A wet holiday week away from home led to an improvised gameboard in a tray, some found ‘logs’ and stones, a few dice and a handful of vintage OO/HO Airfix packed away in a tiny fishing tackle box or my “just in case” ….
A raid on family holiday art materials turned up watercolour paints, A3 watercolour sketch book paper and other scraps (cereal box cardboard, glue, coffee stirrers) to make an improvised hex game board.
The scenario was based around Brutish Redcoats versus Generican settlers …
This was a good chance over several evenings of “pick up and put away”, the joy of a portable game board.
It was a good chance to try out a hexed up version of Donald Featherstone’s two page “Close Wars” rules as an appendix to his 1962 book War Games.
Some of the other non-military scraps are interesting too. A colourful group of street scenes such as this railway scrap …
Some of the scraps are quite large scenes, including this military grouping of Tussauds waxworks.
As with many scrapbooks, there is a strange reuse or later entry in the form of this World War 2 Royal Marines press cutting, talking about return from the recent fighting alongside Dutch troops in Holland.
Not knowing who the postcard album belonged to, I have no idea how this cutting is connected to the rest of the album.
Another curious addition included in this album when I bought it is this hand drawn silhouette titled ‘Welcome Home’.
A very Happy Christmas and Happy Blogmas from the Man of TIN blog!
I have really enjoyed seeing all the Christmas greetings and parades on different blog sites for toy soldiers and wargames.
So begins my first blogging Christmas, or Blogmas, a new Christmas Tradition for the Man of TIN blog – the Christmas parade or photo.
The Christmas photo cast
I always like to know what or whose figures are shown in photos, it’s a great way to discover new ranges or ideas for figures that you already have.
Figures are all 54mm and come from a wide range of sources.
There are two 54mm Prince August castings that I made or home-cast using their Trdaitional Toy Soldier moulds to make the Policeman and saluting Guardsman (our Man of TIN gravatar). Both were originally made by me as family gifts as brooches with brooch backs.
The lady with an armful of presents is an odd resin ready painted Christmas village figure from The Christmas Shop open all year round in Bath.
The bowler hatted man is Dr. Watson, bought as an unpainted casting from Tradition of London. The dog is from the Tradition Victorian streets range.
The children are from the beautifully painted metal Imperial Productions of New Zealand ‘Town and Around’ Range Set no. 29 Letter to Santa (girl and postbox) and Set No. 35 Yuletide (children with presents and wreath for the door). The postman came from the same shop, the friendly team at the Guards Model Soldier Centre in London at the Guards Museum near Buckingham Palace.
I can’t remember where the lovely street and house scene is from, probably the Guards Model Soldier Centre as they have a whole street display of them in their parade cabinets.
A light dusting for a few moments scatter from a flour shaker and a quick grinding of salt for shiny snowy … then swept away after the photo. A white felt background behind the house.
I tried out various lighting options including battery led candles, then played around with in Apple /Mac/ IPad photo editing programmes.
I had some fun playing around with LED battery candle light but this made the photo very grainy.
Sherlock and Moriarty, bought as unpainted Tradition castings, have snuck in …
A very Happy Blogmas and Happy Christmas. I look forward to another year, a New Year of reading a wide range of toy soldier and gaming blogs, writing new blogpost, receiving comments and all the chat.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by and read and commented on Man of TIN blog and our sister site of Pound Store Plastic Warriors.
Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, Christmas Eve 2016.
A Very Happy Christmas to all my readers, gamers and blog friends.
Gaming to me has always been a little bit like The Nutcracker story.
There seem to be lots of Nutcracker Soldiers around as a Christmas decoration theme this year.
I’m not very knowledgeable about ballet, nevertheless the idea of toys coming to life (at midnight naturally) has long had an appeal to me and many other children and adults.
The fact (or facet of the imagination) that some toys are likely to be bad, jealous, malevolent makes for a more interesting story, just as in the Steadfast Toy Soldier. An instant Enemy! Instant villains, instant bad guys.
The Nutcracker features the basics of narrative and gaming – good and bad, overcoming evil. Colourful uniforms, childlike toys. Return to the nursery etc. and the basic plot of Toy Story.
1,2,3, 4 – I declare a Toy War!
I like the creative tangents and incidental hobby learning stuff whilst surfing the Internet – all more inspiration for gaming scenarios, historical background and uniform paint schemes.
There are stacks of Pinterest and Wikimedia images of The Nutcracker, the toy soldiers and other characters. Well worth a search through for some bling uniform Imagi-Nations inspiration.
The Tchaikovsky ballet, once of the Tzarist Russian era, is now an American snowy Christmas classic with many adaptations from Duke Ellington jazz to cartoons.
