Unboxing the Blue Box of 1980s gaming figures time capsule – parts 1 to 3

If you missed any parts, here are links to all three posts about my Unboxing my Blue Box of drawers, my ‘bits and bobs’ box of 1980s figures that I unpacked, explored and sometimes finished off this week.

What lead mountains, unfinished projects, forgotten boxes or stockpiles of your own figures have you raided over these Lockdown weeks?

Part 1 – 1/300, hair-rollers and other scales and the background to these posts:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/unboxing-my-nineteen-eighties-figures-box-part-1/

Random 1/300 Ancients from Heroics and Ros

And Moderns – some Platoon 20 Falklands era 20mm metal samples

Part 2: mostly 1/300 and plastic OOHO

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/unboxing-my-blue-box-of-1980s-figures-time-capsule-part-2/

Some of the random Airfix and Esci figures tucked away – great figures for an ImagiNations game?
Some random bits and bobs in the Blue Box such as this RSA First Boer War related stamp.

Minifigs 15mm British Colonial Infantry c. 1879, finally based & flocked after 35 years!

Part 3: Mostly 15mm Peter Laing and other 15mm figures.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/unboxing-my-blue-box-of-1980s-gaming-figures-time-capsule-part-three/

Peter Laing 15mm ECW musketeers, again finally based after 35 years.

My Blue Box of drawers reminded me of Peter Laing’s casting room wall of drawers. Some of my figures could have come out of these marked boxes from these very photographs. F1, F2, F3 …

These are the vanished moulds … December 1982 Mil Mod interview

I remember that Peter Laing had walls of such drawer boxes to store his castings. This scan from this site saves me tracking down my copy of this December 1982 Mil Mod: http://www.deartonyblair.co.uk/2013/12/peter-laing-interview-from-1977.html

I was already buying from Peter by then so it was interesting to see the man behind the figures.

What were your favourite parts, figures or drawers in the Blue Box?

Already the White Company pikes are in place, a new unit finally finished after 35 years patient waiting for basing and arming. These will eventually join my other Laing ECW regiments in Really Useful Boxes. They are no longer ‘odds and ends’.

What next for the Blue Box figures?

The box’s contents should give me some dedicated “Blue Box days” painting or gaming with the limited resources that I have in the Box.

Some of the random solo figures may be “returned to unit” if more exist elsewhere, packed away in my collections.

With unlimited figures available online now, it is quite restrictively creative in a ‘Desert Island Discs’ scenario that this Blue Box is all that you have …

This used to be the same going on holiday as a child (and still today) where you can only take a really limited box of figures, so you had to choose very carefully!

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/portable-wargames-on-holiday/

The portable Wargames 1960s Airfix style in a tackle box (2016)

What if / Blue Box games?

What If this was my Desert Island Discs box, my ‘fire box’, if this Blue Box from my 1980s gaming were all that survived, I think there is enough interesting variety to scratch together some skirmish games.

If these were the only figures you had in the world, what fantastical ImagiNations games these would be.

There would be enough for some Ancients and WW2 1/300 games, some 15mm ECW and Marlburian era games and OO/HO or 1/72 Plastic and metal figure games from various manufacturers and several 19th and 20th Century periods.

In an era of too much choice, I sometimes do this Time Machine thing with vintage Airfix games restricting the figures selection to those boxes available from 1959 to 1969.

What have I learned from several days rummaging through the Blue Box?

I have enjoyed sorting through the mixed figures, sample figures, lost figures, revisiting past projects begun and unfinished, sample figures. Some may have been long forgotten swaps. Sometimes I have no idea or memory why these painted figures were left unbased and unused.

It tells me I am still the easily distracted “Wargames Butterfly” that I was as a childhood or teenage gamer, who just likes collecting toy soldiers. Nothing much has changed.

Some of the junk bits and bobs have quite strong memories attached, from Owzthat dice to parts of long vanished 70s games or bits of houses like the old lead wiring cover strips from my childhood home that I planned to include in castings for my Dad.

Lovely flags! Peter Laing 15mm ECW Standard bearers who should be back with their regiments …

I still like, collect and use the Peter Laing 15mm figures that I eventually focussed on, choosing these above the odd 15mm Mike’s Model samples and for some reason (money?) never went with the 15mm or 25mm Minifigs.

The metal figures were part of the ‘eye candy’ temptation of what I was seeing in the wargames and modelling magazines. Outside of Featherstone books, ‘grown up gamers’ in magazines didn’t seem to use plastic figures. Plastic figures were for kids.

The Platoon 20 metal 20mm “Moderns” samples were good but expensive compared to similar Airfix, Matchbox, Atlantic or Esci plastic figure. That us, if you could find them in stock at the time. I still like and still use these plastic figures.

Early to mid 80s Esci Colonials

There was obviously in the early to mid 1980s a lot of distracting new figures, scales and ranges around to explore and choose from, ranging from tiny 1/300 to 54mm figures. Nowadays there is even more distractions and choice …

1/300 offered such a lot of figures for such a little amount of money. Such a lot of little figures. 1/300 were maybe too tiny for the skirmish level small group or individual figure games that I enjoyed then and still do now. The simple Featherstone War Games 1962 rules and Close Wars appendix still does nicely for me!

What is missing in the Blue Box is much trace of 54mm figures and 54mm gaming. Thankfully a representative sample of some of these original heroic plastic figures from my childhood have survived, despite paring down and house moves, in a separate metal engineers suitcase. For obvious ‘safety’ reasons, Lead 54mm and home casts were just not around in the shops and toy boxes of my childhood, metal 54mm meant Britain’s Deetail with metal bases.

Make Do and Mend

It all fits very well into Ann Wycoff’s Immaterium Challenge for April 2020 of “Painting what you already own”, perfect for exploring what you already have stockpiled for such lockdown situations. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/anns-immaterium-painting-challenge-april-2020/

I shall explore some more boxes over the coming weeks.

Mark Man of TIN April 2020

6 thoughts on “Unboxing the Blue Box of 1980s gaming figures time capsule – parts 1 to 3”

  1. Tried leaving a comment this morning to no avail!
    Great set of posts Mark – I’ve been rummaging through my Toybox as well and doing a bit of painting too!

    Like

  2. What a wonderful ‘haul’. It’s like getting one of those mixed-bag ‘job lots’, although even better since you had already paid for them:
    I have recorded my collection in a database, but occasionally ‘find’ some figures that I had forgotten about. It’s the ‘discovery’ of the first purchase all over again.

    Like

    1. I love job lots especially if you approach them with an ImagiNations approach. They feel less like a purchase and more like a gift.
      More posts on the way of another job lot of scrap turned into quarrelling Bronteish minor states. Your post shows you to be both well organised and a Wargames butterfly at the same time! This is very healthy approach, as this is a hobby, focussing not on what do I need to do but what do I feel like painting today?
      I have a slightly more disorganised version of the same. One day they shall all go on a database or card filing system … one day … (hears the sound of tiny distant tin men laughing heartily)

      Like

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