From High Priest to Princess / Queen in a few easy steps …
One of the challenges of toy soldiers made for modellers and not gamers is the “too many chiefs” problem.
The Chintoys 54mm Mixtecs and Zapotecs featured on my last post have several high profile, high ranking priests, warlords and officer figures with battle flags in each bag of 8 figures, not the rank and file “lumpen proletariat” of the PBI (poor bloody infantry) that you actually want.
It’s like having a Wellington or Napoleon on every sprue of Napoleonic figures or a free Hitler or Stalin on every WW2 German or Russian infantry one.
The Chintoys Mixtecs and Zapotecs are closely modelled on Angus McBride’s colourful plates in the Osprey book of Aztecs, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies.
So the solution to three Oracular High Priests is to paint one like the colour plate, keep one spare for a Celtic or Native Shaman in future and promote the third to a Mixtec Queen.
This striking Queen figure is shown in the colour plate but sadly not included in the Chintoys set.
The priest face and mask is not very feminine, nor are the massive sinewy muscly arms and giant hands but this priestly left arm and hand is transcribed from her Queen pose to the Priest in the Chintoys figures.
Cheap architect / railway civilian figure in hard plastic became the head donor
The challenge to behead or deface required sprue cutters and scalpel. A square of the priest’s face and jaw mask was removed and kept for further statue / carved pillar use.
I removed the head of the female civilian railway passenger (not often you get to type that sentence) from this figure in hard plastic.
The challenge was to trim and shave in small slivers with a scalpel the back of the female head down to a squarish face plate to fit onto the faceless priest – and not slice your fingers off at the same time.
The priest needed to have the face platform further trimmed back into the head.
Once I had the female face down to as thin as possible without damaging the front and the slot on the priest suitably trimmed back, I used a small hand drill to pin the new female face in place and superglued to secure it.
A colourful turban and hair was created to fill the edge gaps using kitchen towel and PVA glue.
The Princess / Queen figure had her arm in a different position holding an obsidian tipped spear rather than the blue stone club or war hammer in the Priests hand. I trimmed the arm off with sprue cutters, reangled with drill and pun and the shoulder gap filled with tissue paper / kitchen towel.
The muscly arm was slightly trimmed down to make it more feminine.
The war hammer was removed and the hand drilled to take a spear or staff. The obsidian blade tip was made with masking tape, the pompom was made from a shaved plastic flag or banner pompom section from another figure.
Her giant left hand still needs trimming or obscuring, possibly with bloodied cloth of a sacrifice?
Now with added Britain’s Zoo plastic Eagle …
A valuable and regal addition to my semi fictional ImagiNations ManoTINcas tribe.
For further information on each figure in the Angus McBride illustration, here are the plate notes by John Pohl the author (below).
From this I took the idea of her painted face, although I did mine on copper, not yellow pigment.
The turban around the hair intwined with coloured cloth and the obsidian blade were two other features that I took from this description and painting.
Along with the furious Spaniards / Conquistadors shown in my recent blog post, Alan Gruber of the Duchy of Tradgardland blog had kindly gifted me some opponents and forest fighters in the form of these 54mm Chintoys Mixtecs and Zapotecs from a unfinished project of his.
Alan thought they would enjoy protecting my Bold Frontiers tree forests.
As you can see from comparing the cover illustration by Angus McBride, some of the Chintoys figures are sculpted fairly faithfully close in appearance to the Osprey illustrations. Chintoys also make separate boxes of eight figures of Aztec and Mayan warriors (available online).
The original Jagaur and Eagle styled warriors both have great animal head dress – here are my Gull Warriors, stylish and stylised figures that look like carvings or Codex drawings.
Rather than be too specific to a historic period of the slightly confusing Mixtec and Zapotec enemies and allies of the Aztecs, I thought I would adapt the paint scheme slightly to form a new tribal opponents of the Spanish Conquistadors, the not so well known allied South and Central American tribes of the ManoTINcas and the ManoTINtacs led by their Priests and their Empress Queen Thatzyerlottal.
