Unusual metal figures for WW1, Interbellum and WW2 in a traditional 20mm scale.
That’s right – not a typing mistake – 20mm. Not 28mm. Not everything has to be 28mm and one day that scale will fade from dominance as much as 30mm or 40mm has done. A few years back it was all 15mm / Flames of War etc … and relax.
In a recent blog post I suggested that in the absence of supporting traders at games shows, if we could, we should support smaller figure manufacturers like Bad Squiddo with the odd order through the pandemic.
I have been buying ahead of time some small orders for my Christmas gifts to help out those in my family who don’t know what to buy me (and they don’t have to post it either!)
I have looked before at the EWM 1940 range of Early War Miniatures. Tempting enough. Do I really need another shiny new project? Playing small solo skirmish sized games of a few dozen figures each side, it is easy enough to have a number of small projects on the go in different scales if needed.
Stocking the Man of TIN Christmas Stocking ahead of time, I chose a few sample packs – 2 rifle squads each of Danish Infantry and of Dutch Infantry – enough for an unusual WW2 skirmish game against my trusty old Airfix German WW2 Infantry.
I had been intrigued by the short lived but hard fought Danish resistance to the German Blitzkreig portrayed in the recent Danish Language film 9 April
I hope to use some of my existing childhood WW2 figures, rather than buy even more tempting EWM figures from their WW2 German range (including paratroops). Whilst I had some of the EWM figures unpacked, I thought I would check them for scale against my other WW2 figures.
In size comparison with my existing plastics, such as the WW1 and version 2 Airfix WW2 Germans, they look a little slender in comparison with EWM but to be fair they are figures without greatcoats.
Now painted grey, at last a use for these odd “big 20mm” Afrika Korps from Esci in hard plastic kit form.
Easy assembly – these are flash free metal figures, some with separate heads, packs and weapons that fit easily in place together with superglue.
I have yet to paint them up but they are crisp, sharp castings with nice animation and detail.
Each online supplier has their individual quirks. Peter Laing added in a few extras, sometimes new sample 15mm figures from new ranges to offset postage and breakages. Mark Lodge at Jacklex packs these 20mm figures in a lovely red box of sawdust. Annie Norman at Bad Squiddo adds in herbal tea bags or scribbled thank you messages and doodles on the compliments forms. Paul at Early War Miniatures added in a complimentary little packet of resin scenics.
I have had the pleasure of chatting by email to the EWM owner Paul Thompson about the disputed WW2 German commando raid in 1943 on a radar station on the Isle Of Wight. This was covered in a recent book by Adrian Searle, Churchill’s Last Wartime Secret. I had reviewed the book in my blog for possible skirmish games scenarios.
75 years ago today WW2 came to an end on 15 August 1945 with the surrender of Japan after the two devastating bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As a result of VJ Day, my Maternal Grandfather Len on his Royal Navy aircraft carrier out in the Far East had to fend off no more kamikaze attacks. He was then able to sail home to safety, demob and family. VJ Day was secured at a high price in suffering and lives, civilian and military. These two dreadful ‘atomic’ bombs might be argued to have saved the lives of Len and tens of thousands of Allied and Japanese servicemen.
As on VE Day75 in May, I will get out my family medals and photographs of my grandfather (whom I never met) and quietly ponder them before VJ Day is over.
A time to be thankful and thoughtful.
The pandemic has shut down many opportunities to mark this as a national event and publicly remember the efforts of the surviving members of the “Forgotten Army”.
It may seem trivial to some to now mention ‘Toy Soldiers’. Many toy soldier collectors have strong interest in military history. It’s where I learnt a lot of my world history at a young age. There is a short historical article about VJ Day and the Japanese war effort in this month’s issue of Toy Soldier Collector International, illustrated with King and Country toy soldiers.
