Wargamer’s Notebook 13

Show of the Month honours go to the Napoleonic Fair in London. In its short history (with hindsight, hard to imagine why it hasn’t been done before…) this show has settled into the calendar very easily and now draws a very respectable crowd. The traders are rather more varied, and specialised, than the typical miniatures show, as you’d expect, and the demonstration games are okay, but really something of an afterthought. This year though saw a growing number of figure traders and the games were a little better. The best game, not necessarily because of visual quality, was the Peninsula Thud & Blunder game put on by the SAS boys from Sussex. Why? Because the game looked impressive, there was plenty of action and it had by far the best ever public interface I’ve ever seen. There was a big notice board explaining clearly what was going on, the units had identification arrows, half a dozen accompanying tables had books, models and painting demos and there were large numbers of club members on hand to answer questions. Best of all, the result was a constant interested crowd around the table. A great success.

Sadly, the show is also notable for droves of these Napoleonic re-enactor johnnies. Is it just me or do these people get right up your nose? Just to be clear, I have nothing much against the form as long as they are well distanced from the public, preferably in a large field somewhere, and I admit they do seem a tame bunch compared to the SS goons increasingly seen at certain shows. Whatever, for all the years I’ve been in the hobby, I have fought long and hard against accusations of being a wally, playing with toy soldiers or guns, and dressing up in Action Man gear. And then along come these prunes marching to a cacophony of pipes and drums, ogling busty camp followers, or shouting orders, and either strutting around like peacocks (the ‘officers’ – self important does not begin to describe them) or speaking in those adenoidal voices more usually employed by trainspotters (the ‘privates’ – what sort of mind and self-esteem are we looking at here?). Does this really do anything constructive for the hobby or am I just an intolerant old sod? The latter, almost certainly! Personally, I still have trouble not laughing out loud and the faces on the watching public were bemused at best. And the saddest thing is that they take themselves so seriously, as if the fate of the show and historical research rests upon their rounded shoulders. I suppose we have Sharpe to thank for that, since they now think they’re all legitimate media stars – but please keep it to the re-enactment fields lads, or the privacy of your own homes. The mirror makes a wonderful drill sergeant.

Tucked away in the corner of the hall was Keith Warren with samples of his painting and modelling service which were a joy to behold. The figure painting is good, and amazing value, but the real stars were the scratchbuilt buildings and quite superb trees. Without doubt these are the best commercially available trees I’ve seen and unlike the usual symmetrical blobs, these look the part and wouldn’t look at all out of place on a model railway. They aren’t cheap, but then for the excellent standard and work involved (just try making your own…), they aren’t expensive either. For that set piece, skirmish games, a tree under which to sit your generals or that special forest, these are the best going. Realistic Modelling Services can be contacted at 49 Guildford Ave, Whitfield, Dover, Kent CT16 3NG Tel: 01304 825849.

Two big batches of figures have arrived this month, the latest releases from the Foundries and a selection of Redoubt’s ranges that, for this old cynic, were rather surprising. The offshore branch of the Foundry continue with their relentlessly high standards in the shape of more plains indians, more cossacks (I saw some of these painted up on Dave Thomas’s stand and they look really great – just waiting for the 1812 Napoleonics to set them off) and the new Seven Years War Russians. All are superb, the latter being suitably ‘stolid’ with that idiosyncratic headgear while the cossacks have some real characters – my favourite is the old chap resting on his musket, clutching his lumbago ridden frame. Excellent work as usual. From the Nottingham branch comes the latest new period – 25mm ACW – from the prolific Perry twins. Now this is definitely not my favourite era but suffice to say these figures are good enough to tempt me into knocking up a battle line of sack coated rebs. I have not felt this drawn since I saw the First Corps figures, which I bravely resisted. Up to the usual exemplary Perry archetype, with excellent character, faces and detail, they look as if they marched off the page of that wonderful Don Troiani book. I have seen none better anywhere. Easy to recommend a purchasing policy though – if you’ve got 25mm already these are going to make you want to upgrade, and if you haven’t, these are the ones to get.

I have been sniping at the ‘odd’ Redoubt Peninsula range for as long as this column has been going, and the inconsistent quality that plagues their other ranges (I’d have had a Redoubt Mahratta army by now if the figures were universally as good as the officers) which factors have in truth put me off from paying the company much attention. I started to sway when I saw the superb demonstration game last year featuring the Trojan War figures and I very much like some of the Three Musketeers range, so it was with some interest that I delved into the big box of samples that arrived recently. Again, the inconsistent quality is there, almost to the point of wondering whether the ranges are sculpted by the same designer, but there are some excellent figures – RX31, a gendarme on a heavily barded horse, is quite magnificent and virtually all the Trojan figures would grace anyone’s army. However, seemingly at random, a couple of the figures have long bodies and one has a right arm that would reach to his knee, while RX30, a gun crew, are particularly poor. It baffles me, it really does. What I can say is that the overall quality is climbing and if you can spare the time to pick and choose at a show, there are some outstanding figures to be found in the Redoubt ranges.

It has been a very quiet time for new books apart from the Rifle Brigade history from Verner at a cool £140, which is still firmly on the ‘Mmm, perhaps someday’ list, so I have been browsing the shelves catching up on those that slipped through the net. At such times I often drift off into nostalgia, looking back at those volumes that saw me through my early years in the hobby – classics such as Charles Grant’s The War Game, Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Airfix GuideBattle!, Terry Wise’s Introduction to BattleGaming, OperationWarboard, the old Osprey battle books and Curt Johnson’s AWI history full of beautiful Gilder figures and David Nash’s seminal Wargames. And for those of you looking for a laugh, a fourteen year old Siggins can be found in the frontispiece of Featherstone’s Complete Wargaming – looking on at the innovative and life-changing 15mm game at Waterloo Day.