Whilst they may not have come from a pound store, these plastic Heroscape figures were sort of free.
I bought two or three cheap bashed Master Set or Starter Kit boxes of Hasbro / MB (Milton Bradley) Heroscape: Rise of The Valkyrie for the interlocking plastic hex terrain pieces and along with two of the sets were the original 30 pre-painted figures per set.
I never quite understood or liked the Heroscape rules system, but thought the prepainted figures worth keeping.
The different Heroscape squads in this Master Set are:
Izumi Samurai figures
Mech figures – Zettian Guards or Soulborgs, led by giant mech Deathwalker 9000.
Krav Maga agents from Earth – FBI or X Files type government agents led by Agent Carr with his Sword of Reckoning. Some extreme corsetry going on here!
Alien Marro figures from the Planet Marr (obviously).
‘Elite Airborne’ WW2 American based figures
Fantasy type Tarn Viking Warriors who go berserking!
The original figures come with game character cards listing movement, weapons ability etc. But if you are not playing ‘the game’ as designed, you can make all this up yourself.
There is more about the original Heroscape game at
I like the crazy mix of periods and characters, a bit of time trickery much like the BBC TV episode and book Doctor Who: The Wargames and also the Time Conquistadors game on Vicky’s Crazy Wargames World blog.
“At its essence, Heroscape is an epic battle between and among characters from multiple cultures, periods, and genres, taking place on a three-dimensional gaming surface of various elevations and terrain types. Although the game manual contains ideas for scenarios, many players combine multiple sets of terrain tiles to create large playing surfaces, and develop their own house rules and custom scenarios.”
“The heroes are inspired heavily by popular science fiction and fantasy, as well as the Old West, the Roman Empire, ancient Greece, feudal Japan, the Scottish highlands, the Nordic sagas, American history, medieval Europe, and classic mythology, among others. A single team may consist of heroes from many genres, with dragons, elves, robots, angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, dinosaurs and wizards fighting alongside (and against) soldiers, vikings, knights, samurai, cowboys and futuristic agents and more, including various forms of animal life, such as wolves, spiders, and serpent-like vipers.” Wikipedia entry for Heroscape
In terms of scale or size, the Heroscape figures measure in at around 35mm excluding base.
This doesn’t quite match any other figures I have and may be part of the reason why many people didn’t warm to the game despite several relaunches. If you launch your own scale, the chance of using other maker’s ranges are reduced. You can both dominate and limit your own market and audience in this way.
However as ‘free’ figures they work quite well for my duelling games for example.
There was another slender plastic old toy soldier style figure inside the pack that caught my eye, advancing with a sub machine gun.
A group of these roughly 42mm figures would make another fine SMG Sub Machine Gun unit all advancing together.
The original figure might have been an Airfix WW2 German Infantryman, shown here for size comparison. The pose also reminds me of several 1950s and 60s US infantry plastic soldiers that I have (somewhere!)
Crude as they are, they have loosened into a useful generic Imagi-Nations modern infantry type, much like the Italian made Atlantic “Euro Infantry”.
The lack of detail might appal some and appeal to others; it becomes useful, something that is often said about my favourite slender 15mm figures by Peter Laing. With a paintbrush you can pretty much adapt these loose or lightly detailed figures to many periods.
For those pound store figures just with rifles, these could even be taken back to the 19th century with their equipment and simple headgear as I have tried to do with the red coat toy soldier style of painting. This is something that James at Quantrill’s Toy Soldiers has been doing too with the odd hat plume or Milli – putty Green Stuff slouch hat
Another slimmer or slender figure from the Combat Mission 80 Soldiers pack is based on the very familiar Airfix WW2 German Infantryman throwing a stick grenade. The China made version has a distinctively different sort of grenade, more like a Home Guard sticky bomb!
I should be able to muster a unit of about about 24 of these plucky rifle grenadiers.
The other Airfix figures raided for this pack include American infantry.
Red Devil Paras
One of the other Airfix ranges raided is the WW2 British Paratroops.
Other pound store copies
Copies of the famous Airfix WW2 British Paratroopers have cropped up in my other pound store packs of China made plastic Soldiers over the last ten years. Even older copies turn up inscribed Hong Kong, presumably pre 1997.
