The original pirate or clone Matchbox figures and the Bush hat conversions. I shall paint in the desert / jungle cravat …
These Matchbox 8th Army copies were amongst some of the unlovely but cheap plastic, increasing distorted mouldings that I bought from now vanished local pound stores around 2005/6.
I am intrigued by the way that as figures are copied, they change slowly into the suggestion of different figures. Great for conversion potential?
These sandpit pound store knock offs of long unavailable Matchbox figures have continued to evolve or de-evolve with less and less detail into even thinner shadows of themselves.
‘Original’ unaltered pound store copies and my Bush hat conversions …
The bush hat conversions are made using a hole punched circle of card trimmed down to size and attached by PVA or UHU glue. These early crude attempts do have a unfortunate fashionable Edwardian ladies’ bonnet look.
Once varnished or sealed, they could be useful for sandpit games or garden gaming, as well as on the tabletop.
They may not be lovely copies but ..
Over the years, many of my original Airfix and Matchbox 1:32 figures have not survived various house moves and downsizing into adulthood, so these copies were a good way in 2005/6 to bulk up available gaming and conversion figures for a cheerful pound a bag.
There are cheapish, (not quite) pocket money alternatives out there again now, ranging from Hing Fat 54mm to reissued late 2021 Airfix (£9 a box for 14 figures or 65p each!)
Again, these are painted in simple or traditional toy soldier style in Revell Aquacolor Acrylics. These will then receive the shiny toy soldier gloss varnish treatment, which also protects them during handling.
How many kilted bagpipe Eighth Army figures do you need?
54mm Matchbox copy figures 2021?
If you search around online, you will find these Matchbox copies of four colour, four different nations Matchbox copies of German, Japanese, American and Eighth Army Infantry in its various incarnations or tubs. The Americans are widely available as reprints.
How many kilted bagpipe Eighth Army figures do you need?
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These are attractive figures that remind me of Airfix and Matchbox, which I would happily have bought and played with as a child and that work well today.
I have painted these with glossy shiny toy soldier style with pink cheek dots but I have yet to gloss varnish these. These were painted using Revell Aquacolor Acrylics. My gloss spray varnish supplies nursed through Lockdown have finally run out.
Some lively Russian figures and a curiously posed rifleman, shooting from high up or aiming low.
I like the range of costume and headgear, as well as the one with shovel tucked into a belt, protecting the back? Armour plating?
Size comparison with 1:32 Airfix Russians that I painted and gloss varnished when I was a child.
One of my 45 year old Airfix Russians had a crumbling base and missing SMG barrel end, so this has been repaired with wire and a new MDF base. He lives to fight again alongside the new Hing Fat recruits.
Curiously the old Airfix 1:32 Russians are not currently in the Airfix winter 2021 rerelease / preorder. Previous releases are around secondhand online.
The main aim is to rescue the men and women of the Thyer Brigadia (FMS) troops, whose supply waggon cannot cross the missing or destroyed river bridge.
Has the bridge been deliberately destroyed?
The only remaining crossing is a small foot bridge to the south, too small for the waggon to safely cross. This crossing is below an old ruined trading post, burnt out long ago, along with the ruined windmill and distant village in the hills, all in ruins like much of this troubled and desolate frontier valley.
Fearing an ambush in this lawless and disputed border region, the stranded waggon party 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.
Back of Postcard Rules (similar to the 30mm Flats game, loosely based on Featherstone rules) – see link end of this 30mm Flats post here . Adapted to work on a square grid. 1 inch from the Flats rules becomes one square (which is just over 2 inches).
Four figures or two horses can occupy one blanket square.
2 coloured D6 dice thrown to see which side has highest score and moves first – IGO YUGO – see rules at end of post. Winner moves first (any melee?), loser moves second (any melee?), winner fires first, loser fires second.
Turn 1 – The first Rugasian (RM or Red) troops move first, fast up the valley slopes from the West towards the lone Thyer Brigadia (TB or Blue) sentry Kverko who is keeping watch beside the dead tree on Wounded Tree- Knee ridge. Can they surprise and overpower him before he raises the alarm?
D6 thrown to see if the Thyer Brigadia (TB or Blue) sentry notices the RM troops – 1,2, 3 Yes, 4,5,6 N0.
The sentry Kverko fails to spot them on the first turn. No firing takes place as they are both / all out of range.
