24 April 2010

"The cavalry will advance!"

Here are the 4th (Trakehnen) Dragoons, the senior cavalry regiment in the Army of Stollen, painted in January-February 2007. Once again, the figures are 1/72 Revell Austrian dragoons, painted in a color scheme that I made up off the cuff at the time. I later learned that not only did Britain clothe it's cavalry of the day in red, but a few Austrian units wore red as did a Saxon cavalry regiment or two. And I believe so did some Sardinian cavalry. Regardless of whether your miniature troops are based on a real army or fictitious, red certainly makes the figures stand out on the table.


Here's another unit of plastic figures. This time, its a regiment of cavalry, organized more or less according to the suggestions laid out by Brigadier Young and Colonel Lawford in Charge! -- three squadrons of eight troopers, each with an officer, plus a regimental staff consisting of a colonel, standard bearer, and a musician. You'll notice that the figures have been affixed to card bases, and that's because the Revell plastic figures are so light in weight that a good sneeze risks toppling an entire unit in one fell swoop.

And that is one of my pet peeves about working with plastic figures. Very simply, most lack enough heft to remain standing on anything but the flattest table and in the most still setting. Ever bump a table full of plastic figures during the heat of battle? Right. Which is another reason I am making the gradual move over to metal figures. Hence the cardboard bases. Now, some gamers who use plastic figures glue them to metal washers, to provide that necessary heft and stability, but I don't care for round bases on my infantry. Neither do I like the strange figure eight appearance of two washers stuck to the bottom of cavalry figures. Nope, were I to do this over again, I'd order some custom made thin plywood bases from one of the companies producing them, for example Litko. Live and learn.

I suppose if I based my figures in multiples of six or eight, in two ranks, (ala Peter Gilder), the problem would solve itself. And, indeed, I've seen several blogs where people do just that, making their plastic armies just as stable and just as attractive on the table as any metal army. Multiple bases certainly have the added advantage of leaving some room for minor terrain work, disguising the figure bases, and improving the overall presentation of one's figures to no small degree. In keeping with my original Charge-inspired vision for the Grand Duchy of Stollen project, however, I prefer to keep my figures based individually.

So, I guess you make your choice and you pay your price, or something like that. One of the strengths of the wargaming hobby though is that each person is free to paint, base, and present his or her army in exactly the way that best suits him or her. But I'm afraid I must draw the line at unpainted figures. Now, that's just me, and I don't mean to criticize anyone's enjoyment of the hobby. But I have seen a couple of published books and a website or two where unpainted plastic figures were the order of the day, and that particular aesthetic just doesn't tickle my fancy. Sorry. Besides, a considerable part of the wargaming and model soldier hobby is its visual appeal. And a table of unpainted figures lacks that eye-catching certain something that draws so many of us into the hobby in the first place.

9 comments:

Bluebear Jeff said...

A few decades ago I worked at a game store and we held regular "game days" at the local Youth Club . . . which included lots of miniature games.

However we did enforce one rule . . . "if it isn't painted, it's dead!"

We would also hold figure painting workshops for the kids. We wanted to get them started properly . . . and I've always held to the "if it isn't painted, it's dead" philosophy on the table top.

So, Stokes, I very much agree with your comments on that.

In closing, let me also say that I continue to admire your lovely troops . . . and I don't care if they are plastic or metal . . . you paint very well and your units look great on the table.


-- Jeff

Fitz-Badger said...

I actually enjoy the painting part of the hobby (no matter that I'm neither the best nor fastest painter! lol), and would never think of fielding unpainted minis myself. But to each their own. As a solo gamer I don't have to face unpainted units.

Excellent cavalry!

A J said...

A rather splendid regiment of cavalry, Stokes. The red coats look a treat.

Oh yes, one sneeze can create horrible slaughter on a table full of single-based plastic figures. I'm still toying with the idea of buying some for use as militia, etc.

I fully agree, the sight of unpainted metal figures on a wargames table makes a mockery of the hobby. Sad to say, I saw several examples of this laziness at the recent Recruits con. I'ts easy to get even a reasonable result with just a few hours painting, so why do these fellows not try it? =(

Steve Turner said...

I always like your finished figures Stokes, and I especially like the dragoon uniforms. I only wish I had the cash & the space to game in the same scale as you.

- Steve

Snickering Corpses said...

I would have to diverge from you and Jeff on the "If it isn't painted, it's dead" philosophy, but then we've discussed my own lack of real desire to paint and lack of funds to get someone else to do it before. ;)

Of course, there is also the fact that I got my wargaming start on just such a published book with unpainted plastic figures in Operation Warboard.

It's particularly bad, incidentally, if you're both an amateur and a perfectionist. You can't achieve the result you want and you can't bring yourself to be satisfied with what you can do. ;)

My current excuse is that I don't like the look of the cross-belts I painted last time, nor the fact that I got paint on already painted areas, and I can't figure out how to repaint them to suit me.

However, I do continue to thoroughly enjoy the sight of your work, Stokes, and am struggling to let it force me into motivation to paint again.

johnpreece said...

Many years ago when we used Airfix lots of people used to use thin lead sheet to form bases. Easily cut to shape with a knife and offcuts are available from roofing sheets.

Of course I have no idea what lead costs these days, probably cheaper just to buy your figures in lead!

Archduke Piccolo said...

Excellent job on those Dragoons! Although I recognised the figures at once, I just had to read your comment to confirm they were indeed Revell Austrians. I have several such figures myself (one painted as the Khevenhuller Dragoons in the service of the Wholly Romantic Empire of Trockenbeeren-Auslese, another as the Kronoberg Dragoons in the service of the Principality of Ursaminor, the rest yet to be painted). Some of Revell's best, in my view, and your paint job does them more than justice...

As far as basing the figures are concerned, I have long since placed them on cardboard bases of moderate thickness. However, I am beginning to perceive the benefit of mounting figures in pairs - leaving a few singles - for the sake of added stability and rapidity of movement. Because in my rule set a route march is carried out in column of twos ('file') I don't mount them on wider bases.

This does lead to an inconvenience with casualty removal, but after many years I've decided to live with that...
Cheers,
Ion.

Frankfurter said...

I've a suggestion.
A lot of folks leave their figures individually mounted, and create "movement trays" on which the individual figures are mounted. Mostly by using a metallic tray and magnetic tape in the base or something like that. For plastics, I found that using good old double sided sticky tape worked just fine.
Of course, I also like the procedure of mounting most of the unit as multiple figures (and I'd suggest 2 x 2 = 2 figs wide and deep for formed infantry), but having a few stands with just two or single figures to facilitate removal.
:)
Arthur

Geira said...

To add to the previous post, the weight of the metal bases should lower the center of gravity of your plastic figures so they would no longer fall over if someone sneezes in the other end of the room.

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