Well, it’s about that time of year when another birthday’s over!  Some people tell me that this year’s birthday has been a “significant” one.  I’m assuming significant to people who count on their fingers (like myself) and therefore calculate that my age now has a zero for the last digit!  And, since it’s the Chinese Year Of The Pig, and that was my birth year, my age must also be a multiple of 12.  So, by my reckoning, I’m 120 years old!  On the plus side, I’m maybe not looking too bad for my age then, but on the other hand I’d have expected to have got more wargaming stuff finished by now!

I thought I maybe ought to post something birthday-related, but since I’ve painted even less in August than July, maybe a different approach is required.  So, I’ve been delving into those cupboards and storage boxes that rarely see the light of day and photographed some old stuff that’s never been featured here before.  Once you see it, you’ll realise why some skeletons are maybe best kept in their cupboards (‘fraid some of the pictures are not great)!


Way back in the late 70s I started a 20mm WW2 Hungarian army.  Infantry were simply Airfix Germans painted khaki and I had to scratchbuild Hungarian tanks from card.  Most of the latter have long since disappeared, but two Toldi light tanks have survived (see above).  These were built in the early 80s from card, paper and plastic rod, from drawings I made from photographs.  They are simplified quite a bit, and accuracy could be a lot better, but they are recognisable as 40mm-armed Toldis.  They’ve never been repainted, but I might add some early war markings to them and put a shading wash and highlight on them and start using them again.


About the same time I built myself a small WW2 Bulgarian force, since I’d just bought the Zaloga Eastern Front Camouflage & Markings book (Panzer IVs, a Panzer III and a Panzer 38(t) are shown above).  Bulgarian national insignia on the turrets was painted freehand but I doubt I could manage that now.  Infantry were, once again, plastic German painted khaki!


The Bulgarians have been stashed away and the plan is to replace them with new troops and vehicles, hopefully better painted and more accurately portrayed!  Most of the tanks should be finished in German overall yellow for 1944 operations, although the dark green Panzer IVs above are correct for 1945 actions.


Some of my first metal figures were 25mm samurai from Dixon Miniatures.  These were painted in about 1983 in Humbrol gloss enamels, not a method I’d repeat!  Later troops were painted in matt enamel and gloss varnished, but these have yellowed with age unfortunately.  The picture above shows just a handful of figures from the 100-odd that I’ve got, and the picture below shows some ronin (dispossessed samurai).


I’m actually thinking about getting some of these figures tidied up and matt varnished to try out with Osprey’s Ronin skirmish rules.  Just for some different opposition to the samurai, in the early 90s I painted a Ming Chinese army using Irregular Miniatures figures.  The Chinese fought the Japanese in Korea in the 1590s and I painted most of my Ming troops over a two year period when I was away a lot for work.


Once again, I’ve got about 100 figures, all gloss varnished.


Next up are Aeronefs in 1:1200th scale from Brigade Models.  I think I started collecting these in the 90s by making a Chinese air fleet (above) and then some Japanese (below) along with Russians and French.


In the early noughties I started playing the aerial combat game Crimson Skies, sadly not long before it became unavailable.


In my opinion, Crimson Skies was an excellent game, much better than Wings Of War/Glory, with pilots gaining experience and abilities with each mission they flew.  I think I have over a hundred plane models and pilots, many of the aircraft models being converted from historical metal plane models (Crimson Skies was set in an alternative 1930s where the USA had fragmented and air transport was the primary means of transport – the official models were approximately 1:200th scale).  The fictional planes above were converted from Scotia Grendel 1:300th models using Milliput, a Grumman Sabretooth on the left and a French Guillotine heavy fighter on the right.  Shown below are a Dutch Fokker XIX fighter bomber and Scorpion heavy flying boat fighter with a remote operated turret.


Crimson Skies contained all the rules needed to create your own planes and most of mine were my own designs, which tended to be slow and heavily armed!  I think I used more Scotia 1:200th P-47 Thunderbolt models for conversions than anything else – the German Bv P.163 below is a Thunderbolt conversion.


Even used some larger models and made up my own rules for bombers – the French Cyclops night bomber shown below was converted from a 1:144 scale P-38 Lightning.


I’m thinking I maybe need to play Crimson Skies again!  Was always good fun!

So now, something definitely not historically-based!  Warmachine!  You weren’t expecting that (well, OK, the title picture might have given the game away)!


Started collecting Warmachine stuff ’cause I thought it might make good steampunk hardware, but it ended up with a group of about five or six of us playing Warmachine over several years before it all lapsed.  The first force I made up was a Rhulic mercenary group (shown above) that took forever to paint.  I added a few barrels and stores to one of the smaller Grundback Gunner warjacks and painted the bigger Driller with a shark’s mouth to match the artwork in one of the sourcebooks.


Next force I painted was Cygnar, as it was the only one no-one else was bothered with at the time.  Instead of the characteristic blue scheme I went with khaki and added some extra stowage on my two Hunter warjacks.  My favourite warcaster figure was Victoria Haley (she’s the figure carrying a staff and wearing goggles and a hood).  To complement my Cygnar force I also bought some extra mercenaries – the Devil Dogs and Nomad and Mule warjacks amongst others (see below).


