imperial Guard.
I know, I've done that sort of thing too, but this time I was determined to create a balanced order of battle, and stick to it. So having the flags done in advance was a "stake in the ground" on that score.

Having all the flags done up front was also a big psychological boost. At a time when there's the danger that a project may just be a pipedream, with all that planning that I had done, to actually cross the commitment threshold like this was important.

So, with all the infantry flags done...
(Apart from the Pils Holstein infantry battalions - which I'm working on at the moment)... I have simply stuck them into handy blocks of polystyrene (in fact, upturned chunks of TSS tile), and placed them into a box so they can be added to the figures when required.

Anyway, here they are, all ready to simply have figures placed under them!!

Above: all the French infantry flags.
Below: all the Prussian infantry flags.

All these were hand-painted by Mark Allen on metal foil. They are stunning, and way better than my photography can show. Mark's sheer artistic flare really comes through on these, with wonderful detailing and highlighting and the very believable folds and flowing of the flags.

So, all you 18th century "buffs and experts". Here's a little challenge for you: See which units you can spot just from the flags shown...
Is your favourite unit in there?

Thursday 5 September 2013

A Master Plan

The first week in September always signifies a fresh start, a new term perhaps. We’re almost hard-wired, probably because so many fresh terms began at this time of year.
Yes, whether it was a new school, university, or when I joined the forces, it all happened around this time.

And in all cases, it began with...
...a plan, a timetable, regime, schedule.

Which is what happened when I started to scope out this project. I needed a plan, an overall orbat of how many figures were required, how many masters to go into the moulds, how many spins of those moulds to optimise the numbers and avoid waste/ left-overs, and a plan of how to get them painted.
Don’t want this to sound like a management project, but... we do need a plan, don’t we.

A man outstanding in his field? (or out-sitting in it).
No that's not me, it's a generic stock photo...

Now, if such “seriousness” seems at odds with a hobby, think of it as a plan of campaign… a military plan. An outline strategy.
And let’s hope it survives first contact with the paint brush!

So, wargames notebook in hand…
When I first started considering this project, as I was on my business travels a lot during that period, in airport lounges, and on trains and planes, and in hotels up and down the land, I carried my notebook and scribbled my thoughts…

Gradually, a plan emerged…
...then got ditched, was re-written, ditched again, and re-written. The notes and dreams bounced between the dipsy-fanciful and the highly-practical. And like a swinging pendulum, gradually settled.

Now, it would be foolhardy to recreate these notes here, as most of it is purely personal, subjective rambling about what I want this project to look like, and would make dreadful reading.

Suffice to say, I have a plan - with clear objectives and groundrules  and a timetable/ schedule- and heartily recommend it before committing to your projects.

Mine includes a set of criteria, and acceptable fudges and compromises (decisions I’ve willingly made); a clear idea of the “finished spectacle” (something to aim at including an ideal ultimate order of battle; a stage-by-stage building process, creating balanced forces for both sides at  each stage; a painting schedule; a casting plan (moulds, number of spins required, etc).

Yes, I know it sounds almost too serious, and some would say “get a life, it’s only a hobby”. But often those same people end up with a whole load of unfinished projects and growing levels of frustration.

For me, creating a robust plan of campaign is very much part of the enjoyment, so it’s the way I do it, and at least I’m happy!

The other point of course is that when so much time and money is being invested in figures, painting, flags, terrain and so on, I think it’s worth having at least an outline plan to work to.

Oh, and just so you know, the Schedule looks like around 6 years’ worth of painting! That’s ok then!

Over the coming posts I’ll share with you some chunks of the plan.

Meanwhile, since you have read so attentively to this point, here’s a couple of pictures to be going on with:


Nassau Saarbruchen Volunteer Hussars… a single squadron.
These are John Ray figures (with the exception of the officer which is a Suren), on horses from various sources… mainly connoisseur.
Painted by David Jarvis.
Flag is my own invention.

I wanted this unit to represent the early incarnation of what would become the Royal Nassau Hussars in French service. So there are some liberties and best-guesses on some aspects of the uniform, but I’m happy. And delighted with David’s painting.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Next time I'll tell you why I'm already flagging with the project!!!

Monday 2 September 2013


Yesterday, Partizan.
Good show. Enjoyed meeting up with a lot of people. And thanks to all those who shared their enthusiasm and kind words about War Cabinet being back online.

I was particularly delighted to see that the 1672 figures I painted just a while ago, and which I sold at the first Partizan show in June, were already “gainfully” employed by the new owner on the North Star 1672 game! Well done lads. Nice game too.

Here are the units...

And here, on the game…

With apologies. I never intend taking pictures at shows, but on this occasion I couldn’t resist, so out with the iPhone. Hence the rather basic level of photography.

Also of interest ...
... to me at least, was Aly Morrison’s game:The Battle of Hooke’s Farm - a Little Wars affair, using the Little Britons range that Aly designed for Spencer Smith Miniatures.

A rather smart Lieutenant and the Naval Gun team.

Aly had lots of retro gear in evidence, including these rather dashing binoculars with which to view the enemy! Here he’s sizing up a charge!!

