This charity shop find of a couple of dozen bashed figures came to me as a gift from family.
I imagine they are the ragtag odd mixed bag of someone’s small army. Enough to make two small army squads of red-brown / tan versus everyone else?
They are obviously battle scarred and playworn veterans!
I found these figures interesting as they are mostly copies of Airfix and Matchbox figures. As they have slowly being copied (in Hong Kong / China?) over the last forty plus years, they have slowly shrunk and changed into different figures.
Not a maker’s mark among them either.
Airfix Eighth Army figures are 40mm – 50mm
In the same mixed parcel was other Matchbox copies and a couple of small but slightly larger Airfix copies, shown next to the smaller cousin. I have included the sole probably genuine Airfix figure, the 54mm German submachine-gunner figure for scale.
These bashed and limbless Matchbox copies were around in seaside pound shops c.2007 and still seem to emerge from time to time, getting thinner and more brittle (hence the missing limbs?)
These limbs and weapons might need a little repairing.
These white copies of Airfix German Infantry are slowly changing into squat Generic Infantry. The distinctive “coal scuttle” stalheim helmet is changing, becoming oddly more British or American.
The lying down figure who used to feed the Light Machine Gun is now a distinct figure in its own right, the magazine box in the right hand for the LMG has morphed into a very strange object in its own right.
The officer figure is getting shorter and squatter but still full of character!
Some nice modern American troops and Officer, one or two a bit bashed.
These look like TimMee / BMC / Toy Story sort of stuff. I like the baggy clothes and helmet covers.
The other figures are a curiously mixed bunch of figures and sizes, again with the 54mm Airfix German for size comparison.
Some Matchbox American Infantry copies in two different sizes and colours, and a few of those modern US Infantry / Rambo types.
Lining them up in height order from 54mm Airfix at the right shows how they have shrunk and thinned down over the years of copying.
Last but not least, one of those handy Khaki figures that could be a modern desert warrior, Special Forces / SWAT team or space marine.
Nothing much new in the online Pound stores this year? 2020/21
What with ongoing Covid restrictions I have only been into pound stores a couple of times on the high street only for ‘target: toy section’ for a minute or two.
And visits to charity shops, jumble, steam fairs, junk markets? None.
This paucity and Covid drought of penny dreadfuls and plastic tat has been relieved partly by some kind donationsfrom blog readers of old unwanted Airfix figures, some great samples of Hing Fat 54mm figures from Peter Evans and also from strategic reserves laid down in the past.
These strategic reserves are laid down according to my Pound Store Plastic Warrior wise hoarding maxims –
1. “Buy them when you see them, they’re sometimes only around for a short while”
2. “They’re only a pound”.
3. “You may not need them now, but in the future …”
2020/21 saw a couple of games using Pound Store plastics ranging from snowballing fights of Yukigassen in August …
To an RLS “Land of Counterpane” game in April on an old squared blanket …
Some curious Pound Store conversions, padding out the more expensive Chintoys plastics or old lead …
October 2020 onwards: My Arma-Dad’s Army Elizabethan muster or militia Home Guard 1588 1595 slowly builds using Pound Store knights
This of course having Spanish Fury Conquistadors and Armada troops means Aztec types are a natural match or extension (Peter Laing style ‘dual use figures’ )
With found cheap scenery from scrap … inscribed stones, temple steps, obelisks …
The Super Cheap Wargaming group on Facebook has been good for such affordable scrap terrain ideas as well.
Sometimes my Pound Store Plastic Warriors posts crossposted material or projects from my Man of TIN blog (main blog) or linked to these including:
Fembraury – The new BMC Plastic Army Women becoming Women’s Revolutionary Army of Parazuellia, part of the 1960s Morecambe and Wise comedy film The Magnificent Two whose other government and rebel troops will be padded out with Pound Store GI copies …
January 2021 – Scrap modelling Edwardian style with E Nesbit’s Wings and the Child on the building of Magic Cities
and January also involved archive history research to identify more about H.G. Wells’ connections, family and friends involved in playing his Floor Games and Little Wars c. 1911-13. Well our Pound Store Plastic Warriors strapline is “Little Wars on A Budget”.
Who knows where 2021 and 2022 will lead us?
Thanks for reading and following.
Blog posted on my Fifth Blogaversary 13 September 2021
**** Delayed post from late May / early June 2021 ***** shelfie photo *****
I had to go into town for a medical appointment on a quiet day at the end of May 2021. With a few minutes to spare, feeling more Covid secure after two jabs, and masked up, I checked out my local poundstores for the first time in over a year.
In Wilko there were no Lego compatible blocks, block ‘pick and mix’ and no toys to be seen. Maybe nothing until Christmas …
However Poundland, wonderful Poundland, had these “penny dreadfuls” (as some unkindly call them) back on sale at a penny each in bags but tubs as before.
