Sunday, February 22, 2009

Foundry Marian Roman Legionaries

I just can't get enough of some figures.  I have Napoleonic French infantry in 6mm, 15mm, 1/72, 28mm, and 54mm, and I keep finding myself browsing 10mm and 40mm, thinking how fun they look.  I have ACW figures in all those scales.  And now I'm finding that Marian Romans are another of these favorite armies.  I already have enough Marian Romans to fight a large WAB or FoG battle, yet I keep buying the things.

When I painted my Old Glory Romans, I had a couple guys email or comment that I should really use Foundry figures for the period.  And I replied that I wasn't made of money, that I should rather spend $90 on OG legionaries than $546 on Foundry.  But I always kept my eye out for any bargains, and through careful attention to eBay auctions, I was able to find 44 legionaries and 10 command for around $1.20 per figure.  It's enough to almost field three cohorts for WAB.

Foundry Cohorts

I already had six 20-man cohorts painted for WAB, all Old Glory figures.  To round out my Foundry cohorts, I'll probably buy one blister pack of legionaries at full retail, just as soon as The War Store gets some in stock.  The Foundry figures are certainly good looking.  The poses are nearly identical, with some variations in armor and helmet, but all the men holding the same pose.  This is my preferred pose for Romans, since it really gives an impression of disciplined infantry.  The command figures are attractive as well.  The cornicens are all the same pose.  The signifers come in two poses, one with the signa and one with the eagle.  The centurions come in six poses, I believe, but I only have two.

Roman Shields

The only thing I didn't like about the Foundry figures were the shields.  They're fine pieces, with good detail, but they come in two varieties, one with a metal rim and one without.  I knew I wanted to use Little Big Men transfers with these figures, but LBM don't make the same design for rimmed and rimless shields.  So I bought a pack of 40 Crusader Miniatures Roman Punic Wars shields for $9.60 and bought LBM transfers for them.  I'm a decent hand at painting shild designs, but LBM exceed anything I can do on my own.

One Cohort of Foundry Figures

Here's a close-up of one of the cohorts.  I don't have round shields for the signifers, and I'm not sure what I'll do for shields for them.  I might see if Old Glory can sell me some single round shields from the Crusader EIR command pack, but I'm not sure even a trimmed transfer will fit on them.  The legionaries are individually mounted on 20mm square Litko bases with a 20mm square Wargames Accessories metal base (much better than the Litko flexible steel) glued to the bottom.  I cut a piece of basswood to 100mm by 80mm and put some sticky magnetic sheeting on the top.  This keeps my figures on their movement tray for my WAB games.

Wargames Factory and Wargames Foundry Legionaries

So how do the Foundry figures compare to my other Marian Romans?  Here they are next to a FoG base of Wargames Factory.  The WFac Legionaries were specifically designed to be compatible with the Foundry figures, and their height and build are very similar.  If you recall my review of the WFac figures, I disliked the shield arms on those figures, and you can see why from this shot.  The WFac figures hold their shields way too far forward for them to rank up well.  WFac would have done better to keep their shield arms as part of the main figure, rather than a seperate piece.

Old Glory and Foundry Legionaries

The Old Glory figures are also a pretty good match.  I don't like that the OG figures are all lunging forward ("scurrying," as OG critics love to point out), and the OG figures are slightly more slender than Foundry.  But I'll have no problem combining these figures on the table top.

Foundry and Old Glory Cohorts

Side by side, the Foundry and Old Glory units mix quite well.  With nine completed cohorts (well, eight completed and one almost completed), I can field nearly an entire legion.  I think I'll try another range for the 1st Cohort.  Maybe Companion?  If Mark Sims would sculpt some Marian legionaries for his Rank and File line, I'd jump all over those.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Battlefront WWII Game: Guadalcanal

The Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy Gaming Club met today for a World War II battle.  An infantry battalion from the Americal Division had to clear Japanese spotters from Hill 87 on Guadalcanal.  The Americans had three trained infantry companies, a platoon of trained Stuarts, and an experienced jeep recon platoon.  The Japanese had only one veteran infantry company defending the hill, but they had an attached heavy machinegun platoon and a 70mm battalion gun.  The Japanese would be reinforced by another veteran infantry company and a company of elite combat engineers, their arrival to be determined by dice rolls.

