Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Victrix’

All talk and no pictures

Posted by Martin on April 22, 2012

Phew – what a day! Yesterday was one of the busiest I’ve ever had at a Salute even though it didn’t follow the path I expected. Things began very smoothly with a peaceful and punctual train journey from the secret BfK HQ in the heart of Wiltshire to London Paddington. And that was followed by a quiet and uneventful journey across London by Tube and Docklands Light Railway – perhaps too quiet. I normally expect to encounter other hobbyists on their way to Salute as I get closer to ExCel and I sometimes pass the time by trying to guess if the people on the other seats are going my way. Yesterday, though, there was hardly a rucksack, beard or ponytail (male) in sight 🙂

So I got a shock when I entered ExCel’s doors and made my way down the wide boulevard that bisects the exhibition halls. The queue was immense. It’s clear that everybody else had made a much earlier start than me. I have never seen the queue so long and it continued to grow even after the stewards had started letting people into the hall. So much for economic hard times – I hope all the traders had a good day! Peter F’s comment on the length of the queue was to wistfully muse that if only he could sell just one figure to each person there!

I stuck with the queue for about 15 minutes before I spotted Peter F. along with our friends from overseas: Peter Bunde (Germany), Buddy Hoch (USA), Paul Meganck (Belgium) quietly seated with coffee while waiting for the crush to abate. So I bailed out of the queue to wait with them and take the opportunity to put the next stage of my carefully crafted Salute plan into action. I’ve recently acquired an Android tablet and I was intending to connect up to the ExCel free wifi network as a means of posting to BfK as the day unfolded. The tablet includes a basic camera, so I would have been able to add pictures as a I went along too.

The good news is that there is indeed a free wifi network in the main boulevard (but not in the exhibition halls) and I was able to connect to it. What I’d overlooked is that Internet access beyond the wifi network is restricted and I needed a username and password. By this time, we were all too busy catching up on each others’ news and I didn’t really have the motivation to go off looking for some information point where I might have been able to get help with full Internet access. Still, at least I know what to expect next year!

Meeting and chatting turned out to be the theme of the day, so I didn’t get too much time to look at all the traders and games. Looking at other fora this morning, it’s clear that other people have done a much more thorough job of those sorts of things than me. So I’m going to focus the rest of this report on some personal observations.

Firstly, let’s get the news from Calpe Towers dealt with. Peter F. has completed the last couple of packs for the French infantry route-march set. The main item here the “cherry on the icing” pack which includes a casualty figure, two “enthusiastic” figures and a voltigeur cornetist. Next Peter will be adding a couple of light infantry command packs so that you can build legere units using most of the same figures. All the figures in greatcoats that have already been released can be used for legere as well as line infantry. However, the current officer figures are unsuitable because of detailed uniform differences like the profile of the cuffs. After that, work begins on the march-attack set which I know will be popular with several regular readers here who are desperate to have standard bearer figures with unfurled flags. Peter has already sculpted an eagle in readiness boys!

Possibly the biggest news (and, by the sound of the reactions I’ve seen and heard, the most disappointing for many) was the unveiling of the new period that the Perry twins are targetting. There were “3-up” greens on their stand of Afrika Korps and Eighth Army figures. From my point of view, these figures are sculpted to the usual high standards for the Perrys plastics work but, of course, it’s a period that doesn’t tempt me. And, judging by what I’ve heard, it may not tempt too many others in 28mm. Mainly, I think, because most observers see the North African campaign as better suited to smaller scales.

The other plastic and scale-related item that stuck out for me was the simply beautiful 54mm demonstration game put on by Victrix using their own figures. The figures themselves were well-painted, you can see a definite progression in the quality of figure design and sculpting in the more recent boxes (notably the French line grenadiers) and the buildings on the table were terrific. I’d love to know if they were scratch-built or not. However, the item that really grabbed our attention was the single French artillery gun crewed by five figures. The figures stood out for their natural poses and accurately reproduced campaign uniforms. When we asked about them at the Victrix stand, it transpired that this base had been put together from parts and figures from another plastics manufacturer but Victrix do have plans for 54mm French artillery. I’d love to know who’s figures they used – perhaps they were old Historex ones or maybe there are some buried away in the Andrea range. Either way, though, 54mm scale isn’t really practical for big battalions. Instead, I can see the figures being used for skirmish games or as display case models.

