Saturday, 16 April 2016

Wargame Nostalgia - Airfix



As a young lad I had collected Airfix, mostly WW2 vehicles and figures.  I had set them up as a sort of moving diorama, but had never been aware that there was such a thing as wargaming.

My experience of making the Trooping of the Colour diorama has introduced me to painting, which I had really enjoyed.  

Having read “Charge, or how to Play Wargames” I now wanted to have a go.  But how to start?   I returned to the garrison library and found a couple of books on wargaming and all suggested Airfix as the most suitable and certainly the least expensive way to start.

A search of local toy shops confirmed that Airfix were the only cheap figures available, and the highlanders in particular seemed most suitable.   I knew nothing about the Napoleonic Wars but my research had convinced me that it was colourful and one of the most popular periods for wargaming.

In 1969 there were only two suitable boxes available, the Highlanders and the French Cuirassiers
Highlanders
So my British infantry would all be highlanders.  This did not strike me as unusual or strange at that time.  I bought enough boxes to make up units of 20 figures of each pose, except for the kneeling, wounded and dead ones.  I even has one unit of the figure bayoneting someone lying on the ground
French Cuirassiers
The cuirassiers were a better selection. I could use all of them in each box, apart from the one holding his horse and sheltering behind the dead horse.  
French Foot Artillery
In 1971 Airfix released French artillery.   I had already bought a couple of Hinton Hunt French artillery crews, to counter my British Horse Artillery from the same manufacturer.   But I could now expand my artillery although I was not very impressed with the strange looking limber.
French Infantry
There was great excitement in wargaming circles when Airfix released the French Infantry in 1972.  My wargame collection expanded to include not only French infantry, but also French allies.   By now I had bought the two Funken books, and I had painting instructions of all of the major powers and many of the minor ones
British Hussars
In the same year Airfix released British hussars.   This prompted my first ever conversion, a simple change of head.   All of the spare French infantry donated their heads to convert British to French hussars.
British Infantry
Also released in 1972, and welcomed with the same joy as the French infantry.   Once more I could use the spare heads to provide British foot artillery
British Horse Artillery
Another set released in 1972.   Not as useful to me, because I already had Hinton Hunt horse artillery.   But I did convert some to French horse artillery by using spare British hussar heads.
French Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard
It was 1975 before these were released.  By then I had moved on to metal figures, mostly Miniature Figurines.  But that did not stop me buying sufficient boxes to produce eight units of 20 figures each.


It is hard now to understand the great excitement which greeted each new Airfix release.   As far as I knew they were the only 20mm plastic figures available in the UK, and they were a fraction of the price of Hinton Hunt or Miniature Figurines.   In addition they were easy to convert with a sharp knife and some glue.   In Wargamers Newsletter there would be articles on major conversions, but I was never up for that.   I found that I could paint figures to a reasonable “wargame standard”.   But I was never very good at any sort of DIY, and that included anything more complicated than replacing heads on plastic figures.

The only real downside to the soft plastic Airfix figures was that they would flex, and the paint would peel off.   This was particularly true of thin weapons and ankles.   But repair was easy, just another coat of paint.   And I spent most nights painting anyway, so this was no great problem.

8 comments:

Will McNally said...

Happy days - I still have some of the old figures

Sun of York said...

Many happy memories with Airfix Napoleonics

Anibal Invictus said...

No photo of the Waterloo farm??? Disappointing!!!
My brother and I used to display the armies in my parents large living room and throw a large cowboy and indians plastic horse to see who will "kill" first the opponents soldiers

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Will

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately I sold off my large collection of Airfix figures sometime in the late 1970s, when I replaced them with Miniature Figurine metal figures. However I had almost 10 years wargaming with a mixture of Hinton Hunt and Airfix, who went together remarkably well.

regards

Paul

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Sun

It all seems so long ago, and such a more innocent time. The long wait from first warning of a new box to be released built up the expectation. Then the excitement of getting hold of the first box. How different now with a variety of manufacturers and scales which must make it difficult just to keep up with what is available - even with the assistance of the web.

regards

Paul

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Anibal

How could I have forgotten the Airfix farmhouse? It was the first purpose built building I bought, and it played a major part in most of my wargames for many years. It did take up a large amount of the available play area, and I don't think we had any rules for fighting in a built up area. I have no idea what happened to it. I don't remember selling it, and I certainly would not have just thrown it out.

regards

Paul

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Oh my '72 was a good year... I distinctly remember buying French Infantry by the several box'loads...

thistlebarrow said...

Hi Steve

I think the French infantry was the best box issued. They could be painted to represent not only French, but also many of the French allies. Happy days!

regards

Paul