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 green) 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

Duelling in the Sandpit – Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust.

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One of my favourite simple ideas chapters in Solo Wargaming by Don Featherstone is called “Wargaming In Bed”.

Transposed to the garden wargame, maybe this should be called “Wargaming in the Flower Bed”?

Here in this chapter,  there are simple, mostly skirmish ideas, mostly for a few 54mm figures. There is  an interesting short section on the “Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust” duelling game invented by  Gerard Du Gre of the MGC (Model General’s Club) in America.

 

(Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust does sound like an odd bunch of solicitors or estate agents.)

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What I like about this card system is that it can be played solo or two handed.

It is almost a card version of “scissors paper stone”, a gaming system used for thousands of years and harnessed for a great caveman / tribal game many years ago in Miniature Wargames. Must look this one out for my Homecast Prince August cavemen!

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Playmobil  Nun defeats a glow in the dark Dracula in this unusual duel. 

A set of cards is prepared with one of the following actions on each.

  • Cut to Head
  • Parry and Lunge
  • Stop Thrust

I prepare a set of three cards for my hand, then a set of about thirty cards for my ‘opponent’ solo games.

Once you gave decided if you are attacker or defender (toss a coin for this), you can turn up the top card for your non-existent opponent’s choice of action at random. Return card to bottom of pile.

Alternatively, you can split the pack in half and play each figure as ‘random’, taking the top card blind from each pack for each figure.

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Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust:  Hit table from Gerard De Gre’s rules in John Curry’s reprint of Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming. 

Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust – Combat Points

For each successful hit, remove 1 point / counter from the number given.

Featherstone / Du Gre  gives 2 Combat Power points to light foot.

I usually   give 5 points to each of these  unarmoured swordsman to prolong the game.

Featherstone / Du Gre gives 2 Combat Power points to light foot. You can choose your own points table.

  • Light Foot – 2 points
  • Heavy Foot – 3 points
  • Mounted Knights 3 points plus 1 point for horse
  • Light Mounted (unarmoured) 2 points plus 1 point for horse.

In the case of Mounted men, the first hit is against their horse. When their horse is killed, the rider continues to fight on foot.

When all points have gone, this opponent is dead.

The winner can be given an additional point / counter.

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If you both choose or draw the same card, consult the separate hit deck. The cards either say Both Hit or Both Missed.

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To further randomise the opponents cards, I added in a couple of ducks and slips  (either being hit or missed) as chance cards.

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Captain Hook reached his last Combat Point and then draws this card – one dead Pirate captain. 

This is the closest I think I will get to card activation.

Points are kept by scoring pointers – pebbles on the beach, sweets, coins or in the sandpit example, some spare Tiger store flamingo cocktail sticks in homage to the other Don Featherstone.

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Playmobil Navy sailor versus the Kings Guard duelling in the sandpit over the cannon. 

Duelling in Angria and the Bronte books? 

There are lots of examples of the pistols or swords and six paces sort of thing in the Bronte juvenilia Imagi-Nations I have been following up on my Man of TIN blog. Most officer figures with many toy soldier sets had suitable swords.

This duelling card system an also be used to sort out Melee in an interesting way in Solo games and otherwise. Once troops are engaged, time stops whilst an individual skirmish is played out. Morale, Retreat or disengage cards could be added for variety.

Fantasy Gladiator type skirmishes are possible.

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The addition of life or hit points means that you can give a combat / defence / life points value to anything from a dinosaur to a mounted knight. Or even in the Heroscape box, a Mounted knight on a dinosaur …

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Pound Store plastics knights suitable for duelling and gladiator games. 

 

Quick Samurai version? 

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Heroscape Samurai figures against Heroscape hex tiles on my portable play board that can be taken out into the garden. 

I am slightly jealous of the attractive cherry blossom in the new Samurai Game Test of Honour featured in Tony’s Tin Soldiering On  blog,

http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/first-painted-samurai.html

although i think its mainly the cherry blossom and not the rules system. I remembered I had some ‘free’ Samurai swordsmen in the couple of  Heroscape starter sets which I bought for the hex tiles.

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This works equally well in the garden with appropriate Japanese plants like this lovely Acer (Japanese Maple).

