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I Don't Know Art But
I Know What I Like

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (will settle for good anatomy)

I got started in this hobby when I picked up the “Sharpe’s Rifles” series of novels. I have always been a huge military history buff. And, in a prior life - before wife, first child, and demanding career - a wargamer of the maps and counters variety. Then for Christmas my wife gave me a few packs of Civil War 1/72nd figures. By that time I was deep in the Sharpe’s series, shortly followed by Napier, and Oman. I thought a miniature army would be fun to build. I decided on 15 mm miniatures as a nice blend between individual detail and being able to build a large army. So I started buying miniatures and painting them.

The reason I wanted to use a lot of manufacturers was to get as wide a variety of poses and variations as possible. Remember, I was building a scale model here, not an army for the gaming table. I decided to start with the armies at Talavera and began with the British.  Overall I have 8 different paint schemes for British infantry, each with minor variations in equipment colors. And, of course, I toss in the occasional custom detail - like brown pants rather than white or gray, patches on jackets, etc.

Now that you understand what I was up to, here are the characteristics of miniatures that I use for my reviews (whether side-by-side or otherwise).

  • Sculpt: Are round objects round? Are the folds in the clothes realistic and in the right places? Do the faces look human or are they gnomish, or just plates of scrambled eggs? Are muskets just tubes with flintlocks or is the barrel distinguishable from the stock? Do straps run all the way across or do they have gaps?
  • Detail: Are details of the uniform and equipment good and appropriate? By appropriate I mean things like - are cuffs and lace sculpted or just etched? Are mustaches too thick (resembling ferrets living under soldiers’ noses)? Are things like bayonets or shakos the right size?
  • Contrast: I refer to levels of contrast when discussing the detail of the figure. Briefly, this means how much physical space or depth is used to enhance detail. A high-contrast figure, for example, will have very thick or highly raised straps, jacket cuffs, buttons and so on. Obviously then, a low-contrast figure may have etched detail instead, or may have raised detail that is very nearly flush. It’s inexact, because some details on a figure may be high contrast, others may be low. I try to assess the overall average (or something like that).
  • Proportion: Some miniatures have hands the size of Easter hams or feet like Ally McBeal’s. Others have legs that are 20% too short or biceps that are 50% too big. That said, a good grade in this category indicates that the overall scale of the figures hold up well. In essence, this is anatomy 101 as judged by my eye.
  • Pose Realism: This one is easy - does the figure look like a soldier one might have actually seen? I own one set of figures that the catalog describes as “attacking” but judging from the strange squatting pose, it must be an attack on a latrine. Likewise, for marching figures, do the legs bend at the joints or is the soldier doing a Monty Python “Silly Walk?”
  • Casting Quality: Are the figures well made or are there serious flaws. Do mold lines run discreetly down the side of the figure or down the middle of the face? Are all the parts there or are some extremities (like bayonets or feathers) missing or only partially cast? How much flash is there, and how hard is it to remove?
  • Figural Variation: Keeping my goals in mind, I like to get more than one pose. While platoons of identical figures excite me, it calls synchronized swimming to my mind - not the battlefield. Of course, 6 bad poses are no substitute for one great one.
  • Paintability: Are they easy to paint? Some figures have so much “detail” scrambled into a tight corner you can’t tell the buttons from the straps. Better to have left a few details off to help out the poor painter. Are straps flat or are they ridges? Of course, this is highly subjective. Many people find Minifigs very easy to paint - for me they are just the reverse. Horses for courses.
  • Scrambled Eggs: There are, sadly enough, figures on whom certain areas of the figure are so poorly sculpted or molded that they resemble a mound of scrambled eggs rather than, say, a face or series of equipment straps. I do not like trying to guess if that ridge of tin is a mustache, an eyebrow, a piece of flash, or a piece of shrapnel stuck in his eye (is that a piece of shrapnel in your crotch or are you just glad to see me?).

Page last updated May 1, 2005

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