Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Posts Tagged ‘Warlord Games’

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 »

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 »

Metal extensions

Posted by Martin on November 6, 2010

Warlord metal Prussian Landwehr command pack.

Warlord metal Prussian Landwehr command pack painted by Darren Linington.

Nope, I’m not going in for cyber-surgery! Rather, this is an update on Warlord Games’ plans to supplement its recent box of plastic 28mm Prussian Landwehr infantry with some metal figures that can be purchased separately. In general, this idea of adding extra figures in metal to bolster plastic sets is a good principle and the intention was flagged by the fact that the box includes three metal command figures already (an officer, a standard bearer and a drummer).

What’s interesting is how this concept is being developed further. The first addition is a second pack of command figures. It also comprises an officer, standard bearer and drummer but they come as two castings rather than three because the standard bearer being supported by the drummer is a combined casting. I applaud the concept of this sculpt and it’s just the sort of thing that would fit in well with my dioramic approach to units. Moreover, it actually comes with a choice of officer variants – one with a shouldered sword or one shouting and pointing with his sword. However, it’s not all good news because I don’t see how these figures fit in with the march-attack poses of the plastic set. They would be a much better fit for a set of firing line figures, so maybe that’s a clue to what Warlord have planned for the future. My other criticism is with the execution of the sculpts – they really don’t cut the mustard. If you think I’m being harsh just take a look at the size of the hands.

The counter-argument to the sculpting problems with the plastics was one of price versus quality but this simply doesn’t apply to these metal figures with the £5 price of this set. In doing metal Prussians, Warlord has entered into direct competition with the gold standard – i.e. Calpe Miniatures. And frankly, they’ve lost hands down. Three Calpe Prussian Landwehr command figures will set you back £3 and the Calpe figures are far better quality in every respect: historical accuracy, sculpting and casting quality.

Warlord Prussian Landwehr casualty greens.

Warlord Prussian Landwehr casualty greens.

Nevertheless, healthy competition and variety of choice can only be good news and Warlord aren’t stopping at command figures. They’ve recently unveiled some of the greens for packs of Prussian Landwehr casualty figures and trail-arms figures with separately cast right arms. Once again, the ideas are practical, sound and to be praised. As BfK regulars know, I have a soft spot for casualty figures and trail-arms is a classic Prussian pose. Pricing and pack contents details are yet to be announced but it sounds as though the casualty pack will comprise two falling figures and two prone figures.

Just as my plus points for these figures mirror to ones I noted for the command figures, my criticisms are also in the same vein. In particuar, the falling casualty figure poses look unnatural to me – I’d even go so far as to say that there’s a certain zombie-like stiffness to them. And the hands again… Oh those hands! Taking the Hammer Horror analogy further, they make the figures look like Frankenstein’s monster.

So what do we learn from these Warlord developments? I certainly welcome that there’s more Prussian choice on the market and some of the creative imagination is great – I love the idea behind the casting of a standard bearer supported by a drummer and if there was a Calpe one of the same pose, I’d certainly include it in at least one of my units and I’m sure it would be a commission painting favourite. The other lesson from this is that the Warlord sculpting team has a way to go in quality terms. But I don’t want them to be discouraged. It takes time to get good and we’d never have any quality figures to enjoy if sculptors gave up at the first hurdle. Look at the way the Perrys Napoleonic work has developed over the years from their early Foundry work to the latest plastic French heavy cavalry.

Posted in Forward Patrol | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

More plastic Prussians

Posted by Martin on August 28, 2010

Warlord Games plastic Prussian landwehr.

Warlord Games plastic Prussian landwehr.

When the Perrys announced their new forthcoming plastic Prussian figures earlier in the week, there was a cryptic joke about how plastic Prussian ranges were like buses – you wait for ages for one to turn up and then two arrive at once. It turns out there is to be another plastic Prussian range – it’s been announced by Warlord Games who are also based in Nottingham. These facts plus the way that the Warlord announcement mentions the Perrys’ range has enouraged some people to add two and two to make a number that, in my opinion, is much bigger than four by implying that there is some mutually convenient arrangement here.

But all that is speculation. There is one area, where we can actually look at hard evidence because the Warlord website includes several photos of their new plastic Prussian Landwehr painted up. Now, the photos of the Perrys 3-up Prussian greens make it difficult to judge the quality of the figures. Yet, in photographing painted versions of their range, Warlord has made them much easier to assess without having the little chaps in my hot little hands. And, yes, the caveat that I haven’t actually seen these figures in the flesh does apply to my following comments but I don’t think I’m going out of a limb here.

Firstly, it’s plain to see that these Warlord figures are not scuplted to the same quality or anatomical accuracy as Perry plastics. Just look at the size of those hands and the lack of definition on things like the shoulderstraps, the Landwehr cross on the cap, the axe and the waterbottle if you need evidence. Secondly, there are problems with historical attention to detail. Why does the figure I’ve shown above have a rolled up blanket attached to his backpack while simultaneously wearing a blanket roll bandolier-fashion? That doesn’t make sense. And what about that backpack? It looks like a standard line infantry issue hide backpack, not the canvas variety normally carried by the Landwehr. The profile of the cap looks wrong to me, as does the collar plus there’s a button on the cuff which is atypical.

Now, given the supply difficulties faced by the Prussians, I can accept that there were variations in equipment and some number of Landwehrmen would have had items that were out of the ordinary, Plus, some of these examples are indeed shown in plates by Knötel and other expert illustrators. My issue is that all of the pictured Warlord figures seem to have the same unusual combinations of equipment.

So while I’m interested to see how the Perry plastic Prussians will compare with my beloved Calpe figures I’m already confident that I know what the outcome would be of a face-off between Calpe and Warlord Landwehr figures.

Posted in Forward Patrol | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »