Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

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Review: Perry plastic Prussians by Burkhard

Posted by Martin on June 9, 2011

You may recall that I noted my fist impressions of the Perry plastic Prussian infantry box in my Salute 2011 report. I held of from detailed comments at that time because I knew that regular BfK-er Burkhard had promised to provide an in-depth review. Now that review has arrived complete with photos:

Last year I wrote a review of Warlords plastic Prussian Landwehr for Martin. And I also offered to do the same when the Perry twins come out with their Prussian. Now mine spend an awful long time in the mail, but they are here and I finally get to keep my promise.

Contents of the box
The box contains a total of 46 minis. 36 of them are Musketeers, six are Freiwillige Jäger and four command (officer, NCO, standard and drummer). The four command minis come on their own sprue following the idea that people should be able to order command sprues direct from the Perrys if they want more commend minis in their units. There are six infantry sprues, each with six Musketiere and one Jäger.

The command sprue.

The command sprue.

All are in marching poses, with the exception of the Jäger who are at trail arms advance. All minis come with separate heads and backpacks. The Musketeers have their arms moulded on, while the Jäger and command minis have separate right arms (both arms for the drummer). Do not be surprised that the Jäger is missing his left hand – it is attached to his sword, which is part of the backpack. There is enough variation in the poses of the marching minis to make them look diverse.

On the command sprue all the parts add up and there are no extra parts (with the exception of an ammo pouch, which can be attached the NCO’s front if people want. The infantry sprue contains an extra ammo pouch as well (for the Jäger this time) and nine heads. Seven are in covered shakos, one with a peaked cap and one with a forage cap. Otherwise there are no extra parts on these sprues either.

Also included is a two page A5 sheet with sample drawings of how the minis should be painted, historic uniform information and 3 flags. The historic information is quite good, especially since it explains how the colour coding worked for the region of origin, seniority and sword knots, something that drove me mad when I began looking at Napoleonic Prussians. Since the sheet is printed on heavy and semi glossy paper and I would advise you to photocopy the flags for use. The flags are nice and have a good contrast, although I would still prefer after market flags since the detail is not the best in my opinion. The one thing that is strange here is the choice of flags. You get the Leib- and Ordinarflagge for the 7th Infantry Regiment and the Ordinarflagge of the 10th. But it is still nice for something you get as an extra.

As with any Perry plastics set you get a sprue with bases.

Page 1 of the included information sheet.

Page 1 of the included information sheet.

Price (as in June 2011)
As mentioned the Perry sets contains 46 minis. They retail for GBP18, which means a price per minis of 39p (cost of bases not taken into the calculation). This puts them on the cheaper end of plastics. By comparison Warlord charge GBP17 for their 30 Landwehr, which means a price per minis of 56p. How does this compare to metals? If you only compare them to the manufacturers that offer Prussians – Calpe minis are GBP1.10 per mini and Foundry are GBP1.50 per mini. So all in all, these are the cheapest solution out there. But how good are they?

The minis are very crisp and clear in detail. But as with most plastic minis, they are not quite yet up to the level of detail of metal minis (yet). Now this level of detail applies to the whole of the mini. As opposed to Warlord, the Twins were wise enough to make these multipart (on a minimal level – see above). Due to this, you do not get the flat areas required to remove them from the mould. The only place where you get a flat area, is along the line where the rolled up greatcoat meets the backpack on some minis, but this is it. On the other hand, parts are so few, that even those who have no modelling skills at all, should not be too challenged. The only exception here being the greatcoat. There is a gap(at least on those minis I test fitted) where the greatcoat-half cast onto the backpack meets its counterpart from the minis body. This will require some filling to look good.

Mould lines are minimal, and they always run over the easily accessible sides of the minis. The poses are fairly dynamic for marching poses.

An example of the main figure sprue.

An example of the main figure sprue.

The one thing I would like to comment on is the faces. When they first showed pictures of this set the Twins said that they wanted the faces to look Germanic. Which made me afraid they would look like the drawings on some Nazi propaganda posters – which they do not. In my humble opinion they look like any face you might see on a street in Germany as well as the UK. Which is fine by me. If there is one thing, it is that the faces look lean, which I think fits in fine with the economic situation that Prussia had in the late Napoleonic period.

In general terms they fit in well with the other 25mm miniatures for the Napoleonic period on the market. So can these be mixed in the same unit or even the same base?