I can’t complete this round of plastic figure stands without a mention for the Warlord Games stand. You’ll recall that their figures – particularly their Prussian Landwehr – have come in for short shrift on this blog. And rightly so: these figures are poorly researched, inaccurately portrayed and clumsily sculpted. However, here too, I detect signs of improvement. The Warlord Games Russian figures are a step in the right direction and they’re now working on French. Also, yesterday was the first opportunity I’ve had to see some of their prone Prussian Landwehr casualty figures painted, based and in the display case. I still see lots of weaknesses (the huge hands make me judder) but whoever they’ve got doing their painting is making the very best of his raw material. If I were Warlord Games, I’d make sure of continuing to use that painter!

One slightly tongue-in-cheek parting shot for Warlord Games though: I’d recommend a bit more sanity checking of figure poses and a quiet word with your designer. The Russian command pack includes an er… “interestingly” posed drummmer. He’s drumming with one hand while using the other hand to hold his kiwer tucked under his arm. Now, people, just try doing that yourselves for a few moment and see how you get on. I know it might seem like a picturesque pose for a command vignette but it just isn’t humanly feasible.

As usual, we bumped into many friends from across the country and beyond. It was a pleasure to see Barry Hilton hosting the Wargames Illustrated Crimean War game. The terrain for this games was superbly put together by Dave Bodley, the chap who runs Grand Manner Buildings. I always like to see terrain that gets away from the flat topology of the tabletop to the contours of the real world. A lovely job which you can expect to see featured heavily in an imminent edition of Wargames Illustrated.

I also popped by David Imrie and Andrew Taylor’s Romans vs Celts demo game. They looked really busy with interested viewers so I didn’t get time to chat but I admired the very high quality of the figure painting and was reminded how small can be beautiful. The terrain would have comfortably fitted into many a living room and the number of figures, mostly individually based, required for an absorbing evening’s gaming wasn’t too prohibitive. I’m always going to be a fan of “big battalions” for Napoleonics but this game did set me wondering about a small skirmish side-project. Maybe I’ll have to look at those Sharp Practice rules…

Finally, a few words about shopping. Given the length of the queue, I strongly suspect that many traders are feeling the warm afterglow of financial success. And that’s absolutely fine by me. It’s just that two of the things I was hoping to be able to buy on the day eluded me. Once again, I couldn’t find a single trader that stocked Andrea paints. Now I know I can buy them online but there’s nothing like shaking the bottles and holding them up to the light before you part with you cash. Secondly, much as I like Litko laser-cut bases, I was hoping to find a UK retailer that would be cheaper and quicker to deal with. Maybe my standards are too exacting: ideally I want 1.5 mm or 2mm thick plywood, laser-cut and I want particular dimensions. Warbases was the closest I came: their bases are 2mm thick but I’d have to specially order the sizes I want and they specialise in MDF. Now, before you all start suggesting suppliers (oh, go on then), I just want to point out that I do already have a lead – apparently Fenris Games does 1.5mm thick lasercut plywood bases.

So that’s it for another year – I seem to have been so busy on the day that I didn’t even give the painting competition more than a cursory glance. If you know where I can see photos of the entries and winners, let me know.

Posted in Calpe Towers, Clubs and Shows, Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Another Toby-vision session

Posted by Martin on November 11, 2010

There was a favourable response to the first of Toby’s painting videos that I shared here, so here’s the latest one which you may find of interest. This time, Toby applies his masterly brush to a Victrix plastic British foot artilleryman:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As with the last video, there are a number of points worthy of note. Some of the paint choices are interesting, especially the use of a Vallejo Air range metallic paint with a brush – I’d never thought of doing that before. Toby also gives a quick demo of the consistency to which he dilutes paint and he also shares a couple of his custom home-made mixes for blues and very light greys. Plus, as a bonus prize at the end, Toby shares some of his triads for painting horses. There’s a more complete list of the triads he uses on his blog.

Posted in Paint and Equipment, Tutorials | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Late report from Salute 2009

Posted by Martin on March 31, 2009

Firstly, an apology or two. I imagine that several of you were expecting a fairly immediate report from Salute 2009 over the weekend. That would have happened if it weren’t for the onset of a nasty little throat infection.

Also, the Twitter experiment from Salute didn’t quite go as anticipated. To be honest, in many ways the experiment worked – the technology was fine, the updates appeared in a timely fashion and it was easy enough to set up. The fatal flaw that I failed to foresee was that I’d actually be too interested in what I was seeing and doing to remember to tweet. I think things finally went silent just before lunchtime when we’d made arrangements to meet up with Bill Gaskin. So, in a way, that’s actually a glowing endorsement of this year’s Salute.

