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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

21st Century Toys - Toy Soldiers

21st Century Toys began releasing toy soldiers in 1/32 in the early 2000s. They first came out with German Infantry and GIs to complement their new line of vehicles. Their first figures were a bit brittle, with weapons that broke easily. The fact that their figures were factory-painted made them stand out from the regular plastic toy soldiers. Gradually their choice of materials got better and over time their sculpting and design for their bases also improved. Towards the end of their run in the toy soldier industry, they were producing very nice figures as you will see in this post. They even produced a couple sets representing mortar teams. Unfortunately they went out of business a few years back and with them we lost the potential for what could have been several more nicely detailed sets of WWII figures.  

21C Toys German Infantry - Part I
These are the guys that had brittle weapons.

21C Toys German Infantry - Part II
These initial sets came with figures that were glued to the base, which made some of them look off-balance if they had not been glued well.

21C Toys German Infantry - Part III
Some of their bases contained some 'interesting' elements like fences and so on. I did not like that in particular as it makes it harder to place that figure in other settings.

21C Toys German Infantry - Part IV
This was the last of the German series. It is then that they switched to the new base system (the figure came attached to the base) and their sculpting and paint work also improved substantially.

21st Century Toys German Infantry - A conversion
This is a guy that came with along with a building I bought. It's put together well enough that I think it deserves a spot on the page. It's really just the lower body from one guy with the upper body from another, but it turned out nicely.

21C Toys German Infantry PAK crew
These are some nice figures to staff your PAK or most other small caliber artillery pieces in your armies. The sculpting is of the same quality as the later 21C sets, which means that they are well proportioned and detailed. In terms of the poses, I definitely like the guy holding the shell, but the other two are very similar. It would have been good if one of them was posed as if more actively operating the equipment. Anyhow, I am still glad I came across them. I did not know they existed back when 21C was in production. 

21C Toys US Infantry - Part I
Some of the initial GIs. I don't have them grouped exactly in the batches that they were released.

21C Toys US Infantry - Part II
These guys also suffered from soft weapons.

21C Toys US Infantry - Part III
Note how they come on the same bases as the German Infantry.

21C Toys US Infantry - Part IV

21C Toys German Paratroops
Nice figures, but most of them came glued to their bases way off-balance.

21st Century Toys German Afrika Korps - Part I
An early set of AK figures. Fairly decent, but still a few odd things, like the bases. The took the same bases that were attached to the other figures which have cobblestones and other things that feel out of place in the desert. 

21st Century Toys German Afrika Korps - Part II
My favorite man here is the one on the left. I wonder if the one in the middle is asking for quarter or charging forward in a very unusual way? The man on the right seems to be missing a grenade or something in his right hand. 

21C Toys German Afrika Korps - Part III
Here's a later series of German Afrika Korps. Initially I only found two of the six figures, but by now you can start to see the improvements in all areas. Definitely better than the earlier guys.

21C Toys German Afrika Korps - Part IV
Here are the rest of the set. The one thing I don't like is how the paint color varies so much from one set to the next. Primarily that of the boots. I like the colors on the picture above better. The officer's face could have been done slightly better also. Other than that, the figures display a good deal of action, just the way I like them.

21C Toys Italian Infantry
From here on, the sets are all really nice...

21C Toys Japanese Infantry
I don't know if the prone guy required such a big base though.

21C Toys Soviet Infantry
Similar situation with the Soviet figures.

21st Century Toys British Paratroops
I was not aware that 21C Toys had made this set until I ran into it by chance on eBay. They are actually quite nice. I bought 3 sets and the paint job varies from one set to the next, but overall they are nicely finished. The poses are the kind of action pose that I prefer and I also like the variety of weapons that they carry into action. A good addition to the collection!

21st Century Toys Chinese Infantry
This might be the last set that they produced. One of my favorites.

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry - Part I
This set was sold as British Infantry, but from the short trousers, it seems to me like they are 8th Army troopers. This set was produced after the Germans and the Americans, and you can see the new bases and slightly better sculpting, although not as good with the later sets. 

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry - Part II
The guy running is a good action pose. A bit off balance, but nice enough. The guy on the right does not really grab me. There is something about how he is holding his weapon and how he is standing... The man in the center is a nice middle ground.

21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry Series 2 - Part I
This is a set that I had totally missed. I wasn't even aware it existed. Chronologically, it seems to be one of their middle sets, with the sculpting being fairly decent at this stage -take a look at the facial expressions-, the bases not yet so bulky, and already integrated into the figures instead of glued to them. 