There are other websites out there that focus on plastic figures and their copies, notably Small Scale World: http://smallscaleworld.blogspot.co.uk This site has an impressive web list to explore the world of plastic figures.
Around at the moment in pound stores and seaside gift stores are these mixed bag of evolved , morphed, degraded or downsized ‘pirate’ versions of Airfix WW2 figures – Combat Mission 80 soldiers for around £3.50 – £4.00.
After buying the first bag, attracted by one of my favourite poses of the charging rifleman, I bought two more bags to get more of this pose.
The graphics for these suggest a more modern Iraq / Afghanistan “Desert Storm” type of content than the generic WW2 figures that are really inside.
The header illustration is more typical of the other Combat Mission figures that I bought recently which retailed at just over a penny each, whereas these 80 soldiers cost about 4 to 5 pence each (2017).
So whilst these 80 soldiers are not quite pound store prices, they are cheap in comparison to the Airfix originals. The equivalent 54mm / 1:32 WW2 Airfix figures would today at a average box price of £7 for 14 figures cost you about 50 pence per Airfix figure.
The probable inspiration for this figure can clearly be seen alongside the original Airfix German infantryman. Over 40 years of Hong Kong / China Made cloning has reduced the detail and the original size into what looks more like a Britain’s lead charging soldier.
As well as a half dozen similar figures painted in this toy soldier style c.2007/8, I now have 24 new charging infantry to paint up (out of 240 new plastic figures for around £11). They have shrunk a bit over the years to roughly 42mm, rather than the original 54mm.
One part of the attractive old toy soldier look is to have multiple figures of the same pose to make up units.
I look forward to painting up this 30 strong unit of charging infantry, having used my other metal or hollowcast similar charging figures for inspiration.
I will show the other 9 poses (such as those below) for the rest of the Combat Mission 80 Soldiers set in Part 2 (my next blog post).
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN for the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog on a rainy 10th June 2017.
This is my pound store DIY version of the portable war game or Perry Twins’ popular new Travel Battle game.
Semi-Random Terrain Distribution By Featherstone Air Drop
Tucked inside the box lid are some passable or impassable map symbol type hex squares (marsh, river, impassable forest). Once the first river pieces were laid on fairly at random, the other hexes were dropped from on high to randomise their placing.
This is something I remember as a technique using paper circles scattered from a converted Airfix plastic Dakota kit for scattering paratroops, the Dakota held at a suitable height over the calculated or miscalculated drop zone.
I first saw this in a childhood borrowed library copy of Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Airborne Operations (recently reprinted by John Curry). Airfix paratroop figures then replaced the paper parachute circles wherever they landed, sometimes fatally in water, on rooftops or behind enemy lines.
I would love to try this outside in a back garden / Yarden game. It would even work for beaming or teleporting down to another planet scenario. Beam ’em down!
The Featherstone Airdrop – Brilliantly odd game mechanic!
These map symbol coloured hexes were improvised from thin white packaging card on my Easter 2016 holiday trip and can be lightly tacked down (like the game board) with a smidgin of magic or Scotch tape.
Pretty it isn’t but practical and portable it is.
In my holiday ‘rainy day’ box I usually pack tape, scissors, a few fine liner pens or Sharpie pens and raid whatever watercolours, paints, cardboard or paper I can find to make game bits. Coffee stirrers are really handy and easy to come by, as are bits of stone etc.
For the back drop, I found somebody’s leftover Saturday’s newspaper had an intriguing surrealist landscape advert. With a bit of camouflage (space palm tree cocktail stick stirrers from Tiger.com taped for weight to a spare dice behind gravel stones) to hide the outsize hunter figure, this folded over to form a surreal space backdrop for my improvised Away Team solo game.
I roll a dice to see which side – silver space marines versus red planet natives – are the Attackers, which the Defenders for the purposes of any Melee dice throws etc. if I ever forget. I use coloured dice for game counters for keeping track of hits (for speed each figure started a melee phase / round of only two combat or life points).
