Monday, 18 August 2014

Is Plastic Fantastic ???? My Views on why I still love it.

I have always loved 1/72 scale plastic toy soldiers.
For over 40 years I have played with them, painted them and gamed with them.
Yet among the general wargaming community I am still frowned upon.
When at shows or on blogs or facebook, when I mention that I game in 1/72, the look of horror on some peoples faces would make you think I had told them I had Anthrax poisoning.
Why do so many people have the attitude that to be a real wargamer, one has to play in 28mm and with Metal figures.
Even those who game in 15mm or even 6mm frown upon me and the little blobs of 20mm plastic that I game with.
But why?
Why is their a stigma attached to gaming in plastic?
Having thought about this in some detail I have come up with some possible answers to some peoples perception and prejudices regarding gaming in plastic
My Buddy Andy over at Loki's Great Hall spoke about overcoming Plastic prejudices in an earlier post on his blog.
I started my foray in to the wargames world many years ago in the late 60's.
Airfix were to blame and it's probably their fault for most of us that are about my age.

Those lovely little tempting boxes with pictures on the front that had no resemblance to the figures inside the box.
These to me were toys that I played with, lining them up and playing out a battle from some cheesy old Hollywood movie I had recently seen.
Some of us liked the masses of 1/72 (or HO/OO as it was back then). One inch high and you got loads in a box.
Many loved the larger 1/32 scale and many commando raids on some poor unexpecting Jerries were re-enacted.
I think for many, this is the problem.
We grew up with these and remember them as toys.
Never ever able to shake off that feeling of those happy days before dice came along and ruined everything.
The good guys usually won, all the bad guys were dead, simple.
Yet looking at these so called toys as you get older and you see that company's like Airfix, did try to make them quite accurate.
Many wargamers have gamed WW2 in this scale for years, why?
The range was good with all the fighting vehicles and tanks etc that were available.
Another problem was the Historical ranges that were available at the time.
WW2 was well covered, but untill Esci came along that was about it.
OK! we had the limited Napoleionic and WW1 from Airfix, and a bit of wild west and even a couple of AWI, but it was Esci that really opened the gates.
Colonial, Zulu war, Crimean war and a mass of new Napoleonics and WW2.
The choice got better.
Many new manufactures came along  after, Hat, Italeri, Strelets, Zvezda to name a few.
Now we have a bigger choice than ever and most periods and troop types are covered..
The Airfix and Esci originals are still available even today.
To look at why they are still unpopular with hardcore gamers, we have to look deeper into the dark depths of prejudice and wargames coolness.
I hear people all the time say, "I cant get the paint to stay on them"or they are to light "they don't feel like figures" or the most common "well! they aint really wargames figures, are they".
I'll answer these in order.
True, getting paint to stay on the soft bendy plastic has always been a problem, but most of us older painters used the old Humbrol enamels.
Nowadays the figures are made from a harder plastic and some of the newest are made from a vinyl type plastic.
There are many places on the web with many different methods of making the paint stick, but I find the easiest way is to use the Acrylic Polyurethane surface primer by Vallejo.
Just make sure the figures are well washed in detergent before you apply any paint.
Most acrylics we use now are quite flexible and will move with the figure if any bending occurs.
Flexible types of varnish are now also available to finish and protect the paintwork.
I have had figures many years and they still look like the day they were painted.
Looking after them and handling them correctly will also keep the paint on them.

They are light, well yes! they are plastic not metal.
Is this a bad thing really.
Easier to carry, but if you need to make them heavier, use a heavier basing compound.
Considering that many now use 28mm plastics, is that really a fair excuse.

I'll save the best for last, "well they ain't really wargames figures are they".
Oh this one can keep me ranting on for days.
What is a wargames figure ?
miniature figure (also known as a miniatureminifigure, or fig) is a small-scale representation of a historical or mythological entity used in miniature wargamesrole-playing games, and dioramas. Miniature figures are commonly made of metal, plastic, or paper...
Well thats what it says on Wiki.
Once again I think it is the fact that they are still seen as toys by many.
Another problem is the poses you get in the box. Come on, we all love the march attack pose for our Napoleonic ranks, early figure designers never really put much thought into the poses.
You always got the useless prone figures and the guys stabbing the floor with a bayonet.
But nowadays, the poses are a lot better, but I still would not use 1/72 plastics for era's where serried ranks of troops are needed.
Unless you check out the new SYW Prussians from Hat.
But for the Ancient period through to Medieval the current ranges are great, with many poses to make up the irregular appearance of troops fighting in a warband.
No marching in step to a drum here.

We recently started playing "Hail Ceasar" and we decided to do this in 1/72 scale.
We currently have Imperial Romans, Ancient britons, Celts, Nubians, Medievals, Crusades with many more as work in progress. Republican Romans, Cartaginians, Parthians, Dacians, Sea Peoples and Egyptians.
We also play Bolt Action in Ye, wait for it, 1/72 and you know what! it works great.

I have seen many things come and go in the Wargaming world over the last 40 years.
I started with Airfix, moved on to 15mm and eventually moved to 28mm.
I was lucky, for many years I played on a huge table with 28mm and it was great.
I am still lucky to have a permanent games room with a purpose built table and a good amount of storage.
But my table size has shrunk to a modest 6 x 5.
No more large 28mm battles, we just can't get them on the table for a decent sized rumble.
So it was back to smaller scales again, our musket era games are now back to 15mm and yes metals.
But all our ancient gaming, well anything with swords, bows and armour is in 1/72 scale and if looks great and works on my 6 x 5 table.
I am still beating myself up badly for all the 15mm and 1/72 stuff I have sold over the years to fund the moves to 28mm gaming.
I won't be doing it again,my stuff I have now and add will be with me to the end of my days.
Plastic armies are cheaper (around £30) for a good sized HC army.
They are also great to paint, having good detail with great scope for conversions.
Check out how far 1/72 plastics have moved forward here at  Plastic Soldier Review

I often spend the few shows I attend each year chatting and linking up with old friends and meeting new ones.
Something I have noticed is the acceptance I get from the younger generation when I mention that I do game in 1/72 plastics.
I think this is due to the fact that many of these younger gamers started with GW and are used to plastics.
Ok they may have been 30mm plastics, but plastics all  the same.
I also found it quite funny at Triples earlier this year when I bumped into a couple of old friends who looked at me with utter horror when I said I was looking for some 1/72 Celts.
The words, "your not playing with plastics are you" was worth a giggle as I glanced at the boxes of figures in their hands.
Saga Dark age warriors, Perry British Naps and a Warlord Roman and Celts Starter armies.
All, may I add, Plastics.
Maybe it's the scale, or the fact that they really are wargames figures for real wargamers

1/72 plastic toy soldiers work for me.
15mm Metals also work for me.
I am a real wargamer, painter and collector.
and sometimes they are plastic.
and I love my hobby.


  1. Huzzah! A man after my own heart! Well said, sir.

    I think most prejudice goes back to middle-aged wargamers' memories of the Airfix and Esci figures of their youths: Lumpen sculpting and dodgy poses being the order of the day. As they graduated to 28mm metals, the developments of 1/72nd plastic has passed them by. I challenge anyone to complain about the detail or range available in 1/72nd these days. We are in the middle of a plastic renaissance, I tells ya!

    1. That we are.
      There has never been more choice in 1/72 and the stuff just keeps getting better , many thanks

  2. I don't do any gaming in 1/72 and probably never will do. 1st that's because of the 'intermediate' scale... nor do they save you as much space as 15mm do in comparison to 28mm nor (in many cases) do they have the detail and overstated proportions I like about my little friends. And 2nd the audience for 28mm is bigger over here in Germany. In most places it's hard enough to find fellow wargamers in 15mm or 28mm let alone 20mm. That said there's nothing wrong with wargaming in 20mm plastics if that's what you and your club members enjoy. After all it's a niche hobby anyway.

    1. Many thanks.
      I guess it is really down to who you game with and what works.
      As I get older I want the fun element in gaming more than ever.
      Cost is another big factor for me

  3. I don't game in 1/72 scale at this point in time (perhaps I should) but I don't give a flying hoot what figures are made of across the table but I prefer it painted at the very least. I prefer plastic as my own first choice.
    Plastic = good. Cheaper, easier to convert, more possible posses. Way more bang for my buck.

  4. Well said, Kev !

    To my mind there's nothing wrong with 1/72 plastics or plastics in general. There are several reasons why I (currently) don't have too many of them myself. First of all is time. The group I joined does a lot of gaming in 28mm and so I'm currently concentrating on this scale. There I prefer metal miniatures because I don't like the assembly work with 28mm plastics. Exception are the Perry Plastics which come usually with few parts to assemble.

    As for 1/72 I started with soft Airfix figures myself. Those were great for our first games but as soon as I discovered Britannia Miniatures I got addicted to metal miniatures. In the olden days they offered equipment options which no plastic manufacturer offered and semed to be much tougher than their plastic counterparts.
    Meanwhile things have changed but my stocks of 20mm WW II minis are large enough to prevent any need of 1/72 restocks.

    So these are just my two pence. I'm completely fine with anybody playing in 1/72 or with plastics but for me it's out of focus momentarily...


    1. Cheers Stefan.
      Funny how we all seem to have the good old 20mm ww2 kicking about lol

  5. A great post, just as I am getting back into 1/72 plastics! I agree with all the above, and with 3 small sons it's the way forward to travel back as it were. The oldest boy dabbled with Games Workshop as did many of his friends, but they have all given up due to expense. Casting about we found the Caesar and Dark Alliance figures to provide a fantasy element in 1/72 (45 figures foe £6ish) and now all three boys are eagerly waiting for trips to the local model shop to choose from the vast range of 1/72 plastics out there. The don't really need to be painted to get a good game at that age (as we remember) and it's easy on my pocket too!

    1. Thanks Springsfield.
      I too use them with my youngest and he loves to play with my spares once I have used what I need for armies.

  6. I quite happily play with 1/3000 scale ships in naval games (which are so small, in some cases, that they may as well not be modelled at all). I also purchase from Navwar, which to be fair to them, is probably the cheapest in fiscal cost available.

    The sculpts are meant for gaming with and reflect the low purchasing cost. However, I'm happy with them and paint them to the best that I can. I wouldn't spend what little money I have on a model costing five times more than the same example available from Navwar in the same scale.

    At the end of the day they're there to be played with, and when painted as best as the person can they are extremely acceptable and do exactly the same job. Again, there is the prejudices against Navwar. The haters who would shun the blocky sculpts at all costs (and do). But the most fun I've ever had with gaming is with Play By Mail games, which are carried out upon paper and obviously requiring imagination and book referencing to play. Absolutely no figures, what-so-ever.

    Again, a type of wargame to be steered away from at all costs, like Boardgames, being the general opinion of quite a few members of the British gaming community.

    But a wargame (or tabletop gaming, as some prefer to call it) varies from the hobby of collecting miniatures in the fact that they are there to be played with. Hence the 'game' part in the name. As what do you use in games, but toys. And don't get people started on the 'are they toys or not?', argument. But ultimately, they are. Toys. Toy soldiers, meant to be gamed with. Not just placed in a cabinet, or on a shelf, and admired (or ignored, to collect dust).

    I would collect and play using 1/72nd plastics, should the need or requirement arise. I personally prefer the smaller scales over 28mm.

    My main issue with the hobby is the vast library of differing rules that are available. That shape and divert gamers attentions to every corner away from a unified gaming scene. Imagine a scenario where people could turn up from nowhere, with an 'army', at a club one night, and find an opponent(s) ready and available for them to get in a game.

    Compared to any perceived problems concerning scales and plastics, the rules issue within the hobby is the main subject needing to be addressed, in my opinion. I couldn't care less what people play with, when it comes to scales or material.

    I hate all the rules that are on the market, instead. Mwah, hahahahahaha!

    1. Whoops! Sorry, I seem to of written an essay, there :)

    2. Great reply Roy.
      Many thanks for reading

  7. Love the post. I'm an old Airfix wargammer. While my preferred scale is 15mm, plastics of the Airfix kind have a heap of nostalgia for me and some of the new sets I've got from HAT, Zvezda, Waterloo 1815 and Italeri are just fantastic.

    1. Thanks for reading my ramblings.
      I must agree with you.
      Some of the new stuff is lovely

  8. Back in the 60's Airfix ruled my life and I have many very fond memories. Excellent post Kev. Nothing wrong with these wee chaps!

  9. Interesting post. My first wargaming figures Aifix 1/72 Napoleonic, ACW and then WW2. Then got suckered into 15mm, a scale I never really liked and then 28mm. Now I've returned to 20mm for modern games using metal figures but enjoying building the plastic vehicle kits like I did as a wee lad.

    There is an impressive range of plastic figures available now but I don't think I'll be tempted back to other periods in the 1/72 scale, except maybe WW2. If anything I'm thinking of using 10mm for large battles, and using 28mm for skirmish games only. I've come to the conclusion that unless you have the space 28mm for large battles is not practical, yes it looks good in the magazines and rule books but I do not have space or time to paint and store regiments of 28mm figures.

    I must admit when a saw your post on the HC game I thought the figures were 28mm until I read on. It looked impressive, and for a moment I was tempted to try the scale myself for ancient battles!

    At the end of the day I have one maxim when considering wargaming, game and play what scale you like, paint how you like and damn everyone else who does not agree (quite frankly it's not their business)!

    1. My thoughts exactly Mark.
      Thanks for the comment

  10. I am glad to say that they are so wrong as you can game with whatever. Some of the soft plastics, especially the newer ones as amazing and look very good and even the older ones arnt that bad. Actually the only reason I dont game in that scale myself is no model shop here is Leicester or they dont have the period I want to game. But saying that the ranges out there are always increasing.

    If anyone ever says they are not real figures tell them to look at Johnny Rosbif's blog and look at the nappies on there and tell me they arnt wargame figures.

    1. Thoughtful reply Pete.
      Cheers and you right about JR's Naps

  11. It's a fair point. I think given the sheer amount of good stuff available it should be very popular. Just plain snobbery I think ...and the old issue of he paint not sticking! But I know the later one can be overcome now.
    You have got me thinking now... Maybe I just might go to the shop and have a look!

    1. Please do Dave.
      There is so much now to choose from now.
      I know 1/72 is very popular.
      It must be with the amount of new sets produced every year.

  12. We had better stay with 1/72 as I've still got a load of japs to do!

  13. Holy crap, I actually managed to post something! 21st century hear I come. :)


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