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And the equivalent of Featherstone’s swoppet knights that  as a convalescing invalid he hopes to “Bribe a nurse or browbeat your wife into bringing to your bedside a couple of those plastic 54mm Swoppet armoured knights and position them at either end of the Bed table.”

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Lego Ninjago duelling Ninja Samurai type figures with suitable Lego shrine. 

Maybe suitable figures can be found in their modern equivalent Lego mini figures or Wilko bootleggo mini figures,  or pound store bags of knights or pirates.

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A wide range of periods and genres amongst these duelling Lego mini figures – musketeers, clansmen, gladiators, pirates and knights. 

Interchangeable weapons, heads , legs – Lego type minifigures are the modern version of Britain’s / Herald or Timpo type  Swoppets.

I even found Lego minifigure fencing figures and do by chance or blind bag luck own two fencers, but could only find one for the photograph.

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Somewhere I have Lego Star Wars and also metal figures of duelling Jedi figures with their lightsaber  laser swords – these rules would also work well for this!

Featherstone mentions that “Minor actions can be fought: half a dozen Airfix men can try to capture a Bellona pillbox manned by a German machine gun team”. Well, having seen handmade trench raid weapons in museums and visited trenches like Dixmuide the Trench of Death on the Yser in Belgium, I can see that  a World War trench raid is about as close to medieval foot combat as you can get, especially in the dark.

Not sure, having researched my village war memorial, if  a trench raid is a bit too close historically to have the gloss or romance of history and fiction that makes pirate sword fighting or duelling an enjoyable card activated game  though …

Airfix OO/HO sets like Robin Hodd / Sheriff also feature lots of swordsmen or men with quarterstaffs suitable for the Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust card game.

Pound store or seaside store pirates have useful duelling 54mm pirate swords men. These proved good fun to try out these rules in a recent family visit to the beach, though the cards get as soggy at the edges as you can see in the sandpit. Sandcastles have to be built and defended!

More elaborate and attractive laminated /sticky back plastic game cards could be made that would last longer in the garden or on the beach.

Jousting rules are also included in this chapter “Wargaming In Bed” in Solo Wargaming by Donald Featherstone but that’s one for another blogpost.

And finally … who was Gerard De Gre of the Model Generals Club who invented these Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust rules?

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/wargamer-of-month-professor-gerard-de.html

Bob Cordery in Wargaming Miscellany tracked down more information about him:

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/gerard-de-gre-lost-pioneer.html

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/table-top-battles-early-edition_17.html

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/table-top-battles-early-edition.html

http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=159835

It appears that he was born in 1915 and he died in 1987.

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Crossing the millienia – when the Royal Navy fought Romans! 
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Duelling lady pirates 
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Early stages of setting up the garden sand pit (sand Table!) with seaside castle above the harbour. Coins as combat  point counters were quickly replaced by pink flamingo cocktail sticks, easier to find in the sand! 

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, April 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumb Soldiers: The Past and Future of Garden Wargames?

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My Garden War (Games) Correspondent – great 80mm Prepainted Papo ranger figure (with aquarium castle in distance) 2016 

Knee pads out, the summer is on its way. The sun is shining. I can look back towards the garden games of last year and plan those for this year.

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

I have just bought a new set of “Moss Green”  Kneelo knee pads from garden suppliers  Burgon and Ball. At £15,  these really are the business (or the bees knees?)

https://www.burgonandball.com/shop/scripts/prodList.asp?idcategory=156

I tested these out today in the sunshine on a duel game in my ground level sand table (also known as the sandpit) using Gerard Du Gre’s Duelling rules Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust  reproduced in ‘Wargaming in Bed’ –  my favourite simple ideas chapter of Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming (recently reprinted by John Curry). More about these duelling games in another post.

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80mm Pirates of The Caribbean female action figure  (£1 bag charity shop bag find)  versus Papo peg-leg pirate duelling in the sand pit – more in a future blogpost. Flamingo score points markers and palm trees – £1 bag Tiger.com stores cocktail sticks 

I was delighted to see an article on Garden Wargaming by Conrad Kinch in the most recent edition of Miniature Wargames 408, April 2017 Issue. It was enough to persuade me to buy the magazine.

The lack of coverage of Garden Wargaming is one thing I have been thinking about over the past year, especially  as it turns again towards warmer weather.

