Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Airfix

Well I was going to blog about a couple of my favourite games today, but I shall fly in the face for the current vogue for Old School Gaming by going back, way back, before Old School, to Pre-School... And like almost my entire generation, pre-school soldiers meant plastic, and plastic meant Airfix. 

Airfix Nottingham connection
Airfix were huge in the UK, and had been a staple of British boyhood for over 20 years when I got to them in them in the early 70's.

Little did I know it at the time but the had 100's of kits, and were Britain's biggest toy company producing models as diverse at 1/144th scale airliners and 1/8th motor bikes... But all these kits were for older boys, and I, like so many others my age, started out with a box of their 1/72 scale 'little men'.

Saturday afternoons would mean a walk to my paternal Grandma's house, to be left there in front of the wrestling on ITV or a Cowboy 'picture', whilst my Dad went into Arnold to watch the local non-league side play football... Walking to Gran's, we had to pass Berry's paper shop and as often as not, we stopped in the shop for a treat... 

I can't remember why Dad bought me the first box, Astronauts, but after a couple of  boxes, Robin Hood & Sheriff's men, I was hooked. 

Astronauts first, well it was 1970
Maybe it was the boxes, all the boxes had full colour art and Airfix were very good at showing you what you were going to get inside... Or maybe it was the models, 10 or 12 different little men with a few doubles, and little diorama, or a two or three part snap-fit kit... But whatever it was, there was everything in the box to create a tiny world, right there on the carpet in front of Mick Mcmanus or John Wayne.

Soon it was a regular feature of my weekend, a box of soldiers on a Saturday keep me in a world of my own until Doctor Who at 6ish, and time to go home... After a while I had quite a lot, bags full in fact, and I would acquire loads more too, including tanks and diorama sets, as other boys grew out-off theirs and handed them down... 

And everybody (well every boy) had loads. You'd go to peoples house's; cousins, children of family friends, school mates, and they'd all have loads too... so we'd tip them out onto the bedroom floor, line them up, and knock them down...
It was in a bag of Soldiers that I inherited from somewhere that I first learned a salutary lesson about scale... In the bag, much like the others ,there were the usual British Commandos and WW2 Germans, as well as the odd stray knight or WW1 Frenchman, but there were also some American Paras or Airborne... AND THEY WERE A DIFFERENT SIZE!
Airfix advertise their minis as 1/72 HO sized, and these were BIGGER! 
Now I wasn't daft I knew that Airfix, and say Action Man, weren't going to be compilable together, but what on earth was this all about? Why make Soldiers like Airfix, and not make them the same size as Airfix. It was my first inkling that all was not right with the world of tiny troopers... and I didn't like it...

Bruce Quarrie's rules for WW2
Much later, at about 11 or 12, just before I got into D&D actually, I had come across Bruce Quarrie's rules for WW2 games, published by Airfix. These were the first rules I'd ever seen and I was on the verge of getting a few mates together to play, when the D&D bug bit, and I (we all) moved over from plastic WW2, to metal Fantasy minis and gaming.