Archive for the Wargames Category

Brexit and the small UK wargames business

Posted in Wargames with tags , on April 22, 2016 by oozlumgames

Whatever your views on the forthcoming EU referendum, whether you’re in favour or remaining in the EU or of leaving (Brexit), there are some quite simple repercussions of Brexit for the small UK wargames business – and it’s all to do with tax and tax collection.

There are two types of small UK wargames business: those that are not registered for value added tax (VAT), and those that are registered for VAT. As is apparent on wargames forums, the difference between a VAT-registered business and a non-registered business is not widely understood. The ones that are registered for VAT are in general larger: UK businesses must register for VAT if their annual turnover is more than £83,000. The consequence of that is that a VAT-registered wargames business must charge 20% VAT on toy soldiers for sales within the EU.

Currently, the free trade arrangement within the EU allows both types of small wargames business to trade without further tax or tax collection charges being imposed for selling into another country. For non-VAT businesses there is simply no tax to collect; for VAT-registered businesses, tax is charged in the UK at 20% and is collected on behalf of HMRC by the business.

Brexit would change that by bringing in a tax frontier simply for VAT. This is regardless of any trade agreements and ability to set extra tariffs and duties on products that independence from the EU might bring for Brexit UK. It will happen simply because VAT exists across the EU, and VAT in the EU will not go away just because the UK leaves.

Brexit UK may well remain part of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), like Norway, but Norway provides the prime example of how VAT would work in the UK for any small wargames business trading with the rest of the EU.

Currently, any VAT-registered wargames business selling to Norway removes the 20% UK VAT from its prices and dispatches an order with a customs declaration about order value on the front of the package. Depending on the value of the order, Norway may charge VAT at 25% plus a tax collection charge of NOK 140 (just under £12). VAT kicks in on orders of NOK 350 (about £29.70) for orders sent by post, and VAT and the tax collection charge add 39% to the cost of an order of that size (source:

A £29.70 ex-tax order is equivalent to an order value of £35.64 inc VAT in the UK; however, with Norwegian VAT and tax collection fees it becomes equivalent to £41.34, or £5.70 more expensive compared with the same order to a UK customer.

For a non-VAT-registered UK business, the comparative price is worse. There is no tax to deduct on export to Norway, so the apparent price hike is from £29.70 to £41.34, a difference of £11.64. The same situation happens in the UK, by the way: UK wargamers importing from the USA, for example, should find that Royal Mail charges £8 for collecting import VAT, on an order value threshold of just £15.

Although the same value of goods is bought from the non-VAT-registered UK business as from the VAT-registered business, the apparent tax hike for the order from the non-registered business looks much worse to the Norwegian customer.

Post-Brexit, how the UK trades with EU countries will work exactly the same way as trade with Norway at present. All products from wargames businesses in the UK will appear more expensive not necessarily because of a major difference in the VAT rate – many major EU countries have a VAT rate of 19% to 22%, similar to the UK’s 20% – but because of the tax collection fee, once an order passes the low import tax threshold.

Of course, it is possible to send a parcel to Norway without it attracting tax: it simply has to be below the import tax threshold. What this does in practice is to limit the size of orders from Norway, to the extent that to be safe almost no wargamer in Norway orders more than £22 ex-tax of goods at a time, according to Fighting 15s’ experience at least. For any small wargames business that trades extensively with EU countries, the implication of having most orders to those countries reduced to values that slip under the typical import tax collection threshold of 15 to 22 euros is pretty horrifying.

The collection charge, of course, dilutes in effect as orders get bigger. On an order of NOK 1,000 (about £85 ex-tax of goods from a VAT-registered UK business, or £85 of zero-tax goods from a non-registered business), Norway’s import tax and duty come to only 28%, which doesn’t look much in percentage terms but gives the customer a £33 import tax bill on delivery, which can be off-putting. It still makes the equivalent order from a non-VAT-registered UK wargames business £33 more expensive.

Norway, of course, isn’t a major market for wargames figures. The effect of its VAT tax-frontier within the free-trade zone of the EU reduces order sizes from customers based there. The EU-wide market for wargames businesses, however, is much bigger.

