Tuesday, 11 June 2013

15mm Xan Mimiatures & Campaign Game Miniatures British Line Infantry

Well, last week the big news for me on TMP was that Xan miniatures had produced some new British Line Infantry in stovepipe shako suitable for the Peninsula. Now, I adore the AB sculpts and painted a battalion (in a rather poor fashion) last year ( http://tenfiguresaweek.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/57th-regiment-of-foot.html ) but I'm always looking for some new figures. And these are much cheaper than the superlative ABs.

It so happens that I've been looking around at British infantry suitable for the Peninsula lately. I rejected Old Glory because of their inconsistency between ranges (or indeed bags within ranges), Fantassin (Warmodelling) were kicked into touch for the same reason. I don't like the stumpy Essex figures. Which rather left AB and BH in the quality 15mm field. Until recently that is.

Many Americans are admiring the Blue Moon 15mm range and I took a look at the British Line Infantry in Stovepipe here last year ( http://tenfiguresaweek.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/blue-moon-xan-miniatures-review.html ) - if you recall I was fairly underwhelmed by the sculpting.

While browsing the Campaign Game Miniatures (CGM) website for some cavalry (CGM specialise in the 100 days Campaign so most of their stuff isn't suitable for earlier campaigns) I discovered that they had added a few codes from other nationalities, and some British infantry in stovepipes (there were a few battalions in the old gear at Waterloo). Now CGM don't have early command groups - typically the officers wore bicorne hats up until 1811 when the order was given for officers to use the shako (initially the stovepipe and after March 1812 the Belgic pattern) - although they continued to wear the bicorne with their undress uniform.

With that in mind I only ordered the rank and file marching and advancing packs, just to have a look at. You get eight figures in each pack (four variants repeated twice) for £3.60 (they are sold in the UK by QRF). Now lets get my big issue with these figures out of the way first - I'm convinced their legs are too short! Standing them next to an AB Brit it is clear that, while the torso and head are about the same size, the legs (even allowing for the fact the CGM figures legs are bent as they walk) are one or two millimetres too short. Added to this, the heads are broader than the AB figures, and the heads appear to have been jammed down into collars that look taller and stiffer than most illustrations I've seen of the British infantry in the field. Now, I know that a millimetre or two here or there can't be seen from a couple of feet away but the impression I get whenever I look at CGM figures (with the exception of their French Line in greatcoats) is that some giant wargamer has been pressing down on their heads! Having said that, the faces are very nicely sculpted and I think they seem to go well together with the Blue Moon infantry that I have (which, regardless of their other failings, appear anatomically "correct" to me) - both ranges feature the figures leaning forward so I think, once they have been painted, they'll do.

Now having having slagged off their basic posture, these are nice figures in many other respects, generally the detail is well sculpted. The sculptor has sketched in the lace on the jacket and cuffs, there are one or two areas which are a bit weak - I think the water bottle and rolled greatcoat are a bit small on the figures and there is no sense that the greatcoat is rolled up on some figures, it just looks to be a tube strapped to the top of the pack (I refuse to believe that a soldier in the field would be able to roll their greatcoat that neatly). The Trotter pack looks to be about the right size. The faces are nicely done. Essentially, these are good, workmanlike figures and I think they will paint up very well - I just can't find it in myself to get excited about them. And if you want your British officers in bicornes you will need to look elsewhere for a command pack.

Xan Miniatures
Now, I saw the news on TMP that Xan Miniatures had released a number of British Line Infantry packs and I got very excited. While his figures are generally not a perfect match height or build wise with Mr Barton's, his French Legere have the same sense about them (I think his Legere skirmishing pack is simply excellent) - so I had high expectations with the British.

So, how are they? Well, overall, they are very good - anatomically correct with facial detail nicely suggested, the packs and blanket rolls look the right size (possibly a tad large in the context of the size of the figure but not unduly so), the water bottle looks a touch small on one or two figures to me. On a couple of figures the cross belt sculpting is a little too fine but still workable. While the figures are anatomically correct in the sense everything is in proportion a number of figures that have the legs extended also have the torso at an angle to the line of march (so left leg extended to the front, right leg trailing about to be brought forward, and the torso facing to the right at an angle) - which isn't how I walk.

