Christmas has come early to Man of TIN house, as my first order of Jacklex figures has arrived from the new owner Mark Lodge.
Before they go into the Christmas present box to be given to me by the family, I thought I would check my order through – all present and correct.
I have long wanted to buy some Jacklex figures having seen them in Donald Featherstone books.
Whilst they are out of the lovely red box and sawdust packaging before Christmas, I thought I would photograph the figures alongside their 20mm Airfix counterparts.
Jacklex figures were made by the talented Jack Alexander (90 this year, 2019) in the 1960s and 1970s, partly to complement the popular OOHO Airfix American Civil War and Foreign Legion figures.
This ‘origin story’ is told here – I have yet to track down in online scan archives the Featherstone Meccano Magazine article or War Games book review in 1962 that first inspired Jack Alexander to make his toy soldier range:
The Airfix WW1 Americans come across as quite slender in comparison with the Jacklex American Punitive Expedition to Mexico just before WW1. Others like the limited WW1 Jacklex range are a far closer size match to Airfix.
Airfix WW1 German and British Infantry alongside the Jacklex equivalents, albeit with mid to late war steel helmets.
The American Civil War figures generally blend well with the Airfix Civil War figures.
My conversions from British Commandos and Japanese Infantry look quite slender in comparison to Jacklex drummers and standard bearers but these are the sorts of figures that oddly Airfix did not produce for their ACW range. Trumpeters and Officers for the American Civil War were produced by Airfix but oddly not drummers or standard bearers. The American War of Independence and Waterloo Airfix range was better served in this way.
The Jacklex horses match quite well the Airfix ACW / Seventh Cavalry and may be a solution to the awkward Airfix horses that do not glue well to their bases.
Again these lovely colonial British and Navy officers and French Foreign Legion officer match quite well the size of the relevant Airfix French Foreign Legion, Arabs and Esci colonials and Zulus.
Lead Mountain Warning – you could happily spend a small fortune on the new old Jacklex ranges (but at least you would have something decent and long lasting to show for it).
I have yet to sample the Jacklex Russo Japanese War, Colonial Natives, Mexicans Ranges but they do look attractive figures. Fighting as I tend to do small solo Featherstone ‘Close Wars’ type skirmishes with only a few dozen figures on each side, I can (almost) get away with gaming a wide range of figure scales and periods without additional storage problems and bankruptcy. Oddly appropriate as ‘Close Wars’ rules are a simple appendix to the 1962 War Games book by Donald Featherstone that inspired Jack Alexander to make Jacklex figures in the first place.
It is a great easy to use shopping website with good customer service, easy payment, fast despatch and some quirky touches like free PDF Andy Callan 19th Century Rules (veteran rules writer Andy Callan is an old gaming friend of new Jacklex owner Mark Lodge). There are also links to these two Jacklex inspired websites:
It is often said that a man dies two deaths, once when he physically dies and second when he is past living memory and his name and works are forgotten.
Someone like Stuart Asquith with his magazine columns and books, along with the many figures he painted, will not be forgotten, at least not by a small band of wargamers of a certain age and hopefully younger people who discover his simple approach in his accessible wargaming books.
Beginners will not forget borrowing from branch libraries or now tracking down online his Military Modelling Guide to Wargaming, which had lots of entry level plastic figures and simple rules. I still have and use the local branch library copy that I borrowed as child, picked up cheaply when it was sold off by the library service.
Solo Wargamers will not forget his interesting book on the topic with some innovative solo games mechanisms.
Siege Wargamers will not forget his book on this unusual subject.
I really like his ComfortableWargaming articles with their laid back, enjoy your games approach with No Units. No Morale Tests: “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.”
I never met Stuart in person but you feel like you sort of know somebody when you have read and reread their books and magazines for 30 to 40 years.
However in the last couple of years I was fortunate enough to be able to say a small thank you for all that he had done for my hobby.
I heard from Stuart after reprinting some sections of the Brian Carrick article Big Wars on 54mm gaming sections from the Battle For Wargamers Military Modelling Wargames Manual on my blog(s) as part of a discussion on 54mm garden gaming.
Stuart asked if anyone had a spare copy of this Manual magazine / annual as he could not find his own copy. He wanted to see a copy again but there were no second hand copies around. Not wishing to part with the original (a treasured gift from my Dad), I managed to photocopy it all and send it in a presentation folder to him.
It was my small way of saying thanks for all he had done for simplifying and inspiring my hobby over many years. I was happy to have given him a weekend of comfortable wargames nostalgia.
I was trying not to be a total fanboy but Stuart Asquith – the Stuart Asquith – had read my blogs. He left a comment on them and then I had a few emails from him.
