Back to basics toy soldiers

imageI recently read a lovely nostalgic article (free download!) on the Lone Warriors solo wargamers association newsletter website by Stuart Asquith entitled “Comfortable war gaming.

Comfortable Wargaming part 1 and 2 are his reminiscences of many years gaming and a plea for a return to cheap simplicity:

I think Stuart Asquith (editor of a modelling or games magazines my Dad used to bring home for  me in the 1980s) summed it up well when he finished his article part two:

“Note: There are no units, there are no morale rules.”

“If you want to shell out around £30 for a set of rules, then feel free, but you know, you really don’t have to – don’t worry about phases or factors, go back to simple enjoyment.”

Wise words indeed.

Stuart Asquith and Donald Featherstone both wrote short simple books on Solo Gaming. They have simple dice ideas setting up a quick solo game for random deployment of forces on both sides, delayed reinforcements etc which make solo games far more unpredictable … and more frustrating, fun or silly.

A growing vintage / nostalgia trend?

I’ve noticed whilst looking at games blogs and articles (in pursuit of vintage Peter Laing 15mm figures) that there is a growing vintage / nostalgia trend back to simple and silly enjoyable games including in the back garden, back to vintage airfix and, back to my 1960s Featherstone books and 60s vintage plastic figures etc.

I think this is probably a reaction to the hobby games world getting too serious; After all it is “playing with toy soldiers” or the “tiny men” as they are known in my household.

Now that you could buy almost anything, any figures and rules etc for any period off the shelf, preassembled, painted if you have the cash  (I think the same exists for model railways and scenery etc now too), maybe this is why there is this a “back to basics”.

Paper mache / composition figure (19th century) alongside metal home cast moulds.

Avoiding perfection 

Prince August and other home cast metal  figures are fun to make in their easy to use moulds. Filing off metal flash has never been much fun.

However for simplicity I have been experimenting with some Silicon cake mould soldier figures using Fimo (safe, easy to use and sculpt / convert and paint) polymer clay (Sculpey in the USA) for a bit of fun. The mould was found online through Ebay and Etsy.

Many, many years ago (in a modelling or gaming magazine) I saw a clever method making of game figures  using Fimo. I didn’t come across Fimo at the time and until recently I never used this polymer clay. I’ve since discovered the article again at

I’m sketching out how many variations of this basic cake decoration Fimo figure I can make with paint and a scalpel!

Sketching out colour variations – I will post more from my notebook separately.

Having sketched out some different ideas in my notebook, inspired by different figures in toy soldier collecting and uniform books, I set out to mould and sculpt my first cake soldier miniatures for gaming.

Here are some rough toy soldier gloss paint early drafts.

Roughly about an inch high, they are incredibly lightweight and are painted quickly in suitably toy soldier gloss acrylic.

I still haven’t quite worked out what to do with the face finish. Simple eyes and heroic manly moustache are currently put on using illustrator’s fine point lightproof pigment  pens. Not yet found the right  gloss flesh acrylic.

With more practice the newest figures are getting thinner but if made too thin, I find that delicate items like rifles can fall off.



A little flock on damp gloss painted helmets and bases works well. A suggestion of camouflage! A little flock on bases also works wonders.


Variations on the basic cake mould silicon mould figure: an Ancient warrior.


When the rifle fell off a green army soldier basic version, a conversion idea sprang to mind.  This Ancient Warrior is equipped with a  Fimo red cloak, a shiny thumbtack shield pushed through the arm gap. and the rifle carved away to be resolved by stout cocktail stick spear glued on.

A make your own wooden castle kit provides a simple background to this Ancient or Fantasy Warrior.

Red Troops. Other variations include redcoats of different eras from tricornes  to more 19th century field service helmets.


Blue Troops. As part of my wider imagi-nations games, the figures are not too specifically historically based. Some of these figures may suggest Union infantry of the American Civil War.

Blue troops including an unpainted blue Fimo figure, mounded much thinner than my first attempts.

All ashore? Others with some hat remodelling and haversacks may suggest Victorian sailors or landing parties for colonial campaigns.




Using toy model boats (a junk shop find, handmade in Cornwall) works well for that toy soldier feel.

Backpacks or haversacks from coloured or painted Fimo  easily get round the “flats” feel of these silicon mould figures, originally designed for sugar craft cake decoration or card making.


A variety of gloss paint or Fimo polymer clay base colour suggests modern infantry of different nations, habitats and camouflage.


Using different colour Fimo pressed into legs or head sections gives some interesting effects. Maybe a paratroop beret?

Troops For Lazy Painters 

Another Fimo base colour, working with red Fimo or polymer clay, avoids the need to paint the whole figure and speeds up production ready for gaming. En masse they look like red guards, enemies guarding a secret base in some James Bond movie.


Unfinished hordes of red guards defend the secret base. 

These were inspired by a rare red Dimestore lead “podfoot” figure from the USA of ‘enemy troops’ made during the Korean War period.  Still need to finish painting flesh and faces on these faceless hordes.

Sketchbook notes and pod foot inspiration for my “red guards” using polymer clay cake moulds and pound store tiny party bag soldiers (top) 

The original enemy troop podfoot figure in James Opie’s Collecting Toy Soldiers book gave me a design idea, sketched out in my note book.  Some of the designs are paint designs for the pirated copies of pound store party bag soldiers (based on pirated Matchbox American WW2 troops).

Polymer clay soldiers from their silicon cake mould and a pound store party bag figure of roughly the same size. 

These Fimo home-made Warriors match in size some simple “party bag toy soldiers” at 6 for 20p  (search online!) that I first  spotted as freebies in “Combat Mission 8 vehicle kits” in a local garage’s  party toy gift section! This gives some useful extra poses to paint or convert, once you’ve trimmed their cheap pound store plastic  flash off.

I will post pictures of these polymer clay figures and others as they progress and  go into action using my hex grid version of the very simplest  Donald Featherstone “Close Wars” appendix two page rules from Wargames (1962).

I hope you have enjoyed the “work in progress” pictures and that you are tempted to pick up some polymer clay, a paintbrush or scalpel and boycraft or mancraft some of your own figures.

Watch this blog space for more “Cakes of Death” polymer clay warriors …

Poysted by Mr MIN, Man of TIN.

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