Monday, December 26, 2011

Heinrichsen Napoleonic Flats - 40mm

I recently ordered a set of 40mm flats from the venerable Ernst Heinrichsen company in Germany.  This is a 1990's reissue of a classic old set first released in 1888.  It depicts the 1813 Battle of Katzbach between the French under Marshall MacDonald vs. Blucher's Prussians.  The set contains 54 castings, about evenly divided between the French and Prussians.  Both sides have infantry, cavalry and artillery as well as casualty figures.  The set also features several very nice combination figures such as a Prussian Hussar riding down a French infantryman, artillery blasting clouds of billowing smoke and so on.

Here are the first figures which I've painted.  Looks like even 130 years ago the poor unglamorous center companies got no love from sculptors.  It's all elites when it comes to the French infantry and I'll be painting them as both grenadiers and voltigeurs.

I'm well satisfied with the style of these, toy figures back in the day but to my eyes they were designed and engraved to a high standard which still holds up well.  And, they'll work in with the semi-rounds. For example, the Creartec French Cuirassiers are true 40mm and the Heinrichsens will make good command figures for them, I think. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reinforcements - 40mm Plastic Russian Flats

These arrived in the mail other day. Plastic Napoleonic cavalry, made in Russia. They match up with Creartec very well in size although of course they're even flatter and fairly stylized.

Russian Hussars & Cossacks

Russian Cuirassier/Dragoon types
No doubt they're dirt cheap off the rack in a Russian store, less so after passing through the hands of middle men to the US but they were still reasonably priced.  This is a good start but of course I'll need to find at least an equal amount to make decent squadrons of.  The dealer has some Russian connections so I think there's a reasonable chance of finding more. 

I have a couple of other sets in this style, but the usual favored subjects are medieval, either Russians vs. Teutonic Knights or Tartars as seen here:

54mm - painted in acrlics.
Not bad when painted.  I expect the Napoleonics will turn out pretty well painted in gloss toy soldier style although short of painting a few examples to see how they look, not too much point in moving them up in the queue until enough can be obtained to make units out of.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

40mm Scale Comparisons

Here are the 40mm figures posed together.

The infantry are from left to right, Zinnbrigade, Sash & Saber, Zinnbrigade, Irregular, Creartec, 45mm Rossner flat, Nurnburger Meisterzinn.

Cavalry from left to right, Irregular, Prince August, Creartec, Meisterzinn.

A couple more shots of the Creartec test paints.

While les Celticains are world-renowned for the excellence of their cuisine, very little of it is fed to the poor skinny troops.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

40mm Casting Report 2 - Creartec Infantry

Next up, Creartec. These come with a painting guide, two wooden holders and a robust rubber band. The molds are silicone, they feel light and rubbery.  I was concerned how they'd hold up to repeated casting once up to temperature but they can take it.  As with the Zinnbrigades, the layout and air channels seem to be well thought out. And, it's very easy to cut more if needed given the softness of the material.  One quirk of the Creartecs, the figure bases are open at bottom. It's a rude shock to see all you metal flow out the bottom of the mold if you don't brace it well against something.  For the infantry, the metal flows directly through the top of the skako, makes for reliable casts but consequently care must be taken not to lop off the skako ball when prepping the figures.

I have two molds at present, the line infantry elite company fantassin/drummer and mounted British dragoon.  I had some problems casting the dragoon but got it going just at the end of my casting session - at any rate none are yet painted so I'll save the result for a subsequent post.

As you can see, the results yield rather antique looking fellows.  They are fairly flat as semi-rounds go, in the style of the old Schneider figures. But I think they'll look good massed in formation.  That's the next unit in the queue, ready to start later this month once the first Zinnbrigades are done.

One drawback, these first infantry figures are 45mm giants, dwarfing the poor Zinnbrigaders.  I'll post size comparisons shortly, featuring PA, Zinnbrigade, Creartec, S&S, Irregular and Meisterzinn (if I can get any decent casts from the latter).

