Saturday, 20 April 2013

Salute 2013

Annoyingly, I forgot my camera (for the third year in a row), so no pictures of Salute from me. But, there wasn't a great deal to photograph - not many big, big games but many more small "boutique" tables (nice scenery, nice figures but not much "wow" factor). This year, I wandered around with Giles (of ) - this was good as we had a nice catch up and I restrained myself from any wild splurging on figures that were totally "off topic".

So, without further ado - my shopping bag for the day:

28mm Perry Miniatures
EA1 Unarmoured Swiss Halberdiers / Pikemen Marching
EA6 Swiss Heads
EA7 European heads

I bought the WotR boxes when they first came out at Salute two or three years ago, have since added the Mounted Men at Arms and "Mercenaries" boxes to my plastic pile and have a general "plan" to do something European - Fornovo perhaps. At the moment this is handicapped by my being rather intimidated by the figures, a lack of knowledge about the period (I've got some Ospreys but nothing in depth) and have had no thoughts on rules.

15mm AB Miniatures
HO1/2 Light Cavalry Horses Charging x4
S14/37 Spanish Light Infantry Command
S23 Spanish Artillery Crew x3
S24 Spanish Generals
IF-06/12 French Elite Company 1806/12 (Greatcoat) x4

This order follows on from my recent interest in the Spanish War of Independence (the Peninsular War to me and you), and the purchase of some figures from eBay. Several packs of the old, old BH blisters that were sold as twelve figures (with cavalry being sold as separate blisters for horses and riders) needed horses so the remount options from Fighting 15s (superb service from Ian Marsh yet again as I pre-ordered these at the very last minute - one of the last orders packed before Ian loaded his car).

15mm Xan Miniatures
NFA01 French Foot Artillerymen
NFA02 French Horse Artillerymen
NFA10 Cannon (6lb &8lber)

Empress sneaked these out just before Salute. I'm not too sure about the gun but the figures are very nice - there are six figures in each pack that look like they will make up a very nice crew. As most people use four crewmen per gun I guess you could buy two packs and three guns and have something workable at the end of it. Apparently the next thing in the pipeline is British Line Infantry - which, with my new found interest in the Peninsula, is great.

15mm Battle Honours
BSP2 Spanish Infantry Advancing
BSP3 Spanish Infantry Defending x2
BSP7 Spanish Heavy Cavalry
BSP8 Spanish Dragoons

Unfortunately some blighter had beaten me to the punch and cleaned Timecast out of BSP1 Spanish Infantry Standing / Firing. My plan is to do a review on each pack with some photos before I add them to the painting list - my first thoughts are that they are packaged really strangely (like someone threw the figures up in the air and just bagged what fell down in a random fashion). My second thought was that while the cavalry are fine sculpts they will need some work - the riders all seem to have their swords on their shoulders "at rest" while the horses are galloping...which will grate on me. If I'd known this before I went shopping for remounts I'd have done some shuffling (use the horses from the BH Spanish with my eBay purchase, and substitute a couple of bags of AB heavy horse at rest for the Spanish heavies).

15mm Old Glory
SPN3 Spanish Volunteer Infantry
SPN5 Spanish Militia

I'd read that the OG Spanish were one of their better ranges and these two packs look pretty good at first look - the volunteer infantry are in top hats and appear to have British packs, while the militia are in a mix of top hats and bicornes and seem to be wearing a smock or overcoat. Both packs are in the energetic high porte pose that OG use so much. The chap at Timecast told me none of the OG Spanish are in march attack, which is a shame.

15mm Blue Moon
15-FE-02 6lb Guns

These look pretty good on the website and just as good in the bag so I'm quite hopeful for these. My plan is to use them with the AB Spanish gun crews (AB charge £3.00 a gun, whereas the Blue Moon pack of six guns is £12.00 so I've saved a few pennies there).

My only other purchases were a copy of "The Spanish Army In the Peninsular War" by Charles Esdaile from Caliver Books (despite blanching slightly at the price), and a tin of Army Painter "Strong Tone" (I believe this tone is more brown than the dark tone so I wanted to experiment a little bit). I also bought the new Miniature Wargames magazine now edited by Henry Hyde - there were some comely young ladies around the hall selling these and it seemed rude to disappoint them. I was really pleased with this buy - MW has been, frankly, pretty rubbish for the last 20 years or so in my opinion, so I was really happy to see that Henry has produced a Battlegames reverse takeover. The style, artwork and pretty much everything else has been lifted from its previous execrable levels. I may well subscribe now.

