Garden Wargames and Lost Dumb Soldiers

Garden Wargames blog post – Dumb Soldiers: The Past and Future of Garden Wargames? – Cross-posting from our sister blog site Pound Store Plastic Warriors

(Picture of beach found plastic soldiers, lost in the biggest sand pit for miles around!)

Help with figure ID?


Through my blog contact or comments,  Piotr Crass has asked me for help identifying this “old American civil war type figure”. It looks flat or semi flat to me and possibly homecast? If anyone can help Piotr or suggest good ID sites for him to contact, please contact  piotrcrass who is @ or at   The figure can further be seen at imgur

Many thanks, Mark, Man of TIN blog.

The Soldier book by Chris McNab

Front cover of The Soldier by Chris McNab published by Parragon, 2016

On a trip to the local garden centre, I brought back something different from the usual seeds and plants (a sometime garden wargamer has to have some greenery).

It wasn’t unusual buildings,  ruined bridges or temples etc from the cut price shelf of the Aquarium section.

It was this interesting book (a snip at £5, 2016 publishers price £16) called The Soldier by Chris McNab, spotted amongst the colouring books, Sudoku, celebrity biographies and paperback fictional murders and romance.

Last week I spotted the same book in branches of The Works in their History section for about the same price. I bought some of Cordery’s Composite Cavalry as they are known on Wargaming Miscellany instead, reduced to 50p each. There were still a lot of leftover Tiger saddlecloth officers (Murat?)

What caught my attention were the Uniform and Kit pages, such as the American War of Independence Grenadier below.


sample page AWI Grenadier – pure Airfix OO/HO

I wasn’t sure how the pics were done at first glance – were they photographs of re-enactors or fine illustrations? The illustrations (by Simon Smith and Matthew Vince)  were enough to sell me the book, possibly even at full price.

However they were done, I liked the  attention to small detail, explaining how the uniforms and kit worked. There are some interesting snippets or captions on the why as well as the what equipment soldiers carried where.





Written by Chris McNab, as ever it is sometimes difficult to find who did the editing and illustrations, usually buried away in the credits / end pages. Attractively illustrated with archive photographs, there are also examples of the work of  some famous historical illustrators such as Don Troiani.

IMG_1468The figure or uniform illustrations reach the American War of Independence through to modern day Middle East conflicts as can be seen on the back cover.


at first glance through, I liked some of the more unusual choices amid the standard Waterloo British infantryman, Union troops etc.


Overall the book has the compact feel of one of those repackaged  book compilations of expensive monthly partworks with hand-painted figures (probably the origin of Cordery’s Composite Budget Cavalry again at the Works again!)

The figures illustrated on half pages are:

British Grenadier, 1756

Prussian Hussar, 1756

Greanadier, Hessen-Darmstadt Leib Grenadiers, 1759

Russian Grenadiers, 1756

Senior British Officer, 25th Foot, 1756

Minuteman, Culpeper County, 1775

Private, Hall’s Delaware Regiment, 1780 (see back Cover figure 3)

Officer, Butler’s Rangers, 1781

Grenadier, 17th Foot, 1777 (illustrated above)

French Hussar, 1780

George Washington, 1781

Line Infantry Fusilier, 1804 (see back cover figure 2)

French Sapper, 1807

Russian Grenadier, 1806

French Guard Horse Artilleryman, 1806

Prussian trumpeter, 1815

British Infantry Private, 1812 (see back cover figure 1)

Sergeant North British Dragoons, Waterloo (the front cover figure)

Union Infantryman, 1863 (see back Cover figure 4 )

Confederate Infantryman, 1863

Sharpshooter, 1st USSS, 1862

Artilleryman, 1864 (Union Coloured Troops)

British Infantryman, 1879 (Zulu Wars)

Indian Rebel Sowar, 1857 (Indian Mutiny)

British Captain, 21st Foot, 1881

Trooper, Natal Carabineers, 1899 (see back cover figure 5 )

French Foreign Legion Trooper, 1867

Zulu Warrior, 1879

Private, German East Asian Brigade, 1900 (Boxer Rebellion)

Trooper,  21st Lancers, Omdurman 1898

Tuscan Jager, 1848 (illustrated above)

Bavarian Trooper 1870 (FPW)

French Army Infantryman, 1871 (FPW)

Russian Hussar 1854 (Crimea)

US Army Soldier, Cuba, 1898

Japanese Soldier 1904 (Russo Japanese War)