Across the EU, import tax thresholds are low, typically 15 to 22 euros (additional duty based on the type of goods, by the way, typically doesn’t come in until an order reaches 150 euros). With import tax collection fees for VAT ramping up the cost of orders above these low values to EU countries, any UK wargames business – VAT-registered or not – that currently sells to the EU will be affected post Brexit. And non-VAT-registered UK wargames businesses will be worse off than VAT-registered ones because of the greater apparent price hike of import tax and tax collection fees.

Whether post-Brexit UK can set its own tax it won’t matter. The rest of the EU’s existing VAT system and import tax charges will simply come into effect, even for associated countries within the European Free Trade Area, and that’s what will penalise the ability of the small UK wargames business to sell to EU countries if Brexit comes to pass.


Notes: Norway’s charges can be calculated at for anyone who wants to check.


Adventures in the Garden

Posted in Garden Wargaming, Wargames on June 26, 2008 by oozlumgames

Italeri 1/32 scale Austrian infantry, with the Mk I lawn spike

I play with toy soldiers. I’ve done so since I was 12 – it was model aircraft kits before then – and on the verge of 48 I still see no reason to stop. I recently picked up a copy of Sharp Practice, a set of Napoleonic skirmish wargames rules from the Two Fat Lardies, with a view to playing some more maneagable, fun games as a break from the serious stuff.

I usually play with 15mm figures, which are not really suitable for skirmish games, so I started to look around at other options. One was to use 28mm metal figures for the tabletop; another, to use Playmobil figures, as favoured by the likes of evilcheesescientist and the Garden Wargaming site. But then an announcement from plastics kit and figure maker Italeri caught my eye: new 1/32 scale (54mm) Austrian and French infantry for the Revolutionary and early Napoleonic wars. These are not too expensive, at potentially less than 80p for a figure, with cavalry no more than twice the price depending on the supplier. And they’re ideal for use in the garden, once equipped with a lawn spike, allowing me to make use of the half an acre in front of the house that otherwise only gets mown.

I’ve painted up some already as trial figures, with the first attempt at a lawn spike illustrated above. The flat-headed galvanized nail is too short for the length of my grass , and won’t be able to cope with the longer grass I’ll be leaving as changes of terrain, sculpted by the lawnmower. So I have to get some two-inch nails.

The figures are given a basic paint job and then both varnished and shaded using Army Painter Quick Shade. Army Painter is in effect a coloured varnish that pools in crevices of a figure, automatically shading it. It is not a craftsman’s tool. To work well it needs figures on which the sculpting detail is exaggerated: on smooth or small figures, it tends to give an even mucky brown coloration. It largely works on the Italeri 1/32nd figures, though not perfectly (close-up view below). However, because these troops are intended for the garden, I don’t intend doing much touching up to get them to look pristine.

What I have to do now is finish painting up the box of 16 Austrians, and then move onto the French infantry. I have already ordered French cavalry and artillery, and some later period Austrians, and am keenly awaiting the release of the French supply wagon set, which will form the basis of many scenarios. 

1/32 Italeri Austrian infantry, close-up view

Eyes Right…

Posted in Health, Wargames on June 20, 2008 by oozlumgames

Way back in 1999, I started my business, Fighting 15s, as a wargames figures painting service, painting to commission. It did quite well and actually earned me a reasonable amount of money that supplemented my income as a freelance sub-editor, largely working on trade magazines. About four years ago, however, my eyes went, for want of a better word, poot!, and my working world fell about me in tatters. First, I couldn’t see computer screens well enough to edit, and I largely blamed it on the fact that the freelance almost always gets the ropiest computer monitor. And then I stopped being able to focus and to concentrate on the toy soldiers I enjoyed painting.

Fate had been cruel enough to strip me of reliable use of the one sense that allowed me to work and that permitted me to enjoy my work. I carried on, though. My sub-editing got worse and worse because I stopped being able to see spelling mistakes or even notice missing words; my figure painting just stopped. I was lucky in that a non-reading production job cropped up with the late Games International magazine, and that a financial group of magazines clearly still thought that I was better than other freelance sub-editors. But the rest of my editing work dried up.

