A repost of a December 2019 “clearing the drafts” blogpost about Escape from Kraznir that I reread recently as I try to work out more RPG / narrative and fantasy elements into my Scouting Wide Games Project:
August 2022 Update: New Post with the original Kraznir scenario and map which I have crudely denamed, the characters made gender neutral and differently classed or with more generic, updated character types to suit a wider range of periods:
These three strange figures appeared in a (school?) jumble sale mix of plastic figures in the early 1980s. I had no idea what they were, had not encountered flat figures and they were surprisingly heavy for their size.
All the lead hollowcast figures had vanished from the family by the late sixties, these lost legions possibly the casualties of parental concern about lead in children’s toys and the new possibilities of plastic.
I had no idea what these were. They had a strange marking ‘HE’ on the base.
1980/81 – This was the days before the Internet.
They were bare metal or grey undercoated when found, at some point they received my desultory painting of red and black, then languished unseen for decades.
Their survival is probably due to having been in the 1980s Blue Box for the next 25 to 30 years or more, where they remained unused in my 1980s Blue Box of odds and ends, as what use were three figures?
I didn’t connect these orphan HE figures at all with the tempting adverts in Military Modelling in the early 1980s for these grown up, hot metal moulds. The moulds and the metal were unobtainable on my Airfix figures pocket money income, even if I could be trusted with hot metal (unlikely then).
Another 25 years pass.
Early in 2005/6 in a small craft shop on a backwater street of a backwater southwest town, by chance I discovered in a sale one Prince August casting starter set and a box of 54mm Traditional Toy Soldier moulds. At last I could cast my own figures.
Being able to cast your own figures whenever you want more and own the means of production still seems a little bit magical to me.
I have not looked back since.
I sometimes wonder how different my toy soldier hobby life would be without that chance shop find.
I know now that these three figures are Holger Eriksson 18th Century / Seven Years War moulds, still available from Prince August and I now have some of these moulds in my collection:
I know now that HE obviously is the talented Swedish Toy Soldier designer Holger Erickson. His HE figures from the 1950s and 1960s are still available through Prince August and from Tradition Of London including S.A.E Figures from the Featherstone era.
Brian Carrick’s excellent blog posts on Holger Eriksson:
This seemed such a weird size when I first encountered these three Unknown figures in the early 1980s. Figures to me back then were Airfix size 1:32 or 1:72/76. I now have a fair amount of 40-42mm figures in my collection and gaming skirmish units, including Pound Store Plastic copies of 54mm figures that have through copying shrunk in size, stylish HE Cowboys and Indians and of course my current STS Little Britons 42mm range Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
I wonder if one day these three stray orphan 40mm HE figures – my first metal figures – will kickstart a small gaming collection of Tricorne and Musket figures? Who knows?
These tricorne figures to me inexplicably have a Gulliver’s Travels Lilliputian look to them. If it does eventually happen, it might be unconventional ImagiNations / Lace Wars Steampunk like this 2007 blog link I found via TMP about 6 years ago. But not just yet …
As a collector of toy soldier things, I found this toy soldier postcard entitled Une page de tournée (“a turning page”) on Etsy for a few pounds. I was intrigued by the toy soldiers escaping from a battle illustration in a (French) book.
A little surreal … especially the connected or disconnected collection of objects around them:
A knight statue. Spider webs. Old French postcard. Unwritten postcards. Bound volumes or old books. Lautrec style Paris Moulin Rouge / Can Can print of group de Mlle Eglantine.
They carry light machine guns and look a little like chunky Airfix British Paratroopers or Atlantic ‘euro figures’. Presumably they may be ‘modern’ 20th century French Troops? Or generic modern infantry?
Some figures escape the page or several of the figures are still in the book, covering their retreat or just wounded.
Paintings like this are designed to provoke questions.
What are they escaping from?
Have they been defeated or routed?
What story are they in? Is it a history or a fiction story?
They reminded me of a modern version of the Bronte “Twelves” toy soldiers in the famous children’s book and the art installation at Bronte Parsonage Museum.
They reminded me also a little, albeit in modern combat fatigues, of the toy soldiers which come to life in E. Nesbit’s The Town in The Library, an Edwardian children’s book:
“André Martins de Barros was born in 1942 in Pau, a small town in the foothills of the Pyrénées near the Spanish border. He married in 1974 and has two grown-up children.” Apparently he worked in Paris.