Check the shop label: 100PCS – £1 – 1.00p each
That is affordable gaming – and two colours / forces per bag!
Faces, boots, snowy white on bases were painted then stuck on Warbases MDF 2p size bases. A tiny number written on the back and base help identify figures, add names etc. in game scenarios.
As you can see, the grenade is now a snowball, thanks to a blob of some gloss white paint.
I dug out my draft snowball fight rules “Packing Sugar at Freddie” that Alan (Duchy of Tradgardland) Gruber and I have been developing on and off as a non-lethal war game, akin to Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop.
Short of time before the dining table was needed again, I quickly set up a quick scatter of white stones, white foam packaging and Christmas fir trees on a white felt gaming cloth and tablecloth.
A quick sketch of rules.
Movement is one lolly stick, half uphill. Some areas (cling film) ice is impassable.
Snowball ammunition unlimited. IGOYUGO roll d6 for each team, highest score moves first, second team next, first team shoots (throws), second team throws.
No melee, no morale, no savings throws.
Long range of three lolly sticks, hit on target on 6 on a d6
Medium range of two lolly sticks, hit on target on a 5 or 6.
Close range of one lolly stick or less, hit on target on a 4,5 or 6.
If target undercover, deduct 1 from d6 score.
Two hits means that the target figure must head (without further firing) straight away each turn towards Camp HQ to the east. Once reached, the umpire can restore the figure to ‘life’ after two turns and they can enter the game again.
Scenario and rules are explained in more detail here:
To the east is the Game HQ with umpires and observers from the local scout troop.
To the south is the Blue team base.
To the east and west are other snowball fight teams of different colours – green, red and tan – to watch the snowball fight game.
The Aim of the game / Victory Conditions
‘Capture the Flag’ style, each team must steal the rival team’s flag (barrel) from their base and return it to their own camp, without losing their own flag (barrel) from their own base.
A small bear cub wanders through the snowscape past the central snowman.
A wall heater gets disguised as a distant snow ridge with Christmas trees.
Things started to wrong for the Blue team quite quickly, leading to them either falling back South to protect their ‘flag’ end area or heading East to be restored to gaming life.
Black team are now within long range snowball distance of the Blue team camp.
Each successful snowball hit is marked by a gemstone on the base, then when reaching two hits, the figure’s game life is lost.
A metal washer or silver tape ring is used to mark those figures who have lost their ‘game life’ and are heading straight for the Game HQ to the east. Here the umpire can restore a figure to fresh game life and head back onto the table after two turns.
Movement is restricted, interrupted and shaped using logs, trees, impassable ice (marked out by gems and polythene cling film) and snow hills
Very quickly, most of the Blue team seemed to be ‘heading east’, twice hit by snowballs so temporarily out of the game and unable to fire, until their game lives can be restored by the Umpire to the east.
The Blue team’s ‘flag’ (barrel) is captured and would quickly be taken unopposed back to the Black team’s camp, so the Umpire declares this a Black team win and game is over.
‘Home’ and time for tea …
What I liked about this quick game
It could all be made very cheaply using Pound Store soldiers in grenade throwing and other poses, along with terrain of cheap Christmas fir trees, snow hills from foam packaging and other found objects such as logs on a white cloth.
I played this game solo and the dining table being in a busy area of the house with distractions, I often forgot what or who was moving or shooting at times. A simple Turn Counter would solve this.
I couldn’t find my bag of small metal washers to mark hits on figures, so quickly made some silver rings from silver present tape. The two gems as hit markers often get mixed up and left behind. I have now ordered some small clear plastic Roman blind or curtain rings for the next game.
Two hits happened very quickly to many figures, especially at close range; with no savings throws, many figures were soon heading east to the Game HQ to have a gaming life restored. A higher number of hits is perhaps needed before the game life is lost?
Anyway, a good fast fun game. Why not have a go with some suitable figures and some old Christmas stuff?
As a pound store trash puppy (not a trash panda – that’s a raccoon), I keep an eye out for the changing packaging of the sort of pocket money cheap toy soldiers I collect and convert on this – the Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog.
With non essential retail closed during Lockdown, I keep an eye out online.
Battle Squadron were the branding c. 2016-2019 before Poundland stocked the same figures repackaged as ” Cyber Combat Alien Defence Force”.
This battle sandpit illustration seems to have been redone from the Poundland runs or buckets of such troops, ones that I bought in early 2017 before the old pound coins were called in. Poundland cleverly continuing to take the old coins for longer than most.
I like the green flag with white line outline star. Each pack inside through appears to have one or two flags of the WW2 and postwar super powers – usually Germany, America, Britain, sometimes Russia. Oddly not China!
As a child I would have been a bit miffed with the depiction of typical plastic playset helicopters, tanks, walls etc on the packaging but then finding only figures and a flag inside.