I spent two years going for tests at the children’s section of the eye department at St Mary’s Hospital in Newport – the bit that tends to look after children with lazy eyes. It didn’t help me get better, but told me what I knew: that my eyesight was variable and unpredictable in how much it changed from test to test. Eventually I was told my sight had stabilized enough to warrant a prescription for new glasses with stronger prisms: prisms in essence kick your line of sight inwards or outwards so that both eyes focus on the same spot.

The new glasses were great for general use, but I still couldn’t concentrate at reading distances. And that meant no reading, no editing and worse no painting.

About two months ago, I started changing the way I work. Rather than work till everything is done, I set myself a financial target. If I pack orders equal in value to that target, which is based on my annual average for a day, I stop work and go and do something in the house or garden. After a few weeks I decided I felt like painting toy soldiers again, and resolved to paint for an hour or so if I felt like it in the evening. I actually managed to complete some units and finish a commission that I had stopped two years earlier. In short, I stopped working myself all hours of the day and began to relax more.

Last week I felt so great I tried using my old, weaker glasses. They appear to be sufficient, and the newer glasses seem too strong all of a sudden. For the Isle of Wight Festival I even managed to wear only non-prescription sunglasses for the event, with none of the headaches I usually suffer. This week, optically I feel great, and almost hopeful that everything has returned to normal.

I’m not going to push it. Painting when I feel like it is very much the order of the day. I doubt if I can ever again manage to paint for longer than two hours. But it’s absolutely great to be able to do something that I love again.

They hanged Dom Skelton and all his yellow-skinned family

Posted in Isle of Wight, Isle of Wight Festival, Wargames on June 14, 2008 by oozlumgames

Let’s get this clear. This is a pictorial joke that’ll only mean anything to anyone who visits wargames news website The Miniatures Page. Some people might say I’m crazy, but I say I’m comfortable that way.

And the dull stuff is that the giant smiling bananas were prizes on one of the stalls at the IW Festival 2008. 

Shedcon 2008, Carcassonne and Calbourne Water Mill

Posted in Isle of Wight, Wargames on June 5, 2008 by oozlumgames

The Mill Race 2008

The arrival of Andy and Ruth Finkel on the Island heralds the arrival of yet another Shedcon, the event during which Andy and I in theory retire to the garden shed and play with toy soldiers for a few days. It allows us to playtest a few ideas for games, and this time we got round to playing my Huzzah! rules, but using Andy’s ideas for applying them to the American War of Independence (or the American Rebellion, depending on your point of view). We christened these Huzzah! By George!, in honour of both King George and George Washington.

I took great delight, as the general in charge of his most glorious majesty’s forces, in crushing the rebels and capturing George Washington. Andy provided all the troops, all of which are the excellent 6mm figures from Baccus and which proved readily adaptable to Huzzah!

I also introduced Andy to the board game Carcassonne, which in turn I had only been introduced to earlier this year by old schoolfriend Mike Lewis. As production editor of the late Games International, I’d actually known about Carcassonne for years, but with a shortage of players on the Island I’ve shied away from buying board games and in fact have sold most of my collection. Carcassonne, however, is a rare find: an excellent two-player game with easy to understand rules, yet huge subtlety in play. Andy, of course, beat me hollow in his first two games, though I rallied in the series of five played over the weekend.

With the unusually fine weather on the Sunday afternoon, Andy, Ruth and I headed for one of the nearer attractions on the Island: Calbourne Water Mill. I haven’t been for years, though I have noticed in that time that the owners have added considerably to the features, planting fruit trees, adding a pitch and putt, and installing punts and pedaloes on the mill race. There’s a pleasant enough walk along the water’s edge and up a gentle but challenging hill, where some fine views are to be had of the countryside. The museumy aspects of the mill have been tidied up and rendered less tatty.

The mill itself, of course, hasn’t substantially changed, and is a working water mill, grinding flour that can be bought at the gate. The organic strong white flour bakes a bread that is a pale fawn colour, and it makes a nice enough loaf, as I proved by making a local loaf for Andy and Ruth for breakfast the next day.

Entrance to Calbourne Water Mill was GBP7.00 per adult, and we spent about an hour there – enough for a walk and a quick look round. The entrance fee buys you free return visits for the duration of your holiday; Island residents get free return visits for the season, which is a great encouragement to go back with a fresh batch of guests. As a result it’ll feature strongly on this year’s excursions.