… and next picture shows the charge going in…

Aly reliably informs us that the bloodbath on the day resulted in only one surviving figure. Namely his Commander-in-Chief.
Personally, I was disappointed that the guys were using dice!!!
As I said it was rather like Bob Dylan “going electric”. The gauntlet is laid down for matchstick firing guns, and I have no doubt that the brains of Aly Morrison and Dave Andrews will come up with something!!

Tomorrow, back to the new project…

Friday 30 August 2013

Campaign Characters

With every campaign project comes a host of characters who, to a greater or lesser extent, will play a role in the coming conflict.
Whilst I don’t want to go over the top at this stage with developing personalities and the like as I’ve got some way to go before they will be required, I feel it's worth introducing just a couple for now...

So, here is Teresa Pepisa, aka Tessa Pepisa
(aka Tipsi Pipsi when not in earshot, owing to her being known to like the odd gin or two).
 As daughter of a wealthy Italian financier, she attended the Austrian Hapsburg court on a number of social occasions in the 1720s and, once in the limelight, was soon spotted by a visiting King Ferdinand Adolphus of Pils Holstein. Rumours of her dalliances with him, which apparently broke the late-Queen’s heart, were heightened when she first gained an estate in Pils Holstein. Spending a lot of time there one spring, she was awarded honorary colonel-ship of the Holstein Hussars and an unspecified role as “General of Light Horse” adding to the speculation about romantic endeavours.

Tipsi is a Suren figure, painted many moons ago.
The ADC, Major Ligue, is a John Ray designed Hussar, again painted some time ago. His unit, The Transvladachian Uhlanen (Transvladak Lancers), will appear in due course (I have them painted, but can’t give you too much in one go, can I now?!) Tipsi’s unit, The Holstein Hussars, is also painted and again, look out for them in the near future.

Next, Johann von Arfeld.
A Brunswick officer, allegedly a dashing commander, a claim he will get chance to prove in the coming campaigns I’m sure. He has been awarded the post of Commander of all Pils-Holstein’s cavalry.

This vignette is by John Ray, painted by Mark Allen. Figures are John’s creations, the ADC being a Suren conversion. This piece was a kind gift from John, and is much treasured.

Talking of John Ray, I see there's news about his new book printing just up on his webpage (see "A Military Gentleman" link on right).

That's all from me for this week. Off to Partizan on Sunday, so may see you there.
Have a great weekend.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Justified and Ancients

Firstly, thanks to all who have commented, followed the blog, and emailed me personally. I am genuinely overwhelmed by the response to this mad indulgence! It shows my decision to resurrect the War cabinet was justified. 

Second… I was unhappy with the picture of the Kronenbrau Kuirassiers I put up previously. So here is a better version (I think).

And third… Ancient archive...

I’ve started putting a couple of pictures in the Ancients Archive (see navigation bar, top right hand side).

starting with Sassanids

The Byzantines… previously I did a mini blog within the old warcabinet website, journaling the development of this small project, and this subsequently featured as articles in the early issues of Battlegames magazine…

In addition, I’ve included my Mongol Army, which was fantastic to build.
It’s an “army” in the WAB (and Impetus) sense… around 50 cavalry figures.

It has seen wide service, as Khazars facing the Byzantines above, as Mongols of course, and being drafted into the 17C Cossack rebellion as Tartars… such versatility is one of the benefits of a horse archer army. The figures are Curtey’s Miniatures: full of real character, and charm, and lovely to paint.
And, the Mongols are for sale...
Having served me so well, along with a couple of Sung Chinese units, these are for sale.

So, if they are the sort of chaps who you would like to have on your shelves, and to smite foes on your tabletop, make me an offer at Phil(dot)Olley(at)

There are 50 cavalry figures (including the command vignettes), and 42 infantry.
I’m looking for just 700 gbp (that’s around 10 per cavalryman, and 5 per infantryman).

I’ll be at Partizan on Sunday, so if you want me to bring them and have a look, let me know. Similarly, I may also get to Colours later in the month if you want to pick them up there.


Sunday 25 August 2013

17th Century Poles & Cossacks Archive Gallery

Whilst the new project gathers momentum in the background, in the meantime, I thought I would just build some of the archive galleries.

One of my favourite projects was in creating a display game of the Cossack Rebellion 1648 based on the Jerzy Hoffman film “With Fire and Sword”.
I can’t believe it’s 6 years ago since I put the game on at Partizan in 2007.

Flambuoyant Polish Winged Hussars, siege towers, the Cossack Sich Drum, and storming parties, plus that moving windmill, all added to the fun.

For the full archive gallery, see the archive page link top right of this blog.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Visit to the Casters

Since some of you are itching for piccies of figures for the new project (yes, I know, I’m the same), here is one of my cavalry units that I painted recently. Previously I had this unit for my Classic collection using Holger Eriksson figures, and like many of my other former units they just had to be recreated for the new project:

So, I present: The Kronenbrau Kuirassiers…

Figures are John Ray sculpts, on Connoisseur mounts. This is a fictional Pils-Holstein cavalry regiment… in fact, the Pils-Holstein army being relatively small, this will be their only heavy cavalry regiment.
The flag is hand-painted on metal foil (as will be all of my unit flags for this collection). It shows the date the original regiment was raised, 1664, and the unit emblem, a Griffin. Talking of which..

