Saturday, 22 October 2016

3D Paper Miniatures

English Civil War
With Paper Soldiers & Terrain

I have wanted to play wargames set within the first (main big) English Civil War era for a long time now, half a lifetime actually; and indeed I do have a lovely box starter set of Warlord Games goodies. Pikemen, Musketeers, Forlorn Hope (light infantry) and standard Cavalier and Roundhead Cavalry... over 100 miniatures all told, so yeah, quite a sizable start. But they are all unassembled, all unpainted: and this remember, is only the bare nucleus of two armies. To make a useful collection out of this pretty lot, I would need to flesh it out with mounted and dis-mounted Dragoons, City Militia Gangs, Ordinance, Officers and various ancillaries... and this doesn’t even yet cover the Irish, the Royalist Scots, or the Jacobites, all of which I would need at some point or other, if I truly wanted to cover the war in detail.
Quite daunting huh?

Sure, I could just use what I already have and play skirmish level games, but I want to do something a bit grander than that. Something with a little more panache and style: battles like Edgehill, Marston Moor, and Nasby springs to mind; each of these being complete mini campaigns in their own right. And so I am back staring at the same problem... facing looking at collecting lots upon lots more figures and then having to paint lots and lots of figures: and all that, is something I simply don`t want to do.

And THAT is when I discovered Peter Dennis`s extraordinary three dimensional cut out stiff paper miniatures. They are gob smackingly good. Normally I wouldn’t even look twice at paper minis, but these really are something a little special, and the moment I saw them, my heart went out to the idea. I first spied them at a game show convention over in England, and stood in fascination as the guy on the stand talked to another gamer all about them. I stood eaves dropping to the conversation for a good ten minutes, and by the time they had finished, I found myself forking out for two copies of the English Civil War cut out book sets. The guy who had been talking to the man on the stand also bought one of everything I seem to recall. As indeed “Helion Press/Osprey” also sell complete army sets for Medieval (War of the Roses), Saxons and Vikings (Hastings 1066), and the two newest sets - Roman Britain (the Boudicca Campaign) and The Spanish Armada as well. But I was happy enough with my two humble copies of the English Civil War “Battle For Britain.”  

Why two copies you may ask? Well I think you are really meant to buy one book, take the staples out the spine, keep the pages neatly in a folder and just print them off on colour as and when you need more figures (and some of the paper minis are thus printed on both sides of the page within the book itself). Now, I live in Ireland. Everything in Ireland is expensive. That’s why I don’t even have my own printer, because the ink is ruinously expensive. Which leaves me having to pay a euro (about a pound) per page for a coloured sheet. Now times that by 48 pages.. and you start to see my problem! I wanted one copy to keep in prime condition, and another to cut apart for assembling my minis: although I may well bite the bullet (painful as it will be) and cut up both my books so I don’t have to pay a single penny to make five complete armies up. English Parliamentarians and Royalists, Irish, Scottish, and Jacobites. When you consider that these books sell for about £12 each (I got mine for £6 each) it’s really not a big deal and won’t break the bank, however you do it yourself. Anyway, these books really do give you a lot of figures... hundreds in fact.

So here I am with paper soldiers. Have I lost the plot!!!??? You may be asking yourselves at this stage. Well, take a look at the pictures below, and then judge.

As Wargames Illustrated points out: First off, Peter Dennis is a well known historical illustrator, and had a number of books under his belt. The images are simply superb.

Ok, I was not really sure what to expect when I opened and started to read the book. But by page two, I was obsessed... hook line and sinker.

Peter Dennis has created a collection of images featuring English Civil War infantry, cavalry, dragoons and artillery as well as a selection of buildings, walls, hedges, trees, even roads, but they’re not just illustrations, oh no. They are cleverly designed, paper soldiers!

 I know it sounds crazy but the more I looked at the illustrations and read the two sets of easy rules written by Andy Callan (also included in the book), the more I found myself wanting to give this concept a try.

Oh I know its not a new idea, paper soldiers date back to the early 18th century, and websites like The Junior General have been offering cartoon-like images suitable for printing out paper soldiers for several years, but Peter Dennis has improved on the basic idea in so many ways.

