Monday 30 November 2009

6mm Romans: Some additional troops

A look now at some additional troops for the AD69 'Year of the Four Emperors' project that have finally graduated from the painting table.
Unfortunately of late, I have been concentrating far too much on "Real Life", and not on the much more rewarding subject of painting and gaming! Hopefully the rather low post count in November will grow somewhat in the coming month, so apologies for things being a bit thin on the ground recently.

Anyway, back to the good bits - I'd obviously made quite a dent in the hordes of legionaries required , as can be seen in previous posts on this subject, however was behind on some of the ancillary troops, so have been working on these, to whit, Command, Artillery, Cavalry and Light Infantry. These are a mixture of Irregular and Baccus, hopefully playing to the strengths of both ranges.
Below we see a pair of bases made up from the superlative Baccus Mounted Commanders, absolutely lovely figures with plenty of character - there's even a Caesar look-alike with appropriately large nose!
These I've mounted on UK 2 pence pieces, and made sure to leave the brassy edges of the coin visible, I like the vignette effect this gives, and also makes these smaller bases visually 'pop' more on the tabletop.

The only slight criticism of these sculpts is the piece of supporting flash that comes with the casting, effectively giving the horse an extra leg underneath - this can be a pain to remove - particularly if, as I did, you only do it after painting the model (d'oh!) - it's probably easier done in the preparation stage. Unfortunately, some of my ones have some of the flash still remaining in place in hard to reach places, making, Ahem, it appear as if some of the horses are somewhat exited stallions - if you now what I mean......
On the next pair of bases I added some of the cut-down command strips from the Baccus Legionary packs, to give more of an army commander look:

Next up we have a pair of bases of irregular troops; as I intend to use the Basic Impetus Rules for the project, these would be classified as skirmishers, so for a bit of interest I combined three different strips from Irregular on each base - Barbarian Slingers, Javelins and Bows. This also came about because, somewhat annoyingly, the strips themselves are around 41mm long - just too big to fit on a 40x30mm base, and looking somewhat adrift if placed in pairs on a 60x30mm, so here are three placed more randomly to give a skirmisher effect:

As you can see, these bases saw another outing for the static grass, which I am just starting to get used to; I think definitely at the smaller scales, less is more!
The slinger and javelin figures are particularly nice with lots of varied poses and weapons, the bowmen less so, being indistinctly modelled - rather blobby, even:

Next we move on to a base of Barbarian Cavalry, perhaps Batavian Auxiliaries; this is made up from a combination of codes, to give a more irregular look with E25 Gothic Cavalry in front and the E23 Celtic Medium Cavalry behind:

I felt this would better represent medium cavalry, which for Barbarian tribes would necessarily mean a mixture of arms and armour, with the better or stronger warriors in the front rank, with their retainers in the rear, perhaps like later Norman Milites accompanied by Pueri or Serjeants:

Finally we come to the Baccus Artillery, which are simply great sculpts, with an animated crew - there are simply no competitors out there if you want Roman Ballistae, that can match these little beauties for both heft and character:

I only have one small caveat in that the weapon is rather fiddly to mount on its base - again, something probably best done prior to painting.
I wanted to exaggerate and make the ammunition carried by the loader more visible, so painted the balls white, but having seen these photos, realised I merely made it look as if they are playing with snowballs.....oh well! Maybe some remedial grey dry-brushing needed there......

So, moving along with this project, I'll be looking next at the battle of Locus Castorum, and trying to sort out an OOB from the very long winded and complicated Tacitus text (not in the original Latin, I hasten to add!), so stay tuned for more on this subject to come....

Thursday 12 November 2009

Small Scale Comparison 3: Artillery and Command

A quick run through of the final part of my look at 2/3/4mm minis, namely the artillery, although in typically idiotic fashion, I forgot to purchase any of the actual guns available from Tumbling Dice in ostensibly 1/600th scale, (British 18pdr, German 77s and Russian 76s are available....) so this is more a look at well.....the limbers and draught horses, than the hardware, as it were.

