Saturday, February 21, 2009

Of Mice and Army Men

We've been on a plastic Army Men binge in my house. The local Dollar Tree has them for a buck ($1.07 when you add in tax). I remember when I was a kid the ones I usually had looked very WW2-ish (MPC Army soldiers), but in my later years of toy soldiering, all of them were the Vietnam-era (which it was at the time) Tim Mee "M-16" Soldiers, the ones that looked like the Army Men from the Army Men video game and from the movie Toy Story. I even still have one of my old Marx 6" plastic Marines, although he's definitely earned his Purple Heart at the hands of a small enemy dog (or maybe it was a rat?!?!).

The ones that have been bivouaced on my living room floor these days are bad Desert Storm knockoffs and a better looking batch of British paratrooper clones.

T. Sheil & A. Sheil of The Army Men Homepage have composed an excellent work delineating the differences between "army men" and "toy soldiers." One of the differences they address is that "army men" were made out of soft plastic that was marketed as "unbreakable." However, I've noticed that today's generation of soldiers are more brittle than those that were entrenched in my backyard back in the seventies. I've sent many a good trooper to Walter Reed during my 3 a.m. forays into the kitchen. Granted, I do weigh around four times what I did back then, but I suspect it could be that the enforcement of laws reducing the amount of lead the Chinese can put in toy plastic have rendered today's plastic army less "unbreakable."

Thanks to the folks at CWF Game Cast I found out about Combat Storm, "the definitive rulebook for miniature wargaming with plastic army men." The rules provide for
Six different classes of soldiers for each army:
  • Riflemen
  • Special Forces
  • Support infantrymen
  • Demolitions experts
  • Snipers
  • Anti-Armor experts

    Rules for driving and using vehicles, including Tanks and Transports

    Terrain rules covering all types of basic land that battles may take place on.

    Cover rules for when soldiers take cover behind objects

    Close combat rules for when the action gets up close and personal.

    A unique weapon upgrade system which allows players to spend points on additional items for
    their weapons such as laser sights, bayonets, grenade launchers, and more.

    Army-building rules and point system.

    Six different missions, each featuring a detailed map, a mission briefing, and tactical objectives.

    Three additional variations of game-play: Annihilation, Protect the Sergeant, and Capture
    the Flag.

    Instructions on how to build a gaming table.

    Command Sheet to keep track of your squads,
    weapon upgrades and equipment.

    Virtually any type of Plastic Army Men from any manufacturer can be used!

    Plus much more!

  • In these days when Winn Dixie and BP are winning the war against Copplestone Castings for my hard-earned wages, a game whose pieces can be bought with pocket change would be a welcome addition to my gaming library.

    On a more scholarly, but no less martial note, today I ran across the U.S. Army Heritage Collection OnLine. In addition to some great photos, the site has PDFs of military manuals throughout the ages. As my current readings have been inspired by Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood's film depicting the Japanese side of Iwo Jima, I downloaded quite a few Pacific Theater-related materials, most notably Soldier's Guide to the Japanese Army. But for those seeking more thrilling reads, there are things like TM 9-1575 (Ordnance Maintenance: Wrist Watches, Pocket Watches, Stop Watches, and Clocks).

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