Sunday, June 28, 2015

Collecting Toy Soldiers Summer Camp

If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life.

My summer job epitomizes that oft quoted line.  I am very fortunate to be involved with Barstow School's Summer Program.  The images in this post are all from events that happened in the summer of 2015.
Soccer Guys on a gridded pitch.  Using Soccer World Tactics game rules and miniaturizing the game of soccer.  I used this in a Chess camp to show the ability to recognize moves from a variety of angles and distances.  Looked pretty cool and the kids hopefully transferred some of the skills.

We called it Soccer Chess.

Working with the very young.

Collecting Toy Soldiers Camp.  
I put together a one week half day experience for grades 3-8 students that wanted to see into the hobby of collecting toy soldiers and gaming with them.

We discussed being drawn into the world of miniatures and I told the parents that this camp session should come with a warning label "This hobby may last into their adult years, consume all of their time, and develop lifelong friendships."

We covered WWII as a look into skirmish gaming.  Prior to this scenario the whole week was spent on Horse and Musket era troops and tactics.

All miniatures are 54mm bucket of soldier variety.  Terrain in all cases is made from corrugated cardboard.  This is cheap and can be made very serviceable for all ages gaming.

I have been at Barstow now for five years and knew that I would be teaching on the top of student desks.  If you look under most of the setups the desks are small pushed together variety of student seating.  Prior to camp I made 3 foot x 3 foot plus cardboard "battle boards."  These are from a futon carton that I found in my neighborhood.  I roll painted green and brown and black latex house paint onto these to make a quick terrain.

In this image you can see our American Civil War campaign map.  Also just visible is my week outline.  We covered: Miniatures, Order of Battle, Rules for moving, firing and skirmishing with troops and how this differed from "sandbox" play.  We built terrain and I showed them how to make a quick fold and cut house that served well for general buildings in the civil war.  We discussed and demonstrated map movement and then placement from the map onto a tabletop battlefield.  We also kept track of force damage from turn to turn to reflect a campaign setting.

Quite possibly a Quincy Crossing battle.

This is one of the battles fought at Brown's Ford.

I used Joseph Morschauser's rules for Horse and Musket.  The battleboards however were built with One Hour Wargames in mind.  I am also using them for a Mechwarrior campaign.

More ACW action.

When we discussed miniatures we talked about creating units that represented historical opponents.  There was a lot of painting during the week with painted troops taking part in a battle the next day.

Next summer the camp will morph into one week of American Revolution, one week of American Civil War, and one week of World War II.  Is it silly to be anticipating next summer already?

Thanks for looking in.  Leave a comment for encouragement.


  1. That looked like a whole lotta fun - I would have liked to have seen some commentary on this. Along with wargames model soldiers I have in more recent years collected quite a few Army Men figures (mostly 20th century warfare - WW2 onwards), and have a small number of BMC Yorktowns (painted as Yankees and Limeys, though I think the latter were meant to be Hessians), and some Napoleonics.

    I was interested in the game set-up, the gridded board and 'quick-build' terrain pieces (nicely done!). Can you tell us more about those?

  2. Excellent way to give kids an excuse to play with "toy soldiers": maybe Junior or Little Susie will be willing to step up and do extra chores at home to buys some more troops. and there is the educational aspect--"But Mom, I've picked up most of what Mahan and von Clausewitz was trying to get across to their 19th century contemporaries!"
    Mom: "....."

  3. Hi,
    I visit your blog pretty often, but I somehow missed this. Your project is most excellent! I took part in a somewhat similar program 2 summers ago, but it was not a great success for me--rather than historicals, the kids were into fantasy/sci fi almost entirely. I brought painted 1/72 WWI planes and rules (from Junior General), for example, but I got no takers; I was totally trumped by Star Wars.

    6 years ago I ran my own wargaming class after school when my son was in 5th and 6th grades. The 5th grade year was great--the kids were attentive and enthusiastic. My class had a waiting list, in fact; the only time that ever happened at the school. I figured the following year would be even better; the kids would all know the routine, and would be ready to play somewhat more detailed games. WRONG! I did not realize the difference between 5th and 6th graders--the ol' hormones had begun to bubble up, with resulting yukking it up, inattention, insulting the younger kids, etc. etc. Very depressing. After that, my son and the others became Middle Schoolers, at which point I of course became an object of eye-rolling and sarcasm. So much for going after school.

    I really miss my experience of the first year, but being neither a teacher nor a parent of a student, I could not repeat the class for new 5th graders.
    So it goes.


  4. Whoops, forgot to include a question I have about your VBACW rules. I was thinking they were a Volley and Bayonet variant, but all the hits I got on Google referred me back here! Have you made these available anywhere?

    Chris again