Saturday 15 September 2012

Irregular Miniatures' 2mm Fortifications: Review

Thought I'd post some thoughts on the new range of 2mm fortifications recently released by Irregular Miniatures. These are welcome additions to an expanding range, and being available in separate parts, offer a whole range of options.

They are very much made in the new trend by Irregular to more closely scale the size of their 2mm buildings to the miniatures themselves, whilst still not being near a true 1/900th, are closer visually than the older parts of the range that concentrated on BUA -type sections that depicted a whole range of housing types on a single base.

I found that with these new sculpts there was much less tendency to find flash that needed removing when fresh out of the box, and indeed, the undersurfaces of the various ravelins, bastions and walls were nice and smooth; what were present, however, and noticeable on close inspection, were mould or casting lines on the crenellated turrets. Given the small size of these, though, this didn't really affect them adversely.

Irregular have some good close-up pictures of these new items on their catalogue pages, so I thought I'd concentrate on how a standard set up would look as a whole - I think most of us would want to deploy a fortified structure in its entirety; I've combined a crenellated section within a Vauban star-fort - sort of a medieval town later enclosed in the seventeenth century kind of thing.....

Fully laid out, this is quite an impressive sight, and depending if you were to want to base the whole lot as one piece, you might be looking at a footprint of around 150 by 200mm or so, even bigger if you were putting in further outerworks.

The pieces, posed here individually, fit together very well, and are nicely in proportion with each other, with natural-looking angles on the scarping/earthworks, and even some windows visible on the turrets!

Although I haven't illustrated it here (d'oh!), the standard artillery bases from the Renaissance and Horse and Musket ranges will fit in the open top of each bastion, even the RBG 29, large Ren. cannon, with a bit of trimming, will go in there - so you can even show the works ready for action!

As a size comparison, the next photo shows the layout next to a plastic city piece from GW's Mighty Empires game, and then the BG118 castle fortress, the closest contender, I suppose, from the existing ranges; you can see the scaling-up tendency of the newer pieces, but I think they wouldn't look out of place on the same playing surface....

That said, plonking the Mighty Empires piece into the middle of the crenellated walls, you could imagine that as a neat set-up all it's own, certainly the design of these has a distinct Romano-Byzantine feel to them rather that later Medieval; I suppose if one was putting together a wish-list, some circular turrets would also be nice, although these could be scratch-built easily enough at this scale.

Meeting the up-scaling half way, I've 'gone large' in the next photo by adding in a trio of 1/1200th buildings by Rod Langton, which visually have aways to my mind sat closer to the actual heights and appearance of the 2mm infantry blocks themselves - these are paired up with three of Irregular's own IKS10 house model, making the whole layout appear 'smaller' - more town than city, but very effective nonetheless:

Overall then, I'm very pleased with these latest new additions to the range of 2mm scenery and terrain - I can see them not only accompanying 1/900th figures, but not looking out of scale as coastline pieces in a 1/1200th or 1/2400th naval set -up either - their pricing is also very reasonable, so you could get quite a lot of bang for your buck; here's an interesting link for inspiration, recently posted on TMP by andygamer:

It wouldn't be too hard to replicate a lot of those real world forts if you really went for it.......!

Saturday 8 September 2012

Minifigs Ships: Republic of Risorgimentia

Without further ado then, let's move on to the great adversary of the Bostro-Danubians, in the person of the Republic of Risorgimentia, and their respective naval forces represented by Minifigs ships.

For generations, the great peninsula dominating the northern Mediterranean was a maelstrom of competing petty monarchies, foreign-supported fiefdoms and vaguely defined territories, that vacillated between being the pawns of greater powers or hardly registering in international affairs by dint of the chaos which seemed to reign overall.
This was all to change, however, in the late nineteenth century, when individuals who had been instrumental in the republican and independence movements of key South American nations found a willing audience amongst the middle classes of this land known generically as Adriatica.
A surge of political awareness saw conflict erupt throughout the many principalities, as one by one the notion of a nation state, independent and free of old prejudices and feudalisms took hold, and civil wars gave way to the birth of a nation: The Republic of Risorgimentia.

The military forces of the new republic were in a parlous state at the end of the unification struggle, and indeed, the naval ships of the larger territories were to begin with dated and focussed mainly on limited aspirations of defence; coastal monitors or gunboats that could barely police an area a few miles offshore from the extensive coastline.
Guiseppe Biscotti, the first president of the Republic, however, had aspirations to exert influence over a wider area, and restore the imbalances in trade that had helped to keep the country at the mercy of foreign powers, and he saw the ability to project military power beyond his own shore as key to this policy.
Financial crises amongst the very South American nations that had initially spawned the republican movement, saw them offering warships that they had bought from Britain at second-hand prices, and Biscotti garnered all he could from his former revolutionary comrades, in return for hard cash, and began to build a modern navy.