When compared to Foundry (again since I have no Foundry Prussians, I compared them with their Russians and Bavarians) they are a little taller with their bases being thicker as well. So you would have to slip a piece of card between the Foundry minis and base to mix these. The heft is similar on both, as are the proportions. The style of sculpting is the same. All of this does not come as much of a surprise, since a good part of the Foundry Napoleonic range was sculpted by the Perrys, although you can see the advances in the sculpting skills. So they go fine together.

Next up are the Warlord minis. They are both as tall, bases have about the same thickness. The Perrys are noticeably slimmer. When it comes to the level of detail, the Warlord plastics are inferior to the Perrys, their metal minis are closer. The sculpting style is different, too. This is taken to the extreme with the metal minis, since they have this cartoonish look that Warlord seems to favour lately. Personally I would not mix these within a unit, but then again you do not have to since Warlord and the Perrys have decided not to interfere with each others share of the Prussian army.

Last but not least are Calpe. The Calpe minis are slightly shorter (less then 1mm) than the Perrys, but their bases are slightly thicker so they both end up being the same height. The Perrys are a little leaner and have slightly smaller heads. The style of sculpting is a vastly similar, as is the level of detail. The Calpe minis offer a little more definition, which is partly due to them being cast in metal. I would have no trouble mixing them in one unit.

Page 2 of the included information sheet.

Page 2 of the included information sheet.

I could make this rather short. The only mood point I find with this unit is that I would have loved just normal troops in skirmishing poses instead of the Freiwilligen Jäger in this box (much like they did with their French box set). Or alternatively a lower ratio of Jäger in the box with at least two different poses, like they did with the Riflemen in the British box, since I think the set up right now will leave me with more Jäger than I will need all in the same pose. But that is my personal taste.

Other then that all I can say is that they are real good miniatures and offer a great value for money… period. So for most people all it comes down to is the question of “do you like plastics or metal?”.

The one thing that concerns me is the future. And you may ask “why is that?”. Now if you look at the Perrys website you will see that even a lot of the older ranges have gaps in them or that there are only limited poses for the artillery. I had to find that out recently myself. And honestly – I do not expect things to get much better, since they have announced other ranges like Napoleonic Russians and Austrians as well to take up their attention (plus they seem to sculpt more for Games Workshop again). So I am afraid that their Prussians will not be the exception to the rule. The fact that they have split the Prussians between them and Warlord does not make things better, especially when you look at the quality of the Warlords offering. So right now I would say that these are a good set in its own right, but the range as a whole is a different matter.

My thanks go to Burkhard for another thorough and informative review – all the more remarkable given that English isn’t Burkhard’s first language. I’d struggle to write such a review in German.

Posted in Guest Contributions | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

Review: Warlord plastic Prussians by Burkhard

Posted by Martin on November 17, 2010

Given that my opinions of the Warloard Games plastic Prussians have bee nrather trenchant, I was delighted to receive an offer of a second opinion. So here’s the latest in our occasional series of gues reviews. All the way from Castrop-Rauxel in Germany, please welcome Burkhard who writes…

Most wargamers are split between those who like plastics and those who like metals. The former argue things like price, detail and the ease of conversions as reasons for buying plastics. The later say they do not like them for the lack of weight and detail or diversity. I think I fall somewhere I between, as long as the minis are good. So I bought myself a box of Warlords new plastic Prussian Landwehr to see how good they are and when they arrived offered Martin to write a review for him. So lets get going.

The contents of the box.

The contents of the box.

Contents of the box
With the Warlord set you get a total of 30 minis. 27 of them are plastic militia and 3 are a metal command (officer, standard and drummer), all in marching poses. The first thing that fell on the table when I opened the box was the bag with the metal command. This contained two surprises. First off you get a sharpened brass rod as a staff for the flag and metal finial with tassels, which are a nice ideas, since most companies either provide nothing or soft pewter staffs. The second surprise was the officer. My box did not contain the officer with the shouldered sword depicted on the box, but rather the one pointing his sword and shouting commands that is available with their metal command pack. I was happy with that, since I like that pose better, but people should be aware, that there seems to be variation in the metal contents.

The metal command figures.

The metal command figures.

The biggest surprise was the plastics though. The 27 men are spread out over 9 sprues, with the same 3 minis each. The first soldier is clean shaved with backpack. The second soldier has a moustache, backpack and bedroll and the third a full beard and backpack. Each sprue also contains two separate swords. I found this very annoying, since out of a box with 30 minis this gives you very little variety and in my opinion a cookie cutter look. Given that most people multibase their minis in fours or sixes, this means you will always have doubles on one base and it will be hard to break that up with different colour of hair or trousers.

