There are old soldiers and there are bold soldiers, but there are no old, bold soldiers, as the saying goes.
I always feel a bit sad seeing the lead graveyard of damaged toy soldiers that is sometimes EBay.
Repairing horses or cavalry is very tricky. Infantry are less tricky, if you are not too fussy, although many companies like Dorset Soldiers will do a fine job for you but at a cost. Recast heads and arms are available from several companies.
There is surprisingly little information on the Internet about repairing old broken lead soldiers.
I have been working my way through some of the casualties that have turned up in job lots of vintage toy soldiers to give them some gaming life again. I’m not one for a soldering iron or even Milliput / Green Stuff. This is not family friendly for us to use in our house as we have allergies to this Green Stuff in the family.
What else could I use to repair these damaged warriors?
What puts toy soldiers literally back on their feet in our house is Fimo or Sculpy polymer clay.
Crude, but using the traditional matchstick or cocktail stick into the hollow of the damaged legs, it is possible to make a custom made ‘prosthetic’ Fimo base to support the balance or weight of the damaged figure.
30 minutes baking later and once cool, the figure can be glued back into position on its Fimo base. Two pence pieces make good weighty support bases.
Overly chunky Fimo supports can be disguised if flocked or Fimo / Sculpy remains slightly shaveable with a scalpel after baking.
Once these bases are painted and the feet painted in, they should look slightly less clumsy but at least they are sturdy and live to fight again! With a few new arms bought in and a bit of repainting where needed, they should look almost shiny and new, certainly enough for the odd tabletop or garden skirmish.
Cocktail sticks cut and shaved into shape make good simple repairs for broken rifles, once glued into place and painted.
Some of the natives in this batch needed extensive rearming, new shields and rebasing with new feet.
These natives are part of a slowly growing force of natives, one I have repainted from bashed and damaged Zulu figures in job lots, ready for skirmish gaming.
One or two figures still need to have Fimo hands added like this Grenade thrower or hands / gloves shaved down into size like this drummer boy.
Sometimes the balance of figures is not quite right, as in the charging Tommy in the steel hat. One to rebase again!
Really pleased to have found a simple method of repairing of rebasing damaged figures. I will post some updated figures when these damaged figures are repainted or finished.
Posted by Mark, Man of TIN blog, 18 November 2016.
Following up my “favourite Peter Laing figure?” Blogpost, I asked knowledgeable enthusiast Ian Dury about 15mm Peter Laing figures whether Peter Laing had ever made a 15mm photographer figure, knowing how much Ian and others liked his Victorian Parade Range.
As far as Ian was aware, Peter Laing hadn’t made such a figure, so the natural thing to do was a quick conversion.
A colonial British infantry heliograph operator in pith or foreign service helmet (A605) made a good basic figure for a photographer with his tripod. The addition of a tiny black plastic Qixel cube or square bead roughed in for the clunky camera or early cine film apparatus. Until I find a smaller cube, it’ll do.
I let this tiny ‘blogs of war’ photographer loose on the my portable game board ‘battlefield’ of an impending North / South skirmish to take the combatant’s pictures. I think some time travel will be required if he is to document other such skirmishes.
More pictures of my newly painted and based Northern and Southern / Blue and Grey infantry on my next blog post.
This 30mm white plastic cake decoration guardsman was around when I was a child, whether I hope a left over ‘treasure’ from a family birthday cake or maybe just part of a random jumble sale bag.
I can’t recall his origin but this Drum Major was too big to fit with my other figures, so I kept him aside in my odds box.
The idea of a parade or band of these marching over a cake seemed highly appealing.
I always loved the decorated cakes on display in our local bakery window. Beyond the reach of most ordinary families in the 70s and 80s, who did you know who had a ‘boughten’ birthday cake from a shop? I recall staring for many years at the same pale green and white line iced football match cake with players and goals. Clever but by then very very stale!