Some of these figures are ordinary warriors but too many of them for gaming are priests, officers and nobles, so I have tried through conversion to create a mixed skirmish force of more ordinary warriors.
I have created a more uniform tribal look by restricting myself to simple red stripes on the white maxtlatl loin cloth worn by most of the Warriors.
Alan had sent me several bags of these eight Mixtec figures so I had several of some of the Officer poses with spears and their battle flags strapped to their backs.
With a small skirmish force, I did not want too many officers and priests, so I cut down some of these feather banners to make more fighting men. I kept the feather crests and attached these by drilling, pinning and gluing this to the top of the head.
Many of the warriors are armed with the widely used South American Macahuitl wooden sword or club with obsidian volcanic glass blades:
Variations existed of this bladed weapon in the form of a obsidian bladed spear, the tepoztopilli.
Bowmen or Archers used arrows tipped with copper or obsidianvolcanic glass.
Some of the kneeling red clad figures withatlatlspear throwers shown on the Osprey cover were so stylishly modelled in such a stylised way that I thought they might become statues in a jungle temple. These were undercoated in stone grey paint.
This stylised statue look is not so surprising. Much of what we know of Aztec / Inca / Mayan life is from post Spanish conquest Codex drawings and carvings at their city sites.
However, being short of troops, I briefly considered if they could be stone warrior statues that might come to life when the Spaniards raided their temple. They remind me heavily of the Inca type figures in Tintin Prisoners of The Sun and Rascar Capac in Tintin The Seven Crystal Ballshttps://tintin.fandom.com/wiki/Rascar_Capac
Eventually on the same “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” logic, these stone warriors were reanimated with gloss paint treatment as live warriors – the original figures are Zapotec warlords with arrow thrower.
I have used bright Revell Aquacolor gloss acrylics, to try and match the more colourful aspects of feather crests and shields, as they are shown in the Osprey Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec book and the Osprey Men at Arms 101 The Conquistadores volume , also with Angus McBride illustrations which also colourfully covers Aztecs, Mayans and Incas.
I wanted to keep my gloss paint, gloss varnish shiny toy soldier look for these unusual figures, including the stylised toy soldier face with a copper cheek dot in place of pink to match the darker skin tones (Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Mud Brown Gloss).
If Britain’s had made Mixtecs and Zapotecs, Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, I hope they would have come out of the factory looking this shiny and colourful.
The most striking figure in the Osprey Aztec, Mixtec and Zapotec Armies book is the Mixtec Oracular priest – sadly they didn’t make the Mixtec queen, so a duplicate priest figure had some cosmetic surgery. Literally a face lift!
I shall feature on a separate blog post how this spare Mixtec priest figure was changed into a Mixtec queen. I still need to work on ‘her’ overlarge left hand.
As mentioned, I have not painted these figures exactly as they are shown in the Osprey books. I have kept the shields simple with uniform yellow and purple round edge patterns.
As well as the colour plates in the Osprey books, I was also guided by the bold colours in one of my childhood library books (pictured below). I like the strong colours such as the bright green quetzal feather plume headdresses.
My first encounter with these exotic warriors was in Warriors and Weapons of Ancient Times by Nils Saxdorph. The short lived Peter Laing 15mm range of Aztec, Inca and Maya warriors came out a little too late for me in the 1980s to invest in this unknown period. Whilst they might all have been on the National Curriculum primary school world history from the early 1990s onwards, reduced to just the Mayans since 2014, we didn’t cover these ancient cultures when I was at school in the 1970s and 80s.
At some point soon these Meso-American Stone Age warriors with obsidian tipped blades will encounter these fierce Spanish Conquistadors with their crossbows, arquebus, war dogs and cavalry …
I like it when figures ranges overlap and have a dual use, it reduces the cost, time, painting and storage needed for skirmish games. It keeps it more in the spirit of my ‘Pound Store Plastic Warriors’ blog.
The Armada seamen will be converted and painted up from China made cheap seaside pirates, so whilst Chintoys are not cheap Pound Store figures, many of the other plastic figures will be Pound Store or cheap seaside plastic toy figures.
