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.
Inspired by Bartitsu Duelling, I have been looking out for suitable period figures to use in my quick solo card duelling game. This game is based on Gerard De Gre’s “Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust” rules, reprinted in Donald Featherstone, Solo Wargaming.
I found some interesting civilian figures on the Lemax site available in UK (through Swallow Aquatics and Mill Race Garden Centre UK)
These Lemax (badly) prepainted Christmas or Model village type figures are not cheap at around £5 a pair but period civilian figures are fairly rare beasts compared to toy soldiers. They get a little closer to the Bartitsu style stick fighting figures shown in the montage below.
I like the cyclist figure that comes with one of the stick or cane wielding men. The Bartitsu website also features articles and comical video for gents and ladies on how to use your new fangled bicycle invention as a defence or attack weapon against Edwardian ruffians.
These figures sort of capture the Edwardian or VSF top hat street fighting feel of Bartitsu.
One other pair of Lemax figures, staves in hand, looked online like they would be a good pair to split up to make a duelling pair. These Lemax Spelunkers or mountain climbers are such a fun set and so thickly based that I think I will keep them together and repaint them. There is always the garden rockery to explore!
With a rifle added they would make great mountain troops or guide with their water bottles and haversacks. Separating the resin figures from their bases or cutting the resin base in half would be a tricky and probably doomed option. They will stay together and sometimes explore the rockery in garden games.
They remind me a bit of the more interestingly posed Airfix German Mountain Troops.
Sadly the Lemax figures are big 1:32 figures, more 64mm than 54mm, and on chunky resin bases as can be seen in comparison with this 54mm Britain’s lead farmer.
The farmer you might recognise from his other job as Edwardian Ruffian and a quick bout of Country Stick Fighting in a lane somewhere …
If you recognise this Ruffian on the left, he unfortunately took on a street sweeper and lost. A broom being good as a two handed duelling stick …
But isn’t this the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog?
Bashed hollowcast lead figures and Resin Christmas figures are all very well. They belong more to my Man of TIN blog projects. But what about duelling with cheap plastic / pirated figures?
If this post seems to have drifted from pound store plasticwarriors for the moment, there are always some uses for of the “useless” pose figures that can be adapted for duelling such as these clubbing and bayoneting troops.
Bayonet drill through the ages is well illustrated on these Thor Trains sites (with the reminder not too try this at home)
This interesting civil war history and re-enactor site has an interesting section on bayonet drill, full of the language of sword fighting and duelling / fencing thrust parry and lunge but with a coarser edge (using the rifle butt etc).
It was not unknown from an early period for heavy pistols and muskets to be reversed and used as clubs, after the enemy got too close for you to reload.o
Add a bayonet as well as a pistol butt or rifle butt and an infantryman or dragoon had an impressive close quarters duelling weapon that they were trained to use. I’m not sure how coordinated or choreographed this bayonet duelling would be in real life, but in the toy war / duelling card game it fits the balletic lunge and parry style of the game.
Bayonet drill is possibly one reason for the large number of dramatic but odd stabbing, clubbing etc figures that especially plastic soldier manufacturers seemed to turn out in figure sets, in place of useful marching and firing soldiers.
And at last, an active use for those drum majors off duty … in a quiet London street near a barracks somewhere …
Until the local constabulary turns up and breaks it all up. A Truncheon will be drawn if needed. Move along there …
All these quick figure duels using Gerard De Gre’s Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust rules have been great fun solo games in between other gaming projects.
Next step is to add more moves into the pack of card moves and “combat resolution table”.
These rules suggest many different two or three figure bouts, contests or wallopings.
The figures used are Steve Weston’s Mexican Peasants – I got mine through a good deal on his website or EBay site for some sets with water damaged packaging. This got me two packets for the price of one. Not quite Pound store prices but still cheap.
For a quick and lazy paint job on these white plastic figures, I used the “Pewtering” technique. I learnt this from the Prince August website, giving them a quick brush over with black acrylic paint, them wiping the paint off a minute or two later before it dries. Details are revealed as highlights and shadows, whilst you can always repaint in more detail at a later time.
Some of the peasants are armed with rifles, very useful for irregular forces, guerillas and settlers. Not so useful for the duelling games.
Here the Mexican lady is the attacker – I threw a coin to choose. The man is the defender.
Playing as the attacking angry Mexican lady I have a limited choice of three duelling moves – cut or swipe to head, parry and lunge and stop- thrust.
Playing solo I will be drawing the man’s cards from the top of his deck each time, replacing them to the bottom.
Mexico Gold Rush: A renewed duel between angry Mexican machete guy and man with shovel over the golden nuggets in the basket.
Pound Land U.K. currently has stocks of 75 to 80mm plastic figures perfect for garden games.
The equivalent Papo or Schleich figure range are better paint finished, slightly more detailed and about one of these would cost the same as five to eight or more of these £1 figures.
As all they had left of this range on the shelves in Poundland were mostly the Roman Testudo Tortoise figures, a little cutting and reglueing of the arm may be needed. Pilum or Spear very fragile but they do have separate sword in a scabbard.
Obviously a little painting may be required but this is a much cheaper way of building up some big troops for garden gaming.
The challenge is who they are to fight against! I will have to keep an eye out for some suitably tribal figures in the sameness price range. Even the gladiator has no opposition but there are plenty more poses of Schleich gladiators at greater cost.
I could weather it and distress it, but I quite like the clean lines and simple appearance. I could have cut the two roofs sections off to make rooms inside but wanted to keep it simple and strong. It could equally make a kind of lighthouse or a 1930s aircraft control tower.
Whilst it wasn’t cheap at £10, it was a good buy to end a working week, perfect for a wet bank holiday.
I resisted buying the ship and house because I am midway through turning a supermarket finest Christmas clementine box from last year into another fort or walled compound …
This box is an MDF sort of ‘wood’ and has an adobe or Alamo look to it (where the top lid should slot in), especially in the corner sections. It also has a look of my much loved Airfix Foreign Legion Fort.
First a layer of white acrylic paint over peeled label and sanded outside walls. Several coats of acrylic paint will be needed.
You can see mocked up internal firing step or walls, but not sure which height yet to suit which scale of toy figure.
I’m still roughing out the internal layout – possibly a wooden coffee-stirrer barn door at one end below or incorporating the handle, and another coffee-stirrer barn door midway along one wall.
But that is for another blogpost …
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN / Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, 2 May 2017.