There were a lot of traders at Salute, many of whom were there for the first time. I could write a page on them all, but instead will pick out the most interesting to me – Atenociti’s Workshop. This is a startup company providing a one stop terrain shop. At first they sold ‘base kits’, which were basically stones, grass and bits to finish your bases. These are supplied in seasonal variations. Good, but not something a gamer with a terrain box and access to 4D Models is going to get excited about. They then added some very nice trees to the catalogue, which were of interest, and then all of a sudden they had building and bunker kits. The bunkers are excellent. Can’t think of any use for them, but that rarely stops me. Tailored to WH40k, they are superb and great value for money. Even better, they sell the highly realistic concrete panels (each one different, and easily ‘distressed’) as a separate item. Well worth a look.
Latest Figure Releases
The quality figure releases just keep on coming. Steve Barber has the first of many (hopefully) mounted samurai in his 42mm range, and it is a great piece – shooting a bow to the side in true yabusame style. Look out for more of Steve’s unsurpassed 10mm Romans as well…. Vendel have some excellent new releases in their fantasy ranges, including some almost generic dark ages figures that would suit many applications (admittedly mostly in Middle-earth!) but my favourite is the pack of five mastiffs, easily the best dogs available in 28mm and truly vicious looking beasts. There are more canines to come apparently…. Artizan have yet more figures in the Old West line, including the Earps, some excellent Mexican banditos, bank robbers and hired guns and the first of what promises to be a substantial 7th Cavalry line. Personally I am still waiting for Buffalo Soldiers in this scale. It is worth mentioning again that Artizan sell both unit packs (bigger and cheaper) and collector packs (where the figures are all different) – a positive move to be applauded…. Conquest are steadily building their 500 Nations ranges, although they seem to be deflected every now and then into other fields (in this month’s case, pygmy zombies…). The latest releases include Lakota and Comanche and look to be well up to the standards of the earlier Woodland figures. I particularly liked the ponies.
The big hit at Salute, in terms of buzz (and also sales I suspect) was Hasslefree Miniatures. It could also have been Freebooter, who had some beautiful and original figures on offer, with sublime paint jobs, but even I winced at their ‘optimistic’ single figure prices and left the stand empty handed. Hasslefree, however, have a better balance. Excellent, unusual models at a reasonable price, with customer service second to none. I bought quite a few figures, as I was taken with the martial artists, snipers and harem guards (for my Arabian Nights project), and also all three of their superb diorama bases designed by Simon Harris, a fugitive Forgeworld modeller, now with Rackham – I need say no more as far as their quality goes. Check out this company, I like what they are doing. I very much doubt they will ever sculpt you a winged hussar or grenadier, but for something out of the ordinary they are well worth a look.
Front Rank have released a batch of redesigned and new British Napoleonic staff, which pretty much guaranteed a sale! Their infantry, with a few exceptions, still makes me hesitant, but the cavalry and horses always paint up superbly well. I bought about half the twelve now on offer, of which Rowland Hill is my favourite, and will doubtless buy the rest in time. I now have four 28mm Pictons. Possibly five. Is that enough, do you think?
And finally, and by no means least, Tom Meier at Thunderbolt is consistently producing 30mm figures that are arguably the best ever made in the smaller scales. Like Rackham, and Stadden and Suren in their time, these sculpts are remarkable – imaginative clothes and look, exquisite facial detail, elegant limbs, believable and interesting poses and incredibly fine detail. So fine that aside from wondering how it is done, one quickly realises that painting them is well beyond my ageing eyes. Some of you may not relate to the style, or dislike the fact they are currently all fantasy subjects, but it is hard to question the supreme talent on display. If only Tom would revisit those Ral Partha historical subjects of his younger years… 30mm Landsknechts? I would be queuing up.
Also in 30mm is a new range of French Imperial Guardsmen from Andrea. These are excellent figures as well, but fail for us on two counts: they seem to be very expensive (£5 each?) and are really geared to the parade ground of Paris rather than the mud of Waterloo. I suspect they are for collectors who want to build a Fontainebleau diorama. Whatever, it will be interesting to see how the range progresses and it is always encouraging to see traditionally large scale companies coming down to test the water.
Quarter Scale Section
1/48th scale has very much arrived, and is hopefully here to stay. Tamiya have gone bananas and are already up to 15 releases in this trendy new, but also very old, scale. The Hetzer made up easily, looks gorgeous and awaits painting, and while I still can’t quite believe it, a Citroen staff car is imminent. Woohoo! For myself, who went through a spookily similar 1/35th release schedule during the early Seventies, this is that déjà vu thing all over again. Kettenkrad! Jerry cans! Sand Bags! Oil drums! I’ll be growing my hair and buying platform shoes before too long. Is that Slade on the radio?
Graven Images continue their frantic output in 36mm scale, cranking out about one figure per day! I, like many, am a complete convert for their new ‘quirky’ periods and find these substantial figures much easier to paint than the smaller 28mms. Sculptor Jim Bowen is starting to announce new ranges (Saxons, Vikings, Modern Street Thugs and Gangsters), while the existing ones build to completion (and I am keeping an eye on that!). Recent highlights include Gotterrüstung troops (WWII goes into extra time (and the Germans win on penalties?)), Evil Midget Clowns, various villains and nasties, and the impressive Massimo who is a rather rotund clown. Steve Mussared has also been hard at work on more resin buildings, statues and set pieces. With a few minor exceptions, everything this company does is exciting.
In the same scale, HLBSC have also gone up a gear. Last year, at every turn, they were discussing new figures, or ranges, and by Partizan they had delivered. In style. There were almost too many new releases to count: 30 or more new Wild West, several French Indian War, cute little steampunk submarines, dinosaurs, excellent if slightly expensive marine life with deep sea divers and the novelty Pond Scum WWII range. Busy beavers. Coming in a distant third is North Star, not because their figures aren’t up to scratch, but because they are a little inconsistent at the moment, and perhaps lacking momentum, and there aren’t that many of them. The ones I did like, and quickly bought, were the Power Armour Soldats which will mix nicely with my Graven Images stuff.
I have covered quite a lot in this column, but am conscious that I am still not featuring rulesets. That will hopefully change by next time, but it is simply a function of gaming time and facilities. The most interesting ruleset received and read is Polemos. This is currently available in Great Northern War, ECW and Spanish Succession flavours, while Napoleonics are promised this year with more to follow. Polemos is a game system, built from the ground up by Peter Berry of Baccus. Given Peter’s calling, he strongly suggests use of 6mm figures and the rest of us, “must accept the subsequent loss in visual appearance and impact”. He’s such a card! Peter has considered basing, figures, army lists, rules and game mechanisms from scratch, and is of course able to provide everything you need from bases to flags. The result is a homogenous feel and, it must be said, quite an achievement. Rules all use a similar basic structure, so transitions from one period to another are made easier. On top of that are laid the period specific concepts, which Peter claims makes every set play differently in terms of flavour, and accurately in terms of history. The rules use a clever system of Tempo Points which drive the battle action. I am very keen to get these back on the table.