Lovely to hear from fellow blogger Alan the ‘Tradgardmastre’ on my comments page about a recent Garden Wargames post https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

I really enjoyed the garden wargames in the last post (14 September 2016)

Many a plastic fellow was lost in the trenches of my garden in the 1960s,many of whom had come free in Kellogg’s packets.

We had two tiers to our back garden separated by steep steps flanked on each side by a rockery. The bottom tier was where the trenches lay. The plastic soldiers would sometimes ascend the rockery and get lost amongst the summer snow ( white cascading plant) covering much of the rockery.

Comment from Alan, Tradgardmastre blog 

Alan wins my “Best Garden Wargames Pun 2017” award for registering a blog page name for future posts about Garden Wargames called  “By the Sward Divided“.

In keeping with the pound store plastic theme, this award medal for Alan should be shiny gold plastic and inscribed “Made in China”.

If you don’t instantly get the pun, there was a colourful but clunky BBC TV drama produced in Britain in the 1980s  called “By The Sword Divided” about the English Civil War. This was around the time (and possibly the reason why) I started collecting Peter Laing’s 15mm  English Civil War figures.

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One of my  outdoor three man patrols – Pirated BMC seaside pound store 54mm US marines

We must all have those early memories of ‘Lost Legions’ in the garden rockery and sandpit.

You must also be of a certain age to remember the free plastic figures in cereal packets that Alan mentions. Most of my cereal box figures handed down by family members were red guards and bandsmen, still in use in my 54mm games.

Alan’s comments about trenches and lost figures also remind me of an interesting poem in The Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the Yallobelly Times (described in Stevenson At Play) and other gaming inspired bits of writing.

The Dumb Soldier Lost and Found 

I was reminded of the lost and found figure on Tony’s Tin Soldiering On blogpost, a homecast lead figure http://tonystoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/lost-and-found.html

I have in my collection a equally battered and soil stained WW2 figure of this type found and sold by someone in the Bristol area.

One of RLS Robert Louis Stevenson’ poems is about a lost soldier (or a one man version of my three man patrol thing), a poem called The Dumb Soldier

http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/stevenson/dumb_soldier.html

The Dumb Soldier

When the grass was closely mown,
Walking on the lawn alone,
In the turf a hole I found
And hid a soldier underground.

Spring and daisies came apace;
Grasses hide my hiding place;
Grasses run like a green sea
O’er the lawn up to my knee.

Under grass alone he lies,
Looking up with leaden eyes,
Scarlet coat and pointed gun,
To the stars and to the sun.

When the grass is ripe like grain,
When the scythe is stoned again,
When the lawn is shaven clear,
Then my hole shall reappear.

I shall find him, never fear,
I shall find my grenadier;
But for all that’s gone and come,
I shall find my soldier dumb.

He has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if he could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.

He has seen the starry hours
And the springing of the flowers;
And the fairy things that pass
In the forests of the grass.

In the silence he has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O’er him as he lay alone.

Not a word will he disclose,
Not a word of all he knows.
I must lay him on the shelf,
And make up the tale myself.

RLS Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses

Maybe these figures were lost during childhood games or  maybe this RLS poem encouraged children to try this hide and seek mission. From which deep cover they never returned until recently …

I have only ever been lucky enough to  find modern plastic figures on the beach:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/lost-legions-1-fighting-on-the-beaches/

Why So Little Garden War Games Coverage?

I am quite puzzled why there are so few “garden wargames” blogs or blogposts out there and posted a thread about this on Mike Lewis’  Little Wars Revisited 54mm figure gaming forum http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net

http://littlewarsrevisited.boards.net/thread/28/little-outdoor-garden-wargames-coverage

The various responses suggested it may be because of:

1. the indifferent and unpredicatable weather

2. the lack of garden space or being overlooked. Would I crawl round at ground level where the neighbours can see? Or less overlooked in the back garden?

3. What Elvis McGonagall called  “He fights them on the beaches / He fights them on the seas / He fights them on the carpet / Despite his creaky knees” in his Soldiering On poem. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/03/soldiering-on-wargames-poem-by-elvis-mcgonagall-2007/

4. 54mm is a marginal scale in gaming anyway, therefore less coverage.