I have a few more cavalry done, some for French service some for Pils-Holstein (in total over 80 figures, some of which have been seen before), and I’ll post more pictures up in the coming weeks.

And so, to the infantry…
With sufficient cavalry to tide me over for quite some time, courtesy of John Ray’s amazing figures that I am so lucky to have in the collection, it was time to get the infantry mould done, and off to Griffin Castings I went, having booked time to chat with Stewart who is known to a number of you, worldwide.

How fortunate for me to discover that...
...they are practically on my doorstep, being just a few miles away.
Fitting in with a couple of business meetings I happened to have lined up in the diary nearby yesterday, the timing was therefore perfect.

It was great to meet Stewart and one or two of his team, and get a welcome cuppa whilst chatting about figures, casting, and indeed many other things - such as Stewart’s own hobbies too. No, he is not a wargamer, figure collector, or anything to do with our hobby… but it’s nice to know that he has an interest/ obsession himself that allows him to appreciate what we do. I’ll leave it to Stewart to let his particular cat out of the bag to those who deal with him!

I am utterly reassured
by the Griffin approach, and for any of you who get your figures cast by the company I can assure you of their professionalism and quality – Jim Purky (Fife n Drum), Frank Hammond (Minden), and many others I believe. But then you knew that already, I’m sure.

Anyway, I recorded the visit with a picture just for posterity…

In just a couple of weeks, the mould will have been spun, quite a few times, and I'll have a nice shiny horde of metal to work on! Can't wait...

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Introduction to new project and TYW archive

A number of years ago, having been in the wargaming and figure collecting hobby since my teens, and having worked on many projects covering many periods in history, I considered my "desert island wargaming" question - if I could have only ONE collection/ project, what would that look like? What period? What figures? What about the overall style/ look of the thing, the basing, terrain, painting style, buildings, flags... in short, what would be my ideal project, in every aspect?

And here’s what I realised…
For all my wargaming life the 18th century has been a constant; that one period to which I have returned time and again. But I had never felt I had got it quite right.
And so, for this my new project (and one to which I am now committed as my main collection from now on), it was natural to settle on that period.

And so…
This blog is about creating and building a collection of miniatures for a campaign set in the mid-18th century.
So, now, join me on the journey as I record the project from the start. It's great to have you along…

Above: de Saxe... a key French commander in the campaign. Suren figures, some conversion. Hand painted flag on linen.
From the outset I decided to field French and Prussians, to ground the whole project in “real” armies, and to include some fictitious elements (namely from Pils Holstein and environs - a place that exists only in my mind's eye, somewhere in western Europe) to satiate that particular inclination for the imaginary.

I also decided…
that I wanted unique figures, and a particular pose, so the majority of the 30mm tall figures have been commissioned for my private collection. I am indebted to Steve Shaw and John Ray whose figure-making, sculpting and converting talents turned my rudimentary sketches and ideas into reality.

Today, I reached a first landmark…
when I visited the casters, and dropped off my infantry master figures for the first mould. How lucky am I to live just a few miles along the road from these guys! But I’ll tell you all about that in tomorrow’s post…

Meanwhile, for those who have asked
whether I would be including lots of pictures and material from the old Breitenfeld Blog and previous Warcabinet, the answer is yes. I am putting up some archive galleries, and have started with the Thirty Years War… see pages links top right hand side of this blog.

Nothing to do with this project. This is part of my TYW collection – see archive gallery page top right hand side of this blog. More to come soon.

Thanks again for visiting, and for the warm support and enthusiasm with which you welcomed the warcabinet back online. I was genuinely touched by that – I thought most people would have forgotten my previous efforts by now!

Tuesday 20 August 2013


Remember the old warcabinet (first as a website in the days before blogs existed, and then for a very short period as a blog)? Now, I've decided it should return… please note the web address has changed.

So, what am I going to put here?
Well, first it will be a place to share my progress on my latest project, more of which anon.
Second, I will be posting up galleries of all my previous collections, just as a set of archives.
Finally, it will be a place where I can post some battle reports, especially when the new project gets to that stage.

So, what  can you expect?
In a couple of days, I’ll introduce the new project, and show some of the steps I’ve already taken.
But, just be sure, I haven’t got very far … yet. In fact one of the exciting notions for me about starting this blog right now is that you are joining me at ground zero… I hope you might like to follow the steps, and even use this as a pace-maker for your own project if you fancy starting afresh too, and I’ll be delighted to hear of your progress and any comments.

here is one of the command pieces for my new project: Prinz Albrecht of Pils-Holstein.
And before you label this as yet another one of those "imagi-Nations", think again... and more on that next time.
Suren figures, with some conversion work (Prinz Albrecht's tricorne is scratchbuilt, and the standard bearer has a scratchbuilt cloak and a John Ray designed head). Flag is hand painted on linen and depicts the arms of Pils-Holstein.