There certainly was a mighty amount to see and do this year and it would be easy spend time here describing the many potential distractions like the excellent Two Fat Lardies WW1 game, the H P Lovecraft-inspiried Innsmouth game and the extremely large scale radio-controlled tanks. However, the forums and websites are already packed with that sort of general show report. So, instead, I’ll stick to BfK core topics. Even within that it’s hard to know where to start…

Victrix French defend the ridge on Barry Hilton's demo game

Victrix French defend the ridge on Barry Hilton's demo game

I suppose 28mm plastics is as good a place as any. Both Perry and Victrix had stands and their products were also widely available on other peoples’ stands. I don’t think anybody who wanted to buy a Perry/Victrix British/French box would have gone home disappointed unless they’d resisted temptation until the end of the day. I took time to study the sprues from both manufacturers and they both look pretty good to me. Plenty has already been written about them elsewhere but I think I’ll add my vote to some widely expressed views:

  • The Victrix boxes seem to have a wider variety of poses. Good if you want to do a diorama but a pain if you’re constructing wargames units. The latter is where the Perry marching French and firing line British boxes score – you only need one box to do a unit (well, and a couple of blisters of metal figures if you want to add more officers or casualties etc).
  • The Victrix faces are more charicatures than the Perry ones. That’ll suit some people but not others. You pay your money, you take your choice!
  • Specifically for the French: the Victrix are in pre-Bardin uniforms and the Perrys are in Bardin uniforms.
  • Specifically for the British: Victrix do different boxes for the Peninsular and One Hundred Days campaigns while the Perrys have designed one box to cope with both variants.
  • Both manufacturers include plenty of spare heads. So if you’re into conversions, there’s hours of fun to be had!

I’ve come away from Salute with a box of the Perry French plastics. Not because I’m about to start painting up French units (too much to do with Prussians and Saxons already) but rather because I intend nefarious butchery using elements of the box. These Perry French are in many ways an improvement on their metal French. I suspect that the time and effort required to create the “three-up” masters has lead Alan and Michael to take their time to get things right. I’ve always felt that many of the metal packs seemed a bit rushed. The proportions of the figures are superb and size-wise and style-wise they’re going to be an excellent fit with the imminent Calpe Saxons. Indeed, we spent a lot of time with Alan Perry at his Quatre Bras demo game playing “spot the plastic unit”. There are some slight differences on the right arms of some figures but the only real give-away is that the plastic bayonets are shorter and finer than on the metal figures.

The heads and shakos on the Perry plastics are almost indentical in size to the ones on the Calpe Saxons. So, with judicious choice and careful cutting, there’s great conversion potential to expand the variety of the Calpe figures to create truly unique battalions. I’ll have to be careful though – French-style pokalems weren’t worn by the Saxons. That still leaves plenty of covered shako, bareheaded and damaged shako options as well as drums and backpacks to strew about on bases. The lone officer in the box (pity there aren’t more) wears a surtout and that gives me an ideal prototype on which to practice decapitation and to trial potential colours for the distinctive light blue surtouts worn by Saxon officers.

It’ll also give me the opportunity to demonstrate a painting technique for von Peter’s young ADC Simon. He’s not keen on painting the piping on his French and got relentlessly teased by his father and I. It even got to the stage where both Peter F. and Alan Perry joined in to insist that if they’d taken the trouble to scupt it on to the figures, the least he could do would be to attempt to paint it! A young gamer can’t get advice from any better sources, don’t you think?

Dutch-Belgian command in the Perry's Quatre Bras demo game

Dutch-Belgian command in the Perry's Quatre Bras demo game

And that’s an ideal moment to move on to the Napoleonic demo games. One of the two big 28mm draws was the Perrys’ Quatre Bras game which served as meeting point, gossiping area with Alan Perry and general eye-candy oggling opportunity. According the Alan, there were about 20 battalions on each side and the cuiraissiers never even made it on to the table! Seeing games like this and having the memory of them is what keeps me going with the paintbrush during those long evenings. The terrain was also a talking point with several boards sporting the twists and turns of a well-realised river through the middle of the battlefield. Finally, Alan was using a work-in-progress copy of the Black Powder rules due to be published later in the year by Warlord Games. So it looks like 1:20 ratio Napoleonics gamers will be spoilt for choice when it comes to rulesets.

The other seductive 28mm Napoleonic game was Barry Hilton’s Peninsular demo/participation game. Although set in a different theatre, the parallels with the Perrys’ game were startling: more plastics (this time Victrix), more amazing terrrain (plus a nicely painted backdrop) and more rules to look at (this time being the quick-play rules Barry has written to accompany the Victrix boxes). Conversation with Barry revealed that these rules complement his bigger Republic to Empire rules rather than compete with them. Some ideas from the bigger ruleset have been used to create a “lite” quick and easy to play version.

