Tatsuya’s work reminds me a little of the The Little People Project by British tiny people street artist Slinkachu. http://slinkachu.com
It also reminds me of all the blog comments from fellow gamers and scrap modellers who also look at a scrap household object, child’s toy, souvenir or aquarium ornament, and think what it might become. This is curiously what many of my June blogposts and people’s comment have been about.
Tipped off by some blogposts about the delights of the “Home Aquarium” section of pet stores and garden centres, I recently popped into a Pets at Home branch and spotted a 3 for 2 offer (buy 3 get cheapest free).
I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming.
This offer and their reasonable asking price (6 pieces of terrain for around £30) made affordable what I think are sometimes overpriced pieces of potential games terrain. I understand that it is not cheap to produce these if it has to be a certain type of safe resin and safe paint to protect the fish from chemical harm.
Some features like the old fishing boat seems Chinese or Japanese.
What I like about many of these generic buildings or features are their versatile uses. They could equally grace a garden game and stay out in the rain or appear on a games table.
With some imagination, the rope bridge could be a vital but damaged rail bridge with a narrow piece of rail track across it. It could be in Southeast Asian Jungle or the Amazon, Darkest Africa or the Wild West. It could be built in many time zones. It works across different scales or sizes of figures.
Similarly the tree houses could be on Fantasy or alien planets, or in Darkest Africa or Asia in a Colonial campaign.
All good Indiana Jones stuff.
A little bit of cutting and glueing work to put some balsa wood floors into the buildings should make them even more versatile. The cluttered temple floor might need some clearing or building up to be able put more figures inside.
Once again 15mm Peter Laing figures seems to suit these buildings quite well, as well as Airfix OO/HO.
I was quite intrigued setting up future game scenarios how helpfully camouflaged or painted the temple is for example when used with WW2 figures. I haven’t done matt grunge khaki camo painting for over twenty years but I found a few things in my surviving box of battered Airfix vehicles.
These were painted up in the early 1980s for Donald Featherstone WW2 rules (War Games 1962) and go quite well with these North Africa / Med / Middle East / Italy temple ruins. About time these had an airing on the games table with whatever I have left. WW2 Vehicle and camouflage scheme purists look away now!
With my small WW2 15mm Peter Laing force I can stage a few skirmishes. I have A few spare German WW1 steel helmet infantry to be painted up in Afrika Korps / desert camouflage to take on my WW2 British infantry.
These six aquarium buildings cost (after 3 for 2 discount) only around £30 in total but they offer lots of interesting possibilities for scenarios in many time periods and scales.
Ever since gazing into those childhood fish tanks, I have long had a bit of a fascination with the kitsch nature of aquarium ornaments. There is something suitably Gothic, melancholy, Romantic (and Bronteish), out of reach or abandoned about these drowned ruins and wrecks. In many cases it’s the plain surreal weirdness and lack of taste in some of the designs, they truly are the garden gnomes of the aquarium world in their “love them or hate them” colourful and kitsch nature.
I have had one aquarium piece for years, a ruined castle frontage which was free or unwanted from a bundle of aquarium stuff that someone brought into work. It has moved from house to house or garden to garden with me over many years.
I stayed in the shade of the trees surrounding our garden during the very hot and sunny Father’s Day weekend. We raided several starter Heroscape packs for hex tile and figures for a knockabout duelling game in the garden using versions of the Lunge, Cut and Stop Thrust duelling rules.
Even the garden table cloth or white spotty oilcloth wanted to join in as a sort of hex sea between the hex islands.
I’m not what many would call a fantasy gamer, despite my historical Imagi-Nations and the occasional 54mm Space based garden game. These Heroscape figures came prepainted with the very useful Heroscape plastic Hex tile ‘make your own 3D gameboard’ terrain system. So it seemed a shame not to use them occasionally.