Extremely restrained by my standards. I was sorely tempted by the Perry and Renedra American range of buildings - I've no idea what I'd do with them once built but I covet them. Apart from that, not much else grabbed me - I was tempted by Anteociti's 28mm sci-fi interior detailing sets but have nothing to use them with. I didn't buy the new Dark Age Warriors box from GB (which was on my "probable" list of purchases) but will probably get some if I see them on eBay at a good price.

So, a good fun day. Now to do some reviews of the BH and OG Spanish, and a 15mm French gun comparison between AB, BM and Xan - and show my first battalion of AB Spanish off (just waiting on flags from, appropriately enough, Spain).

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Xan Miniatures Legere

So, as a couple of people have expressed interest in these new figures I thought I'd give a brief review, along with some pictures of the Xan Miniatures next to a few of their competitors. I have to confess I've had these for some time just sitting on my desk looking at me - since I got them Empress Miniatures have become the main agent Xan Miniatures in the UK and USA ( ). Anyway, here we go...

So, just to re-affirm my position on 15/18mm Napoleonic figures (for anyone who doesn't already know it), I regard Anthony Barton as pretty much the Chosen One where sculpting is concerned. A few people manage to get in the same ballpark every so often - but in terms of consistency of output he is the daddy. So, my test of a figure is will it work with AB (either on the same table or, every once in a while) within the same unit? And, are the figures consistent enough to buy sight unseen?

Now, as you can expect, most figures fail one or both tests.

Old Glory have some nice packs within their 15mm Napoleonic ranges - unfortunately other packs are dire looking sculpts, so I'd never buy a pack sight unseen.

Minifigs don't really appeal (although they are cleanly cast, and more in proportion than many other makers out there) because of the lack of pose variation.

Battle Honours figures, many of which were sculpted by Mr Barton more than twenty years ago now, are showing their age a bit based on the examples I've seen, and were clearly sculpted by Mr Barton while he was still learning his craft - but these can work with the current AB range for obvious reasons.

Fantassin (now Warmodelling) are extremely variable in sculpting quality - you can get superb figures and monstrosities in the same pack - and are made of a really hard alloy that makes cleaning them up an awful task. I've rather given up on them for those reasons - which is a shame because they've tackled subjects that others haven't.

Blue Moon -the new kid on the block - I have only seen a four packs of these in the flesh (see my last review ) and was fairly underwhelmed - on the other hand some packs look like they may be very good from the photos I've seen. I'm rather tempted by their artillery.

Campaign Game Miniatures (CGM) - previously they concentrated on the 100 Days campaign so lots of nice figures but not many that interested me. I own a few packs and can say the figures are nicely sculpted and cleanly cast. In pictures their legs always look a bit odd to me but aren't so bad in real life - apart from that quibble I'd say they were very good. Over the last few months they have begun to add new ranges (1812 Russians and British Line Infantry suitable for the Peninsula to name but two) that have caused me to take a bit more notice - in fact I've ordered a few bags of each  to have a look.

So, for those of you too lazy to look at the last review, Xan Miniatures are sculpted by JAGomez Bautista. Now this chap used to be the sculptor for Fantassin so, given what I said about their figures above, why buy Xan Miniatures? Well, so far, Mr Bautista has exercised rather more quality control over his output - all the figures I've seen were as good as the best Fantassin figures but with none of the problems. So, cleanly cast, made in a softer alloy, the French infantry packs are a much better size (Fantassins were tiny), better proportioned and generally just a big step up in quality over his Fantassin work.

So, the picture above shows three rank and file from Xan Miniatures (NF21) alongside a painted AB French Line Infantry figure, and in the background are some Blue Moon British Infantry from the Peninsula. As you can see (hopefully) two of the figures are a tad shorter and more slightly built than the AB figure but not unduly so, and the third is a very good match. The sculpting is crisp and clean and there are plenty of details there to work with.

And here we have the same AB figure with the two Xan Carabiniers in bearskin (NF23), and two figures from the command pack (NF24) - I don't know why but Xan doesn't seem to do command packs with much elan.
And the AB figure with two of the three figures from the Carabiniers in shako pack (NF22) - these are really nice.
Finally, a pack which seems to appear on Xan Miniatures own site, but not on the Empress website - above are the six skirmishing voltigeur you get in NF28. These are probably my favourite figures from Xan Miniatures to date.

Overall, I suspect that once painted up alongside some AB Legere and based together Xan Miniatures would fit right in (which is about as high a compliment as I can give a 15mm figure). I'd rate these a solid 8 or 9 out of 10. Some of the Xan figures are possibly a bit shorter (and more slightly built) than their AB brethren but probably not enough to worry much about and other figures would fit right in.

