October Surprise

One of the more distateful American election “traditions” is the October surprise, and arguably the largest of those was the 1980 Iran Hostage Crisis. Apropos of that, what every miniatures gamer needs is a collection of tiny painted cowering prisoners.

Really, can you have a modern asymmetrical warfare game without innocent or not-so-innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire? I think not. To that end, I purchased a set of Rebel Minis hostage figures.

Like most of the Rebel minis figures, they came in a ziploc bag. Unlike many of their companions, they were remarkably free of flash and well cast. A couple of them had mould marks where the two halves of the figures weren’t perfectly aligned, but they were far less obtrusive than on most of the Rebel castings, and I could file them out relatively easily.

One thing that struck me as I was cleaning them was that the figures themselves weren’t really generic hostage figures — they were quite clearly American. The female figure was wearing one of those awful dresses worn by religious fundamentalist polygamous families, the engineer-type figure was wearing a bolo tie, and the balding, overweight business-type was wearing a cheap suit with obvious lapel pin. That isn’t to say that these styles can’t be found in other countries, but at first blush they seemed very country-specific. On the plus side, their clothing is so conservative that it can be used for any period from the 1950s to the present (and presumably beyond).

Their bases were flat, so it was easy to glue them onto standard basing. Because of their obvious cultural identity, I mounted them all on American pennies.

Although the figures weren’t sculpted with the same sort of detail as say, Peter Pig or GZG figures, they had enough detail that they were both easy and fun to paint. I tried to minimize the whitebreadedness of the figures by using a variety of skin tones, but they still all came out looking like Americans.

Squeeze together for the group photo.

All that’s missing is the last cigarette.

As a bonus, having hostage figures like these allows you to create some particularly contemporary scenes.

Digging a mass grave is so much easier with a backhoe.


For variety, replace the technical with an MG from a side of your choice.

Although the hostage figures are really just glorified objective markers unless you’re playing a bondage fetish miniatures game, they’re still a worthy addition to any modern wargame. They’re also a reminder of the ugly reality of modern conflicts, which is something I think it’s important to remember.

Aside: In case you’ve been following along for a while, you may wonder why I keep getting Rebel Minis figures when my reviews haven’t been particularly glowing. The dark secret is that I bought them all at the same time.


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