In the photo above, you can see part of Tumbling D's ISL918, WWI Artillery Limber and Crew; each of the three limbers in the pack is matched by a set of three horses as above, and a further three being ridden by gunners, as below:

Pretty nice, really, the rider's shakos put me in mind of High Victorian, perhaps Crimean era gunners, definitely RHA, I think!

Peter Pig, range seven, and Irregular, on the other hand, have the cast all-in-one-on-a-base approach, as we can see in the next photo:
(Peter P's Pack 10, 12pdr guns and limbers alongside Irreg's split trail gun from BG6)

I must say that despite it's size, the Irregular gun is excellent, with even some gunnery paraphernalia such as powder barrels, rammers etc visible alongside the gunners themselves:

The Peter P sculpt is rather nice with the gun just unlimbered and being readied for action, unusually for a wargaming piece, perhaps, we see the preparation, with a chap clearing the muzzle - you certainly wouldn't want to be firing with the horse and limbers in such close proximity!

Overall, though, a pretty nice mini, which I think would paint up well, a line of these would give a good sense of a 'battery' on the tabletop, rather than the usual view of the guns themselves in isolation, although of course this wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, and doesn't have the flexibility of being able to pose the models separately, at your whim, on a base.

A comparison shot of all three types and sizes, then, with perhaps the better choice of Irregular's 2mm BG26, 'limber towing gun' for size:

Finally, a quick and dirty photo of the command stand available from Peter Pig, namely pack 42, which has a nice group of mounted and dismounted men in a huddle, against the classic RBG24 from Irregular:

The huddled effect of the larger group is perhaps somewhat to its detriment, making it hard to differentiate each figure, so this is a bit disappointing given the opportunities for better clarity in a bigger mini, but then as I've said before, these 3 and 4mm lines were never the main, major focus of the two other manufacturers in the first place, so you can't expect too much.

I think that pretty much sums up the differences between the three sizes:
Peter P's Range 7, is a little bit below par, given the dimensions of the castings when compared to their Irregular counterparts, and whilst Tumbling D's efforts definitely punch above their weight if you put them alongside the 6mm of, for instance, Heroics and Ros, they are rather static and limited in range and pose.

I suppose what I am trying to get at is that the ostensible 3 and 4mm minis suffer from falling in between the better balanced and resourced ranges of 2 or 6mm, so probably wouldn't set the world on fire if used in isolation; alongside the range of 'planes and ships from Peter P or Tumbling D that they were designed for: just fine, but not real contenders on their own.

Will either set of minis find their way onto my tabletop? I have a certain hankering after a 'Charge of the Light Brigade' type set-up with the Tumbling D shako-wearers lining up against the Peter P guns deployed in the far distance - a nice vignette, methinks, and that would explain the size difference, anyway!

Small Scale Comparison 2: Cavalry

A quick look now at the mounted figures available from the three manufacturers mentioned in my previous post, with some comparison shots of the various types. Below we see Irregular Miniatures' BG11, Loose Order Sabre Cavalry in the front, then Peter Pig's Pack 40, Cavalry Blocks, and bringing up the rear a strip from Tumbling Dice's ISL910 Mounted Cavalry in Shako:

Remember, all photos on this Blog should be 'clickable' for a larger, and often somewhat unflattering Macro view. What is immediately clear on close examination is that the cavalry block from Peter P, has little to offer over the more familiar 2mm one from Irregular, and is little more than being a larger version.

The camera has been somewhat unkind, particularly in the photo below, where for some reason it looks as if the horses sport some form of skeleton eye sockets, but I assure you that in the flesh these do not seem as exaggerated, and are merely the beast's ears!
The block's footprint, of course comes in at 25 x 6mm as opposed to the 15 x 4mm of it's smaller cousin, but I think I just expected more from the proportionately heftier block.