I somehow missed the 28mm retreat from Moscow game that was mentioned on the Salute website – perhaps it was a late withdrawl? If anybody knows it’s fate, I’d be interested to know. That left two 6mm games – each choosing the 1809 campaign as inspiration. One did Aspern-Essling and the other did Wagram. It left me wondering if each group knew of the other’s plans and if they’d swapped notes beforehand or on the day itself. From a distance, the 6mm games to have an appeal but I can’t bring myself to love this scale. I’m sure some people will regard this as heresy, but once you get to a scale this small, I don’t see the point in figure painting. Why not simply have coloured wooden blocks to represent the units and accept the fact that you’re playing a glorifed version of Kriegspiel?

Apart from the games, there we several other items on my hitlist – some of which seemed doomed to failure. For example, I couldn’t find a single trader selling Sliflor grass tufts and I never located the chap who runs Dom’s Decals to quiz him about the art of making white decals. However, Peter F. and I did spend a while at the TA Miniatures stand. These are the people who the Perrys commission to make their artillery equipment for them nowadays. They certainly produce good work and the new Perry French 12-pounder is a fine example of their output.

As ever, I took a couple of tours past the painting competition. Bill Gaskin had entered a lovely unit of Spanish lancers as well as some Polish musicians which he later told me he’d accidentally entered in the wrong category. Apart from that, I don’t think this year’s competition really got my juices going; quite possibly because every time I tried to look, there was a pushy crowd around the display cases. I didn’t care for that, I’m afraid. I also had a successful appointment with Offensive Miniatures to look at their new Napoleonic figures and discuss running a small competition in association with them here on BfK. So look out for details of that in the next week or two.

Overall, then, despite some failed shopping opportunities, I rate this as the most enjoyable Salute since the move to Excel from Earl’s Court. There was more here for Napoleonic enthusiasts than there has been in a long time but the clincher for me is that I’ve been reminded that these big annual wargames shows as as much about the people as the games and traders. Where else could I have chatted and shared a cuppa with the likes of Peter F, Alan Perry, Barry Hilton, Bill Gaskin et al all in one day? Not to mention having the pleasure of seeing a couple of New Zealanders enjoy their first ever big wargames show? And I know plenty of other people I kind-of know were there on the day – it just wasn’t long enough to catch up with everybody!

Posted in Clubs and Shows, Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Let the countdown begin

Posted by Martin on February 19, 2009

Salute 2009 is on Saturday 28th March and my advance booked train tickets for the journey up to London arrived in the post yesterday. As I think I said around this time last year, you can get some genuine VFM by booking train tickets in advance as long as you’re prepared to commit to travelling on specific trains. The other tip is that two singles are often cheaper than one return for these sorts of advance bookings.

This year, I won’t be travelling up to town alone. Kiwi “Von Peter” and his family have come to stay in the UK for about six months as a sort of family adventure and so I’ll be sharing my day trip with him and his son Simon. This’ll be a fascinating observational experience for me. Von Peter tells me they only have small wargames shows in New Zealand and this will be his first time at one of the UK’s biggest days. I’ll be watching closely to see if it lives up to Von Peter’s expectations.

I’m much more optimistic about this year’s Salute than I have been for several years – especially since the change of venue to ExCel. I’ve previously found the atmosphere at ExCel to be lacking and the need for good company to compensate for that. This year, good company aside, other factors promise to restore Salute’s excitement of yore. In particular, a run down of the display games for once offers plenty for Napoleonics fans to sink their teeth into.

The Perry Twins will have a stand again this year where I hope to inspect their Napoleonic plastics in detail for the first time. Moreover, they’ll also be putting on a Quatre Bras demo game. I think I’ll also take some time to look at the Victrix plastics for the first time too. Obviously, their range is of little direct interest to me at present, being mainly focussed on the Peninsular War but I do want to scope out the quality of their work for potential future reference.

By some sort of strange coincidence there are two 6mm scale 1809 display games – Aspern-Essling and Wagram. I’m not a fan of this scale but I will look to see if the claims for it as a way to capture the spectacle of large battles is justified. There’s a 28mm retreat from Moscow game that has the potential to be spectacular if done the right way. But, best of all, Barry Hilton will be leading the League of Augsburg on a raid South of the border to put on two (!) games: one demonstration and one participation (oi! I was in the queue first!). I’m hoping that at least one of these games will feature Barry’s new Republic to Empire ruleset so that I can get a good assessment of them in action.

Throw in all the usual opportunities to catch up on gossip, bump into people I haven’t seen for ages and oggle the entries in the painting competition and I think there’s the makings of a grand day out.

Posted in Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »