I am quite pleased with how my Desert Warrior conversions from Poundland penny soldiers (£1 for a tub or bag of 100) are shaping up so far.
Several coats of white paint were required on the kitchen roll and PVA glue or the better alternative of tissue paper and PVA.
For a penny each these 36mm plastic figures have lots of conversion potential although I have yet to try splicing one body onto another. It is quite hard plastic compared to Airfix figures.
I enjoyed adding the brass or copper strips on the long barrels on the rifles or jezails of these hill and desert warriors.
Desert or mountain rocky sandy base was in fact the base painted with flesh tint artists’ acrylic then quickly dipped in a small box of red Devon beach sand, collected on a recent seaside trip.
I tried a very very weak or thin umber wash of acrylic to bring out the folds and shadows of the white desert robes, without losing the toy soldier look.
The warriors are not based on any one tribe – they are part Mahdist, part Desert or Bedouin type ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ Arab Warrior and part Pathan North West Frontier hill tribe. They are destined for fighting in the distant deserts of Farica or Generica.
Donald Featherstone was one inspiration for these figures, shown in my Man of TIN blog:
My other inspiration for these desert warriors, apart from Featherstone’s tribesmen in SoloWargaming, was an early 1970s childhood Ladybird book, Soldiers by John West and illustrated by Frank Humphris.
The page on tribal warriors was pretty useful – I like the surprising 1970s Ladybird equality sentiment about:
Soldiers of other lands
“Not all soldiers had regimental uniforms.
They were fighting men too.
They were just as brave.”
The long rifles of the oddly moulded or copied original pound store modern troops suggested details or conversion possibilities like a long Jezail type musket. Their bulky head gear or helmet looked oddly like a turban or the head scarf of a late 19th Century desert or hill tribesman.
I need to run up two of three dozen more of these conversions for a suitable skirmish encounter. Then I need to make some suitable red or khaki Colonial infantry as opponents.
I have started work on some trial Colonial infantry figures such as this rough unfinished Redcoat engineer or signaller with a heliograph, crudely converted from a modern machine gunner. Kneeling artillery gunners are another conversion possibility for this figure. Still some work to do on the heliograph.
I look forward to trying some other tribesmen variations, more Pathan or more Mahdist, some more colourfully robed Airfix type Bedouin of Desert warriors, even a mysterious tribe of black cloaked Desert Warriors.
All for a penny each …
B.P. S. Blog Post Script
I shall come back in another blogpost to this handy little 1970s Ladybird book Soldiers and its simple clear view of history and occasional sentiments about the waste of war.
An online purchase last year from a vintage ex-shop stock supplier, at first I thought these were 54mm pirate copies. In fact they turned out to be OO/HO.
I was not disappointed as this meant I had some OO/HO copies of the larger Airfix Japanese Infantry to play with, pirated and pantographed down in size from 1:32.
These were pretty ropey, poor quality copies with extra flash and badly moulded weapons. Perfect for conversion then! Four bags full …
Because of the unusual nature of these Airfix Japanese figures in a small scale, I think that they are worth trimming free of flash and painting up as an Imagi-Nations army unit.
Hopefully I will be able to create some interesting new OO/HO figures for the American Civil War or for an Imagi-Nations army, such as I have done with the original 1:32 Airfix Japanese Infantry that I have repainted here.
These Pippin fort figures were previously shown at my Man of TIN blog in June 2016 (link below here) and would feature well in the employ of any late 18th or 19th Century Imagi-Nation:
This year some other shops were smaller or semi-closed for retirement. A few less suppliers of plastic tat …
No doubt when the current crop of pound store figures disappear from the shops I will regret not stockpiling more of them on the pound store plastic mountain.
I was surprised to see Cowboys and Indians (or Native Americans) retitled “Western Adventure” but these were (similar to) sets that I already have stockpiled for a rainy day from several years back.
I bought several sets about 5 or 6 years ago more for the useful slightly below scale waggon and useful Britain’s lead style plastic palm trees than the pirate ‘China made’ clones of the Airfix Cowboy and Indian figures.
What was inside was well worth the £2 it cost a few years ago. A good starter pack for an imaginative child of any age!
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 8 September 2017
“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.
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.
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.
Blog? Websites? Internet? Surprisingly this 1983 Wargames Manual did mention the word “Computer” on the cover and listed “machine gaming” amongst the articles.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Here to conclude is the whole article by Brian Carrick, reprinted with his permission:
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.”
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
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.