Hoffman was an interesting Prussian character and story teller living in the upheaval of Napoleonic Europe, writing in the Romantic or Gothic vein of the Bronte sisters but with the folk tale influence of Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen also wrote and lived during wartime, namely the Danish wars of 1864 and the mid 19th Century. He is quoted in the book that inspired the Danish TV series 1864.
The idea of Nutcracker toy soldiers defeating the evil mouse king and his troops throws up some interesting fantastic / fantasy gaming scenarios.
Silvered metal finish inexpensive Nutcracker charm Soldiers are available as charms or pendants in batches on EBay or Etsy. Silicone food moulds of The Nutcracker are also available for Fimo toy soldier production.
A seven-headed mouse king, now there would be a figure …
The Nutcracker Plot or Storyline
The grandfather clock begins to chime … Mice begin to come out from beneath the floor boards, including the seven-headed Mouse King.
The dolls in the toy cabinet come alive and begin to move, the nutcracker taking command and leading them into battle after putting Marie’s ribbon on as a token.
The battle goes to the dolls at first, but they are eventually overwhelmed by the mice.
Marie, seeing the nutcracker about to be taken prisoner, takes off her slipper and throws it at the Mouse King, then faints into the toy cabinet’s glass door, cutting her arm badly.
(Plot summary, Hoffmann’s Nutcracker story – Wikipedia)
Slipper artillery, now there’s another thing …
Check out Youtubè sections ballet or cartoon versions (about 25-30mins in) of The Nutcracker’s ‘battle with the mice’ and you’ll variously see innovative cheese artillery, mousetraps, Christmas present terrain or scenery, toy forts, cavalry, cannons, the lot, performed by dance companies big and small all over the world. Tchaikovsky’s music here reminds me greatly of his martial 1812 Overture, beloved of many wargamers.
For American customers the Toob set is around $12 dollars, but can also buy ‘bulk bags’ of some of these Safari Toob figures too.
Amazon UK retails these Toob sets for £12 to £15.
The Safari Toob website reliably informs that:
Arguably one of America’s most important landmarks, Jamestown was founded in 1607 by English settlers. While Jamestown is now celebrated as an important location for the development of the early American colonies, it wasn’t without its trials.
From 1609 to 1610, James struggled through a crippling lack of food known as the “Starving Time” which diminished the population by nearly 60%. However, the settlers were resilient, and over time Jamestown developed into one of the premier bastions of English civilization in America.
Especially useful in both the Powhatan Indian figures (to be featured in next blogpost) and the Jamestown Settlers sets are the tradesmen and the civilian women.
There are equally good figures (shown) from the later Wild West settlers Toob set.
Expensive but interesting character figures, full of conversion possibilities.
Several other companies produce plastic 17th Century figures, but you can always mass produce your own with Doug Shand’s brilliant idea of dollar store conversions of Airfix Australians:
Some really useful Treasure Island type figures here, some that no doubt early gaming writer Robert Louis Stevenson would have enjoyed.
Safari’s Pirate Toob set has some interesting and useful 54mm or 1:32 plastic prepainted figures for gaming in the 18th and 19th Century.
The duelling figures with swords out would work really well with Donald Featherstone’s simple sword fight rules in one of my favourite Featherstone chapters “Wargaming in Bed” in his book Solo Wargaming.
“The Buccaneer was a Picturesque Fellow” by Howard Pyle is the oil painting, which the illustration was of, was sold in 1905 under the title The Buccaneer, and is currently part of the Delaware Art Museum’s collection.
Another writer famously inspired by toys was Robert Louis Stevenson. In turn, early wargamer Stevenson’s works like Treasure Island will surely have inspired many pirate games.
“The Land Of Counterpane” from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) is a poem I have enjoyed since I was a small child, because it chimed with my own happy memories and experiences of bedtime and playing with toy soldiers.
It reads as if this poem child, this I Of the poem, really was Stevenson who lived and then relived this Land of Counterpane situation through verse, as he was at times a sickly bed-bound child; A Child’s Garden of Verses is dedicated to his nurse or nanny Alison Cunningham.
Something to save for another blogpost but several other verses in his classic book of poems are about toy soldiers (‘The Dumb Soldier’ and ‘Historical Associations’, both precursors of garden Wargames) or ‘Block City’, which seems an early wooden precursor of Minecraft.
Some of his lead toy soldiers appear to have survived in this RLS museum collection in America and are pictured by Nancy Horan on Pinterest:
Just tracking the many illustrations of this poem online is an interesting web browsing activity, easy to do on picture sites like Pinterest.
