Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review: BMC "Combat Soldiers 40 pieces 1950s plastic army men figures."

In case you did not know, Jeff Imel, who is behind the reissues of Tim Mee products, bought BMC. Work is currently in process to reissue some of the BMC classics. In the meantime, Jeff has reissued one of the cornerstones of plastic toy soldier collecting.

The Combat Soldiers are the old Lido American troops, cast from original molds. Even better, the molds have been restored. The current run of figures do not have the flash that some of the Tootsietoy reissues had. They are crisply molded, just like they were back in the old days. This set has ten different poses of World War II era American infantrymen.

We used to call these soldiers “flat foots”. Instead of having a base, their feet were flat enough to stand on a smooth surface. And for all the collectors’ talk of Marx figures, these flat-foots were the most common army men. They were in toy shops, general stores, and anywhere else small toys were sold. We had bushels of them! The only toy soldier set that has been more prolific is the Tim Mee M16 soldiers, which have been produced, copies and clones in greater abundance than any other plastic soldier. Even then, the Lido figures were more common well into the 1970s and had been reissued a few times since..

Plastic soldier collectors who want a good representative set of the Lido flat-foots would do well to acquire the BMC reissues. And with originals selling at a dollar apiece or more, the BMC recasts are a bargain.

One of the anomalies of this set is the four of the figures are identical to those in the old Marx 60mm infantry set. The main difference is that the Lido helmets have simulated netting molded on them while the Marx ones are plain. Apparently, both companies used the same sculptor.

The person who designed the flat-foots was on to something. As kids, we loved them. We could fit them in toy trucks and tanks, for instance. W could easily place them in the little foxholes were dug for them in the dirt. And for casualties, we just knocked them over. The Lido soldiers were perfect for indoors and outdoors.

As for Marx, I need to clarify things here. Marx was sold mainly in  toy stores and catalog sales (Sears, Monkey Wards, etc.). It was only later in the 60s that they appeared in some 5&10 stores like Kresges. Marx cost more. Lido and Tim Mee soldiers could be anywhere. They would be in general stores, corner candy stores, groceries and similar places. They were ubiquitous. Add that fact that many of our parents were Depression babies and looked for the cheapest things they could get. Bags of Lido, Tim Mee and Payton army men were cheap. In those days, a bag might cost anywhere from 19 cents to 29 cents. Two boys could pool their allowance, buy a bag an then “divvy them up.”  And we could get them tight in the neighborhood.  The nearest candy store or corner grocery was never more than two blocks away.

(Back then, corner stores often carried a few small toys and other things. Today we call them ‘impulse buys.”)

The Lido figure and the Tim Mee World War II soldiers had some great poses. The thing about Lido’s flat-foots was that the individual figures also had character. Along with dynamic poses. they had faces that were distinct. For instance, the officer waving his pistol looked like he was talking our the side of his mouth. (I tried that and got in trouble.) The bayonet guy looks like he is about to give a Japanese a dose of bayonet therapy. And the fellow with rifle overhead might be about to smash a latter day Hessian with a rifle butt, or cross a creek.

The BMC reissued Lido soldiers are a great asset for the plastic soldier collector. They look like they did 60+ years ago thanks to the restored mold. It is a good set to have. Likewise, those who enjoy painting toy soldiers can have a lot of fun with these guys. They are army men with character. Lido army men are essential to anyone who considers himself a collector of plastic soldiers

For more info about the original Lido soldiers, check here from the Army Men Homepage:

http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/lidogi1.html
You can order the BMC reissued flat-foot army men here:

https://www.amazon.com/BMC-Classic-Green-PLASTIC-ARMY/dp/B01NCV7H7G/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1493386181&sr=8-4&keywords=victorybuy


Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Tim Mee M41 Walker Bulldog Tank and Tactical Troops

The reissued Tim Mee Walker Bulldog tank with troops is BIG. The body is 10.5 inches long by 6.5 inches wide.  With barrel, the length is 14.5 inches. For a plastic toy tank, it is a very good representation of the M41 Light tank. Open the turret and there’s the commander. And the engine compartment opens. For kids, it’s a good place to stash army men.

Back in the early 1960s, a popular toy was a battery-operated “Walker Bulldog” tank that  moved and fired plastic toy bullets. It was big, as toys go. The toy was made by Remco. The toy was only marginally like the tank for which it was named.