He spots them on the first move of second turn and sounds the alarm, letting off a warning shot at the Rugasian infantry, only to be shot down, easily silhouetted against the sky by the Reds.
In Turns 3 and 4 as the Rugasian infantry line the brow of the ridge opposite the trading post, the remaining Thyer Brigadian sentries start heading back towards the cover of the hilltop ruin. They are few in number, so were spread out on watch. They are all still out of firing range of the enemy.
By Turn 5, the jingling rumble of the Rugasian horse artillery is heard and they arrive in the river valley to the South along the Rugasian troop side of the valley.
By Turn 6 the first Rugasian infantry have crossing the foot bridge and are heading up the steep slopes of the hilltop ruin, within rifle range of the Thyer Brigadian troops. The first TB shots miss, although Hetty Kontraupan gets a pistol hit through a loophole in the wall on the first Rugasian trooper to reach the boardwalk outside the ruin, this is then deflected in a savings throw. Nice shot all the same, Hetty!
Her sister Harriet has drawn a wicked looking sabre and whirls this around menacingly over the rough old gate used to block the doorway.
By Turn 7, the first glimpse of Bluan infantry border patrol from the North’s distant Counterpane hills. A spirited “huzzah!” from the besieged blue coated Thyer Brigadians is heartily echoed by the Bluan troops racing to the rescue. The Rugasians turn their eyes briefly to the North, then push on.
The Thyer Brigadian troops and sentries, mostly safe behind the walls of the ruin, fire on the Rugasian infantry appearing in front of the ruin. One Rugasian Redcoat is hit outside the ruin window.
The last Thyer Brigadian sentry Vagono, still to return to the ruin, is using the abandoned waggon as cover; he fires on the Rugasian Cavalry and horse artillery riders opposite as they pass up the valley to deploy in flat ground by the destroyed Bedford river bridge. Vagono misses, and curses, knowing that once the gun is unhitched and deployed in Turn 9, it will be ready to fire at the hilltop ruin in Turn Ten.
If the sentry Vagano could only pick off some of the 3 horse artillery crew needed to man the gun, even if they replace them with willing volunteers from the Rugasian infantry, this will force the gun crew to delay firing and dice for readiness.
When it is the Rugasian turn to fire, they hit two of the Thyer Brigadian infantry in the ruined house window. Despite being behind cover, they fail their savings throw and both are killed. This leaves few defenders in the ruin.
Meanwhile, whatever alarm the arrival of the distant Bluan patrol might cause, off to the west shielded from view behind the Wounded Tree-Knee ridge, the second Rugasian infantry patrol enters the board.
Turn 8 – Tarantara! The Thyer Brigadian / Bluan cavalry rider sent for help appears to the Northwest. he heads towards the waggon in the hop to hitch it up and be able to evacuate the women and other defenders from the ruin.
Things are looking bad for the thinning number of defenders in the hilltop ruin as more of the Rugasian infantry patrol head down hill from the cover of an old stone wall. Before, they were in cover but just a bit too far away to get a good shot at the ruined house.
The Rugasian infantry outside the ruin now fire at Hetty, Harriet and the Thyer Brigadian soldiers. One Rugasian scores a hit – but who is the casualty?
A quick d6 throw resolves the issue – red, blue and white dice are thrown , 1 for each character. Both women are safe as the third Thyer Brigadian infantry man collapses to the ground, dead. As the defenders return fire, Hetty aims another pistol shot but misses.
The lone Thyer Brigadian sentry Vagono sheltering by the waggon is more successful – he fires at the Rugasian Horse artillery riders and scores a hit.
Which is killed though, rider or horse? d6 – 1,2,3 rider killed or 4,5,6 horse killed, rider dismounts.
Not only does the lone sentry Vagono manage to kill one rider, the Bluan Infantry patrol from the North are now close in range enough to bring down two more horses. Their Rugasian riders dismount from their fatlly wounded horses and begin unhitching the single gun.
At this point, whilst most casualties have been left where they fell, I removed the mounted figures and replaced them with some handy dismounted Herald plastic lifeguard figures.
With several defenders of the ruin fallen, three Rugasian infantrymen on the board walk outside the ruin try to climb inside through the barricaded door and ruined window.
Are they successful? Quick d6 throw 1,2, 3,4 – remain outside, 5, 6 climb inside.
Only one Rugasian makes it into through the barricaded doorway. He is then close enough to instantly melee with the sabre wielding Harriet Kontraupan.
