The Art (or Madness) of Troop Building

The Art (or Madness) of Troop Building

By Tony West a.k.a. Gizmoboy for The Allspark

As many of you know, I am somewhat infamous within the Transformers fandom for my knack for troop building.  A sizable chunk of my collection is made up of duplicate bots that would make many collectors scratch their head.
“Is this guy nuts?!”
“He’s spending all his money on the same toy!  What is he thinking?!”
Just a snippet into some of the reactions I’ve heard over the years when people see my collection.
But what is the thought process behind amassing such a collection?  This article will pull back the curtain for a peak inside the mind of a Troop Builder and maybe shed some light behind the madness.

What Is Troop Building?

To some of you, the concept of troop building may be a new one.  Troop building, sometimes referred to as Army Building, in terms of toy collecting is the act of using more than one of the same toy to create a generic soldier type figure.  Similar to Stormtroopers in Star Wars or Cobra Troopers in GI Joe.

What turned me into a Troop Builder?

I can pinpoint the exact moment when I became a troop builder.  The year was 1983; I was 10 years old and about as big of a Star Wars fan as you could find at the time.  I sat in the theater with my older brother and my best friend as we watched Star Wars: Return of the Jedi on opening day.  One of the most powerful scenes in that movie to me set me down the troop building path.  It was the moment when Emperor Palpatine arrived at the Death Star.

Seeing the large squadrons of different types of Storm Troopers and other soldiers standing in formation to salute their emperor was magical to me.  It was something I felt compelled to attempt to duplicate with my Star Wars figures.  The problem I ran into as a 10 year old was acquiring said figures.  It was difficult to convince my parents that I needed a 3rd or 4th version of the same figure they bought for me the week before.  Because of this, I was never able to achieve anywhere close to the army of imperial soldiers I was craving.
By the mid 1980’s, Star Wars toys had begun to dry up. Luckily new interests emerged in my life, namely GI Joe and Transformers.  These new cartoons opened up a whole new era of toy collecting for me as well as two different types of troop building opportunities.
With GI Joe, you had the introduction of the Cobra Soldier.

Similar in concept to the Storm Troopers from Star Wars, these generic soldiers made up a bulk of the Cobra army.  The figures were readily available at the store. Relying on my parents to buy me multiples of the same figure again proved difficult at best.
Transformers, on the other hand, presented a new type of troop building opportunity.  The same basic figure but available in multiple colors!

This type of troop building became much easier to justify to my parents as each was a unique character.  I was also drawn to the very cool robot/vehicle designs.  It also helped that there was a very enjoyable cartoon to go with them. As a result, Transformers would become my dominate toy collecting through 1988.
Once I was old enough to earn my own income, Transformers cartoon had passed and the current toyline offerings didn’t hold my interest.  What did catch my interest was a commercial for Destro’s Iron Grenadiers.  I always liked GI Joe but had stopped collecting the toys during my Transformers years.  However, seeing Destro, one of my favorite Cobra characters of all time, raising his own army was right up my alley.

I finally possessed the means to acquire my first real army of troops.  From that point on, troop building would be a large part of my toy collecting.  I went on to expand my GI Joe troops to include several of the different assortments of Vipers and vehicles through the early part of 1990.
I took several years off from toy collection as I was “Too Old” to collect toys anymore once I graduated high school in 1990.  My Transformer collection had become non-existent thanks to younger siblings and my mom’s daycare business.  It wasn’t until 1999 when my wife’s brother introduced me to a new show called Beast Machines that my interest in toy collecting was reborn.

Beast Machines fed right into my former troop building addiction with its armies of drones.  I had a good job at the time and no children which led to having money to spend on troops.  Whenever I went to the store, I’d walk back to see if there were any drones available.  I would clean out the pegs of any Vehicon I could find every time.
Once my daughter was born, my Transformer funds reduced greatly.  At that point, I thought my troop building days were over.  That was until Transformers: Hunt for the Decepticons Hailstorm and Terradive came out.  Something about those two figures just screamed soldier to me.  I went on to pick up a couple of each.  Once those figures went on clearance at Walmart for $7 apiece, I couldn’t help myself but to pick up more.  I enjoyed both figures so much and they were very affordable at the time.

A similar situation happened with Generations Scourge.  I originally picked up 4 of them, one of Scourge and 3 for Sweeps.  Once stores started to sell them at a discounted price I couldn’t stop myself from getting more.
Once again, I swore off troop building after Scourge.  No other figures at the time were calling out to be troop built and my limited funds were used to just finish the Generations line.  That was until Transformers Prime hit the airwaves.  I resisted the urge to troop build the Vehicons for a little while.  The lack of availability of the mold really helped with that.  It wasn’t until he became readily available that I built up more.

The Prime Vehicons introduced a new idea to me in troop building, a similar looking bot mode but different alt modes with the Jet and Ground types.  I began to wonder what it would look like to have maybe a tank or perhaps a helicopter Vehicon.  I decided to flex my customizing skills to see what I could come up with.  With some minor modifications and some paint apps, I was able to create a few different Vehicon types.

And After Years Of Troop Building

I do have the ability now to recreate the scene that meant so much to me after watching Return of the Jedi.  A scene from a more recent Star Wars movie inspired me to modify my dream display a bit.

General Hux’s speech to the First Order was exactly the kind of look I was going for in my display.  A leader inspiring his troops who have amassed before him.  Incorporating so many of the aspects of the scene from Return of the Jedi, this shot from The Force Awakens lead me to this display.

Believe it or not, this isn’t all of my troops.  My collection has exceeded the size in which I have to display them.  While some might consider this excessive, I feel a strange since of accomplishment.  I have fulfilled a childhood dream to posses a replica army and I did it using the brand that always had the biggest place in my heart, Transformers.

Do You Troop-Build?

I know there are some others out there that share my strange obsession with creating a toy army.  Join in the discussion in our forums and Share some of your troop-building stories and pictures with your fellow Transformers fans!