A 15mm British flank company figure from the Jacobite Miniatures range (photo lifted from the Deep Fired Happy Mice site) just like some of the figures I ordered and eventually received in 1984. While I loved them at the time, the 2005 review of these figures by the Deep Fried Happy Mice is scathing, and I must conceded that I see what they mean.
It occurred to me midday yesterday (Saturday), as I put the finishing touches on a few new figures AND kept up a running Q&A with the Young Master, who was playing in the adjacent main outer room of Zum Stollenkeller and occasionally sticking his head through my door to see what I was up to at the painting table, that I've been painting wargame figures and enjoying the occasional game for exactly 30 years this month. 30 years? Yep. 30 Years!!! Where in the world has the time gone?
Right after the first of the year, in January 1984, the long-haired, heavily Van Halen and Scorpions influenced me had some Christmas money burning a hole in my 17-year-old pocket. I had already become very interested in Napoleonic history and wargaming in a big way, and started to move away from Dungeons & Dragons, during the previous year thanks to the March 1981 issue of Military Modelling and issues 6 and 7 of Miniature Wargames. Those photos of Peter Gilder's and Doug Mason's 25mm Napoleonics at the Wargame's Holiday Centre were addictive! Absolutely stunning and captivating. A feast for the eyes. A visual sirens' song to my young, callow self.
Faced with rather more limited funds (and painting skill) than Messrs Gilder and Mason, however, I had to content myself with 15mm figures that I could obtain easily in the United States. These were carried by a small book and giftshop in Baltimore, Maryland known as The Ship Shop. Once learning of them late in '83, I put together a small order for some British infantry, hussars, some French infantry, and Lancers of the Guard. I exchanged my Christmas cash with my grandmother, who also made up the little bit extra that I still lacked and wrote me a check. Away went my order with the mail the next day.
10 days or two weeks later, part of the order arrived. Fine. I had some infantry at least, so I could begin painting, using the small military finishing set of Testor's enamels my sister had given me for Christmas. I wasn't too annoyed. These things happen, and I was a fairly reasonable 17-year-old when unforeseen things occasionally came along. Despite what the short note with the figures indicated though -- and various later promises following subsequent notes of inquiry by me to the contrary -- it took until late July of '84 before the rest of the order was filled. And that only after repeated letters to the guy who ran The Ship Shop and, finally, a letter of complaint to the main Jacobite U.K. people.
They finally sent the missing figures, along with a sincere, hand-written letter of apology, but by that time, I had discovered 15mm Super Detail Napoleonics by MiniFigs. Much better figures, much better customer service, and a more more extensive range, so bye-bye Jacobite. Some kind of lesson learned there on my part, I think, although I'm still not quite sure which one it was. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, maybe? Fortunately, customer service, communication, and the arrival times of figures once ordered online seem to be vastly improved in 2014 most of the time. Otherwise, I might have moved into stamp collecting. Wait! I actually am a (passive) stamp collector too. Ok, ok. I've outed myself. Let the nerd jokes begin.
Anyway, fast-forward to January of 2014. The Young Master eventually asked very politely to come into my office at one point later yesterday afternoon, observed my various works-in-progress on the painting table for a new minutes, and then said something that was music to my ears. When he becomes older, the Young Master stated, he wants to paint small soldiers and horses just like Dad! You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Naturally, I replied that he certainly can do that if he wants to, and that I will show him how to do so. We still have several years of plastic soldiers of various kinds before us of course, but when he grasps the concepts of treating things more gently and caring for one's possessions a bit better, it looks like ol' Dad will need to paint up a few starter units of 25-30mm 18th century figures if the interest is still there for the Young Master when he turns 8 or 10 or 12.
However, and in the meantime, Armies in Plastic makes all kinds of really neat 1/32nd plastic figures in a variety of periods, that might be cobbled together without too much ado into a few small units for some games of Little Wars with Nerf Guns for the artillery hits. It looks like the next several years are (finally) going to be fun. Moreover, the Young Master has expressed a desire to Nordic/X-country ski like Mom and Dad, bless him, which he has seen one or the other of us enjoy during our recent toboggan trips to a local park. Skiing together as a family? I simply cannot wait!