Something else to be noted is that the first and third mini have tattered trousers. I see this as artistic license to underline the fact that the Landwehr were not the best equipped. I personally found the 1:2 ratio a big strong though, since I would imagine, that more men knew how to sew and would try to patch those up.

Also included is a 4 page A5 sheet with some photos of painted minis, very basic historic information on the Landwehr, and 11 flags. Since the sheet is printed on heavy and glossy paper one would need to photocopy the flags for use. The flags are nice although the contrast seems a little low for those flags that are gold on white and the shadows on the flags that contain black are so strong that the white writing and designs on them are hard to make out. All in all the sheet makes for a nice addition.

A glossy leaflet is included in the box.

A glossy leaflet is included in the box.

Price (as in Nov. 2010)
As mentioned the Warlord sets contains 30 minis. They retail for £17 (UK), which means a price per minis of 56p (UK). This puts them on the expensive end of plastics (although the 3 metal minis in there blur the equation somewhat). For example the Perry British end up at 42p (UK) and their French even as little as 36p (UK) and those boxes include bases. Victrix sell for 38p (UK) per mini for their older sets and 33p (UK) for their new sets.

But they are still cheaper then metals. If you only compare them to the manufacturers that offer Prussians… Calpe minis are £1 (UK) per mini and Foundry are £1.37 (UK) per mini. So in the end they are more expensive then other plastics but still cheaper than metals.

I am going to sub-divide this into the metal and the plastic minis.

The metal minis are very crisp and clear in detail. Mould lines are minimal, although both the drummer and standard have one running over the eye socket in the faces, which could prove hard to clean. There are no casting imperfections to be found and only the drummer contains some flash. All in all these are nice energetic poses.

Now on to the plastics. There is no obvious scale creep between them and the metal contents of the box although the heads on the plastics are slightly larger and they look a little better fed. As with any plastics there are no casting imperfections or flash and just the usual light mould lines. The frontal detail is good although not as crisp as with the metals. The cross belts and especially the buttons make a softer transition into the coat. The hands, while the same size as on the metals, are very rounded and lack definition, which makes them look large. The back of the minis has good detail as well, but the definition deteriorates. This is due to the process of plastic castings. Moulds for plastic minis are cut from steel and are therefore not flexible. This means there can either be no cavities on the mini along the moulds pull-axis or you have to go for more parts. Warlord went for single piece castings and therefore the former.

Examples of the plastic figures.

Examples of the plastic figures.

Like any other company that has released historical 25-28mm miniatures for wargaming over the past three years, they had customers complaining about the hassle of assembly and have said that this was the reason for single piece castings. Unfortunately this means there are no recesses between the backpack and the back as well as shoulders, the small items like haversack, cartridge box, tin pot and the rest of the minis or where the muskets meet the bodies. This results in a general lack of definition and definitely impairs the looks of the minis. So to sum these up… the front of the plastics is good, the back is not. The poses themselves do not look too energetic. On all three of them, the feet are still in the space right underneath the mini, giving the impression that they are rather at a slow stroll then a real march. This is also emphasised by the very compact pose of the upper body, with the arms always touching the body.

There was one thing I found funny though. As I mentioned, Warlord decided to go for single piece castings since people found the assembly of multi part plastics too complicated. And they provide a brass rod and finial for the standard. But the upper hand of the standard bearer has no hole and needs to be drilled through. Same applies to the finial which needs to be drilled a little deeper to take the brass rod and a slit on the back of it which needs to be filled. I have serious doubts that people who had problems with the assembly of plastic minis will have the skill or even tools to do either of this.

Size wise these minis are well in league with the 25mm miniatures for the Napoleonic period produced by the other mayor companies. Obviously the real test comes if you want to mix them in one unit or even on one base. When compared to Foundry* they are a little taller, which will be enhanced by the fact that their bases are thicker as well. The heft is similar on both, but the heads on the Foundry minis are slightly larger. The style of sculpting is vastly similar. So one would only need to slip a card under the Foundry minis when basing them together and they would not stand out too much.

