Unboxing my Blue Box 1980s figures time capsule Part 1

In my recent post about Stuart Asquith’s free Wargames supplement to Military Modelling in 1987, I mentioned the box of drawers that he used and that I also bought around the same time.

It helped preserve a small core of random painted and unpainted figures from my gaming in the 1980s throughout many house moves.

I thought these needed sorting out, so an excellent chance to show you the contents. It is almost a time capsule of my mid 1980s figure buying. Some people have a fireproof box for important household papers. This is almost my gaming version of that firebox, a good cross-section of my gaming interests then and now.

Aerial view of 15 slide out plastic trays of figures and fun!

I found a couple of lost figures rattling around at the back of this cupboard box of drawers.

Sometimes poking through this odds and ends bits box, I wonder what my games would be like if this was my “desert island box” of all that washed up on that ‘Desert Island Discs’ type island. There should be enough for a few games here including some unusual dice.

First out of the box trays are some random but attractive 25mm figures that I bought or were bought for me in a model shop (possibly in London). I painted these in the mid 1980s – sadly the Royalist officer’s sword is broken and needs repair.

The ‘Little Corporal’ Emperor and his unusual (miscellaneous) random Arabian bodyguard. 25mm Minifigs Napoleonic range http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/Catalogue.aspx?ScaleID=3&CategoryID=18

Beautiful 25mm English Civil War figures. Royalist officer with sword to repair.

Not sure of manufacturers or makers of some of these, thirty+ years on. I had to look them up, they are Minifigs 25mm ECW range, still in production at:

http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/Catalogue.aspx?ScaleID=3&CategoryID=16&SubCategoryID=103

Beautiful as this random sample of 25mm figures were, they were too expensive and out of reach of my pocket money for a period such as the English Civil War. By then I had already acquired 100s of cheaper Peter Laing 15mm English Civil War figures (for these see my forthcoming Unboxing Article part 2 and 3).

Down from 25mm to the tiny end of a sample 1/300 or 5 to 6mm figures c. 1985/86

1:300 Ancients from Heroics and Ros still available http://www.heroicsandros.co.uk

1:300 close up of Ancients – Persians, Greeks and Roman artillery?

I have not yet found photo ID of all of these strips of 1/300 individual figures amongst the equally tiny writing of the Heroics and Ros magazine adverts in Stuart Asquith’s 1983 Battle for Wargamers Wargames Manual:

Magnifying glass required for both the 1983 advert and painting the figures
Roman artillery mentioned note the 1983 prices

Greeks, Persians and Sassanids 1/300 Heroics and Ros figures

Enough for a generic Ancients type skirmish game.

I have some vague recollection that the small selection of 1/300 WW2 Infantry groups that I still have (to feature in Unboxing the Blue Box article Part 2 or 3) or these Ancients were swops with a Naval gamer school friend for some small model ships or 1/300 AFV micro-armour. I cannot remember which way round but it seems an odd random selection of figures with no AFVs etc.

Those were not the tiniest Warriors in my armoury box. I still have the famous Andy Callan’s Hair Roller Armies featured in early issues of Miniature Wargames:

Round dots are pin heads, snipped off from pikes of Peter Laing figures, suitable for shields or wheels?

Miniature Wargames No. 9 (Andy Callan article)

I featured a little about these figures on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/design-ideas-from-the-legendary-woodscrew-wargames-army/

I chopped up a couple of spare or damaged hair rollers obtained from my Mum, who had trained in the Fifties as a hairdresser. They were too fiddly for me, besides massed ranks were not really my thing, having long been a simple Donald Featherstone skirmish ‘Close Wars’ kind of boy.

Random inclusions – OO/HO Atlantic Wild West buildings and figures

A few trips to Beatties model shops mid 1980s revealed these Atlantic Wild West sets from Italy

The Platoon 20 Months c.1983

Mid 1980s I paused briefly collecting all the available new Atlantic, Esci and Airfix plastic figures and 15mm Peter Laing figures to collect some of the then new Platoon 20 modern metal figures. As with Peter Laing figures, I saved up and searched out every single penny I could find to buy some sample figures and afford the Platoon 20 postage from Northern Ireland.

1983 prices and addresses for Platoon 20 in Northern Ireland

I found the original Platoon 20 figures quite brittle and the feet and weapon ends snapped off fairly easily.

