Sunday, April 17, 2016

Hard Plastic Marx Miniatures: Knights and Barbarians

I've found these figures in collections of other ebay purchases. There are two types, Knights in shining armour, and various barbarians.
They are produced in brittle hard plastic and hand painted at the factory.
Size wise, they are bigger than 1/72 scalle, and a few are over 30mm tall, but most are 25-28mm tall.
Here are the barbarians:
I imagine that there are some of these figures in soft plastic somewhere. I have some soft plastic 25mm copies of Elastolin Romans and Barbarians.
There are at least 8 poses in my toys.

The knights are a more ecclectic mix of knights and supporting troops:

Some of the knights are really quite impressive:

The catapults are operational, but the rubber bands are crumbling:
I really don't know much about these toys. So like the Helen of Toy stuff, I'll just keep adding to this post as time goes on.

Helen of Toy Wargames: Comic Book Toy Soldiers

This is going to be, I hope, an ongoing post as I add more items.
We've all seen those old comic book ads offering wargames to kids for a couple dollars.
I'll start with a couple incomplete sets that I have.
Helen of Toy Fighting Ships + Convoy Terror

These are basically the same sets under different names.
Here are the ads, some of which varied over time.

The basic game had 132 pieces. I don't have them all. What I do have is here:
Two identical fleets of 64 items:
2 Aircraft Carriers
2 Battleships
12 Heavy Cruisers
2 Light Cruisers
2 Destroyer Frigates
4 Destroyers
8 Destroyers
4 Destroyer escorts
6 Destroyer leaders
20 Cargo Ships
8 Mine layers
2 Mine sweepers
12 Submarines
10 PT Boats
30 Planes
8 Mines
Now if you read the rules, many of the ships are designated by markings underneath the hull.
For example, the Cargo Ships are also the Mine Layers and Mine Sweepers.
The destroyers are differentiated with numbers under the hull.
In my photo you can see I have an incomplete set. I have never yet been able to track down the tiny planes for the game, or the little mines. You can see them though, at Thor's Trains website, where they have an article about this and other Helen of Toy Games:

Here are the rules from the set I have:

Of note is the stamp on the front page:
This set was a replacement for another on that was ordered, but was out of stock.
This is how I ended up with Supreme Command.

The ships are all about an inch to 1 1/2 inch long, except the carriers that are 5 inches long.
What I'll do in the future is flesh out this set and create a new map board to game the rules.
BTW a quick look at the rules show them to be a mix of Stratego and games like Dover Patrol. There is some level of the unknown and combat is resolved by pieces with the higher number winning and removing the loser.
It is quite possible to redo this game or one like it by using some available game pieces from the Axis and Allies games:
There are a large number of these games available now. There is the original set, then other WW2 campaign sets, and a WW1 set. They  have 300-400 minis inside so they are a real source of new ships.
There is also a company called Historical Board Gaming that makes very reasonably priced models to go with the Axis and Allies games:

I've ordered from them a couple times. They are fast and the minis are very nice. The ships will have their class name under the hull. They even make tiny tanks like Sexton APC's and Canadian Ram Kangaroos. Aircraft are many and varied, including Rata I-16 and Sturmovoks and RAF Barracudas.

The other game I'm looking at is the residue of my old game, Supreme Command.

THis was an air/land/sea game with cardboard counters for infantry. The game had three kinds of ships, Carriers, Battleships and a Cruiser. Land units are two piece tanks, simple artillery markers, headquarters huts, and small landing craft to carry the troops. The planes are delta wing Mirage look alikes.
Here's the Thor's Trains article:

The interesting thing about these games is the "board" which is a small vinyl plastic sheet. You use a damp cloth to wipe a smooth table, lay the map board on the damp surface and push out the air bubbles, just like wallpaper. The sheet sits tight until you are done and peel it off..

Instead of dice, both games had a spinner with numbers 1 to 6. Supreme Command had combat resolution using a cardboard and metal spinner you flicked (IIRC). The spinner also acted as a six sided dice. The numbers were printed around the card.

These games would make great pieces for a home made wargame.
As for rules, I really like this book:
There is a simple set of rules inside that covers air combat, torpedos, supply and gunfire. I've played them before, on a square gridded board, and they are fun. The author espouses 1/1200 models, but these tiny ships work really well.

A few other titles I have are Donald Featherstone's book, Paul Hague's book and a Peter Dunn title.

Featherstone's book is not very helpful. Very simplistic and general, it isn't much help. Also the focus is on earlier historical periods.
The PSL book by Paul Hague is noted for the miniatures sea game with triremes.
The Peter Dunn book is quite detailed and fascinating, but largely focusing on steam ironclads.

Another source for aircraft are the 1/700 sets of planes from Japanese companies like Fujimi:
30 - 40 planes for under $10. They make Japanese, American, British and some German planes.

Well that's it for today, I will keep adding to this page as I go along. I occasionally pick up a few pieces of these games in bags of toy soldiers. A complete set of Fighting Ships usually fetches $75 and up. Unfortunately the interest in these old nostalgic toys has fueled the greed of accumulators looking to make a quick buck, instead of the spirit of play the games intended.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

A Military Artist: John Berry

John Berry, Illustrator, 1920-2009.
Precious little about this man on wikipedia, but a little searching reveals more:

He volunteered for the R.A.F. in 1940 and served in the Western Desert and the Middle East. In a holding unit waiting to enter Tobruk, he offered to produce a poster advertising a national day of prayer. When the artwork came to the attention of Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, Berry was seconded to the 8th Army as a War Artist. Some of Berry's paintings were exhibited at the National Gallery and are now in the permanent collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Returning to the UK, Berry found work with a wartime acquaintance, Major James Riddell, who wrote children's and travel books. Berry drew a number of short books published by Riddell as Riddle Books, but his income was primarily from advertising.

Asked if he could draw a tiger for an ESSO oil company campaign by the secretary at McCann Erickson, Berry retorted, "Yes, put a tiger in your tank." He was paid £25 for the famous slogan, but spent ten years from 1951 drawing tigers for the campaign.

He was a prolific portrait painter, his subjects including the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and Lady Astor. He also worked via Harrods, producing portraits of people who could drop off a photograph which he would turn into a oil painting. 

I realized that several titles in my own possession were illustrated by the same artist.
You'll remember the Hamlyn Book I posted a while back:
Reginal Hargreaves "Great Land Battles".
Another Hamyln title was "Military Uniforms, 1686-1918" by Rene North. This was another pocket book, chock full of colour illustrations.

"Famous Military Battles", by A.J. Barker. This is an interesting hardcover book that feature miniature portraits  of generals as well as double page artwork. The artist isn't mentioned.

"Fighting Men and their Uniforms" by Kenneth Allen. This is a specific uniform book, hard cover with some double page artwork. The artist John Berry gets mentioned in this work.

Very attractive books, useful illustrations for wargamers and painters, all passed off as children's books.

Addendum July 28/2020
I found another book with his art on the cover:
That's the new blog cat, Smokey, making his debut. The book is meant for kids, but it is a good read, coverering battles from Hastings to Sedgemoor. Not the most accurate perhaps, but an informative recap.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Little Lead Soldiers

I mentioned in the previous post that the soldiers on display in the Time Life book were Little Lead Soldiers, or so I believe they are.
I decided to do a post about those figures.
The current company has a website here:
From their website:
"Little Lead Soldiers Ltd was set up in 1983 by sculptor Peter Davis.  After visiting Houghton Hall, the Norfolk home of the Marquess of Cholmondeley, which boasts one of the most extensive toy soldier collections in the world, Peter was inspired to produce his own range of toy soldiers.
The company was first based in the Cambridgeshire village of Madingley. Originally we bought in castings and painted them to a collectors standard.  It soon became clear that there was demand for quality metal figures other than soldiers, so we started manufacturing our own figures and accessories.  This resulted in a most exceptional growth for the company and led to some exciting projects, which required the 
company to move to larger premises, in the nearby village of Over, in 1985. Little Lead Soldiers continued to expand, taking over more units on the industrial estate. We were able to acquire the moulds of Greenwood & Ball’s museum range of ½”, 1” and 2” figures. This led to the 
company producing over six thousand figures for the six battle dioramas used in the James Bond film “The Living Daylights”."

These are figures meant for display, and they are rather pricey for wargames.
But years ago you could find bags of them in some hobby stores.
The figures were sold as 25mm, but they were pretty close to modern 1/72. Here's a comparison photo of some common figures:
Left to right; Hinchliffe 25mm, A Little Lead Soldier on a Giant plastic horse; a LLS Hussar on the supplied horse; LLS Roman on Esci horse; a Warrior Miniatures 25mm General.
They are made of a lead alloy and are supplied with a separate base and separate accessories. The figures are meant to be bent into poses  and soldered or glued in place.
There was a small paper insert in each bag with some information:

The company suggests you buy their soldering kit to assemble the soldiers.
From my own small experience, I have to say that these figures are best if they are left in standing poses, as you can snap off arms quite easily. Also the accessories are not always  complete in the bags. This might be more of a reflection on the age of the bagged toys and possible loss through holes in the plastic. Also there is a complete lack of drums and musical instruments, so you have to make your own buglers and drummers.
I personally discard the bases.

I'm no electrician and I've soldered feet into lumps. Glue is best. Either superglue or epoxy or hot glue. I also found that plasticene around the base as "grass" does help secure the figures. Over all, they aren't really wargame figures. The accessories can easily snap off and they will pop off the bases unless they are thick. I hate to be down on these figures, they are unique and do have their own charm, but they are more diorama figures in my opinion.
A typical set is  MRM1 - Crecy Knights. Here's what you would get:
Four mounted knights, some shields and bases and lengths of brass wire for spears, and 14 foot soldiers. There aren't enough shields to go 'round, and swords and axes aren't provided.
These figures have a fair degree of flash, but it is thin and easily removed with an exacto blade. Overall the detail is pretty good. The figures are on the thin side compared to some figures.
In the Ancients era there were 5 sets; MRA1-Egyptians; MRA2-Greeks; MRA3-Romans; MRA4-Persians; MRA5-Goths.
The Medieval era had 5 sets: MRM1-Crecy Knights; MRM2-Normans; MRM3-Saxons; MRM4-Vikings; MRM5-Scots. I have a few bags of these, and started basing them to my old wargame standard of 2 men per 1 1/2 inch base. I started but stopped and haven't completed them (yet).

In the Napoleonic era, there are 10 sets; MRN1-Lifeguards(English); MRN2-Scots Greys; MRN3-Guards(English Foot); MRN4-Scots(Highlanders); MRN5-Artillery(RHA); MRN6-Cuirassier; MRN7-Hussars(French); MRN8-Guards(Old Guard); MRN9-Line Infantry; MRN10 Artillery.
I only have a set of British Artillery.

Napoleonics are my favorites.

The cuirassier have been seen before. These are extras from a couple sets, that is they didn't have mounts. As an aside, the horses in these sets are nice, they are thinner, and 1/72 scale, but the men are a bit tall for them in my opinion, in that the men have long legs or it looks that way in the saddle. The Hussars set doesn't have pelisses, and they make fine Chasseurs A Cheval. You can see I did the plasticene base "grass"  coupled with large bases. However, they won't stand up to a good going over with a cat.....
American Civil War has only two infantry sets, MRC1-Unon Troops; and MRC2-Confederates. The Union soldiers have a few zouave figures included.
American Revolution has 2 sets; MRR1-Yankees; and MRR2-English.
The English soldiers make great figures for the Revolution or the Seven Years War. The long leggetty riders can be seen in this picture.
The Americans have a nice mix of uniforms.

These sets have a couple of horses and 2 or more mounted figures as well.
The English Civil War has 2 sets of foot soldiers with a couple of horsemen in each pack; MREC1-Roundheads; MREC2-Royalists.
I really like these sets. Previous viewers of this blog have seen them painted up before:

The First World War has early war soldiers; MRWB1-British (Tommies); and MRWG1-Germans.
 Instead of horses, bicycles are included.
 The Second World War has only two sets, MRWB2-British; and MRWG2-Germans.
Motorbikes take the place of horses.
This company also made several battle sets that had a large box containing a vacu-form base, and around 60 figures or four bags.
Here's a set I have, it's incomplete and is of the Battle of Waterloo (edit-I've got to redo the pictures-please stand by!)

This is the box and half the cover sheet for the front.
Inside the vac form base is pretty impressive, the sunken road at Waterloo:
The box I purchased had some differences from the bagged sets.
1:There are more figures in a bag and more poses:
The accessory bag has more items AND drums:
Unfortunately, the French bags were the same sort of smaller bags I have already shown, so I think they might have been add ins to flesh out the set for sale.
Also included was a double sided hand out:

It came with four sets of figures. English foot Guards, a bag of artillery (RHA) and two French bags, The Old Guard Grenadiers and Cuirassiers. It also included a tree (presumably Wellington's tree). I picked this up on ebay and am not entirely sure of the contents.
However I did find a pictutre on the net of the Gettysburg set:
Of note are the interesting and large number of figures. You don't get that many in a set, or at least I don't think so. Also this box has the "As Seen In The Latest James Bond Film "The Living Daylights""
As for what got me started on this topic, I can say that the figures in the 1965 Time Life book may have been made by the same man who made these figures, but the Little Lead Soldier Company has only been in official business since 1983.