Monday 20 November 2017

Lion Rampant - a skirmish wargame in 54mm

This  weekend my erstwhile sparring partner, Anthony and I tried out the Lion Rampant wargame rules using 54mm figures on a table 6' x 8' to see how well they would adapt to larger size figures. It was my first time using this system so we kept it all fairly simple, the two forces were drawn from sample army lists (retinues) for late French and English troops in the 100 Years War and the scenario (also from the rules) was "defending the indefensible".  the only change we made to the rules as written was to double the movement distances and missile ranges

English men-at -arms supported by foot sergeants and expert archers close on the French

French foot sergeants and crossbowmen defend the sacred relic while mounted men-at-arms charge into the small English force from the flanks.  The English foot are pushed back but the French charge loses momentum and falters.

The French Lord carries his standard forward and issues a challenge to personal combat against his English counterpart.  Sacre bleu! the challenger is killed and the French must all take a morale test.

The French cavalry all fail the test and break, the foot all pass and are left to face the English onslaught.

Furious melees take place in the centre as the French foot hold the line and force the English back.

The french cavalry rally and return to the fray.

Further melees ensue and the fight flows back and forth, the outcome could go either way.

Finally the English break through and seize the objective to win the game. Zut alors!

The game took about three hours to play but would have been much quicker if we had been more conversant with the rules.  The system is easy to pick up and flows very well, it's ideal for a skirmish wargame with 54mm figures.  We had a total of 42 figures per side, individual units being always based on 6 or 12 figures so you don't have to amass a large collection to get started.  The rules include sample retinues for a wide variety of Middle Ages armies from the Baltic Crusades to the Ottomans and there are other examples to be found on the internet covering such types as Elizabethans and Samurai.

There is a lot of flexibility with this system, I played the French and made the foolhardy decision to engage in single combat (just to see what would happen) and came to a sticky end!  I forgot to take any pictures during the game and so what you see here is an action replay by the leading actors.  My observations on the rules? I felt casualties caused by archers should have been higher and I think we were both surprised when a unit of archers received a charge from mounted men-at-arms and in the resulting melee saw them off, despite this they made for a very enjoyable game.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Toy Soldier Auction at Sheffield Auction Gallery

Time for a post on proper toy soldiers!  Last week a large collection of toy soldiers went up for sale at the Sheffield Auction Gallery, I didn't get along to it myself but I hear from those who did that the bidding was brisk.  Surprise of the show must be the prices achieved for boxes of Airfix figures: 17 assorted boxes of 1/32 made £220 against Estimate (E) £30/50 while 17 assorted boxes of HO/OO made £320 (E) £60/100, That's about £13 a box for 54mm, which seems reasonable and about £19 a box for 20mm, which doesn't, or am I out of touch?

Anyway here are pics of some of the more interesting lots, or at least the ones that I thought were.  As always, click the picture to enlarge, click again it's even bigger, all photos courtesy of Sheffield Auction Gallery:

One of the earlier lots typical of those being offered this one went for £35 (E) £30/50, many similar lots were (E) £20/30 and sold in the range of £30/40.  I'm showcasing this particular lot because it has some interesting Continental figures and I noticed several Malleable Mouldings in there. Most of the other mixed lots of this size were less interesting and generally sold above estimate.

This Marx Big Top Circus made in Swansea reached £28 (E) £20/30, the box is tatty but the tinplate tent was there without any figures.  How much would this have sold for in the USA? No doubt someone will tell us, there isn't the same interest in Marx tinplate in the UK and several other lots went for prices that our American colleagues haven't seen in decades.

This shot has a good view of the Marx Movable Indian with all his accessories, issued about 1967, I remember seeing them in the shops and they have remained a firm favourite ever since. Sold £22 (E) £20/30.

The Barzo Davy Crockett Playset, of recent manufacture in the style of the old Marx playsets it is now out of production and eagerly sought after in the USA. Sold £40 (E) £20/40

An original Marx Cape Canaveral playset, I'm not really interested in anything non military but included this because we didn't get these playsets over here in Europe during the 1950s and 60s so a lot of people won't be familiar with them and this is quite a good example. Sold £70 (E) £50/80

A selection of 17 Carmen figures, solid lead, made in the 1930s/50s by W Y Carman (President of the British Model Soldier Society) for adult collectors, these are a bit knocked about but I love 'em.  Sold £180 (E) £30/50.

A good selection of rareish plastics: an original box of Cavendish "British Regiments 1751" made for the tourist trade along with Henry VIII and his numerous wives, an unpainted SEGOM figure from France, Monarch Highlanders, several pieces from the Charbens Francis Drake set, 2 from the Gemodels Humpty Dumpty set and various Cherilea/Crescent oddments. Overall a great lot. Sold £120 (E) £60/80

A complete set of the Benbros hollowcast Robin Hood set, nothing special about it but it's a good pic of a very nice set.  I have them in plastic....what's that you say...but Benbros never made them in plastic! True they didn't but Giles Brown of Dorset Soldiers acquired the original moulds and cast a few sets when he was experimenting with plastics. Sold £110 (E) £25/40 (I did say it was a nice set!)

A nice pic of the box art for the Cherilea Medieval Castle, notice the strange squared off triangle shape of the Keep, I could never figure out why they did that? Also the Cherilea Toys logo, the late version after the company had been taken over by Sharna Ware and the gawky Hong Kong knockoffs of Timpo swoppet knights. The castle was made to go with their 65mm knights so why didn't they use them in the picture? Sold £28 (E) £20/40

There's nothing special about the Kleeware castle, it turns up all the time and was reissued by Timpo at one point but again it's a nice pic of the original box art. Sold £25 (E) £25/40

Britains hollowcast Territorial Army, these five unremarkable figures sold for £440 (E) £20/40 so they must have something going for them!

Two figures of Charles II by Courtney, again they aren't really toy soldiers, having been made for the adult collectors market, but they do have a certain vintage and you don't see them very often so it's nice to be able to showcase such a good shot. Sold £80 (E) £20/40

More Courtney's, this time 2 x Elizabeth I together with Henry VIII and three of those unfortunate spouses, Sir Francis Drake resplendent in white, someone bowing that I can't make out and one other by Vertunni. Sold £160 (E) £80/100

Finally a group of 5 figures based on the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II by Graham Farish, the sixth figure on the extreme right (which has been misdescribed in the catalogue) is Marie de la Queillerie made by SAE (Swedish African Engineers) and was given given away free with petrol in South Africa

There was lots of other good stuff, not least of which was a Lone Star Dick Turpin which sold for a respectable £75 (E) £20/40 and you can view more of them here Sheffield Auction Gallery I don't know how long they keep these results up for so take a look soon if you're interested.  Having worked in the auction industry I can tell you that on average a general art sale will expect to get a sell through rate of about 50%, specialist sales like this tend to get a much better hit rate, looking through the results I could only find three lots that didn't sell out of 320 in the toy soldier section, that's over 99%.  A stonking good result and food for thought for all those Jonah's out there who delight in telling us that the hobby is dying.

Monday 9 October 2017

WW1 Austin armoured car.....sort of?

I have always been drawn to car boot sales, charity, junk and aquarium shops, in fact anywhere that might offer something which can be used to enhance my toy soldiers. Over the years I've accumulated a whole pile of what might loosely be called crap which "might be useful one day".  I suspect I'm not alone in this, at least I do hope I'm not.  This is the sort of stuff I mean:

A wooden car, some sort of tourist tat but the right size for 54mm figures turned up in a charity (thrift) shop for £2 (yes I know I was robbed but it is for charity!).  The transparent spheres are lids from toothpaste dispensers and the block of wood is, well........a block of wood.

The champhered front planes of these toothpaste tube lids just screamed out to be used as turrets for an armoured car, the MGs are made from bits of chopstick from the Chinese takeaway and the pointy ends from a cocktail stick.  Sometimes an idea just comes together from out of the blue, as I become increasingly aware of getting older I've started to make a list of these projects and I'm working my way through them. A major stumbling block is my own lack of confidence that an idea will work.

The almost finished item, posed with a DeAgostini figure of a Russian Company Commander 1919, it maybe needs a lighter green paint scheme, some Cyrillic graffiti and a big red flag.  It's only a bit of fun and it's very robust so perfect for wargaming in the garden.

Monday 25 September 2017

The Battle of Leipzig in 54mm

Last Saturday saw members of the Funny Little Wars Yahoo Group meet together in London to refight the Battle of Leipzig as a 54mm toy soldier wargame.  This was surely our most ambitious venture yet, with 11 players fielding over 2,000 figures during 7 hours of play, and the result pretty much reflected the original outcome.  Garden wargaming is rather more physically demanding than you might think and today I am still very stiff in the legs, I have been assured that the exercise will be good for me.  Reports on the game will be popping up all over the blogosphere by the other players, more knowledgeable than me, who actually knew what was going on most of the time, so I am just going to post up some pretty pictures of the toys.

Leipzig Cathedral with French staff rushing around organising the defence whilst also preparing to evacuate........ just in case.

Eric's superb French cavalry, see more of them here: mywaterloologaddress

Stolid looking Russians.

My Role was Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenburg (I think?) and these are my Austrians trudging through the leaves.

French cavalry everywhere!

The French hold and fortify the outlying villages

The Russians advance on the right wing

The Austrians form square in the face of a threatened French cavalry charge, which is seen off by a salvo from the guns

Bavarian infantry advance to support the French cavalry

Massed cavalry swirl around the open ground in the centre and right of the field

The British contingent send send their infernal rockets screaming over the heads of the French

A hard fought contest for possession of the village

Allied cavalry wait patiently for their turn to play.... do their artillery, some nice conversions here

toy soldiers as far as the eye can see

Massed Russian and French cavalry melee on the right

The French desperately form square in the centre

Prussian Landwehr stand to

A broad view of the action on the left

Party poppers are used to simulate the effect of grapeshot, it's all great fun

Russian cavalry rule the field

The Austrians and French fight it out among the burning buildings

The very end, as the Allies break into the City, the French exit over the bridge

That's all from me, it was a great day out with lots of conviviality and gentlemanly play, as you would expect!

You will find more here:

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Britains factory caught on film in 1965

There are lots of videos on Utube of toy soldiers but I hadn't seen this one shot in the Britains factory before so I thought I'd post it up here.  Enjoy.

Yes, I know it's a lazy blog post but I'm trying to ease myself back into the saddle here.

Interesting to see a master figure being sculpted in Plasticine and the hollowcast moulding process in action.  Also the transition from lead to plastic, this was very much at the tail end of hollowcast production and production was geared towards lead for adult collectors (can't have been too many of them) and plastic for the mass juvenile toy market.  Note the rare shots of the plastic injection moulding machines being fed plastic pellets.

And here's another clip from 1949:

Sunday 10 September 2017

Battle of Hook's Farm - finale

Continuing the tale of the Great Game, in which Armies Red and Dark Green come to blows in a 54mm garden wargame:

Army Red infantry advance to the cottage...

.....while their cavalry sweep around Firely Church to threaten the Green flank

Scene from behind Army Red's lines, the Green artillery has opened up and Red's cavalry take the first hit.

Green reaches the safety of the wall while the artillery bombardment continues but with little effect.

The Slavic Regiment move forward into the woods to form and enclave in the centre of the field......but then suffer a direct hit from their own artillery and beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of the main line.

Army Green infantry and elite Rifle Regiment extend their firing line along the wall while the Balkan League cover the flank against the threat from Red's cavalry.

Green becomes pinned to the Farm and along the wall, they lose the initiative and Red begins to close in from all sides.

With pressure mounting on both flanks Green attempts a sortie in the centre but it is beaten back.

On the left flank Red's cavalry sweep around and overrun the heavy howitzer but not before the brave bombardiers spike it by blowing out the breach block to prevent it's capture.

Red's riflemen assault the wall and meet a withering fire which throws them back but their action has enabled their elite Guards Regiment to turn the flank and roll it up.  With the situation rapidly deteriorating the Army Green General Staff gave orders to spike the remaining guns and withdraw in order.

So ended a very pleasurable Saturday afternoon, the game was played in an area roughly 26' square with 120 foot, 25 mounted and 3 guns per side, a classic game played in the true Wellsian manner.