I don’t buy many wargames or toy soldier collector magazines, even before the pandemic shut the High Street magazine racks for a while. This Toy Soldier Collector International magazine August / September 2020 issue however caught my eye. I was able to browse the contents page online, ordered it online and it swiftly arrived by post straight from Guideline, the publishers.
The attraction? I spotted interviews with Steve Weston Plastic Soldiers and Peter Johnstone of Spencer Smith Miniatures. As I have bought figures from both over the years (see Blog Post Script), I thought it would be an interesting read.
Sadly Steve Weston plans no more new releases of his own 54mm plastic figure releases for the foreseeable future due to the costs of production and the current state of the market. He still has his very useful plastic 54mm toy soldier shop online, selling his own figures and many other makers’ toy soldiers including the quirky Replicants range http://plasticsoldiers.co.uk
Other interesting news in the Peter Johnstone article, well illustrated with his Shiny Toy Soldiers in 42mm, is the forthcoming release of his new 42mm ACW range. This is another bonus for the slowly growing 40-42 mm end of the market with these and Irregular Miniatures etc. No longer will ‘Spencer Smith ACW’ automatically mean 30mm.
I really enjoyed painting these 54mm Armies in Plastic Woodland Indians, plentiful straps and tassels and all.
They were part of a kind gift of a box of surplus mixed plastic figures from Alan Tradgardland Gruber for my Close Little Wars forest skirmishes.
I introduced them to the garden forests and mountains today, after a gloss spray varnish and final shiny paint bits.
These Woodland Indians of the little known Gull Tribe (see their prized head dress feathers) have little adornment and decoration, unlike other Indian Tribes in North Gondal and North Generica.
They are not as richly decorated as many of the Woodland Indians of the French Indian War and “The Revolutionary War”.
Looking through the uniform plates in various AWI books, Pinterest, box art and figures from different figure ranges (everything from John Jenkins and modern Wm. Britain’s to the shiny gloss Tradition of London range), I settled on a generic plainer shiny gloss look for my under-adorned Woodland Indian ImgaiNations tribe.
Interesting to look at the flintlock and powder horn equipment, tomahawk in its sling, knife held on the upper chest. Much of this equipment is found on the 54mm plastic AIP Gruber’s / Rogers Rangers figures AWI Light Infantry and Rangers that I painted last week.
I struggled a little to find the toy soldier look I wanted but used an old hollowcast painting trick of using bronze or copper skin tones.
Bronze or copper skin worked well enough repairing damaged old hollowcast Britain’s and other makers’ more 50s Hollywood Indians (and Cowboys). It didn’t work recently for some 54mm to 60mm Steve Weston plastic Mexican peasants.
So with these gloss toy soldier style Indians in mind I used Revell Aquacolor Acrylic Gloss Leather Brown for the Woodland Indian skin tone. All the other colours used were Matt like the musket in Matt Leather Brown and desert Afrikabraun for the Buckskin leggings and equipment. They were all going to get gloss spray varnished anyway.
The toy soldier style face was achieved with black pin dot eyes and eyebrows, red mouth dot (both using a shaved cocktail stick) and after gloss varnish, the final copper cheek dot.
There was one interesting pose with a fearsome looking wooden root club. Interestingly the character is carrying a powder horn so has laid down a flintlock somewhere.
Having rewatched the 1992 Daniel Day Lewis Last of the Mohicans film for the Indian costumes, the slow reload of a flintlock musket is obviously a problem for troops engaging charging Natives in ‘Close Wars, type forest skirmishes and melees.
I could have spent a long time painting different Indian beadwork and breechclout patterns, legging ties etc and facial paints but I didn’t really want to. I tried one club figure with Citadel Agrax Earthshade Wash (brown) but I didn’t really think it would work with gloss varnish toy soldier style.
These were not the only Indians in the Back Yarden Forests.
The Crescent / Kellogg’s Cornflakes 1960s plastic Friar Tuck is from the Robin Hood plastic range. We had him at home bizarrely painted bright gloss red ever since I was a child. Now over fifty years on, he finally gets a new gloss toy soldier paint job.
Thanks to a gift of broken and surplus figures from Alan ‘Tradgardland‘ Gruber, I had five damaged or oddly painted Britain’s Deetail Guardsmen to play with.
Some of them already had some bright and colourful but playworn repainted uniforms. I have sensitively repainted some of the more scuffed paintwork to keep these colourful ImagiNations and Ruritanian uniforms.
Such wild paint or uniform schemes (OBEs or Other Beggars’ Efforts) deserve to be preserved and enhanced. The blue and yellow ones have a colourful Scandinavian or a Swiss Guard inspired feel.
Up close, the two red coats along side each other goes to show how easily Britain’s Deetail could have made more traditional Line Infantry with spiked Home Service helmets rather than more modern Guards.
The rifle needed to be modified or repaired with ammunition clips removed to make it more old fashioned. The metal base and feet lugs were missing so feet were drilled, wire pins inserted and fixed through and underneath a card base.
These will be robust enough figures for Little Wars style 54mm games.
The Line Infantry style conversion was done simply by repairing the rifle and removing the original head. The new spiked infantry helmeted head was a spare one in the bits box that I had cast from the Prince August 54mm Traditional Toy Soldier Homecasting set.
A hand pin vice drill was used to drill a hole in neck and head and joined by short piece of wire and superglue.
A quick gloss spray Varnish added to the toy soldier look. A pink cheek dot is still required.
As more such broken Britain’s Deetail figures turn up, I now have several ImagiNations type uniform schemes to add to.
I don’t usually go to wargames shows as there are none that near me anyway.
I know that not attending these shows due to the pandemic closures has affected lots of manufacturers, big and small. I thoroughly support someone’s suggestion on their blog or Facebook forum that we should buy what we would have browsed and bought at a show. Many figure companies that have not mothballed during the pandemic have been doing their best to keep going through their online shop offer.
In addition to the small purchases that I make throughout the year to put away for Christmas to help my family out on the difficult task of what to buy me as a gift, I have bought ahead of time these beautiful and unusual Bad Squiddo female Pigeoneers of WW2 and pigeon baskets.
I don’t game in 28mm. These will get painted up as part of my #FEMbruary female figure painting challenge for 2021.
They should do well as a possible painting diorama vignette entry on the next Spring Flower Show (this year’s show was another casualty of Lockdown). The wonderful Doctor Carrot and Potato Pete figures are for another future project but could also form an alternative Spring flower show entry in the mixed craft section?
When I posted this in Baggy’s Cave the Bad Squiddo Facebook fan group, it made Annie Norman cry!
Whoops. I made Annie Norman cry. I didn’t think the gloss toy soldier painting was that bad. 🙂
Sorry Annie! Bad Squiddo – a great smaller ‘mini’ company to support. Annie Norman does a very relaxed and informal visual Sunday coffee morning hangout on YouTube and there is also the Baggy’s Cave Facebook group.
In future posts, I will share some more Christmas stowings away of a small Infantry skirmish sized order from Paul at Early War Miniatures Dutch and Danish 1940 range in 20mm and a patrol or two of Sergeants Mess Boy Scouts also in 20mm (1:72 metal).
Support your favourite Miniature makers – buy early for Christmas. Or now …
Why? Because you’re worth it! They need the cash flow. It’s our gaming version of the government “eat out to help out” scheme for restaurants in the U.K.
Back in the period of the French Indian Wars / Seven Years War (1750s 1760s) in North America you had Warriors with good bushcraft skills such as the Forest or Woodland Indians and Light Infantry type scouting units such as Rogers Rangers.
Rather than set this in historical America, this scenario is set back in the same period of the 1750s and 60s in North Gondal, one of the Bronte ImagiNations of the North Pacific where we recently set our later 1870s skirmishes between Forest Indians, Redcoats and Loggers.
