Unboxing the Blue Box of 1980s gaming figures time capsule – parts 1 to 3

If you missed any parts, here are links to all three posts about my Unboxing my Blue Box of drawers, my ‘bits and bobs’ box of 1980s figures that I unpacked, explored and sometimes finished off this week.

What lead mountains, unfinished projects, forgotten boxes or stockpiles of your own figures have you raided over these Lockdown weeks?

Part 1 – 1/300, hair-rollers and other scales and the background to these posts:

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/unboxing-my-nineteen-eighties-figures-box-part-1/

Random 1/300 Ancients from Heroics and Ros

And Moderns – some Platoon 20 Falklands era 20mm metal samples

Part 2: mostly 1/300 and plastic OOHO

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/unboxing-my-blue-box-of-1980s-figures-time-capsule-part-2/

Some of the random Airfix and Esci figures tucked away – great figures for an ImagiNations game?
Some random bits and bobs in the Blue Box such as this RSA First Boer War related stamp.

Minifigs 15mm British Colonial Infantry c. 1879, finally based & flocked after 35 years!

Part 3: Mostly 15mm Peter Laing and other 15mm figures.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/11/unboxing-my-blue-box-of-1980s-gaming-figures-time-capsule-part-three/

Peter Laing 15mm ECW musketeers, again finally based after 35 years.

My Blue Box of drawers reminded me of Peter Laing’s casting room wall of drawers. Some of my figures could have come out of these marked boxes from these very photographs. F1, F2, F3 …

These are the vanished moulds … December 1982 Mil Mod interview

I remember that Peter Laing had walls of such drawer boxes to store his castings. This scan from this site saves me tracking down my copy of this December 1982 Mil Mod: http://www.deartonyblair.co.uk/2013/12/peter-laing-interview-from-1977.html

I was already buying from Peter by then so it was interesting to see the man behind the figures.

What were your favourite parts, figures or drawers in the Blue Box?

Already the White Company pikes are in place, a new unit finally finished after 35 years patient waiting for basing and arming. These will eventually join my other Laing ECW regiments in Really Useful Boxes. They are no longer ‘odds and ends’.

What next for the Blue Box figures?

The box’s contents should give me some dedicated “Blue Box days” painting or gaming with the limited resources that I have in the Box.

Some of the random solo figures may be “returned to unit” if more exist elsewhere, packed away in my collections.

With unlimited figures available online now, it is quite restrictively creative in a ‘Desert Island Discs’ scenario that this Blue Box is all that you have …

This used to be the same going on holiday as a child (and still today) where you can only take a really limited box of figures, so you had to choose very carefully!

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/portable-wargames-on-holiday/

The portable Wargames 1960s Airfix style in a tackle box (2016)

What if / Blue Box games?

What If this was my Desert Island Discs box, my ‘fire box’, if this Blue Box from my 1980s gaming were all that survived, I think there is enough interesting variety to scratch together some skirmish games.

If these were the only figures you had in the world, what fantastical ImagiNations games these would be.

There would be enough for some Ancients and WW2 1/300 games, some 15mm ECW and Marlburian era games and OO/HO or 1/72 Plastic and metal figure games from various manufacturers and several 19th and 20th Century periods.

In an era of too much choice, I sometimes do this Time Machine thing with vintage Airfix games restricting the figures selection to those boxes available from 1959 to 1969.

What have I learned from several days rummaging through the Blue Box?

I have enjoyed sorting through the mixed figures, sample figures, lost figures, revisiting past projects begun and unfinished, sample figures. Some may have been long forgotten swaps. Sometimes I have no idea or memory why these painted figures were left unbased and unused.

It tells me I am still the easily distracted “Wargames Butterfly” that I was as a childhood or teenage gamer, who just likes collecting toy soldiers. Nothing much has changed.

Some of the junk bits and bobs have quite strong memories attached, from Owzthat dice to parts of long vanished 70s games or bits of houses like the old lead wiring cover strips from my childhood home that I planned to include in castings for my Dad.

Lovely flags! Peter Laing 15mm ECW Standard bearers who should be back with their regiments …

I still like, collect and use the Peter Laing 15mm figures that I eventually focussed on, choosing these above the odd 15mm Mike’s Model samples and for some reason (money?) never went with the 15mm or 25mm Minifigs.

The metal figures were part of the ‘eye candy’ temptation of what I was seeing in the wargames and modelling magazines. Outside of Featherstone books, ‘grown up gamers’ in magazines didn’t seem to use plastic figures. Plastic figures were for kids.

The Platoon 20 metal 20mm “Moderns” samples were good but expensive compared to similar Airfix, Matchbox, Atlantic or Esci plastic figure. That us, if you could find them in stock at the time. I still like and still use these plastic figures.

Early to mid 80s Esci Colonials

There was obviously in the early to mid 1980s a lot of distracting new figures, scales and ranges around to explore and choose from, ranging from tiny 1/300 to 54mm figures. Nowadays there is even more distractions and choice …

1/300 offered such a lot of figures for such a little amount of money. Such a lot of little figures. 1/300 were maybe too tiny for the skirmish level small group or individual figure games that I enjoyed then and still do now. The simple Featherstone War Games 1962 rules and Close Wars appendix still does nicely for me!

What is missing in the Blue Box is much trace of 54mm figures and 54mm gaming. Thankfully a representative sample of some of these original heroic plastic figures from my childhood have survived, despite paring down and house moves, in a separate metal engineers suitcase. For obvious ‘safety’ reasons, Lead 54mm and home casts were just not around in the shops and toy boxes of my childhood, metal 54mm meant Britain’s Deetail with metal bases.

Make Do and Mend

It all fits very well into Ann Wycoff’s Immaterium Challenge for April 2020 of “Painting what you already own”, perfect for exploring what you already have stockpiled for such lockdown situations. https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/anns-immaterium-painting-challenge-april-2020/

I shall explore some more boxes over the coming weeks.

Mark Man of TIN April 2020

Unboxing my Blue Box 1980s figures time capsule Part 1

In my recent post about Stuart Asquith’s free Wargames supplement to Military Modelling in 1987, I mentioned the box of drawers that he used and that I also bought around the same time.

It helped preserve a small core of random painted and unpainted figures from my gaming in the 1980s throughout many house moves.

I thought these needed sorting out, so an excellent chance to show you the contents. It is almost a time capsule of my mid 1980s figure buying. Some people have a fireproof box for important household papers. This is almost my gaming version of that firebox, a good cross-section of my gaming interests then and now.

Aerial view of 15 slide out plastic trays of figures and fun!

I found a couple of lost figures rattling around at the back of this cupboard box of drawers.

Sometimes poking through this odds and ends bits box, I wonder what my games would be like if this was my “desert island box” of all that washed up on that ‘Desert Island Discs’ type island. There should be enough for a few games here including some unusual dice.

First out of the box trays are some random but attractive 25mm figures that I bought or were bought for me in a model shop (possibly in London). I painted these in the mid 1980s – sadly the Royalist officer’s sword is broken and needs repair.

The ‘Little Corporal’ Emperor and his unusual (miscellaneous) random Arabian bodyguard. 25mm Minifigs Napoleonic range http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/Catalogue.aspx?ScaleID=3&CategoryID=18

Beautiful 25mm English Civil War figures. Royalist officer with sword to repair.

Not sure of manufacturers or makers of some of these, thirty+ years on. I had to look them up, they are Minifigs 25mm ECW range, still in production at:

http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/Catalogue.aspx?ScaleID=3&CategoryID=16&SubCategoryID=103

Beautiful as this random sample of 25mm figures were, they were too expensive and out of reach of my pocket money for a period such as the English Civil War. By then I had already acquired 100s of cheaper Peter Laing 15mm English Civil War figures (for these see my forthcoming Unboxing Article part 2 and 3).

Down from 25mm to the tiny end of a sample 1/300 or 5 to 6mm figures c. 1985/86

1:300 Ancients from Heroics and Ros still available http://www.heroicsandros.co.uk

1:300 close up of Ancients – Persians, Greeks and Roman artillery?

I have not yet found photo ID of all of these strips of 1/300 individual figures amongst the equally tiny writing of the Heroics and Ros magazine adverts in Stuart Asquith’s 1983 Battle for Wargamers Wargames Manual:

Magnifying glass required for both the 1983 advert and painting the figures
Roman artillery mentioned note the 1983 prices

Greeks, Persians and Sassanids 1/300 Heroics and Ros figures

Enough for a generic Ancients type skirmish game.

I have some vague recollection that the small selection of 1/300 WW2 Infantry groups that I still have (to feature in Unboxing the Blue Box article Part 2 or 3) or these Ancients were swops with a Naval gamer school friend for some small model ships or 1/300 AFV micro-armour. I cannot remember which way round but it seems an odd random selection of figures with no AFVs etc.

Those were not the tiniest Warriors in my armoury box. I still have the famous Andy Callan’s Hair Roller Armies featured in early issues of Miniature Wargames:

Round dots are pin heads, snipped off from pikes of Peter Laing figures, suitable for shields or wheels?

Miniature Wargames No. 9 (Andy Callan article)

I featured a little about these figures on my Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog

https://poundstoreplasticwarriors.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/design-ideas-from-the-legendary-woodscrew-wargames-army/

I chopped up a couple of spare or damaged hair rollers obtained from my Mum, who had trained in the Fifties as a hairdresser. They were too fiddly for me, besides massed ranks were not really my thing, having long been a simple Donald Featherstone skirmish ‘Close Wars’ kind of boy.

Random inclusions – OO/HO Atlantic Wild West buildings and figures

A few trips to Beatties model shops mid 1980s revealed these Atlantic Wild West sets from Italy

The Platoon 20 Months c.1983

Mid 1980s I paused briefly collecting all the available new Atlantic, Esci and Airfix plastic figures and 15mm Peter Laing figures to collect some of the then new Platoon 20 modern metal figures. As with Peter Laing figures, I saved up and searched out every single penny I could find to buy some sample figures and afford the Platoon 20 postage from Northern Ireland.

1983 prices and addresses for Platoon 20 in Northern Ireland

I found the original Platoon 20 figures quite brittle and the feet and weapon ends snapped off fairly easily.

Platoon 20 are still available through East Riding Miniatures, where you can see and ID the various figures https://shop.eastridingminiatures.co.uk

Platoon 20 Modern British Infantry – bought mid 1980s, shortly after the Falklands War. Within a few years, some of my school friends would be dressed like this serving in Northern Ireland.

Platoon 20 sample figures modern 1980s British Infantry, tank crew and black clad SAS (top right)

I painted some of these up at the time but cannot recall ever using any of them in games. I think I was maybe collecting the figure ranges.

Plastic 20mm OO/HO or 1/72 figures was always the cheaper option for the pocket money stretched schoolboy, despite a week Paper round. Around the same time Matchbox brought out modern British / NATO troops (Falklands)

http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=242

There were also the OO/HO Airfix NATO aircrew with Infantry figures, http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=561 Modern Russians and NATO / US Infantry. Britain’s Deetail and Airfix 1:32 also issued plastic 54mm Modern British, German and Russian troops.

Few of these modern figures have survived in my collection. I remember selling boxes of these off as I pared down my collections throughout various house moves. The 1990 Gulf War also put me off gaming any modern conflicts. Maybe I thought it was all the too close to home / the news, with friends serving in the forces.

Another sample was Platoon 20 Israeli troops – I am not sure why I bought these. Were they intended to double up as Argentinians? Within a year or two I would have gone to college and there met Israeli students amongst many international students who had already done their conscripted military service. We understandably didn’t talk politics.

Platoon 20 Israelis

Platoon 20 Mercenaries, Australian SAS and Modern Russians. These Russians complemented the 1982 Airfix Modern Russians http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/Review.aspx?id=584

Platoon 20 Falklands Argentinians (right) in American style uniforms and Australian Vietnam War troops with plastic Esci Vietnam Americans for comparison:

The Argentinians were close enough in uniform to American WW2 figures that I would probably have used these cheaper plastic alternatives for any opposition or invaders. I cannot recall ever gaming such a modern Falklands type scenario.

Discussing the events each day walking to school and collecting the newspapers as it happened, the Falklands was all too recent and bizarrely makeshift an armada and event that I remember it almost as the last of the Victorian colonial small wars, having read Donald Featherstone’s book of this title in the school library.

These modern figures might make for a modern ImagiNations skirmish conflict at some point. If you can tell apart the Khaki grunge …

These modern Platoon 20 figures are still available from East Riding Miniatures:

https://shop.eastridingminiatures.co.uk

Finally one of those bits and bobs, odds and ends that have survived tucked into a spare tray:

Q. Recognise any of them?

A. Amongst these oddments are: an Owzthat cricket dice game in a tube, some game pieces from Tank Battle and some ME109 type planes from an aircraft game, Airfix? 1:32 sandbags, wooden village walls, useful bits of wood, a lone 30mm Spencer Smith plastic ACW bugler, some Atlantic 7th Cavalry / Wild West tents, a large plaster gnome, three small gnome candles and a plastic Tobar gnome reappointed as a WW2 Gnome Guard.

The thin strips of lead came from 1930s wiring in the house I grew up in when my late Dad rewired the house. I kept them to make him a lead figure one day to replace the Britains he no longer had. I shall put the lead into a special home cast figure or castings one day.

In the tube, Owzthat! A dice cricket game that kept sport mad members of my family busy for years on rainy days:

I have a vague recollection of making “Owzthat” type metal hexagon or long dice in metalwork at school, letters stamped by hand. These dice are not wonky lettered, so not my handmade set. It is still made by Lindop and available from Amazon in a tiny tin -more about it here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owzthat

Next in ‘Unboxing the Blue Box: Part 2 and Part 3’, more 1/300 figures (WW2), some Peter Laing 15mm figures and Airfix Esci and Revell oddments.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN blog, 8th April 2020