24 December 2008

Rome for the Holidays


My non-denominational winter holiday greeting for the past few years. A Young Ones reference (definition 1), for those too young, old, or un-hip to recognize it. People get so sensitive about what you can safely say in order to wish people well. ;)

I'm working on a couple of things over the holiday, most of which are not my own figures. But I'm trying to sneak in a few for myself.

I canceled my pre-order for the Wargames Factory Celts, but switched to a box of their Romans, partially out of curiosity, partly out of a desire to paint some Romans, partly because I recently finished watching the Rome TV series and have almost wrapped up Caesar's Conquest of Gaul and have already started his Commentaries on the Civil War.

I was impatient with the first unit of 16 figures, so about 20% of the way through the process, I decided to just finish 4 of them entirely to see how they turned out. My impatience was not necessarily a good thing. I was questioning whether the figures were worth finishing. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

In the beginning... I decided to do a group of 16, including command, armed with gladius. I decided to leave the crests on, and mount them all on individual bases for maximum WAB flexibility. (I'll use move trays -- the bases are magnetized.)

I'd also like to start off my saying that a lot of what I've read in some of the other reviews is pretty much my experience. On the sprue, the figures looked a bit iffy, but the detail popped out a little better after a coat of primer. (I used black.) However, once I started painting I had mixed feelings about the detail... more on this in a minute.

The figures cleaned up quicker than the Warlord figures. The mold lines weren't bad at all. The plastic does seem almost a bit too hard. I like the feel of Warlord and GW plastic a bit better. But this is a bit of a nit-picky detail. Once I clipped & cleaned them, I didn't think about it again.

Having read some of the other reviews, particularly the one at MacPhee's Miniature Men, I wanted to make sure they based up OK. In the end, I didn't have much of a problem. I kept the shields tight (I like to paint with my figures fully assembled from the start), and posed them at a slight angle. Mine actually rank up better than the Warlord Celts, and better than many of the GW figures. (I've got over a hundred of those plastic Skaven and have to make sure they don't get out of order otherwise I'll spend a full evening sorting out the puzzle.) The photos should show that they worked out OK on the 20x20 WAB bases.

On to the painting... I painted these figures the same way I paint almost all other figures. I happen to almost always paint flesh first. So I started off on the wrong foot. One of the most disappointing features on the figures are the faces. The detail is so flat that my usual basecoat, wash and quick 2-3 highlights didn't work out well. I almost had to paint the features on. Considering how little flesh/face is exposed, this seems silly. I just wish the detail would have been more crisp and deep.

From there I went on to the mail and had the opposite experience. I was planning on having similar problems and expected to do some drybrushing, a wash or two and more drybrushing. To be honest, a simple & quick drybrush would have been enough. I went a little extra and added one wash and simple drybrush-highlight in spots. The mail didn't look deep/crisp to the eye, but it was a different story when I hit it with the paint brush.

Most of the rest of the figure was simple and I honestly don't have much to say about it other than they painted up quickly and turned out a bit better than I initially expected (after being disappointed with the faces.) I've read some complaints about the sandals, and I agree that they're not as detailed as some other figures. But to be honest, I preferred being able to just paint them all brown and not worry about tiny slivers of flesh colors showing through individual straps. I feel like I paint a little better than a "tabletop" quality, but I still paint armies, not individual show quality (Golden Daemon, etc.) figures. So I was OK with that level of detail.

There's been some grumbling about proportions, etc. and it largely seems based on a single photo of a single figure, from what I can tell. Having held, assembled and painted the figures, I think that many of the complaints have been overstated. I do agree that the command figures are definitely the weak point to the boxed set (I will get to them in a later review), but the rank and file troops pictured above look pretty decent. Especially considering the price of about 60 cents per figure.

Compared to Old Glory (in general -- I haven't painted their Ceasarian Romans), I'd take the Wargames Factory. The assembly time is probably a wash (considering OG mold lines & flash), the detail is softer but cleaner, and I prefer the poses and expressions. Compared to some of the "premium" UK lead (Foundry, etc.) they certainly don't look as good, but they're almost 1/4 the price, you don't have to screw around with lead dust from filing/flashing the metal. Most proportion issues are a trade off, since even the "premium" figures have some issues in that department. Compared to the Warlord Celts, I've got to admit there are some differences in expectations because of the type of troops. Overall, though, I thought the detail on the Warlord figures was better (more crisp). On the Celts, I expected more variety, but this wasn't an issue with the more uniform Romans. But I did prefer the more natural poses on the WF Romans to the twisted & gyrating WG Celts. Because of the different nature of the two types of troops, though, some comparisons are difficult.

Although I had some issues with the figures, I'm pleasantly surprised as far as the rank & file are concerned. Hopefully they'll sort out some of the problem spots (crispness & depth of detail) in future products.

18 December 2008

Painted Figures

I'm going to make my own little statement inspired by this....