French Infantryman, 1914

Russian Infantryman, 1915

US Private, 1917

Captain, Royal Engineers, WW1

British Infantryman, Somme, 1916 (see back cover figure 6)

German Stormtrooper, 1918

British Infantryman, WW2

German Infantryman, 1940

British Private, Lancashire Fusiliers, North Africa

German Panzergrenadier, 1944

German Sniper, 1945

US Paratrooper, D-Day June 1944

US Marine, Pacific 1944

Japanese Private, Malaya, 1941

Australian Infantryman, New Guinea 1943

Waffen-SS Trooper, 1944

US Army Sergeant, Pacific 1945

US Infantryman, Korea, 1950

Viet Minh Soldier, Indochina, 1952

North Vietnamese Army Soldier, 1965

US Marine, Vietnam, 1968

Israeli Paratrooper, Six Day War, 1967

Russian Soldier, Afghanistan, 1986

US Soldier Special Ops, Afghanistan (see back cover figure 7)

Iraqi Fedayeen Fighter, 2003

How many more reasons do you need to buy this book?

At 23 / 24 mm tall these illustrations of the front of a soldier are almost Action Man Size.

Well worth a look and the asking price.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, March 2017









Fimo Figure Failure Fun

Brian Carrick, blog author of the brilliant Collecting Plastic Soldiers blog,  wondered whether the Prince August 54mm chess toy soldier pawn figures that I featured this week would work in Fimo polymer clay.

Would this work in Fimo, Brian wondered?  Would it be both cheaper and lighter?

I said I would Have a Fimo Go! (If you are reading this in America or elsewhere, Fimo is the equivalent to Sculpey Polymer Clay).


I wasn’t expecting much and was sadly proved right. Using a block of slightly old red Fimo, I rolled out, softened or warmed this through the hand rolling and then an appropriate size chunk inserted into one half of the mould.

I chose the simplest of the Prince August chess set moulds that I used this week  – the Alamo American Infantry pawn figure.


Fimo Figure Fail?

Putting the the second half of the mould on and squeezing them together, on removing the figure, it was clear that it had only partly worked. The face and front moulding was mostly there, the hat not quite.

The back was missing the lovely detail of knapsack and powder horn.

There was some detail but lots of spare Fimo flash  to trim in the form of a big moulding line.

With more care this could be lessened if the amount of Fimo were reduced.

With care a knapsack could be added which I have done to add 3D roundness to other flatbacked 54mm Fimo figures.

Rather than build up the figure with detail, I baked it at 110 degrees for 30 minutes then trimmed of any spare Fimo and the mould line with a scalpel.

With a bit of paint, a bit of trimming and a bit of detail added to an already baked figure (you can rebake and add to  Fimo like this), a passable figure could be made. The hat could be built up or trimmed to a battered kepi.

However if you have the ability to cast as intended in metal, this is surprisingly simple and fast.

Brian Carrick wondered how they compare in terms of weight. The Prince August chess pawn figure weighs in at just under an ounce of metal, the Fimo figure with twopence base for stability, about 5 grms (most of which is the tuppence coin!)

You could also work out cost in terms of an ounce of Prince August metal versus a small lump of Fimo.

Fimo Figure Fun Or Fail?

In the first months of Man of TIN blog, I featured several Fimo soldier figure experiments including using simple silicon Cake Dec mould Soldiers (my Cakes of Death battalions) and fun  Fimo freestyle or freesculpt figures.

This was one of my first Fimo failures, as I reinforced the body around a cocktail stick which led to cracking. I had not learnt that you can bake, add detail and rebake etc.

Over cooking at the wrong temperature was another Fimo failure and gives off not nice fumes and the figures distort badly.

Arise Angria! The Rising Sun banner of the Bronte kingdom of Angria.

This battered and cracked figure eventually found a role, painted up initially as some kind of Confederate standard bearer, he now carries the newly designed  flag of Angria, one of the imaginary kingdoms created by the young Bronte sisters.


The way we wore – this is how the figure first looked on the blog back in May 2016 after a little tinkering. (I don’t use  Green Stuff / Milliput in my house as some of my household are allergic to it).

Unpainted, cracked – Fimo failure or a bit of fun?

Fimo failure but fun!

Blogposted  by Mark, Man of TIN, March 2017.


