15 May 2007

Wargaming with 1/72 Plastics: A False Economy?

During the last several days, there has been considerable discussion over at the Old School Wargaming Yahoo group about whether or not plastic figures really offer any kind of savings over their metal brethren. The discussion began with the observation:

"I'm beginning to think that going plastic is false economy, particularly in light of how inexepensive the RSM figures are ($0.75 per figure when purchased by the bag, or $0.85 single figures). Or maybe building big battalions with bags of Old Glory 15mm figures is a viable alternative. It sounds like going plastic has hidden costs that many OSWers haven't considered. Costs that may actually make plastic more expensive than metal RSM figures” -- Der Alte Fritz [Jim Purky].

Well, here's my take on the situation. Tower Hobbies in Champaign, Illinois (USA) currently sells boxes of Revell SYW 1/72 Austrian infantry for US$7.69. And I’ve even seen them for less on other hobby store websites. Each box contains 46 foot figures, 1 mounted colonel, and his horse.

Eight boxes of this particular figure set cost US$61.52 before sales tax. This would enable one to build several large battalions with enough extra figures for NCOs in a third rank. For example, one could assemble a battalion of 48 skirmishers (priming and cocking musket), 64 musketeers firing in a standing position, 64 musketeers in a kneeling position, 64 marching grenadiers with musket shouldered, and 80 advancing/charging grenadiers. Five or six BIG battalions in total.

With almost no wastage, the remaining figures (mounted colonels, officers and NCOs with spontoons, drummers, and pioneers w/axe – one of each pose per box) could be distributed across your five units. The extra command/staff figures from the remaining boxes can be used to fill in holes -- OR to create a small brigade staff of mounted offers, an ADC, plus a few officers and NCOs on foot. Quite a deal in my book!

About the only wastage would be the eight grenadier figures – only one per box -- gesticulating wildly with the musket in one hand. I have been advised recently that this figure is a grenadier officer, so he is not without use either. As you can see, at least as far as the Austrian SYW figures are concerned, one can use virtually every figure in the set. In my view, then, plastic figures certainly DO offer an economical way to enter and/or navigate our increasingly pricy hobby.

Admittedly, the more expensive and rarer Revell SYW Prussian infantry set requires a bit more juggling to amass big units all in the same pose, but it just requires a bit of imagination or purchasing a few more boxes. Actually, neither of these Revell sets contains too many useless figures if one is a bit flexible where the kneeling, loading and, ramming figures are concerned. They might be combined with firing figures to form either skirmishing "light" units, or bigger units where each platoon or company is engaged in a different part of the firing process. Another gamer, Ambrose Hawk, described how he is doing something very much like this via the OSW discussion group.

Alternately, these types of figures might be converted or provide "bits" with which to convert other figures. For instance, I'm using the heads from the kneeling Austrian figures to replace those on some Zvezda Napoleonic Saxon Cuirassiers (who wore only the breastplate). This enables me to create some serviceable plastic 18th century cuirassiers since Revell omitted these troops from its SYW production.

So, for my money (ha, ha, ha), 1/72 plastic figures have quite a lot going for them, especially many of the more recent sets, which seem to lack a lot of those bizarre, unusable poses of yesteryear. Of course, it goes without saying that one must exercise a little care in which periods and sets they choose to amass.

As for me, I'll take the weak-kneed middle of the road approach and continue to enjoy painting and collecting both plastic AND medal figures for my Grand Duchy of Stollen project. Shock! Horror! Gasp! The humanity! Oops, I've outted myself! I'm a wargaming figure switch-hitter. ;-)


Grimsby Mariner said...

It's only a false econmy if you don't use them - like the ten boxes of Persians I bought that haven't even been opned yet!

Bluebear Jeff said...

Actually I, who only has metal figures, really like a lot of the plastic figures I've seen. But I started with lead and I seem to keep buying it . . . still, a lot of the plastics look very nice.

-- Jeff

Alte Fritz said...

Hi - Fritz here. I'm enjoying your blog and finally decided to get a google account so that I could comment.


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