Sadly despite inflicting two wounds on the Rugasian attacker with her sabre, Harriet is fatally wounded three times and collapses to the ground, only yards from her sister Hetty.
The 3 wound or life points tally system used in Melee can be seen here in my gaming notebook alongside Kaptain Kobold’s very tidy dice version of the Gerald De Gre origin / Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming ‘Parry and Lunge’ duelling or melee rules.
In the Bluan / Thyer Brigadian turn to fire, Hetty aims her pistol at point blank range at the Rugasian infantryman who slew her sister. However, tears in her eyes, she again misses her target. Bad luck, Hetty!
More successfully the flag-carrying Thyer Brigadian Ensign Flago puts down his sword and flag to pick up an abandoned rifle. He shoots the Rugasian attacker – Harriet is swiftly avenged!
Ensign Flago dodges another bullet (savings throw) from two Rugasian infantry at the window.
The Rugasian cannon is now deployed ready to fire.
Rugasian infantry move first, crossing the bridge , they turn to meet the first Bluan patrol closing in on them. Above them up the slope at the ruin, two more Rugasian infantry try to scramble in through the window frame. As one succeeds (d6 throw), he confronts the Ensign Flago in Melee – and the Rugasian loses!
The Bluan infantry patrol led by Capitano ‘Harry’ Counterpane / Kontraupan split as he heads towards the red troops at the bridge, whilst others aim for the Rugasian cannon.
As the Bluan / TB cavalryman hitches up the waggon, the lone Thyer Brigadian sentry Vagano heads up the hill to the ruin to join the remaining defenders.
Boom! The Rugasian Horse artillery cannon fires – at Close Range up to 6 squares needing a 5 or 6 to hit, then roll d6 for number of casualties. Up to 5 characters in and around the ruin are hit. 5 d6 savings throws are thrown including for those under cover. Two characters under cover roll successful savings throws – that means the casualties are one Rugasian infantryman hit by his own side, the lone sentry Vagono and one defender under cover.
But which defender?
Three coloured d6 are thrown – the old sick lady (red), Hetty Kontraupan (blue) and Ensign Flago (white). Sadly Ensign Flago takes their hit for the team, the last of the Thyer Brigadian escort troops.
With just the old sick lady and Hetty left in the ruin, they both consider what to do?
d6 1,2 – retreat via window towards the hitched waggon, 3-4 freeze, 5,6 stay put. They roll 5 and so stay put.
The Bluan patrol fire at the cannon and second unit of Rugasian infantry arriving from the west, knocking out more of the cannon crew.
Turn 11 – Huzzah! Waving their flag, the second Bluan infantry border patrol appears to the North.
Meanwhile back in the ‘valley of death’, as red and blue bodies pile up, Capitano ‘Harry’ Kontraupan of the Bluan infantry loses his second Melee with a Rugasian redcoat at the footbridge, becoming one of several more Bluan and Rugasian melee casualties.
Thankfully the Rugasian cannon remains unable to fire.
By Turn 12, the second Redcoat infantry group which has arrived from the West now fires on the second Bluan infantry platoon.
By Turn 13, several Bluan infantry reach the hilltop ruin to join Hetty and the sick old lady who are sheltering there. The Bluan waggon is hitched and now heads for shelter behind the ruin but Hetty stays put.
During Turn 14, the Rugasian horse artillery cannon is hitched up and led off. (d6 Saddle up cannon? 1-4 yes, 5-6 no). In exchanges of rifle fire across the river, the Rugasian redcoats fire poorly and the Bluan forces fire well. More redcoats fall.
A repaired Britain’s household cavalryman takes away the sole Rugasian horse artillery gun.
By Turn 15, after desultory firing by the last remaining Rugasian soldiers, they throw a d6 deciding roll (1,3,5 retreat or 2,4,6 attack) and retreat.
By Turn 16, the Bluan flag flies over the hilltop ruin. Huzzah!
In the aftermath, Hetty and the Blue Cavalaryman escort the sick old lady home in the waggon, returning with the stores and bodies of Harriet and Harry Kontraupan back to the safety of Thyer Brigadia.
The Bluan troops quickly bury the dead. Keeping some spare stores from the waggon, they leave a three man patrol in the ruins to watch for further enemy activity.
