The Land of Counterpane Invaded! Part 1

Preparation for the Game:

Essential reading matter for The Land Of Counterpane Invaded – or useful book hills under the blanket?

Making the Bed’

I have been tinkering with the idea of a Land of Counterpane game, since writing a post in 2016 about this famous toy soldier poem by RLS (Robert Louis Stevenson, an early wargamer).

This poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) is strongly linked in my mind to the chapter in Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming entitled ‘War Gaming in Bed’. I found the rules in this humorous chapter such useful skirmish rules as a child.

The arrival of a blue chequered blanket into the house recently gave me the game mat for Counterpane that I have been looking for.

Setting up and playing the game, I encountered many of the problems noted by Featherstone about the apparent attractiveness of the bed as toy soldier terrain. If you are in bed, you can make the most marvellous mountains, valleys and hills with your knees and feet.

Donald Featherstone in his Solo Wargames book mentioned in a chapter on “Wargaming In Bed” exploring the apparent possibilities of lying in bed as wargames terrain

“At first glance beds , with their blanket-covered hummocks, hills and valleys, might seem pretty reasonable places upon which to fight a wargame, but experiment soon proves that this is not so.

In the first place, the figures will not stand up and even the most judicious positioning of the legs under the bedclothes so as to make the hills less steep will eventually be defeated by cramp if nothing else …”

This excerpt is from Chapter 20, “Wargaming in Bed” in Solo Wargaming by Donald Featherstone (1973 /2009 reprint p. 139), an excellent chapter full of suitably simple rules for skirmishes with jousting knights or duellists.

“After all, the easiest wargames terrain is a cloth draped over hills made of books, again if only you can manage to get your figures to stand up on it”, I wrote in late 2016.

This was what I had in mind back in late 2016

In lieu of legs and feet, I first tried pillows and long thin cushions that made a great terrain with slopes, but a terrain on which no toy soldier could stand and fight.

Instead I resorted to the boyhood standard of big chunky books under the blanket or cloth.

Soldiers still have some issues about standing to fight on rising hill slopes.

The choice of book hills was fun. One leg valley was made up of a bound volume of the Strand with H G Wells’ original Floor Games article. Within this volume I keep my original H G Wells’ Little Wars article from the Windsor Magazine 1912/13, Part 2: The Battle for Hook’s Farm.

Another ‘leg’ was made up of 1897 bound volumes of The Windsor Magazine and of The Girl’s Own Annual that I had randomly acquired long ago, both full of ripping yarns. Amongst the Counterpane ‘Two Pillows’ hills was another bound volume – Dicken’s Household Words magazine, Volume 2 from 1851.

Good solid unmovable foundations for my red and blue Pound Store Plastic Warriors to battle over!


Pound Store finest, the Red Rugas-ian troops (Rugaj Manteloj or Red Coats) from Rugas, one of the FMS Forgotten Minor States, can be seen here storming the steep slopes of Wounded Tree-Knee ridge. This is guarded by a single blue-coated Thyer Brigadia sentry (Britains’ hollowcast conversion)  standing next to a lovely old  Britain’s plastic farm tree from my childhood farm set. 

Propped up on the twin peaks or pillow hills,  overlooking all is RLS, the child sick in bed from the Land Of Counterpane poem, as painted by American illustrator Jessie Willcox Smith. 

The rough sketch map of the  Counterpane ‘game bed’ (2021) picks out and names different features, some in Esperanto. Oddly from the 1890s, this became a common neutral langauge  or lingua franca in the Forgotten Minor States (FMS) troubled borderlands of Mittel Mittel Europe of my ImagiNations.  


It is overdrawn with compass directions, helpful for marking entry and exit points of different troops, selected randomly by d6 dice throw.

In part 2 (my next blog post),  I shall feature the desperate and bloody fight to rescue the men and women of the Thyer Brigadia (FMS) troops, whose supply waggon cannot cross the  missing or destroyed river bridge.

Fearing an ambush in this lawless and disputed border region, they have sent back a rider to bring help. As evening approaches they have unloaded the waggon and  taken refuge with their stores  in this burnt out hilltop ruin of an old crossing post.

The old lady in their party is sick. The two feisty young Kontraupan sisters ‘Hetty’ and ‘Harriet’ have stayed with the troops in order to nurse her.

The Thyer Brigadia sentry on the opposite ridge sounds the alarm as a small patrol of red enemy Rugasian troops comes storming over the hillside.  


Figures are a mixture of random hollowcast figures,  as well as mostly 42mm red and blue ‘shiny toy soldier style’ painted plastics pound store copies of WW2 figures 

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN 6 April 2021  

Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

6 thoughts on “The Land of Counterpane Invaded! Part 1”

    1. Exactly! Donald Featherstone and Robert Louis Stevenson were both far too polite to their readers to mention this neglected aspect of ‘wargaming in bed’, Featherstone merely mentioning (seismic) leg cramp instead.


  1. Terrific post! I do like the way you plan out and sketch the battlefield beforehand. I look forward to the next part. Other practicalities are the need to refill the coffee mug. Far, far less romantic as an idea would be using a tray but it would give options.
    This post reminded me of being ill as a very wee boy and my father joining in my Action Man games when I was confined to bed . A M was much more practical and worked better. I never recall using my toy soldiers in a similar way, a pity.


    1. Excellent memory – Action Man would work much much better in size than toy soldiers in that bed terrain.
      Assuming it is autobiographical, I presume that Featherstone in “Wargaming in Bed” used one of those Bed tables on wheels in the NHS of the 60s/70s which is the other painting gaming options for the lazy or ailing wargamer beneath the sheets.


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