A pink flamingo cocktail stick marker marked out which side were the Attackers, another nod to a different famous Don Featherstone, inventor of the pink lawn flamingo. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Featherstone_(artist) Another d6 dice was rolled to see what the melee result was on the Kaptain Kobold d6 Dice Table dice table. The other spare dice was busy propping up the space palm trees.
Who won, who lost? The Away Team Silver Space Marines or the Red Planet Native Defenders?
The result is future history …
I will finish on a close-up of the ‘profit hunter’ from the nonsensical Artemis advert, looking very much like the cavalry or cowboy ‘Rough Riders on Mars’ blog site. I should be able to mock this hunter figure up pretty easily in several scales using Prince August 40mm Holger Erickson cowboy Homecasts, Airfix or various 54mm and OO/HO cowboys.
This advert has great fun ‘alien desert’ terrain, easy to create from some of the more lurid plastic aquarium plants and terrain.
I found these interesting pound store plastic warriors during the bank holiday weekend at one of those seaside shops that sells lots of lovely plastic tat.
Better than the 50p rummage box, 30 new figures for 50p!
Modern period gaming does not appeal to my usual Imagi-Nations gaming in 54mm. Instead out in the back Yarden planets or galaxies, I can easily see possible paint conversions to Star Wars type Rebel troops from the start of the first film (Episode IV) or from the recent Star Wars: Rogue One.
There are two different versions of many poses as well as two different colours available in different boxes. Quite often many pound store plastic Army men are sold in packs with two different colours (“green and tan”) to have a ready opponent.
Not sure of the origin of these figures, they look like copies of original figures.
If these figures are somewhat crude and on the cheap side, they are perfect pure plastic tat. Whilst many are obviously copies of modern US Desert troops, they are also affordable and possible for conversion into space marines or even back to WW2 US paratroopers in their jump boots and baggage.
Proper Seaside Tat
But not as much joyous plastic seaside tat as this weird pirate version (in both senses of the word) of Lego minifigures seen next to a genuine Ninjago Lego ninja type figure. I love the manufacturer’s name proudly on the back of this pirate – Tatco!
Tatco next to Lego
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN for the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, 29/30 May 2017.
One of my recent boycraft or mancraft projects has been scratch building a desert or coastal signal fort in toy soldier fort style using a wooden Christmas clementines box and a Hobbycraft papier-mâché castle tower.
Trying this out, it was a tight squeeze to build the balsa walkways around the tower base but it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
As I played around fitting the balsa walkways around the tower base it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
But what would a semaphore station in the 19th century look like?
Semaphore Systems and Telegraph Inspiration
I thought a semaphore station or telegraph Beacon would be something worth defending or attacking, so well worth the defensive features. This would form part of the colonial or trading infrastructure, the information superhighway of the 19th Century. Something that would suit a coastal or desert location.
Shoot the guy with the Flags!
Men with flags standing in prominent places to be easily seen were obviously very vulnerable to sniper fire. A mechanical replacement of human arms was obviously sensible until morse code, telegraph wires and eventually radio took over the role.
There are some interesting articles on the web on Military semaphore and signalling from the late Napoleonic era through to mid Victorian era, although mechanical flags were first suggested by Robert Hooke in the 1680s!
As a challenge I added double ends to the indicator boards. There is a link between the military semaphore and the clunk-y indicator board railway signalling developing from the 1830s and 1840s as the telegraph wires along the railroad began to replace semaphore systems as this new comms network developed.
In the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was aware of what the French had achieved in the Chappe system of setting up semaphore stations. The Royal Navy Channel Fleet blockading Brest must have aware of the significance of the signalling tower they could see on the hilltop at Petit Minou. C.S. Forester writes in Hornblower and the Hotspur:
“Automatically, Hornblower looked over again at the Petit Minou. As he expected, the semaphore arms of the telegraph on the cliffs at the point there were swinging jerkily, from vertical to horizontal and back again. The watchers there were signalling to the French fleet the news of the arrival of this fourth ship to join the inshore squadron; even the smallest activity was noted and reported, so that in clear weather the French admiral was informed within minutes. It was an intolerable nuisance …”
Popham’s 1801 naval flag system of numbers indicated words encoded in a code book (here transcribed by a Peter Ball from originals in the National Maritime Museum) – this is a great idea if you have limited number of indicator positions such as 1 to 9 or even 1 to 4.