Verdict: An exciting solo game, worthy of the finest pound store figures and vintage hollowcasts alike. Only 5 slow years since the sketch of the terrain and the playing.
Playing using the blanket squares as movement and firing range did lead to some oddities of measuring that hexes normally don’t present for me.I think that Bob Cordery in the Portable Wargame book / blog and Phil Dutre in his blog have explored the grid square reasons for this.
A few old hollowcasts and other plastic figures were mixed in for good measure, along with some suitable wooden scenery blocks, building and gun to match that older Land of Counterpane vintage feeling.
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 Wargamingby 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.
Sketch from my 2016 blog post
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.
My 2016 sketch map of the Land of Counterpane, finally and roughly realised in today’s game.
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!
Tricky hill slopes – Bluan pound store troops of the rescue party led by old lead veteran Capitano Harry Counterpayne.
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.
Rugasian Redcoats storm the slippy steep slopes of the ridge
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.
View from the hill top ruin position of the Thyer Brigadia waggon party as Red Rugasian troops appear on the ridge opposite.
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.
Hing Fat figures are a new brand to me – I wasn’t very familiar with Hing Fat figures other than the versatile pirates, which Brian Carrick turned into Chinese figures or a fantastic Maratha Indian army. I’m not quite sure if the seaside shop pirates I have bought are real Hing Fat ones or pirated clone pirates. There must be some irony there?
Sample Figures 1. WW2 French Hing Fat 54mm plastic figures
Sample French WW1 / WW2 figure No. 1
In the parcel were samples from a variety of figure ranges from Knights and AWI to WW2. The hard plastic figures are usually in a base colour relating to where they fought or their base uniform colour. They would withstand fairly rigorous play handling by children (and ageing garden gamers).
I thought I would start with the most unusual, which are the Hing Fat WW2 (or at a push WW1) French infantry in light blue plastic.
At first sight I thought this Poilu poses was pantographed up from the familiar OO/HO WW1 French Infantry by Airfix.
The full range of twelve poses of Hing Fat French WW2 figures can be seen here on Peter’s Figsculpt eBay site:
They wear greatcoats (the capote), puttees and the Adrian helmet without backpacks.
Paint notes: Revell AquaColor Acrylic – Horizon Blue uniform and helmet light blue gloss 361-50, for other equipment paint colours see paint notes figure 3 (bayonet fighter) below. Gloss varnish acrylic spray for that traditional simple shiny toy soldier finish.
Preben Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World, my childhood branch library standard features this Belgian Infantry Officer in Khaki 1940.
Painted khaki rather than ‘les bleuets’ of the Great War, these Adrian helmeted French infantry could pass as Belgian as well as French Infantry. Maybe even WW1 Italians?
If you were not too fussy, many of these rifle wielding poilus and the officer and bugler could be used for WW1 French or late WW1 Belgians.
Similarly, if you were a 54mm wargamer not looking too closely at buttons, webbing and equipment, these would work for a range of other nations in WW1 and WW2 who adopted the greatcoat and Adrian helmet, as suggested below looking at a few uniform books.
My trusty Preben Kannik, Military Uniforms of The World suggests Belgian and French in WW2, wearing khaki greatcoats and Adrian helmets.
My battered Funcken WW2 Uniforms part IV volume suggest Free French Infantry WW2 and an interesting colonial French Moroccan Riflemen in Uniform in WW2 Part IV (see figure 3 below with bayonet)
Funcken WW2 part III has Norwegian forces in their Norway 1935 Pattern Helmet which looks a little like an Adrian Helmet. There is also a Navy blue great-coated French Navy sailors in Landing Rig. I don’t have Funcken WW2 Uniforms parts 1 and 2 yet.
The Funcken 18th Century to the Present Day volume shows “les bleuets” from WW1 and khaki Belgians in late WWI, along with khaki French and Belgians in WW2.
Let’s look at the other two sample figures, No. 2 and 3:
This almost war memorial poilu statue 54mm figure has a large Bren type LMG, probably the FM 24/29 French LMG (in service from 1924-60s and beyond. I cannot find information about a French stick grenade from WW2.
FM 24/29 type Light Machine Gun
The third sample figure was in the act of bayonet fighting.