Heroscape games system
If you’re not familiar with the Heroscape game and figures by MB / Hasbro, available secondhand online, visit the following sites
The starter or master sets I had bought second-hand provided several interesting warrior groups:
Mech type robots – Zettian Guards (not shown in photographs)
Samurai type figures – Izumi Samurai
Elite Airborne figures
Government type agents – Krav Maga agents
Viking type fantasy Ancient warriors
Marro scary aliens
Very soon as I and other family members chose Heroscape warrior squads to take each other on in individual duelling or melee bouts, we switched from the slower cards (Parry and Lunge, Stop-Thrust and Cut system) to the quicker d6 version suggested by Kaptain Kobold.
The games proved short and brutal, mostly involving fast melee, using the Kaptain Kobold modification or d6 dice version of Gerard De Gre’s Lunge Cut and Stop Thrust rules for melee or duelling.
1-2 Hit on Attacker (lose one point)
3 – Both Hit (lose one point each)
4 – Both Miss
5-6 Hit on Defender (lose one point)
To simplify the rules, speed and even things up between the different Heroscape tribes or clans, we declared all figures or weapons equal in melee and no ranged weapons. In that way a Mech Robot could be defeated by a Samurai or Viking.
Each character had 5 life or combat points (recorded on a dice next to them during combat) and could also only move 2 hexes, halved if moving uphill or through water.
The surviving or winning duellist gained an extra life or combat point when the other rival character was killed off. It quickly got fast, fatal and furious!
My FBI X-Files team didn’t last long against the grim-faced Alien Marro figures. Warrior Mech Zettian Guards fought Izumi Samurai and fantasy Vikings, then Elite Airborne figures.
This was also the first outing for some new aquarium ornament resin scenery picked up in a handy 3 for 2 ornaments sale at Pets at Home. A battered rope bridge, a jungle temple, two Ewok style tree houses with lush jungle foliage, a Greek or Roman ruined temple and a Chinese or Japanese fishing boat. All variously suitable for 15 to 40mm size figures.
I didn’t tell the checkout lady the truth when she asked about my non-existent fish and tank, that these weren’t destined or bought for underwater fish usage but for the gaming table or out in the garden / yarden for gaming! More on these in a future post.
This proved a short fast knockabout game of the islands suitable for both young and old in the family.
I recall seeing the shapeless uniform and beret of a National Serviceman in the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry Museum at Bodmin and on visits with my Dad to the National Army Museum in Chelsea.
Dad told me how itchy this battle dress was and how they used to soap the insides to reduce this itchiness. It’s true – having worn battle dress trousers for a re-enactment event a couple of years ago, scratchy they certainly are! Boots were softened and broken in by peeing in them, leaving it overnight. How fragrant they must have smelt.
My late Dad as a lowly private was pretty philosophical about his National Service, talking about it 25 to 30 years after the event. He understood that what they were doing by keeping you away from family, shouting at you, making you work or fail as a platoon, not wanting to be the weakest link etc. It was all about “breaking you down as a civilian” to build you up as a soldier who follows orders without question – he understood the cult psychology of training, which somehow made it easier.
One day he was up on a charge. His crime? Having his back pocket undone, whilst lying down on rifle firing practice at targets. Why? Next time, he was told, it could be an undischarged round in your rifle when cleaning. Attention to detail.
This photo from the IWM’s National Service collection reminds me of this training story and of my Herald British Infantry figures.
It’s odd how some of these wartime or army sayings make it into family life including from someone my family their WW2 maxim that “Time spent on Reconnaissance is rarely wasted” (or “seldom wasted”).
Dad told me lots of stories of his National Service Days, but sadly I can’t remember them all now, as he died almost 20 years ago. He never wrote them down or recorded them.
Stories of navigation training and map reading, involving an army lorry drop off in the middle of nowhere, tasked to find your way home using a compass and map. Who would be home first? He seemed to enjoy this as a bit of a country lark.
Stories of sleepwalking squaddies found by civil or military police wandering naked in the centre of Aldershot, having climbed over a barbed wire fence to get out of camp unobserved – the sentries on duty that evening got a rocket for that one.
Guarding the gatehouse and camp armoury against arms theft (by the 1950s IRA?) Cycling back from leave, Dad said that you could wake the sentries up by holding your bike pump out and rattling it along the camp railings so that it sounded like a machine gun. That put the wind up the sentries!
