Sunday, 9 October 2011

Leibgarde Uhlanen-Regiment

Whilst waiting for the plastic bits and pieces to arrive (they have now - more of which later) I had a think about the cavalry component of a "Napoleonic" era B-S army.

By this time the State had expanded eastward and the main enemy remained the perfidious Turk.  Added to this foe are the various petty warlords in the colonies.  Considering the near-Medieval nature of Oriental armies, it seemed only natural that armoured lancers would be desirable.  Such troopers would have a degree of protection from missile fire plus the extra reach to hit the enemy first - well that's the idea anyway!

The components.
Trawling around for figures I realised I would have a limited choice, namely Cuirassier standard/guidon bearers.  I didn't want to go French as the geographical location and politics of my ImagiNation do not suggest Francophilia.  The choice was further simplified by a trip to Leigh-on-Sea (to collect a parrot - bizarre I know) which is pretty close to the Essex Miniatures factory...

I made a shortlist and went into the showroom for a browse.  I decided that the best figures for the project were the later Russian Cuirassiers.  The only downside was that they sport the "brush" type crest rather than the caterpillar I wanted.  Yes Essex do the earlier style but the standard bearer does not have quite the right look for use as a lancer.

I have tentatively selected a Dixon horse as it is a great little figure and there was one in the spares box.  Yes the shabraque may need work but this will be determined as I go.

Working on the plume re-sculpting has been most frustrating as my usual putty mix didn't work well - this will be the subject of a future posting.  I want to simplify the conversions as I need 10 of these (plus command) for the Regiment so the work will be kept as minimal as is possible.

More to follow...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

You know what they say...

Does this look too crazy?
Men with over-large plumes must be compensating for a deficiency elsewhere!  Anyhow, I really like the "bottle brush" style of the mid-Napoleonic Russian Grenadiers.  Preposterous but good fun and creating an ImagiNation should be FUN!.

The obvious choice for this would be the forthcoming Warlord Games' "Russian Infantry 1809" plastic set (32 figures £18.00)  However, the cheapskate in me is drawn toward Victrix's various Austrian sets each containing enough figures for two 24  man regiments (plus spares) and all for a measly £22.00.

Now of course these sets do not contain any "bottle brush" plumes but I could certainly make a simple push-mould to fabricate these for the Grenadier compliment.  With this in mind I created a couple of crude mock-ups showing the figures with such plumes but I am stumped as to which looks better.

Shakos with bottle brush - more plausible?
The shako wearers are certainly less "outre" but the Landwehr guys are great fun.   Some opinions would be welcome.  Does the "corsehut" with bottle brush look too ridiculous?

Please remember the painting in these pictures is immaterial as these troops would be in the traditional B-S yellow.

As a footnote, the final plume may be a tad larger as these look a little insipid.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Warlord Games' Russian Infantry

After a long hiatus I am back!  Apologies for the absence but other projects interfered with the ImagiNation work.  Hopefully I will now be able to devote some of my time to the occasional article here.

I was at Colours today and got my mitts on a couple of the trial sprues for the upcoming Russian Napoleonic sets.

PAinted examples from Warlord's website.
First impressions were/are very favourable.  The sculpting is clean and the proportions are an improvement over the earlier Prussian Landwehr – although the hands are still large!

Each figure comes in three parts (head, backpack and body) and will therefore prove easy to assemble with some liquid poly.

Both the early and late sprues sport covered, uncovered and grenadier shako heads.  These are rendered nicely.  The only odd point is that the Grenadier heads are split down the centre by the mould.  I imagine this was in order to be able to mould the plume integrally.  That said, it is never a favourite option for me as one slip during clean-up and your figure is deformed!

Anyway – they look good and apparently should be out end Sept/ Early Oct.

I will snap up a box or two of the "early" option for Beimbach-Schönau's very late C18 army.  All we need now are those damn Austrians from Victrix!

Thursday, 7 April 2011


I would like to apologise to my readers for the lack of posts over the last week or so.  The reasons are three-fold:

Relaxing at the tavern.

  • I have been preoccupied with vacation plans - Athens beckons in August and logistics are complicated.
  • My new World War Two blog has taken up quite a bit of my spare time.  A case of robbing B-S to feed FK!
  • Thanks to three small children, the house is a mess and I have little room to do what I want.
Anyway, I have the oasis structure ready for painting and my new uniform plates are near completion.  The Wargames Factory Marlburians are ready for assembly and the process will be documented.

In addition I chanced upon a long-forgotten (and very cheap) C18 miniature that may be of interest.

All of this to come in the very near future.