My painted version of this 54mm figure in shiny gloss toy soldier style portrays this bayonet warrior as a French Colonial Moroccan Infantryman in Khaki overcoat:
French Colonial Moroccan Infantryman in Khaki overcoat WW1 / WW2 – Paint Notes – painted using Revell AqauColor Acrylic paints – Olive Green silk matt 361-36 for the uniform greatcoat and helmet, Mud brown gloss 361-80 for boots and leather equipment, Leather brown matt 361-84 for wooden rifle parts, Dark Earth matt 361-82 for face and Copper paint cheek dot. Gloss spray varnish finish.
Further Uniform Possibilities?
The two volumes of The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Uniforms of WWI and its WWII companion volume suggest various troops wearing the Adrian Helmet:
Various figure suggestions including the Polish Legion, Russian Civil War and various other conflicts including French Foreign Legion in khaki.
Belgium 1940 – khaki Infantry greatcoat and helmet with Belgian lion badge for officers, men and support troops.
France 1940 – khaki French greatcoat and Adrian helmeted colonial infantry such as African Tirailleurs Senegales and Zouaves (when not wearing a fez)
Some (Free) French Infantry were still wearing the Adrian helmet in 1944-45 with US or British uniform.
Polish lancers in 1939 in khaki, shown without greatcoats.
These figures could represent the unsavoury figures in dark blue uniform and Adrian helmet of the Vichy France (Gardes Republicaines Mobiles) paramilitary police so feared by the Resistance. They are shown in tunics without greatcoats.
The French WW2 soldiers are shown in my trusty childhood Ladybird Leaders book of Soldiers, illustrated by Frank Humphris:
I hope you have enjoyed this taster glimpse of these sample figures which I enjoyed painting. I think a box or two of these poilus might be on my Christmas list.
As you can see, some Hing Fat WW2 figures seem to echo Matchbox WW2 figure poses.
Size or scale wise as 54mm / 1:32 figures go, here are three of the Hing Fat WW2 sample figures against my ‘standard’ figures of Britain’s 54mm hollowcast and Airfix plastic 1:32.
Nest sample figures: Three Hing Fat WW2 Russian sample figures
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
These WW1 / WW2 French Infantry reminded me of the tantalising glimpse in a late 70s / early 80s Airfix catalogue that promised 1:32 WW1 British Infantry in soft caps, based on the OO/HO ones. Sadly, this never happened and was never again mentioned. Did I dream this one?
“Things are getting strange, I’m Starting To Worry, This could be a Case for Mulder and Scully …” (Catatonia)
Heroscape Krav Maga figures 32mm could double up for the FBI … extreme hourglass corseting by Agent Scully here?
What series or TV programmes distract from or inspire your gaming scenarios?
Painting has slowed considerably in the Man of TIN Towers and Pound Store Plastic Warriors thanks to the Disney+ subscription channel now hosting all seasons of the X Files from the early 1990s.
Part of the steady Lockdown year has been spent binge watching box sets of series and episodes in order such as Star Wars spin off series The Mandalorion, Stranger Things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer …
I have been waiting years for the X Files to be available but the cost of video and DVD box sets has been off-putting.
I remember watching this series as it came out in the early 1990s. Watching them through again from Episode 1 and seeing the series and main characters develop, I remember some storylines and character monsters very well but I obviously missed quite a few episodes too – I was hard at work in my first job.
I enjoyed the stand alone one-off “monster episodes” in the early series far more than the tangled plot and subplots of conspiracy within conspiracy. Trust No One etc.
The series cleverly combined a US cop show and crime drama with every Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World case and conspiracy theory you can think of, exploiting the public mistrust of “government within government”, all recently dealing with the recent end of the Cold War and the shadowy activities of the CIA.
I like the small town America where anything weird can happen. It’s perfect Forgotten Georgia territory, although I think lots of the X Files was filmed in Vancouver, Canada.
It reminds me strongly of the old 90s high school horror teen comedydrama series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (recently rewatched – free on All4) or the more recent retro 80s Stranger Things series on Netflix with its cast of young teenage kids, another of the binge-watching delights of this last unusual year.
Somehow I don’t think such series could have been made in Britain, despite the weird West Country cryptozoology and other dark regional folklore. To be fair, we had Doctor Who grounded on Earth (or 70s Britain) fighting off monsters in the Jon Pertwee Third Doctor series (arguably the best Doctor?) with its fabulous Brigadier and and UNIT episodes. I have seen several such UNIT games on people’s blogs.
Obviously time spent enjoying watching the X Files is time spent not painting figures. I should be painting my ArmaDads Army figures and repairing hollowcasts but …
Sometimes X Files plots seem like possible gaming scenarios.