I swapped some of the bits between the Mule and Nomad and went with an orange-brown for warjacks, although I painted the Mule in Cygnar blue (to represent its origin) with some other bits patched on.  And, last but not least, how could I not get myself a figure of Arquebus Jonne (he’s the ogrun below with the heavy tri-barrel gun, along with his partner Herne)!


Just love these two figures!  I think Herne was the first figure I ever tried painting with stubble on his chin!

It’s been a while since I’ve played some of these games and had these minis out, so I quite enjoyed looking through them all and getting some pictures taken.  Maybe I have just had a significant birthday after all!


  1. Some nice things in your collection there. I loved the Dixon Samurai back in the day. I remember ogling at them in Miniature Wargames magazine. I never ever bought any. Eventually I got an army in 15mm (Two dragon rings a bell). Sold years ago, but as I have an itch to do Samurai stuff I could do Ronin in 15mm!

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  2. Great post John and so nice to see some of your earlier work. Hope you had a great birthday. Reaching such a milestone explains the Retirement conundrum. With so many armies to paint and tanks to build it seems like a no brainer to me but I will hurry along with the retirement tips to put your mind at ease! 😉

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  3. Wow your old stuff looks WAY better than anything I did in the past. So I would not be hiding that in the cupboard at all. Oh and happy significant Birthday – personally I hate Birthdays (they makes you think about getting old) but the important ones are worth celebrating.

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  4. Happy belated birthday mate. The art on thes figurines is simply amazing. I love the warmachine stuff, never heard of any of these games mentioned tho… Apart from crimson skies that might have been made into a pc or tv game…

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  5. Happy birthday John! This was a great read, I really enjoy seeing people’s old models and reading their stories. And such nice models too, those gloss coats won’t fool me! Looks like you’re set for Aeronautica Imperialis with all those tiny planes 🙂

    I think my favorites from these are the Warmachine models. I’m not very familiar with the game, but clunky robots/mechs/battlesuits always work for me. Especially with those cool WWII style paintjobs! I wonder if the WM team has some ties to Finland, based on Jonne and Herne. Jonne is a very common man’s name here, and herne is the word for pea…

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    • Cheers mate! I need to look up Aeronautica Imperialis. Warmachine went through rules changes but more factions were introduced after I stopped playing. You can just play with a very small number of models and get a good game. The models gradually transitioned from metal to plastic – the quality got better but the prices didn’t really drop though.

      Maybe Herne makes sense then, because his race are called Rhulfolk (dwarves basically). Fancy that! 🙂

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  6. First, Happy Birthday! I’m assuming you hit the big six-oh? Congrats! I certainly enjoyed this post a lot – your walk down memory lane was fascinating. The conversions and scratch builds are all very impressive. I especially loved the Toldis, and the planes were cool. Just curious- you have a seeming fascination with the more obscure armies and conflicts – how did that become a focus of your hobby work? I certainly love that btw. Also, have you tried Test of Honour for samurai games? It is very fun. Anyways, keep on producing, and retirement will be here before you know it – at least that’s my hope!

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    • Thanks, Mark, and yep, 60 is now here to stay for a bit (hopefully)! I’m glad you like some of my old stuff! I’m not sure how I got onto doing the more obscure conflicts, I think I maybe read little bits and pieces and wanted to have a go at gaming them. My dad painted 54mm Napoleonics and collected “toy” soldiers and I didn’t want to do that so maybe I was rebelling as a teenager! Of course, it was all the more challenging in pre-internet days finding out even basic reference material. I think my first foray in the field (in the 70s!) was painting Airfix Confederate infantry in olive green, Airfix WW1 British infantry in khaki and calling them Paraguayan and Bolivian armies for the Chaco War! And then an article in Airfix magazine in 1976-ish on the Hungarian Turan tank got me started on a Hungarian army and I scratchbuilt eight Turans and two Zrinyis after making up my own plans from photos – they weren’t great, but they got used a lot (and knocked out a lot) although sadly none of them are around anymore. And I’ve always wanted to do the Paraguayan War since the 1990s articles in Wargames Illustrated, so after 20 years I got there with that one!
      I could do with a decent set of samurai rules so will have a look at Test Of Honour, thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

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  7. Sorry to be digging an old post up, but I for one am fervently looking forward to seeing how you intend to put together a Bulgarian force. Their helmets are one-of-a-kind if I am not mistaken. I suppose the Lancashire range would serve as a good starting point?

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  8. Quite the wide variety of models here; I liked a lot of them and I think I liked the Warmachine ones you did the best. They look a lot more interesting to me done up in earth tones, which isn’t how I’m used to seeing them at least in person.


    • Thanks Ann! 🙂 I like Warmachine but I don’t really get to play it now, so it looks like another one of those neglected games I need to revive I think! Since I painted some Cygnar Trenchers, I decided to paint the supporting warjacks in khaki to fit in with them, although you’ll see that I’ve got the more familiar blue figures as well. Mercenary warjacks in Warmachine also tended to be green, but I went with a tan/sand scheme just to be different! I’m glad you liked them!

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      • I tried Warmachine a few times, back when it was big at the game stores I was going to at the time a few years ago, but for some reason it wasn’t my cup of tea. Then it sort of died out all at once, as games often do, when the people keeping things going lost interest and went back to playing 40K.

        Yep, I do like what you did with your forces indeed. They have a nice synergy going of the fantastic and the realistic. 🙂

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