5. Cat poo.

5. Gaming  in the local park has its associated problems.

The rebirth of H.G. Wells type gaming was celebrated or covered in a recent Miniature Wargames magazine  article “Little Wars Commemorated” (Issue 402)

I wonder if Garden Railroaders or Garden Railway enthusiasts would get the same reaction? They even have their own magazines including Garden Rail published by the same group as Miniature Wargames.

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John Ruddles’ wargamers garden – image taken courtesy from Wargaming Miscellany / Vintage Wargaming blogs.

The Future Solution? 🙂

We are currently redesigning our small garden for all the family and the local wildlife, not forgetting garden games. For now it will be knee pads on.

Maybe as we all get older and our collective wargamer’s knee problems develop with age, we can adapt the idea of those “raised bed gardens” for the aged or disabled gardener into chair height islands.

Boats and planes could be mounted on stands to travel amongst the ‘islands’.

Could this be the future for Garden Wargames and ageing garden wargamers?

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The perfect way to build in a John Ruddle style Wargames garden at accessible height?

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/garden-wargames-1/

Tell your neighbours, if you must, that it’s a disabled accessible model village. That covers the “shame or chutzpah?” issue of being overlooked or literally looked down on by the neighbours, raised in the garden wargames questions and answers on the 54mm forum Little Wars Revisited.

Plenty of ideas on how to make your own raised beds in your garden / yarden: http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/18-easy-to-make-diy-raised-garden-beds/

http://www.livinggreenandfrugally.com/easy-access-raised-garden-bed/

http://www.carryongardening.org.uk/files/documents/how%20to%20build%20raised%20beds%20final_nov08.pdf

http://gardeningfordisabledtrust.org.uk/the-garden-club/picture-galleries/gallery-raised-beds-and-borders/

The alternative: mess tables and Astroturf. The Australian Colliectors of Toy  Soldiers (ACOTS) seem to do this mess table thing outside well for the impressive games shown on Quantrills Toy Soldiers blogsite: http://quantrillstoysoldiers.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/acots-2017.html

More from the (garden) war (games) correspondent over the next few months till rain and cold stop play again.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 23 April 2017. Happy St George’s Day!

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Ambush at Bottom Step … Papo 80mm prepainted cowboys. This bandy leg pose also helps them sit on horses. 

Pound Store US Marines

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A seaside gift shop was the source of 6 boxes of these figures at 50p a box. The flimsy boxes have a curious ‘military’ land mine or Lewis Gun magazine look to them.

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50p well spent? 

They are China copies of BMC US Marines from WW2 with a few of their Japanese lying down figures thrown in.

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Well animated officer and radioman figures.
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I like the animation on these as well as all the backpack and equipment. 
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Slightly distorted moulding in the face but a nicely animated figure with grenade.
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A slightly wobbly Marine 
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Flamethrower man or candidate for the space marines? 
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An almost statuesque figure lying down to reload. 
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The left and right figures I think are originally Japanese troops. 

These figures will probably not end up khaki or green; I shall see what they look like in more colourful Imagi-nations garb. Redcoats? Blue coats? Army Red, Army Blue. With all the haversack, entrenching tools and ammunition pouches they could make interesting steampunked 19th century figures.

At the time of buying I had no idea whose figures they were or how old they were.

Like many pound store figures, they are of Chinese manufacture.

Subsequent web research shows these Dan Hai Military Assault figures are China copies of US Marines made by the US firm of BMC for their Iwo Jima set, a playset not available in the shops in the UK.

https://victorybuy.com/collections/bmc-toys/era_world-war-2

The original figures were produced for BMC Toys, founded by Bill McMaster in 1991. Bill passed away in 2014 but the line is to be produced again in the USA by Victorybuy.com

I sometimes wonder whether ‘pirate’ or pound store copy figures do the original manufacturers out of sales or a living?

To be fair, many of them are fairly distorted compared to the originals and some of these originals are no longer available such as the Matchbox figures (and for many years Airfix). It’s almost like buying a jumble of second hand figures.

I think pound store figures are pitched at a different ‘pocket money’ market from those who will spend the amount that the venerable  Airfix  figures now cost for example, new or vintage.

A useful set of figures and overall £3 well spent for 6 boxes at 50p each. This amounted to 144 figures for £3, on average 24 figures a box and each costing around tuppence (2p).  A high street coffee is sometimes more expensive than this whole haul!

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Posted by Man of TIN.