Of course, you're looking at twelve horsemen with a large, clearly visible flag, eight blocks per UK £2.30 pack for a total of some 96 horsemen. As you can see below, there are visible straps/sashes, although this is balanced by the disappointing headgear, but then again, of course this is meant to be an ACW unit, so I suppose is more in the line of a kepi rather than anything more substantial.

Finally we have the two types available from Tumbling D, namely the shako wearing cavalry and their counterparts, ISL910a Mounted Cavalry in Helmet. As you can see, the shako-wearers are lovely little sculpts, if a little passive, with four riders on a strip 30mm long by 3mm wide; they put me very much in mind of similar types available from Navwar/Heroics and Ros in 6mm.
Saddlecloths, a weapon valise, reins and headgear are all nicely sculpted, and had me wondering about a possible use for troops from the Crimean or Franco-Prussian Wars - mini hussars at a bargain price; 32 of these little guys at UK1.80 as opposed to 21 at £2.50 from the 6mm Heroics and Ros Range.

The helmet-wearers hold the same static pose, however this time with a domed head rather than discernible headgear - less coal-scuttle or Tommy Atkins type and rather more conformal, modern, or even sci-fi in shape - so to my mind miss the mark a little:

I guess that some conversion work would be possible here, although whether you would wish to get into something as complicated as that at this scale, notionaly 1/600th, although actually closer to 1/450th, as with the infantry - I'm not sure - headswaps on 4mm figures....hmmm....
even I balk at that!

As I concluded in the previous post, you simply can't beat the range of types available from Irregular in 2mm, although even with them, there are some problems with a lack of obvious headgear, but I certainly think that the Tumbling D minis are excellent given their size compared with 6mm ones, if too passive in pose.
I can't help thinking though, that at some point that they might end up getting a lick of paint as Cardigan's 11th Hussars... wouldn't be too bad either for Colonial/VSF era armies to accompany larger scale Land Ironclads....oh no, sounds like a whole new project........

Next post: teeny artillery!

Small Scale Figure Comparison: 2/3/4mm

I thought I'd take a look at some of the less well known ranges available down at the teeny-tiny end of things, and do a comparison of the various types. Most of you will be aware of 1/300th and 1/285th, i.e. 5 or 6mm figures made by various manufacturers, and of course the 2mm range from Irregular, but how about 3 or even 4mm figures?

To be exact, I'm talking about what are ostensibly 1/600th miniatures available here in the UK, but I think, in visual terms at least, fall somewhere around those sizes. As you will see in the photo above, the 2mm infantry from Irregular are at the front, those in the middle are by Peter Pig, and at the rear from Tumbling Dice.
(Remember, the squares on the backing surface in the photos are 10mm in size.)

First up, from Peter Pig's Range 7, "Hammerin' Iron", we have the Number 39 pack, 'Infantry Blocks', which are made to accompany and complement their 1/600th ACW naval; these are cast in a block form similar to the 2mm ones available from Irregular Miniatures, and similarly have cast-on flags:

(Scroll down to bottom of the page)

Crucially, however, these flags are depicted in pairs, which of course is perhaps more historically accurate for most 18th and 19th century troops at the Battalion scale and above.
This block measures some 26mm long by 6mm wide, and has nicely delineated individual figures, with a level of detail that allows a suggestion of muskets, belts and shoulder belts/sashes to be visible:

The troops are depicted in a close formation of four ranks, with the standard bearers quite properly placed in the middle to the rear of the front rank. There are 20 figures in each rank, for a total of 80 men. I'm not particularly familiar with formations used during the American Civil War, but to my mind at least, these deep blocks might stand well for Napoleonic French in attack columns, or perhaps early Seven Year's War European troops.

The pack contains eight of these blocks, at a cost of Uk £2.30 for a total of 640 men - not bad!
I would characterise these as 3mm, when compared visually to the 2mm miniatures made by Irregular, whose BG33 52 man two rank block seen in the first photo above, retails at UK 0.25 pence each.