Empress are selling them at £3.75 for a pack of eight figures (£3.50 for six command) so you can pick up rank and file for just under 47p each. Now with AB weighing in at £6.00 for eight figures (so 75p each) that is quite a saving (obviously it works out a bit cheaper to buy unit or brigade packs from AB). In summary I think these are nice figures at a competitive price - I think they'd paint into a very nice battalion, and the skirmishers are cracking figures.

Monday, 1 April 2013

18mm Spanish Army Painter Applied

Okay so two posts in one day - and this isn't an April Fool!

I brushed on the Army Painter Dark Tone as suggested in the instructions. At first, I thought I'd made a huge mistake as it basically came out as a big black puddle on the first figure but as I spread it around the figure it became more bearable. And then all of a sudden it was "wow" this actually works!

I really don't think that actually dipping the figures into the can is a great idea as you'll get way too much onto the figure and need to brush it off. And this stuff is horrendously expensive for a tin - £18.00 for 250ml - so you don't want to waste it. On the other hand of course it will do hundreds of 15mm figures - on the tin they say it will do 200 figures if you dip - so I'm assuming if you paint it on to 15mm figures you could double that. And 400 or so figures is about five years production for me.

Of course as I brushed it on a couple of things became clear to me - my assumption that this stuff covered everything was obviously bonkers and I should have done the small detail bits before slapping on the Army Painter. The other was that I missed a few bits (am I the only one who always finds he has missed the cuffs on a figure or some such?) and will need to go back and retouch. I'm not sure how this will work after I've done shading with the AP.

If you look in the background you'll see a French Line Infantryman has sneaked in - I wanted to see how a finished Frenchie would work. I'm not entirely convinced - I am convinced Army Painter improved my efforts but I don't think Dark Tone is the way to go. On the other hand, at £18 a tin I don't really want to experiment with the lighter shades and find they don't work so well.

So, right now I'm thinking perhaps just a highlight on the crossbelts and these figures might be done. I used a really bright red for their facings and the Army Painter dulled it down very nicely without killing the colour. Clearly, the system works best where the figures have plenty of folds and crevices for the liquid to gather in but even the fairly smooth areas of the Spaniards britches showed some results. 

I'm feeling pretty hyped up by this - all of a sudden those masses of Austrian infantry in the big box look a bit less daunting! Of course, first I need to bash out some more caballeros!

As usual, apologies for the poor photography! 

18mm Spanish Day 10

Okay, so the original plan was 64 Spanish infantry in seven days. This then got adjusted to 48 infantry. In seven days. Well, clearly, as I've just completed the basic painting on 19 infantry I'm clearly way short.of my target.

Day four was spent at a company sales & marketing conference - which was fine, and I got to try some of our Burgundies side by side with the competition. I almost had a "Victor Meldrew" moment when a couple of our Marketing "luvvies" started prattling on about "what great value" a couple of our wines are - I understand perfectly what they meant but the wines concerned were £40 and £50 in the shops. I mean they are very nice but "value for money" to me isn't £40 a bottle. Predictably I drank responsibly until about 10 in the evening, and then irresponsibly for the rest of the evening, so the evening of Day Five was spent playing with Archie (a fourteen month old Westie) and sleeping.

Day Six was spent visiting a customer who wanted to moan about internet wine merchants; like I can help when they are prepared to supply on really narrow margins? Any visit to this customer involves "sampling" one or two wines - his definition of "sampling" is open the bottle and finish it. All I can do on these evenings is gamely work away at my glass and hope that some customers come in (they all generally get offered a sample) to take some of the load off. Of course it is churlish to complain when the two of us are "sampling" a good Brunello or some such that costs fifty or sixty quid in the store.

Anyway I probably spent all of about an hour a day over the last few days blocking in the 19 figures done so far - so I was hardly exerting myself. So, without further ado, here are some shots of the guys completed so far.

This is them on my rather cluttered painting desk - the sunlight coming through the window was rather washing these out so I moved to the PC desk:

I've got to say, that when I look at the pictures I'm appalled at how rubbish they look - up to this moment I thought they were coming along rather well. Now I just see small errors everywhere. Still, whereas before I was a little unsure whether to use the Army Painter stain because I was worried I'd ruin the work I'd already put in, I am no longer.

And finally, a rear view. The browns I used look like they are bleeding into the red facings but it isn't that bad in reality. By the way, in the background is some bare metal - Xan Miniatures Legere, four of the six figure skirmish pack - they are beautiful sculpts, and would go really well with AB's.