40mm Casting Report 1 - Zinnbrigade

First up for the imagi-nation of Celtica are some Zinnbrigade infantry.  The rubber molds are similar to Prince August but the rubber is heavier and denser feeling.  These molds stand up well to repeated casting without going soft as the PA molds seem to do, and the air channels well laid out such that the metal flows well to the extremities.  One peculiarity of this particular mold is the coat tail tends to cast incompletely on the right side of the figure advancing at trail arms but it's not a major detractor, I'm using those figures.

Here are the first troops, finished in glossy style although it's a bit hard to make out in the photos.

 Halfway done now, some voltigeurs for the left of the formation and the command stand still to come. I filed off the epaulettes for the center company figures. The other two Zinnbrigage molds I have are the line infantry officer/drummer and skirmishers firing/loading. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Era

I've decided to begin my personal take on Imagi-nations outside the already well-populated 18th Century, bringing it into the early 19th.  I've been a big admirer of Aly Morrison's Shiny Toy Soldier range since its inception at Spencer-Smith Miniatures.  Which do I like ?  Well, the earlier figures more so than the spiked helmet troops of later in the century.  Do I actually have any ?  Er..., no.  Much as I like them, it's been rather like gazing at that tasty sports coupe through the car showroom window - yes, you can probably make the payments but it's hard to justify the expenditure.  Even Irregular has become a stretch for Americans these days given the weak dollar and overseas shipping costs, and really not much cheaper than STS.

However, I do browse Spencer-Smith from time to time, imagining what fine looking troops could be assembled from the various combinations of pieces for the 1815-1830 era - the apogee of peacock uniforms.  The last visit, I noticed something interesting - Moltzheim heads.  Moltzheim ?  Virgin territory for me.  Took a look at the reference, The French Army During the Restoration 1814 - 1830

Wow !  I was blown away by the magnificence.  And also inspired with an idea.  The French restoration army looks to me very like Napoleon's.  What do I have sitting long neglected in my collection of 40mm casting molds ?  A few Zinnbrigade French Napoleonic infantry molds.  And I knew that Meisterzinn also made several multi-purpose molds featuring a selection of heads: tricornes, bicornes, crested helmets and shakos.  What else is there ?  Creartec currently produces 40mm Napoleonic era molds as well as 7YW Prussians. 

Thus by means of home casting, I could create units less expensively, filling in the gaps with STS, Irregular and perhaps a few 1st Legion here and there.  Yes, not so cheaply as with multi-part 28mm plastics given the price of lead these days, but I just flat out like 40mm better.  And, a glossy toy soldier style for this.  And so it begins.

While already embarked on casting and painting the Zinnbrigades, I decided to create a map for these fictional countries early in the game, vs. painting figures in the abstract.  This (as yet unnamed continent) is the result.  Any similarities to Europe are strictly intentional.  The software is Hexographer, available free here:  The UI is relatively simple and intuitive, no mad CAD or vector graphics skills required.  I did spring for the full version to get more period-compatible icons and the ability to spawn child maps of provinces or battle areas but the free version is quite usable as is.  There is work still to be done in naming geographical features & cities, adding infrastructure (and creating a fortress icon), but I'm satisfied that the basics are covered.

The first troops on the workbench are those of Celtica, looking suspiciously like those of Napoleon and his royal successors. I'm about halfway done painting an infantry battalion of Zinnbrigades, a progress report to follow shortly. The first Creartec and Meisterzinn molds arrived from Germany yesterday and I had a good casting session. Good for the Creartecs that is, downright bad with the stubborn Meisterzinns.  I'm quite happy with the Creartecs, although stylistically they're more like Prince August semi-rounds. Indeed the infantry in particular appear to have a clear lineage to the Schneider molds of olden days (although more detailed), about as old school as you can get.

There you have it, either creativity at work or the ramblings of a madman. ;-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

War Elephant - 30mm Flat

Here's a 30mm flat which I purchased as an unpainted casting from Berliner Zinnfiguren. BZ is pretty sketchy on the details about their third party offerings, but I believe the editor is Tylinski of Berlin. He doesn't maintain an internet presence.  Sorry the color tone isn't good on the first photo (and I'm lazy to reshoot it), the second photo gives a better reproduction of it.

With this post, I'm pretty well caught up on the older flats.  I have a few recently painted Renaissance flats, not yet photographed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Random Photos - Part 2

Here are a few shots of my own taken during the previous photography session, and a few older ones. 

