Brian Carrick’s Big Wars

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Impressive Elastolin knights and castle pictured here.

“I can trace my Wargaming origins, as I suspect many of my generation can, back to the days of plastic toy soldiers and cannons that could fire matchsticks being sprawled out in full battle array across the living room floor. The days when Confederates and Germans (both being grey) took to the field against anything in green!”

So begins Brian Carrick in his article on “Big Wars: Nostalgic Wargaming”. He then went on to summarise H. G. Wells’ Little Wars rules, useful at a time when reprints were hard to come by and then outline the current erratic  state of figure availability.

I was intrigued by photos of Brian Carrick’s village of  Airfix Jungle Houses, Britain’s Deetail British Infantry Attack Boats  and a scratch built gunboat with Britain’s Lifeboat sailors.

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Close up of Brian Carrick’s scratchbuilt gun boat with Britain’s Deetail Lifeboat sailor crew, Deetail British Infantry attack boats and Airfix Jungle Outpost village.

I found this article in the Battle for Wargamers Military Modelling Extra Wargames Manual  really inspiring at the time it came out (1983) as I had not come across any serious adult gamers who used 54mm figures or the garden.

Gunboat envy and ‘whole village of Airfix jungle houses’ envy ensued.

Donald Featherstone’s Skirmish Wargaming,  borrowed from the local branch library, was too much of a mathematical rules puzzle of charts to me but I loved the illustrations, scenarios and photographs. They featured Airfix and other plastic figures that I had. I could one day sort of be like these giant gamers and gaming authors.

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I had the remains of one of these Airfix houses and the Figure. Britain’s Deetail Japanese?

Little did I realise at the time that one day 35 years later that I would be chatting on blog comment sections  about garden games  with the article author Brian Carrick through his fabulous Collecting Plastic Soldiers blog and the 54mm forum Little Wars Revisited.

Brian’s blog Collecting Toy Soldiers is at http://toysoldiercollecting.blogspot.co.uk

http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net

Blog? Websites? Internet? Surprisingly this 1983  Wargames Manual did mention the word “Computer” on the cover and listed “machine gaming” amongst the articles.

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For me then, (war) gaming in many books and magazines was unattainable, glossy, expensive and for grownup wallets, a far cry from playing with the bashed-up Airfix at my disposal. A lot like the eye-candy front cover of this interesting manual / magazine extra.

Today there are a good range of 54mm plastic figures in many historical periods and still affordable buckets of Green Army Men. Despite the disappearing  number of toy shops, there are in pound stores or online lots of  ‘pirate’ or pound store figures (soldiers, cowboys, Indians, knights etc) at entry level cost for youngsters.

An impressive author’s list for this 1983 special edition edited by Stuart Asquith:

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My surviving uncut Free Cut Out Saxon Army centre insert from Standard Games.

At least there was a free Cut out Saxon Army – too precious to cut out at the time – and one lacking any opposition without buying more card warriors from Standard Games (a range now vanished?)  One day I will scan and make these Saxons. Paper soldiers have returned recently with Peter Dennis and Andy Callan’s attractive colourful card soldier series for Helion books.

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Inside were tempting adverts, the lure of grown up metal. I had already made my first forays into Peter Laing 15mm figures, a few English Civil War figures with my pocket money each month. I went for a historical range that Airfix sadly did not do.  Peter Laing kindly did not mind such small orders but I later bundled up several months pocket money worth of orders to save postage.

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Unattainable in price at the time were the home cast Prince August Moulds – “send £3.95 … for an 8 days trial …” These had to wait another 30 plus years until I stumbled over them again in a craft shop. Their range of “mould your own 54mm traditional toy soldiers” that I eventually fell for  was not yet mentioned here.

A fan of the Fighting Fantasy books from the library (“to take the left hand door to uncertain death, turn to page 37”), there was also the lure of Dungeons and Dragons. I was bought a D and D boxed set which I never understood. Interesting to see the introduction to Fantasy Wargaming article by a young John Treadaway, now Editor of Miniature Wargames. 

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This is a lifelong hobby, or one that you can return to throughout life. Although I have still to obtain the desirable games room and hex table shown here:

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Here to conclude is the whole article by Brian Carrick, reprinted with his permission:

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Big Wars – clever play on words on Little Wars and the by now enormous 54mm figure size.

Brian’s comments on erratic or faltering plastic 54mm figure availability were sadly true for many years until quite recently. “The decline of Airfix … the demise of Timpo … Britain’s  once famous range of guns now badly depleted.