Being in a technical trade (REME), Dad reckoned he could still strip down and reassemble a Bren Gun with his eyes closed in a remarkably short time of a few minutes. One day in the mid 1990s I saw a Bren Gun still crated, greased but deactivated. I was tempted for a few moments to buy it as an unusual retirement present. Similarly he could rattle off his National Service number many years later.
Wise words from my Dad’s National Service days
Wearing boots all the time will apparently give you weak ankles.
“Get a trade or a certificate so you have something to fall back on”, said this former REME Craftsman.
He seemed to spend a lot of his National Service time fixing the electrics of tanks and lorries – it made him very practical around the house, competent with tools and DIY, something that didn’t get passed on to his cack-handed son. He was also pretty keen if any of were thinking of joining the forces to make sure we got a trade certificate for civilian life so we had something to help us bridge life into civilian work. This was probably from his experience of his working generation of former WW2 and National Service conscripts.
As my Dad was called up in the last few years of National Service in Britain and he said that they didn’t really know what to do with them all. He spent as a result a lot of time (once technically proficient at his trade) cycle racing for the British Army and doing the Isle of Man cycle TT, training and racing to the point of boredom for his former much-loved sport. Moral of this lesson, he said: “Never make you hobby your job!”
The endless 1970s sitcoms reliving the war from Dad’s Army to It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, along with National Service RAF comedy Get Some In!, all of these brought back his National Service memories. The early Carry On Sergeant film (1958) and Private’s Progress (1956) also brought back similar memories to be shared.
The youngest photo I have of my Dad is his REME platoon passing out photo, signed by all on the back, along with his discharge papers releasing him as a National Service / Territorial Army Reservist a year or two after his National Service ended.
There are many other interesting books about National Service including:
Brasso, Blanco and Bull by Tony Thorne
730 Days Until Demob! National Service and the Post-1945 British Army by Keith Miller, 2003 (which accompanied the National Army Museum exhibition?)
Shire Books short histories: National Service by Peter Doyle and Paul Evans.
Bring Back National Service?
I have met many older work colleagues about whom you could sometimes tell that they had done their National Service in the 1950s and 1960s. Others you would never have guessed that they once passed muster and the scrutiny of a drill sergeant.
Some told you about it; some indeed thought me a bit scruffy and that I could be much improved by a spell of National Service or time at Sandhurst to smarten both me and my ideas up.
Some had had National Service colleagues injured or killed during overseas National Service. 395 National Servicemen were killed between 1945 and 1963 on active service.
Stranger still, some of my overseas student colleagues during my college days many years later were only a year or two older than me but had done national service and active service in their home countries ranging from the Middle East to southern Africa. They didn’t talk much about it. They were generally happy it was over.
“Demob happy” is still a National Service phrase that gets used 50 / 60 years later by many at work about holiday leave or moving on to a new job. Likewise “Demob Suit” for something a little garish or very old fashioned or “Civvies” as well for your non-work clothes.
In a future part of this National Service Remembered blog post, I’ll show some of the Herald figures that Dad and I used in our under the table floor wars or gardens wars (based on other postwar National Service era 1950s troops).
Many of these Herald figures look posed just like the photos from a 1955 British Army infantry training manual that I have, which no doubt formed the content of my Dad’s rifle training.
Then there’s the story of the sadness or joy of a closing suburban toy shop in the Eighties to boost my childhood Herald plastic soldier armed forces …
Happy Father’s Day!
When the Falklands were invaded, my Dad jumped out of bed convinced like much of the Nation that these Islands were somewhere off the coast of Scotland and probably wondering not only why Argentina was invading Northern Scotland but also if 20 years on he would be recalled as a Reservist for Home Defence. Now where’s that National Service / Territorial Army Discharge Certificate …
Posted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN, on Father’s Day, June 18th 2017.
More lovely Plastic pound store inspiration or more seaside plastic tat?