I created the war elephant out of disappointment with HaT's offering, their 1/72 set pantographed up to 54mm. The elephant was puny, with the crew jammed into a tower the size of an old telephone booth. I retained most of the crew figures, but drafted a more imposing Schleich elephant for war and scratchbuilt my own tower. The archer comes from a David & Goliath set, with a headswap he becomes a Hellenistic soldier. The phalanx are converted Italeri Carthaginians.

40mm PA Swedes advance through town.

54mm plastic pirates. Mostly Barzso.

Two Barzso pirates & a Replicants British sailor.
The phalanx attacked ! 54mm plastics.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Random Photos - Part 1

Here are some photos taken recently by my stepson Benjie for one of his photography classes.  He attends an art school here in Northern California. His project was photographing some of my figures, mostly outdoors.

40mm Prince August. L'artillerie Royale.

40mm Prince August. Swedes head through town.

40mm Prince August

54mm knights. Tradition kits and Italeri 100 YW.

25mm Greeks. He took this with my camera, why can't I do that ?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Carl Hellenistic Cavalry - 30mm Flats

More classic old figures, part of the Schlacht bei Issos set from Chrstian Carl, Cortum Figuren.  I believe these figures date from the 1920's, with figures done by master engravers such as Ludwig Frank.  The shields are an anachronism for Alexander's time but they work well as later Hellenistic cavalry.  I painted with the usual acrylics.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heinrichsen Macedonian Phalangites - 30mm Flats

Still catching up on some of the older figures. Here's the phalanx figures from an old Heinrichsen Macedonian infantry set..  I bought them on eBay in original factory paint, reworked in acrylics.  In keeping with the relatively simple style, I opted not to do anything elaborate with the shields.

Coincidentally, Heinrichsen put this set back into production this year, 24 castings for 31 euros (or 189 euros painted as below). The figures were originally produced in 1921.  Heinrichsen still has the old molds and rotates various sets into limited production on a yearly basis.

I also have a few of the slingers and couple of the command figures, haven't gotten around to reworking them yet. The original factory paint is quite crude compared to what is currently sold, but had the advantage of being cheap back in the day relative to draining your Paypal account for a newly painted set.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wargames Factory WSS Cavalry - Part 2

Completed the three sample Wargames Factory plastic cavalry yesterday.  From left to right we have three French horsemen: a Grenadier a Cheval de la Maison du Roi (the only use I can see for this head), line trooper and a dragoon.  I filed the front plate on the horse grenadier cap to make the dragoon head, not a perfect French dragoon's stocking cap, but the best I could do with it.

Not too bad, really.  Yes, the assembly is time-consuming, not all the poses you need are on the parts sprues and like the infantry you can take issue with some of the sculpting choices.  But if you don't mind gluing stuff together, the price is right.

To my eyes, the biggest flaw is the riders sitting a bit far back. This can't be easily helped, as they ride with bent knees right up against saddle holsters. Had these been placed a bit further forward towards the horses' shoulders, I think it would have helped the appearance.    That and the horses' legs look a tad short to me.

It's interesting to compare with these old Heinrichsen flats in 3/4 profile, the sword pose I wish could be made right off the parts sprues.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wargames Factory WSS Cavalry - Part I

I assembled a few samples of the newly released Wargames Factory 28mm Plastic cavalry last week.  In the French style, we have from left to right, a Grenadier a Cheval, line trooper and dragoon.

The box art looks good, a nice computer rendering on the front of the box and a few assembled but unpainted troopers on the side of the box. Definitely an improvement over the infantry boxes where the uneven quality of the collector painting might actually discourage off the shelf hobby shop purchases (if indeed there's any actual "brick-and-mortar" store sales volume).

The rider sprues give a variety of arms and heads, but whether or not you'd consider them a "good variety" depends upon what your expectations are.  The basic tricorne heads are fine, a couple very nice new ones and two others carried over from the infantry.  Aside from that, it looks like the sculptor cut a few corners but making all the others (in threes) identical - tricorne officer, Austrian/Bavarian cuirassier, horse grenadier and an oddball suitable only for French Grenadiers a Cheval de la Maison du Roi.  This latter I don't mind as I plan to use them for my imagi-nation foot grenadiers, but otherwise they're of very limited utility.  The torsos are rather basic but look serviceable enough.

