18 June 2014

Waterloo Day and an Interesting Question. . .

The Iron Duke at the Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815. 

Usually the day escapes before I realize it, but not today!  Hence the picture above.  Next year is, of course, the biggy.  The 200-year anniversary of the Waterloo campaign, but I am just as likely to be distracted by the "static" of family life and somehow forget.  So, I'll mark it today.  Somewhere, I have an old cassette of French Napolonic marches.  I wonder if it still even plays?

It's very odd, but the era when the battles that comprise the Waterloo campaign took place, 199 years ago, does not seem that far away to me.  Maybe that's due to my steeping myself in the campaign for so many years?

Some of you long-time Grand Duchy of Stollen visitors might recall that my first 20 years or so in the hobby centered on creating 15mm corps level Waterloo-era forces.  A goal that I never quite reached thanks to a number of common enough wargamer mistakes: not enough time (blame two graduate programs with an overload of related schoolwork, and four moves, one of which was overseas), not enough money, dancing around from one thing to the next without focusing my efforts when the time was available, trying to impart far too much detail on each and every figure, dabbling with writing my own hyper-detailed (simulationist) rules that made actual play difficult in the name of perceived realism, and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.  All of the usual hobby pitfalls I think.  

Oh, and somewhere in there, I met, fell like a ton of bricks for, eventually dated, moved in with, and finally married the Grand Duchess, which took quite a bit of time and mental effort during the early 2000s.  Fairly easy to see, I'm sure you'll agree, why the 15mm Waterloo project foundered and eventually hit the rocks all together.  I still have all of the finished and as-yet-unpainted figures packed away.  Who knows?  They might one day see the light of day.  We'll see.  Somehow, I've never quite been able to reconcile myself to selling them off.  Yet.  The thought of organizing everything to photograph, itemize, and put up for sale on Ebay frankly seems daunting when free time is already such a rare commodity. 

To be honest though, 15mm just doesn't quite do it for me anymore.  Admittedly, the size was the best I could manage as a young high school student, who depended on a small bit of weekly allowance/pocket money way back in the early 1980s.  Of course, what I REALLY wanted were the 25mm Hinchlifffe and (slightly later) Connoisseur figures used by Peter Gilder at the old Wargames Holday Centre, as seen in those very early issues of Miniature Wargames.  Sadly, there was no way I could afford them in the numbers necessary for even a few of those 30-figure+ Gilder-sized units, and that's not even factoring in the international postage rates of the day.  However, when you consider present day figure prices and postage, it was awfully cheap by comparison.  Anyway, 15mm it was.  Sigh.  What might have been.

All of that nostalgia brings me to a related point.  I've been asked in a recent comment to say a few words about my favorite figures, those that I'd recommend, for the mid-18th century.  Easy.  In metal, I most like the 25-30mm figures by the following producers:

1) RSM95 (Dayton Painting Consortium)
2) Minden Miniatures (really 1/56th scale)
3) Fife and Drum Miniatures (also 1/56th)
4) Jackdaw (apparently soon available once again)
5) Suren/Willy (full of whimsy and character, sometimes a wee bit on the tall side)
6)Eureka (very nice although the muskets are a bit thick in my view.)

I've got a few figures by other makers in the Grand Duchy of Stollen collection, but these are my favorites.  All are slender, realistically proportioned (no overly large heads or hands), and with just the right amount of detail without going overboard in that department.  Thus, they are relatively easy and fairly quick to paint.  The old Spencer Smiths aren't bad, but they look a bit crude next to the others, so it's unlikely I'll add anymore of those to my collection in the foreseeable future.  That said, some wargamers and collectors have painted their Spencer Smiths to an amazingly high standard, so don't dismiss these outright.

I also have it on very good authority that the 25mm and 30mm figures by Tradition are wonderful with regard to correct anatomy and proportion as well as understated detail.  The latter are, however, huge figures, or so I have been advised, often standing at 35mm or so.  At some point, I'll order at least a few of these and have a closer look myself.  Maybe some more mounted officers at least?  A guy can never have too many Frederick the Great figures along with his officers on horseback after all. 

There are plenty of other popular makers of 18th century miniatures out there at the moment, who I won't mention by name.  Decent figures -- many love them -- but the problem with these for me has to do with the odd proportions, overly dynamic poses (not suitable for the highly trained automata that comprised the relatively small armies of the 1700s), bizarre facial expressions, and/or overly pronounced detail.  You'll have to be the judge, but all you need to do is look around online or in the hobby magazines to find plenty of examples of figures that are, somehow, off in one or more of these areas.  As with classic menswear (not the currently trendy skimpy stuff mind you), so often it's all about subtlety, proportion, and fit.  I think much the same can be said about wargaming miniatures in most sizes and scales.

Turning to plastics, I like the old Revell SYW range, which is on the tall side for 1/72nd figures.  Quite a few of these make up a few of my earliest infantry and cavalry units and artillery crews from 2006-2007 in fact, and there are a few guys out there who have amassed huge 18th century and Napoleonic armies made up of these figures.  They certainly look impressive from what I've seen via two or three blogs that I visit once in a while.  The more recent HäT SYW Prussians also look very attractive although I've only seen these in photographs online.  

The problem with plastics seems to be that the ranges are very limited, and it takes forever for the various companies that produce the figures to expand said ranges.  If it ever happens.  That said, I am not opposed to mixing plastic and metal figures within the same tabletop armies, but it is usually better not to mix them within the same unit.  Sometimes, however, that does work, but not always.  I might just need to order a few boxes of the HäT Prussians at some point to see for myself.

Well, that's the short answer.  ;-)  I could go on jabbering about this particular subject all day, but I need to return to the kitchen to refill the ol' coffee mug and then think about showering and shaving before lunchtime -- the joys of summer vacation, you know -- so, I'll sign off for now.  Caffeine (my true mistress) beckons to me from the kitchen.

-- Stokes


Bluebear Jeff said...

I certainly agree as to your list of favorites. The elegance of the slimmer figures like RSM, Minden, F&D, etc. is certainly superior to the Dwarf-headed figures of some other figures.

I too would rate RSM ahead of Minden/F&D simply because of the price. I have some of the other two and they are also lovely figures (and reasonably priced) but the RSMs are a bargain.

-- Jeff

Steve Gill said...

Your most interesting account of doing 15s while actually coveting the Gilder stuff struck a chord, sounds familiar.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, one can see that it would have been better to have purchased the figures one really wanted, even if in small numbers, but the 15s made sense at the time and one can't be too critical of one's younger self :-)

guy said...

Can I also recommend Crann Tara? Whilst made for the '45 they do fit in with Minden's etc (same sculptor). Having just been stung with a £30 customs charges on a pretty modest Minden order from the States I understand your comment on postage charges etc.

On the plastic SYW don't forget the Zvesda figures. Regretfully though I don't think they will be producing any more boxes.


CelticCurmudgeon said...

My Dear Heinz-Ulrich,
Many thanks for making this post. Not only did you comrehensively respond to my query about your favorite figures, but did so with your usual mastery of language. If the pittance provided by the Camerlengo for my retirement were greater, all my figures would be from the Minden/Fife&Drum ranges simply because the sculpting has truly reached a very high level for anatomy, uniform detail, and consistency of sculpt. Several manufacturers will use two or more sculptors to produce a period and the result will be that the figures seldom match in sculpting style and size.
Enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and relax. Perhaps in your reveries you will find the inspiration to begin another regiment of figures? The new Fife&Drum figures of Tarleton's Legion would make a superlative light cavalry regiment!
best wishes,
Gerardus Magnus
Archbishop Emeritus

"grumpy is good."


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