Who needs new figures?
In my boxes of figures I have these handy ready painted FBI figures which came with the useful boxes of plastic Heroscape hex terrain.
Pound Store Plastic stores stock lots of the 1990s and post Gulf War American troops that could be easily paint converted into the brutally efficient (fictional?) Blue Berets or Blue Hats US Army UFO Retrieval Team or the various SWAT teams.
Usually these plastic modern figures range in size from 30-32 mm to 40/45 – often 54mm plastic clones and copies, steadily downsizing as they become more distorted.
As a pound store trash puppy (not a trash panda – that’s a raccoon), I keep an eye out for the changing packaging of the sort of pocket money cheap toy soldiers I collect and convert on this – the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog.
With non essential retail closed during Lockdown, I keep an eye out online.
Battle Squadron were the branding c. 2016-2019 before Poundland stocked the same figures repackaged as ” Cyber Combat Alien Defence Force”.
This battle sandpit illustration seems to have been redone from the Poundland runs or buckets of such troops, ones that I bought in early 2017 before the old pound coins were called in. Poundland cleverly continuing to take the old coins for longer than most.
I like the green flag with white line outline star. Each pack inside through appears to have one or two flags of the WW2 and postwar super powers – usually Germany, America, Britain, sometimes Russia. Oddly not China!
As a child I would have been a bit miffed with the depiction of typical plastic playset helicopters, tanks, walls etc on the packaging but then finding only figures and a flag inside.
Toy Buyer beware – not quite requiring the Trades Descriptions Act but always a little annoying. Was there ever a “Serving Suggestions” type get-out clause – “does not contain sand, walls or helicopter or nuts”?
On a practical play note the figure tub or stiff plastic ziplock pouch is a handy container for a child to keep these figures safe in, not as leaky as the old Airfix cardboard boxes.
A simpler header card version can also be found online (screenshot from EBay March 2021), packaged in the easily tearable plastic bag. Usual “elite forces” type illustration in an otherwise quite plain harder card. 100 such figures now
Available online on eBay but also for £2 plus P&P from Bovington Tank Museum
I like the Bovington Tank Museum online shop description of these figures which adds value to what others might see as disposable plastic: ” A classic toy … A timeless collection of figurines perfect for playtime. Each soldier comes equipped with his own battlefield kit and is moulded onto a solid base to stop them falling over in the middle of all the action.”
A reassuringly complete description that is, “classic … timeless … “each with his own battlefield kit”, like buying 100 tiny Action Men for £2, who don’t fall over and lose their “kit”.
Why I like toy soldier packaging
The 1960s and 1970s colourful cardboard header and Hong Kong contents are becoming more collectible and kitsch – eBay and Etsy are good place to go window shopping and take digital “shelfies” screenshots for reference. *
These header illustrations are the poor cousins of the Airfix kit or figure box illustrations but with a certain rough excitement to them, promising to show you the inside contents of your head and your play world to which these clone Hong Kong copies are a cheap portal.
After Blue Planet II on TV, plastic is becomingly increasingly demonised from an environmental point of view as cheap and therefore throwaway disposable. We are rightly told that we now need to reduce, recycle and revalue our use of plastic.
We had no such public awareness about SUP (Single Use Plastic) when I was a child, although it all had to pass the non ‘single use plastic’ throwaway / ignorable, easily breakable, five second wonder toy test. Toys had to have proper “Play Value!”, as my Mum and Dad would say to guide me away from the more transient, flimsy, seasonal topical breakable trash of the toy shop.
These cherished plastics from the 1970s are still on display at home and sometimes appear in battle on my Tabletop, handled carefully now as some of the plastics are getting a little brittle. Indeed this makes them MUP Multiple Use Plastic or LUP Use Plastic.
At least for now, this brittleness is not such a worry with the freshly moulded, rough and tumble ‘play tough’ pound store plastics of today’s sandpit and Floor Games.
Maybe this is a side effect of growing up in the late Sixties or Early Seventies without colour TV and few colour picture books in infancy?
* “Shelfies” are reference pictures you take in a store if you are not buying everything you see.