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Review: Blaze Away Miniatures' "Marlborough's Wars" Infantry

Like many collectors, I want to obtain figures that look a little "different"  Additionally, as recruiting funds are limited, I like to find items that are good value.  When I chanced upon Blaze Away Miniatures & Models early C18 range, my interest was piqued.

MAL2,3 & 5 with venerable Foundry "Marlburian"
Marketed under the generic "Malborough's Wars" legend, on offer are 13 packs (7 Infantry, 5 Cavalry and 1 High Command) priced fairly competitively at AUD$10.00 / £6.40 - your money buys you 6 foot or 3 cavalry.  Additionally, they offer a sample service for a very low sum - details at the site.  All very well but are the little chaps any good?  My opinion is a solid "Yes" - they are well worth a look.

I obtained three Infantry samples.  All wear a tricorn and have hair hanging loose rather than the later "cue".  The three poses I sampled are MAL2 Marching, MAL3 March Attack & MAL5 Advancing.  These are shown, along with an old Foundry Marlburian, in the photo to the right  .

As can be seen the figures stand 28mm foot to eye, though the thick bases make them appear a little taller.  The level of detail is good and the anatomy is decent. Figures display heavy lacing on the coat front and cuffs.  The coat itself is of "full" cut.  They sport a small satchel on the right hip and carry muskets without bayonet.  Supplied as a loose part is the sabre, ready for the buyer to attach to the left side of the model.   I am aware some people will dislike this feature but I do not.  Clearly it has been decided that it is prudent to cast the figures in two parts and thus eliminate a common miscasting area.

Earlier C18 in gaiters? Great!
I am not particularly keen on "advancing" poses as I prefer my units to march for all eternity.  However MAL5 is a perfectly acceptable miniature.  I think he would be well suited to a skirmishing unit - perhaps in the Colonies?  The marching poses are particularly attractive and can (in my opinion) be used mixed within the same unit.  To my delight they are modeled in gaiters rather than the more usual stockings and breeches.  The mixture of earlier C18 coat and gaiters makes these fellows pretty unusual in 28mm and ideal for my 1740 project.

The sabres ready for attachment.
Criticism is limited, MAL2's right arm may be a little short and the heads a little large but the latter affliction is near universal in 28mm.  That said, overall the figures look good.  They have bland facial features and to me this is a plus (character figures look great once but in every Regiment? No thanks!)  Well painted they would present a splendid appearance.

It should be noted that at present BAM do not offer any Grenadiers or Artillerists and I have no idea if they plan to rectify this.  I imagine Dixons' gunners would work well in concert with these chaps.  The cavalry options are limited but Dragoons & Cuirassiers are certainly there.  As mentioned earlier, there is a pack of bewigged Generals that look interesting.

From the quality of the samples and shipping time (under 1 week from Australia - UK) I recommend anyone interested in these obtains some samples pronto.

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 - Australia to UK delivery.

Sculpting:                  7/10 
Casting:                    9/10 A few pinholes but excellent overall.
Variety of Subject:    5/10  No Artillery or Grenadiers.
Customer Service:    */10  Dealings automated, therefore no rating.
Delivery Time:          10/10 Less than a week from the other side of the World!
Value:                      8/10

Friday, 25 March 2011

Building "Fort Kalypso" - Walls finished & Base started

Brush away  the excess "dusting".
As I promised two days ago, today I will show the finished walls. Drum-roll please!

The freshly plastered walls were dusted with dry filler in order to smooth the finish and "fix" it in place.  We left the structure looking as if it was pebble-dashed.  It is a finish that works nicely in some circumstances but not for old plaster render - for that it is woefully over-scale.

After checking carefully that the building is thoroughly dry take a stiff brush and start brushing the "dusting" from the walls.  The amount you remove is a matter of personal choice - I wanted only a few areas with a rough finish so brushed the majority away.  Any especially lumpy or rough areas can be tackled with glasspaper but remember the whole point of this method is to achieve a flawed facade.   If you want smooth flat surfaces grab the foamcore!  When you have the finish you think looks right - STOP!  There is always a temptation to fiddle but this should be resisted.

Be warned this is extremely dusty work covering everything nearby.  I would advise a dust-mask and vacuum cleaner.  Alternatively you could get brushing outside - again wearing a mask.

Groundwork applied and smoothed.
Once happy with the building, mix a generous amount of cheap filler/spackle to a pretty thick consistency.  Place your building on a flat and level surface (I use IKEA particle board off-cuts)  covered with a plastic sheet or a garbage sack.  The filler should be worked up to your building's edge and smoothed with a wet brush.  What you are creating here are the ground contours, remember any foliage will be seated on top of this surface so make allowances.

Do not waste your cash on flashy "talus",
While the groundwork is still wet sprinkle all areas (apart from those smoothed by traffic) with a mixture of crushed plaster "sprinkles" (this can be made from excess filler left to dry, placed in a plastic bag and pounded with a hammer - much cheaper than proprietary "talus")  At this juncture the amount of surface texture should be overdone - think of your childhood and making glitter pictures.  If you follow the instructions, your base will end up looking like a debris-field but in the final stage the majority of this will be lost so do not fret!

As before, place this somewhere safe to dry allowing a few days (or more) for the groundwork to "set".

Next part is the FINAL construction phase then it's on to painting.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Building "Fort Kalypso" - Stage 3 - Walls

Tools and supplies - simple stuff.
Yes it's been a while since the last update on this project but I have been making progress - albeit interrupted by real-life and at a pace that is somewhat slower than envisaged!  Anyway, a few weeks back I completed the application of the wall coatings - I call this "rendering"

The tools needed are nothing special but in the interest of completeness, please see the photo to the left.  At this stage I use pre-made filler/spackle as it adheres to the walls in a superior manner to the stuff you have to mix by hand.  That kind of filler will be used in the final part of the process.

Messy work is fun!
The first step is pretty scary, cover the model in the filler, yes slap it on liberally.  If the building is big, handle one surface at a time but if you put aside a couple of hours even a fair sized structure can be coated in one sitting.  Work the filler into and onto the surfaces of the Oasis making sure it has adhered.  Be very careful around the door and window apertures as you certainly don't want to ruin your carefully made woodwork!  When it comes to any exposed stonework, use watered down filler and brush it into the details without obscuring them.

The three stages shown in sequence.
Once the building is covered, get to work smoothing the plaster with a spatula/palette knife/trowel (or a mixture of all three)  This part requires a good deal of practice but is very similar to icing a cake!  Get the surface smooth - but not too smooth (remember this is supposed to be a dilapidated Third-World structure) in places let the tool "drag" into the surface and "catch" the plaster.  Work the render up to the window and door apertures with care, the last thing you want here is a ridge of filler hanging into the cut-out.  The same applies to any rocks on the base - work carefully.

Next it is time to further refine the finish with a wet brush and plant-mister using enough water to make the plaster workable but not so much to cause it to become sludge.  It is a case of "suck it and see" but you will soon get the hang of it.

The finish for which you are aiming.
So, after a half hour or so you will have a building covered in carefully (or not so) smoothed plaster.  Therefore the next stage may seem crazy.  Take your little sieve and dust the entire structure in filler powder.  Dust it liberally but do not allow it to build up in damp areas as you will create problems down the line.  You will end up with a finish that resembles over-scale pebble dash.  Incidentally, avoid dusting the exposed stonework - if some dust is deposited here, smooth it away with a wet brush.

Now set your structure aside to dry, this will take at least a couple of days in a pleasant climate - in England allow double.   Do not be tempted to place the work in an airing cupboard or boiler room as this may lead to the plaster cracking.

Next installment shows the process concluded and the groundwork applied.  I will post this in a day or so.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

"Budget" Regiments - what to do?

Suitable for 1740-50?
Regular readers will have gleaned that your author has a pretty substantial collection of C18 figures.  However, having sold my Austrians after the change of focus I am at a little bit of a loose end concerning replacements.

I have about six Regiments worth of Crusader French and need to add to these - but with what!  The Old Glory fellows are decent and I have some of their WSS offerings - also nice.  Elite is a distinct possibility as that marching fellow is spot-on.

Then it came to me - a revelation!

I re-examined the Wargames Factory WSS sprues (I have a good many) and decided that the figures, although dated, look pretty acceptable for a 1740-50 setting.  The only things I will avoid are the "curly wigs" as they were rarely sported at that juncture.  At present I have chosen some components and will do a little "how-to" assemble them slot at a future date.

As it stands, immediate plans are to get the Citadel finished and painted, build a small Eastern European village (also usable with my WW2 project) and to paint (yes PAINT!) a few figures.  The latter is somewhat daunting as I haven't painted properly since the early 90s!   I think I know what I am doing but failing eyes and premature senility may cause them to look like a dog's dinner - we will see.

