Amongst the proliferation of so many plastic gaming figures today , I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the gaming clock was a reset to 1962, the year of first publication of Donald Featherstone’s War Games book.
Imagine, Groundhog Day style, that all you had available (going back in an “it’s 1962 again” time loop) were conversions of these figures:
Airfix S1 Guards band 1959
Airfix S2 Guards Colour party 1959
Airfix S3 Combat Infantry Group 1960
Airfix S4 Farm Stock 1960
Airfix S5 WW2 German Infantry 1960
Airfix S6 Civilians 1960
Airfix S7 Cowboys 1961
Airfix S8 Indians 1961
Donald Featherstone in his WW2 example game used Airfix figures and tank kits, featuring Set S3 Combat Infantry and Set S5 WW2 German Infantry. These gave me much pleasure as a gaming child as they were the same as figures that I recognised and had in our family collection.
By 1962 when Donald Featherstone’s War Games went to press and was published, the following lovely Airfix sets were issued, expanding the conversion possibilities:
Airfix S9 8th Army 1962
Airfix S10 Foreign Legion 1962
Airfix S11 Afrika Korps 1962
Airfix S12 American Civil War Union Infantry 1962
Airfix S13 American Civil War Confederate Infantry 1962
Airfix S14 American Civil War Artillery 1962
Airfix S15 Wagon Train 1962
So circa 1960-62, what were the paint and conversion possibilities available to gamers then or vintage gamers today?
From sketch book to first draft painting or repaint, I’m happy with the results so far with these Victorian British redcoat paint conversions of Airfix 1960 Infantry Combat Group:
Still a few final details to add to these figures, along with some natives or opposition.
The opposition could be these blue coated Danish style guardsmen, still unfinished in fine detailing.
I hope the late Donald Featherstone would have liked these simple redcoat figures c. Airfix 1960/2.
Several years later, many of the conversion ideas of his and others featured in his book Military Modelling were made easier by production of WW1 figures, the American War of Independence figures and the Waterloo range.
Colonial redcoats could by 1966 be made from Airfix WW1 German Infantry:
These are part-painted, first draft Victorian Redcoats formed from some spare Airfix WW1 German Infantry, a suggestion made in books at the time.
And if these redcoats on land required any naval back up, Airfix Cowboys could make a passable Royal Naval landing party …
turning these Cowboys (top right) from American Civil War infantry conversions into Victorian sailors something like these Fimo cake mould conversions sailors.
More paint conversions and retro / vintage Airfix c. 1962 to share with you in future blogposts.
Back, back, back into the past in our Airfix time machine …
Another interesting junk shop find, this book of reprinted Six Edwardian and Victorian Board Games compiled by Olivia Bristol.
One of the interesting games is called The Prince’s Quest, a ‘fairy race game’ with plenty of random setbacks, depending where you land, access to secret paths and a starting mechanism of rolling a d6 to find which path you set out on.
One of the drawbacks of the reproduced game (which originally covered three game panels) is the tiny spaces to put game counters on.
Marcia Malia’s comment below suggests that her original game board is quite small, like the reproduction.
One solution is to use 15mm Peter Laing figures on simple small bases – I grabbed the nearest figures to hand but should probably have chosen Peter Laing 15mm Knights to match the theme.
It is perfectly dice led as board games go with absolutely no skill element at all, just the luck of dice, so perfect for solo gaming if you fancy controlling two figures and rolling two dice yourself!
Interesting game and several other techno / scifi almost comedy steampunk games of diving for treasure and an airship inspired A Trip to Mars, beautifully colour reproduced.
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 …