Another strange bargain purchase (this time in a ships and seaside store about ten years ago) was this battered ship’s figurehead model in a curious uniform.
About 60mm or 6 inches high, the figure was attached to a nautical anchor sort of clothes hook for wall mounting. The bargain as broken figure (rifle is damaged) is made of resin or plastic. It caught my eye, despite the gaudy toy soldier style painting because of its unusual uniform.
Having read Tod Buk-Swienty’s book 1864 about the Danish Prussian War and Battle of Dybbol that inspired the recent Scandi TV series, the uniform looks similar to the Danish uniform. It certainly looks mid Nineteenth century.
However, another possibility are the many and varied dapper Rifle Volunteer uniforms in Britain from the 1860s and 1870s onwards, units formed, extravagantly uniformed and drilled as an early form of Territorial Army against numinous threats to Britain from ‘Foreign Powers’.
This was the strange Victorian period of the Palmerston Forts against a supposed new Napoleonic French threat to Britain.
Plastic toy soldier figures (from Airfix to pound store figures) made in soft slightly flexible polythene frequently arrive still covered in traces of a chemical mould releasing agent that stops the plastic sticking to the mould. It also unfortunately stops paint sticking easily to plastic.
So before you start undercoating with paint (usually black, white or the base / core colour) picking out even simple details in flesh, silver or black, a quick wash is required.
Looing back ( I never noticed or did this as a child) even vintage Airfix from its earliest blue box days advised that “to ensure a clean painting surface, it is advisable to wash with detergent before painting.”
So a washing of the spears and rifles, of warriors and their weapons is required.
First a quick squirt of washing up liquid into a washing up bowl of warm water to degrease your figures, followed by a gentle soapy scrub of handfuls of figures with a soft washing up brush.
2. I usually use a kitchen drying rack to pile up and drain figures. Check that no escapees can go down the plug hole.
3. Pop the still slightly soapy figures into fresh cold water, then use a kitchen sieve or strainer to scoop the figures out.
4. Again a drying rack will help then pop them onto a tea towel spread them around and leave them to dry slowly for several hours.
A bit of a surreal swimming lesson or amphibious landing to look at.
Oddly some colours of the same figures (like the mini red ones here) float whilst the same figures in green or silver don’t.
This amounts to pampering and spa treatment of tiny plastic soldiers!
Raking through and spreading out the figures has a lovely almost shellfish sound, indeed the whole process feels like a bizarre cooking lesson.
You now have shiny, smart and clean figures ready for painting, ready to attack and defend and express your imagination and character.
The range of Poundland smaller figures can be seen on this previous blogpost:
OBE figures are what Wargaming Miscellany blog author Bob Cordery calls “Other Bugger’s Efforts”, being figures painted by others that you have acquired and their credit shouldn’t be claimed by yourself.
This bunch of six repurposed or repainted Airfix WW1 British Infantry picked up in a £1 mixed bag of bashed painted OO/HO Airfix figures from a favourite second hand shop in Cornwall. (This shop is only occasionally open when I visit, being that sort of shop, a big like the erratic supply / production of Airfix figures themselves).
Dissecting this “Airfix owl pellet”, the mixed remains of someone else’s spare or unwanted figures, I found these interesting troops.
I like their blue and red “Imagi-Nations” sort of uniform and look forward to painting them some reinforcements.
These give me some paint inspiration for Schneider home cast metal figures:
The great joy of these home casting ‘mix and match’ is the creation of figures – soldiers and civilians of all nations – in box sets and parades that never existed in the heyday of lead figures, before they vanished in favour of safer, unbreakable (and often now crumbling) plastic from the 1960s onwards.
Of these, in future blogposts, I’ll feature some of the stranger ones from the bands, parades, civilians and soldiers of all my ‘imagi-nations’.
The other creative way to acquire the figures of your wilder “Imagi-nations” was through conversion (plenty of collecting toy figures books in the library or out of print online for this topic) or repaint.