Anyway - Happy Saint Patrick's day to all the Wild Geese out there.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Review: Old Glory Miniatures' FIW French Infantry

After changing my plans regarding the cut of infantry uniforms, I found myself in need of some cheap and cheerful French types.  Not surprisingly, Old Glory sprung to mind as a leading contender.  Following perusal of the US website (it has most codes illustrated) I decided to go for packs FIW006 and FIW008 (Command and Marching respectively)

These figures are taken from OG's venerable French and Indian War range.   Designed for use in the Americas they seem perfectly suited to other theatres.  I was originally worried that they might sport Indian style leggings but a quick call to Andy at OG UK clarified matters - they are in gaiters.

As usual with OG figures, these are cast and bagged (random selection) in the USA.  This keeps down the costs but does result in bent muskets and swords etc.  Thankfully, the alloy used is forgiving and the castings can be straightened without any apparent weakening.  That said, you should straighten them carefully as you don't want to break bits off!

OG FIW008 with Crusader Fusilier for comparison.
The first photo shows the marching figures from pack FIW008 (£24.00 for approx. 30 figures)  As can be seen these are perfectly workable miniatures.  There is nothing too breathtaking here but just how exciting can a marching Frenchman be?  Details are well done but not over-done.  Muskets are a little "fuzzy" in places but it is nothing a dry-brushed streak here and there will not rectify.  I got five different poses (no head variants) with the majority being the fellow with the near horizontal musket.  Murphy's Law dictated that this is the pose I like least!  There is also a wounded figure present - thankfully just one of the 31 in the packet!

The figures are shown with pack and canteen.  I have read that the pack may be Napoleonic and therefore anachronistic - I am not familiar enough with French kit to make a judgement.  As I am dealing with an ImagiNation I have some leeway however the historical purist may wish to check his references before buying.

OGFIW006 Command, again with Crusader reference (right)
Pack FIW006 (£12.00 for approx. 15 figures) contains a mixture of Command types.  As is often the case with OG, there are head variations in the pack.  I have not snapped all of the figures rather a representative sample.

There are drummers walking and playing and another with his instrument slung on his back - I really liked the latter he is full of character.  The standards are carried by Officers wielding swords.  These are a bit flamboyant for my taste but again are decent figures.  There are also Officers carrying some rather ornate spontoons - in my bag I had one marching and one standing pose - and waving sabres.  Finally, there is a chap posed running with pistol and a casualty figure.  Clearly the former is more suited to the skirmish line which makes sense considering the pack is designed primarily for the FIW.

It is obvious that this pack is somewhat "generic" being designed to work with any of the Infantry bags (Marching, Firing or Advancing)  Thus a few of the poses will look a bit odd with marching figures.  However, I am aware that I am rather "Old School" and favour very conservatively posed units!

In terms of size, these miniatures average 26mm ground to eye - not surprising given the fact that they have been around since the 90s.  This is at the small end of the spectrum these days but still workable in a mixed army.

To summarise, I recommend these as long as you do not mind accepting a random selection of castings.  They are decent figures at a great price and when painted should serve with distinction.

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.

Sculpting:                  6.5/10 
Casting:                    10/10 Again no miscasts - here OG excels!
Variety of Subject:    */10 Unfair to score them*
Customer Service:    10/10
Delivery Time:          10/10 Ordered on Thurs PM - arrived Saturday
Value:                      9/10

* They are intended for use in the FIW so many of the troop types Euro-theatre gamers would need are not present.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Eagle has... crashed!

Chicanery makes me glum!
I am feeling more than a little guilty about the lack of posts in the last seven days.  By way of an apology, please let me explain.

This time last week I was awaiting the delivery of a few more sample figures to add to my popular "Product Reviews" section.  These included offerings from Wargames Foundry, Eagle Figures and Parkfield Miniatures.  Amazingly, all three manufacturers sent me miscast figures.   Both Parkfield and Foundry admitted their error and promptly put things right (or promised to do so).  Sadly, Eagle Figures was a different kettle of fish.

I spent a great deal of my free time (and blunted my enthusiasm) trying to cajole Eagle's proprietor into answering my communications and fulfilling my statutory rights!   "What did he do?"  I hear you cry!  "He treated me like a schmuck!" is the answer!  In short:

  • When I enquired (after two weeks) I received some vague assurances about pending delivery in 3 days.
  • After waiting an additional week I wrote again and received a rather curt and confrontational email.
  • Package arrived after a Month (UK-UK)
  • When delivered, the castings were of very low quality.
  • Subsequently, my complaints about the figures were ignored.
  • I had to open a Paypal dispute to recoup my funds!

