It is often asked, on sites such as TMP, is such and such compatible with this and that. In many cases the answers is an obvious yes or no. In others the matter is open to personal interpretation.
As such, anything I write here is my own opinion. I present photos with a scale so you may draw your own conclusion. Likewise, my opinion concerning customer service and speed of delivery etc is precisely that - my opinion based upon my experiences.
Anyway, let's get to the figures. In October 2010, I decided to get £50.00 worth of samples from Front Rank Figurines and a smaller selection from Dixon Miniatures . I have long been a fan of Front Rank, having bought their figures for close on two decades, thus I felt no trepidation concerning the quality of the sculpting and the customer service. Mr Alec Brown's "Spanish Succession" and "Early 18th Century" ranges did not disappoint.
They are large (over 30mm to the top of the head) well detailed miniatures. There is a decided "flair" to them and Alec has certainly captured the feel of the period - the wigs make me feel itchy! I have heard complaints about "scale creep" from some quarters and yes it's true these miniatures are bigger than earlier Front Rank offerings. However the difference in size is not enormous and I do not feel they are incompatible with the later C18 ranges (for comparison see above)
You will note the horse furniture is cast with the figure, this makes it easier to "seat" the figures upon the horses. This is the case with the vast majority of Front Rank's cavalry figures. The website indicates clearly which horses are most suitable for a given figure. As for the horses, they too are well designed. Not over-animated and they actually look like equines. More than can be said for many of the other manufacturers' ranges!
I picked up a good few Command figures and some of the "generic" Cuirassiers from the WSS Cavalry selection. The latter are shown in the comparison picture - below left. Again very good figures with, I am told, random cast-on head variation.
After seeing these figures "in the lead" I can wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone wanting something for the Early 1700s. I intend to modify my Cuirassiers with some judicious head-swaps (to model KR.1 Leibgarde) but they are fine as-is.
This brings us neatly into the appraisal of Dixon's far older "Marlburian" range.
Ordering these was a bit more of a gamble for me as I find the sculpting quality of Dixon Miniatures to be a little variable. This is not surprising considering they have been around a very long time. I decided to go for cavalry and artillery only, as I am expecting Wargames Factory's plastics to fill the foot-slogger ranks. I spoke with Mr Trevor Dixon over the 'phone and he proved to be most helpful. Unlike quite a few suppliers, this gentleman didn't seem to find customer queries a nuisance.
I must say that I am impressed by the sculpting and poses in this range. The figures are certainly closer to the Industry-Standard 28mm but wouldn't look out of place in the same army as Front Rank. That said, I wouldn't care to mix Dixon and "New" Front Rank in the same regiment. The moulding is crisp and the detail is good. The figures have a certain charm and will certainly look very smart with a lick of paint. The horses (with furniture attached) are good. Sturdy looking beasts but in no way monsters or giant Shetland Ponies.
Where Dixon has really scored is the fantastic deal on the Marlburian 6lb Artillery. They offer the gun and four crew for an outstanding £6.30 (correct November 2010) The figures are of a similar quality to the cavalry and the gun (shown at left) is really quite splendid.
The crew I received comprises: Pointing Officer - bewigged (Late C17 / Early C18 style hairpiece) with spontoon, Gunner with rammer, Gunner with linstock and a Gunner in shirtsleeves with trailspike. They make up a good "Firing Group".
When it comes to the gun, there is a nice level of wood grain detail (not over-played) and the barrel certainly has the right look. Far better than would be expected when you look at the pack price! I will certainly be picking up more of these for the Beimbach-Schönau military as they would not look out of place for the majority of the C18 and thus have a good shelf-life for a cheapskate like myself.
I would summarise by saying that both Ranges are well worth a punt. Front Rank have the edge in terms of "modernity" and sheer quantity of different uniforms and poses but the Dixons have a pleasant look to them and are very good value (especially the artillery)
For the record, both orders had mismoulded figures. This is very unusual for these manufacturers as generally they excel in this area. However the problems were rectified and replacements promptly sent (FR) and promised for inclusion in my next order (D). I have therefore ignored these anomalies when awarding my scores.
Scores out of 10 - thoroughly personal ratings explained:
Sculpting - Quality of detail and accuracy
Casting - Mismoulds and flashing
Variety - How comprehensive is the range
Service - Was the seller easy to reach, polite and helpful
Delivery - How long did they take to get to me
Value - Are they a good deal overall
Delivery time based upon my experience - UK to UK delivery.