This website covers many systems including the US army Wigwag symbols of flags or lights at night invented by Albert Myer and adopted by the US Army circa 1860 throughout the American Civil War up until 1912. A two flag system was also
The twin squares flags can be seen on the Signals memorial at Little Round Top, Battle of Gettysburg site.
Heliograph signalling mirrors and lamps
The “flag, flash and read” system of flag, heliograph and telescope Zulu War 1879 also in this Royal Signals website.
I have a couple of useful signaller figures, two Airfix sets – the OO/HO and 1:32 WW2 German Mountain Infantry and OO/HO WW1 British Infantry – in both the flags are very fragile, even in the 1:32 German Mountain troop scale.
More robust is the Lone Star / Harvey British Marines / Sailor with flags reissued by Toyway.
Any officer with binoculars or telescope (such as the Airfix WW1 French Infantry HO/OO signaller lying down with telescope) is useful as the “Glassman”. This was one or two men in the four or five man semaphore team, whose job is to be looking backwards and forwards to the next signal tower to check if the message has been received. If all else fails, the French signaller with homing pigeons would be useful.
Someone else had to physically change or alter the signal, and someone to note down the message if it is to be coded or decoded. Jobs were interchangeable. The large number of staff were required in the not very far spaced apart stations meant this expensive system could only really be maintained night and day year round in wartime.
As the British Popham system came in from Naval use and flag systems, often serving or former Navy staff were employed. In the field, Royal Engineers or Signals Officers and troops would be used.
The Prince August cowboy Homecast figures in 40mm look very similar to these US Signal troops wearing their cowboy or stetson bush hat. Here is the crew for the tower and its small garrison. I shall have to make a Heliograph apparatus for them.
Heliograph teams were once cutting edge technology, appearing in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1898) for signalling information about the Martian invasion.
Heliographs survived in service throughout the Boer War and longer into the WW1 and WW2 period especially in desert situations, slowly replaced as radio communication to pass on Morse Code arrived. They were still in use by insurgent forces in Afghanistan in 2001.
Signalling distances of 80 to 100 miles were apparently possible in clear weather!
Australian and South African Desert Forces in WW2 and Ottoman Turkish forces in WW1 are shown here using Heliograph equipment.
There is more about the Heliograph on the British Army Royal Signals website.
In the case of the Turkish forces pictured, a signal lamp is also included, a signaller with telescope and one writing down messages. Interesting grouping for a gamer or modeller and a similar desert uniform to the Victorian British in 1879 and the Second Boer War.
A naval version of flashed torch signals with Alldis lamps survives between ships until today, including infra red versions, along with a version for air traffic control to communicate with planes if radio contact is lost . https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_lamp
Again you realise how vulnerable these Signals crews to sniping, hence the safety of the signalling Fort with mechanical arms. Once again, well aimed artillery fire could damage this tower or equipment.
All this is interesting source material as games scenarios for my Desert or Coastal Signalling Fort / Lighthouse, along with plenty of ideas for modelling conversions of suitable pound store cowboy figures and home cast figures or lead hollowcast repairs and conversions.
My only Heliograph figures are Peter Laing Colonial British in 15mm, one of whom I have crudely converted to a war photographer. This could easily stand in for a signal lamp. Pictures from my Man of TIN blog
My late dad, an ex-REME National Serviceman and Electrical Engineer, helped put in the power source on London City tower block / skyscraper rooftops for trial 1980s laser or optical beam communication between buildings to pass on data and financial information. A kind of modern computer age Heliograph?
The pilot project partly failed for many reasons including when London Pigeons and passing birds kept interrupting the data flow.
I got some great views of London as a child from these tower tops “going to work” on Saturdays with my Dad, including the Lord Mayors Procession far below from the top of a tower block.
Blogposted on Pound Store Plstic Warriors by Mark, Man of TIn blog, May 2017.
One of my recent boycraft or mancraft projects has been creating some kind of toy soldier style fortified tower out of this old Christmas clementines box, suitable for a range of scales of figures and scenarios.
