On Wargames magazines and ‘new’ Airfix figures

I rarely buy wargames magazines now.

When I was a youngster, my Dad would bring back Military Modelling, the occasional Airfix Magazine and then Miniature Wargames each month when it first came out in the 1980s. No doubt he read and enjoyed them on the train home for the history articles. I still have many of them in part or whole. Thanks Dad!

So I was interested to read the wargames magazines reviews and comments on various blogs including Bob Cordery on Wargaming Miscellany as the magazines have changed audiences and editors over the last few years.

I wrote a little about this back in 2016, having not read many gaming magazines for years: https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/30/miniature-wargames-magazine-milestone-issues-1-and-400/

Many of the recent comments on the changing nature of some magazines seemed to fall into a generational trench or historical vs fantasy gaming camps, the recent editorial and ownership changes to Miniature Wargames magazine having polarised opinion.

Some confess to fall no back in love with print magazines like Big Lee:

http://www.blmablog.com/2019/09/falling-back-in-love-with-print.html

For a fringe or niche hobby, it is a surprise to me that there are still in 2019 three colour wargames magazines on the newsagent stands alongside two toy soldier collector magazines and all the tabletop and fantasy gaming magazines.

I usually flick through these magazines when I go into town to see if they are ‘worth buying’.

Irritatingly, some are shrink wrapped issues with free gaming show catalogues or free sprues of the latest plastic figures (i.e. clever product placement) so that you cannot see inside some of the magazines.

This freebie is calculatedly and temptingly an effective entry level drug to a new period, scale or games system, clever but something new that I simply do not need with a head and a paint table already full of ideas.

There is also a QR code on the front cover to scan to see the contents page, if you have that sort of phone (which I don’t). It loses Wargames Illustrated Magazine and Miniature Wargames one potential reader every month.

Like many of those who comment on the review posts, which is obviously just one slice of opinion, I am regularly put off buying several of these magazines over the last twenty years by the increasingly advertorial scenarios for certain games systems and figure ranges.

If you don’t play those systems, this style of magazine article seems almost meaningless.

I do like a look at the adverts and new figure ranges, although quite often they are featured long before on the websites of other bloggers, excitedly distracted by the next new shiny thing.

One interesting feature in the most recent Wargames Soldiers and Strategy WSS magazine www.wzssmagazine.com is the thematic approach to the core articles of each issue. A few months ago I bought the French Indian Wars issue as this is when my favourite Featherstone Close Wars small wooded Skirmish (natives vs soldiers) rules are set. This month I bought the mostly WW2 1944 issue – theme: the Fight for Overloon and Venray.

I recognise a few of the opinion column writers from past magazines, blogs and podcasts such as Henry Hyde, former editor of Miniature Wargames and Battle Games and Guy Bowers the Editor.

Guy Bowers review page in Wargames Soldiers and Strategy and an Airfix omission?

I enjoy the Guy Bowers‘ figure reviews showing a sample of what figures in what scales are currently available to play for each issue’s main theme period.

Obviously not every manufacturer and every scale could be featured in such an article.

Wot No Airfix?

I noticed one surprise omission on the figures page for WW2 1944 Northern Europe scenarios, which covers the current fashionable scales from 6mm through 10mm and 15mm to the ubiquitous 28mm. (No 54mm?) One set of cheap and affordable figures were missing – there were no Airfix.

There were four other 20mm manufacturers mentioned, mostly metal – Adler, Frontline, Valiant plastics and Wartime Miniatures (Australia). Foundry 20mm are mentioned rather than shown. Some of these figures are £1.20 each!

But no Airfix. Why the omission? It could be because they are currently and irritatingly out of stock on Airfix.com and only available in shops or online suppliers if you can find them.

Maybe Airfix figures are the generational Fault Line?

On the same basis, I’m sure the old Airfix 54mm figures are not shown in the review as their 54mm British Infantry (Combat Support Group) are hard to find in the shops and few now game in this scale. 54mm British Infantry are now fairly hard to find cheaply, but as for 54mm gamers, they are available to find online in one place at the Little Wars Revisited 54mm gaming forum.

But No Airfix? This was maybe something I only noticed because a few days earlier on a trip into a real toyshop searching for family presents, I had picked up the latest ‘new’ Airfix figures in thirty odd years. Obviously latest and new meant 2011 – I hadn’t noticed that the 1973 ones had been replaced.

This type of cheap plastic figure is where many a gamer of my generation or older cut their teeth. The metals and plastics shown in Guy Bowers’ magazine review were or still are beyond pocket money range and easy access to many youngsters, even today through online sales. I was able to look at these Airfix figures and others closely in the shop. I paid hard cash for these figures. I bought a box of the new WW2 figures partly as I am a ‘Completist’ who owns Airfix figures from all the sets ever issued but mostly to show my support for real toyshops.