 21st Century Toys British 8th Army Infantry Series 2 - Part II
As you can see, the set is comprised of all fighting poses with a good degree of action put into the sculpting. The more a guy is leaning the more I like him. Note also how they have given us figures with both short and long trousers. All in all a nice set from 21C.

21C Toys US Mortar Team - Part I
The figures that come with the mortar sets are not as nice as the regular infantry figures, but the set is still quite nice as it comes with a prepared position that looks quite real and no other previous mortar figures come close to looking this good.

21C Toys US Mortar Team - Part II

21C Toys US Mortar Team - Part III

21C Toys German Mortar Team - Part I
This is the German counterpart. The pit is quite nice. I almost like it more than the figures.

21C Toys German Mortar Team - Part II
I feel that the faces of the figures in this set look too much alike.

21C Toys German Mortar Team - Part III
The pit definitely affords them more protection compared to the US mortar set.

21C Toys German Afrika Korps Mortar Team
I think these guys are a mix of the artillery crew set and the mortar team. The standing guy is the same as the one for the regular infantry's mortar team, except for the uniform colors, but the two kneeling guys are different. I have seen those also in the PAK 40 crew. Now, I don't know if the mortar team included thee figures, or maybe the collector who sold them to me mixed the sets. 

21C Toys US Artillery Crew
This set is actually sold by Four Star Military. I have a feeling it was one of the last sets made by 21C before they went out of business, but you can clearly see that the style and sculpting is the same. This is a five man crew to operate a big gun, like the Long Tom in this picture. It comes with a few extras, such as shells and casings. The one odd pose is the guy who has his foot high up. I had a hard time finding a place to put him where he would look like he was doing something that made sense. Overall a pretty nice set, that will help man quite a few guns.

Click here to see other Mortar Teams

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Introducing the Italian Paratroops

Italy raised a few airborne units, but to my knowledge it did not carry out any airborne operations during the war. At some point, an airborne invasion of Malta was considered, but later the plan was dropped. The different airborne units were La Spezia, Nembo, Ciclone and Folgore. La Spezia, formed in 1941 and originally intended for the Malta operation eventually fought and surrendered in Tunsia. Nembo was formed shortly before the 1943 armistice and then it was crippled by malaria before it could see any action. A new unit on allied side was later formed with the same name. Ciclone was also being formed when the armistice was signed and did not see any action. The Folgore division was the most famous of them all. It in North Africa with distinction. During the second battle of El Alamein in the fall of '42, it held back the allied attacks of more than 5 divisions for about two weeks, inflicting heavy casualties to the Commonwealth's infantry and tank units, fighting on until it was out of ammunition. Most of the Italian men were either killed or captured by the end of the battle. The survivors were organized into an independent battalion and fought on in Tunisia until they were also captured by mid 1943. In terms of toy soldiers, we have a couple sets from Waterloo 1815 and one from Atlantic. Let's take a look.
Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division
A good set for the West Desert campaign. I like how they reflect the relaxed dress code that existed in the North African desert. Note however how most of them retain their para helmets. The only thing I don't quite like about these guys are their bases, which make them a bit wobbly.
Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942 - Part I
These figures are manning a heavy machine gun. The man with the bullets does not quite get to feed them into the MG, but he's still useful to have close by. The spotter with the binoculars is doing a good job. I might just try to remove the plastic that joins the cap to the hands which looks a bit odd. The machine gun itself looks like it could take out more than just infantry. It could easily knock out soft-skin vehicles and maybe even some lightly armored ones, but probably not very effective against some British 8th army Grant and Matilda tanks.
Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942 - Part II
These other guys are the crew for the small howitzer. I am not sure about the caliber of the gun. I thought it might be a 37mm which is what was often issued to the paratroopers as it was easier to drop along with them during an airborne operation. However a reader recently commented that it's likely a 47mm Bohler gun. Apparently the wheels were detachable and it could be mounted on a tripod. It might not be clear from the picture, but all these figures come without a base, but they still manage to stand well on their own. One thing I don't quite like about the gun is that you can't change the elevation without messing around with the peg that inserts into the wheel carriage. All in all a good addition to the Folgore infantry.

Atlantic Italian Paratroops - Part I
This is an interesting set from Atlantic. The poses show more action than their average set. I am not a big fan of the guy jumping over the tree stump, or the guy who is just standing straight, but overall it is a very decent set.
Atlantic Italian Paratroops - Part II
It's good that they gave them an anti-tank weapon. I don't know however about the guy dragging the parachute since they did not really take part in any actual combat missions. I guess you can use him for a fictitious operation or some training scene. When you buy these guys, be aware that they come in a couple different boxes. The blue box only has 6 figures. The yellow box contains all 10 poses.