The box had a wooden jointing that reminded me of recent mdf wargaming or fantasy gaming building.
Its wooden lid is used for something else, but where it slotted into the box corners made these interesting Alamo type firing slits.
and you have the germ of an interesting gaming building or terrain idea.
Putting the tower together with the clementine box desert fort was something coincidentally suggested by Brian Carrick of the Collecting Toy Soldiers blog.
“Good idea for the Tesco clementines box, I still have one of those saved from Christmas, it seemed too useful to just throw away! It would work well with your new tower in the middle, like a North West Frontier hill fort.”
Trying this out, it was a tight squeeze to rebuild the balsa walkways around the tower base but it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
Having researched what semaphore stations would look like in the late 18th and early 19th century, I set about making a working semaphore using available wood and tools.
I don’t have a workshop, so balsa wood, coffee stirrers and craft knives are the extent of my woodworking tools.
Everything was roughed out and moved around in a ‘dry run’ before paint, wood stain and wood glue was used to finish off and fix things in place.
I wanted to make it suitable for a range of sizes from 30mm pound store plastic figures to 40mm homecast metal figures, even 54mm to soldiers at a push.
It proved quite difficult to photograph, being quite tall!
The 54mm figures are a little on the big side but I wanted to make this in the toylike spirit of a simple toy fort such as I had as a child.
Despite the toylike simplicity, I also wanted it to have some kind of logic and extensive play possibilities. It needed to work as a design that could be worked and defended.
The central tower needed to be self sufficient, so has a well or water supply inside the tower (with lid).
Coffee stirrers stuck with UHU or superglue were cut and trimmed with craft knife and sharp scissors, roughly shaded then shaded or painted with a very thin coat of Ronseal light oak wood stain.
A small hatch on the roof allows the defenders or signal crew to reach the roof to repair the semaphore.
Shutters mean that the lighthouse tower can be secured against enemy fire or the weather. They are (non-opening) shutters made from coffee stirrers, stained with light oak wood stain. One set of shutters is not glued to the wall, so that a LED battery tea candle light can be added into the top tower to develop the signal light or lighthouse scenario.
The chimneys let out heat from the lighthouse or signal light tower and lower living parts of the tower (toy soldiers need to cook and keep warm). The chimneys were found in my spare parts box, originally kept to make thatched huts for 1/300 figures, are snap-off screw bits from fixing a couple of new toilet seats at home!
Smoke signals are another possibility using these signal fire chimneys.
I wanted the signal tower to have different scenarios or functions, such as a coastal signal tower or one in the North West Frontier mountains, Wild West borders or French Foreign Legion desert.
I also wanted the tower to pass for anything between late 18th Century throughout 19th century and beyond and even into a future steampunk, VSF sci-fi scenario. This could then work with a range of periods, nationalities, scales of figures and Imagi-Nations.
Early British Semaphore stations often had two watchers with telescopes, one looking in each direction to look towards the next beacon or semaphore / signal tower. Other staff would take down the codes or change the semaphore indicator boards with ropes and cables (not modelled).
A defendable coastal signal tower would have its main door facing away from the sea, to make it more easily supplied and defended from the landward side. Beware foreign navies, marines, smugglers and pirates!
I roughed out this tower as a coastal setting with the wall side showing, the slit window (originally a handle) shuttered against the sea, wind and attack from the sea edge.
Apart from some further white painting of certain areas inside the box, a few storage locker doors to complement the corner squares, this is almost complete for the time being.
I also need a flagpost or two.
I enjoyed making this so much, I might make another one to create a small chain of them across the garden for summer games as needed. I will then be able to pass messages very slowly one letter or number at a time across the back garden wilderness or planet.
In fact I could make and remake lots of versions of this, camouflaged lighthouse or radio stations, brassy steampunk versions, Roman lighthouses … but time, lack of clementines boxes and space will not at present permit this.
I also have to work out a suitable toy soldier Popham type code book for my design of double semaphore indicator boards, using either letter or number combinations linked to key words in the code book.
Popham code books? Indicator boards? The next blog post to immediately follow is all about the semaphore and heliograph that I have researched to make this coastal or desert signal tower.