This is my pound store DIY version of the portable war game or Perry Twins’ popular new Travel Battle game.
Semi-Random Terrain Distribution By Featherstone Air Drop
Tucked inside the box lid are some passable or impassable map symbol type hex squares (marsh, river, impassable forest). Once the first river pieces were laid on fairly at random, the other hexes were dropped from on high to randomise their placing.
This is something I remember as a technique using paper circles scattered from a converted Airfix plastic Dakota kit for scattering paratroops, the Dakota held at a suitable height over the calculated or miscalculated drop zone.
I first saw this in a childhood borrowed library copy of Donald Featherstone’s Wargaming Airborne Operations (recently reprinted by John Curry). Airfix paratroop figures then replaced the paper parachute circles wherever they landed, sometimes fatally in water, on rooftops or behind enemy lines.
I would love to try this outside in a back garden / Yarden game. It would even work for beaming or teleporting down to another planet scenario. Beam ’em down!
The Featherstone Airdrop – Brilliantly odd game mechanic!
These map symbol coloured hexes were improvised from thin white packaging card on my Easter 2016 holiday trip and can be lightly tacked down (like the game board) with a smidgin of magic or Scotch tape.
Pretty it isn’t but practical and portable it is.
In my holiday ‘rainy day’ box I usually pack tape, scissors, a few fine liner pens or Sharpie pens and raid whatever watercolours, paints, cardboard or paper I can find to make game bits. Coffee stirrers are really handy and easy to come by, as are bits of stone etc.
For the back drop, I found somebody’s leftover Saturday’s newspaper had an intriguing surrealist landscape advert. With a bit of camouflage (space palm tree cocktail stick stirrers from Tiger.com taped for weight to a spare dice behind gravel stones) to hide the outsize hunter figure, this folded over to form a surreal space backdrop for my improvised Away Team solo game.
I roll a dice to see which side – silver space marines versus red planet natives – are the Attackers, which the Defenders for the purposes of any Melee dice throws etc. if I ever forget. I use coloured dice for game counters for keeping track of hits (for speed each figure started a melee phase / round of only two combat or life points).
A pink flamingo cocktail stick marker marked out which side were the Attackers, another nod to a different famous Don Featherstone, inventor of the pink lawn flamingo. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Featherstone_(artist) Another d6 dice was rolled to see what the melee result was on the Kaptain Kobold d6 Dice Table dice table. The other spare dice was busy propping up the space palm trees.
Who won, who lost? The Away Team Silver Space Marines or the Red Planet Native Defenders?
The result is future history …
I will finish on a close-up of the ‘profit hunter’ from the nonsensical Artemis advert, looking very much like the cavalry or cowboy ‘Rough Riders on Mars’ blog site. I should be able to mock this hunter figure up pretty easily in several scales using Prince August 40mm Holger Erickson cowboy Homecasts, Airfix or various 54mm and OO/HO cowboys.
This advert has great fun ‘alien desert’ terrain, easy to create from some of the more lurid plastic aquarium plants and terrain.
One of my recent boycraft or mancraft projects has been scratch building a desert or coastal signal fort in toy soldier fort style using a wooden Christmas clementines box and a Hobbycraft papier-mâché castle tower.
Trying this out, it was a tight squeeze to build the balsa walkways around the tower base but it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
As I played around fitting the balsa walkways around the tower base it struck me that this could be some kind of defendable lighthouse, watchtower or semaphore station.
But what would a semaphore station in the 19th century look like?
Semaphore Systems and Telegraph Inspiration
I thought a semaphore station or telegraph Beacon would be something worth defending or attacking, so well worth the defensive features. This would form part of the colonial or trading infrastructure, the information superhighway of the 19th Century. Something that would suit a coastal or desert location.
Shoot the guy with the Flags!
Men with flags standing in prominent places to be easily seen were obviously very vulnerable to sniper fire. A mechanical replacement of human arms was obviously sensible until morse code, telegraph wires and eventually radio took over the role.
There are some interesting articles on the web on Military semaphore and signalling from the late Napoleonic era through to mid Victorian era, although mechanical flags were first suggested by Robert Hooke in the 1680s!
As a challenge I added double ends to the indicator boards. There is a link between the military semaphore and the clunk-y indicator board railway signalling developing from the 1830s and 1840s as the telegraph wires along the railroad began to replace semaphore systems as this new comms network developed.