I am amateurishly straying into the more organised serious plastic collecting, packaging and referencing territory of Hugh Walter’s Small Scale World and the Plastic Warrior magazine team. Writ the collection larger, you become Robert Opie of the Packaging Museum and his wonderful Scrapbooks, showcasing by decade and era his fascinating collection of ephemera. Robert Opie is the brother of the toy soldier collector and author James Opie, son of the folklore and playground rhyme collectors Iona and Peter Opie.
Me? I just find the colourful packaging and hyperbolic language and illustrations of passing interest.
The H. G. Wells’ “eternal boy” of Little Wars (on a Budget – see our strapline) or my inner 7 year old is still far too easily pleased with this.
I like the “bigging up” on the bag header of what for many people is just a pound bag of 60 plastic tat soldiers – but these are no ordinary troops, they are THE TROOPS – WAR FORCE SET – SPECIAL MISSION – SUPER SPEED.
These plastic soldiers are about 45-50mm.
As well as the plastic toy soldiers, there are also more military figures and film collectibles on Toys for a Pound:
At the moment (as lines sell out), you can get 4 ‘Lego compatible’ block type soldiers for 25p each – that’s about a twelfth of the price of a Lego blind bag minifigure, and you can see what or who you are getting.
These mini-figures did used to be in M.Y blind bags – similar blind bags with bricks and minifigures can also be seen on https://toysforapound.com
Perfect stocking fillers, party bags, Easter presents – apparently you could also give them as gifts to children (over 3 or 6 years old).
Unlike the picture shown in the website, the military figures do actually come equipped with military equipment.
Being precoloured plastic, these would be good for garden gaming, as if you lost them, they are only 25p each. You would need some flat Lego type base plates to help them stand on uneven surfaces. Wilko stores do pick and mix blocks / Wilko Blox, whilst Toys for a Pound have blind bags of 50 Lego compatible pieces and a minifigure.
For those requiring female soldiers, an equally lavish pound will get you four female M.Y block figures for head swaps.
The Pound Store Lastic Warriors blog acid test: Q. Would I enjoy either of these packs of soldiers or block figures as a (1970s) seven year old spending my pocket money on them? Absolutely.
Which of the two would I choose to spend my Pound on? Difficult one!
I was slightly too old when the Lego minifigures started to appear as we now know them, but Airfix figures and Lego walls mix well enough.
Wilko do small military vehicles as we mentioned in a 2019 post:
Interesting to look at but I am currently avoiding starting a whole new Lego compatible army. I wonder what H.G. Wells, writer of Floor Games and Little Wars, would make of these block figures and this plastic building bricks world?
Although I researched the women who saw this happening, it appears to be mostly Edwardian men who would happily be found stretched out on Wells’ lawn or nursery floor, firing spring loaded cannon at lead toy soldiers. This sometimes, according to the tongue-in-cheek Wells, brought “disdain” from lady visitors who did not see the imaginative play going on at floor or garden level.
Some gamers of players with toy soldiers would say that not much has changed 100 years later if middle aged men are glimpsed crawling round their floor or garden in pursuit of toy soldiers. Or worse still, their front garden …
Gardens and floors seem a natural home for toy soldiers.
Ever since I was a small boy in the early 1970s, I have left toy soldier figures in the garden “on Patrol”, usually a three man Patrol Post or Observation Post OP tucked away in a flower bed or safe area, safely away from being dug up, trampled or mown down.
Each three man Patrol had the following usual figures:
One officer or someone with binoculars, armed
One radio man, armed (usually a bit of a scarcity per box in early Airfix or Matchbox)
One rifleman, SMG or LMG infantryman for Patrol protection
These were usually unpainted plastic 54mm figures. Sometimes these would be WW2 troops, sometimes Cowboys or Civil War figures (despite the lack of radios) and occasionally even knights.
Each of these 3 Man teams (in threes, like Lighthouse Keepers) had a way to communicate with each other or raise the alarm, some firepower to defend themselves and their OP and enough men to have at least one sleeping whilst others were on watch.
My late Dad took a slightly dim view if I left the same figures out on Patrol, neglected for weeks or months. It made sense. More regular changeovers of personnel kept the garden and these Patrol Posts tidier.
Usually in my childhood garden, a small stone base was made for the Patrol Posts with flat stone or slate walls, roof and floor base. Small palisades of wood or twig log piles completed the defence. Some kind of plastic stores box was usually included of “food” and “ammunition” such as Britain’s farm sacks or Airfix sandbags.
Inside the house up in my room would be the HQ team, such as the little travel box three man Patrol that I take away on holiday and travels – to keep in touch by radio with ‘home’ and teams in the field.