Next up, we have an example of another 1/600th range, this time from Tumbling Dice, which is available to complement their excellent Aircraft.
It can be found in the 'Land, Tanks, Trucks and Guns' section of the post-1950 page of their PDF catalogue, although the minis are meant for use as WWI or II troops:

(scroll down to bottom of the page)

Here we see ISL902 Close Order Infantry from the front, which has eight figures on a 20 x 3mm base:

The detail on these, perhaps is somewhat obscure, there are certainly no weapons discernible to my eye, and the headgear is similarly, rather generic, the kepi of early WWI French infantry perhaps?

The reverse depicts a clearly defined pack where even the straps are visible, although being somewhat exaggerated, put me in mind more of Sci-Fi troopers with 'techno' packs rather than their historical counterparts.

Although advertised as 1/600th, they seem to perhaps be closer to 1/450th, or at least nearer to a visual height of 4mm from feet to top of head.

Next, let's move on to the 'Skirmish' Infantry types available from the three manufacturers, seen below in a comparison shot:

First up, the ever-hard to photograph BG23 Loose Order Infantry Block from Irregular, depicting 10 troops; I've given the blocks from this manufacturer a light Ink Wash in order to make the detail a bit more visible in the pics:

This is matched by the Range 7, Pack 41 from Peter Pig, which has 10 men spaced across a 26 x 5mm base:

The reverse shows that these are perhaps as 'blobby' as their Irregular Miniatures counterparts, with clutches of men together making it hard to differentiate what is going on; perhaps a base with all of the figures prone like the one on the far right would have been better?

This is matched by the ISL901 from Tumbling Dice: 'Infantry in Open Order', a pack which contains 8 bases of eight troops, spaced out over 30 x 3mm:

These are twins of the close order troops seen above, again with the backpacks and kepi-like headgear:

Perhaps they would better depict the open line/extended order of WWI-era soldiers, but I think would struggle to be seen as those of WWII or later:

If anything, these minis would find it hard to compete with their larger 6mm cousins, although at 64 figures for Uk £1.80 are pretty cheap.
Not to denigrate this range, however, as we shall see in my next post, which will be looking at the Cavalry and Mounted figures available from all three manufacturers, you'll see that those of Tumbling Dice more than come into their own.

It is perhaps unfair to directly compare the more familiar 2mm minis with the 3 or 4mm ones, in that the ranges from Peter P and Tumbling D are really only designed as 'add ons' to the ships or planes that are the heart of the range; but if you find 2mm just too small to cope with, they do at least provide an alternative to consider.....

Next Post: Tiny Cavalry!

Sunday 1 November 2009

1/3000th Naval from War Times Journal

Unable to leave well enough alone following the conclusion of the collecting and painting phase of the '55 Days at Sea' Boxer Rebellion Naval project, I have found myself hankering after ways of expanding the scope of my use of 1/3000th pre-dreadnought minis.
Jim over at War Times Journal was kind enough to send me some samples of his always excellent output, and so this post will see me looking in some detail at these example vessels with a view to pinning down which direction I might take in the future, and most importantly, what minis I might employ.

Broadly speaking, I suppose things would break down into three main areas:

Firstly, of course, the Russo-Japanese War: everybody, of course, does this, and for quite understandable reasons - who could resist wanting to re-create the gallant last stand of the Varyag and Korietz, or the clash of monsters at the Battle of Tsushima?

Next could be a foray somewhat back in time for the Spanish-American War, this time with a 'what-if aspect' involving the Hapsburg allies of the Spanish, namely Austro-Hungary (might level the playing field somewhat....).

Finally another possibility would be a fictional war between the greatest of historical rivals, to whit the English and the French; a titanic struggle between ironclad dreadnought turret-ship types with all the bells and whistles from an even earlier epoch.....decisions, decisions!