Platoon 20 are still available through East Riding Miniatures, where you can see and ID the various figures https://shop.eastridingminiatures.co.uk

Platoon 20 Modern British Infantry – bought mid 1980s, shortly after the Falklands War. Within a few years, some of my school friends would be dressed like this serving in Northern Ireland.

Platoon 20 sample figures modern 1980s British Infantry, tank crew and black clad SAS (top right)

I painted some of these up at the time but cannot recall ever using any of them in games. I think I was maybe collecting the figure ranges.

Plastic 20mm OO/HO or 1/72 figures was always the cheaper option for the pocket money stretched schoolboy, despite a week Paper round. Around the same time Matchbox brought out modern British / NATO troops (Falklands)

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=242

There were also the OO/HO Airfix NATO aircrew with Infantry figures, http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=561 Modern Russians and NATO / US Infantry. Britain’s Deetail and Airfix 1:32 also issued plastic 54mm Modern British, German and Russian troops.

Few of these modern figures have survived in my collection. I remember selling boxes of these off as I pared down my collections throughout various house moves. The 1990 Gulf War also put me off gaming any modern conflicts. Maybe I thought it was all the too close to home / the news, with friends serving in the forces.

Another sample was Platoon 20 Israeli troops – I am not sure why I bought these. Were they intended to double up as Argentinians? Within a year or two I would have gone to college and there met Israeli students amongst many international students who had already done their conscripted military service. We understandably didn’t talk politics.

Platoon 20 Israelis

Platoon 20 Mercenaries, Australian SAS and Modern Russians. These Russians complemented the 1982 Airfix Modern Russians http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=584

Platoon 20 Falklands Argentinians (right) in American style uniforms and Australian Vietnam War troops with plastic Esci Vietnam Americans for comparison:

The Argentinians were close enough in uniform to American WW2 figures that I would probably have used these cheaper plastic alternatives for any opposition or invaders. I cannot recall ever gaming such a modern Falklands type scenario.

Discussing the events each day walking to school and collecting the newspapers as it happened, the Falklands was all too recent and bizarrely makeshift an armada and event that I remember it almost as the last of the Victorian colonial small wars, having read Donald Featherstone’s book of this title in the school library.

These modern figures might make for a modern ImagiNations skirmish conflict at some point. If you can tell apart the Khaki grunge …

These modern Platoon 20 figures are still available from East Riding Miniatures:

https://shop.eastridingminiatures.co.uk

Finally one of those bits and bobs, odds and ends that have survived tucked into a spare tray:

Q. Recognise any of them?

A. Amongst these oddments are: an Owzthat cricket dice game in a tube, some game pieces from Tank Battle and some ME109 type planes from an aircraft game, Airfix? 1:32 sandbags, wooden village walls, useful bits of wood, a lone 30mm Spencer Smith plastic ACW bugler, some Atlantic 7th Cavalry / Wild West tents, a large plaster gnome, three small gnome candles and a plastic Tobar gnome reappointed as a WW2 Gnome Guard.

The thin strips of lead came from 1930s wiring in the house I grew up in when my late Dad rewired the house. I kept them to make him a lead figure one day to replace the Britains he no longer had. I shall put the lead into a special home cast figure or castings one day.

In the tube, Owzthat! A dice cricket game that kept sport mad members of my family busy for years on rainy days:

I have a vague recollection of making “Owzthat” type metal hexagon or long dice in metalwork at school, letters stamped by hand. These dice are not wonky lettered, so not my handmade set. It is still made by Lindop and available from Amazon in a tiny tin -more about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owzthat

Next in ‘Unboxing the Blue Box: Part 2 and Part 3’, more 1/300 figures (WW2), some Peter Laing 15mm figures and Airfix Esci and Revell oddments.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN blog, 8th April 2020

Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

6 thoughts on “Unboxing my Blue Box 1980s figures time capsule Part 1”

    1. Thanks Pete. I’m sure lots of people in the absence of real model shops to visit are going through their old boxes looking for stuff to complete or paint.

      Platoon 20 were good figures but being metal, too expensive for me at the time and the range of modern weapons / AFVs too big for many tables.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of my family spent hours days weeks and months indoors on rainy days running cricket tournaments. Not my thing but I liked the handmade nature and neat tube packaging of these long dice.

      Like

  1. Talk about a time box
    The Howzat rules are a throwback from my childhood too
    I used the rules to write a cricket program in a simple programming language called Python after reading this post
    Thanks

    Like

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