Wearing my Imagi-Nations hat (you can imagine yourself what this might look like) these fierce warriors can stand in for Central and South Generican tribal warriors in my Bronte juvenilia inspired renaming of the world. Meso-Generican then …
I hope you have enjoyed seeing these fascinating colourful figures as much as I enjoyed painting and converting them. Thanks again to Alan Gruber for sending them my way.
So there you go, that’s the Mixtapes …
Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on this his Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog 27 November 2020.
Looking at household scraps ready for discard or recycling, like many gamers, i often wonder what they can be turned into.
I deconstructed this used-up underarm deodorant into its parts and after a good soak to degrease them and remove any fragrance, started to prepare the shapely plastic body into a standing stone for larger figures.
Tip: I thought I might have to use a saw to separate the proposed Menhir section but the weak point is the roller ball, attack this with sharp points of sprue cutters and soon it will all be in pieces. Some of these pieces have gone in the spares box such as the cog or propellor looking thing.
I checked the Maya / Aztec / Inca standing stones but their Stele pillars were more four square. However looking online and on Pinterest at Menhirs across Europe, I spotted many examples that matched this shape.
Using a 54mm figure of one of my passing Armada Spaniards in the absence to hand of any Romans or Gauls, I checked the size / scale. Not too outlandish …
To make the Plastic more accepting of Acrylic paint, I used sandpaper to rough up its surface and that of a plastic lid base. I then applied black Acrylic as undercoat.
Stone Grey, Gunship Grey and Panzer Grey Revell Aquacolor Acrylic was then applied thickly or drybrushed to give the weathered look.
I considered briefly how to cut into the Menhir edges with some runes or ogham letters to make it an inscribed stone but didn’t do this in the end.
The final touch was “Much Flocking on the Henge” (can one menhir make a Henge, much as one swallow doesn’t make a summer?)
I found my Timpo Romans and a passing Viking doing his best Celtic / Gaulish impression – fine multiple plastic casting Timpo figures from my childhood. A handful of seasoned veteran warrior remain on either side.
14th December 2020 in a few weeks time is the centenary birthday of historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992)
I was reminded of this by reading Alan Gruber’s Duchy of Tradgardland blog entry today about acquiring some Asterix and Roman figures from fellow blogger Tidders. Tidders (Allan Tidmarsh) is downscaling his impressive collection of 1:32 / 54mm Romans and Celts / Gauls shown in his Asterix inspired blog By Toutatis! The blog thankfully will remain even when much of the collection is dispersed.
Since acquiring the late Stuart Asquith’s hand painted Peter Laing 15mm Roman legion and Celt / Gaulish / Ancient Briton tribes, I have been reading more about Roman times, as part of an ongoing skirmish gaming project called Full Metal Hic Jacet.
Asterix is one influence on my ongoing interest in things Roman, along with the tiny Airfix figures and Roman Milecastle Fort, but the strongest emotional connection that I have with Roman Britain is through the imagination and inspired writing of Rosemary Sutcliff.
During this pandemic year, I have reread the Eagle of the Ninth trilogy – The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers – along with her autobiography Blue Remembered Hills.
I first read the Eagle of The Ninth books in the children’s library in the late 1970s / early 1980s, inspired no doubt like many others by the BBC TV Children’s teatime dramatisation of The Eagle of The Ninth in the late 1970s.
Although I have reread the first book The Eagle of The Ninth several times since then, I had read the other two long enough ago that I couldn’t remember much of the storyline. It was like reading and enjoying them anew.
Her autobiography Blue Remembered Hills was published in paperback by Oxford University Press in 1984. I had not read this and knew very little about the author at the time of reading these books as a child. Maybe it was not mentioned in her author biography in the hardback and paperback versions I would have encountered then. I had no idea of the challenging life that she had, living with a progressively wasting illness called Still’s Disease.
Oddly, for a book about an increasingly frustratingly restricted life, my overall memory of this book which I read earlier this year is of sunshine and landscape. Maybe it was her observational skills as both an artist and writer that created such astrong sunny impression.
Looking through the Wikipedia entry of her published books and the website to 2018 and website to 2020 ongoing maintained by her godson and literary executor Anthony Lawton, I am surprised by how much that she wrote and also how much of it I cannot recall having read.