In the Napoleonic Wars, Britain was aware of what the French had achieved in the Chappe system of setting up semaphore stations. The Royal Navy Channel Fleet blockading Brest must have aware of the significance of the signalling tower they could see on the hilltop at Petit Minou. C.S. Forester writes in Hornblower and the Hotspur:
“Automatically, Hornblower looked over again at the Petit Minou. As he expected, the semaphore arms of the telegraph on the cliffs at the point there were swinging jerkily, from vertical to horizontal and back again. The watchers there were signalling to the French fleet the news of the arrival of this fourth ship to join the inshore squadron; even the smallest activity was noted and reported, so that in clear weather the French admiral was informed within minutes. It was an intolerable nuisance …”
Popham’s 1801 naval flag system of numbers indicated words encoded in a code book (here transcribed by a Peter Ball from originals in the National Maritime Museum) – this is a great idea if you have limited number of indicator positions such as 1 to 9 or even 1 to 4.
This website covers many systems including the US army Wigwag symbols of flags or lights at night invented by Albert Myer and adopted by the US Army circa 1860 throughout the American Civil War up until 1912. A two flag system was also
The twin squares flags can be seen on the Signals memorial at Little Round Top, Battle of Gettysburg site.
Heliograph signalling mirrors and lamps
The “flag, flash and read” system of flag, heliograph and telescope Zulu War 1879 also in this Royal Signals website.
I have a couple of useful signaller figures, two Airfix sets – the OO/HO and 1:32 WW2 German Mountain Infantry and OO/HO WW1 British Infantry – in both the flags are very fragile, even in the 1:32 German Mountain troop scale.
More robust is the Lone Star / Harvey British Marines / Sailor with flags reissued by Toyway.
Any officer with binoculars or telescope (such as the Airfix WW1 French Infantry HO/OO signaller lying down with telescope) is useful as the “Glassman”. This was one or two men in the four or five man semaphore team, whose job is to be looking backwards and forwards to the next signal tower to check if the message has been received. If all else fails, the French signaller with homing pigeons would be useful.
Someone else had to physically change or alter the signal, and someone to note down the message if it is to be coded or decoded. Jobs were interchangeable. The large number of staff were required in the not very far spaced apart stations meant this expensive system could only really be maintained night and day year round in wartime.
As the British Popham system came in from Naval use and flag systems, often serving or former Navy staff were employed. In the field, Royal Engineers or Signals Officers and troops would be used.
The Prince August cowboy Homecast figures in 40mm look very similar to these US Signal troops wearing their cowboy or stetson bush hat. Here is the crew for the tower and its small garrison. I shall have to make a Heliograph apparatus for them.
Heliograph teams were once cutting edge technology, appearing in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds (1898) for signalling information about the Martian invasion.
Heliographs survived in service throughout the Boer War and longer into the WW1 and WW2 period especially in desert situations, slowly replaced as radio communication to pass on Morse Code arrived. They were still in use by insurgent forces in Afghanistan in 2001.
Signalling distances of 80 to 100 miles were apparently possible in clear weather!
Australian and South African Desert Forces in WW2 and Ottoman Turkish forces in WW1 are shown here using Heliograph equipment.
There is more about the Heliograph on the British Army Royal Signals website.
In the case of the Turkish forces pictured, a signal lamp is also included, a signaller with telescope and one writing down messages. Interesting grouping for a gamer or modeller and a similar desert uniform to the Victorian British in 1879 and the Second Boer War.
A naval version of flashed torch signals with Alldis lamps survives between ships until today, including infra red versions, along with a version for air traffic control to communicate with planes if radio contact is lost . https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_lamp
Again you realise how vulnerable these Signals crews to sniping, hence the safety of the signalling Fort with mechanical arms. Once again, well aimed artillery fire could damage this tower or equipment.
All this is interesting source material as games scenarios for my Desert or Coastal Signalling Fort / Lighthouse, along with plenty of ideas for modelling conversions of suitable pound store cowboy figures and home cast figures or lead hollowcast repairs and conversions.
My only Heliograph figures are Peter Laing Colonial British in 15mm, one of whom I have crudely converted to a war photographer. This could easily stand in for a signal lamp. Pictures from my Man of TIN blog
My late dad, an ex-REME National Serviceman and Electrical Engineer, helped put in the power source on London City tower block / skyscraper rooftops for trial 1980s laser or optical beam communication between buildings to pass on data and financial information. A kind of modern computer age Heliograph?
