Brian Carrick, blog author of the brilliant Collecting Plastic Soldiers blog, http://toysoldiercollecting.blogspot.co.uk wondered whether the Prince August 54mm chess toy soldier pawn figures that I featured this week would work in Fimo polymer clay.
Would this work in Fimo, Brian wondered? Would it be both cheaper and lighter?
I said I would Have a Fimo Go! (If you are reading this in America or elsewhere, Fimo is the equivalent to Sculpey Polymer Clay).
I wasn’t expecting much and was sadly proved right. Using a block of slightly old red Fimo, I rolled out, softened or warmed this through the hand rolling and then an appropriate size chunk inserted into one half of the mould.
I chose the simplest of the Prince August chess set moulds that I used this week – the Alamo American Infantry pawn figure.
Fimo Figure Fail?
Putting the the second half of the mould on and squeezing them together, on removing the figure, it was clear that it had only partly worked. The face and front moulding was mostly there, the hat not quite.
The back was missing the lovely detail of knapsack and powder horn.
There was some detail but lots of spare Fimo flash to trim in the form of a big moulding line.
With more care this could be lessened if the amount of Fimo were reduced.
With care a knapsack could be added which I have done to add 3D roundness to other flatbacked 54mm Fimo figures.
Rather than build up the figure with detail, I baked it at 110 degrees for 30 minutes then trimmed of any spare Fimo and the mould line with a scalpel.
With a bit of paint, a bit of trimming and a bit of detail added to an already baked figure (you can rebake and add to Fimo like this), a passable figure could be made. The hat could be built up or trimmed to a battered kepi.
However if you have the ability to cast as intended in metal, this is surprisingly simple and fast.
Brian Carrick wondered how they compare in terms of weight. The Prince August chess pawn figure weighs in at just under an ounce of metal, the Fimo figure with twopence base for stability, about 5 grms (most of which is the tuppence coin!)
You could also work out cost in terms of an ounce of Prince August metal versus a small lump of Fimo.
Fimo Figure Fun Or Fail?
In the first months of Man of TIN blog, I featured several Fimo soldier figure experiments including using simple silicon Cake Dec mould Soldiers (my Cakes of Death battalions) and fun Fimo freestyle or freesculpt figures.
This was one of my first Fimo failures, as I reinforced the body around a cocktail stick which led to cracking. I had not learnt that you can bake, add detail and rebake etc.
Over cooking at the wrong temperature was another Fimo failure and gives off not nice fumes and the figures distort badly.
This battered and cracked figure eventually found a role, painted up initially as some kind of Confederate standard bearer, he now carries the newly designed flag of Angria, one of the imaginary kingdoms created by the young Bronte sisters.
The way we wore – this is how the figure first looked on the blog back in May 2016 after a little tinkering. (I don’t use Green Stuff / Milliput in my house as some of my household are allergic to it).
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 …
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.