By Jonathan Aird
As I travel around, I like to glance through the wares available from the gaudier tourist souvenir vendors. I have found they are, as often as not, veritable gold mines for cheap terrain. Not only are there items at bargain prices but they are often reasonably well painted as well. These joint concepts – not expensive and tabletop ready – are a very attractive pairing. I used to find that motorway service stations were also good for small-scale buildings – usable for 6mm or 15mm – sometimes a little twee in their presentation but easily adaptable for the wargame table. For a while, there was a vogue for such knick-knacks as skeletons and skulls, these were great for various fantasy games. As a source though, this seems to have fallen by the wayside.
On a recent trip to Rome, I had a few minutes to go to the touristy area around the Trevi fountain and this yielded two great bargains – a leaning tower of Pisa (in Rome? Well, why not ?) in roughly 10mm scale and a 6mm Pantheon.
These are both reasonable representations with only minimal work needed before they can be painted up. The price? One Euro each – which is about $1 and perhaps £0.90 – depending on where the spiralling exchange rate for the pound sterling is at the moment! Sadly, as noted, I really only had a few minutes to spare. There looked to be a lot more that might have been useful – Roman warriors and Gods suitable for turning into statues for use in skirmish games needing a busy tabletop. My only other regret was not getting a few more of the towers.
However, at the airport, I did find a rather splendid Castel St. Angelo – pre-painted and perfect for 1/1200th scale galley warfare games – or 2mm figures, if one plays with that rather small size of figures. It’ll look great sitting on an island – or at the entrance to a harbour – and designated as chock-full of artillery to engage anyone who sails too close to shore. This item was both nicely made – certainly a step-up in quality compared to my one Euro super-bargains – and pre-painted to a good standard. This did come at a higher cost, it was 11 Euros – a bit pricey, and I fully suspect that I could have got it cheaper as the souvenir shop had held much the same stock as the airport outlet – but everything at the airport was two or three times the price. Well, maybe next time I’ll have more leisure to hunt for other gems – that there must be a reasonably priced pre-painted coliseum in a useful scale out there I have no doubt at all.
So, whilst others roll their eyes and mumble about “old tat” I would recommend that one shouldn’t despise such vendors – take a look with a gamer’s eye and you may just find yourself a bargain or three.