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As Brian Carrick concludes his article,  Big Wars:

“… I should point out that there will be as many differing views as to the value of such games and how they should be played as there are 54mm gamers. I imagine this is largely because there is no representational body that I know of to develop this section of the hobby by the exchange of participants’ views.

I hope that this article will have provided the spark to kindle some interest in potential recruits to the ranks of 54mm Wargamers and perhaps provoke some comment from existing enthusiasts who, in the past, have had little voice in the hobby media.”

 

Big Wars PostScript:

When I contacted Brian to ask if he was happy for me to reprint his photos and article, he replied: “Gosh is it really 35 years since I wrote that! the pics weren’t very good I’m afraid …” but they made a big difference to a young gamer like me. They stopped me throwing out many of my childhood 54mm figures and chasing  proper small scale shiny fashionable metal as I got older, even when I stopped gaming for a few years (college, first jobs etc – usual story).

Thanks Brian for all you have done for 54mm gaming for many years past and for many years to come.

Blogposted with gratitude and reprinted with permission  by Mark, Man of TIN, June 30 2017

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Heroscape duelling figures

IMG_0188Whilst 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

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Mech figures –  Zettian Guards or Soulborgs, led by giant mech Deathwalker 9000.

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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!

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Alien Marro figures from the Planet Marr (obviously).

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Centre top is Ne-Gok-Sa (beware his Mind Shackle powers) and his Marro Warriors from the Planet Marr.

 

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‘Elite Airborne’ WW2 American based figures

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More Airborne Elite figures. The one with  the samurai sword and ‘Grapple Gun’  (?!) is Hero Character figure Sgt. Drake Alexander.

Fantasy type Tarn Viking Warriors who go berserking!

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Fantasy Heroscape Vikings with a touch of chunky Asterix in the middle? Otherwise known as Thorgrim the Viking Champion. (Centre) Raelin The Kyrie Warrior with wings and to her right, Finn the Viking Champion.
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Fantasy Elf archer Unique Hero Sylvarris  from  Feylund  and a (steampunk goggle wearing?) Tarn Viking warrior.

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.

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Heroscape game character cards – examples of front and back.

There is more about the original Heroscape game at

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/11170/heroscape-master-set-rise-valkyrie

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroscape

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Heroscape_supplements

https://boardgamegeek.com/wiki/page/HeroScape_Figure_List

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.

http://crazywargames.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/time-conquistadors.html

This is summed up well on the Wikipedia entry:

“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

 

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Heroscape – Measuring up against 54mm Britain’s?

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.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/heroscape-duelling-in-the-garden/

The game has its own fans (Heroscapers or Scapers) and fan website, with many figure conversions and fan-derived rules extensions to keep their game fresh: https://www.heroscapers.com/community/blog.php?u=2

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Heroscape Tarn Vikings on their natural games terrain of these stackable hexes, the reason I bought these second hand master or starter sets.

More Combat Mission 80 pound store plastic soldiers – Part 2.

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Previously on Pound Store Plastic Warriors we looked at my favourite charging figure out of the pack of Combat Mission 80 Soldiers.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/combat-mission-80-plastic-pound-store-soldiers-part-1-charge/

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There was another slender plastic old toy soldier style figure inside the pack that caught my eye, advancing with a sub machine gun.

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A group of these roughly 42mm figures would make another fine SMG Sub Machine Gun unit all advancing together.

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My Sub Machine Gun Regiment advances in formation.

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!)

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Airfix WW2 54mm German Infantry next to the smaller 42mm Combat Mission 80 soldier.

Crude as they are, they have loosened into a useful generic Imagi-Nations modern infantry type, much like the Italian made Atlantic “Euro Infantry”.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/tintin-and-imagi-nations-games/

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

http://quantrillstoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/how-to-make-horse-hair-plumes-for.html

http://quantrillstoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/ruritanian-tropical-uniform-4th-infantry.html

Grenade!

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!

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L to R: Airfix 54mm original, Hong Kong / China copy and my recent Combat Mission 80 China copy of the WW2 infantry German Stick grenade thrower.

I should be able to muster a unit of about about 24 of these plucky  rifle grenadiers.

http://www.airfixtoysoldiers.com/set_list.htm

Over Here 

The other Airfix figures raided for this pack include American infantry.