The illustrations themselves reflect the high standard of Peter’s more conventional historical illustration, and he has incorporated some very clever ideas.

The troops are designed in what may best be described as concertina strips.


These concertina strips are then glued together to create a unit in three ranks. The image is carefully trimmed around and then glued to a base.

Obviously you`re probably not meant to cut out the images in the book (unless in desperation like I am), as its basically a source book. Instead, having purchased your copy of the book, you’re free to scan in or copy the images for your own use, and then print out as many sheets at a time as you want.

The instructions for making up the paper soldiers are clear and simple, and the end results really does have a charm and realism that is infectious.

PROS: An original concept extremely well-executed. Let’s face it the idea of being able to create ready painted unlimited forces, relatively quickly for just £12 (RRP) plus the cost of some inkjet prints is an attractive one, and it actually looks great fun making them. I can`t wait to start mine, and am just waiting for the right moment to begin my own project into this fascinating hobby deviation.

CONS: I can`t find anything bad to say: except perhaps, if I absolutely had to find something, it might be that the on line forum for this company is abysmally unfriendly, unhelpful.... and you are as likely to be ignored in comments as you are having your question(s) totally removed altogether (or not even put up for anyone to see at all). Worst forum I have ever seen on line in all my life. Though, in fairness, the things discussed there ARE useful and interesting.

SCOPE: Obviously you can combine the paper soldiers with anything else why not use them as a `fill in` while you purchase and paint up your real miniatures army... allowing you to get playing games right away without having to wait a couple of years while you get` the real thing` ready for the table – games would not look shabby or too out of place using paper figures alongside your normal ones: I do it all the time with my fantasy games, and often use Pathfinder paper pawns alongside my normal miniatures... looks great, but within the philosophy and concept behind the book, the scope, in terms of creating your forces, is, literally unlimited.

Incidentally, Andy Callan’s ECW rules look like they should work great on the table. Comprising just four pages, plus a two-page playsheet... also three scenarios.; and they look ideal for the total beginner, or the gamer (like me) who likes the simple `old school` approach to wargaming. So yeah, a veritable heap of figures AND a free set of rules to boot, pretty good for the cost don`t you think. And what`s more, wow what a unique and utterly snazzy idea.

I know that paper soldiers won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I for one just found the entire concept really fun and the forces were easy and quick to build. In conclusion, I can only say… “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”.


 Article by Stephen Gilbert.



  1. Hmm, this is not something I would ever have thought of doing but I can certainly see why you have gone down this path, Steve. The pros definitely outnumber the cons and there is no denying the armies do look good when they are all lined up.

    One tip I would offer to you is this - when you have them folded and glued together, take some time out to edge them, even if it is just with a black magic marker. Edging gets rid of the white edges which I always find distracting. I know it is time consuming but it will be worth the effort you put in.

    Best of luck with this new project, mate.

  2. I know you are the paper/card terrain king Bryan and would listen to your advice like I would a teacher. Thanks for that advice, it is noted with gratitude. What about strengthening the paper. I think there must be a thickness limit that it good for the printing machine, but will the figures and the terrain benefit from strengthening at all... I dunno, varnish for instance, or artist watercolour paper seal?

    I will probably use the ones in the book (there`s so many... hundreds mate) which are nice and thick, but the more I can strengthen them all, the better it will be for me. I`d even have bought to books just for the terrain alone, you get loads and its really good looking. Best looking paper/card trees I`ve ever seen.

    1. If the card/paper they are printed on is fairly thick, they probably won't need strengthening any more. For really solid models I'd glue both sides of a figure or stand of figures to a piece of mounting card. Mounting card is very thick (about 1.5mm thick) and is what I use on all of my card buildings. It is also what the Battle Systems terrain is printed on. However, it would be a bitch to cut out if you follow the outer lines of your figures. Therefore, if you feel you want to strengthen your models even further I'd advise going for thin card or thick cartridge paper, both of which are cheaper to buy than mounting card and far easier to cut.

