Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, with a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Scenery – Lilliput Lane!

It feels as though I have always been aware of the Lilliput Lane range of miniature buildings – I regard them as collectibles for oldies with an excess of pocket money and shelf space. Not very interesting, not my kind of thing, overpriced and far too cute for my taste, but certainly very nice if that’s what you like.

Hinton Hunt 20mm ECW soldiers with Lilliput Lane Scottish buildings - not bad?
A few years ago I made a conscious (and not easy) decision to use underscale buildings on my wargame table – my figures are sort of 1/72-ish, which translates to about 20mm, but I use 15mm scale buildings as a matter of policy. They look fine, they take up less space on the battlefield (and are therefore a bit less of an offence against the age-old mismatch of vertical and ground scales in the games) and they are, of course, cheaper than their bigger cousins.

My Peninsular War buildings are of various makes and came from various places – I like resin buildings, and I enjoy painting them myself. I am aware that I have buildings from Eureka, Hovels, JR Miniatures, Battlezone and others I can’t remember. Sometimes the scale slips downwards a bit – some of my buildings, judging by the ease with which the men could pass through the doors, are a bit tight even for 15mm, but it’s amazing how the convenience numbs your sensitivity to this inaccuracy. It is true that an HO or 25mm church would look more natural with the miniature soldiers, but this is more than outweighed by the fact that it would be the size of a fair-sized village on the battlefield.

My standard issue, home-painted 15mm Hovels
When I started on the ECW, I bought in a pile of Hovels Medieval, Northern European and “English Rural” series buildings, and some rather more Germanic things from JR, and I’ve been working my way through the painting of these as time permits. When my interest in this period suddenly performed a lateral arabesque in the direction of Montrose and his chums, I had a need for some Scottish looking buildings, and was surprised when a search on eBay for “Scottish” and “buildings” threw up some examples of Lilliput Lane products. Of course, most of them were unsuitable, and prices were generally very unsuitable indeed, but there were a few very interesting examples on offer.

I am not a convert, I will not blossom into a collector, but there are a number of very useful pieces out there. There are a few problems, apart from price – these items are all sorts of different sizes and scales, and very few sellers bother to put dimensions in the listings; the models themselves are collectible without any attempt to have a constant scale - having said which, Lilliput have recently produced their “Full Steam Ahead” series, which are specifically targeted at (very wealthy) N-Gauge model railway enthusiasts.

The trick is to ignore the new stuff and the listings aimed at serious collectors – there are some real bargains among the clearances of someone’s late grannie’s bits and pieces, especially if, like me, you could not care less about the missing box and deed (certificate of authenticity), and are happy to get out the paints to touch up chips and scratches. In fact, I have been known to drybrush some erstwhile collectible with Khaki Mist #4 to tone down the colours a bit – enough to send genuine LL collectors screaming for therapy.

I am also happy to snip off the happy wedding couple from a rural church scene (or lose them inside a tree), so I am a real heretic in the LL world. It is also necessary, of course, to check on sizes. I have had a couple of minor failures, but they can always be stood on the top of a distant hill, or put back on eBay – how can I lose at these prices?

On the face of it, this would make a decent wargames piece - bad news is
this is a limited edition, so I'd have to sell my own house to buy it. Nah - not
suitable, far too collectible for me...
A complete battlefield covered with LL buildings would be an abhorrence by any standards – the more complicated set-pieces cover too much ground anyway, and do not lend themselves to having soldiers placed as a garrison – but I am now keeping a gentle eye open for suitable bargains on eBay – mixed in with the Hovels and similar they can look impressive, and they give extra interest.

I am currently chasing a nice little windmill which looks just about right to stand on the next hill from my Hovels mill, and there are a number of slightly chipped manor houses which would go well as the centrepiece of a village or a siege scenario. I’m a bit embarrassed about it, to tell the truth, but it’s all good fun.


  1. I'm still wrestling with the correct 'building solution' for use with 20mm figures. I've bought a few 25mm ones from Hovels but they really are just too big on the table and I can't quite come to terms with using 15mm ones for my own retro project. I'm thinking that I may have to go the Airfix HO OO route and convert a couple of La Haye Sainte models into smaller buildings as this size seems like a good compromise. Your Scottish buildings really do look good and dour - excellent choice!