From Chile, Risorgimentia took on two Lord Nelson class battleships, that had never even seen the native shores of their putative owners before they had had to put them up for sale; at one fell swoop the new republic had two powerful and modern contenders in the battle for naval supremacy - the 'Giustizia' and the 'Liberta':

(In the foreground, a BMC style hollow casting marked as B4 at the stern, and at rear, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '1')

The acquisition of these ships had initially somewhat alarmed the British, however when it became probable that Risorgimentia might turn next to their rivals France for a complement of cruisers, Her Majesty's Government was only too happy to offer a pair of Drake class armoured examples at a very reasonable price; the 'Regina Elisabetta' and the 'Londra':

(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '7')

These were further augmented by a single Devonshire class ship from the Argentinians, named the 'San Martin':

(New Minifigs sculpt numbered '8')

Unfortunately for Biscotti, these purchases all but drained his exchequer, and his vision of a larger fleet had to be somewhat tempered by financial prudence; his admirals knew that they might never challenge the battle line of their near rivals in terms of tonnage alone, however they were quick to adapt to the emerging technologies of torpedo and light craft that could punch above their weight:

(Two new Minifigs sculpts numbered '24', and closest to the camera, a single '19')

Indeed, within a few years, the Republic's torpedo boats and destroyers had become a byword for innovative and effective tactics, hunting in packs that had a lot of their competitors' captains nervous, even if they would not admit it openly:

(New Minifigs sculpts numbered '24')

This thirst for innovation to balance numbers also saw the deployment of some basic submarines; although in 1910 these were seen as more an asset in terms of reconnaissance rather than a destructive arm:

(Two BMC style castings that are unmarked, and in the middle, a new Minifigs sculpt, numbered '25')

The Republic's main battlefleet might be small, but they pack a powerful punch:

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Minifigs Ships: The Fleet of Bostro-Danubia

A look now at the first part of the Minifigs 'Imagination' fleets, here in the person of the Empire of Bostro-Danubia.
In 1910 or thereabouts, this ancient monarchy is located either side of the Danube, and was once the bulwark between the West and the Oriental expansionism of the Ottomans. However, these old glories have tended to fade of late, to be replaced by the inertia and inefficiency characteristic of late nineteenth century bureaucratic states.
In spite of this, the shrewd political decision to fully support British colonial adventures in Egypt and the southern Mediterranean was rewarded by a beneficial Naval Treaty, the Anglo-Bostro-Danubian Pact. The outcome is that soon the concentrated output of such firms as Armstrong Whitworths and Yarrow is pouring into the naval inventory in the form of modern warships and technical expertise.

(At least that is how I am rationalising the heavily British bias in the BMC/Minifigs inventory....)

Whether of course such innovation and development will sit well alongside centuries of autocratic and conservative military practices remains to be seen, particularly in the context of growing rivalry with their nearest neighbours, the Republic of Risorgimentia...

Above we see the Canopus class battleship that has been adopted as the flagship of the reinvigorated Kaiserliche Marine, and named the 'Graf Rudolf'.

(BMC style hollow casting marked as B1 at the stern)

This ship is now ably supported by a pair of Swiftshure class battleships, the 'Kaiser und Konigin Elisabet Marie' and the 'Kronprinz Radetsky'.

(Two further BMC style hollow casts marked B2 at the stern)

Moving away from the main battleline, we see a pair of Town class protected cruisers, the 'Huszar' and the 'Pandur'. These vessels are of note in that they can be seen wearing the most recently innovated light grey colour schemes alongside the older "Montecoccolin Green", which had a brief flowering after many years of the typical peace-time pre-dreadnought black and white.

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '10' underneath)

These lighter warships have been augmented by a trio of Highflyer light cruisers, whose colours cover the whole gamut from the dusk of the nineteenth century to the dawn of the first decade of the twentieth; the 'Admiral von Trapp', the 'Esterhaz von Esterhazy', and finally the 'Cattaro':

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '13' underneath)

Bostro-Danubia has been somewhat slow in introducing modern Torpedo Boat Destroyers, and these next craft were added via German shipyards as part of an experimental trial - there is something far too underhand about all this whizzing underwater exploding silver cigar business....

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '20' underneath)

That is not to say, however, that the Danubian flotilla would pass up the chance to own some of the fastest small craft currently produced by Britain, particularly as these were a gift from interested parties that were keen to stay one step ahead of their competitors - it is rumoured that these ships run all the faster for not having any of those unsporting torpedos aboard!

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, minus their integral masts, marked '21' underneath)

Finally, and somewhat counter-intuitively, the twin monarchy is also the proud owner of U3 and U4, modern unterseebooten of German pedigree, which are tolerated by the Naval staff because allegedly the young Kronprinz won them in a wager with his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm, and to refuse their deployment would be taken as a personal insult and career suicide...

(New Minifigs solid sculpts, marked '26' underneath)

So there we have it for part one of the 'Imaginations' - these all need basing of course, but a disastrous attempt at scoring and snapping perspex for bases has caused some delays, so they remain a work in progress.

I'll end with a view of the cruisers en masse, and also a couple of useful links, one a discussion on the use of a distinctive green colour scheme by a country not a million miles away from Bostro-Danubia:

and finally an informative and detailed post regarding the pedigree of these enigmatic and characterful warship sculpts:

Well worth a read, following on from the detective work done by Steve Cady at Castles of Tin, and David Crook of AWargaming Oddysey.

Next post: The ships of the Republic of Risorgimentia!