The toy soldier version of a car respray, some of the odd figures found online or in junkshops in my collection are childish repaints or very slop happy repaint jobs in whatever colours were available for whatever figures were required for play or parades. Again a future subject for blogposts …
One of mine is this Airfix 1:32 54mm Australian WW2 officer – or as I often used him in childhood, as a garden jungle adventurer?
He made a passable Indiana Jones (yet produced several years before the film!)
This was a great figure also available in the tinier OO/HO 1:72 – 1:76 20mm scale.
This one figure creates ideas for lots of scenarios.
Generally the Airfix Australian and Ghurka figures in 1:32 or 1:72 scale prove great adaptable ‘jungle adventure’ explorers or troops, even if you exclude the ‘modern’ machine guns etc. to add a more 19th century / early 20th century feel.
In the smaller scale, add some of the adventurer and natives figures from the tiny Airfix Tarzan set (reissued by Hat c.2001/3 as Jungle Adventure). Throw in repainted Airfix Indians as ‘Jungle Warriors’ and you have the figures for an excellent jungle Close Little Wars scenario. Poundstore cowboys and natives can also be used in the larger figure scales.
The Bronte family juvenilia as inspiration for exotic gaming scenarios.
The Brontes created for their characters ( the Twelve young men) heroic scenarios that could be adapted for the gaming table.
Interesting scenarios for a range of small skirmishes can be found amongst the Bronte juvenilia stories such as this in Charlotte Bronte’s juvenile Two Romantic Tales.
Setting and terrain ideas to be sketched onto a gaming map:
A tropical island, unexplored, maybe a continent?
A. small natural harbour around ship under repair.
Travel through about two miles of the following terrain –
B. Cultivated grain fields, plantations of palm and almond trees
C. Olive trees groves
D. rice paddies / enclosures
Any of these (BCD) can be deemed impassable as required or require movement at half pace.
They can be random terrain scattered about or cluttered around a path.
Your characters: 12 named characters ( plus assorted ship’s crew if needed)
Your opponents: Twenty men ‘well armed’ – natives?
What happens next?
Here is the Bronte version of this Battle Narrative. Yours may end differently and be ‘game over’ for the adventurers.
The joy of gaming is that this story could have gone very differently. What if the natives won or captured some of the Twelve adventurers?
The characters in the Bronte juvenile stories are inspired by their imagination but also real people of the age.
Once the characters were established, the following scenarios are set out for the Twelve Young Men:
The Bronte family’s knowledge of the tropical realms of the expanding British empire was through books, atlases and periodicals like Blackwood’s Magazine.
The Ashantees were no doubt generic natives or tribesmen, but Britain did fight the first Anglo Ashanti war in west Africa (now Ghana) around 1824, news of which would have been in the Brinte’s reading matter. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Ashanti_wars
Whilst the real early Ashanti wars were fought over the slave trade and Britain’s abolition movement, one of the interests of gaming is to turn tables and see the Twelve Adventurers as imperialist invaders.
Thundering Cannon, naval Landing Parties, trumpets, war drums, wild wailing natives trying to repel the colonial invaders who man the walls in their city, burning fields, mountainous strongholds – this is the stuff of colonial gaming!
Exotic landscapes and terrain.
A releif party or news from England.
AW ‘Arthur Wellesley’ (based on the duke of Welkington, victor of Waterloo) as the Brontes had been born into the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.
Figures needed for gaming this Bronte period could be culled from a mix of Napoleonic and early Victorian figures versus any available natives.
Lots of interesting ideas here to develop into games scenarios.
Illustrations from the Ashanti Empire Wikipedia entry show an Ashanti warrior with a simple musket and powder horn.
Ashanti warrior c. 1824 Wikipedia source
Ashanti Chieftain c.1819 Wikipedia source
You can read more about the Brontes and their real and imaginary worlds at: