Category Archives: Action Force and the Red Shadows in 28mm scale

Action Force in 28mm – Roboskull!

One of the most unique and recognisable toys from the second wave ‘Baron Ironblood’ era of Action Force was the Roboskull.  One of the last vehicles to be released prior to the switch over to repackaged GI Joe figures, this was an amazing piece of kit (and something as a kid I never had, but coveted intensely).

Back in the world of 28mm scale wargaming, I have recently blogged about the expansion of my Space Force ‘cast’ for 7TV.  These guys really need something to go up against in games, something outer space based…., something robotic….., something skeletal.

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The Roboskull even transitioned over to Cobra, where once again it went up against Action Force

When looking at vehicles for the project so far I have tended to concentrate on converting existing model kits or die-casts, and have dipped my toe a bit into 3D printing as well (more on that in a later post).  However getting hold of something to represent what is a very strikingly unique vehicle as the Roboskull was proving challenging.  I had thought that this might have to wait until I was able to invest some money and time into getting into the 3D printing hobby myself, or trawling through Thingiverse for someone who might have had a similar idea.  Then I thought back to a Heroclix model I remember stocking when I ran a games shop.  A quick ‘popular auction site’ search and behold a few days later in the post….

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DC Heroclix Brainiac Skull Ship

This is a Heroclix ‘Brainiac Skull Ship’ and it’s going to need a fair bit of work to get it into shape.  The basis for a Roboskull is there though and it’s going to be an interesting ride. Plasticard, hobby saw and bits box at the ready!

(For more info on the Roboskull check out the excellent Blood for the Baron website, and also the video below which is a great documentary by Analog Toys on the production of the memorable original.)

Action Force in 28mm – Space Force Mobile Command

Many years before Space Force was a real actual thing (maybe), they were the eyes and ears of Action Force monitoring the skies and protecting the Earth from afar from the evil machinations of Ironblood.

 

Along with Q Force (the underwater team), I think it is fair to say that they were not quite as popular as their ground based infantry comrades in Z Force and the SAS.  Part of it was down to the more limited range of toys available and the fact that they didn’t feature as much as other teams in the comic strips.

 

In fact the overt sci-fi stylings of Space Force did seem to clash a bit with the modern militaristic feel of the rest of the range.  It was not actually towards the end of this era of Action Force toys that the Red Shadows had anything ‘space-related’ to field against them, with the awesome Roboskull.

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A couple of years ago I picked up the excellent ‘not Space Force’ miniatures from the Woodbine Design Company (part of Gripping Beast) and as part of this very long running project have just started to think about vehicles and transport for them.

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Rather than go down the ‘spaceship’ route I’ve tried to mix the militaristic with near future sci-fi and have started to paint up a vintage IMAI model kit of the Shado Mobile from Gerry Anderson’s UFO.

Initially undercoated using an Army Painter Wolf Grey spray can.  I have so far gone through and added some additional darker blue to match the general livery of Space Force vehicles from the toy range; as well as blocking out colour on the tracks and wheels.

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The ‘Action Force’ logo sticker is from a reproduction set scaled for the toys.  Next step will be adding some Space Force logos (which I will freehand) and some weathering.  My target game system for this is of course 7TV!

Tabletop gaming with Action Force and the Red Shadows

As a boy in the early eighties I had no shortage of fictional villains to rally against, be it on the playground at school or when playing on the floor with my toys. Cinema, television and comics all offered various nefarious types to rally the forces of good against, many of which are now pop culture icons. Megatron, Skeletor, Darth Vader all had their place, but there was one man who for me stood head and shoulders above these on the baddie roll of dishonour…..Baron Ironblood!

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The likehood is that if you weren’t of a certain age between 1983 and 1985 and are outside of the UK you will no idea about this man or his villainy.

The Baron was the main protagonist for Action Force, a range of ‘Star Wars’ scale action figures that were spawned from the popular (and larger) Action Man range. Action Man himself was the UK version of what was know as G.I.Joe in America and in the UK was produced and marketed by Palitoy (who also happened to be the distributor for the Star Wars figure range on this side of the pond).

Recognising there was an untapped market for military toys in the scale of the stupidly popular Star Wars range Palitoy shrank Action Man down from 12 inch doll to 3.5 inch action figure and the first wave was released in 1982.

Initially taking a similar approach to their larger cousins these fellas represented generic historical and modern military tropes (including Royal Marine Commando, Pilot, WW2 German Soldier, Desert Rat etc.)

However recognising the opportunity to expand the range the line was reorganised in 1983. With the help of some vehicles and figure sculpts borrowed from the US G.I.Joe line, Action Force was rebranded as an international military team brought together to fight an evil terrorist ‘Enemy’, The Red Shadows.

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Action Force itself was split into four ‘arms’:

  • Z Force – the infantry backbone of Action Force
  • SAS Force – special ops and behind the lines specialists (tapping into the minor pop culture obsession there was with the SAS following the Iranian Embassy siege in 1981)
  • Q Force – the naval and underwater team
  • Space Force – did what it said on the tin!

Each team and the ‘Enemy’ had a range of figures, accessories and vehicles available.

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At the same time the new toy line was supported by a series of comic strips published in the long running weekly boys war comic Battle. This was such a popular addition that the title soon renamed itself Battle Action Force.

By the way, for a full and detailed history of the toys and comics I’d highly recommend you visit the absolutely excellent Blood for the Baron website. Here you will also find comic strip scans from Battle Action Force.

Now eventually things changed, the toy line became more closely aligned with the American GI Joe line (dropping the Red Shadows for Cobra and introducing a new merged Action Force team) and while this was reflected very cleverly in the comic strip for me it was the passing of a golden age.

So here I am three decades later with the opportunity to revisit my favourite toy line on the tabletop. This is something I have been working on off and on for a few years, but with the increased availability of multi-part plastic kits in 28mm, 3D printing and a plethora of modern and pulp rulesets available this is something I have gone back to with a vengence recently.

Watch out Baron, here I come…..

(BTW I am certainly not the first person to approach this subject and blog about it. If you get chance please look at the excellent Action Force vs The Red Shadows by Andy ‘Soapy’ Dormer.)