The Tim Mee M41 looks very much like the real thing ,through it is neither battery operated, nor does it shoot.

I estimate the scale as between 1/18 and 1/20.

Back in the 1990s, this same tank was advertised as an M60. Any resemblance to the M60 series of US tanks is tenuous, at best. Those who know US armor can see that it is the venerable M41.

Tim Mee packed in a dozen figures. These are the 60mm sized Tim Mee SWAT team cast in olive drab plastic. They are described as “tactical troops.” I find that intriguing, as the predecessor to SWAT police were the “tactical units.” And if you look at these figures closely, you get a blast from the past. The helmets are the older tactical helmets which look like motorcycle headgear. Three figures are carrying pistols. These are revolvers. Police preferred revolvers because they were less prone to jamming than automatics. That changed in the 1980s.

Two officers have billy clubs on their belts. One man holds a riot shotgun, one a sniper rifle and the other a tear gas grenade launcher. These are unique figures and they are very accurately detailed for the time they were originally sculpted. For the plastic toy soldier collector, the tactical troops are worthy additions to your collection. They are unusual, unique, and accurately reflect tactical officers in the late 70s - early 80s.

BTW - six of these tactical troops were included in the Tim Mee black helicopter Strike Force a couple years ago. They were molded in black plastic. Indeed, one of the things that the early SWAT cops brought to the table were helicopters, used for both observation and to insert teams.

Frankly, the Tim Mee M41 tank is too big for tabletop wargaming. On the other hand, it is a great toy for both indoor and outdoor play. Large, sturdy and attractive, the Walker Bulldog can provide kids with the centerpiece of many a sandbox battle. It is big, it looks good - and realistic - and it is made well. I’ll keep this around to entertain small visitors. This is one toy they can play with in the backyard.


By the way, I have been told that the small 3.5 inch G.I. Joes and similar sized figures are a perfect for this excellent tank!

Here is a link to buy one for yourself:

https://www.amazon.com/Tim-Mee-Walker-Bulldog-Playset/dp/B01N9QR2Z7/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1493386181&sr=8-15&keywords=victorybuy

Sunday, April 23, 2017

OMOK Fantasy Supplement

People have asked if I might make a fantasy supplement for OMOK (One Man, One Knight). As this is a man-to-man skirmish game, too many fantastic elements would make it another thing entirely. I am familiar with some fantasy games, though I am not a fantasy gamer  myself. I still have my old copy of Gary Gygaz’s Chainmail” with its fantasy supplement, and Fantasy Games Unlimited’s Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age. A couple of versions of the Wargames Research group’s ancient rules from the early 70s also have a fantasy supplement. Granted that the supplements for all three were meant for mass battles.

On the other extreme were the old Metagaming Rules called Melee, Wizard and their advanced versions. They started as simple man-to-man combat games and evolved into a full Fantasy series. OMOK is a game for a squad-sized unit, ideally of 10 to 15 men. The Metagaming Rules offer a few ideas, but have their limits for OMOK.

The addition of magick is another problem, because it can change the whole game from a squad-sized battle to a magical contest. For a skirmish, the only spell lthat might be useful is to hide troops such as imps and halflings.

Listed below are some ideas I had. Nothing is written in stone. This is mostly a game of combat. Perhaps in the future I will be able to come up with a genuine fantasy supplement that keeps the spirit of OMOK without becoming another piece of nerdware.


OMOK Fantasy Supplement

These are my notes:

As this is a skirmish game, the focus will be on small units of 8 to 20 figures per side. The reason for the disparity with OMOK’s 10 to 15 figures is a matter of the size of fantastic critters. For a balanced game, one might need fewer large characters such as Ogres and more small ones like Halflings and Goblins. This is a combat game on a very small man-to-man scale. There is little room for magickal elements and for larger, more dangerous critters such as dragons, tree-men and thurses.
In our fantasy world, the species of sentient beings are split according in two. Subspecies of one type are humans, dwarves and halflings. Subspecies of the other are ogres, trolls, goblins, imps and orques. Elves are of a different order entirely.


Ogres / Trolls : larger beings of a savage nature. Ogres tend to be hard to control. Trolls are a bit less unruly, and may have a magickal element to them.

Dvaergs, Dwarves: small, strong people who are skilled miners and smiths. They prefer to live underground. Whie they have the strength of man-sized beings, they are not as fast.

Goblins: Think of the green version of dwarves. Goblins tend to dislike bright sunlight. They prefer woods and the shade of towns.