...which was in turn inspired by this...


I haven't attended one of the GW GTs, but I have played in a few of the Indy GTs as well as a pile of RTT and other tournaments and events.

Honestly, part of the reason I enjoy going is the spectacle of the game. It's as much a part of the hobby as pushing figures and rolling dice. That's what makes miniatures gaming different from other types of wargames. I look forward to seeing the great tables many of these events build, and the armies people have modeled and painted as much as I enjoy the challenge of facing new opponents and the opportunity to meet new players.

When I started playing, my friends and I obviously started with unpainted figures. Actually, some of us moved into it from cardboard counter games. But we started with small armies and painted the figures as best and quickly as we could, and then moved into larger games as we painted more figures. Inevitably some of us would add in new units, most of the time waiting until they were painted. Once in a while impatience would win out and we would field something unpainted, but that usually only lasted a game or two.

New players were cut some slack and given a chance to play before finishing their armies. Figures were usually available for loan from other players as well. But again, there was a bit of an unspoken rule that you got your figures painted. I don't even remember any discussion on this. It was just part of the game/hobby.

But as I've gotten older and some of the games have become more popular, I've noticed an increasing number of not just unpainted figure, but armies that never get painted at all. Some even included unassembled multi-piece kits. Yes, I saw people playing with a bunch of metal pieces piled on bases, and watched them scoop up all the pieces that fell off their pile of "soldiers" every time they moved them.

I think it's sad and really dims the appeal of the hobby.

To me, it is also another aspect of the increased focus on the competetive aspect of the hobby above all else, which has been overshadowing other aspects of wargaming as well.

I don't expect everyone to paint to the same standards. I don't expect everything to look like it came out of a magazine or professional painting studio. But at least give it a try.

I don't expect new players to have everything painted overnight. But once again, at least try to make some progress.

Sometimes I miss my old hobby of wargaming.

11 December 2008

Foundry Celts

An assortment of Foundry Celts. Actually, one of them is a mystery figure. Second guy from the left in the second pic below. He's bigger than the rest, and I found him in a small plastic bag by himself. Might have been a sample figure given away at a convention. I have no idea how long he's been sitting around. A couple of these figures have been painted for something like 10 years. Just finished the rest.

10 December 2008

Painting Commissions

I've got a bit of time in my schedule for new paining commissions. Email me for details if you're interested in getting something painted.



05 December 2008

Army ADD, eBay, weather, birthday

Army ADD

My rather scatter-brained plan is...

Step 1. Gauls & Germans for a mixed "barbarian" army.
Step 2. Expand one (probably Germans) into a full stand-alone army.
Step 3. Take the remainder (probably Gauls) and make Marian/Caesarian Roman army with barbarian allies.

I just canceled my preorder for the plastic Celts. If/when they ever appear on the market, I'll consider them. But my enthusiasm is a bit dulled by the wait. When I cancelled the order, I did switch it to a box of the Caesars Legion plastics. We'll see how they look when they get here. At least I know they've shipped. ;)

Due to economic doom, the holidays, etc. I've cancelled my plan to order Foundry's big German army deal. But I was going to still order two of the (big!) infantry units. Then I got an email about Black Tree Design's holiday sale. I may have to switch plans. I was hoping they's have a bargain pack of ancient Germans, but no luck. I'm going to email them and ask, anyway. Maybe a pack or two of Gauls and a few packs of Germans if they offer them. I'm familiar with their fantasy figures, through some old commissions in ages past. But I'm not familiar with their historicals. The pics on the web page look good, though.

for those who aren't familiar.

All this typing. I should be painting.

Current project is some dwarfs for a friend and the small remainder of my Foundry Celts.

eBay Madness

I'm currently cheesed at eBay. (Or more specifically, the bidding market on eBay.) I listed my second batch of stuff to clear out and got next to nothing for most of it. When I paint on commission, I usually get about $10 per infantry figure (paint only, not the figure itself). All my painted stuff sold for less than retail price of unpainted figures. New GW stuff went for almost nothing. Why is it that whenever I bid on anything, prices go through the roof? Like new figures going for more than you would pay at the local store or from the manufacturer. I've never understood that.

Maybe I'm just bitter, but I suspect a bit of foul play in some people's auctions.

Also, I'm bitter because only about 1/3 of the people who are getting my bargains have bothered to leave any feedback so far.


I've been a mid-westerner (or Old Northwest, if you want my preferred history-geek term) all my life. But age must be creeping up on me. It's barely December and I'm sick of the cold. I talked to my fiancee about moving somewhere warmer. She's originally from California. I've never been there, but for some reason it's never appealed to me until now.


Sunday is my birthday. Pearl Harbor Day. I'm going out Saturday night, getting together with friends. Probably eat some red meat, get a bit boozed. Another good excuse to order some figures like I've been talking about for weeks.