Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nostalgia and Cannon Ball from Helen of Toy

I came across this old advert during one my internet searches and it immediately brought back memories. Did anyone else get their start in miniatures wargaming with the Helen of Toy game sets?  I remember ordering the Battle of Chickamauga set in the early 1970's from the back of a comic book.  In those days, shipping took FOREVER, didn't it?

Remember all of the great stuff contained within?  This was a two player game and each player got 32 troops, 3 cannons, 5 red TNT boxes, 1 flag, 2 stockade strips, 2 gate bases, 2 observation tower roofs, 2 tower bases and 6 support poles, plus 3 exploding bridges (3 plain sections, 3 pronged sections, and 3 rubber bands).  Exploding bridges?  Remember those?  What fun!  The figures were molded in a soft plastic and at the time, I thought they were very good.

I do remember being a bit disappointed that the fort was made from a thin strip of corrugated cardboard but no matter, my buddy and I were quite excited to give it a try. 
The rules were short and this game saw much action on my grandmother's card table.  I do not remember much about actual game play outside of the exploding bridges but the rules are available online (Cannon Ball Rules) for those wanting to check them out.  I may have painted the figures at one point having found a book of ACW uniform plates at the library.  That was my start with miniatures.  Before that it was model building and board wargames.

I also purchased the AWI set but those figures were a hard translucent, colored plastic and the figures were flats.  I had never seen a flat before and these flats were nothing like the 3D ACW figures.  Quite disappointing!  I would probably appreciate them much more today than yesteryear.

14 comments:

  1. I recall seeing those adverts in comics - also the one with Sea Monkeys! I always wanted to get them - but being in Hawaii at the time made it a shipping issue. The closet I got was those plastic bags of green army men - as well as multi-colored spacemen. I did have a bunch of full-size GI Joe's though.

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    1. Dean! I had bags of the green army men too. No GI Joes, however...

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  2. Its funny how much one can trace from just an instant in time, one box of little plastic soldiers and all was changed. Back then - with no internet, no ebay or Amazon - you were stuck with the city toy store and local library's slim selection on history for inspiration. Imagine how much have happened with this hobby over the last 20-30 years - and where it will take off to in the next decades? Great post Jonathan, you've got me thinking about diving into some old storage boxes in my attic here as well now.

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    1. In the old days, we were more of the "hobbyist" where we had to make do with what was available and forced to improvise much. Research was de rigueur for most of us. Those early years of discover certainly molded my approach to wargaming in general.

      As you mentioned, the lack of local stores and resources, affected my trajectory too. As a young lad, I was very keen on the ACW. Only a chance visit to a far away model/game store pointed me towards Napoleonics rather than ACW.

      Had that store stocked the ACW Airfix figures I was after rather than the Airfix Napoleonics I bought, my historical and gaming direction could have been changed, for sure.

      Appreciate your thoughtful comments, Soren.

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  3. This does bring back memories, Jonathan! I remember the ads but I never ordered it. Interesting to see what was inside.

    My start was with green plastic army men. We'd build a dirt fort each, set up out men inside it and then take turns throwing rocks at each other's forts until all the men were knocked over. A few years later, we "advanced" to 1/48 scale model wars. I'm glad we don't throw rocks any more!

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    1. Dirt fort and rocks? Interesting methods for game play. Were rules disputes settled with rocks at ten paces?

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    2. LOL! I lived in the Nevada desert on a military base. Dirt, dirt clods and rocks were in abundance. Model wars were much more difficult because we didn't have any rules,just an idea that X tank is better than Y. We were only 12 +/- so it was mostly about pushing plastic around. In that respect, I guess I haven't changed that much!

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  4. My mom was dead set against a few things - comic books and "The Three Stooges" on TV. I agree with her on the later, but not so much the former. Thus comic books were an infrequent, guilty pleasure, usually on loan from a freind. Perhaps presaging my undergraduate major in Chemistry my favorites were the ones that featured a group of ? seven heroes each based upon a different metallic element.

    Anyway, I missed this particular gateway drug; mine was via the local library, and originally, pre-painted Flats from Germany.

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    1. Comic books were frowned upon in my household too. I did pick up the occasional one especially if it was offering some nifty toy soldiers on the back. Pre-painted flats from Germany? Peter, you definitely originate from a more affluent family than mine!

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  5. I remember these adds well. Got the AWI set but were reasonably round! Also got hold a WW2 set and a medieval set! Loved these guys back in the late 60's early 70's.

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    1. Maybe my AWI set was a different one than the one you received? Interesting.

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  6. gee...bringing back memories collecting these sort of plastic soldiers during the late 60's early 70's

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    1. Phil! That is about the time I discovered these too; probably in the early 1970s.

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