Monday, December 29, 2014

Star Wars Classic Rebel Heroes Part 2: Luke Skywalker

Just added a few Luke Skywalkers to my Star Wars collection.  All are from West End Games' classic Grenadier minis range by Julie Guthrie, of course.

There's also a landspeeder kit, but I'm saving that for another post.
I think I did a little better with the eyes this time than I did on the Rebel infantry, but they still don't look very good.  Eyes in 25mm non-heroic scale is tough!
Great figures, though!  And an important addition to my Rebel forces...

May da Swartz be with you!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ye Aulde Tyme Sword and Sorcery Toys Part 2: More Old School Plastics & Playsets

The other day I was hunting around online for a dusty artifact from the lost world of my childhood and realized that my last December's post on Old School Sword and Sorcery Toys was actually woefully incomplete.  In my diggings I rediscovered a number of old toys from yesteryear, some of which I'd forgotten about, some of which I'd never known existed at all.  So here are some more Wizard and Warrior sets from ancient epochs for you to wax sentimental over during this holiday season.  Enjoy.  

As was the case in Part 1, none of the photos in this post were taken by me.  All were gleaned from one of the following blogs.  If you enjoy this sort of thing, you'll enjoy these blogs too, and you'll note that some of these have just appeared over in the "Other Stuff I Like" column...

An alternate box illustration for the Demons of Castlelon set by DFC.  I found this on 2 Warps to Neptune, where I saw that I wasn't the only one to notice the similarity between the Nagas in this set and the old Monster Manual Illustration for that creature.
The subject of Part 1 of this series was (Primarily) the company Dimensions For Children.  This small toy company invested heavily in manufacture of Sword and Sorcery playsets, all of which were of a high caliber, being very imaginatively conceived and well executed.  They must have had some success, because shortly after they released their Dragonriders of the Styx and other playsets, a host of other manufacturers also attempted to cash in on Dungeons and Dragons-themed playsets.  None of these imitators ever achieved the quality of DFC, but there were certainly some entertaining attempts. We'll start with my personal favorite:

Dragon Crest/Mysterious Castle

In grade school my friend John got this set, and was I ever jealous.  John is my best friend and an enthusiastic collector of fantasy miniatures and toys to this day.  Anyway, a company called Miner industries had evidently been impressed by DFC's exploitation of the rising enthusiasm for all things sword and sorcery and set out to make their own playset.  Like some other examples we'll examine in this post, it was more of a hasty exercise in kit-bashing rather than the organic and original sets put out by DFC, but for a kid in the third grade or so in the early eighties it was pretty epic, and set our tortured, over-active imaginations a-smoldering. 

Released first as Dragon Crest in 1981, (I think), the set sandwiched a cheap pasteboard hilltop and plastic castle between 2 armies, one of noble knights, one of 'fearsome fiends'.  As kids we were blown away by the beauty of the knights, who were in fact, re-casts of some very old MPC models, although I think some of them may have been Marx.  I don't know for sure.  I don't claim to be an authority on classic toys.

Some of the knights from Dragon Crest/Mysterious Castle.  Lovely figures.  The horse shown here is a mis-match, I think.  It belongs to an old west set, I believe made by Marx  The horses that came with this set had no saddles, instead they had separate plastic caparisons.

Though the knights looked legit, we could tell right away that there was something odd about the 'fiends'.  For starters, they looked more like old time movie monsters than dungeon dwellers.  For another thing, they were hopelessly, stupidly out of scale with the castle they were supposed to inhabit and the knights they were supposed to fight.  

That said, we adored them.  They were cast in lurid green glow-in-the-dark plastic and oozed old school movie monster charm, (or lack thereof.) and they consistently wreaked terrific havoc on the gallant knights attempting to storm their hoary domicile.  Of course, old school movie monster toys were exactly what they were.  Somebody at Miner had decided to kit bash them together with the knights to make a sort of quick, easy and cheap DFC pastiche set.  These figures actually have a great history that could make a blog post of its own, I'll just hit a couple of high points here.

They had actually been made decades earlier by MPC as 'pop tops' meaning that they had separate, pegged heads which you could swap around between the figures.  They were quite popular, not surprisingly (they're delightful figures) and were used and re-used over the years in a number of other toy sets such as...
A haunted house shooting gallery....

The Haunted Hulk!  Oh, my God, this is the greatest thing!  A pirate ship full of Movie Monsters!  I don't know why I love this so much, but I chortle with joy to think that such a toy could have been.

With the Sword and Sorcery boom, they were recycled once more, this time as 'Dungeon Demons' (see bottom left)

Nice shot of all the fiends together.  Dragon Crest/Mysterious Castle came with two full sets for a total of sixteen fiends, all cast in glow in the dark green.  The black figure in the back row was a hooded man with a dagger and a skull.  We called him 'The Murderer'.

In 1983 Miner Toys re-released Dragon Crest as 'Mysterious Castle"  This was the set John had.  All the knights in this version were molded in white and black instead of red and black, and a pasteboard dragon stick puppet was added to the cave at the base of the castle plateau.  The defending player could occasionally have him emerge to shovel a knight or two in his gaping maw.  There was also a nice selection of siege equipment.  Kit-bashed pastiche though it might have been, it was a great toy.  Well used to the idea of outnumbered heroes being besieged by hordes of darkness, John and I found the idea of outnumbered but powerful monsters at bay before a numerically superior force of crusading heroes to be rather refreshing. The figures, out of proportion to one another though they were, were very beautiful, it was great fun, and I'd love to have a copy of this set today.

Diener Greek Mythology Figures

I believe John and I were in the third grade when he showed up to school with a pocket full of these swell 54mm Greek Mythology figures.  They were molded in a rubbery, bouncy sort of resin by a company named Diener.  John claimed that they were erasers.  That may have been the case.  What was certainly true was that he had convinced his mother to buy them for him on the understanding that they were 'school supplies'.  School supplies or not, they were promptly drafted into our plastic armies and had to battle it out on the heights of Dragon Crest and along the banks of the River Styx along with everybody else.

Sword and Sorcery Playset by HG Toys

Around the same time that Miner was putting out Dragon Crest, HG toys came out with their own
sword and sorcery play set, titled, rather'Sword and Sorcery Playset'.  While

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warriors and Champions of the Sidhe

Years and years ago now, I found a number of packs of Alternative Armies' Erin miniatures in a bargain bin at Gamescape in San Francisco.  Great old store, it was then.  I had little use for the minis at the time, but I loved them and painted a bunch of them just for fun.

A year or so ago, I finally picked up a copy of the rules and started trying to assemble war bands for them.  Then the deployment happened and my wild and woolly war bands of Celtic Myth had to go into boxes to await my return.

The only minis I didn't have many of were the Sidhe, but recently I found this pack on Ebay for a pittance and couldn't resist.  Here are a few snaps of the core of my future Sidhe war party.

The Erin game seems to be a fairly standard skirmish minis game, plot driven, character-centered, with 'armies' of between ten and twenty miniatures, set in the era of of the Invasions.  Best part is the nice old Alternative Armies Minis and the buckets of ancient Irish flavor.  Keen to get back and go a-questing!
"You'll not be putting us into our mounds so easily, Milesian trash!"