Wargame Thoughts and Commentary

On Paper Soldiers

In the last month or so I have become fascinated with an old and traditional form of the model soldier-the paper soldier. I have been aware of their history dating back into the 18th century, but had long ignored them, along with metal flats, in favor of the more common, full round, metal toy soldier. I owned over the years a number of different armies, mostly in 28mm, and in a variety of periods. However, about five years ago I sold them all-over 5,000 figures.

This had a hugely liberating effect on me. Suddenly many shelves were empty, and I was free of a lot of painted lead. It was about four years ago that I got the urge to build armies again, but being free to do whatever i liked, I essentially changed my entire collecting habits. I decided to concentrate on specific periods of interest, and not try the fruitless “all things to all men” approach. I also decided to go to different scales. This was promoted by an urge to try larger battles with the development of Zouave, and also to keep the storage demands within firmer limits. My first direction was to go to 10mm figures, and I started my Pendraken FPW and ACW armies in that scale. BY shipping off the bulk of 1200 figures to Sri Lanka, I was soon equipped to fight battles in this new scale. When coupled with a 13 foot long table-I reveled in the diorama effect of these table-top actions. I fell in love with this wonderful scale, and began adding more figures for 1866 and the Maximillian Intervention.

I did return to 28s for my WSS armies using a mix of Front rank, Old Glory, and Wargames Foundry figures. This period was also new to me. It is very rich, with a wide range of battle actions, and the uniforms are very colorful, but less fussy than either SYW or Napoleonics. I doubt if I’ll do any more 28s, whose cost and shipping expense are bordering on silly. Plastics help with both of these factors, but other than a few unpainted French Foreign Legion figures, I think I’m done with 28s.

However, I do want to do other periods, but don’t want the clutter of tons of figures, and I have never been fond of painting an unending number of line troops. What to do?

Then I was introduced to paper soldiers. When assembled they can be very attractive, and some of the artists creating these figures are producing artwork of the highest order. When placed on the wargame table they make a terrific impression. But the best part of it all is they are very inexpensive, store easily, and are often delivered by PDF! Some come painted, or you can do it yourself (digitally!)

My latest Papersoldiers are from two sources-Billy Bones Workshop (http://billybonesworkshop.co.uk )/ War-games Vault and from Paper Terrain (http://www.paperterrain.com/index.html).

For less than $20 I got a complete ECW force for both sides from Billy Bones. They were delivered by PDF and included horse, guns, infantry, plus terrain and buildings, smoke and casualties all in 25mm! Since they can be printed at will your armies are unlimited in size. These figures are done in an antique brown ink on white paper in a very antique and impressionistic style-I think they make a stunning diorama, and one move in you completely forget they are only paper and in two dimensions.

The neatest thing is that you can colorize them, if you wish to add colors of the period uniforms or make the terrain green and brown tones! I am using Pixelator on my Mac Pro which is available from the Ap store for $29.95. Using this software I can colorize the Billy Bones art in about 5 minutes a sheet. I even added an identifier number! (see Photo)

Pasted Graphic 2

Thereafter, I can print color versions to my heart’s content. I am now ready to test Die Fighting for the Crown (1400-1700)! Go to the Billy Bones site and look at the effect of these figures in mass! Wonderful! Added advantages are they store flat on a shelf until assembled, and a shoebox holds an army of hundreds, and weighs mere ounces.

My other new acquisition is the Paper Terrain ACW troops from Scott Washburn. These are not delivered by PDF since Scott is, by his own admission, not too tech minded. I picked mine up at Historicon and got complete Confederate and Union armies plus his new sheet of the Iron Brigade in 15mm. They are also available in 25 and 6 mm. The style of these figures is much more precise and draftsman-like, but beautifully done. He delivers on quality paper by mail. One of the joys of paper soldiers is the contrast in the artist’s styles.

My goal with these figures was to mix them in with my 10mm Pendrakens (they are a good fit) using the paper soldiers for those reams of line troops and the metal figures for command, horse, and artillery pieces. Over time I can replace the paper line infantry with metal, but in the meantime, I can game big ACW battles. This would work with other periods that demand large numbers of troops as well: say, Napoleonics for instance.

Speaking of Napoleonics, be sure to check out Walkerloo Napoleonics (http://www.walkerloo.com/) for their napoleonic paper soldiers. These are very different and also physicaly delivered in a pack-not by PDF. Their style is very much in the Bob Marion style of drawing, they are full color, and really very attractive. They are also a heavier card figure, rather than paper. Pricing on the Walkerloo figures is the most expensive of any and represents the high end of paper figures at about $1+ per figure.

The paper soldier has a long and illustrious history in our hobby, be sure to add a few to your collection. They are a quick, and often inexpensive, way to enjoy new periods, and they are perfect for gamers that have space limitations.