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Combat Mission 80 China made copies of Airfix WW2 US Infantry.
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Airfix 54mm original figures on left of each pair.

Red Devil Paras

One of the other Airfix ranges raided is the WW2 British Paratroops.

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Combat Mission 80 versions of Airfix British Paratroopers.
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Airfix original WW2 British paratroops on the left paired next to the Combat Mission versions.

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Combat Mission 80 China made version of the Airfix WW2 paratroop figure with change to a helmet rather than beret, just like the officer figure.
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Airfix original with paratroop beret on left, followed by the helmeted copies from different pound store packs.

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.

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Airfix original second from left, next to a rather good Hong Kong copy first left. The other smaller two on the right are recent China made pound store copies.
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Airfix original  WW2 Paratrooper (Far Right) next to three China made pound store copies, including one I painted with red coat Toy Soldier paint style.
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Spot the Airfix original …

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.

Brian Carrick’s site http://toysoldiercollecting.blogspot.co.uk also has good plastic soldier coverage and web links.

A fun summer of pound store plastic unit painting awaits.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN for Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, June 2017.

Combat Mission 80 plastic pound store soldiers Part 1 Charge!

 

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These slender running infantry figures caught my eye in the packet … and three bags of “Combat Mission 80 Soldiers” figures later, I have 24 new copies of this figure.

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.

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Packaging for the Combat Mission 80 Soldiers pack.

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).

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/more-seaside-pound-store-plastic-warriors/

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.

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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.

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Original Airfix 1:32 54mm figure, then the new Combat Mission 80 Soldiers copy and a similar pound store one found and painted toy soldier style c.2007/8.

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.

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One part of the attractive old toy soldier look is to have multiple figures of the same pose to make up units.

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Chaaaarge! The first wave of painted figures almost completed …

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.

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Chaaarge! Some of my favourite  charging toy soldier figures in pound store plastic,  new metal and  Britain’s, Taylor and Barrett and other manufacturer’s 54mm lead hollowcast, all in this slender style.
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My new Combat Mission 80 plastic, Britain’s almost 54mm hollowcast lead charging Russian infantry, original  Airfix Russian and German WW2 charging infantry.

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).

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More Combat Mission 80 Soldiers set of slender toy soldiers. Really like the sub machine gun infantryman as well, matches the charging infantryman size and style really well.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN for the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog on a rainy 10th June 2017.

 

 

Pound Store Surreal Space Planet Away Team

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Pound Store Plastic Space Marines Away Team  on a surreal planet

Away from home visiting the seaside for a few days over the rainy Bank Holiday weekend, I took a couple of items to improvise a quick away game, should I need one.

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My portable board game hex board with a 2D feel with the map symbols  but 3D figures and stone lumps. Halfway to 3D  or is that 2.5D?

I packed a small A5 tackle box of pound store plastic figures (£1 for 100 30-40mm figs), dice and stuff and the portable hex board cartridge  paper game board from my 2016 Easter away trips.

Pound store figures are good to take as if you lose or leave anything behind on your travel battles, it’s not the end of the world at a penny a figure.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/28/more-pound-store-warriors/

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.

These last saw action on holiday in Easter 2016 https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/close-little-wars-away-game/

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Ignore the Artemis blurb … look at the picture. No artist credited.  Invest in tiny tin men instead!

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 used my Little Close Wars rules improvised and hexed up from Donald Featherstone’s appendix to War Games (1962) https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

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For the melee sections I used the fast play Kaptain Kobold’s reduced dice version of Gerald De Gre’s  duelling rules taken from Donald Featherstone’s  Solo Wargaming.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/more-duelling-inspiration-mexicans/

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).

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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.

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Silver Space Marine Away Team versus the dancing Red Planet Native Defenders! 

Who won, who lost? The Away Team Silver Space Marines or the Red Planet Native Defenders?

The result is future history …

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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.

http://chrisminaturewargaming.blogspot.co.uk and the Rough Riders section which starts  here – also brilliantly odd! http://chrisminaturewargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/rough-riders-on-mars.html

What a great hobby. How very Dr. Who! Which planet or time period next?  Where to next?

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A bit of light holiday paperback reading that I took along for rainy day reading, all Imagi-Nation  gaming related, except for The Bronte Project book. This Bronte related quick read by Jennifer Vandever  (‘romantic fiction’?) was one I picked out and read from amongst the ‘left behind’ selection of holiday books and magazines where I was staying. 

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, 1 June 2017.