The left hand for holding the reins is good, you get a variety of right hands, but I'm not terribly enthused over the pose of the sword. Would have much rather seen it in the "present" position held upright back at the shoulder than with the arm outstretched in the "hell for leather" charge posture. And I'm not visualizing any way to fix that with the parts on hand.  I really wish WF had made a torso as a one piece casting with the right arm holding the sword in desired position. Oh, well. The rider's body, once you get it assembled, pops easily and securely onto the saddle.

The horses aren't bad.  The two halves snap togther with little visible seam and the tail assembly is a clever bit with a smallish disc shape at the base which holds the tail firmly in place once you glue the halves together.  Although I would have preferred one or two of the tails hanging at rest for the standing horse position.  The neck/head assemblies are a bit disappointing, there's a noticable seam where the neck glues to the body and the mane comes up short, leaving a somewhat unsightly gap. The other thing I don't like, three of the four heads are turning left or right, the only head facing straight ahead is on the extended neck (galloping pose).  There aren't many different gaits on the sprue but you can mix and match the left/right bodies to create some different looks. To my eyes, the horses look a bit weak in the hind quarters, but I think this is party an optical illusion created by the somewhat oversized cloak rolls.

For people who complain the infantry assembly is fiddly: "you ain't seen nothin' yet".  They'll be hating life once they start gluing these bad boys together. As for the bases, hope you like your cavalry at 25mm spacings. With these particular figures, I don't.  The bases in the photo are my own, made from sheet styrene, thin enough to cut easily with scissors. As the hoofs aren't pegged in any way (and indeed the various gaits probably preclude it),  I wonder about the potential frequency of horses getting knocked off their bases when being handled or transported. 

In the next post, I will show these examples as painted.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wargames Factory Imagi-nation Battalion - 28mm Plastic

Finished the first battalion of the Wargames Factory multi-part plastic infantry.  As they're rather generic WSS troops, I thought they'd make a good foundation for an Imagi-nations project where you can build some nice troops to your liking and keep the button counters at bay.  Some have criticized the figures for the fiddly assembly.  Honestly, never found that to be much of a problem when for 2/3 of your soldiers: glue on the head, glue on the sword - all done.  Now as for building the cavalry, yes there will be solid grounds for complaint from those who detest putting small part together. But that's another topic.

Aesthetically, I'm pretty happy with the sculpting.  I did what I could to mitigate the "long neck" look which has been complained about.  I converted the legs and feet to gaiters, cut off the offending portion of the goofy upside down sword hilts.  The figures still look at tad bulky (although not consistently so), which I think can mostly be put down to the thick legs and the pose of the right arm. The latter could have easily been mitigated by moving the cartridge box back around towards the rear of the figure had the sculptor chosen to do so.

Anyway, without further preamble, here is the first completed unit of le royaume de Bourgogne (aka the kingdom of Burgundy), infantry regiment Chasselas

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

March of the Wooden Soldiers

I've always liked the appearance of the Playmobil figures and have seen some truly amazing armies and displays people have assembled with these. But wow, the cost must be staggering.  I wondered how it would turn out if I tried my hand a making some figures of my own in roughly that style and scale.

Here's the first attempt:

The head and upper body is made from gaming pawns which are some type of wood composite.  The bottom of the coat is an "angel" pawn cut in half, all the rest save for the tricorne and pigtail are various wood bits. I made the brim of the tricorne by cutting a circle of cardstock.  Here is the first figure as painted.

And this is as far as I got with the project:

I'm satisfied with the toy soldier look but the way I have built them is quite labor intensive.  After the novelty of building the first few, the construction becomes a rather laborious means to the end to arrive at the fun part, the painting. If I could buy figures like this "as is" or simplify the construction somehow, I can see painting some nice formations of them.  And of course, if no suitable toy horses could be obtained, making the cavalry would present a whole new set of challenges.

Still, haven't entirely given up on the idea yet and it could be something to do during my retirement years - that is if I ever make it to retirement, it feels like a constantly receding mirage at this point.