Prince August chess pawn toy soldiers

The 54mm Alamo Chess Set pawns from Prince August –  ‘pewtered’ by applying then quickly  wiping off black paint before it dries. Small casting error on one of the rifle butts to repair.


A special  offer or ‘promotion of the month’ for March 2017 on the Prince August website led me to try these Alamo Chess set pawns at a reduced price, which I bought alongside their American Civil War and Napoleonic chess set pawn moulds.

These 54mm toy soldier chess pawn moulds in silicone rubber are available separately from buying the whole chess set moulds.

An interesting selection of 54mm figures

These figures cast well and cleanly, using Prince August Model Metal,  aside from the occasional glitch on the Alamo American figure rifle butt which is easily repaired.

Close up of the background and front of some of the  Alamo and American Civil War chess pawn figures Home cast from Prince August moulds.

By mixing the sets together, a varied Confederate or Union type Army or Militia can easily be created. I like the powder horns on the Alamo figures, and think that these could serve for figures from earlier periods than the Alamo.

Close up of the Napoleonic moulds 54mm chess pawns alongside the Alamo Mexican infantry figure (Prince August).

These figures with different paint schemes will bulk out the ranks of any 54mm toy soldier army.

Officer figures are included only in the whole Chess Set of moulds, admittedly on a slightly raised base. These bases could of course be adapted or removed. Alternatively other suitable figures could be used.

Standard bearers should be easily created from the rifleman figure by adapting the musket into a flag standard.

These figures are of course great for “Imagi-nation” games with some alternative paint work.

Slender of build as these chess pawns are, I was concerned how they matched up to other 54mm castings. Some castings from home cast and vintage moulds seem closer to 50mm.

Size match with 54mm Prince August chess pawn soldier Napoleonic British Infantry compared with (left to right) homecast red greatcoated infantry, Britain’s Napoleonic British, Prince August 54mm saluting Guards officer (my Man of TIN gravatar)  Herald Lifeguard, my Fimo Guards officer, Herald Guardsman. 

However in a quick line up with other manufacturers , they match these slighter figures and my previous castings from metal home cast moulds well enough.

Prince August chess pawn soldier Imperial Guard Napoleonics prove a reasonable size match for other 54mm figures (left to right) Britain’s AA Patrol, Airfix Imperial Guard, Britain’s line infantry and Guards marching, Herald Lifeguards. 
54mm American Civil War chess pawn Soldiers size match for other manufacturers including (left to right) my Fimo Union style Infantry, Herald confederate bugler, Britain’s Line Infantry (repainted). 

Perefect for parades, perfect for gaming – lots of possibilities.

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, March 2017.

Army Red and Blue home castings simply painted

Twa  Bonny Lads – homecast Highlander firing, repainted Britain’s Highlander charging


Back around January the 25th (Burns Night) I tried out some new vintage metal home cast moulds including this Highlander firing.

He got stuck in the mould, despite using release powder, but cleaned up nicely.

The face is not very detailed but he has a fine vintage toy soldier look. There is a distinctive casting line but not too much flash.

The original Highlander home casting. 

There is not much fine detail in the mould, whatever type of casting metal is used.

Simple paint scheme to suit a simple home cast figure. The Britain’s Highlander has a repaired rifle, again using the shaved cocktail stick method. 

I like this Highlander enough to want to cast more. A row of them firing would look a fine addition to any wargames table or garden skirmish, despite the casting line running across and obscuring any facial detail.

Another vintage metal  mould casting on the same day was this curious greatcoated steel helmet figure, a little in the small side at about 50mm.

Again this was a figure with some casting problems (hollows in the chest or backpack) but with lots of conversion potential, especially if heads were exchanged. There was more flash than you would expect from a modern home cast silicon figure, requiring a bit of filing. The rifle also failed to fill out on one or two castings.

The Homecast steel helmeted guardsman. 
Army Red and Army Blue paint options of this Home cast figure. 

The steel helmet is oddly cast enough that it could with little filing be turned into a bush hat, or a head swap or replacement arranged.

Superb as the Prince August 54mm multipose 54mm traditional toy soldier range are (choose the head, body and arms you want)   I also like the simplicity of a single figure mould sometimes.

The slightly hollow pack in one  and chest on the other can be seen here. 

A useful and versatile figure to cast more of, and one that suits a simple gloss toy soldier paint scheme. I imagine he was intended to be painted khaki.

Not sure of the Home cast manufacturer.

Blogposted by Mark, MIN Man of TIN blog, March 2017.