They are even closer when compared to Calpe. Both minis and bases have the same height. The Warlords appear a little leaner due to the fact that the Calpe minis have more folds in their coats. In this case the Warlords have slightly bigger heads. Again the style of sculpting is a vastly similar, although the Calpe minis have more detail. In the end you could base these together without trouble.

In the end the box of Warlord Landwehr is a mixed bag for me. The metal minis are really nice and I like those. Unfortunately this is off-set by the plastics. The lack of detail on the backs is definitely dragging their quality down. I can understand the argument that many people do not like a huge assembly process on their minis, but I feel that the one piece castings have taken this one step too far. If you look at the Perry plastic French which are in a march pose as well… those minis are far superior in detail just by being two part (miniature and backpack).

The biggest problem in my opinion is the lack of diversity. Three different poses from a set of 27 plastics is simply too few, especially if you want to use these to beef up numbers cheaply. I feel this is impossible here. The lack of diversity makes them inappropriate to use in numbers unless you want your units to look like you purchased them in the 1980´s when two or three different sculpts per pose was all that a manufacturer could offer you. So I would mix them into marching regiments from other manufacturers, but not in great numbers.

The quality is generally acceptable, but when you take the price into the equation it is a little poor. After all you can get plastic minis that have the quality of metal for almost half the price or metal minis for less then double the price.

So in the end I would say if you want or need to watch your budget, buy a box or two to mix them in a few minis at a time into your metal regiments. Otherwise, just stick with the metal that is already on the market.

*Since I have no Foundry Prussians I compared them with their Russians and Bavarians.

Wow! What an in-depth and well written review, and from somebody for whom English in a second language. Bravo Burkhard and thank you for all the effort you put into this.

Posted in Guest Contributions | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

GMB Saxon infantry flags

Posted by Martin on September 28, 2009

GMB 1811-issue flags for the Prinz Maximilian regiment (B&W image)

GMB 1811-issue flags for the Prinz Maximilian regiment (B&W image)

I’ve had my samples of the new 28mm Saxon line infantry flags from GMB since July and my orignal plan was to couple a review of them with some detailed historical background information. Two things threw a spanner in the works. The first was the inevitable intrusion of real life in the form of the Summer holidays; the second was a realization that the history of these flags from 1811 onwards is complex and obscure.

So I’m only going to tackle the easy, undisputed bit of the history of these flags in this posting: in 1807, King Friedrich Augustus ordered new flags for his line infantry regiments. It wasn’t however, until 16th July 1811 that he was able to formally present these new colours to the line infantry regiments in a ceremony at Muhlberg. Following re-organization of the army, each of the eight regiments of line infantry comprised two battalions of musketeers and two companies of grenadiers. A flag was presented to each of the 16 battalions of musketeers. The first battalion of each regiment received an Leibfahne (white background); the second battalion of each regiment received an Ordinarfahne (background in regimental facing colour).

If it wasn’t for the 1812 campaign in Russia, then the story of these flags would have probably remained quite simple. However, by the time the remnants of the Saxon army limped home, according to most sources, ten of the 16 flags had been lost. Piecing together which ones, where they were lost, what happened to them and, crucially, whether and how they were replaced in time for the 1813 campaign is where the complexities lie.

Now Peter F. and I are (with the help of several kind correspondents) slowly researching these questions and we hope to soon have access to several of the most reputable sources on the subject. In the meantime, Grahame’s first batch of flags cover those issued in 1811, so it seems suitable to press on with a short review of them here.

Above you can see a picture (converted to black and white to avoid naughty people exploiting Grahame’s hard work) of Pack SA5 which includes both the Leibfahne and the Ordinarfahne for the Prinz Maximilian regiment. The other packs cover 1811-issue flags the other seven line infantry regiments and there’s a gap in the numbering sequence which I presume is for the Lieb Grenadiers. In due course, I think Grahame hopes to make more flags to cover those issued to regiments that lost theirs in Russia.

The regimental facing colours were red, blue, green and yellow and interpretation of the precise shade is open to some conjecture in each case. For example, Grahame has chosen a darker mustardy yellow for the Prinz Maximilian regiment whereas, given the choice, I would have opted for a paler shade. That’s based on having sight of plates from Hottenroth’s 1910 book Geschichte der sächsischen Fahnen und Standarten (more of which on another occasion). But that’s a minor quibble and a personal preference.