Airfix is still just about available in many of the larger hobby shops, craft and toy stores as well as these WW2 British Infantry (currently out of stock) at Airfix.com

£6 for a box of 48 figures seems reasonable, at roughly 12p each figure. As Bob Cordery mentioned, this is pretty much the cost of a magazine these days. They also come with an available Airfix relaunched ‘vintage classics’ range of WW2 vehicles, admittedly ones you have to make yourself.

The only 20mm alternative in plastic shown are the Valiant figures at £13 for 68 Miniatures. This is comparable value per figure, just a big outlay for maybe too many figures for a simple Skirmish game.

Plastic Soldier Review – Airfix WW2 Britain Infantry

Airfix have issued several British Infantry sets over the years. Which do I like most?

Not these old ones – not the 1973 ones that were newly around when I was little, http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=25

These 1973 ones replaced the charming but odd 1960s Infantry Combat Group http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=53.

Didn’t really like the odd poses of these spindly 1973 ones much.

Not the 1982 Esci reissues under the Airfix name when Airfix lost the moulds for the 1973 Airfix British infantry http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=84

Here below is a better off the sprue photograph of the new 2011 Airfix British Infantry.

The review on Plastic Soldier Review is not flattering about the skinny legs, what should be shapeless but here skin-tight battle dress and poorly moulded weapons but they seem no more distorted than the average metal figures.

To me, they look a useful enough set loaded down with lots of haversacks, equipment and few useless weird diorama poses.

New WW2 Battle Dress 2011 Airfix figures – Plastic Soldier Review photo source

They are a good looking, animated set of figures which almost don’t look like Airfix. Shame that they don’t make them as copies in 54mm but there are the old Britains Paratroops, Britains Deetail and Steve Weston’s WW2 versions if you can find them.

They would be a good match for the Airfix WW2 German Infantry in either scale if you can track them down (also out of stock on Airfix.com).

At some point I will get a chance to paint these new figures. Painting table is a bit cluttered at the moment.

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 20 / 21 October 2019.

9 thoughts on “On Wargames magazines and ‘new’ Airfix figures”

  1. My dad used to pick up Military Modelling for me when in town. I remember him coming home with the very first issue. I recall too the special edition , less pages due to the power cuts effecting the country at the time, which was still printed at the time of national crisis. I bought the first issue of Miniature Wargames from a newsagent up the Bridges after a university exam. It sits in a MW binder along with a second volume beside it. I bought the magazine regularly. Until l had to downsize l had every issue. I managed to give some to friends but the rest were got rid of including Almark magazine, military modelling and Airfix magazine. No space, had to go.
    Airfix is perhaps a generational thing as you say. The lack of newsagents selling figures on revolving stand or the kits has meant that they do not have the very central role they once had. Even the Wargaming magazines cannot compete with online browsing. The hobby is another country, for better and for worse.

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    1. Alan
      I too had that storage issue and only kept the first 20 Miniature Wargames and a few special Military Modelling issues / Annuals intact. Everything else was hacked up when I finally left home or ever moved house. I kept the articles that I wanted in ring binders and passed the rest onto friends / recycled them years ago. We even got our school library to buy in Mil Mod and Airfix Magazine then at the end of the year they sold them off and we hacked them up and shared the articles around, planes, boats, etc. I should probably do that sometime with the last couple of years’ occasional magazine purchases.

      What you conclude is very true, since the Internet and the demise of Airfix in the newsagents / Woolworths, the hobby like the past is ‘another country, for better or worse’.

      I agree that the hobby magazine’s official central role has also been largely taken over by online forums and blogging, ‘for better or worse’ (depending on the topic, the forum and blog).

      The once easy availability of figures and kits for ready (pocket) money? That saying, with the loss or amalgamation of post offices, stores etc, I now find some Southwest newsagents are also the Post Office, food store and toy shop with the occasional thrilling red flash of Airfix starter kits (the ones with paint and glue) on shelves and spinners. Usually unexciting colourful things like fast planes, fast cars, etc. Few grungy khaki tanks and figures 😦

      Looking back, I could probably say the same as now, that large parts of these (modelling / miniatures) magazines were of no immediate interest / full of adverts etc. They had / have to appeal to such a broad range of modellers but you sometimes discovered new things of interest.
      The letters page and the readers “how to…” articles and tips seem to have blossomed into the healthy variety of hobby modelling and wargaming blogs that we now can sample and enjoy.

      Mark, Man of TIN

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  2. I remember as a child buying Airfix figures from Woolworths back in the 60’s , the boxes had a small clear plastic window which you could tantalisingly see the contents on their sprues .

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    1. That puts you firmly in the Airfix Generation …

      Some of these window box Airfix figures were still temptingly lurking with glimpses of the contents within in the 1970s toy shops of my childhood.

      Then there was the Blue Box Airfix with the line drawings of figures on the back … all very tempting. I have a few recent finds of Blue Box Airfix with their stirring artwork.

      The Airfix Little Soldiers book by Jean Christophe Carbonel (and another forthcoming book on Airfix soldiers by ???) have lots of colour pics of this packaging, so I don’t have to bankrupt myself and increase my storage problems collecting a display world of Airfix boxes with figures on sprues inside.