Toy Buyer beware – not quite requiring the Trades Descriptions Act but always a little annoying. Was there ever a “Serving Suggestions” type get-out clause – “does not contain sand, walls or helicopter or nuts”?
On a practical play note the figure tub or stiff plastic ziplock pouch is a handy container for a child to keep these figures safe in, not as leaky as the old Airfix cardboard boxes.
A simpler header card version can also be found online (screenshot from EBay March 2021), packaged in the easily tearable plastic bag. Usual “elite forces” type illustration in an otherwise quite plain harder card. 100 such figures now
Available online on eBay but also for £2 plus P&P from Bovington Tank Museum
I like the Bovington Tank Museum online shop description of these figures which adds value to what others might see as disposable plastic: ” A classic toy … A timeless collection of figurines perfect for playtime. Each soldier comes equipped with his own battlefield kit and is moulded onto a solid base to stop them falling over in the middle of all the action.”
A reassuringly complete description that is, “classic … timeless … “each with his own battlefield kit”, like buying 100 tiny Action Men for £2, who don’t fall over and lose their “kit”.
Why I like toy soldier packaging
The 1960s and 1970s colourful cardboard header and Hong Kong contents are becoming more collectible and kitsch – eBay and Etsy are good place to go window shopping and take digital “shelfies” screenshots for reference. *
These header illustrations are the poor cousins of the Airfix kit or figure box illustrations but with a certain rough excitement to them, promising to show you the inside contents of your head and your play world to which these clone Hong Kong copies are a cheap portal.
After Blue Planet II on TV, plastic is becomingly increasingly demonised from an environmental point of view as cheap and therefore throwaway disposable. We are rightly told that we now need to reduce, recycle and revalue our use of plastic.
We had no such public awareness about SUP (Single Use Plastic) when I was a child, although it all had to pass the non ‘single use plastic’ throwaway / ignorable, easily breakable, five second wonder toy test. Toys had to have proper “Play Value!”, as my Mum and Dad would say to guide me away from the more transient, flimsy, seasonal topical breakable trash of the toy shop.
These cherished plastics from the 1970s are still on display at home and sometimes appear in battle on my Tabletop, handled carefully now as some of the plastics are getting a little brittle. Indeed this makes them MUP Multiple Use Plastic or LUP Use Plastic.
At least for now, this brittleness is not such a worry with the freshly moulded, rough and tumble ‘play tough’ pound store plastics of today’s sandpit and Floor Games.
Maybe this is a side effect of growing up in the late Sixties or Early Seventies without colour TV and few colour picture books in infancy?
* “Shelfies” are reference pictures you take in a store if you are not buying everything you see.
I am amateurishly straying into the more organised serious plastic collecting, packaging and referencing territory of Hugh Walter’s Small Scale World and the Plastic Warrior magazine team. Writ the collection larger, you become Robert Opie of the Packaging Museum and his wonderful Scrapbooks, showcasing by decade and era his fascinating collection of ephemera. Robert Opie is the brother of the toy soldier collector and author James Opie, son of the folklore and playground rhyme collectors Iona and Peter Opie.
Me? I just find the colourful packaging and hyperbolic language and illustrations of passing interest.
Although I researched the women who saw this happening, it appears to be mostly Edwardian men who would happily be found stretched out on Wells’ lawn or nursery floor, firing spring loaded cannon at lead toy soldiers. This sometimes, according to the tongue-in-cheek Wells, brought “disdain” from lady visitors who did not see the imaginative play going on at floor or garden level.
Some gamers of players with toy soldiers would say that not much has changed 100 years later if middle aged men are glimpsed crawling round their floor or garden in pursuit of toy soldiers. Or worse still, their front garden …
Gardens and floors seem a natural home for toy soldiers.
Ever since I was a small boy in the early 1970s, I have left toy soldier figures in the garden “on Patrol”, usually a three man Patrol Post or Observation Post OP tucked away in a flower bed or safe area, safely away from being dug up, trampled or mown down.
Each three man Patrol had the following usual figures:
One officer or someone with binoculars, armed
One radio man, armed (usually a bit of a scarcity per box in early Airfix or Matchbox)
One rifleman, SMG or LMG infantryman for Patrol protection
These were usually unpainted plastic 54mm figures. Sometimes these would be WW2 troops, sometimes Cowboys or Civil War figures (despite the lack of radios) and occasionally even knights.
Each of these 3 Man teams (in threes, like Lighthouse Keepers) had a way to communicate with each other or raise the alarm, some firepower to defend themselves and their OP and enough men to have at least one sleeping whilst others were on watch.
My late Dad took a slightly dim view if I left the same figures out on Patrol, neglected for weeks or months. It made sense. More regular changeovers of personnel kept the garden and these Patrol Posts tidier.