All in all a truly crummy record and I doubt I will ever deal with Stewart Black again.  For the record, I must state that his catalogue includes some unusual and attractive items (especially the "Napoleonic" Spanish in bicorne which were going to form the bulk of my later army!)  However the execution (on my samples) was terrible.  Missing hands, miscast bayonets, large sink-holes in delicate areas, heavy flash and so on.  It is a real shame when people expect a customer to accept such treatment and product.  When running a small business (indeed, any business) you are foolish if you think such antics will not earn you a poor reputation.

Anyway, it's a new week and the Fortress project is nearly completed.  Thus I have taken a deep breath and I am moving onward and upward.

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.

Sculpting:                  7.5/10 
Casting:                    2/10 Mould slippage & miscasts etc
Variety of Subject:    9/10 Comprehensive range of interesting subjects
Customer Service:    2/10
Delivery Time:          3/10 Over 1 MONTH(!) UK-UK
Value:                      1/10 So many miscasts*

*Unfortunate as the subjects are very interesting and the sculpting looks pretty good too.  Eagle needs to polish up the comms, remake the worn-out moulds, get some quality control in place and above all treat the operation as a business - albeit a part-time one.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Review: Outland Games' - Austrian Infantry 1790

Austrian Fusilier 1790. 
A while back I decided that my 1770 Army would be portrayed by (Counter) "Revolutionary" Austrians.  At this time the soldiers wore a kaskett (pill-box hat) rather than the neo-Classical crested number more often seen on the table-top.  The trouble with my choice was that there are precious few manufacturers that provide these earlier troops - especially at an affordable price!

As luck would have it I established contact with Chris von Fahnestock of Outland Games, a lesser-known range of figures that includes some rather interesting "Revolutionary" lines.  Chris, a military man on active duty, supplied me with some samples during a period of leave and I must say I am glad that he did.

So without further ado - let's get to the review!

Samples with Front Rank Jacobite (right) for comparison.
As can be seen in the group shot to the left, these are large figures.  I would certainly bracket them in the "heroic 28" category.  These miniatures are of a similar size to the Front Rank Jacobite and thus should work well with the great majority of other ranges.

The details of the uniform and kaskett are very well realised.  I especially like the gaiters and the ubiquitous sprig of oak leaves on the left side of the helmet. The low-slung pack, musket and hairstyle are nicely done also.

Fusilier and Drummer.
The style of sculpting is not over-done and the figures do not display too many folds and creases in their uniforms.  This is something I appreciate as an abundance of creases tends to make a 28mm figure look a little cluttered.  Poses are what one would expect and will rank-up nicely on a 20mm frontage.  It could be said that the drummer is a less animated than the others but I do not think this will cause any problems once the unit appropriately based.

The Officer is posed with raised sword - leading his men to another glorious defeat.  When viewed from the front he looks fine but from behind his arm position looks a tad unnatural.  This can be easily rectified, if desired, by a slight bend of the limb.

Officer and Standard-bearer.
There is a mounted Colonel available and he rides a large and handsome horse. Like his infantry counterpart his arm is raised, although this time the angle looks better.  The horse is an imposing beast and looks more than up to the task of carrying a senior field Officer.

Incidentally, I am probably not the best judge of raised sword arm poses as they are not a favourite of mine - figures thus depicted are nearly always converted for my armies!

My overall impression of this line is very positive.  The subject matter is unusual and the execution is good.  The pricing point of $13.99 for a dozen figures represents extremely good value.  The alloy used to cast these figures is of obviously good quality and the castings are crisp and fault-free. Therefore, I recommend them wholeheartedly.

Mounted Colonel and his trusty steed.
The only down-side is that Chris is presently overseas and thus the figures are not going to be available until September 2011.  

When that time rolls around I will be patronising Outland Games!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Review: Elite Miniatures' SYW French

At present, I am waiting for my construction project to dry as it has just received it's last coat of plaster - full details to follow.  In the meantime, perhaps this mini-review will be of use to someone.

Elite Miniatures has been around over 25 years and have something of a cult following.  I have read too many times than I care to remember that "you either love 'em or hate 'em" a generalisation with which I disagree!  The figures follow the general style of Peter Gilder's classic Connoisseur range.  Elite's proprietor, Peter Morbey, sculpted some of Connoisseur's later figures and thus the similarity is not accidental.

Elite (right in both) and Crusader French Fusiliers.
In general, Elite's offerings are pretty "animated" chaps.  By his own admission Mr Morbey likes "dramatic" units so there is a great sense of movement in many of the figures.  For those ignorant of Elite or Connoisseur, perhaps the closest parallel, in terms of style, would be the action-packed figures for which Old Glory has become famous.  Think of chaps looking over their shoulders, shouting and running with coat-tails unfurled and you will get the general picture!  That said - I am today dealing with the Seven Years War French - a small (and dare I say oft-overlooked) range that is, by Elite's standard, very restrained indeed!

I bought a representative sample, purposely avoiding the "advancing" poses as I wanted yet more troops in "March Attack".  Pack SYF9 contains four identical Fusiliers in this pose and is competitively priced at £3.80 (March 2011)  At first glance the figures appear slender in comparison to more recent 28mm offerings - in my eyes this is no bad thing!  Sitting on small, thick bases, they are well posed in a determined march and nicely proportioned.  In certain areas the detail is as good as anything out there and I am especially pleased to see the figures have realistically sized hands!

The somewhat old-fashioned nature of mid C18 French military attire is captured well - but the coat and cuffs are not overdone as is seen in some other ranges.  Bayonet and musket are nice and slender without feeling vulnerable to breakage.  The face is gaunt with a prominent mouth (in profile he looks like the young Schwarzenegger) this fella has been campaigning hard.

Elite's SYFC1 - "Mounted Officer"
Moving on to the mounted officer and horse in pack SYFC1 (£2.55) the same general observations apply.  He is a very haughty looking gentleman, posed looking down with extended hand, exhorting his men to advance.  The coat has no turn-backs and he is certainly usable for most other C18 armies.  The horse is a big beast and nicely done.  Another good figure.

Finally, we have SYFC2 "Trooper" (priced as before £3.80 for 4 troopers.  Horses must be ordered separately)  Depicted with sabre "at rest" on his shoulder and a carbine slung (muzzle down) on the right hand side of his saddle.  In my opinion this is the least appealing of the three figures but still a rather attractive casting.  Again he is slender and realistically proportioned.  Good detail throughout and generic enough to be used by an ImagiNation without people crying "Achtung Frenchie!".  I didn't order the horses designed for this figure but have posed him upon another Elite beastie - hopefully this gives the reader some idea of the mounted article.

SYFC2 "Cavalry Trooper"
To summarise, I am very happy with my Elite purchases.  the figures are well observed, display a good level of detail and are beautifully produced - minimal mould lines and not a single miscast!  If you need SYW French and fancy something a little "different" I recommend that you investigate this small range pronto!

Infantry note:  The Crusader figure has been raised slightly so that "ground" level matches.

Cavalry note:  Apart from removing the mounted figures from their packaging, I have made little attempt to "seat" them upon their steeds - so in the photos they ride a little high in the saddle. 

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.

Sculpting:                  7/10 
Casting:                    10/10 Not a single miscast 
Variety of Subject:    4/10 Very small range of SYW
Customer Service:    7/10
Delivery Time:          4/10 Almost 3 weeks UK-UK
Value:                      8/10

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Review: Trent Miniatures' "Lombardy Legion Hussars"

Guidon bearer from Trent LL09
After a few months of indecision, I recently decided to take the plunge and buy a few sample packs of Trent Miniatures' late C18 figures.  Trent offers a strange selection of Revolutionary War types with none of the armies being completed.   For example they have Austrian Dragoons (nice figures) with no command.  For those of us creating fictitious formations this is not so much of a problem (I have spare command types around) but if you are depicting an historical unit - it is a real turn-off!

In addition Trent's different packs are of greatly varying quality.  Some have really iffy proportions (even for a 28) and others look pretty good.  The only constant in the 6 blisters I ordered was that each and every pack had at least one miscast figure!   These ranged from minor gripes such as parts that hadn't joined together properly (see trumpeter below) to some rather major problems such as an Austrian Infantryman missing a foot!  All in all this suggests some really sloppy casting and non-existent quality control.  

As I said I purchased a few packs - but I will deal with them separately as the findings are so varied!  Let's start with the Hussars.  I went for pack LL09 Lombardy Legion Hussars Command as they looked much better than the rank and file chaps.  

The Officer and his strange anatomy.
The figures are big and chunky - though not as enormous as I had been led to believe by some TMPers.  For example I see no reason why they could not be used with Front Rank troops.  As a general rule, I would say that both horses and riders are very nicely detailed.  Faces display a good deal of character and the sculptor certainly made some effort depicting the braiding on the dolman/pelisse and getting the "Hungarian knots" shown on the breeches.

The nags are cast with furniture in situ and look rather good.  It was disappointing that there was just one pose in my pack but that one pose is attractive.

Note:  One of the horses was missing most of an ear - another miscast.

When it comes to authenticity I must admit ignorance of the Lombardy Legion's particulars.  These fellows look like fairly generic mid/late C18 Hussars.  The trumpeter in early bicorne is about the only thing that may work against people wanting to use these in a later "Lace Wars" context.

Guidon bearer - character packed face!
Sadly I must now make a couple of less than positive observations.  Whilst nicely detailed these figures have a very odd - almost dwarfish - look to them.  Strangely this is far more marked when you have them in your hand!  The Guidon bearer and especially the Officer both look plain wrong!  They appear barrel-chested and without necks.  In addition, either the distance between the shoulders and backside or the length of the legs is insufficient - I am not really sure which it is.  Peculiarly, the trumpeter seems to be free of this distortion - but the rank and file Hussars (Code LL11) are afflicted to an even greater degree.  This is a real shame as these could have been a great alternative for those seeking Hussars.

Further to the sculpting problems*, I must comment upon the very high number of miscasts.  Regular readers will be aware that poor quality castings are a real bugbear of mine (see here) and these figures really annoyed me.  I purposely obtained them from a third party vendor (Ebay seller) rather than ordering directly as I wished to avoid any delays.   The gentleman was efficient and polite and they were at my door less than 36 hours after I pressed "buy it now" - so I have nothing but praise for Steve Wood's operation.  However, it really galls that Trent would supply a vendor and therefore a customer with such substandard product.

Musician with miscast trumpet.
To summarise, the level of detail is good, the subjects are interesting and the horses perfectly acceptable.  However in my opinion the figures are compromised by some bad anatomy and sloppy casting.  For my Hussars I will be going elsewhere.

Incidentally, apologies for the worn "photo booth" - I will be fabricating a replacement in the near future.

*I have passed over the freakishly large hands as the great majority of miniatures are thus afflicted.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Sloppy service - a rant!

"A three month wait for miscasts madam?"
Your author has been buying wargames items for over a quarter century and I am sad to say that I feel the general level of service is deteriorating.  I am tired of poor service from manufacturers and wonder if others are also.  

With your average 28mm figure now priced well above the psychological £1.00 barrier, we are paying more than ever before to get our hands upon little lead men.  When paying such a premium I for one expect a good standard of service and also a product that is quality checked before dispatch.

Actually, I believe whatever price you pay the item should be in fit condition and supplied as advertised.

Yes of course delays will occur and miscasts will slip through - everyone makes a mistake now and then.  However I cannot help but feel that a great many vendors are just sloppy or simply hope their mistakes won't be noticed by the buyer.  Alternatively, perhaps they bank upon customers' reticence to complain - this is something from which I do not suffer!

It is not my intention to "name and shame" anyone in particular but in the last six months I have been fed a great many cock-a-mamey excuses, including:

  • "I am a one-man-band.  That is why I billed your credit card three weeks ago and have not even got around to filling your order" - very popular.
  • "Sid/Jim/Bob (delete as applicable) went on holiday the week after we got your order and we have to wait for him to come back."
  • "Miscasts?  Well yeah, there are a few but most customers never complain."
  • "Our moulds are old and the metal doesn't flow too well."
  • "Yes he is missing his nose/hand/cockade but you could rebuild it with putty/it wouldn't be noticeable in a unit."
  • "Why are you complaining about miscasts?  Our figures are cheaper than so and so's."
Some of these have come from companies I had once rated as having excellent customer service.  I find this very disappointing.

I am aware that wargamers are a tolerant bunch but such statements gall.  There is no reason why the consumer should accept such shoddiness when buying any product.  The fact that these are little toy soldiers does not alter things!  If you think about it, would you be so tolerant if a sandwich seller said:

"You got a pubic hair in your chicken salad? Well, I am a one-man-band and my other customers never complain.  Pull it out of the mayo, it won't change the taste of the sandwich."

In short, a vendor should excersize a little elementary customer service:

  • If there are unexpected delays, drop the customer an email.  Most people will understand that real life can intrude.
  • Going on holiday and anticipate a delay when the order is accepted?  Then he/she should alert the buyer to the situation and check that you are happy to proceed.  
  • When a defective item slips through, there should be an apology with an immediate offer to exchange the item and refund the return postage (if required).
  • Moulds getting worn?  Then remake them!  Don't rely on people not noticing or being scared to complain!  
Such simple steps would go a long way to pacify even the most bellicose of customers.

Now perhaps the postman will today deliver those two orders for which I am still waiting after 3 weeks...

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Building "Fort Kalypso" - Stage 2 - Basing

Basic tools and "spacer" as described below.
Although the building is not yet complete it is now time to provide it with a base.  This is best effected at this stage to both avoid damaging the finished model and to enable the structure to be blended realistically into the groundwork.

It has to be said that buildings without bases never "sit" right on the table-top and always look as if they were simply "plonked" down without care.  

You have a couple of options.  The "scenic" base with some simple (or not so simple!) groundwork - perhaps featuring character figures and trees etc.  Alternatively you could opt for a rudimentary grounding just slightly larger than the building's footprint.  This option is seen in the majority of commercial offerings.

Personally, I favour the scenic option and some form of diorama.  In this case a few palm-trees and civilians should effectively set the scene.  Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself - first let's get the structures safely based.

Building seated and extra contours added.
You can mount the building on MDF or styrofoam, the former is stronger but cutting requires safety precautions.  As this is something of a demonstration piece and will not be handled unduly, I chose the styrofoam and hot wire method.  Roughly mark out the shape and cut out.  It helps if you contour the edges carefully as they will look more natural if a gradual profile is achieved.  

Once you have a shape you are happy with, it's time to seat the building.  I always glue them on a spacer made from card or foamcore.  This is for two reasons.  Firstly it enables you to work the ground-level up to the building and avoid obscuring your work with plaster.  Secondly, it enables you to squeeze filler into the join and this provides further adhesion.   To clarify, the spacer should be glued onto the base with "hot glue" or a contact adhesive.  The oasis should be secured with PVA as it provides a better grip.

Woodland Scenics' rocks.
Now create a few styrofoam contours to add to the base - this gives the effect of a varied ground level and breaks-up the flat surface.  The aim is to make the building look as if it is sitting in rather than sitting on the base.  

Styrofoam cut and rocks seated.
An added touch (if appropriate to your setting) can be some rocks.  A long time ago I bought one of Woodland Scenics model railroading rock-moulds.   I cast a whole lot of these and have found them very useful.  An alternative is cork bark which is available through most model shops with a train department.  The choice is yours.

Joins filled and lines smoothed.
Cut away the styrofoam as required and seat the rocks with hot glue.  Do not go too crazy with the stonework unless the setting is mountainous.  A few look great but too many just looks silly.

Once all of this is secure, get to work with the trusty Polyfilla/grout/spackle and fill in any gaps between walls and rocks and of course the join between building and base.  As before you can be pretty sloppy here as the next stage will allow you to correct any errors.  That said, try to do a good job as it will mean less time is spent on clean up later on.

Now put the building aside and go watch Sunday's Columbo re-runs.  After a day or so drying time we can move on to the walls!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Uniform rethink

Imagine these chaps in yellow and we are close.
Sometimes delays that (at the time) seem disastrous prove - in fact - to be fortuitous.  Happily some suppliers' inefficiency has had exactly this outcome for Beimbach-Schönau!

In late 2010 I decided to document the uniforms of the 1740 army.  In part this was tailored to the figures I was awaiting from Northstar.  I had decided that their Austrians were just the ticket for my military due to the State's close proximity to Wien.

Whilst waiting and waiting (plus some waiting and a bit more waiting) for the delivery, I designed my colour combinations and worked on a whole host of elaborate schematics.  During what turned out to be an epic struggle to get my goods, I came to the conclusion that the uniforms didn't "feel" right.  This was due, in part, to my preference for the somewhat simpler "cuts" of uniform.  Additionally the different styles (Hungarian, German and Grenz) seemed to over-power a relatively small military comprising only 13 Regiments of foot.  Finally, it seemed an uninspired and predictable choice.  I want a distinctive force not an Austro-clone!

As this is an ImagiNation and my painting progress had been stymied by late deliveries, I found myself in a serendipitous position - with lots of unpainted Austrians that could be quickly resold.  So I took the plunge and decided to go with a Russian/French look.  Thus the uniform plates will be redone -  laborious but necessary.  The regimental histories, standards and facings are going to remain largely unchanged.

Simple yet attractive!
The general rule for the mid-C18 is that "German and Foreign" Line Regiments wear a French style coat (either open or closed) with the Senior Regiments wearing a Russian coat.  There will be a couple of anomalies in the "Freiwillige" Regiments and these will be noted where applicable.  The "Grenzer" Regiments will be far more "wild and wooly" as I think this appearance better differentiates them from their more "civilised" brothers-in-arms.  Grenadier Regiments will also rear their mitres (or fur caps!) and will constitute the elite "Leibgarde zu Fuß"

Happily, I have plenty of mid-C18 French figures and these will now be worked on to create the first painted units.  In fact dedicated readers will recall IR.10 von Klingenbach (WIP) was already exhibiting a Gallic flavour and is close to pre-painting completion!

However, this will not commence immediately as today I will be working on getting the first fort building completed...