Initial US Setup

Sam looks over his initial dispositions.  Howe Company was on the Americans' left with one platoon forward and two back.  Item Company had the center in column of platoons.  King Company moved up on the right with two platoons up and one in reserve.  The Stuart platoon was between Item and King Companies, and the recon platoon was to King Company's rear.

Initial Japanese Setup

The Japanese held Hill 87 in force.  Their infantry all started in prepared positions.  The spotter stand could not move or fire, and would immediately be destroyed once an American squad touched it.  The Japanese guarded their flanks by deploying some infantry in the jungle to the sides of the hill.

Japanese Defenses

Although the Japanese started the battle outnumbered 2:1, they had some heavy weapons on the hill that would make it a tough nut to crack.

Americans Advance

The American battalion started its attack in style, making a double move toward the enemy.  Sam sent the recon platoon for the supply trail, intending to turn the Japanese rear, but the jeeps quickly bogged down in the jungle.  The recon platoon would not see any combat until the last turn of the game, when they were checked by Japanese engineers moving up the trail.

Japanese Reinforcements

The Japanese would be reinforced by an infantry company if they rolled a 9 or 10 in any of the first five turns.  After that, the infantry company would come in on a roll of 8-10 on turn 6, 7-10 on turn 7, 6-10 on turn 8, and automatically on turn 9.  As it happened, the Japanese rolled a 9 on their first turn, and the infantry reinforcements came on the board in Howe Company's rear.

American Mortars to the Rescue

Howe Company commander spotted the Japanese coming on the board and called for battalion mortar support.  He passed his call for fire roll and placed his mortar templates over his target stand.  The mortars needed to roll a 10 to kill, but a lesser roll might have suppresed or disordered the Japanese, giving the Americans time to redeploy and meet the threat to their flank.  The mortars rolled seperately for each template, and each roll was a 10: a 1:100 chance!  The Japanese company lost four of its nine stands without firing a shot.

Howe Company Redeploys

Jonah, in command of Howe and Item Companies, move Howe to check the Japanese.

American Attack Continues

Item and King Companies continued their advance on Hill 87.

All Quiet from Hill 87

The Japanese, dug in and hidden from view, held their fire to preserve their ambush bonus.

Recon Moves into Japanese Rear

Two of the three recon platoon jeeps had managed to extricate themselves from the jungle undergrowth and move up the trail to the Japanese rear.  They moved 12" off the road, bogged down again in the jungle, and stayed bogged down for the rest of the game.  Poor Josh, who commanded the recon platoon, must have had a frustrating game.

American Poised to Attack

By now the American main force was in position to strike the main Japanese line.  But the Japanese were strangely quiet.  Should the Americans send forward a few squads to spot the Japanese, or should they sieze fortune by the forelock and charge right in?

Japanese Trouble on the Right

Meanwhile, the Japanese players (Matt and Zach) were facing troubles of their own.  How should they handle their mauled reinforcing company?

Japanese Charge

They chose to charge!  The two infantry squads that were in range fixed bayonets and made a run for the American infantry.  It was a rash decision.  American machineguns tore one squad to pieces, and the other Japanese squad was destroyed in close combat.


Now it was the Americans' turn.  Howe Company made a counter charge, hitting two Japanese squads with four American squads.  The Japanese lost one squad, the Americans lost one squad, and the two companies drew apart.  By now this poor Japanese Company was down to two stands.  In just 20 minutes of game time, they has lost nearly three quarters of their strength.  But they had inflicted some losses on Howe Company, and the two veteran Japanese squads passed all their maneuver rolls and retired in good order.

The Decisive Turn

Now began turn six, the turn on which the battle would depend.  After an hour's steady advance, the Americans had two infantry companies and their Stuart platoon in position to assault Hill 87.  The Americans decided on the bold stroke, sending their squads in blind in hopes of overwhelming the Japanese with pure brute force.

King Company Attacks

On the American right, King Company rushed forward into the jungle, pitting their nine sqauds against the Japanese three.  The Americans overran the first Japanese position, killing one enemy squad, but lost heavily against the other two Japanese squads.

Item Company Attacks

At the same time, Item company rushed the jungle on the other side of Hill 87.  The Japanese heavy weapons on the hill opened on the attacking Americans.  The defending Japanese infantry sprung their ambush . . . 

Item Company Destroyed

And by a series of stunningly high dice rolls, the Japanese killed seven of Item Company's ten squads.  Flush with victory, the Japanese left their foxholes and charged the remains of Item Company, sending the Americans running for the rear.  This same turn, the Japanese received their elite combat engineers, who quickly overran the stalled American recon platoon.