      I can't advise on varnish, etc. as I have never used it on paper models. It may work, it may not.

    2. THANK you Bryan, that's just the kind of information I was hoping for from you. All totally and duly noted... and filed away for future experimentation, when I go to assemble this lot up.

  3. I know you said you`d stopped collecting Stevie, but I`m really interested in the sound of those Romans and Ancient Britains. Images of Caesar, Boudicca, "Mists of Avalon" King Arthur and all that cool Dark Ages stuff springs to mind. You could even revisit that little known series "Roar" that failed after only a single pilot half series (set in Ireland).

    Hmmmm this intrigues me. However, the one you got looks amazingly complete and fun too. A nice diversion and with potential to be a really good alternative to collecting models. I took no notice at the time when you got it, which I now think that was a mistake on my part, as it actually looks so good. I`m so tempted by the Roman set now.

    Bryan`s advice on assembly sounds good too.

    1. Looks like a cool Christmas stocking filler sorted for you then.

  4. I`m there with Hil, this looks amazing. Especially the Roman/Britain book. But this Charles I and Roundheads and Cavaliers one looks so good too. I think this is a really novel idea and a well executed retake on an old theme; and at that price its great value for money, for sure.

  5. ...hmmmm, maybe make that two cool stocking fillers.

  6. Interesting concept Steve, I like the feel of 3D minis personally and solid terrain is my preferred method but this is a cracking idea and would certainly be a great stop gap for someone trialling rule sets or time periods and not ready to invest a ton of cash

    1. Hi Andy, yeah that's my thinking too; its a great stop gap or even a quick fix to see if you actually LIKE a new period to game in enough to want to go further.. before making that big investment.

      For me too, I find the idea quite nifty and novel, and when I have time and it feels right to give it a go, I will dabble about and see if I enjoy assembling and playing with paper soldiers for its own sake. If so, I may invest a bit further into it.

  7. Having always been a fan of pre-printed cardboard cutouts, these look rather intriguing. I might have to have a look at these, especially as the price is right and it has terrain. And I feel your pain regarding printing, as I downloaded a PDF recently and found out that my home printer was not up to printing it at the resolution I wanted. And to get it printed 'professionaly' on PAPER cost more than a larger pre-printed gaming mat on mouse mat material.

    1. Hi Jez, yeah the cost of printing now, oh boy. So its no better there then? I thought it was just Ireland was expensive. I also feel your pain... I recently purchased a really cool old school D&D sandbox mega dungeon crawl campaign for $7. Great I thought, until I realised that 411 bound black and white pages was going to cost me nearly 50 quid. The hardback book itself didn't cost that much (well, except for the postage cost - it did).

      I think we seem to have reached a stage in consumer pricing where the old maxim really does apply: i.e. "you get what you pay for" nowadays. Either that or you really DO make everything you need yourself from scratch.

      Now with these paper soldiers (you really do get hundreds... and surgeons, and civilians, and sundry vicars, woman, children, dogs, cats, barrels, boxes, bunkers, hedges, trees, walls, church, buildings, gallows, etc etc in each book. I can only assume the other sets (Romans, Medieval Knights in Armour, and so on, also contain as divers an offering. Look around though `cos these book prices do seem to vary from anywhere between £6:00 and £12.95 from what I`ve seen.

    2. Regarding the books, they're currently discounted directly from the publisher, but it would appear they're attending Warfare 2016 in my home town of Reading mid-November, so not only will I be able to see them in the flesh, they might be discounted.

      As for DIY, the high cost of printing what I wanted has spurred me into new heights of creativity, as next week's post will hopfully showcase. And yes, I know I'm a tease...

    3. hahahaa, tease away lol. Reading wow, I attend Warfare there sometimes. Few years back I was showcasing Dungeon World... (a game I wrote for them some years back when I was their Forum Mod) there for Pendraken Miniatures and doing public demonstrations and regular mini dungeon crawl sessions. We must have passed each other in the crowd many a time.

  8. {{D&D sandbox mega dungeon crawl campaign for $7 }}

    Sorry, I meant to say it was a purchased on line PDF from Drive-thru-rpg.