The only issue with flash was that a good proportion of figures had flash between the plume and the musket but this was easily cleared with a little care and a sharp knife. Unlike AB these figures have the musket joined to the side of the head and shako - where the join occurs there is the risk of a bit of difficulty concealing this when painting the figure, but as the shako will be black I don't think it will be a problem.

My big problem with these figures (and generally with the French figures too) is that Xan have taken the OG approach to bases so, instead of the big square base you get on an AB figure, the bases vary in size and are just big enough for the feet of the figure to meet the ground. What this means is that on some figures the bases are very small - so you will need something fairly industrial to stick the figures to your stand without them coming loose again.

One figure in NB2 (like CGM, Xan packs their figures in eight figures per pack with four variants included twice) is bareheaded and has a bandage wrapped over an earlier injury. It is well done but I'd have preferred a figure in forage cap to be honest (I think the bandaged head wound is both a bit of a cliche and that, given battlefield surgery of the time, not many guys would walk away from a head injury).

I had one niggle though - the shako looks too tall to me - it certainly looks taller and thinner than AB, Blue Moon or CGM (all of which look fairly similar to one another). So I embarked on some research.

I got out my ruler and the Xan figures look to be about 16 mm from foot to eye, perhaps 17mm to the top of the head - the figure with the bandaged head is 18mm to the top of the head - but if you look at the picture he looks tall compared to the others. So, if one assumes a 1/100 scale (risky I know) these chaps are remarkably average for the British Army of the time - the bulk of recruits were between 5 feet six inches and five feet eight inches tall (five feet seven inches is 1.70m - so 17 mm at 1/100 - 1mm = 4 inches in real life).

Measuring the shako height it looks to be between 3 and 4 millimetres tall and two millimetres across at the crown - this translates at 1/100 to about 12 inches tall and eight inches across at the top. Looking at Mr Franklin's book on British Napoleonic Uniforms he says that the stovepipe shako introduced in 1800 should be "some eight inches tall and seven inches broad at the top" - he also says a couple of paragraphs further on that "the improved second version of this shako was introduced for wear by other ranks about 1806. It was a lighter pattern, made of felt and slightly shorter, being about eight or nine inches high with a top diameter of seven inches" (my emphasis in italics). I've seen other statements that suggest the shako got shorter as time went on. So something seems a little awry with Mr Franklin's suggestion about the 1800 pattern shako, I think.

I also think in reality it probably wasn't Horse Guards laying down regulations that probably decided this kind of thing but the pattern book of the tradesmen supplying the regiment that had more influence. So, I think somewhere between 8 and 12 inches is probably good enough - use these guys for early arrivals in the Peninsula with early pattern shakos. I think the issue is also partly down to the Xan figures being a bit slighter than the other makers and having smaller heads - I think this makes the Xan shako look a bit taller and thinner than it really is.

Anyway, this is by the by - the Xan figures will make a fine looking battalion. The officers are very nice indeed (I thought their French counterparts lacked elan) and will fit nicely in with AB battalions if, like me, you like to mix different makers figures a bit. The command pack, NB7 contains two standard bearers, two drummers and two officers - each figure is different. As there are two packs of centre company marching (NB1 & NB2) and one pack of flank company marching (NB3) this means that a General de Brigade player can field a typical 30 figure British line battalion with four packs (and with no figure repeated more than twice).

I really like the marching pioneer figure (although he seems a tad short to me) and he will definitely be entering the ranks of my marching AB units. The skirmishing flank company troops are workmanlike rather than inspired but they will certainly do the job. Overall, these are another very nice set of figures from Spain.

So, next the comparison photos:

First up - the command figures from NB7 plus the Pioneer (NB11) - from left to right: Xan, AB, Xan, BH, Xan, AB, Xan, OG, Xan, Blue Moon, Xan, AB, Xan Pioneer - to the right are some British AB figures (awaiting standard bearers),

Next - NB2 (the Xan Flank Comany figures) and the CGM figures, from left to right: AB, Xan, Xan, Xan, Xan, BH, CGM, AB, CGM, CGM, CGM, AB
Finally, NB1 (Centre Co) and NB3 (Flank Co), from left to right: Xan, Xan, Xan, Xan, BH, Xan NB10, AB, Xan, Xan, AB, Xan, AB, Xan.

