September 1, 2002
The hunt for a range of Seven Years War figures is over. And the two year effort to find alternatives to AB Miniatures, increased insight into the quality issues facing hobby consumers. Hopefully, those who’ve been collecting for a couple of years, will understand a major shift in my thinking.
The historical branch of the hobby is contracting. This is in part due to the general "dumbing down" of Western societies in general. One gets the impression that many under the age of thirty, believe world history began with Hitler’s rise to power. Another major contributor is the increased workload that people must address in the frenetic race to god knows what. It’s leaving them with less free time to study, paint, and game.
Some would counter that the annual hobby shows draw bigger crowds every year. I’d suggest most events draw bigger crowds than ever because there are simply more people. But it’s hard to translate such numbers into an important measurement… sustained interest. If one considers how many people contact retailers, purchase a few samples, tell friends they’re planning to game Borodino or Gettysburg, and then take up another pursuit, it sobers even the most ardent wargaming cheerleader.
The facts are fairly simple, after looking at this issue for a few years. The demographic of the historical wargamer is increasingly that of middle-aged men, who very often, are either semi-retired, or retired. And the miniature manufacturers reflect the fact in catering to the interests of young hobbyists with greater releases of fantasy figures and historical periods that are well-documented in movies. It’s a bit ironic, as the former group probably makes up for a lack of numbers with greater discretionary income, but no one on the whole, would suggest wargaming manufacturers are astute businessmen.
Dal and I have been making two concerted efforts: (1) Raise questions about the quality and design of figures available, and (2) expose hobbyists to less popular conflicts and armies. Our modest contribution, however, does not a movement make. In the recent letter writing campaign we tried -- in the long-shot of moving AB into the column of 18th Century figure providers – only two e-mails were received from people who said they’d participated, though many have clamored for a viable choice.
Based on some of these realities and the fact I’m fifty-two, I’m not spending more time in waiting for the next best thing to come down the pike. To build the type of army I’d be proud of will take at least five years, so I’m now committed to collecting Front Rank 25’s and other figures that will mix well with them. I’m not enthusiastic about the fact (see Front Rank SYW Review), and will continue campaigning for better anatomical renderings. But the eyes have been taxed sufficiently in painting hundreds of 15/18’s.
Here are three reasons for the change in position:
- 1) If you are 40 or older and are planning to do the painting yourself, choose from figures ranging from 20-30 mm in height. There are many visual and gaming limitations in doing such, but you’ll not only have a better chance of preserving your sight, you’ll enjoy painting more.
- 2) While the larger figure manufacturers may not be in great financial shape (we have no means of measuring such other than hunches and rumors), they’ve been around for a number of years. Those that produce the ‘elfin look’ Foundry-type miniatures, have built a loyal following, particularly in the UK, and these figures can be intermixed with other copycat ranges. The QC is usually better. The higher price may be offset by collectors of well-painted figs, in the event you wished to sell them.
- 3) I’ve lost interest in small operations offering a handful of figures. There are too many selling products of marginal quality, and some that act like they don’t want to be in business! A small number produce nice figures, but it’s a gamble to assume they’ll be around three years out, and if you’re building a major project, you can’t take the chance.
- 4) Be particularly cautious in considering some of the early lines that passed through several changes of name and/or owners. The masters may be great, but the casting quality I’ve found, is generally hit-and-miss.
Paul Crouch and team’s recent pictures (see our home page) of The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781) played a role in overturning the self-imposed veto on purchasing Front Rank. I stand by my comments about the anatomical shortcomings of most 25/28 mm figures. But being reminded that viewing them at a distance of, say, three feet, and the sheer visual impact the larger scale can provide, has me setting aside earlier reservations… not enthusiastically, however.
People will eventually improve on the early works of Chas Stadden and Suren, producing human beings that can be studied up close or at a distance, with equal pleasure.
The repositioning of my priorities should result in more reviews of present 25/28’s. One of Front Rank’s American Revolutionary figures is pending.