There is, though, one historical error common to all the flags in this batch: the reverse and obverse of the flags are swapped the wrong way round. To be fair to Grahame, this is something he knows about and I know he’s been doing some soul searching about whether he should correct it. On the one hand, he’s as much a seeker of historical accuracy as Peter F.; on the other hand, he was a little worried about having to deal with customers who believe widely available English language sources that have perpetuated this error. I’m sure Grahame will read this and let me know which route he intends to follow. Plus, chances are that few people who look at your Saxon battalions won’t be knowledgeable enough to spot the mistake. Just don’t invite Peter F, Grahame or me to inspect your troops 🙂

Even German sources vary about some of the smaller precise details of the flags and the only way to be sure would be to be able to inspect the originals (where they still exist). So Grahame has had to make choices about which sources to follow – a tough decision because these are peculiarly detailed flags with many file details and variations. All of which also calls for a high level of draftsmanship and that’s where Grahame really excels. As usual with his products, the amount of detail that he packs into an area less than 30mm by 30mm is astounding.

So, overall then, Grahame’s produced a set of flags that uphold GMB’s reputation for making the best 28mm Napoleonic wargames flags on the market. And, barring minor issues, he’s achieved this while having to wrestle not only with the complexity of the design of these flags but the obscurity of historically accurate data.

Posted in Forward Patrol, Saxon Musketeers | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Andrea Miniatures white paint set

Posted by Martin on May 27, 2009

Andrea Miniatures white paint set

Andrea Miniatures white paint set

I decided to take up Harry the Elder’s suggestion to try Andrea Miniatures for my white palette. Specifically he suggested their set of six white paints. Originally, I had hoped to be able to buy them at Partizan last weekend but nobody was selling them (at least as far as I could see). So I did a bit of online research and ordered a set from Historex Agents.

I have to commend the customer service from Historex – an e-mail acknowledgement of receipt of my order was followed by another e-mail yesterday afternoon to tell me that the order had been dispatched. And the package arrived at my work address (much more convenient than delivery to my home address) this morning. Needless to say I spent the rest of the working day sniffing the paint bottles and itching to get home to try them.

The set comes in a neat little box and comprises six (did I say that already?) little 17ml dropper bottles (similar to the Vallejo ones) of paint. There’s a base colour (which I’d call a pale umber if I was confident I knew what umber looked like), two shadow colours that move towards grey and three highlight colours, the lightest of which is pure white. Five of these six colours, as far as I can tell, are not available as part of the Andrea range of paints sold individually (the exception being the pure white).

Now six layers of colour is overkill on a 28mm figure, even for me! So I lined them up on the table and tried to narrow it down to four while I made a cup of tea. The second shadow and the third highlight (i.e. the white) were obvious bookend choices and I settled on the first shadow and the second highlight to go in between them. Then it was down to painting, albeit just a tiny area of a Saxon coat. So these are very much first impressions and I’ll be able to provide more accurate comments once I’ve used the paints more extensively.

Firstly, I often have to give a new bottle of Vallejo paint a stern shake to reintegrate the pigment with the carrier. With these Andrea paints, there was little or no evidence of separation but I did give them a quick shake just in case. The consistency (and smell and taste) is very similar to Vallejo acrylics. Having said that, some Vallejos go chalky once you get them out on the palette, dilute them to painting consistency and begin brushwork. This is a problem that I often experience with Vallejo white so I was keen to assess reports I’d heard of the smoothness of the Andrea white. And, yes, it’s very good. Moreover, all four shades that I tried demonstrated consistency of consistency, if you see what I mean. That sort of thing is important to me because it means I can confidently predict how the paint will thin down and behave when I work with it.

Coverage seems to be good, though I did over-thin a couple of the colours tonight so I’ll have to check that more thoroughly in a lengthier painting session at the weekend. Drying time feels about the same as the Vallejos and all four shades dried nice and matt (one of the things I dislike about the Foundry paints is that they dry with a sheen and feel plasticky – almost like working with Dulux Vinyl Silk rather than a matt acrylic).

Overall, then, a very promising initial outing and, fingers crossed, I appear to have solved my white palette problem. Given that I made successful adjustments to my light blue and green palettes earlier this week, it’s about to be all systems go for painting my first Saxon battalion. And I know one figure scupltor / painter who’ll be smiling at the fact that this Andrea white paint set has more than a hint of umber to it.

I’ll post some photos of applied paint in due course but, in the meantime, it’s worth noting that Andrea do several other six-paint sets for black, flesh, red and blue.

Posted in Paint and Equipment | Tagged: , , | 16 Comments »