So, there you have it. I've actually done very little painting at all over the last week. I was distracted by a night out with Giles tasting South African wines, followed the next evening by a work night pouring champagne for some very appreciative customers (and once we had got the customers out the door at 10.30, we started on some very fine Bordeaux indeed - with the result I didn't get home until 2am). It was a very special evening - and I'm still tasting the 1986 Mouton Rothschild in my head. Friday (feeling very tired) I took my wife into hospital for a small procedure and then spent most of the weekend keeping Archie the dog away from her (my wife was grumpy from the anaesthesia so Archie and I spent most of the weekend in the spare room playing Total War on the PC - Archie won't let me paint).


  1. Always nice to see someone distracted from painting by the grape. I have a few stands of Xan and AB french, primed and ready to paint, but have been grafting and setting out vines for this year's vineyard replant.

    Cheers from Canada,
    (tmp Upper Canada)

  2. Geoff, what are you planting? Giles and I would be happy to have a crack at your product - I work in the wine trade but Giles probably won't mind me saying he is a wine geek. And Legatus Hedlius evidently likes to tuck into a good bottle as well. I was embarrassed on Monday to find that the rich bloke buying the wine for us mere mortals had spent £3K!!!

  3. The CGM figures in the photos seem to have longer legs than some of the others. They are peerfectly proportioned unless youare used to basket ball players. Look at real people. I am the owner and quite honestly I think you have not taken into account that the base is thinner. Why don't you paint the figures and get used to them? It's obvious you are using AB as a benchmark and anything different looks odd to you. You should take that into account. My figures are marching into war not going on a catwalk so they may hunker down on occasion. The British wore stiff and stifling collars. I shall do a command for the penninsular for British. It will be nice if you paint my figs and then do another series of comparison photos. Professional painters have told me they take only on third the time of AB and that the detail is cleaner and clearer.
    All the best,
    Dermot Quigley

    1. Dermot - thanks for taking a look at my blog and commenting on my review. I think I've been fairly honest and open about my regard for Mr Barton - have a read of the Blue Moon / Xan Miniatures French Line Infantry review for a fuller description.

      My feeling about your figures is that, as I said above, they are very nicely done in many respects but their proportions look wrong to me - in 28mm I feel the same way about Crusader Mini's French Line Infantry - your infantry figures to my eyes look a bit squat.

      The French Line in Greatcoat figures that you make don't have this problem and I'd happily mix them with AB - yours are actually less barrel chested than the ABs. I also have some of your French Dragoons that are very nice too. It is just your infantry that don't seem to light my fire. If it is any consolation I think your figures are a damn sight better than their Blue Moon equivalents...

      It looks like I have a few days where I don't have to work in the evening so I will take up your challenge, clear the painting table and have a crack at a pack of BWO25 and BWO32 and post the results.

  4. Interesting insight into the 15mm ranges on offer at the moment.

  5. That's a great write-up of the 15mm options, Malcolm - very handy indeed.

    I'm quite partial to Canadian wines. My wife bought a pair of Riedel "Icewine" glasses a few years ago after we'd had some Inniskillin wine at a tasting. Now every year we have a bottle of Canadian icewine over xmas.

  6. You should get stuck into that bottle of Vin de Constance I gave you for your birthday, Giles - it really is great stuff. And if you don't believe me:

    “Even against Denis Dubourdieu’s decadent L’Extravagant 2003, for me, the
    superlative Vin de Constance 2007 is the better wine. It offers a scintillating bouquet
    that is beautifully defined with mandarin, wild honey, lavender and Seville orange
    marmalade vying for attention on the nose. The palate displays more race and better
    acidity than the Barsac with crystalline honeyed fruits and immense freshness and
    poise on the finish. Brilliant winemaking here – a South Africa legend that does not
    Drink now-2040+ Tasted September 2012.
    Neal Martin, eRobertParker.com
    Klein Constantia Vin De Constance 2007 - 97 Points