My first “experience” of wargaming was back in the 1970s with those bendy and flexible Airfix and Matchbox model soldiers and using Britain’s matchstick firing weapons.
One of my favourite toys and probably the thing that got me into gaming was the 1:32nd Matchbox Counter Attack Playset.
Combining Americans and Germans, with an M8 Greyhound, air pump weapons and an incredible building that you could knock down and put back together. It was an incredible toy that I really loved playing with.
There were of course other models you could buy and I remember having some, but aspired to buy some of those Airfix plastic 1:32 models, such as the Cromwell as well as other Matchbox figures like these Commandos.
I did move onto more “serious” gaming using Airfix Napoleonics. Then I started to paint them, but like a lot of gamers back then, realised the flexibility of the plastic meant that the paint would come off quite easily during games. The magazines of the time (we didn’t have the web back then) had articles about painting the bare plastic with PVA (white glue) and after painting use a range of varnishing techniques (heavy gloss varnish followed by a matt varnish) to protect the paintwork even further. The reality was that I remember discussing with friends what we really wanted were plastic soldiers made out of hard plastic., like that was ever going to happen…
Lets fast forward to last week…
I usually quite enjoy the weekly updates on the Flames of War website. Never quite sure why they feel the need to save all their updates for Thursday, why can’t they post them as and when they’re done. The main result of this is I go the website once a week rather than more regularly.
So what’s the connection?
Battlefront announced they were, having moved from metal to hard plastic, were going to move now to flexible plastic. I had to check twice, was Battlefront really going to release flexible plastic toy soldiers.
The articles talks about the advantages of this *new* material compared to metal, resin and hard plastic.
The new figures are made of a flexible ABS plastic, and combine most of the good points of the other materials.
Like with hard plastic, the casting process involves injecting the plastic into a rigid mould. The moulds themselves are not machined in the same way, but cast – it’s faster and cheaper. Unlike the hard plastic, the material itself is slightly flexible after it cures, so small undercuts are possible – not as much as with metal or resin in a soft mould, but more than with hard plastic.
They also make the point…
The tough new plastic is almost unbreakable – you could drop a rulebook on them and they will bounce straight back.
Guessing dropping rulebooks on them wouldn’t do much for the paintwork. However that would be the same for any model regardless of what material it was made from.
There must be very good reasons why Battlefront are going down this road and these are outlined in the article.
The biggest benefit is the cost – we can produce flexible plastic figures almost 40% cheaper than metal equivalent, and this will be reflected in the price, which is surely good news for everyone!
Cheaper models are always nice, but cost is just one factor amongst many when it comes to choosing models to wargame with. Personally I think it’s a backward retro step, time to ensure I have enough metal models in the cupboard. I don’t mind paying the extra.
Back to the 1970s here we come….