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

Wilko Heroes

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Delightful 40mm-ish charging toy soldier style plastic pound store figure from Wilko Heroes range.  

A welcome Christmas gift, two bags of Wilko Heroes, which are currently not available in (my local) store and were found recently on an online auction site.

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Amongst the often strangely elongated plastic figures was an interesting charging figure which has a real old fashioned toy soldier feel to the pose.

Only about five of these charging soldiers are included per bag of fifty.

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This Wilko Heroes charging figure has echoes of earlier 54mm lead toy soldiers such as this repainted Britains Japanese Infantry on the left and Johillco figure on the right. 

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The strangely elongated and tall Wilko Heroes – some familiar pound store poses. All around about 35 to 40 / 45 mm. 

These are well worth picking up for the charging figures alone if you ever see them, even if you don’t keep all of the other figures.

Being ‘Made in China’ pound store figures, their supply is usually very erratic but they might return again to the shelves of a pound store somewhere.

Posted by Mark, Man of TIN on the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, December 2016.

Garden Wargames # 1

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Not quite got (permission for) this John Ruddle setup in my family garden – yet.

 

 

 

 

A large part of my childhood was spent on my knees.

No, this is not as pious or religious as it would have sounded in Victorian times. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the floor, lawn and flowerbeds in epic battles with tiny men.

When I first saw John Boorman’s WW2 childhood autobiography film Hope and Glory, I immediately identified with the opening scene when war is declared over the radio on that first Sunday of the war. The young boy / Boorman is at lawn and flowerbed level, playing with a tiny Britain’s style metal knight and an odd wizard figure (a filmic nod to Boorman’s Excalibur movie?) as the Sunday lawn mowers stop and the radios are switched on for Chamberlain’s speech. It’s that playing with real plants and pretend characters, the play with scales, which says something about the make-believe between acting, film making and playing with colourful toy soldiers (which remains the heart of our hobby).

From tiny Airfix HO/OO  (or 1:72/76) which were really too tiny for outdoor use (many of them went ‘missing in action’ and perished  in the pile of builder’s sand in the garden that passed for our sandpit or sand table) to the much more practical 54mm plastic figures (or 1:32) that could stay out at night, throughout the week and resume action next weekend or the next spare teatime or evening.

I can recall parts of my childhood garden in tiny texture and colour detail inch by inch. More than I can the house, my schooldays or many people.

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I can still recall in great detail these childhood  flowerbed jungles, open grassland airstrips, rocky cliff steps to the right and useful path (airstrip, road, town). A pond (river / lake) lurked amongst the top flowerbed area. (Photo:Man of TIN)

If I obeyed the rules, Knights, Soldiers, Cowboys were welcome.

Simple rules: Keep them clear from blocking paths, not left out on any lawn that was to be mown (death by flymow didn’t just happen to tortoises in the 1970s) and above all, not to damage any plants.

Other than this,  I pretty much had free rein to invade the flowerbeds, rockeries and wilder more overgrown areas of our thin uphill sloping  back garden.

Rocks, twigs and stones, collected but not broken off, were all useful for making tiny camps and fortifications.

Flowerbeds were forests and jungles. Lawns were seas  between flowerbeds and rockery cliffs. Or open fields, airstrips … Whatever game life your current figures and imagination breathed into them.

Oddly it’s a habit that has never gone away. Following my late dad’s playful instructions, you should always  post a three man patrol out in the garden equipped with a radio (radioman were often scarce plastic figures) or signalman, depending on the period. I still do.

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Three Man Garden patrol from pound store plastic warriors (pirates of BMC figures?) – officer, radioman and heavy firepower.

The radio or signalman is so that they can contact back to base and summon up air strikes, rescue and reinforcements depending on period. Ideally you should have another patrol elsewhere within flag, beacon or radio range either indoor or outdoor to pick up this intelligence and reconnaissance info.

Don’t forget to change patrols over regularly otherwise they get sleepy and inefficient. Rest in billets required!

Alongside the radio man, ideally you should have some kind of patrol leader or officer with binoculars. They can then observe all possible troop and wildlife movements, hostile natives, cats, snails etc. This was probably a tiny toy soldier precursor of today’s BBC Spring Watch or the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?

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My portable three man patrol and their travelling box.

When I am away travelling, I still have a tiny wooden box with a three man garden patrol  that often goes with me, just to keep me in touch with the (tiniest) folks at home.

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One on the left: “I cannot tell a lie. It was him over there”. A sort of travelling bunker for the three man patrol …

What is it about garden wargames?

Is is it the texture and smell of real mud and wet that makes this garden patrol and Yarden / garden gaming thing an attractive memory and occasional current pastime?

Is it the heady effects of the free burst of Vitamin D from the sun on your skin?

Is it the not quite having to grow up and have a ‘sensible’ garden?

