Remember the ‘dragons teeth’ scene of skeleton warriors bursting out of the ground in the old Ray Harryhausen Jason and the Argonauts films?
If you haven’t seen this film clip recently or never seen it, here is a YouTube snippet:
I like the dramatic illustrations on this packaging. Figures are somewhere between 42 and 54mm high depending on their pose and twistedness.
I was reminded of this Harryhausen Skeleton scene when I luckily spotted two £1 bags of plastic skeleton warriors on a rummage stall at a local steam fair.
The lady stall holder had bought at auction years before for £2 a big plastic storage box containing bags and bags of cheap green plastic toy soldiers.
Most of the ruptured bags contained the worst flattened, deformed and attenuated tall, brittle plastic China clone types of toy soldier beyond even my (low standards for) repair or conversion needs, not even for a £1 a bag …
Hidden amongst the box and elsewhere on the stall were two bags of skeleton warriors.
£2 later and my day was already made, before ten o’clock.
No one had bought these in years, until me, the lady said. The kids of today …
I mentioned to the lady that “Buying these in from the States online” would have daft shipping charges. Sadly she had no more bags tucked away – at any price.
A couple of useful screen shots from the YouTube various Harryhausen video clips on Masters of FX and stop motion Animation.
Pewtering paint option laziness
How best to paint skeletons? Full of bony nooks and crannies.
After glue-gunning them to tuppenny (2p) pieces for stability, I noticed that the basic plastic colour of ivory / bone / off-white was probably good enough for the finished figure.
But how to bring out the detail?
I have used the pewtering (lazy paint) method before, mostly on metal figures, but not much on plastic.
Black gloss Revell Acrylic Aquacolor was quickly painted on and then let dry for as long as it took to cover a second figure.
Wipe the bulk of the paint off the first figure with kitchen towel and you find it stays behind in nooks and crannies like eye sockets, skeletal rib cages and between bone joints.
Then paint a third figure whilst the second dries before being wiped … and so on.
I tried various shades of earth brown but black worked best.
Conversions and chopping about
One problem was that after years squashed into their packaging, whilst their flexible plastic had protected usually breakable parts like swords and spears, they were often bent, as were the skeletons themselves. The old trick of soaking them in hot water to straighten them did not work.
On the positive side, oddly contorted skeletons took away the ‘too many of the same pose’ problem. Various stiffening with extra wire spears (inserted into shield hands and base drilled holes) helped slightly right some but not all figures.
Extra wire spears were added to drilled empty hands with spear points of scrap plastic base trimming or Fimo polymer clay.
Some arms were super glued (not very easy with springy plastic) or cut and repinned with wire stubs to change arm and sword angles.
Other figures like the over-duplicated trumpet player (who needs four?) were thus converted to new uses.
Extra shields were added with suitable buttons wired on and painted.
Weapons and shields were painted in copper and bronze Revell Acrylic after pewtering.
Wooden spear shafts and axe handles seem to have survived perfectly preserved whilst the flesh has vanished – curious!
I was almost tempted to add some scraps of clothing using tissue paper but resisted to keep the figures more flexible in period.
One figure had an almost Breugel Triumph of Death or Hieronymus Bosch painting typocalyptic pose with skeleton ‘blood angel’ winged rib cage was given away to another family member as just far too weird – for now!
Finishing off the Skeleton Warriors
Sand brown (Revell Afrikabraun Matt Acrylic) bases were painted for that desert / earth / Ray Harryhausen look, then sprayed with Gloss Acrylic varnish spray. I have heard that metallic colours can run during varnishing, so I only sprayed the bases.
A lot of (admittedly lazy) paint and conversion work for £2 worth of figures but the result looks like they are much more expensive figures.
That is pretty much the whole ethos of the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog. Cheap Joy!
I might need some slight tweaks for how to kill or defeat the already dead in order to put skeleton warriors into my simple Featherstone based rules for melee and small Close Wars.
Remember – Don’t shoot till you see the darks of their eye sockets!
Several other scenarios crop up – the renowned Colonel Fazackerly saves the day!
Other Fantastic Skeletal Scenarios?
If England Were Invaded …
After reading a spot of invasion literature like William Le Queux, mixed with a dash of the Angels of Mons, I thought afresh that these skeleton warriors with shield, axes, swords and spears could well be the legendary Arthur and his Ancient Britons arising from their slumbers and returning to save the day If England Were Invaded:
In 1914 … an unlucky Prussian sentry fails to notice that he is being followed.
Or in 1940 …
An unlucky Nazi sentry fails to notice that he is being followed down an English country lane … “Gott In Himmel!”
Featherstone’s Fantasy War Games
Now that is a Featherstone title that never happened in the original 1960s Featherstone trilogy and beyond. War Games, Naval War Games, Air War Games, even Advanced War Games … but Fantasy War Games?
I wonder how the knowledgeable, enthusiastic and avuncular Featherstone style would have adapted to orcs, gremlins, wizard magic and skeletons?
Not that far off his Ancients rules and suggested Imaginations and Hyborian campaigns with Tony Bath?
Many of Don’s fantasy figures would no doubt be based on conversions of the versatile Airfix Romans, Ancient Britons, Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures and Castle sets.
Blogposted by Mark, Skeletal Man of TIN, 8th / 9th September 2018
13 thoughts on “Pound Bag Skeleton Warriors £1 a bag”
Very nice- your conversions have really brought the best out of them.
Nice to have some worthy opponents for those 54mm Redcoats. Almost finished the (Cowboys and) Indians Indians restorations and a bunch of Hollowcast Zulus, not mentioning a handful of plastic ninja and some Timpo Arabs now on the painting table … joy!