It was also fascinating to rummage through the boxes and boxes of cake decorations in bakers or stationers, but they were pretty expensive for such cheap and badly painted plastic. Seemingly the boxes always seemed far too full of wedding cake figures or ballerinas, rather than useful, convertible figures for gaming.
Sadly I have yet to find an online museum of vintage cake decorations to find out more about this Guards Drum Major.
Fimo / Polymer Clay and Resin figures online now seem to have replaced these cake decoration selections in shops. Some of these offer creative possibilities!
The silicon cake decoration moulds around online now prove pretty handy for a range of gaming figures or tokens – from guardsmen to nativity shepherds and cowboys and Indians, lots of polymer clay and gaming play possibilities. If you like your figures on the cartoon, game token or ‘toy soldier’ side …
Great uniforms amongst enemy troops, but as a child I couldn’t work out why the Police in Tintin for example of what I took to be a supposedly British / English setting for Captain Haddock of Marlinspike Hall looked so odd.
Had Herge (I wondered as a child) never been to Britain? Slowly as I got older I realised that Herge was drawing mostly European / Belgian settings and that the books are translated all over the world.
This ‘Glocal’ World (both Global and Local) of Herge in translation has strange villains and fake euro Imagi-Nations such as Borduria in the Calculus Affair and the regime of the villainous Kurvi-Tasch with his strangely fascist moustache logo on his very Nazi looking generals, troops and 1950s looking tanks.
Even though Tintin goes back to the 1940s, to me his books are the ‘Funny Little Cold Wars’ of the 1950s and 1960s in graphic novel / comic strip version, akin in style and feel to the early 1960s James Bond movies with the suave and stylish Sean Connery and his menacing enemies.
A range of plastic Tintin figures / key ring figures is available online in various sizes.
Great inspiration for some enemy troops as shown with generic enemy “red troops” or “red guards” in my Back to Basics DIY figure making blogpost:
Making up your own enemies, uniforms and all isn’t that far from the truth.
The Milihistriot Website (c/o Sheil family USA website) has an interesting section with coloured plates of threat, enemy or “aggressor” troops with adapted uniforms from military exercises:
Green crested helmet enemy troops as just one example of some colourful training enemies from a 1964 MIlihistriot article soldiers of Never-Never Land by James Glazer, based on US troop manuals. These are archived at: http://www.thortrains.com/online/aggressor1.htm
Examples of 30-101 / these US troop manuals can be seen at:
These manuals have obviously inspired many of the imaginative paint finishes and uniforms on the Sheil range of vintage home cast Toy Soldier Art figures. More have been created on the same principle at their Spy Troops page: http://www.thortrains.com/online/spytroopies.htm
The Tintin / Calculus Affair Kurvi-Tasch troops also have a look of the strange Atlantic modern troop figures that occasionally and erratically appeared in shops in the 1980s, featuring an odd sort of Euro army appearance. They looked strangely foreign, even futuristic on occasion (not quite American, not British and not German). Only later did I discover that they are meant to be Italian / Euro troop types. Atlantic figures and their strange box art are well covered in the Airfix’s Competitors chapter of my much-thumbed copy of Airfix’s Little Soldiers by Jean Christophe Carbonel (Histoire & Collections publishers, 2009). Some of the Atlantic figures were recently reissued by NEXUS.
“It’s all about the base, about the base, no trouble”
If only all decisions or mistakes about basing or rebasing figures were so edible.
Cake seems to feature quite heavily on this gaming blog, whether it’s making your own “Cakes of Death” figures from silicon cake decoration moulds to creating palm tree islands from cake and palm tree cocktail sticks.
Previously on Man of (cake)TIN’s blog:
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
So today’s toy soldier / cake / gaming “mash up” is this natty cardboard cake topper guardsman and matching guardsman cake wrapper combo.
Sadly I can’t recall the origins of either of these cakey guards items; if I do recall the manufacturers, I’ll add it to the blog here.
(With apologies to Meghan Trainor)
Blogposted by Mr MIN, Man of (cake)TIN, July 2016.
Retail Design Worldwebsite / newsletter is an unusual read for a gamer (it informs part of my day job) but it has pages of VM (Visual Merchandising) inspirations inspired by exhibitions, shop windows and other unusual objects.
In the same way, I’m sure each gamer has their own scrap box, postcard, Pinterest board, DVD and bookshelf inspirations for their current games.
Here are some inspirations and scenarios I’ve come across whilst developing Donald Featherstone’s simplest two page rules Close Wars (Appendix 2) of his 1962 War Games, my favourite gaming book.
A keen Colonial gamer, Featherstone was focussed here on “the type of fighting that happens between small numbers of men in forests, such as in the French and Indian Wars of the late eighteenth century in America” (page 149).
My version has morphed over years into what I call “Close Little Wars“, “Bish Bash Bush” or “Bish Bash Am-Bush“, mash-up simple rules inspired by hex games, H.G. Wells, garden wargames, skirmish games and a passion for cheap plastic or glossy toy soldiers.
Scenarios of natives versus troops:
A recent Christmas book token was swiftly transformed into five Osprey books, all with Close Little Wars applications. In no particular order:
Teutoberg Forest AD 9: The Destruction of Varus and His Legions by Michael McNally Osprey Camapign 228
Close Little Wars scenarios for Airfix Romans meeting Airfix Ancient Britons. Or maybe my Cakes of Death inspired ‘Ancient Warrior’ figure?
2. Fort William Henry 1755-57: A Battle, Two Sieges and Bloody Massacre by Ian Castle, Osprey Campaign 260
3. Tomahawk and Musket: French and Indian Raids in the Ohio Valley 1758 by Rene Chartrand, Osprey Raid series no. 27
Slightly later in the eighteenth century, the Revolutionary Wars in North America provide another Close Little Wars type scenario:
4. The Swamp Fox: Francis Marion’s Campaign in the Carolinas 1780 by David R. Higgins, Osprey Raid Series no. 42.
On another continent or island, New Zealand:
5. The New Zealand Wars 1820-72 by Ian Knight, Osprey Men at Arms series No. 487
The New Zealand Wars of Pa forts and Pakeha European troops versus successful Maori natives was a period I first read about in a series of articles in Miniature Wargames (issues 27 to 29 August to October 1985) brought home for the history articles by my Dad. Andy Callan also published a short set of Maori Wars rules in Military Modelling in 1983; I never got the hang of them from the tattered magazine I bought from our school library but they had great pictures of Peter Laing figures attacking a twig stockade on shaggy deep pile carpet terrain!
Each of these Osprey books temptingly has a back page full of Related Titles on www.ospreypublishing.com Tempting but expensive. There’s always second hand, EBay or the library ….
Figures for Close Little Wars
1. 40mm HE figures Holgar Eriksonn figures from Prince August sourced home casting moulds – Cowboys and Indians, Seven Years War / 18th Century figures.
2. 30mm Spencer Smith Miniatures of American Civil War / Wild West / Eighteenth Century / American War Of Independence – first bought in plastic, still available in metal and many designed by Holger Eriksonn!
I will post a separate blog post on using these charming simple Spencer Smith 30mm figures for Little Close Wars.
3. Vintage Airfix
Ancient Britons and Romans, Washington’s Army, British Grenadiers, Cowboys, Wagon Train, Indians, Union Infantry, Confederate Infantry, American Civil War Artillery, Napoleonic troops, Airfix Gurkhas or Australian Infantry, Japanese Infantry.
Many other plastic 1:72 figures are now available for almost any period – I still have some Esci Colonial Infantry, Zulus and ‘Muslim Warriors’ from the 1980s and the Atlantic ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and fabulous Wild West series with everything from teepee camps, gold mining camps, Buffaloes. All useful for scenarios of Close Little Wars.
