I was reflecting the other day, on how things have changed in the thirty years since I started playing with "toy soldiers". Aside from my level of disposable income (vast improvement on a 10 year old's pocket money), on the surface there doesn't seem too much change. The figure lines are great (although there was no hard plastics back then). But when I started to think deeper, there have been a few thigs that have really changed the way I get immersed in the hobby. I've picked five things that I wish were around 30 years ago, it might have prevented a 25 year break!
1. Coloured spray undercoat (and "dip"). In the 80's I'd never heard of undercoating, let alone a coloured one. I couldn't do without it in 10mm. The pick of the bunch would be the leather brown spray. Perfect for calvary. The horse is almost done, and the uniform colours go fine over the brown. Brushing on a walnut coloured floor stain covers a multitude of slips and evens things out. I finish a lot more troops this way. I also like, blue, red, white, black and gray. The green is fantastic for priming French artillery pieces or rifles.
2. Acrylic Paint. I started with Humbrol enamel paints on bendy Airfix figures. I them moved on to Hinchliffe 25mm lead soldiers. They were great colours, but took a while to dry and used turps, which stank out my room and made a mess (maybe it was me who made a mess). The lids never fitted properly and the pots dried out if not sealed. I know there was some from Tamiya, but not near the quality and range we have now. Now, modern acrylics like Vajello and others provide vibrant colours, quick to dry and easy to clean up with water. I only started using a "wet palette" this year, which has saved lots of wasted paint. And dropper bottles - fantastic, less waste again.
3. Precut bases. I used to spend hours cutting out bits of cardboard or finding thin enough bits of wood around to base my soldiers. What ended up was a hotch potch of sizes, styles and shapes. Now I can order thin plywood bases of exact and consistent sizes, with magnetic bottoms so they stick to the metal drawers of the storage box. Easy, consistent and more time for painting or playing. I mentioned in an earlier post about pre-coloured railway ballast. Now basing is only another 15 minutes after the paint has dried.
4. Silfor grass tufts - these are magic, a dob of white glue then place on a few tufts and the base is done. A long way from the dyed sawdust I stuck on bits of cardboard. The realism and variety of colours make any base look fantastic.
5. The Internet - ok the best until last. The old days of looking at catalogues, getting a money order, writing away for an order, waiting every day for a month for it to get back - gone. Think of something, a few clicks later its being packed and sent to you. Uniform research, no longer lurking in the library or trying to find the right Osprey book. Again, a few clicks, and everything there. OOB's, tutorials, scenarios, inspiring blogs, wargames news sites, manufacturers previews, historical research and debate, forums with helpful members are all only a few searches away. I am really spoilt for choice.
Thinking back those years, they were formative ones, developing skills, an interest in history and strategy, studying famous generals and battles. Yes it is easier now, but I wouldn't change the past. I do give thanks to the new innovations of today (and that disposable income).
One last thought ...