    1. I have to say that I am very happy with my 15mm buildings, though it took me some fretting before I decided to go that way. The "25mm" models you can buy are really 28mm, as you know, and that's a whopping 1/64 scale - well over scale for HH. If you really want to do HO buildings then there are the old Triang "Rovex" rubber buildings, which are as Old School as you can get(!), but they are almost impossible to find now, there's Airfix's plastic kits (of which I have never been a big fan - very sharp lines and not much like a real building), there's a lot of cardboard cut-and-glue kits (same problem as Airfix for me), there's some fiendishly expensive old German buildings by Faller, and some of the Flames of War buildings work in Horse & Musket period - they are officially 15mm but they are very big 15mm (they also come pre-painted) - I had a Landmark FoW Norman Church and I sold it because it was MASSIVE. I really think you would get more pleasing results scratch building than using Airfix buildings. Sorry, that's sacrilege, but there we are.

      What about the 4Ground pre-cut MDF kits?

      Cheers - Tony

    2. Thanks for that Tony - I'll check out the MDF kits. I don't think scratch built would be sacrilege (think Gilder!) just fiddly and I enjoy spending time on buildings even less than painting limber horses!

    3. Oh no - you mentioned limber horses...

  2. I'm a huge fan of under scale buildings. To me 2 or 3 little buildings grouped closely look more like a village than a single great thumping cottage capable of holding an entire wargame battalion.

    Since painting buildings is a chore that I prefer, collectables and Christmas buildings would be ideal were they just cheaper. Twelve years ago I stumbled on a clearance sale of DIY unpainted, nonscale, plaster Dickens Christmas Village houses, about a buck a piece. They've been fought over ever since by at least 3 scales of troops.

    1. I agree - now I'll have to start looking at Christmas villages on eBay!

      Much of my received idea of the look of the thing being "right" is based, I think, on how well it tallies with the photos in the old Charles Grant (Sr) books rather than actual realism. For a 1:1 skirmish, same scale buildings are best, no doubt - the exact whereabouts of each man is important. For a many-to-1 war-game (sorry about the hyphen, my Mac insists), whether the men could march in through the doors without ducking their heads (or crawling, or getting stuck) is less important to me than the footprint of the building. The figures look correct, individually, standing next to matching buildings, but the reality bit screeches to a stop when you remember that there are 2 dozen men in a battalion. I was looking at an advert for a fine looking 28mm Spanish-style civic building the other day, and it was lovely, and expensive. And the roof could come off so you could hide your soldiers inside it (I try to avoid thinking of dolls' houses), which is splendid for a skirmish, but not really ideal for the complete Old Guard Division in a 33:1 game.

      I have even experimented in the past with Morschauser-style flat houses - they looked better than I expected, and they are, after all, just a representation. If the men are (say) an inch tall, and the ground scale is (say) 20 yards to the inch, then a building built to the 1-inch scale will be 10 times as wide as it should be, but it will be 100 times the footprint area. The rules booklets that say that each model building actually represents 33 (or whatever) real buildings, just like the soldiers, are wildly incorrect - you could get 100 buildings that look like that in the same table space. Same-scale buildings, nice though they look on Peter Gilder's battlefield, are a distortion of space.

      That's my take on it - mind you, I'd have argued the other way 6 or 7 years ago, cramming the entire Guards Brigade into the farmyard at La Haye Sainte...

    2. What do you do to lose the marrying couple "inside a tree"?

    3. Ah - yes - in fact it wasn't a bridal couple, and it wasn't a church - I have an American-made chateau building which I like a lot, but it originally had a modern looking couple of residents moulded against the garden wall - I snipped off what I could and faked a small shrub over what remained of them and painted to match the rest of the garden. The modelling police will never know. Mum's the word.

  3. I've been thinking along the same lines for pretty much the same reasons. In addition one of the drivers for me looking at C&C Napoleonics is the small size of the units that I painted way back when which in turn suggests a small hex/squex size which itself requires a small building footprint. In any event I saw three in the window of a junk shop this morning and prompted by your blog I bought them all for £3 each. They have just taken their place on the table for Polotsk and photos will appear on my blog should I ever put my hand on my camera again.