Elves: lithe beings renowned for archery. These are smaller than men and wear light or no armor.

Halflings: like Hobbits, very small people who are good at hiding. Halflings fare poorly in close combat against larger beings. However, they can throw stones with the impact and accuracy of a short bow.

Imps: think of green halflings. who hate bright sunlight. Imps do not have the halfling stone-throwing ability. They are good archers and get a +1 when shooting at enemies who are smaller than man-sized.

Orques: man-sized beings, strong but not bright. Hard to command because they tend to act on their whims.


I imagine ogres as being big and nasty. They operate in twos and threes, motivated mostly by instinct and emotion. These are not logical beings. Ogres will attack the nearest enemy unit provided they have an advantage. They are smart enough to know when to avoid a fight. When overwhelmed, they will rout and run through anyone in their path.
When fighting ogres, the Rule of 3 becomes the rule of 4 for man-sized combatants and the Rule of 5 for halflings, goblins and elves.

Dvaergs work well on hills and in woods. They are strictly hand-to-hand fighters. As such, they get +1 when defending a hill or woods. They move slower than humans, deduct 1 from their movement in towns, on open ground and on roads.

Goblins do well on hills and in woods. They do not like direct sunlight. If they are in the open for more than three turns and are not engaged in combat with an enemy unit, they roll a die for control. 1, 2 and 3 means they move to the nearest shade: woods, a town or a hill. An officer with the goblins adds 1 to that roll. Of course, this does not apply on an overcast day. Unlike dvaergs, goblins can have archers and slingers firing the short bow.


Elves are like nature spirits. The are lithe and agile. Archery is their milieu. They move quickly and shoot well. Elvers are especially mobile in their own element. On the other end, they are less capable of sustaining damage in close combat. they fight man-sized opponents at -1. Against men, the Rule of 3 becomes a rule of 4.

Halflings are not usually involved in combat. For them to be present on a battlefield, there must be a special reason, such as having their homes in the line of combat. These small people move slow and are at a -2 in close combat. However, they throw stones as if firing a short bow. Halflings can hide easily, so they could launch an ambush and be a nuisance to regular units. Against men, , the Rule of 3 becomes a Rule of 5

Imps are nuisance critters attached to part of the landscape. They are more prone to mischief than actual fighting. Imps will harass anyone on either side who enters their land feature. They fight man-sized beings at -2 and cannot use missile weapons. Against men, , the Rule of 3 becomes a Rule of 5

Elves can also be nuisance creatures. They might be attached to a wood, pond, swamp or hill. Any unit passing through an elven place has to get safe passage. You need a 4, 5 or 6 to get past the elves unscathed.  An elven unit can add 1 to the die roll.  1, 2 and 3 means you have to fight the elves until you get beyond their place.

Officers with the unruly and the unpredictable nature of some species, an officer is essential.  He is there to ensure obedience through inspired leadership or fear. When guiding ogres, orques and goblins, it helps to have a leader who is bigger ane meaner than they are. A troll is a suitable officer for orgres. A ferocious human can handle orques to a point.


****

Years ago, I was an avid reader of the stories of Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, and additions by L. Sprague DeCamp and others. I was already familiar with Norse and German folkore as well as some of the Irish folktales along the same lines. The Conan stories had a more realistic feel than  Tolkein’s stories. Fanatsy & Science Fiction was a great magazine then, and often included a couple of high-end fantasy tales. One of the most entertaining books I had read was ‘Three Hearts and Three Lions” by Poul Anderson. For instance, the book’s telling of a run-in with a troll is some of the best fantasy I have read. Also, the lead character is a Dane who thinks and acts very much like a modern Scandinavian. Seeing a 20th Century Northman encounter a medieval fantasy realm is itself a funny thing.

There are many fantasy figures out there and they exceed the quality of what was available in the 1970s. Back then, I painted up a batch just for the fun of it. And it was fun. A cyclops in a leopard skin, some lizardly fellows, a werewolf, trolls and the like were a departure from historical figures. A person could easily make several fantasy units for OMOK.

I may continue with the project, or I may let it lie for a while. That remains to be seen. I am still working on a Sci-fi supplement to OMOG and a Samurai supplement to OMOK.

For your convenience, here is a link to the OMOK medieval skirmish game rules:  http://www.thortrains.net/armymen/OMOKnights.pdf