Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Civil War figures (Expeditionary Force)

Singapore-based "Expeditionary Force" has deployed its new line of Civil War figures. Above, I've mixed in the new guys with a few Butternut and Blue, Marx Civil War Centennial and CTS figures - along with a pair of Imex Parrots. The E.F. figures are crisply sculpted but quite small - more 1/35 than 1/32. Conte and TSSD would certainly dwarf them. Size wise, the new troops are a perfect match with Butternut and Blue (O, B&B! Why did you flee the marketplace so quickly?!) and the Centennial lads. The cannoneers have a nice range of poses, but all have the exact same face. (Stepford artillerists?). Similarly, other than the officer pose, the cavalry comes in just two flavors - sabre extended above head and sabre held at side. All in all, though, a nice addition to the hobby/lifestyle that we've chosen to deaden the pain and tedium of this suffering life.

At the left, a husky, mutton-chopped cannoneer from Toy Soldiers of San Diego; at the right, his stunted, whiskerless Expeditionary Force counterpart.

The three standing poses are from Expeditionary Force, whilst the kneeling officer and wounded gunner are of course Marx products. (The binocular guy has been with me for 37 years; he arrived in the Marx Civil War playset I got on my 10th birthday. What a great set! I still have many of the figures, as well as the tin litho plantation home. Sadly, the siege cannon was destroyed - read "melted" - in a tragically misguided smoke bomb experiment the same summer I got the set.)

Left front, firing: Butternut and Blue; rear, firing: one of Ideal's giants; right, carrying bucket: Expeditionary Force.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Drowsy Summer Day in Montana: 1876

Part of an historically mammoth gathering of American Indian plains tribes, an extended family of  Dakota Sioux tends to the day's chores along the Greasy Grass River in Montana.
Ladies stoke the fire, fuss over a little one and bring in wild roots from the plains.
Although a handful of tribal elders are awake, most of the encampment's fighting men were up late the night before, dancing and carrying on as young men will do, and are still asleep in their tipis. But the mid-day tedium is abruptly shattered by an ominous flurry of movement south of camp. Blue Turtle, a Sioux teenager, is the first to identify the threat. "Blue coats!" she cries.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Battle of the Bulge Diorama

An overview of the diorama of the "Battle of the Bulge" that my son and I created. We incorporated our full arsenal of landscape, figure and armor goodies from Build-a-Rama, 21st Century (RIP), Forces of Valor, Dragon, "Halloween and Christmas Village" stuff from Michael's, etc. Note the King Tigers moving forward on the snowy ridge above a shell-blasted Belgium village. Basil Junior and I invested many dozens hours of fun and thought into this basement salute to the bloodiest U.S. battle of WWII.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tiger Attack! (with a nod to 'Saving Private Ryan')

My interpretation of the awesome "Saving Private Ryan" scene in which the Americans grimly wait as a German Tiger tank rumbles toward them through the ruins of a French village.

I really like this photograph - a beseiged G.I. perforates a German infantryman with his Model '11 (.45 semi-automatic). The American figure is made by Classic Toy Soldiers, while the German is from Toy Soldiers of San Diego.

A German Marder - open-topped and thinly armored - pays for its commander's folly in advancing down a narrow street. A Molotov cocktail tossed from a second-story window splashes flaming vino across the German anti-tank vehicle, incinerating the crew.

The wreckage of war.

Archival footage

Rare photograph of fort inhabitants 'at ease" around the campfire. A Barzso ranger patiently roasts a spitted grouse (which he stuffed with wild sage) while a Marx Company trapper talks business with Supersize Fort Apache's duly authorized sutler. A cowboy looks on, drowsily.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The 7th Cavalry Tangles with the Fighting Uruk-hai (and sundry other foul beasts)

A mass of clearly vicious, malodorous beasts descended on Supersize Fort Apache through the North Woods, moments after the panicked hobbits arrived. "We will taste man flesh!" they roared. Having no interest in the monsters' dinner plans, every civilian in the territory made for the front gates - with the adults shooing the little ones and livestock ahead of them.

As the last of the civilians staggered toward the fort, Lt. Col. George A. Custer volunteered to lead a small force of dismounted 7th Cavalry troopers against the invaders. Custer, though a malignant narcissist, is personally quite brave - or, at the very least, utterly contemptuous of danger. He and his handful of veterans wade into the orcs, uruk-hai and assorted ocean-themed "Pirates of the Caribbean" villains, pistols and carbines cracking. (Note the Ron Wall Union artillerist in the background, behind the barricade; I once had Wall's entire, hand-painted rifled Parrott set, but this ram-rodder was the only figure to survive my divorce.)

Courage, unhappily, proves futile against the brute numbers and physical strength of my son's mid-childhood toys, and Custer and his noble lads are ruthlessly hacked, skewered and bludgeoned into oblivion.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Wee Hannah Brothers scampers after a bunny shortly after she and her mother and siblings moved into an unoccupied cabin northeast of the fort. The clan migrated from Missouri in search of "better prospects."