Could I have imagined that as an 1970s 1980s Airfix kid pushing my plastic armies around a felt cloth on the dining room table?
The editor of the wargames bits and books from Military Modelling Magazine, Stuart Asquith was a giant in my Airfix boy eyes, along with Donald Featherstone. More important to me than any 1970s or 80s popstar, TV celebrity or footballer. (No, you’re right, that is a bit total fanboy but still …)
I was delighted and not a little surprised to hear that he was still enthusiastic and active in our wonderful hobby, cropping up on some of his regular gaming partners’ blogs. Hope for us all yet …
I received an appreciative email or two back from Stuart, who was also pleased when I let him know that his 15mm Peter Laing Roman Army and Ancient British Celtic armies were in good hands, mine, and still in use. Painted and used by Stuart, they now take pride of place amongst many treasured objects in my games room, still looking good after many years but awaiting rebasing.
They receive a passing mention of these very troops in his Comfortable Wargaming article in the form of Boadicea in her chariot that Peter Laing had specially made for Stuart, one figure that he had not parted with when he started downsizing his figure collection.
Amidst our email conversations, I mentioned the Wargames Manual’s general unavailability secondhand to John Curry of the History of Wargaming Project, who started talking to Stuart about possibly reprinting the Wargames Manual as part of his long to-do list of reprints. John has already reprinted several Stuart Asquith titles. http://www.wargaming.co/recreation/asquithandwise.htm
Thinking back to my first Osprey book written by him to help paint my Pater Laing ECW armies, Stuart’s 2019 reprinted ECW rules book ought to be on my Christmas list.
Tell it to the Bees …
Like bees, when their bee keepers die, I wonder if you have to break it to the tiny tin and lead men very gently that their painter and former (owner) Commander in Chief is no longer with us, gone to that Valhalla in the skies which is a bit like an eternal weekend of the Wargames Holiday Centre.
There, Stuart Asquith and Donald Featherstone, H.G. Wells and many of the wargames pioneers who are no longer with us are, I hope, having good natured arguments about wargaming in the afterlife and rolling the odd dice together …
Thank you Stuart Asquith, not forgotten, whenever and wherever a simple comfortable wargame is played and enjoyed.
Iremain proud to lead his tiny legions and tribes into battle with his blessing as their new Commander.
Blog posted by Asquith fanboy Mark Man of TIN, 4/5 November 2019
When I was a youngster, my Dad would bring back Military Modelling, the occasional Airfix Magazine and then Miniature Wargames each month when it first came out in the 1980s. No doubt he read and enjoyed them on the train home for the history articles. I still have many of them in part or whole. Thanks Dad!
So I was interested to read the wargames magazines reviews and comments on various blogs including Bob Cordery on Wargaming Miscellany as the magazines have changed audiences and editors over the last few years.
Many of the recent comments on the changing nature of some magazines seemed to fall into a generational trench or historical vs fantasy gaming camps, the recent editorial and ownership changes to Miniature Wargames magazine having polarised opinion.
Some confess to fall no back in love with print magazines like Big Lee:
For a fringe or niche hobby, it is a surprise to me that there are still in 2019 three colour wargames magazines on the newsagent stands alongside two toy soldier collector magazines and all the tabletop and fantasy gaming magazines.
I usually flick through these magazines when I go into town to see if they are ‘worth buying’.
Irritatingly, some are shrink wrapped issues with free gaming show catalogues or free sprues of the latest plastic figures (i.e. clever product placement) so that you cannot see inside some of the magazines.
This freebie is calculatedly and temptingly an effective entry level drug to a new period, scale or games system, clever but something new that I simply do not need with a head and a paint table already full of ideas.
There is also a QR code on the front cover to scan to see the contents page, if you have that sort of phone (which I don’t). It loses Wargames Illustrated Magazine and Miniature Wargames one potential reader every month.
Like many of those who comment on the review posts, which is obviously just one slice of opinion, I am regularly put off buying several of these magazines over the last twenty years by the increasingly advertorial scenarios for certain games systems and figure ranges.
If you don’t play those systems, this style of magazine article seems almost meaningless.
I do like a look at the adverts and new figure ranges, although quite often they are featured long before on the websites of other bloggers, excitedly distracted by the next new shiny thing.
One interesting feature in the most recent Wargames Soldiers and Strategy WSS magazinewww.wzssmagazine.com is the thematic approach to the core articles of each issue. A few months ago I bought the French Indian Wars issue as this is when my favourite Featherstone Close Wars small wooded Skirmish (natives vs soldiers) rules are set. This month I bought the mostly WW2 1944 issue – theme: the Fight for Overloon and Venray.
