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?