I have both of these features – historical note and place names – to look forward to in The Capricorn Bracelet, but sadly no map.
3. The sense of time passing, of generations and of places and objects linking families through generations
The story maps of the books, characters and places overlap in ways that make her Roman and post Roman landscapes more convincing.
In the case of The Capricorn Bracelet, the title names the object that connects the series of short stories (originally radio plays) that span AD 61 to the Roman Legions leaving Britain AD 383.
In the Eagle of The Ninth trilogy, it is a family dolphin signet ring and tattoo that transcends the generations. This seems to become the motif of Rosemary’s signature seen here and on the back of her autobiography.
The equivalent now would be a family story connected by an object stretching back into the 18th Century or forward into the 24th Century.
So happy centenary birthday Rosemary Sutcliff for 14 December 2020!
Some Roman Recommendations
Update: Penguin appear to have some more Sutcliff titles in print
There are some great Roman sites to visit in Britain to get down to Roman floor level such as Roman Bath (good AV, models and living interpreters) but also small settlements such as Ambleside Roman Fort (English Heritage, free) and the beautifully preserved mosaic floors of the tiny family run Bignor Roman Villa in Sussex.
For further Roman reading, I also recommend the Marcus Didius Falco Roman detective books by Lindsey Davis (serialised / dramatised and available sometimes on the BBC radio and coming to TV soon) and Robert Harris’ Pompeii.
These aren’t Pound Store figures that I have converted but I picked them up about 15 years ago or more. They had been knocking around in the odds box and the toy soldier sandpit tins when younger members of the family were visiting. They are if I recall correctly A Call to Arms ACTA figures.
I thought mixing these in with the Elizabethan Cornish rabble that I made from cheap plastic knights would dilute the cost of putting together the local Muster and a Trained Band response to the Spanish Invasion of the 1580s and 90s.
The Armada Osprey book that I have shows the Tudor Elizabethan figures of the London Trained Bands with splendid, almost Diddymen tall bowler type hats, a fashion thankfully gone by the ECW.
Rather than adding this strange fashion accessory, I kept the original flat hats after a few failed experiments with straws and pencils with pencil eraser tips.
Keeping the original hats etc means that these lovely figures could have a duel use in English Civil War games. A quick flick through my old Stuart Asquith The New Model Army Osprey book (an unusual request for a school prize book when I was about fourteen) reminded me of these later uniforms.
This Osprey book was my source for painting much of my Peter Laing 15mm ECW Armies. I also used to rely on the local branch library for the English Civil War Armies Osprey, no longer possible, so I added this to the Christmas books list.
The pikemen were little changed in 50 to 60 years from the Armada to the Civil War, likewise the big square flags and the matchlock figures with woollen hats.
Hopefully some of the Prince August chess pawn figures can add some odd standing musketeers and the Spanish Armada pawn moulds.
In terms of colour, I kept with a uniform Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Blue, almost union blue with light blue for sashes and feathers to represent Watchet Blue. Blue was the fairly standard colour across England for Levy troops and Trained Bands. The hats, britches and stockings were whatever the troops had of their own (or not), only the coat or cassock was standard issue.
I found a sort of flashback to Britain’s Deetail figures when painting the coats and armour simple blue, armour silver, simple bases sap or chrome green. This is the type of stylised look that John Yorio has gone for in his 54mm or Fight! Blog for many of his 19th Century colonials or WW2 figures, matching exiting Deetail ranges or creating in paint ranges that never existed.
However as befits keeping the prepainted ‘shiny toy soldier’ factory look of an earlier Britain’s age than Britain’s 1970s Deetail – that of the lead hollowcast figures – I added Toy Soldier faces with eyes, moustaches and pink cheek dots. This would match in with the other complimentary figure sets – my Muster or Rabble, my Spaniards.
Looking at YouTube clips of the film Elizabeth The Golden Age (Cate Blanchett) 2007 has some useful clips that give you an idea of the Pikemen, Artillery etc. From which I took a few reference screenshots.
I must watch / rewatch this film for some rabble rousing inspiration!