      Lovely figure, a delight to game with them and convert them still.
      Mark, Man of TIN

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  3. Guy Bowers head is so far up his own……
    I listen to the WSS podcast (same website as the excellent WW2 Podcasts with Angus Wallace and The Ancient Warfare Magazine Podcasts) and Guy’s silly cavalier approach to miniature games, interviews and reviews just make me sick.
    Listening to Guy makes glue sniffing seem rational by comparison.

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    1. Doug
      Good to hear from you … You self edited yourself well there!

      I can’t comment on individuals as I don’t know them and haven’t heard interviews with Guy Bowers or John Treadaway or the other magazine editors. I have been very lax in the last year or two in keeping up with the Henry Hyde interviews, WSS podcasts and Meeples and Miniatures interviews / podcasts with many industry insiders and influencers. To be honest I often don’t get around even to reading the editorials and regular opinion pieces in the magazines that I occasionally buy. (Someone somewhere must feel their time and effort making a magazine deadline is being slightly wasted!)

      I shall track down and listen at some stage for the WW2 podcasts with Angus Wallace and the Ancient Warfare Magazine Podcasts that you mentioned. Sometimes they are just what I need when I have attention to spare whilst doing dull painting , flocking, basing and undercoating …

      I have enjoyed listening to the GCHQ / Bletchley Park podcast interviews with veterans. https://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/news?page=1&category=podcasts

      As for sniffing glue, what else was making and painting Airfix kits with highly smelly paints and poly kit cement in small unventilated bedrooms but an unintended exercise
      in inhaling solvents? Maybe that’s why our Airfix Generation has that same (slightly trippy) Cheshire Cat smile regarding Airfix Nostalgia. 🙂

      Hope your Pound Store conversions are going well. Regards
      Mark Man of TIN

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  4. I love Airfix, but I’m no fan of any of their 1:76 British infantry sets. Far better IMHO were the 1:32 set, which you could beef up with the famous Infantry Support Group (but NOT the anachronistic bazooka-man!). They are great sculpts in convincing poses and full of animation. It’s a crying shame that they never downscaled these figures to make a new 1:76 set, as they did with many others. Ah well…

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  5. Interesting comments in response to a fascinating post. I too had every issue of Military Modelling as well as every issue of Airfix magazine from the late sixties until a house move in 1987 at which time I sold the lot to another collector. I still remember the time when I first discovered Airfix magazine in a model shop in Deven while on holiday as a just teenager, I think I spent all my money buying up all the back issues they had, so exciting at the time. I still browse the current crop of magazines when I get the chance but I never find anything sufficiently interesting to warrant a purchase. You are quite right Mark, that the contents seem very specific nowadays and just do not have the broad range of articles of the past. Airfix kits do seem very sparse in the shops today too, not that I buy them anymore, but I still like to look. I do agree it’s a shame such cheaper figures and kits are not about as much as for sure they were the bridge for youngsters into our hobby world. As for the glue and paint sniffing, well I still use Humbrol paints and enjoy them greatly !!!! Such experiences certainly seperate the generations !!!!

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    1. Tony
      I have just discovered a small random cache of archived Airfix magazines online which I will post about soon.
      There is also the excellent Vintage Wargaming blog that has Airfix reprint articles on conversions etc. at http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.com/p/searching-vintage-wargaming.html

      The generational thing and greying of the hobby world is an interesting evergreen topic.

      In some ways the availability of all current Airfix kits online is like the best stocked toy / model shop or newsagents that there ever was. Easy – If you know to look …
      Hopefully the Airfix starter kits still in shops, even the Lego like Airfix quick-builds, will ‘catch’ a few youngsters or oldsters.

      The return of Vinyl amongst the young (I know several very young ordinary teenagers who search out vintage vinyl LPs), the Great Railway Modelling Challenge on Channel 5, the survival and sustained popularity of Dungeons and Dragons games with figures and of figures / brick kits, even the short lived age of fidget spinners and mindfulness colouring in books, all surviving in an age of everything available through touch screens and video games and music on your i-phone or tablet computer screen suggests a gentle backlash, that there is still a need to have tactile physical things like toys, tools, kits, craft and cooking to keep your brain and fingers busy.

      I’m sure the generation who grew up on lead toy soldiers as standard, tinplate classic clockwork toys, Skybirds / Frog aircraft kits that you had to carve from balsa wood etc and Model Engineering scratchbuilders from plans probably said similar things about the lightweight snowflakes of our electrified Hornby train, Donald Featherstone rules and plastic Airfix kit generation.

      They had it hard in their day. If you wanted something, you had to make it, not buy it readymade and ready-painted … 🙂

      I keep only one tin of stinky Humbrol paint, a bright pink gloss for toy soldiers’ cheeks!

      Go on, you know you want to buy another Airfix kit and make it, just for old times sakes! Spoil yourself for Christmas.
      Best wishes, Mark Man of TIN

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