It’s odd but I still find that keeping the three man Patrol out there provides a calming link back to my childhood games, my late Dad’s vanished flower garden and our shared playful interest in toy soldiers.
I liked the Borrowers scale thing, the threat of giant garden wildlife like snails and other minibeasts, the military birdwatching. RLS’ poem The Dumb Soldier captures this well – see also later for a brief quote from the poem:
The OP has changed from this safari / zoo animal walkway tower to an odd little house that I picked up about 15 years ago in a pet shop. Italian plastic, originally designed as a rodent hamster type house, sadly I have not seen them since. The label says Casetta per Criceti or a Hamster house (see B.P.S. Blog Post Script)
I liked it straightaway for its white walls and pantile roof. Instant Mexican cowboy town or Mediterranean village hut.
This pet shop where I found this house was a few doors away from a now closed independent pound store where I bought lots of pound store plastic soldier figure packs (Cowboys, Indians copies of Airfix with wagons, pirates, those 60s divers and sea creatures). Another pound store full of plastic tat, vanished and sadly missed …
I have always liked my Patrol or OP posts to have a certain kind of internal logic to them, otherwise they are just useless and silly. So as part of this, the pantiled roof house OP has a rigging type plastic ladder to the roof.
The boat at the foot of the cliff is their Patrol transport in and out of the situation and route of resupply, if not by air. A rope ladder links the house plateau with the river below. Supplies are winched up on ropes and stored in the house. It all makes its own kind of (non)sense.
The blue cowboy in my retiring three man Patrol in the pictures is one such Airfix clone, the blue speedboat in pictures below from a divers underwater play set kit. You got a lot more plastic tat for your pound 15 years ago.
The retiring Patrol after weeks to months in the field (in winter I forget don’t change figures as regularly) are a mix of figures, (what I now know are) some pirate cloned playset Tim Mee USA infantry, * the BMC clone US marine radio man and the blue Airfix clone cowboy. All expendable beach, garden or sandpit plastic figures.
Now in 2021, expendable plastic army men based on cloned Tim Mee, Airfix and BMC figures are being replaced by –
Having used up all these spare Multipose weapons, I noticed that there is a handy rifle on the trusty old Britains Herald Cowboy raft cargo boxes. That then is the weapon for the radiowoman – my internal logic says that is so.
A supply barrel (old barrel bead or button) is glued to slate to stop it blowing away. These stores will be packed away into the house whilst this new Patrol gets settled in.
The Patrol house OP has a handy removable red tile roof, but no closing doors or window – so I will assume that there are internal door and shutters. I like the ability to poke a toy soldier rifle out of the window. The house itself is expendable but this one has withstood many frosts and storms (sometimes the roof blows off in very bad weather!)
The Patrol house OP is a pale imitation of those excellent Timpo Wild West plastic buildings of our childhood that now go for such extortionate sums on eBay, even with the working closing doors missing. Timpo buildings would now be too old, brittle and valuable to be left outside in all weathers anyway.
At some point these patrols may mingle and we may have a mixed Co-Ed Patrol, out in the wilderness for weeks and months on end. For now, we will have single sex patrols.
Who knows what they will see, night and day in the wilds of the Yarden or Garden. We might need to alter RLS’ The Dumb Soldier slightly:
“She has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if she could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.
She has seen the starry hours
And the springing of the flowers;
And the fairy things that pass
In the forests of the grass.
In the silence she has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O’er her as she lay alone.”
Alone? Well, maybe not, as there are three highly trained and well equipped Plastic Army women out there anyway, but you may be alone on watch.
The travelling Box HQ three man team remain the same indoors and should now be in radio contact with the new three woman Patrol.
“Come in, Garden Patrol … come in, Garden Patrol.”
The retiring three man Patrol team await a debrief on their return, before a wash and brush up and some well earned leave.
Anyone else have any strange toy soldier superstitions or strange family traditions to do with their toy soldiers?
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 13 March 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Below – some Casetta per Criceti or Hamster House examples online 2021, but not my exact pantile roofed example.
Hamster or mouse houses in wood or plastic – search around, there are some interesting small house examples online. Hamster or small rodent houses are a source of some possible garden wargames houses or cottages. They may prove an alternative to the converted bird box or the useful aquarium ornaments, something to look out for whilst browsing the pet store ?