But vintage Airfix, big and little, crumbling as some now vintage ones now, unless if you have the recently reissued Hat or Airfix, remain for me the standard figures for conversion or play.
Pound Store Warrior Knight
Pound Store Warrior Knight
4. Pound Store plastic Cowboys, Indians, civilians, ‘ancient Warriors’ Romans and Knights. Usually in 54 mm scale.
Little Close Wars Terrain – not seeing the Wood for the Trees:
Donald Featherstone raided his Southampton garden for his early gaming materials:
“Trees can be purchased in plastic that look very real and are quite cheap. They can also be made from loofah sponge or from plastic dyed green and stuck onto pieces of twig, or there is style of lichen moss available that makes wonderful trees. When Wargames started in the writer’s house, trees were made plentifully from pine-cones dyed green and fixed to the table with a daub of plasticine. ” Donald Featherstone, War Games, 1962, page 41.
Featherstone’s Close Wars appendix terrain list is pure garden, park and woodland finds, a proper Nature Table.
If not blessed with a suitable garden source, there is an Australian company Bold Frontiers who make a range of trees to complement its Armies in Plastic forest rangers and other figures http://www.boldfrontiers.com.au
We started with books to inspire interesting figure game scenarios, so let’s end this post with another interesting link on the Bold Frontiers website. As scenarios go, they have an interesting reading list for boys (and girls?) of all ages:
I admire their slogans and ethos for a new generation of younger gamers, effectively saying to parents buy these for your kids as “the Great Alternative to Digital Games“. Bold Frontiers claim that “Boys can STRETCH their Imaginations and live the Adventure” (Boys? What about girls, including H.G. Wells’ “more Intelligent sort of Girl who likes Boys’ Games and Books“.
They subtitle their Bold Frontiers site with a slogan close to my garden / gaming heart: “Bring the great outdoors, indoors!”
So get offscreen, grab a bag of poundstore figures, raid the garden and get gaming!
More Cakes of Death silicon cake mould and sugar craft inspired gaming ideas.
This figure was made as a birthday gift for a family member who collects bears, having previously liked some traditional style Toy soldier Prince August figures made for another birthday.
Figures from these commercially produced silicon sugar craft or cake decoration moulds (available from several internet suppliers) are about 65 to 70 cm high / 2 – 3 inches high.
These Fimo bear figures are painted in Revell Gloss Acrylics for that toy soldier look.
All I need now are several dozen of these in contrasting colours and a bear battle may commence for command of the toy box / honey supply, whatever …
Perfect for parades or unusual gaming scenarios.
Glow in the dark gaming …
One of the first polymer clay / Fimo bear figures I made was using white Fimo – or what I thought was white Fimo from a multicolour gift set. What it turned out to be at nighttime was glow in the dark Fimo.
Maybe a challenge – glow in the dark figures gaming – or maybe not.
The sound of the ghostly pipes and a glowing figure at night. Should scare the enemy!
As well as metal mould figures, there are other materials to use in making your own figures for use in board games, wargaming and role playing games.
Polymer clay (Fimo in the UK and Europe, Sculpey in the USA) is oven baked, coloured or paintable, mouldable and easy to carve.
Part 1: Playing with Cake Mould soldiers
I have been experimenting with making different figures, firstly using silicon moulds and secondly freestyle Fimo or freehand.
One silicon cake mould obtained through Ebay and Etsy yielded a flat generic sort of “toy soldier guardsman“. This can be converted into many other figures with a little sculpting, cutting, painting and extra Fimo pieces or accessories.
I’m new to polymer clay and found it gets a bit clumsy with warmth from fingers (so pop in in the fridge for a minute or two sometimes). I also found it pays to bake them flat, as adding back packs too early can lead to cracking or bending if they don’t lay flat on a baking tray / baking paper.
Carving hats or changes of headgear allows figures to be converted from the standard guardsman to represent different periods such these American Civil War type figure or Russian looking figure.
Back views show additional backpacks, water bottles etc to give a rounded feel to what are otherwise flat backed figures.
I’m also quite new to acrylic paints, having grown up with enamel model paints. Enamel paints proved far too stinky for use in a shared household / kitchen table crafting space (without a crafting room), so low odour Revell Gloss Acrylics from my local hobby store have proved a good alternative and far more family friendly.
I do find these acrylics dry quickly but remain ever so slightly tacky for a while especially on Fimo / Polymer clay, so attracting dust!
Not yet decided on whether to varnish or not and if so, how.
Part 2: Freestyle or Freesculpted Fimo – Frustrating First Attempts
The first family gift of Fimo this year was off white or flesh coloured. Playing with this trial pack to make figures led to some frustrating disasters and other figures that are more promising.
Experiment and practice will no doubt help my next attempts at free sculpting.
Polymer clay gets a little droopy or saggy with warmth, so my first attempt to free sculpt this flag bearer figure is far clumsier and more cracked than I wished.
I reinforced the figure around a cocktail stick skewer or internal splint before baking upright but this probably led to more cracking!
Smaller Freesculpt Polymer Clay figures
First attempts with smaller free sculpt figures suffered more similar stockiness of figure than desired, again from finger warmth and sagginess. However with paint, some interesting figures developed.
No particular period figures were in mind when playing around with these first attempts.
Mounted or based on scalpel cut sliver circles of wine bottle cork to be painted or flocked.
Pin or shaved matchstick / cocktail stick weapons to be added.
Other slightly smaller figures sometimes suggest sometimes redcoats, sometimes more modern soldiers, maybe a red beret paratrooper or airborne brigade; this is what emerges whilst free sculpting.
Not always sure what these figures are or will turn out to be. A bit of fun and a learning process.
On the plus side, polymer clay (Fimo) figures are amazingly light and very versatile. They are also pleasing to create and pretty cheap, although not as cheap as pound store figure conversions.
Too late for my first attempts, I rediscovered on the Vintage Wargaming blog a version of the long remembered article about Fimo figures with some helpful hints like building and baking sections (legs etc) as you go to prevent stocky figure / sagging problems.
The silicon cake mould figures I featured on my blog sometimes seem so much easier than these free sculpts for slightly larger quantities.
Buying plastic or metal figures sometimes seems easier. However Donald Featherstone in his 1962 book War Games, before many figures were easily available, celebrated the mancraft and boycraft of DIY making your own figures, terrain and rules (page 21):
“There is a great deal of satisfaction in making one’s own armies, either in their entirety or by conversions.” (Page 21)
“Part of the fun of being a war gamer lies in the making of one’s own soldiers as distinct from purchasing figures of different sizes obtainable from makers in various parts of the world.” (Page 18, War Games)
I will post more pictures as I experiment with other variations on these basic mould figures and other materials.
I think Stuart Asquith (editor of a modelling or games magazines my Dad used to bring home for me in the 1980s) summed it up well when he finished his article part two:
“Note: There are no units, there are no morale rules.”
“If you want to shell out around £30 for a set of rules, then feel free, but you know, you really don’t have to – don’t worry about phases or factors, go back to simple enjoyment.”
Wise words indeed.
Stuart Asquith and Donald Featherstone both wrote short simple books on Solo Gaming. They have simple dice ideas setting up a quick solo game for random deployment of forces on both sides, delayed reinforcements etc which make solo games far more unpredictable … and more frustrating, fun or silly.
A growing vintage / nostalgia trend?
I’ve noticed whilst looking at games blogs and articles (in pursuit of vintage Peter Laing 15mm figures) that there is a growing vintage / nostalgia trend back to simple and silly enjoyable games including in the back garden, back to vintage airfix and http://vintagewargaming.blogspot.co.uk, back to my 1960s Featherstone books and 60s vintage plastic figures etc.
I think this is probably a reaction to the hobby games world getting too serious; After all it is “playing with toy soldiers” or the “tiny men” as they are known in my household.
Now that you could buy almost anything, any figures and rules etc for any period off the shelf, preassembled, painted if you have the cash (I think the same exists for model railways and scenery etc now too), maybe this is why there is this a “back to basics”.
Prince August and other home cast metal figures are fun to make in their easy to use moulds. Filing off metal flash has never been much fun.
However for simplicity I have been experimenting with some Silicon cake mould soldier figures using Fimo (safe, easy to use and sculpt / convert and paint) polymer clay (Sculpey in the USA) for a bit of fun. The mould was found online through Ebay and Etsy.
I’m sketching out how many variations of this basic cake decoration Fimo figure I can make with paint and a scalpel!
Having sketched out some different ideas in my notebook, inspired by different figures in toy soldier collecting and uniform books, I set out to mould and sculpt my first cake soldier miniatures for gaming.
Here are some rough toy soldier gloss paint early drafts.
Roughly about an inch high, they are incredibly lightweight and are painted quickly in suitably toy soldier gloss acrylic.
I still haven’t quite worked out what to do with the face finish. Simple eyes and heroic manly moustache are currently put on using illustrator’s fine point lightproof pigment pens. Not yet found the right gloss flesh acrylic.
With more practice the newest figures are getting thinner but if made too thin, I find that delicate items like rifles can fall off.
A little flock on damp gloss painted helmets and bases works well. A suggestion of camouflage! A little flock on bases also works wonders.
When the rifle fell off a green army soldier basic version, a conversion idea sprang to mind. This Ancient Warrior is equipped with a Fimo red cloak, a shiny thumbtack shield pushed through the arm gap. and the rifle carved away to be resolved by stout cocktail stick spear glued on.
Red Troops. Other variations include redcoats of different eras from tricornes to more 19th century field service helmets.
Blue Troops. As part of my wider imagi-nations games, the figures are not too specifically historically based. Some of these figures may suggest Union infantry of the American Civil War.
All ashore? Others with some hat remodelling and haversacks may suggest Victorian sailors or landing parties for colonial campaigns.
Using toy model boats (a junk shop find, handmade in Cornwall) works well for that toy soldier feel.
Backpacks or haversacks from coloured or painted Fimo easily get round the “flats” feel of these silicon mould figures, originally designed for sugar craft cake decoration or card making.
A variety of gloss paint or Fimo polymer clay base colour suggests modern infantry of different nations, habitats and camouflage.
Using different colour Fimo pressed into legs or head sections gives some interesting effects. Maybe a paratroop beret?
Troops For Lazy Painters
Another Fimo base colour, working with red Fimo or polymer clay, avoids the need to paint the whole figure and speeds up production ready for gaming. En masse they look like red guards, enemies guarding a secret base in some James Bond movie.
These were inspired by a rare red Dimestore lead “podfoot” figure from the USA of ‘enemy troops’ made during the Korean War period. Still need to finish painting flesh and faces on these faceless hordes.
The original enemy troop podfoot figure in James Opie’s Collecting Toy Soldiers book gave me a design idea, sketched out in my note book. Some of the designs are paint designs for the pirated copies of pound store party bag soldiers (based on pirated Matchbox American WW2 troops).
These Fimo home-made Warriors match in size some simple “party bag toy soldiers” at 6 for 20p (search online!) that I first spotted as freebies in “Combat Mission 8 vehicle kits” in a local garage’s party toy gift section! This gives some useful extra poses to paint or convert, once you’ve trimmed their cheap pound store plastic flash off.
I will post pictures of these polymer clay figures and others as they progress and go into action using my hex grid version of the very simplest Donald Featherstone “Close Wars” appendix two page rules from Wargames (1962).
I hope you have enjoyed the “work in progress” pictures and that you are tempted to pick up some polymer clay, a paintbrush or scalpel and boycraft or mancraft some of your own figures.
Watch this blog space for more “Cakes of Death” polymer clay warriors …