General Grant greets the grass widow Mrs. Brothers. "Need we fear Indians, General Grant?" asks the young mother. "Hardly!" replies the hero of Vicksburg. "We exist in peace with the local tribes - because we keep our agreements with them!" Grant, however, cautioned Mrs. Brothers about rogue pirates and vikings who have been known to descend without warning on isolated settlers. "Stick close to the fort, and you'll be perfectly safe," he concluded. "Our cavalry is superb, our artillery true and straight and our infantry among the best in the world!"

Cole Brothers and his faithful dog Gussie. Note President Lincoln in work clothes in right rear. Fort gossip has it that the president, angered by a series of blistering and accusatory telegrams from Mary Todd, has decided to stick around the military installation for a few weeks and pitch in with the harvest.

Eldest of the Brothers brood, Audrey poses with her prized calf, Ari. Although cautioned by an old timer back home that "you ought never name something that you might have to eat," Audrey insisted.

Robert James Duke, who migrated west with his father, Basil, to locate and secure their wedge of the American pie. For the time being, the two have decided to try their hand at cattle farming. "That huge fort is filled with stomachs that have to be filled thrice daily," explained Basil.
Within days of the Brothers' clan's arrival, a group of helpful and hopeful horse soldiers built an enormous fireplace for the heretofor unheated spare cabin. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bonus pics of the fort

Noted newspaper correspondent/art-teest Alfred Waud sketches the drowsy action as General Grant and General Burnside drop by an early evening campfire to chat with the troops.

 A typical day inside the fort

 "Sour Mash" the cat

A sore-boned cavalryman, just back from a two-day patrol, carries his saddle while a civilian leads his mount inside the fort's front gates, beside which a pair of 54 Massachusetts infantrymen stand sentry duty. (Dang it all, I wish A Call to Arms would have done more 'action' poses, generally speaking; with the 54th Mass. set, we were presented with the usual four poses - only two of which could be construed as "fighting" men - the standing firing guy and the running with bayoneted musket guy. Likewise with CTA's Maryland Militia figures: two loading figures for God's sake, out of the four total figures! Kneeling firing figures would have been lovely. I believe the company's War of 1812/Napoleonic British foot guards were even lamer, with a couple of (yellow cream-ish????!!!!) figures lethargically poking about with their muskets in nearly identical poses and a third figure engaged in something similarly un-martial. If memory serves, this set had NO firing poses - a plastic war crime of which the company's "Iron Brigade" set is also guilty. Unacceptable!) Why am I ranting like this about A Call to Arms? I have no good answer.

Initially mistaken for half-grown boys with slab-like, bearded feet, a pair of hobbits stumble out of the Great North Woods, babbling about "orcs" and "a numberless army of awful, smelly brutes" just behind them. A cavalry sergeant skins his .45 revolver and orders the two to drop their blades. Clearly, toy genres have collided at Supersize Fort Apache.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Assorted facts and photos

Normally fortified by a Civil War diet of wormy hard bread and salt junk, the garrison is keen on fresh meat of any kind. Consequently, Supersize Fort Apache boasts one of the largest herds of swine west of the Mississippi. (Kepis off to the commissary!) Civilians tend to the oblivious brutes, several of which are humanely dispatched, spitted and slow-roasted over a bed of hardwood coals every month. Fort sutler Jean Toquard - background, in yellow hunting shirt (a.k.a. "rifle dress") - watches as his common law wife, Rachel, slops the hogs. Toquard's small, log shop is slightly behind, to the viewer's left. Troops buy assorted sundries there, such as canned milk, tinned lobster and dried fruits - but positively no spirits of any kind can be sold inside the fort itself.

A garden supplies additional variety to the troops' diet. During a recent morale-boosting visit, President Lincoln kept fort gardener Hortense Schleibler company as she tended to the corn, turnips and cabbage.

The commanding general's personal residence

The BMC "Meade's Headquarters" house is a surprisingly fine-looking bit of 54 mm architecture, particularly since it came from BMC - which is to toy soldier sculpting what Dr. Frankenstein was to plastic surgery. But I've always liked Meade's Gettysburg war room, with the exception of the original crude plastic chimney top. I solved that problem by printing off some brick wallpaper and then cutting them to fit a styrofoam frame that I chopped out of a computer packing frame. Here is the result.

With its dramatically upgraded heating system, the building now serves as the personal residence for Supersize Fort Apache's commanding general, an alternating slot now held by a fellow child of Illinois, General Ulysses S. Grant. Of an evening, Grant and his staff often sit around the fire to reflect on their day's labors - the desperate fights with pirates and vikings, lack of marry-able women, Custer's latest fit of narcissism, etc. And the fire always soothes them.