With these ideas in mind then, let's turn to look at the samples so kindly provided by WTJ. First up, that incomparable example of turret 'en echelon' design, HMS Inflexible:

(All minis appearing in this post are in their natural state, no clearing up of flash, etc, - straight from the packet.)

This is WTJ0055117, a very nicely proportioned sculpt which captures in great detail the layout of the amidship turrets, as well as displaying some nicely engraved ships boats; the floating bridge so clearly delineated across the top of the turrets being a particular high point, of what is more in the way of a scale model, rather than a mere playing piece.

Clocking in at just shy of 33mm, she reflects accurately the 320ft of the original. Launched in 1876 and completed in 1881, she was the first battleship to have submerged torpedo tubes and compound armour, and took part in the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882; an excellent summary of her exploits can be found here:

The WTJ sculpt is equipped with their customary mast attachment points/holes, so 'rigging' her out would be a relatively easy undertaking, and the satin texture on the deck surfaces should paint up well to represent decking planks, again a charcteristic of these premier sculpts. Certainly the lure of a seascape full of these turreted monsters exchanging blows mid-Channel would be hard to resist....

Next we have the sleek lines of the five-funnelled protected cruiser, WTJ0022210 Askold, or the "Packet of Woodbines" as she was known to British sailors. This mini goes even further in the direction of scale-model, with brilliant attention to historical detail including the foremost funnel being more slender than the other four, the upward sweep of the bow-section, and some beautifully delineated turrets and ship's boats.

The offerings from WTJ are to a UK based gamer somewhat on the expensive side, but this vessel in particular is a tempting lure to move away from the safe and familiar represented by the characterful sculpts available from Navwar; its detail, finesse, and overall appearance far outdistancing the best that the UK firm has to offer.
To quote "quantity over quality" would be perhaps be a bit too harsh, particularly from someone, like me, who is a big fan of the output of latter company, but what would normally be put down to the necessary limitations of sculpting something as small as 1/3000th, is here effectivley undermined by this superlative model from WTJ.

A somewhat unfair comparison, but it is the only unpainted multi-funnelled Cruiser I had to hand: Navwar's HMS Powerful lies beside the WTJ Askold:

This is where the quality of the WTJ sculpting really hits home - the all too-visible central mould line on the Powerful, the lack of visible deck planking, and the slightly lop-sided proportions versus complete balance, and some detailed touches.

I suppose the reality is that I can't really praise the WTJ minis too highly, yet if you do a direct price comparison for a UK consumer, this is expensive territory; 2 x Powerful class from Navwar for £1.60, whereas a single one from WTJ is $3.75, perhaps £2.28 at today's exchange rates.
The Askold herself would be $3.25 from WTJ, her Navwar equivalent only £1.20 in the company of the Varyag. Yet to be clear, I don't think that in a paper exercise to work out the likely expense, you're really comparing like-for-like, so depending on the scale of the future project, a compromise might have to be made; a flotilla or so, and I could spoil myself with the Rolls-Royces from WTJ, opposing fleets and it's the Vauxhall Vectras from Navwar.

If further proof were needed for my typically indecisive mind, we move on to the WTJ0078210 Kaiser Franz Josef, again a masterful representation of proportion, with obvious detailing, as before:

Again, perhaps somewhat unkindly, next to an erstwhile ally from Navwar, namely the Almirante Oquendo/Vizcaya/Infanta M. Theresa sculpt; the bravura of one matching the finesse of the other:

All these ships would make an excellent addition to any collection, and give many opportunities to enhance the scope of any tabletop conflict, and yes, you've guessed it, I'm no nearer to deciding on which era to go with - I suppose the real proof of the pudding will be when I've put a coat of paint on the above, and see if this makes things any clearer - my only concern is that the Navwar sculpts will be more fun to paint, whilst I shall fret that I won't be doing the WTJ ones justice - more to come on all this I fear......!