Is that the same attraction of the more complicated process of running a garden railway or creating a model village with its dwarf plants, deadly ponds and the interplay with scale and reality?

Is it that Borrowers tiny people thing who are really alive and tweeting when you are not looking?

Who knows, but despite the older I get and the creakier the knees (maybe knee pads would convince people I really was sensibly gardening), the attraction and the wonder still lurks out there – under a bush, behind a stone – playing at toy soldiers down at ground level in the mud.

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Cowboy Ambush! Schleich, Bullyland, Safari and Papo prepainted 60+mm figures aren’t cheap at £5 a pop but they are fantastic for hate. Games  There are plenty of cheaper versions out there, big enough not to lose on the beach or in the garden. More on these in another blog post …

Garden or Yarden Rules 

You can pretty much use any game rules in the garden, scaled up to your figure size. I use scaled up period versions of my Close Little Wars rules (my version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix to his 1962 War Games):

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/close-little-wars-featherstones-simplest-rules/

H.G. Wells’ Little Wars are another choice, recently republished by John Curry or available scanned online: https://archive.org/details/littlewarsgamefo00well

Track down the Funny Little Wars rules and forums or Tim Gow’s Little Cold Wars rules (below).

Alternatively, head for the Sheil’s Sandpit Rules for pound store figures in many period variations beginning at:  http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/wargame1.htm

Interesting garden wargame links:

More inspiring pictures of John Ruddle’s garden wargame here: http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/john-ruddle-and-garden-wargame.html

http://wargamingmiscellany.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/more-about-john-ruddle-and-garden.html

http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/unidentified-john-ruddle-article.html

Some interesting modern games out in the garden:

Tim Gow and his Little Cold Wars garden games http://megablitzandmore.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/little-cold-wars-published.html

The lovely Shandyesque garden siege game:

http://shandyandvauban.blogspot.co.uk

The Wargames Hermit John Patriquin’s blog:

http://wargamehermit.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/garden-wargaming-with-30mm-sae-figures.html

The Playmobil version:

http://www.gardenwargaming.com/intro/intro.html

The extraordinary Peter’s War setup: http://peterswar.com

Notice the very practical ground or base lawn spike seen here on Orun’s blog:

https://orun.wordpress.com/category/garden-wargaming/

and overall I blame H.G. Wells for starting it all.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22777029

Lots more garden gaming riches out there to find!

Happy gaming outside in the garden / Yarden (when the British or wherever weather allows!)

Posted by Man of TIN, 1 September 2016.

 

 

 

Plastic Space Figures

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Around 54mm or 1:32 scale  plastic space figure back view of equipment.

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Plastic space figures on a fluffy white felt planet and Donald Featherstone War Games 1962 hardback black galaxy background (the nearest black thing to hand). Photo / figures: Man of TIN

 

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Some strange slightly furry planet …

Posted by Mr MIN Man of TIN blog, 1st September 2016

Pound Store Plastic Warriors previous blog links

imageThere are lots of interesting pound store plastic figures on previous blogposts on my other gaming blog, the Man of TIN blog:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/pound-store-wars/

Unusual  Conversion plans for pound store figures

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/pound-store-possible-warriors-1/

Pound Store Firefighters

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/pound-store-firefighters/

Pound Store Police

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/13/this-is-the-pound-store-police/

More police and firefighters – or space warriors, revolutionaries …

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/more-poundstore-warriors/

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Smaller plastic figures (100 by the £1 bag!)

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

A quick wash before brush up …

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/spa-treatments-for-toy-soldiers/

Imagi-nations figures …

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

Gilt finish on pound store plastic figures

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/17/gilt-finish-terracotta-warrior/

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/26/home-cast-antique-and-gilt-paint-finishes/

More ideas for old toy soldier paint finishes on Pound store plastics:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/charbens-us-army-men/

You’ll even find pound store accessories like palm trees!

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/05/poundstore-palm-trees/

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.

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This is the Pound Store Police!

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

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One of the joys of charity shop ‘lucky bags’ of plastic toys are the odd ones out.

This is where these great policeman and policewoman figures came from, possibly accompanying a vehicle set?

These could be repainted in lots of interesting ways – as police or as space police? The man has a “Dan Dare Pilot of the Future” look to him.

No maker’s marks on them.

Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.

Pound Store Pirate’s Moll

This is the excerpt for a placeholder post.

 

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This scary looking female comes in a set of cheap painted pirates often found in toy stores and seaside shops.

She comes with some interesting protection tucked away in her hands behind her!

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This female figure could be repainted in a variety of ways to suit different periods from  17th Century pirates to Wild West and even Gothic, fantasy, vampires, steampunk and Sci-Fi scenarios.

Civilian or female figures are often hard to find in pound store plastics.

I have repainted the base colour on her face as she had some strange gothic black eye paint in her factory original paint state.

Posted by Mr. MIN, Man of TIN, September 2016.