American Collapse

Item Company failed its morale roll and began running. Howe Company failed its morale roll and began running. King Company failed its morale roll and began running. The American attack had failed with heavy losses.

We played this game to completion in just under two hours.  The American players might have done better by probing the Japanese line, spotting their infantry, and suppresing them with machineguns, mortars, and tanks.  But this game was really decided by the Japanese dice rolls.  In the decisive turn six, Zach and Matt rolled nine kills in eleven chances, an amazing stroke of luck.  The Japanese may well have prevailed without the intervention of the dice gods, but as it was the American attack was a complete failure.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

TAG Austrians Part II: Deal Breaker

We had our usual painting night on Friday, and Austin had the second part of my TAG order for me, the rank and file Hungarian grenadiers.  TAG has mistakenly included another pack of command instead of a pack of rankers, so I won't be able to paint up my complete four stand unit, but I most likely won't be painting these anyway.  As you can see in the pictures below, the grenadiers experienced significant breakage on their way across the Atlantic.

Broken Grenadiers

I appreciate the desire for good proportions, but surely it has gone too far when every single bayonet breaks in shipping.  All eight bayonets!  Six had snapped off completely before ever I opened a blister pack, and the other two were so badly bent that they broke in my hand as I tried carefully to right them.  You can see the base of one grenadier, third from the left, has bent 90°, and this figure would break off at the ankles when I tried to bend the base parallel to the ground.

Blister Pack, Side View

It's not merely the thinness of the figures that is it fault.  The packaging does not keep the figures at all secure.  You can see that the grenadiers have room enough and to spare to rattle around in the blister.  A thicker bit of foam would certainly have helped keep them stationary.

A Sad Mess

So here's what I got for my £16.50.  Eight (not twelve because of the wrong package) broken figures.  I shot this from the side to better illustrate the awkward step I wrote about in the last post.  The two leftmost grenadiers are striding ahead with two locked knees.  I'm not an expert on Napoleonic infantry drill, but I did try walking around my house like this today, and it doesn't work.  Maybe Austrian grenadiers were only recruited from double jointed men, but I doubt this was the actual step employed.

Foundry French Grenadier and TAG Austrian Grenadier

On TMP, Supercillius Maximus writes that, for a fair comparison of the Foundry and TAG ranges, I should not have used a Foundry Russian in greatcoat.  He's quite right, of course.  Here is a Foundry Grenadier a Pied of the Imperial Guard.  The same comments apply.  The TAG figure is much taller and leaner than the Foundry figure, and I wouldn't want to mix these two lines on the table.

I had not recommended the TAG Austrian line because it would not fix with other manufacturers.  But I had qualified my remarks by stating that, when the line is complete, it would serve very well for those who want more life-like proportions.

Based on the horrible breakage in these two packs, I have to withdraw that qualification.  These figures are unforgivably fragile.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Assault Group Napoleonic Austrians

The Assault Group is coming out with a line of 28mm Napoleonic Austrians, and they're trying for better proportions than most wargames figures have traditionally had.  Alban Miniatures is working on a similarly proportioned French line to oppose them.

I was intrigued by the idea of toy soldiers that looked like real human beings, rather than little dwarves with huge heads and hands, so that when Austin ordered some ECW figures from TAG, I tacked a few packs of Hungarian Grenadiers onto the order.

TAG Hungarian Grenadier Command

Here they are.  My ruler doesn't start until the figures' ankles, but they do stand about 28mm from sole of shoe to eye level.  The proportions are indeed very nice, but a couple of the poses (officer and sergeant) have odd angles of the head.  I didn't get any shots from the side, but the figures are walking in a kind of goose step, with the leading knee locked straight.

The overall effect is of awkward movement.  It's not easy to see from photographs, but in the flesh, the figures do have a strange quality about them.

HäT El Cid Spanish and TAG Hungarian Grenadier

So how do the TAG figures compare to the other anotomically correct 28mm figures I just painted?  The TAG figures are slightly taller, though that may be because they're standing more upright.  The TAG figures are, if anything, even leaner than the HäT figures.  But when HäT releases their 28mm Bavarian infantry, I think I would be comfortable mixing HäT and TAG on the table.

Old Glory and TAG Austrians

I already have a large 28mm Austrian army for Piquet: Field of Battle.  My Austrians are all Old Glory figures.  How will the TAG figures mix with them?  As you can see, the figures are exactly the same height, but the TAG figures are much leaner than the Old Glory figures.  I'll save the final determination until after I paint the TAG grenadiers, but I don't think the two styles will mix well on the table.

Foundry Russian and TAG Grenadier

So is it just the OG figures that are so bulky?  In fact, the OG figures are considerably taller and leaner than Foundry's Napoleonic line.  Here you can see a Foundry 1812 Russian musketeer, and he's even more out of scale with the TAG figure.  I don't think I have to wait for paint for this one.  Foundry and TAG will not mix.

Front Rank and TAG Grenadiers

Of course, Front Rank are the beefiest of them all.  I wish I had an unprimed Front Rank grenadier to compare, but even with the detail obscured by primer, you can see how odd these figures look together.

So the TAG figures, while certainly in proper scale, won't mix well with any of my metal brands.  Since I already have a large Austrian force, that's kind of a big deal for me and will most likely keep me from buying more TAG.

Were I starting from scratch, would I use TAG?  Probably not.  The figures have a strangely wooden quality to them that I don't care for.  It's a purely subjective decision, but there it is.  And that's not the only reason.  Because the TAG figures won't mix well with any other manufacturer, I would want to field only TAG figures for my army, and the range isn't anywhere near completion yet.  They do have German and Hungarian line infantry in helemts and shakos, German and Hungarian grenadiers, Grenzer, and Jäger.  But they lack Landwehr, any cavalry, artillery, and mounted officers.  It's likely to be years until the line is complete.

Were the line complete, my answer might be different.  Just from looking at the images on TAG's website, I can tell that not all the figures have the same ungainly posture as this pack.  I do like the proportions of these figures very much, better than any other 28mm figures.  Could I field a whole army of these figures, complete with hussars, lancers, cuirassiers, dragoons, landwehr, artillery, and generals, I might very well do so.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

WAB Greek Army

Matt, a student in my school gaming club, has put together a really great looking 1,000 point Greek hoplite army for Warhammer Ancient Battles.  This is the third army Matt has finished, and he only started painting in October of '07.  

Two Shots of the Whole Army

The army's roster is:
1 General
19 Armored Hoplites
20 Armored Hoplites
20 Unarmored Hoplites
6 Light Greek Cavalry
7 Peltasts
6 Peltasts

Last month Matt fielded these Greeks against my Polybian Romans in two fights.  The Greeks won the first battle, and the Romans won the second.  We really enjoyed pitting the phalanx against the Roman manipular system.  It made for some tense games.  The Roman and Greek light troops are also well matched.

Hoplite Line

Here is the strength of any Greek army: a solid hoplite block.  Matt used North Star spears and Little Big Men shield transfers.  The hoplites are all from Crusader's Rank and File Line.  The Thracian skirmishers are also Crusader.  The cavalry are Old Glory.  Matt used Litko bases with Woodland Scenics and Silflor prairie tufts.

First Phalanx

This is an armored phalanx, with general and trumpeter from Foundry WG3/1 "Athenian Command."  Matt uses a basswood movement tray with magnetic sheeting so that the flexible steel base bottoms will stick.  This makes it easy to move his phalanxes as a unit, but also easy to remove individual figures as casualties.

Second Phalanx

This phalanx is also armored.  The command figures here are from Crusader's Rank and File Armored Hoplite Command.  Greek units in WAB do not get unit standards.  Instead they roll for "oracle points" at the beginning of the game.  These points can be spent to give Greek units a bonus in combat or to reroll morale tests.

Third Phalanx

Matt's last phalanx is made up of unarmored hoplites.  They are just as deadly to the enemy, but they only save on a 5 or 6 instead of a 4-6, so they don't quite have the staying power of the armored units.  Matt varied his tunic colors quite a bit to make the unit more visually interetsing.

Thracian Skirmishers

Matt went all out on the Thracian clothing, painting designs and using many interesting color combinations.  These are a far cry from the usual drab skirmishers.  Matt hand painted all the Thracian shields.  Unfortunately, you can't see any of them in these pictures!

Light Cavalry

These are Old Glory Thracian light cavalry.  Matt hand painted these shields as well.  The Thracian cavalry are superb skirmishers.

Matt is working on increasing the size of his Greek army to 2,000 points.  He will add strength to the phalanxes, bringing them each to 36 men, and he will add another phalanx of unarmored hoplites.  The skirmishers will get slight bumps in their numbers.