A useful collection of Combat Mission 80 Soldiers plastic Airfix copies per bag, some now so long copied, cloned, shrunken and ‘degraded’ that they have acquired a slender toy soldier charm of their own.
Crossposted from my sister blog Pound Store Plastic Warriors – Little Wars on a Budget.
This weekend would have been my late Mum’s birthday (she died last Autumn in her early 80s). Some of these tiny painted plaster houses (no doubt birthday presents) and her other collections have now been sold to make a donation to a medical charity on her / our family’s behalf but family members were all able to choose a keepsake or two.
I chose these two Lilliput Lane buildings for my gaming table.
They were two of my favourites amongst her remaining collection. They are
St. Kevin’s, a typical early Irish stone church in Wicklow
Tumbledown “Cobbler’s Cottage” (in Northants) with damaged roof.
Most Lilliput Lane houses are based on very well kept and very well groomed buildings. Both these choices looked the most wonky or battered and timeless, so most versatile as centrepieces of any gaming scenario.
The white window frames might need a little dulling down but they are well matched for size by my Peter Laing 15mm figures.
It was the detail of gravestones and flowers or the old wheel inside a shed that I found especially fascinating. I often used to wonder who lived in these houses. I half expected the door to open and a Peter Laing 15mm sized figure to come marching out or come whistling round the corner. I partly blame the 1992 BBC TV version of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers for that.
Although I admired them on their cabinet shelf, I wasn’t allowed by Mum to use them in my gaming with my 15mm Peter Laing figures. Being made of painted plaster, they are quite easily damaged and quite fragile unlike most resin games buildings. These two buildings both need a little bit of paint repair.
They are a nice way to remember my Mum, every time these are out on the gaming table or on my desk.
Lilliput Lane ceased manufacture in November 2016 with few buildings left in their online shops. Another small British company sadly bites the dust.
“The factory has been trading at a loss for some time now and we have reached the point where this is no longer sustainable. It has been a long journey since Lilliput Lane started in 1982, we have enjoyed the support of many thousands of our loyal collectors at hundreds of events all over the United Kingdom and overseas, many friendships have been made and good times had by all. It is now at a time of changing consumer tastes that the demand for our products has declined to the point where it is impossible to go on.” (Website statement)
Other stockists may have stock, along with collectors’ fairs and the usual online auction sources.
The website catalogue / website shows how these fine plaster buildings were carved or moulded in wax, handcast in silicon mounds and then hand painted.
Short work with a craft knife removed the oversized blue hat, bird house, pine cone roof decorations, hanging string thread and twisty branch things. Much of it was originally hot glue gunned in the factory, so not too difficult to remove. I wanted to keep the rough and ready nature of the building and its materials
Some of this removed scrap was reused such as the staples, reused to hook on the removable Station and Stores signs, which were made from thin balsa wood. These hooked over the existing “Our Summer Home” Sign. In this way different language signs could be used for different scenarios. The new looking Balsa signs were aged by staining with a tea bag, confident that the lettering would not run as I used artists fine liner waterproof ink pens.
The separate “miniature bird house” on the pole is now an ornament in my kitchen.
The altered bird house entrance / round window can be seen here.
A simple square window was added to the rounded bird hole and the small round perch removed. This was glued at front as a log next to the giant axe. Small wooden patches of damage from removing items were repaired either by brown felt tip or coloured / stained coffee stirrer ‘patches’ superglued in place. Good and rustic.
Balsa, coffee stirrers, felt tip pens, and a bought bird house – all this saved me time, paint and mess especially having no workshop and few woodwork skills. Like Bob Cordery’s greyed dayglo castle, I may add some flock but the base feels like a wooden veranda or porch.
A happy bit of “Kit Bashing” on the kitchen table, which certainly saved me some woodwork. It should provide an interesting focus to a suitable backwoods scenario game.
If anyone asks what I do outside work, I can say I am now a proud home owner or property developer, renovating an interesting period property with no previous owners.
Or should I have painted up my carefully hoarded boxed 1978 Airfix Bluetits kit from their Nature Series and let them move in?