If that is not to your taste, this is North Generica, a parallel but slightly altered version of North America. So no one can say “That Never Happened” in that way …
As well as trying out a small patrol of my new Gruber’s Rangers, I also wanted to try out the simple Rules for Junior Generals enclosed with my Bold Frontiers (Australia) cardboard tree sets that made up my forest. I was playing both sides, solo play.
I have been recently chatting by email to the trees designer Chris Lynch of Bold Frontiers (Australia) about 54mm gaming, toy soldiers and forest wars. He asked what I thought of these simple starter rules on 3 sides of A5 paper.
There are more complex rules about using the trees for concealment and using markers etc on his website but these Rules for Junior Generals are more akin to simple H G Wells starter rules or simple Featherstone rules to give a basic ruleset for young players, slipped into his attractively packaged historical figure and trees selections and playsets.
This is trying to give young players a step into figure gaming beyond firing at them with Nerf Guns in place of various projectiles such as matchstick firing toy cannons and marbles that we all had as young gamers.
Firstly Chris suggests simple equipment that any school age child might have – two d6 dice, a 30cm ruler and optional protractor.
This was quickly set up on the dining between meals. It was fairly traditional, made up of large felt pieces over book hills with blue felt strips for stream, grey strips for the road, Bold Frontiers trees, a rocky scatter of slate chippings, twig logs and a coffee stirrer plank bridge alongside a swiftly assembled Roy Toys USA wooden log cabin. Simple enough. A few Lego Friends forest animals mysteriously appeared during the fighting.
Once the trees are placed on the playing surface, Chris suggests an aim for the battle such as building a small ruin out of construction bricks as something that the two sides fight for.
I used my RoyToys ‘build your own’ log cabin as I thought it suited the forest setting. It helps suggest that the Forest Indians are angered by their Sacred Forest being felled to make the cabin and the bridge and overall resent the building of the military road to help supply the soldiers and settlers. An attack on these might discourage settlers and troops.
Once each side had reached half casualties, a d6 morale dice would be thrown – fight on or retreat.
The starting moves
A pony and cart escorted by a Ranger was due to arrive with basic supplies for the Ranger post and then on to settlers beyond.
The Forest Indians had to get quite close in to start firing, as befits the fairly forested cover of this area. Any figures hit whilst under cover have a simple d6 savings throw to reflect the protection that this cover affords.
Basic movement ranges are given, Chris’ suggested movement of 15 cms matches the old 6 inch move and is not too big for the average dinner table. My game was set up on the dining table between lunch and tea.
Climbing walls and obstacles also has a simple movement penalty in cms, depending on the size of wall or obstacle of chest height or lower. Again, simple for young gamers to work out.
Line of Sight, sightlines and eyeline are simply outlined, with more detail of arc of sight for each figure also set out (this is where you could use your protractor). I didn’t use this to closely. I simply thought – Could the characters see each other?
The suggested firing ranges in this case for flintlocks, muskets or rifles were not too long, close range being under 30cms and long range beyond 30cms.
Chris’ Rules for Junior Generals mentions inventing dice rolls to solve disputes or unforeseen situations. I added in a d6 dice roll regarding whether the Ranger sentries spotted any Forest Indian movement as they flitted from tree cover to cover closer and closer to the log cabin. A 6 on a d6 would mean the sentry spotted the Indians moving before they opened fire or charged.
Until the Forest Indians opened fire, whilst they were sheltered behind trees, they were classed as concealed. Once firing began, especially with Black Powder, their positions were known. More detailed points about tactics and concealment are made here.
Rather than my usual Close Wars / Featherstone type dice rolls to choose which one side moves first, before the others move, then fires first etc. (IGOYUGO).
Chris instead has a simple approach that each side (or individual) can only do one of these actions in their turn – FIRE, MOVE or FIGHT (Melee). I rolled a simple d6 as suggested to decide which side went first.