The pilot project partly failed for many reasons including when London Pigeons and passing birds kept interrupting the data flow.
I got some great views of London as a child from these tower tops “going to work” on Saturdays with my Dad, including the Lord Mayors Procession far below from the top of a tower block.
Blogposted on Pound Store Plstic Warriors by Mark, Man of TIn blog, May 2017.
Lovely charity shop find, this one was found on its own amongst lots of other no doubt highly desirable collectibles (to someone else). One slightly battered, slightly wonky of wheel Matchbox Ford Model T 1912 lorry, only 99p and some careless previous owners.
The price label below the 99p reveals it has sat there for a while at £2.99 attracting no interest. I checked it out later on EBay, they are common enough and battered ones are worth about £1 to £2.
Sold to the gentle-Man of TIN for transporting tiny footsore Pound Land pound store plastic warriors of just the right size (£1 for 100 figures).
Unfortunately the back doors don’t open, but there is space to put some suitably converted or Fimo-made figures in the driving compartment.
These Pound Land 100 figures for £1 are about 32-34 mm high, and I’m sure this Ford Model T would stretch or shrink to working with 30mm or 28mm figures. A little too big for HO/OO First World War Airfix figures.
Alongside the Poundland figures is one of my c. 28 to 30mm silicone toy soldier mould creations, described below:
Maybe a paint scheme for early 20th century “Imagi – nations” would turn this into an Army supply lorry? Ambulance?
I might change its paint work to something more ‘War Department’ requisitioned, reflecting the fact that the British Army had on Available to requisition a number of subsidised motor lorries of civilian origin at the start of WW1, glimpsed in a recent book gift 0f C.F. Klapper’s British Lorries 1900 to 1945 (published by Ian Allen, 1977).
I was given this book as I am finding out a little more about steam wagons and steam lorries; one of my great uncles was a ‘steam waggon stoker’ in civilian life before his conscription and death in WW1.
I am also considering the Matchbox ford Model T lorry’s possibilities for Home Guard WW2.
The Poundland £1 for 100 plastic figures look at first a little too modern / American for this WW1/2 role. I thought I had no suitable WW1 / WW2 figures around the 30mm size, until I remembered some curious pound store partybag figures that might just do the job.
To match a Matchbox lorry for £1, what could be better or more fitting than a very cheap pound store type 30mm-ish set of Matchbox WW2 copies?
The first set of these c. 30mm figures came as free bonus pack of soldiers with a cheap set of 8 mini friction bizarre tank plastic kits bought for a few pounds at a garage / convenience store. These strange snap together tanks deserve a separate blogpost in themselves at a later date.
Searching the Internet, I found a supplier of these 30mm-ish WW2 figures via a party bag supplier for about 16p a pack of 6 soldiers. I bought all the last 16 packs they had and haven’t seen them around much since.
Some of the figures suffer heavily from plastic flash so you will need to spend time with your scalpel.
An unfortunate lack of enemy troops means the ‘British’ might have to fight ‘American’ troops unless you have some suitable enemies from other 28/ 30 / 34mm figures like the Poundland £1 for 100 figure buckets / bags.
…maybe these ones could look like suitable enemy infantry or paratroops with a suitable paint scheme.
Some of the Pound Land figures which have modern / American helmets might make passable German or Euro Imagi- Nation troops for the WW2 British / Americans to fight against with suitable paint conversion.
The American figures have their own pound store transport cribbed from past packs of mixed scale pound figures (you know the type, range of scales, 54mm figures, smaller vehicles and aircraft, strange accessories).
O I do like a gift shop by the seaside … Outside this gift shop were the usual wire baskets full of plastic tat and seaside flim-flam.
£1 per pack of average 19 soldiers, a free plastic castle tower and bizarre flag choice. What more could you want?
The figures are manufactured in China, imported or packed by PMS.
Although these are supposed to be modern American infantry, their slightly distorted moulding gives them a space marine 1930s/1950s look, suitable for paint conversion.
They are remarkably spindly, very thin pressings or mouldings, a bit of flash to clean up, almost semi-round or semi flat but fun all the same. The usual minimal basing to save plastic …
What attracted my eye amongst the seaside plastic gifts were the echoes of my other favourite pound store figures of different scales seen here, 54mm ish versus these smaller 30 to 40mm-ish figures, currently available in Poundland bags or buckets (£1 per 100!)
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.
They are China copies of BMC US Marines from WW2 with a few of their Japanese lying down figures thrown in.
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.
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!