Sunday 22 August 2021

Who remembers Historic Battles?

 I don't, and I'm sure I would have done.  It was a sticker album full of pictures of famous battles with blank spaces where you inserted the the numbered stickers to complete the image.  It was published by Cox international of Antwerp and the text is in French, German, English, Italian and Dutch, there's nothing to indicate the date of publication but it does appear to have been distributed in the UK.  

This is the cover of the album with examples of the stickers and the packets they came in, you got two stickers in each pack and you needed to collect 306 different ones to fill all the blanks.  Before the advent of the Almark and Osprey uniform books I used to rely mostly on postcards, cigarette and bubble gum cards for uniform info, and I would have loved this.

There are 17 Battles depicted and the  album opens with the Salamis then runs chronologically through to the Six Day War.  I think the illustrations are amazing, just the sort of thing I rely on to give me a bit of inspiration when the toy soldier spirit is flagging.

Each Battle covers a double page spread and I've endeavoured to get as much of each one as I could into the photo.  There are a few surprises among the conflicts included, this is Wahlstadt (1241) fought between the Teutonic Knights and the Mongols, I've never heard of it before.

One of my favourites is Lepanto, shown above, but my absolute favourite has to be Adowa in the two pics below.

I heard about the album from friends in Germany where it's available quite cheaply still on ebay, I got 200 packets of stickers with it but still need about another 100 to fill all the blanks so there are lots of doubles.

Peeling off the stickers and pasting them into the pages is a very therapeutic way to spend a few hours!

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Batalla del Metauro

 From the same stable as the Battle of the Little Big Horn game that Anthony and I played back in June comes this Punic Wars game based on the Battle of Metaurus.  Originally designed and published in Spain by Rojas y Malaret, as part of a series of games called "Great Battles of the World" then subsequently produced under licence in Germany by O.M.Hausser.

This is the box art for the German version of the game, which Anthony acquired and then had the board copied onto a 6'x4' mat so that we could play it using 54mm toy soldiers.

It's a different layout to the Little Big Horn game but you can see that the graphics are the same style.  This is the Carthaginian end of the board, forces start with the river behind them and on the base line behind the river, either side of the tree, are two standards, the object of the game is to kill the enemy General or capture both standards.  Possession of the elephant should have been a game winner, sadly I proved to be no Hannibal!

At the Roman end of the board the troops start off in wooded country and have two cavalry units, pitching mobility against the greater combat strength of the Carthaginian elephant unit.  In the centre of the board there is an impenetrable mountain range with surrounding woods and an area of ruins.

Terrain features such as woods, ruins and the mountainous areas in orange are accessible only to infantry, but the lines of rocks are unpassable to all.  These features provide cover and give a combat bonus to the infantry occupying them.  The river can only be crossed at the three fords.

The figures we used were 54mm Romans and Carthaginians made by DSG of Argentina.  The dark line running across the board is just where the original board was folded, it has no bearing on the game.  

The ruins in the centre of the board became the focal point of the battle and changed hands several times.  The trees, rocks and ruins don't come with the game, we just added them to improve the visual aspect.

The Roman cavalry were put to good use running rings around the slower moving Carthaginians.  We played the game using the original rules and numbers of  figures, combat and movement are similar to the LBH game so very easy to pick up quickly.  With the original game you could also buy add on units to represent different troop types and there was also an additional rule for combat with elephants.  The game took about an hour to play and going forward we agreed that it would give a more challenging and better looking game to increase the number of figures used.

This is the contents of the Hausser box, the infantry and cavalry are 40mm Elastolin figures, they incorporated the original elephant made by Rojas y Malaret from the Spanish version.  This box has had an add on set included as the Metauro game only came with one elephant, there was another game based on the Battle of Zama, which had two elephants.  The Zama game also has a different board layout, it is played across an open area with stockade encampments at either end.

These are a couple of the figures from the original Rojas y Malaret game, the infantry (which I couldn't find when photographing this) are a bit over 54mm, the riders here are 54mm but you can see that the horse and elephant are not to scale.  The elephant is a solid one-piece plastic moulding.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

100 Beautiful Dioramas

 The latest edition to my bookshelf, building dioramas has always been a prominent feature of the toy soldier collecting scene in Germany and this book illustrates 100 of the best from museum exhibits to examples in private collections.  30mm flat tin figures predominate, as you might expect, but there are plenty that include modern solid figures from 54mm down to 20mm.  

The architectural and landscape features are often the most impressive elements in the displays but what they all have in common is that they are exquisitely executed.  The dioramas are organised in chronological order of historical period depicted from prehistoric times to WW2.

The subject won't appeal to everyone but if your eye is pleased by pretty pictures of miniature figures then it probably will.

Compiled by Dr Egon Krannich and Walter Brock, 114 pages, illustrated throughout with about half the pictures in full colour.  The text is in German but after the Introduction this is mostly limited to a description of the diorama, who made it and where it is, finally there is a directory with brief notes on the diorama builders and other books in the series. ISBN 3-933124-07-7 I bought my copy through

A sample page from the book.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Battle of the Little Big Horn

Anyone who was a schoolboy in the 1960's will remember the Waddingtons board game of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it came with some rather nice 40mm figures of General Custer, his 7th Cavalry and the opposing Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.  Well sometime last year Anthony had the original board copied onto a 6'x4' mat for use with 54mm toy soldiers but the ensuing pandemic has prevented us playing it, until today, which by the purest of coincidence happens to be the 145th anniversary of the actual battle.

The Indian camp beyond the Little Big Horn river, the red triangles show the starting places for the Braves on foot, the blue triangles are the starting positions for Custer and the 7th Cavalry.  Model trees and tepees give a bit of definition to the flat board.

At the other end of the board the red triangles show the starting places for the mounted Indians and their Chiefs, rock formations give a 3D effect to the board.

The figures we used were from the Britains Deetail range, the beauty of these is that they have metal bases which prevent them falling over all the time.

Victory conditions for the 7th Cavalry is either to escape across the river and exit the board with their flag or kill all of the three Indian Chiefs.  Victory conditions for the Indians is to kill Custer, his two officers and capture the flag.
We played a trial game with the original rules and number of figures, we were surprised at how subtle and tactical the rules were, mistakes were inevitably made on both sides but in the spirit of good gamesmanship we helped each other to avoid the most disastrous outcomes.  The game took about two hours to play and as you can see above it reflected the historical outcome.  It was great fun, surprisingly challenging and we felt the game system could easily be adopted to other low intensity irregular conflicts, I already have a late 1940's French Indochina project in mind.

For those who like a bit of toy soldier trivia with their wargame reports this is the first version Zang/Herald tepee from the Indian encampment set.  I don't know if you should call this rare or just hard to find but it differs from the ubiquitously common second version by having a short entrance flap with four diamonds above while the later one has a larger flap with just two diamonds above.  Not many people know that.  You really do have to be a boring old fart to be interested in this sort of minutiae! 

And yes, it really was a complete coincidence that we played this game on the anniversary of the actual battle. We got so drawn in we could almost have been there on that fateful day in 1876, imagination can take you to these places, good job they don't let children get a taste of it.

Friday 18 June 2021

Lancers of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw made by PZG

Two more examples from PZG (Polski Zwiazek Gluchich), they need no introduction, just beautiful figures.

The markings on the underside of the base.

Beautiful sculpting for toys, amazing that the swords and plumes have remained intact down the years. 

Monday 14 June 2021

King Richard the Lionheart

 A recent acquisition, and one I've been after for a long time, is this figure of King Richard the Lionheart as a crusader, made by Cherilea.  It's made in hollowcast lead and has been repainted, but quite sympathetically, so I can live with that, what a shame they never made him in plastic.

This figure often gets listed as part of the Cherilea Baronial series, but it's not or at least it's not listed as part of that series in the catalogue.  But you can see why people might think it was, the sculpting of the horse is superb, way above the usual standard for Cherilea and a similar style to the three figures in the Baronial Series.  Also it's slightly smaller size and a single piece casting while the others have separate horse and riders.

The back view, the shield is nicely engraved with three lions, I must remember to pick that detail next time I have my paintbrush to hand.  Cherilea used to produce the moulds for Richard Courtney, who is famous for his models of medieval knights, and I can't help wondering if he didn't have a hand in the sculpting of some of these finer pieces, of course that's just speculation on my part.

Saturday 12 June 2021

Paint a toy soldier and win a car, or two!

 The French take their coffee and their art very seriously, if you have ever doubted this just take a look at the handbills below.  In the 1950's, Mokarex along with several other French coffee manufacturers gave away unpainted plastic model figures as advertising premiums with packets of their coffee.  Collecting the figures and painting them became a national pastime, to such an extent that Mokarex sponsored a painting competition for their figures:

First prize was a Versailles, a luxury saloon car manufactured by Simca, second prize was a Citroen 2CV, which I understand is also some sort of car, the next four runners up each won a television set!  Don't knock it, bear in mind this was 1956, my family didn't get our first tv set until 1963, and even then it was second hand.

Another version of the handbill for the same competition, which was to be judged by a jury made up from members of the Societe des Collectionneurs de Figurines Historiques.

The all important terms & conditions were printed on the reverse of the handbills, for those interested in such things.  For anyone interested in seeing more about these very fine models, known affectionately by the French as figurines publicitaires there is a very good website here: Mokarex

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Repairing PZG medievals

For those who might not have come across them before PZG is the Polski Zwiazek Gluchych (Polish Association of the Deaf) and during the Communist regime they used to run employment schemes, one of which was producing toy soldiers.  And extremely good toy soldiers at that, I always pick them up whenever I come across them and I've never been too fussy about condition, these three were long overdue for a bit of attention.

The horn blower had lost his lower legs and base, the other two were just broken off their bases at the ankles, all three had lost their weapons.  They've all had their legs pinned and filled with miliput, the hornist will need a bit more reconstruction, don't know why I put him on a round base instead of oblong though, didn't think that through!

The finished items, I matched the original paint as best I could, the double handed axes are accessories for 28mm figures, made by Fireforge Games, and the crossbow is from the Replicants range of Britains swoppet replacement parts.

Sunday 6 June 2021

Italian Wars Imperial Cavalry

 Or at least my interpretation of them, I'm not sure they'd score many marks for accuracy but then they are just toys for playing 54mm wargames.  Mostly converted from Britains Deetail knights, except for the rearing figure in the middle which started life as a chess piece from a Harry Potter partwork!  The shield designs tie them all together as being part of the same unit, maybe one day I'll get around to doing the French opposition?

You'd think that one set of figures, which are mostly all silver would take no time at all to paint?  Not so, these have taken an eon, not that they're difficult but just down to a lack of enthusiasm, it's been a lost year, many, many projects started, hardly any finished.

In the absence of any games to report I may just start posting up random pictures of toy soldiers, these chaps have already featured on Facebook so apologies if you're fed up with seeing them!

Friday 7 May 2021

Austin-Putilov made in Russia

 Austin-Putilov armoured car made by MKI the Moscow Toy Plant, it's plastic and looks like the chassis and turrets have been produced in blow moulds.  Collector Aleksey Dmitriyev in Russia tells me that it was made in the 1970's or 80s, it feels much earlier to me but there you go, I know virtually nothing about Russian toys, except that I like them!  I found these pics while idly searching the net (as you do) and fell in love with it, so I thought I'd share it.

You can just about make out the makers mark on the right.  If you want to buy it you'll find him on which is a kind of Russian ebay current bidding is just over £106 good hunting.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Beautiful Big Battleships

 I recently unearthed these photos I took a few years back of a rather fine model battleship, it was in the window of a high end antiques gallery just outside Hastings in East Sussex, the place was shut and I wouldn't be able to get back there later so I had to take the pics as best I could through the glass.  The model was about eight feet long (from memory) and I thought it was amazing, but I know nothing else about it.  Does anyone recognise the ship? the four smoke stacks might give a clue, could it have been a shipbuilders model or a film prop?  I have no idea but I thought, if I like it, then maybe someone else will too, and I think it's too good an image to leave forgotten on an old memory card.  Double click the pics to see the detail, it's taken a lot of punishment over the years but not beyond restoration I think.

In this pic you can just see the stern of another battleship.

Just to add to the confusion, I think this may be a photo of the second battleship mentioned above.

Yes, definitely a second ship, again with four smoke stacks but I think this one was a bit shorter.

When I look at the damage strewn across the decks of  these old models it makes me ponder on the carnage left in the aftermath of a sea battle between such steel leviathans.

Sunday 14 February 2021

Toy Soldier documentary

 Came across this on YouTube (as you do) and thought it was worth sharing, it's some kind of Science Channel documentary and I think it's Russian made, but it's about Toy Soldiers   A word of warning it's over 26 minutes long, so not for the faint hearted, I don't have the attention span any more so had to dip in and out of it, but there is a lot of good stuff in there if you're prepared to persevere.  Now get a coffee and a bun then settle down to enjoy.

Sunday 7 February 2021

Three of my all time favourite figures!

 Three of my all time favourite figures, two versions of Kiplings "Gentleman in Kharki" and "The Handy Man". The outer figures are hollow Ivorine plastic, made in 1900, in the centre is the hollowcast lead version made by Fry around 1920, the rifle barrel has been repaired and looks a bit long but it works well enough, I'm struggling over the decision to repaint him or not.