There was a very interesting quote about his work by Christian Germak –
“His painting are never simple; they tell more than the story depicted on the surface and are often deep philosophical statements in themselves revealing great thoughts, secrets and symbols. They can be poetic or full of humour.”
“Each painting belies more than than one interpretations and in some pictures you sense as he is playing with his characters arranging them as children would with their toy soldiers. Whether he is using books, bodies, horses or cans, it is all a game.”
Comment by Christian Germak (translated in English by Fiona Remnant)
How odd that he doesn’t mention “arranging them as grown men and women of a certain age would still with their toy soldiers.”
Christian Germak goes on to say about Martins’ work: “The artist’s ultimate aim is to lead us in his world of dreams and fantasy and in so doing offers us the opportunity to be surrounded by and confront our own philosophical thoughts and beliefs inspired by travels through the subconscious. Experience his work and enter his world.”
This makes me think that what we do, collecting and displaying toy soldiers in vignettes and dioramas or gaming with them, is quite similar to how Martins and other illustrators create character, scene and story along with tension, peril and emotion in a scene.
This could be said of the striking Airfix ‘Box Art’, especially for the figures and vehicles. A freeze frame from real life or a 50s 60s war film?
The same could be said of our gaming scenarios, diorama making and writers.
In some ways, painting, scriptwriting, (graphic) novels and TV scripts, some types of figure gaming and RPGs share similarities – they are all creative, character building, involve setting the scene, overcoming challenges and coming to some form of resolution.
There is an old writers maxim – “Impediment makes a narrative“, whether it is a fantasy RPG or historical War Game, a Hollywood script, TV or Radio cliff-hanger, theatre or musical performance.
This “Impediment” in our games is the contested pinchpoint of a bridge over impassable stream, the unbalanced force, the dice roll delaying the arrival of reinforcements, the ammunition running out, the Paratroops arriving off landing zone target …
What is written on the “turning page”?
What does the book say in Martins’ strange painting?
The illustrated page is captioned “[… dade] de l’ennemi” (… of the Enemy) and the other page
“… the war costing us nearly two billion a day … we must foresee the moment when the [re…] gold of our public treasury … be started, only to settle the orders that we have made abroad. Today we export less and import more. At present we find ourselves debtors of a few nations. Here are the realities.”
It doesn’t make much sense, being roughly translated using a French to English translation online website / program.
Blogposted by Mark Man Of TIN, 15 August 2022
B.P.S. Blog Post Script
Another artist who collected and featured ‘toy soldiers’ in his art – Andrew Wyeth
60 years ago this May 1962, the 44 year old WW2 veteran Donald Featherstone published his first book on War Games.
War Games was published with the background of the Cold War; my late Dad had recently finished amongst the last National Service men as conscription in Britain was coming to an end. The Cuban Missile crisis was only a few months away in October 1962.
In 1962 Featherstone’s own war service as a young Tank NCO in the Royal Armoured Corps in Italy was only 17 years behind him. Since WW2 he had established a successful business as a sports physiotherapist.
The Courier’s Timeline of Historical Miniatures Gaming has an interesting link to this first May 1962 publication, a copy inscribed by Don Featherstone to fellow Southampton gamer Tony Bath.
Cut this page out and stick this in your copy for inspiration … “Hazardous career”?!?
There is an affordable paperback reprint available from John Curry’s History Of Wargaming Project. Second hand copies of the original 1962 hardback and reprints can be found for reasonable prices online.
I’m sure many gamers cut their teeth on this first War Games volume. I did but it was 15 to 20 years later before I found this first book as a youngster (by then second edition, reprinted many times) in the adult section of my local branch library. I still have this exact well thumbed copy, bought when the library cleared old stock in the 1990s.
I also have a tatty 1962 edition picked up quite cheaply several years ago.
When did you first read or encounter this book?
Other tabletop gaming events of 1962 from the Courier Timeline.
Added highlights to this 1962 list should be the arrival of an increasingly varied range of cheap Airfix figures from 1959 onwards, according to Featherstone, “the latest and possibly most vital contribution to the wargames world”.
My tatty 1962 edition lists the existing and following figures to arrive in 1962:
Part of what piqued my interest when first borrowing this book from the branch library was seeing these older first version Airfix figures, ones that I had a few of, in use in this ‘grown up’ gaming book. These photographs said to me: I can do this, I don’t have flats or Spencer Smiths, but I have Airfix.
Our next two #FEMbruary celebration of female figures are a fantasy figure conversion into an unusual Elizabeth the First and a Generic Empress figure – read and see more at my Pound Store Plastic Warriors Blog