Wooden Wars: Wooden Soldier Project - Part 4: Fossling Proving Grounds - where the rubber meets the wood!

My "god father", Alan Lucien at an early Wooden Wars play test. Alan is my own personal H.G. Wells of inspiration, and is the person who pretty much got me started in the game business. Happy Father's Day Alan!

“The jolliest indoor games for boys and girls demand a floor, and the home that has no floor upon which games may be played falls so far short of happiness.”

H.G. Wells, Floor Wars, 1911

Going to need a bigger ram rod...

So far we've covered  the designing and prototyping of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery wooden model soldiers. With these three elements in hand, it was time to test them on the battlefield.  This time around we focus on models as units, basic gameplay systems, and the decisions (and mistakes)  I've made up to this point.
Wooden soldiers are cool but, as game designing is my day job, I of course designed these with a game in mind! Sure it's obvious:  you set them up and knock them over.   That's the heart of the rules -  knocking over the wooden soldiers with projectiles.  This meant I had to define two important elements right off the bat:  the size and shape of the models' bases in order to have the stability I sought, and yet be knock over- able, and the best projectiles for my game, of course.

This image of a Victorian post card hangs on my wall for inspiration.
"Balls!"  you say...
My immediate target audience is my 5 year old son, as he and my desire to game with him has been previously mentioned as my reason for these creations in the first place.  So, the rules have to be easily understood and playable for someone(s) his age, yet have enough to hold the interest of myself and other "big kid" gamers.   As for the projectile in question - it had to be kid friendly both safety and usability-wise. This quickly narrowed my options down to the classic small bouncy  rubber ball.  It really has so much going for it!
·         Low cost
·         Easy to acquire (note, I did not say easy to find - especially if you have a cat helping you "play")
·         Solid
·         Good bounce and velocity
·         Not apt to put an eye out or break windows
Ammo magazine. wooden soldiers and cigar boxes go hand in hand.
      Once on the proving grounds, we found that these small balls can be hurled with a vengeance. I quickly revised the rules, so  that balls are tossed - not thrown, and must bounce at least once before hitting a target  to be considered "in play".  This helped hand-eye coordination in firing, and added considerably to the game play (not to mention, far less bruising of human opponents).

All your Base...
In any column-line-square system of warfare game play, one has massive units of linear infantry.  This applies to Wooden Wars, but: how massive; how closely packed?
I decided to have my soldiers stand from 80mm to 100mm tall from top of base to top of hat, depending on the type.  I developed 7 different base sizes and shapes, both square and rectangular, and then added my prototype models to them.   Then came the more fun part:   we blew on them, tossed balls at them, tossed them around, stomped them (accidentally, of course) and knocked other soldiers into them domino style.
New recruits go through the paces.

 After all that testing, I resolved on a completely different sized rectangle than my original test versions, including moving the model slot back a bit from center. 
The next stage was to build out large units of soldiers for the field tests.  As I was still waiting for more laser cut pieces , I printed out images of my soldiers and pasted them onto wooden flats attached to the new base size.  Then the real fun and carnage began!
Standing steady before a cannonade
Balls in action!

 Note- the officer is unharmed! Hm...
Second tests- soldiers build a fortification!

I have played Napoleonic games for over two decades.  I've charged Russian gun batteries with lancers and broken squares with Dragoons and destroyed units with grapeshot.  But none of these was as viscerally enjoyable as actually seeing a unit of infantry erupt into chaos when the ball met the wood!  Here's a few more shots with the first prototype soldiers.
Fossling proving grounds vs. a new force of fresh troops. Note base size differences.

This time the officer is not as lucky.

Oh the wood-manity!

Counter battery fire.
Next time we'll look at novel ways to keep those poor wooden soldiers in their ranks - with Commanders!


  1. I love your development blog posts. It's great to see all of this coming out into the light of day. I'm looking forward to seeing the game in action.

  2. Thanks very much Blkthrn. It's great being able share it. As for seeing, or better yet- playing- I'll be running a scad of games at GenCon, and on the West coast at Pacificon and Celesticon this fall.

    Hope to see you there!

  3. Another wonderful look into the mind of the brilliant Mssr. Foss! This is really coming together my friend.


    - Rod

  4. Love the idea of the wood block fort. Gives the whole thing a real "Toy" feel, while still scratching the wargaming itch.

  5. Simon- the blocks are what we "had" around the house to begin with. I tried getting fancy with lincoln logs and more stylish wooden blocks, but these old ABC versions work best for building ablative buildings and walls. They also make great star forts.

    I'll tell you what; Vauban knew what he was doing when it comes to rubber balls! I'll post more on buildings and fortifications in the future.

  6. In many ways Alan was my toy soldier Godfather as well. I was playing at his parents place from the 8th grade, 1970. He was most tolerant and supportive of the groups "Rug-rat". -David M. Kush