I am fairly sure I still have my Playmobil Conestoga wagon set somewhere. I used to set it up so the oxen would pull it as a team, with the cows and calf following behind. I liked for the frontier women to drive it, with their kicky scarves and tiny pewter mugs full of water held high. Around the campfire, they drank home brew or applejack. My Playmobil frontier folk enjoyed the simple pleasures, and liked carousing. They lacked elbows, but never cheer, and were presumably always up all night giving one another extravagant toasts.
When I was in college, I had it set up as a little tableau on top of my refrigerator; the kids on their ponies, or milking a cow, everyone’s guns safely holstered, with the rifle on the seat of the wagon, just in case. Please note that while I always kept my people armed, they never actually used their guns. Mine was a peaceful Manifest Destiny, with plains empty of any warring factions or indigenous peoples. I’m not sure if that’s because they didn’t really have any Native American Playmobil figurines at the time, or I just couldn’t find any. These days, they have Ancient Egyptians and and a host of other diversity hires, including Mexican banditos. Progress!
I will say that stepping on a Playmobil pony never caused you to limp away from the scene with a broken toy – unlike treacherous Lego bricks, Playmobil figures were sturdy and rounded, and never jabbed your tender feet on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and their friendly expressions never gave you any sense of reproach. Now that I’m older, the Playmobil sets seem just as indestructible, but even more grand (although the new model ponies have mean eyes, for some reason).
While I preferred the wagon train, I have to say that their magnificent pirate playset caught my eye. They have sharks, you know. And the castle set has a dragon! And of course, Playmobil has a standard house set with a modern mom and dad, sensible four wheeled drive vehicles and a handsome garden, complete with an urban homeless gentleman!
The folks on Amazon found that the Playmobil Security Check Point was the hot ticket gift idea for the future iron-fisted ruler of Latveria. (Seriously, read the reviews.)
I seriously recommend them as toys overall, because they’re tough, pretty and absolutely fun to play with, but I think a little editorial restraint isn’t out of the question when hunting for the next birthday gift for little Matilda or Takashi.