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Fantastic find! Plenty of possibilities with those skellies. I like the idea of Featherstone fantasy rules from the 60s – there is a published Featherstone fantasy game in the Skirmish Rules that John Curry has published using the McDonalds Lord of the Rings figures!
Featherstone Fantasy War Games rules? You just can’t dream these things or make them up as they already exist. This is worth the reprint of Skirmish Wargaming alone!
Well it’s a Fantasy scenario for his Skirmish rules. There’s asci-Fi one too! In 54mm so right up your street Mark!
Intrigued. Order already placed for a reprint on the History of Wargaming Project, even though I have a bashed old copy. Thanks for the tip off MJT.
You have made a splendid job of these skeletons. Good to see Harryhausen getting a mention. Jason was a favourite film of my youth.
I was surprised to see how good the animation was, memory of it has stayed with me all these years enough to inspire painting these skeletons.
I have some of these figures but painted only a few because they are so bendy. (I have whole regiments of the other skeleton figures that are Egyptian in inspiration). I like how you tackled this head on with the metal spears basically functioning as disability aids to keep them upright. Another source of skeleton figures comes from Russia which also does them in plate armor.
As a boy I loved watching. on weekends with my Poppy, Epic Theatre. That skeleton scene was my favorite.
I have used my skeletons in fantasy games with rues borrowed from Games Workshop. (I also have the 28mm GW skeletons). I followed the GW rule (later changed, as they do) of having vampires with some units to stiffen their leadership and to add his fighting power in the front rank. In 54mm I converted knight figures for this purpose and painted the skin in a very pale bluish off white). I also made Crypt Guard from knights with transplants of bits and pieces from skeleton figures – skeleton heads and the odd unarmored arm or legs. I also use the Russian figures for this.
In the GW rules the skeletons are less difficult to ‘kill’ than you would think. I guess when you think about it it is just necessary to lop off limbs and heads, just as with flesh and blood. I wonder about the effectiveness of arrows though but it is the same. The main difference is that they are aren’t affected by morale tests in the same way. You roll your two D6s as usual and have to roll at the leadership level or below to pass (easy if reinforced with a vampire). If I recall correctly I think a skeleton’s leadership was six. But if you fail it the skeletons do not retreat but lose the number of figures they failed by. They don’t get scared but just increasingly dwindle. They are immune from fear tests. If your general is killed then all the skeleton and zombie units have to roll leadership tests each turn and each time they fail they lose that many figures that they failed by.
The other cool thing is that you can also not only use magic against them but you finally have a wargame use for priest figures. You have sorcerers and priests. The former have all sorts of spells but the priest might have a limited range. One spell he should have is the ability to crumble the undead, at least the lesser kind. So if you pass the spell test D6 of the blighters crumble to dust.
On the ‘evil’ side the sorcerer or vampire can try to summon more skeletons to top up existing units or to create new skeleton or zombie units.
The other thing is if you use the GW initiative rules for close combat zombies are slow and always go last in combat and skeletons have low initiative and are more likely to go second depending on what they are fighting. An enemy wanting to charge the undead or to resist their charge must do a fear test. If it fails it can’t charge and if charged their is a penalty (which I forget). Heroes are more resistant and presumably a priest would boost the courage of humans. Monsters and other scary critters are not impressed or scared by mere skeletons and don’t need to test their courage. The main thing about the undead units is they are good speed humps to slow down enemy units.
I hadn’t thought of skeletons being the ‘good guys’, a bit like the supposed Angels of Mons. That reminds me, you could always make flying angels figures and have zombie units. Another idea is to secretly designte normal units as skeletons, ancient greeks etc or zombies and the opponent doesn’t know it until he is in combat with those ancient Greeks, Egyptians or whatever. For visual effect you could then place the unit with your fantasy figures.
One final thought; I have used just the trumpet arm from one of those figures and used it on a human figure by building up the arm – it is on one of my medieval ‘Fezian’ figures. It looks good as a Eastern instrument.
You have given me many many ideas without having to slog through what are to me often incomprehensible GW rules.
Human Morale rules versus the diminishing strength or magical power enchantment of fantastic creatures is an interesting equivalent …
I can see a new role for military chaplains casting spells to crumble the enemy undead (wonderful image!). At last a use for the vicar in Dad’s Army? As useful as the Regimental Medic …
I was surprised in the Jason film to see how difficult it is to kill the Harryhausen skeletons. They certainly kept coming! You’d think they would fall apart but are obviously enchanted. My few battered Atlantic Greeks and Herald Trojans might need an outing and repair.
The mix and match heads sound interesting.
Skeletons don’t have to be bad … with their mix of generic Ancient Weapons they can step out of the ground into almost any age to defend it. A good back up from Arthurian Legend for the local Home Guard against Prussians or Nazi Paratroopers. Would Stick grenades work well against enchanted old bones? Straying into Wierd War Two territory here …
An Angels of Mons scenario would be a bizarre one for an exhibition / demo game in 20mm or 54mm. Ghostly archers versus WW1 Prussians … almost possible using Airfix figures. Bullets versus ghostly arrows?
I have kept the weird tentacle trumpet cut offs for future use, probably with the Space figures.
Many thanks again James.
“Wooden spear shafts and axe handles seem to have survived perfectly preserved whilst the flesh has vanished – curious!”
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The petering effect you use works really well, the skeletons en masse like that are the things of nightmares!
Pewtering is wonderfully lazy. Interestingly F E Perry and gaming friends did Fantasy scenarios, so would have appreciated the skeletons! http://quantrillstoysoldiers.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-legacy-of-frank-perry-part-2.html