Home Forums General General Toy soldiers vs model kits

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    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    A significant part of miniature wargaming is playing with toy soldiers. For me, there’s a difference between a toy soldier and a model kit. Too many wargaming figures these days are sold as multi-part model kits, which you have to cut from plastic sprues, then glue together – sometimes with difficulty.  Those are not toy soldiers to me. A toy soldier should come out of the box or blister, ready to stand up and go into action with minimum (or none) assembly required (apart from painting, of course). Perhaps you might have to attach an arm or head, but that should be about it. When a soldier is a single cast (as much as technically possible), that’s when he has character, has a personality. Multi-part plastic modeling kits don’t have that same character.

    Do others feel the same way?

    Avatar photoMartinR

    Yes, I quite agree. I don’t mind a bit of assembly (like putting a cavalryman on a horse, or maybe putting shields on although I’d prefer not to) and I enjoy sticking plastic tanks together.

    Sticking a load of figures together though? No thanks.

    Some of the early PSC sets were offenders in this regard, but the newer ones are better. I’ll take goofy poses over having to stick a load of heads and arms together any day.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoDeleted User

    Whilst I appreciate Phil & Martin’s opinions, I must say multi-part 1/72 plastic figures are usually better if they come in multi-part kits.

    This means, because of the restraints of the plastic injection mould process, you don’t get flat figures in unbelievable & often impossible poses.


    The late, lamented Zvesda often had “model kits”:


    Arms, equipment, and of course the multi-part cannon & various vehicles came in pieces to be assembled into one of the best artillery sets in this scale.



    Compare these to this:



    Avatar photoMike

    I am inclined to think that unless it is an actual proper scale model it is a wargames model/toy soldier.

    Be that single or multipart.

    Avatar photozippyfusenet

    Toy soldiers vs. model kits? The toy soldiers would win, ‘cuz they’re way more robust and durable. They’d bust the model kits right up. It would make a great Toy Story III action movie.

    You'll shoot your eye out, kid!

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    Interesting notion. I’ve never thought about the distinction like that before, but thinking about it now, I don’t really agree.

    I’ve seen plenty of one-piece metal figures that are devoid of character and personality, or have their intended character and personality distorted by awkward poses for casting convenience and the like. I’ve seen plenty of multi-part, multi-pose plastic figures that have been thoughtfully designed and assembled to have character and personality. Of course I’ve also seen plenty of the reverse in both cases. The bottom line is that I don’t really distinguish one type of figure as inherently better than the other.

    I should point out that when I assemble multi-part, multi-pose figures I often put extra time and effort into converting them to make them look more natural. I enjoy converting (it gives me more control as “artistic director” of my own projects) and it’s an enjoyment I can’t get as much out of plain one-piece castings.

    Both one-piece castings and multi-part, multi-pose sprues have their natural place in the hobby for me. They intermingle freely. It’s slightly alien to me to think of one-piece figures as “toy soldiers” and multi-part figures as “model kits”, especially as a dichotomy. My figures are neither of those things to me, whatever material or configuration they may be (though I may occasionally use the term “toy soldiers” in an ironic and self-ridiculing way when describing my hobby).

    All this is assuming we’re talking about 28mm or larger. In the smaller scales it tends to be a moot point in my experience as multi-part, multi-pose figures aren’t really a thing for understandable reasons.

    Avatar photoTony Hughes

    I’m with Phil on this one. I hate model kits beyond 2 or 3 bits and wouldn’t even consider buying a whole army of them. Don’t really like plastic (of any sort) either – no particular reason, just prefer metal. I do the vast majority of my home gaming with 2-15mm so plastics are much less a choice in those sizes.

    On the few occasions I play skirmish games the ‘character’ is more likely to come from events in play rather than what the figure looks like but I do see what Phil means by kits having less ‘character’ than a single pc casting – illogical, I know but so what !!




    Avatar photoSane Max

    I have never thought about it as a ‘toy soldier’ v ‘model kit’ issue, and now I do, I don’t feel it strongly.

    But add me to the list of people that dislike multi part figures where there is no need for them to be so.

    where it’s to avoid undercutting problems I can see the point – an arm, a flag etc. That’s common now in 1/72 and causes me no grief.

    I mean the sets where it’s implied you can mix and match the parts, and pose them as you wish etc to get a huge variety of figures from a limited set of parts. Most of them, unless you are willing to infringe the basic rules of human anatomy, you really don’t end up with lots of different poses at all, and the time spent cutting and trimming and sticking is a major PITA to me, no pleasure involved. I have seen armies of 28mm plastic figures where the resultant poses are frankly ludicrous, combining an insane level of animation (everyone lunging forward at the same time) with the ability to get arms into places no human (or orc) arm could ever go.

    My favourite 1/72 manufacturer actually takes the figures off the sprue for you – they come in a little ziplock bag inside the box. Gets my vote! 🙂

    Avatar photowillz

    They are all toy soldiers to me.

    Avatar photodurecellrabbit

    I grew up on GW’s multi part plastic kits so I have a great deal of affection for them and will almost always go for plastic kits over metal minis.

    Avatar photoNorm S

    I see them all as wargaming stuff …. though I think the multi part figure manufactures are pulling back a bit to fewer parts per figure than we were seeing a few years ago.

    WWII vehicles have clearly moved toward being wargamer friendly, with a shedload of fast build vehicles now available and most notably with their tracks / running gear made as a single piece.

    Avatar photoIvan Sorensen

    I’m a bad modeller so I tend to prefer simpler kits, though for 28mm stuff, being able to pose the figures goes a long way.

    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    There are rights of passage being abandoned here! I am shocked!

    How can you be a wargamer if you haven’t nursed your burned and bleeding figures from trying to stick the ends of old Airfix AFV tracks together? Glue didn’t work ,so it was stitching with the nearest grey thread you could find or hot ironwork to melt the ends and hallucinations and crashing headaches for a few hours. Ah the joys!

    What are a few misaligned (model) limbs compared?! Wimps!

    Avatar photoTony Hughes

    Guy – that is precisely where my dislike of kits came from. In my younger days you had very limited possibilities for the armoured part of your forces and they all involved building kits.

    Staples were what I used for Churchill tracks.


    Avatar photoGuy Farrish

    If only we’d met in 1964!

    Avatar photoIan Marsh

    Toy soldier kits do not come with assembly instructions, just a psychic link to the mind of the sculptor: scale modelling kits come with assembly instructions. 🙂

    Fighting 15s

    Avatar photoAutodidact-O-Saurus

    Oh, I absolutely agree. Toy soldiers (to me, YMMV) are approximately 54mm tall, generally metal and glossy. Minimal assembly required–and perhaps more simplistic paint styles. There are also some plastics I’d clump in here, too, such as BMC and Armies in Plastic. I think H.G. Wells, R.L. Stevenson, old school school gaming with a certain amount of naivety and innocence. I also think of toy soldiers as being more likely to be collected for their own sake.

    Model soldiers can be any scale, but generally have more parts, more assembly required and tend to be more realistic. Their ultimate use is either in the activity of assembly itself, or in smaller scales for gaming. These are flexible parameters, though. For example, I have a book by Curt Johnson entitle ‘Battles of the American Revolution’ illustrated with photographs of Peter Gilder’s Hinchcliffe figures. Toy soldiers! I recall a book about ancient Rome illustrated with pictures of 20mm (?) Romans vs. Macedonians. Toy soldiers!

    Thankfully, I enjoy modeling and gaming so I appreciate both aesthetics for what they are.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    I have seen armies of 28mm plastic figures where the resultant poses are frankly ludicrous, combining an insane level of animation (everyone lunging forward at the same time) with the ability to get arms into places no human (or orc) arm could ever go.

    I’ve seen this a lot, too. The solution is: Just don’t. As in, don’t assemble your multi-part, poseable figures any which way. Just because that orc or Celt or whatever can be assembled swinging its sword overhead, doesn’t mean it should. If, for instance, the arm has been sculpted so that the musculature or fabric/armour suggests the hand is at waist level, then that’s how to assemble the figure in order to achieve a natural look. Yes, it does impinge on the full range of poseability, but it’s a redundantly wide range anyway, so some of the poseability can be sacrificed for the net gain that is a more natural-looking unit. Even a little bit of poseability goes a very long way to break up the impression of duplicate figures in a unit.

    The importance of finesse, discretion and restraint during assembly probably doesn’t get stressed enough by the companies that make multipart, poseable plastic figures. The fun of “going crazy” with the posing is one of the selling points, but at the end of the day, it’s the modellers that exercised restraint during assembly who have the best-looking figures.

    Avatar photoEtranger

    For me, it’s all part of the same hobby, just with a different emphasis. After all, there isn’t much distinction made between the ‘painters’ and the ‘gamers’ in the hobby,  so why should the ‘modellers’ be excluded?

    A multipart kit poses no great difficulty. provided it is (A) well designed (parts breakdown; rational use of single piece Vs multiple mouldings etc) (B) well manufactured (little flash, lots of flash is a mask of worn production moulds; good fit of parts, needing little filling/filing; and minimal distortion of parts, ditto) and (C) decent instructions (an exploded diagram, showing where, and which way around, pieces go is satisfactory). Quick build kits are fine too, provided they conform to the same requirements.

    Back in the day of making Airfix kits, I too used staples most of the time, hiding the join up under the hull. (I just used the stapler Tim!) The ‘hot screwdriver’ and thread techniques both got used too. One disadvantage of the heating method was that you could melt the tracks too much.

    As to durability, I’ve got some 30 year old stuff that’s still knocking around intact (eg the ESCI sdkfz 251s with multiple individual wheels). The odd hatch and small part occasionally comes away, but that’s what glue is for!

    Avatar photoMartinR

    There are rights of passage being abandoned here! I am shocked! How can you be a wargamer if you haven’t nursed your burned and bleeding figures from trying to stick the ends of old Airfix AFV tracks together? Glue didn’t work ,so it was stiching with the nearest grey thread you could find or hot ironwork to melt the ends and hallucinations and crashing headaches for a few hours. Ah the joys! What are a few misaligned (model) limbs compared?! Wimps!

    Yeah, it’s a shame so many wargamers have never experienced that. 😀

    I have the answer for you for Airfix and all vinyl/soft rubber type tracks – a staple from a stapler. Don’t use the stapler itself. Take a single unbent staple and stick the staple arms into both loose ends of the track – this can be a bit difficult sometimes, depending on the texture on the tracks. Once through, bend the arms of the staple flat. It will work like a set of clamps holding the track together. Sometimes for very wide tracks (think the Fujimi or ESCI/Italeri King Tiger models or the Airfix Tiger), two staples, side by side work well. I’ve used two staples in the past for Airfix Panzer IVs.

    The staple can now be pressed so flat that its arms can be hidden by track guides/teeth. I then usually position the track so that the long staple on the outside of the track is along the top run so that it is hidden by the fenders. I’ve also done it on the bottom.

    The technique can be used to lengthen a track where it is too short as well, though you are left with a stretch with just a line of staple.

    Yes, staples are the way to go, particularly for the Airfix Pz IV where the tracks are too long and have be trimmed down.

    As I said in my OP, I like assembling plastic models, and the new ranges of 15mm plastic vehicles are a joy. What I object to is assembling hordes of plastic infantrymen, particularly when the assembled figures still end up in goofy poses with weird mixes of weapons.

    Artillery is still a pain, always has been, always will be, particularly if you have to paint a load of horses to pull it.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Avatar photoPhil Dutré

    In the original post, I was indeed talking about assembling infantry and cavalry figures, not so much assembling vehicles. Vehicles have always been model kits – and if they fit well, I love to glue them together. I guess most wargamers of a certain age have asssembled Airfix, Revell, … in their younger years, so it is 2nd nature.

    But I do feel that the actual soldiers should come in one piece. There is a certain soulless quality to figures that have to be assembled. As a young wargamer, I grew up on fantasy figures that were ready to go when you opened the blister. They had charm, individuality, personality. I feel the same about classic toy soldiers. When you open a box of GW figures (or some historical plastics) these days, you get a bunch of plastic sprues with a lot of body parts. Where’s the charm and character in that?

    Perhaps there’s a philosophical argument here. In real life, vehicles are assembled, so it is ok if we assemble our model vehicles as well. But humans come in one piece, you don’t assemble them. There’s no analogy to glueing arms, torsos and heads together.

    Avatar photoRhoderic

    It’s not like there aren’t soulless-looking one-piece castings.

    Multi-part poseable figures get their soul, charm and character once they’re assembled, provided it’s been done with finesse. It’s only a difference of which stage it happens in.

    When I open a box of well-designed plastic sprues I see the potential to make something come alive by my own hand, much like how I see the potential to make a tree come alive when I look at a bunch of wire, rubberised horsehair, clump foliage, sand and flock. It’s the thumb-size demiurge in me 

    Avatar photoEtranger

    We need to get to Belgium fast. Someone needs our help. 😀

    An intervention in Belgium? That usually ends up in tears…

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