05 June 2008

Seems There's Life in the Old Gal Yet!

Well, it seems the discussion thread on figure choice over at the Old School Wargaming discussion group has some life in it yet. And all on a polite note. Good! The thread is getting really interesting with respect to several of the latest postings, and those have helped me to clarify my own feelings on the matter.

To echo a point made by at least two OSW members, less seems to be more where the detail of castings is concerned. While none of us want crummy figures in our collections, simple sculpting with good proportions ("confirmation" in horse-speak) clinch it over too much (busy) detail and overly large heads or hands for example.

Where the simplicity of older figure ranges (Stadden, Willie, Holger Eriksson, or Spencer Smith for example) is concerned, remember too that what we are after generally is a mass effect with our wargaming figures. Even if the creases and furrows have not been sculpted into the face of a master figure, a unit of, say, 30+ castings made from that master look pretty impressive when painted, varnished, and displayed on the table top in all their sartorial glory.

As an example, I often recall some tiny 15mm Peter Laing 1870 Prussians and Bavarians I once had. Individually, the castings were nothing to write home about. Disappointingly crude comes to mind. But in a unit of 48 figures with a mounted officer, standard bearer, and a drummer, the effect was considerable. Wish I still had these!

Of course, there is no comparison between a 15mm Peter Laing and a 30mm Willie, or even a 30mm Spencer Smith miniature. But, I guess the point is that lots of super detailing on a casting (or in a paint job), though impressive, is not absolutely necessary for a pleasing appearance. Depending on the castings used, it might even detract from their appearance once painted. The old Peter Laing catalog referred to this overemphasis of detail as the “overscale effect”.

All of this discussion and thought about figure castings make me wonder if some of the more modern and pricy castings – and I’m not mentioning any names -- overdo it somewhat. Are minutely detailed buttons and badges on figures smaller than 54mm really necessary? Of course, it’s up to the individual painting and collecting the figures concerned, but for me teeny, tiny details like eye brows and fingernails are not really necessary. What do you Grand Duchy of Stollen regulars think?


Bluebear Jeff said...

One of the reasons that I like my "Blood Axe" figures is their lack of unnecessary detail.

Lance Runolfsson sculpted them with just enough detail for the table top . . . and they are very easy to paint.

It is unfortunate that his 25s are no longer available.

Right now I'm painting some Old Glory Colonials. There are lots of nice things about the figures . . . but I'd be much happier if about 3/4s of the "equipment detail" were left OFF of the sculpts.

-- Jeff

Martin said...

Hey Stokes,

The Markgraaf highly recommends the old Scruby "True 25mm" castings available from HistoriFigs. The Seven Year's War range in particular are very nice. They have next to no flash, paint up easily, and look good in the large Grant/Young regiments.
The Zeveda plastic miniatures from their Great Northern War range are also very nice and easy on the wallet!

Fitz-Badger said...

Most of my figures from the last 30 years have been fantasy minis (and most of those Citadel/GW), up until a few years ago anyway, so that might color my feelings. But I do like the variety that Foundry puts out. I can mix and match from all sorts of eras/genres and be reasonably sure they won't look out of place as far as anatomy, proportions and detail.
I can see the attractions of nicely detailed and/or realistic proportions or of simplified figures or most of the other reasons some people prefer a given style or manufacturer over another.
Usage is another factor in my book and goes hand-in-hand with detail and painting. The highly detailed painting style with shading and special effects for display minis can look great at the hands of a master (or mistress). Then there are toy soldiers, figures painted for mass effect for tabletop armies, etc. And probably other usages.
I have seen plenty of discussions denigrating "cartoonish" or pumpkin-headed or hamfisted minis and touting highly detailed sculpts or realistic proportions, (and a few discussions that do the reverse).
For my own tastes and purposes I want minis that can fit in with my existing ones (which I have been painting for a long time and don't wish to start over).
I want ranges that are wide and varied - with a variety of figures, and extras such as civilians and characters and animals.
Cost is a lesser consideration, within reason.
I prefer the heft of metal minis, so that leaves out plastic. I prefer to stick to one scale (c. 28mm).
Availability is another factor. As well as reliability of the seller.
Then there's also something to be said for sculpting your own. :-)

MiniWargamer said...

I think it also depends on the numbers of troops you employ in a unit. Detail gets lost (or subsumed) in an OSW battalion where in a 12 man battalion/regiment they might not so more detail enhances the look.

Grimsby Mariner said...

The smaller the figure the less the detail I feel.
Like you I had Peter Laing figures some years ago. Masses of Egyptians in loin clothes, wigs and shields. The effect was excellent.

I'm now firmly in the camp of the "less is more" even for 28mm figures. The Musketeer figures I'm painting right now are just so much simpler and look that much neater for it.

A J Matthews said...

RSM 95, Spencer Smith and Holger Eriksson do it for me every time. Hinted-at details, elegant, accurate and, above all, human proportions - can't fault 'em.I've painted regiments of these in the time it took to finish just one unit of Front Rank figures.


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