The Forest Indians close in on the log cabin and Rangers inside.
Chris suggested that once a side reaches 50% casualties or lower, to roll a d6 to stay on or retreat.
In one late move, about half the surviving Rangers were killed, dropping them rapidly below half numbers, so a morale roll saw the three surviving Ranger slipping quietly away into the forest.
Aerial bird’s eye view of the skirmish casualties including the fierce fighting around and inside the log cabin.
The final paragraph of Fight (Melee) section is a little unclear, possibly a typo or cut and paste paragraph error, as it reprints the ‘firing at figures in cover’ savings throws paragraph, not a mechanism for resolving a Fight / Melee. Instead, I settled melee with a dice roll.
I have to say that my firing dice rolls were generally lousy on both sides throughout the whole game!
The end of the skirmish
Once the last Rangers had slipped away through the trees, the Forest Indians harnessed the pony and cart and stripped the cabin of all its supplies. They carried away their own fallen warriors and also collected the fallen Rangers Flintlock Muskets and ammunition. The Rangers were roughly buried.
Finally the Forest Indians set fire to the log cabin.
Hopefully it would discourage the settlers and soldiers from returning to the Sacred Forests of the Forest Indians. Or would it?
Final reflections on Rules for Junior Generals from Bold Frontiers
They prove a good enough starting point for a young gamer wanting a few rules for an Infantry game, without the complications of cavalry or artillery. This makes sense as the current Bold Frontiers playsets do not include cavalry or artillery.
They cover simple mechanisms for moving, shooting, fighting, arc or line of sight, cover savings throws and end of game victory conditions.
They encourage you in the final ‘safety clause’ to create your own rules:
“If you find that your game can be improved or made easier to understand, don’t hesitate to modify and refine the rules. Write down these changes so you don’t forget them. This process can help to improve a game and make it more satisfying and enjoyable to play.”
A licence for a lifetime of rules tinkering begins here!
Chris Lynch mentions on his front page (August 2020):
“We are no longer selling Armies in Plastic figures by the box. In the near future, we will begin introducing more comprehensive playsets depicting military and other adventurous themes. These will include foot figures, cavalry and artillery, and exciting new ranges of scenery such as rocky terrain, tropical jungles, deserts with palm trees, and the scarred battlefields of World War I. There will also be some economical architectural features to add atmosphere to games with 54mm figures.”
Mixed in amongst Alan Tradgardland Gruber’s kind postal gift of AIP plastic 54mm Rogers Rangers and Woodland Indians were some random figures including some in jigsaw form that Alan included, knowing that I like a figure repair challenge.
Some wonderfully odd over-painting and broken figures to repair. Cowboys missing arms, Prussian missing bases and bayonets, horses without legs and hooves,
My repairs are usually stout ones, functional rather than fine military modelling, in order to bring these battered warriors back into Little Wars tabletop or garden gameable condition.
I use fine wire, superglue, cocktail sticks and masking tape to fix or rebuild missing or broken parts. We have a household allergy to Milliput / Green stuff so fine sculpted carve-able repair is not an option indoors.
Smaller scale cowboy on horse with no legs on the repair desk …
Horse legs roughly repaired, just a little trimming and smoothing required …
Some figures were in multiple fragile pieces like this lovely old Swoppet Indian, still with separate necklace and knife belt attached. After careful repair, he still swivels at waist and head.
Swoppet Indian and Cherilea cowboy in pieces.
Some other smaller cloned cowboys go clubbing with the reassembled smaller Cherilea Cowboy.
A few of the revolvers need a little further trimming and work, but you get the idea.
Converted ACW Confederate Artillery Man with arms or hands repaired.
The Plastic Napoleon had two hoofs or lower leg parts missing on his horse. He has now been rebased with two new sturdy hooves and lower legs.
This charging Timpo Prussian pose was a childhood favourite. Now rebased and bayonet restored.