I recognise a few of the opinion column writers from past magazines, blogs and podcasts such as Henry Hyde, former editor of Miniature Wargames and Battle Games and Guy Bowers the Editor.
I enjoy the Guy Bowers‘ figure reviews showing a sample of what figures in what scales are currently available to play for each issue’s main theme period.
Obviously not every manufacturer and every scale could be featured in such an article.
Wot No Airfix?
I noticed one surprise omission on the figures page for WW2 1944 Northern Europe scenarios, which covers the current fashionable scales from 6mm through 10mm and 15mm to the ubiquitous 28mm. (No 54mm?) One set of cheap and affordable figures were missing – there were no Airfix.
There were four other 20mm manufacturers mentioned, mostly metal – Adler, Frontline, Valiant plastics and Wartime Miniatures (Australia). Foundry 20mm are mentioned rather than shown. Some of these figures are £1.20 each!
But no Airfix. Why the omission? It could be because they are currently and irritatingly out of stock on Airfix.com and only available in shops or online suppliers if you can find them.
Maybe Airfix figures are the generational Fault Line?
On the same basis, I’m sure the old Airfix 54mm figures are not shown in the review as their 54mm British Infantry (Combat Support Group) are hard to find in the shops and few now game in this scale. 54mm British Infantry are now fairly hard to find cheaply, but as for 54mm gamers, they are available to find online in one place at the Little Wars Revisited 54mm gaming forum.
But No Airfix? This was maybe something I only noticed because a few days earlier on a trip into a real toyshop searching for family presents, I had picked up the latest ‘new’ Airfix figures in thirty odd years. Obviously latest and new meant 2011 – I hadn’t noticed that the 1973 ones had been replaced.
This type of cheap plastic figure is where many a gamer of my generation or older cut their teeth. The metals and plastics shown in Guy Bowers’ magazine review were or still are beyond pocket money range and easy access to many youngsters, even today through online sales. I was able to look at these Airfix figures and others closely in the shop. I paid hard cash for these figures. I bought a box of the new WW2 figures partly as I am a ‘Completist’ who owns Airfix figures from all the sets ever issued but mostly to show my support for real toyshops.
Airfix is still just about available in many of the larger hobby shops, craft and toy stores as well as these WW2 British Infantry (currently out of stock) at Airfix.com
£6 for a box of 48 figures seems reasonable, at roughly 12p each figure. As Bob Cordery mentioned, this is pretty much the cost of a magazine these days. They also come with an available Airfix relaunched ‘vintage classics’ range of WW2 vehicles, admittedly ones you have to make yourself.
The only 20mm alternative in plastic shown are the Valiant figures at £13 for 68 Miniatures. This is comparable value per figure, just a big outlay for maybe too many figures for a simple Skirmish game.
Here below is a better off the sprue photograph of the new 2011 Airfix British Infantry.
The review on Plastic Soldier Review is not flattering about the skinny legs, what should be shapeless but here skin-tight battle dress and poorly moulded weapons but they seem no more distorted than the average metal figures.
To me, they look a useful enough set loaded down with lots of haversacks, equipment and few useless weird diorama poses.
They are a good looking, animated set of figures which almost don’t look like Airfix. Shame that they don’t make them as copies in 54mm but there are the old Britains Paratroops, Britains Deetail and Steve Weston’s WW2 versions if you can find them.
They would be a good match for the Airfix WW2 German Infantry in either scale if you can track them down (also out of stock on Airfix.com).
At some point I will get a chance to paint these new figures. Painting table is a bit cluttered at the moment.
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 20 / 21 October 2019.
When no one makes cheap 54mm plastic scouts, what can you do but convert some of the cheapest rackety cloned and distorted toy soldiers into Boy and Girl Scouts? Some of this worked well. Read more at:
Huzzah! Let us celebrate today – World Mental Health Day – all that our wonderful relaxing craft or hobby of toy soldiers, gaming and modelling do for our relaxation, positive mental health and also the open and supportive community of bloggers, war-games opponents and gaming clubs.
I am fortunate to have been blessed with good mental health so far in life, having been born with quite a ‘happy-go-lucky’ kind of temperament (and a mild Airfix addiction that is easily pleased …)
This is not the case for everybody as life changes. Fortunately mental health is now more widely and openly discussed and social prescribing now takes into account the benefits of hobbies and clubs: https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/
Huzzah! Thank you today for all the kind, challenging and interested comments that readers and blogging buddies leave on the Man of TIN blog, Pound Store Plastic Warriors, Sidetracked and Scouting Wide Games for the Tabletop blogs. They really are appreciated.
Huzzah! Thank you also to many of my readers for the interesting, inspiring and downright distracting blogs that many of you write as well.
Three cheers for the tiny tin men that keep us all busy and mentally healthy.