When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
In this book of poems, there are some interesting ideas of scale, scenarios and temporary miniature worlds that are explored playfully and humorously as proper ‘Art’ and ‘Photography’ by artists today such as Slinkachu. http://www.slinkachu.com
Lots of ideas to explore or return to over the coming months and years!
On Pinterest you can find several illustrated versions of The Land of Counterpane poem by different illustrators including the famous one by Jessie Willcox Smith in the USA.
A patterned bedspread or counterpane is obviously an early version of a grid square or grid hex wargame, or any early improvised version of what today we would call or buy as an wargames terrain mat.
Hexscapism and War Gaming in Bed
Donald Featherstone in his Solo Wargames book mentioned in a chapter on “Wargaming In Bed” exploring the apparent possibilities of lying in bed as wargames terrain
“At first glance beds , with their blanket-covered hummocks, hills and valleys, might seem pretty reasonable places upon which to fight a wargame, but experiment soon proves that this is not so. In the first place, the figures will not stand up and even the most judicious positioning of the legs under the bedclothes so as to make the hills less steep will eventually be defeated by cramp if nothing else …”
This excerpt is from Chapter 20, “Wargaming in Bed” in Solo Wargamingby Donald Featherstone (1973 /2009 reprint p. 139), an excellent chapter full of suitably simple rules for skirmishes with jousting knights or duellists.
After all, the easiest wargames terrain is a cloth draped over hills made of books, again if only you can manage to get your figures to stand up on it.
Using Hex boards it should be possible to recreate the 3D terrain of legs, knees and bumps(adaisies) to recreate those Counterpane type battles.
When I get sufficient spare Heroscape hexes and cover these with offcuts of patterned fabric, I hope to build a ‘Land of Counterpane’ type terrain with those suitable tiny German wooden toy buildings and trees, beloved of ‘old school’ and grid wargamers.
On this patchwork grid or ‘counterpane’ terrain I should be able to play out further Toysian / Wellsian adventures using my version of Donald Featherstone’s Close Wars simple two page appendix rules, a bash about mash up of rule versions I have called Close Little Wars.
On a vintage gaming site recently was a clever reprint of an article on how to convert your bed into the footings of a wargames table (and still sort of sleep in it). Brilliant – but I can’t find the link at the moment.
Redesigning the Counterpane bed for more gaming value
Alternatively, bed manufacturers could embrace the wooden shapes of the bed into suitable features for imaginative play for the child and young at heart! Imaginative Counterpane redesigns include:
More interesting blogposts from the web on Robert Louis Stevenson and toy soldiers:
An interesting toy soldier scrap to add to my scrapbook collection, dated roughly to 1919 / 1920 from the news items on the back.
Toys from the Scrap-heap
A discharged soldier of Deptford turns his ingenious hand to making toys from margarine boxes and various odds and ends , such as knitting needles.
It is an attractive castle that I’m sure any boy would be delighted to receive as a present. Lots of levels, bristling with field guns with a good parade space in front.
It has an unusual bridge style drawbridge, a full parade of toy soldiers and a tiny glimpse of (handmade?) toy battleships.
Rough photos of this clipping don’t show much detail, I shall try to scan it in more pixelated detail when next possible.
I wonder if the double or modern meaning of being on the employment scrap heap as an injured veteran facing the economic troubles and postwar crash of the 1920s and 1930s had quite happened yet. The photograph caption instead seems to applaud this discharged serviceman’s quiet determination to make something from nothing, of skill and industry well applied, as something to be proud of.
The unnamed Deptford soldier appears to be wearing on his lapel a regimental metal badge or possibly the silver badge issued to discharged or invalided soldiers.
Hopefully he found some therapy and income from his talents, as well as cheering many young children.
In the 1920s it is often said that toy soldier companies developed more ‘pacifist’, civilian or non-military ranges such as the Home Farm, railway figures, gardens and others. This change and these ranges are excellently covered in Norman Joplin’s brilliantly comprehensive The Great Book Of Hollow-Cast Figures (New Cavendish, 1993/99).
Toy Workshops for disabled and discharged war veterans
The same Joplin book features amongst the many manufacturers, an intriguing advert and some toy soldiers from Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener’s Workshop for injured soldiers, painting toy soldier castings from various manufacturers c. 1916
Well worth tracking down a copy of this well illustrated Joplin book.
After the First World War there must have been thousands of such injured veterans, competing for work during the difficult economic times of the 1920s and 1930s. Dolls houses, furniture and board games like Bombardo were made postwar alongside the wartime painting of toy soldiers.
The following websites cover more about the Lord Roberts Memorial Workshop: