What's Out There
A relatively new set of medieval figures by Manley are sold as 'Black Knight' figures. We had found them at Toys R Us for about a buck a bag. You get eight or nine foot soldiers, six mounted men and two armored horses, plus weapons (this may vary). The Black Knight miniatures are copies of Britains Ltd.'s "Deetail" Knights and Turks. Yes, assembly is required, as these are ring-hand warriors.
We have bought the figures in two colors - silver and black. They are superb for the Castle Cracker game, providing several action poses. As for the extra horsemen, they should fit other 54mm scale medieval horses. Unfortunately, there are no archers, crossbowmen or arquebusiers. If you can find miniature weapons, however, it ought to be relatively easy to convert these figures to bow and gun troops.
Also, there are no light or medium troops. You have to find them elsewhere. However, with Black Knight, you get the makings of a great-looking, heavily-armored medieval force with plenty of cavalry and a unique array of hand-held weapons.
Toys R Us had an off-brand type of green modern troops. There were 50 figures in the bag, all about 50mm tall. They are clones of the Airfix British paratroopers. This plastic isn't as brittle as the usual Red Boxx stuff. At around a buck a bag, the price is right. They can be used as WW2 British paratroops, more modern British troops, Israeli infantry or generic Nato troops.
The Fishler boxed playsets were still on the shelves, and their Infantry Set is recommended as a good supply of vehicles, battlefield stuff and US and German troops. Also available were several Big Bags of troops at $5.00 each that included a bridge section (cloned Airfix pontoon bridge), tent, trucks, jeep, guns, battlefield stuff, M48 and a bunch of troops. Most of the troops in one bag were modern GIs in the "Fritz" helmet.
We still like Imperial's bagged playset of troops that includes cloned US troops and a pair of M48 tanks in green and mustard tan, plus jeep and light field guns. You get two armies for a good, basic game of Operation Sandpit. You can boost both armies with the fine Marx recasts sold by Glencoe.
A big asset is the new Marx's Battleground, as it includes several vehicles plus plenty of troops, artillery, and a bunker. It's a good source of raw materials for a war.
Naturally, we have to recommend the Marx recasts of WW2 US Marines (actually Army or Marines), Japanese Infantry and Russian Infantry. These are the figures we like to use, and they are first choice when increasing the size of our armies.
A company called Toy Box makes battery-powered model tanks in 54mm scale. They are at some major toy stores. Tanks come already built and decorated. We have the US M4 Sherman and German King Tiger 2. The tanks look great and are made for our kind of warfare!
For Wild West games, we have found several sets of Airfix clones on the shelves. Still the best deal is the Imperial Wild West bagged playset, which includes a covered wagon, mounted cowboys and Indians with horses, foot cowboys and Indians, a tepee, totem pole and canoe. Not bad for around $3.00. The figures includes Airfix and timpo clones.
Fishler's Wild West set is a bit more complete, as it includes trees (including palm trees!?), lots of corral fence and paper Western houses. Unfortunately, its horses aren't as good as Imperial's. The Fishler horses are clones of the old, undersized Giant brand horses.
A few bagged sets included a Big Bag that a few more pieces and some trees, for $5.00. The horses were clones of Airfix, and were okay, but not as good as Imperial's. Smaller bagged sets for $1.00 each were also spotted.
Fort Apache as reissued by the New Marx is a good deal - this is the one with plastic walls, as opposed to the tin litho collector version. For $20 to $25, you get plenty of goods and troops. Youcan beef up both sides with Cavalry troops and various kinds of Cowboysand Indians.
If you can find a source of recasts of Ideal and Marx pirates, buy! These are superb pirate figures. They have action poses and great weapons. One type we haven't seen out there are the Hing Fat pirates. Though not as nice as Marx's or Ideals, you get some interesting poses.
The Weapons and Warriors Pirate Adventure game by Pressman remains the best single source of pirate gear. You get two pirate ships, two smaller skiffs, a great pirate tower fortress, two firing cannons and two firing mortars that go great with the Marx Pirates, and a load of smaller guns, plus trees and about 25 small pirates (around 30mm tall). Two of these sets provides for a truly grand pirate war. With three sets, you have plenty of great accessories and enough pirates to have a pleasant campaign.
For Royal Marines and Army, the BMC revolutionary war playset provides four differently-colored units with guns and emplacements. If you're playing a campaigns, you can easily play off the French, English, Dutch and Spaniards along with the usual Piratical activities. Dollar for dollar, a good deal!
Another good source of Marines and troops are the Marx recasts of revolutionary war troops. They are excellent. For pirates or settlers, the Marx pioneers do well.
Naturally, if your campaign happens in the 1800-1825 era, you would want to use War of 1812 and Napoleonic troops. Try to find recasts of Marx or Timpo, or new troops by Accurate, Call to Arms and CTS.
For Arabs and Moors, there are recasts of Timpo Arabs available from several vendors. The Timpo Arabs come armed with curved swords and jezails (Saharan flintlocks).
I hear that recasts of the MPC African natives are running out. If you can't find the, try Accurate's Zulu warriors.
Ninja figures, such as those by Hing Fat, can be used as Samurai and Asian pirates. The RedBox ninja are unfortunately too poorly proportioned to look good against Marx or Ideal pirates.
Foreign Legion troops include recasts of excellent figures by Olivier, and more modern types by Timpo. They can be supplemented with artillery, Gatling guns, early machine guns and horse-drawn caissons.
If your campaign takes place in Deutsche Sudwest Afrika or the Deutsche Kamerune, you can easily get u pa force of German colonial troops. These men wore gray or khaki. The more notable type of headgear was a slouch hat pinned up on one side like the Aussie bush hat. German troops also used the standard kepi, similar to those used by American troops during the Civil War. Civil War troops make great German colonials, with butternut and gray being the preferred colors.
For Boers, Confederate irregulars are great. We used to use Timpo Confederates as Boers and, by turning up the side of the hat brim, German colonials.
British colonials in cork hat will naturally serve in South Africa, the Sudan and India. We prefer that troops serving in India be in khaki uniforms. Those in Africa will be in red up until the last decade, when khaki became the norm. Khaki troops can be used right up until 1925 (the cut-off date for this game). Because British colonial troops aren't as well-known in the US, you will have to try recasts or the figures by Accurate.
US Colonial actions will include actions by Marines in foreign ports, plus activities in the Phillipines, Peking, Shanghai, and raids into Mexico. Prior to 1870, Civil war troops will suffice. From 1870 to 1910, US Cavalry troops mounted or on foot are excellent, provided they wear the slouch hat. The uniform color remains blue. After 1910, with khaki or olive green uniforms and campaign hats, US troops can operate anywhere that the US has a base or where US interests are in trouble (Central America, for example). The Gatling gun will be present right up until 1900; after1890 other machine guns will appear.
Remember that after 1919, US troops often have Tommy Guns and BARs. WW1 US troops can be used, along with crude armored cars (these appeared in 1910) and light tanks after 1916.
For Moros in the Phillipines, Hing Fat pirates work well.
Ninja figures can be used for the Boxer rebellion. Remember to include a few musketeers!
We prefer Glencoe's recasts of the old hard plastic spacemen, supported by the MPC armored personnel carrier and tank/self-propelled gun. These vehicles look weird enough to go with the spacemen.
Other sources of spacemen can be any of the currently-popular figures, including stormtroopers and rebel from Star Wars, various troop types from Star Trek, and figures from recent films like Starship Troopers. Aliens are everywhere in the toy stores - action figure aliens abound! Note that the Glencoe spacemen are sized right to go with 3" to 4" action figures and vehicles. At $10 a box, the Glencoe figures are an affordable start. There are several off-brand sets of 3" to 4" poseable space-type figures which are priced for buying in bulk. Look for action figures that are in the clearance sale bin, because you get more troops for your buck.
Various vehicles and heavy weapons for GI Joe (the 3 1/2 inch ones), Small Soldiers, Godzilla (the recent remake movie and monster stank, but some of the weapons are cool), Star Wars, Star Trek, Batman, etc. can be used for space wars. Many make great planetary terrain vehicles.
We're currently working on updates to include non-humanoid aliens such as bugs, big lizzerds (as opposed to common lounge lizards), and other bizarre monstrosities.
One other thing: in Kentucky, we found a set of six 3 1/4 inch soft plastic "Rambo" style GIs. These figures have a variety of werapons, from the KM-16 to bow and arrow! Their hair is too long for "regulation" - they'd make a nice security unit inside a space ship or installation buildings. The size is perfect for use with the four-inch Glencoe spacemen.
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