Usually in my childhood garden, a small stone base was made for the Patrol Posts with flat stone or slate walls, roof and floor base. Small palisades of wood or twig log piles completed the defence. Some kind of plastic stores box was usually included of “food” and “ammunition” such as Britain’s farm sacks or Airfix sandbags.
Inside the house up in my room would be the HQ team, such as the little travel box three man Patrol that I take away on holiday and travels – to keep in touch by radio with ‘home’ and teams in the field.
It’s odd but I still find that keeping the three man Patrol out there provides a calming link back to my childhood games, my late Dad’s vanished flower garden and our shared playful interest in toy soldiers.
I liked the Borrowers scale thing, the threat of giant garden wildlife like snails and other minibeasts, the military birdwatching. RLS’ poem The Dumb Soldier captures this well – see also later for a brief quote from the poem:
The OP has changed from this safari / zoo animal walkway tower to an odd little house that I picked up about 15 years ago in a pet shop. Italian plastic, originally designed as a rodent hamster type house, sadly I have not seen them since. The label says Casetta per Criceti or a Hamster house (see B.P.S. Blog Post Script)
I liked it straightaway for its white walls and pantile roof. Instant Mexican cowboy town or Mediterranean village hut.
This pet shop where I found this house was a few doors away from a now closed independent pound store where I bought lots of pound store plastic soldier figure packs (Cowboys, Indians copies of Airfix with wagons, pirates, those 60s divers and sea creatures). Another pound store full of plastic tat, vanished and sadly missed …
I have always liked my Patrol or OP posts to have a certain kind of internal logic to them, otherwise they are just useless and silly. So as part of this, the pantiled roof house OP has a rigging type plastic ladder to the roof.
The boat at the foot of the cliff is their Patrol transport in and out of the situation and route of resupply, if not by air. A rope ladder links the house plateau with the river below. Supplies are winched up on ropes and stored in the house. It all makes its own kind of (non)sense.
The blue cowboy in my retiring three man Patrol in the pictures is one such Airfix clone, the blue speedboat in pictures below from a divers underwater play set kit. You got a lot more plastic tat for your pound 15 years ago.
The retiring Patrol after weeks to months in the field (in winter I forget don’t change figures as regularly) are a mix of figures, (what I now know are) some pirate cloned playset Tim Mee USA infantry, * the BMC clone US marine radio man and the blue Airfix clone cowboy. All expendable beach, garden or sandpit plastic figures.
Now in 2021, expendable plastic army men based on cloned Tim Mee, Airfix and BMC figures are being replaced by –
Having used up all these spare Multipose weapons, I noticed that there is a handy rifle on the trusty old Britains Herald Cowboy raft cargo boxes. That then is the weapon for the radiowoman – my internal logic says that is so.
A supply barrel (old barrel bead or button) is glued to slate to stop it blowing away. These stores will be packed away into the house whilst this new Patrol gets settled in.
The Patrol house OP has a handy removable red tile roof, but no closing doors or window – so I will assume that there are internal door and shutters. I like the ability to poke a toy soldier rifle out of the window. The house itself is expendable but this one has withstood many frosts and storms (sometimes the roof blows off in very bad weather!)
The Patrol house OP is a pale imitation of those excellent Timpo Wild West plastic buildings of our childhood that now go for such extortionate sums on eBay, even with the working closing doors missing. Timpo buildings would now be too old, brittle and valuable to be left outside in all weathers anyway.
At some point these patrols may mingle and we may have a mixed Co-Ed Patrol, out in the wilderness for weeks and months on end. For now, we will have single sex patrols.
Who knows what they will see, night and day in the wilds of the Yarden or Garden. We might need to alter RLS’ The Dumb Soldier slightly:
“She has lived, a little thing,
In the grassy woods of spring;
Done, if she could tell me true,
Just as I should like to do.
She 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 she has heard
Talking bee and ladybird,
And the butterfly has flown
O’er her as she lay alone.”
Alone? Well, maybe not, as there are three highly trained and well equipped Plastic Army women out there anyway, but you may be alone on watch.
The travelling Box HQ three man team remain the same indoors and should now be in radio contact with the new three woman Patrol.
“Come in, Garden Patrol … come in, Garden Patrol.”
The retiring three man Patrol team await a debrief on their return, before a wash and brush up and some well earned leave.
Anyone else have any strange toy soldier superstitions or strange family traditions to do with their toy soldiers?
Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN on 13 March 2021
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Below – some Casetta per Criceti or Hamster House examples online 2021, but not my exact pantile roofed example.
Hamster or mouse houses in wood or plastic – search around, there are some interesting small house examples online. Hamster or small rodent houses are a source of some possible garden wargames houses or cottages. They may prove an alternative to the converted bird box or the useful aquarium ornaments, something to look out for whilst browsing the pet store ?