Jim Purky, better known to the gaming community as Der Alte Fritz, was kind enough to send me some samples of his new Fife and Drum range. Fritz commissioned the sculpts from master sculptor Richard Ansell, who also sculpted Alban's (formerly The Assault Group) Napoleonics and Minden's Seven Years War figures.
Ansell certainly has a distinct style. His figures are the closest to actual human proportions of any metal wargaming miniatures I've ever seen. I had always thought that sculptors made heads, hands, and weapons oversized to allow for more detail and durability, but Ansell manages to load a wealth of detail into a small space.
Durability has been a tougher nut to crack. When I reviewed Ansell's Napoleonic Austrian grenadiers (part I, part II), I found the figures too fragile for wargaming. Bayonets and even ankles arrived broken. Part of the problem was surely the packaging, as The Assault Group sent me some replacement figures packed in foam that held up a little better, but the bayonet joins were still a little weak.
Ansell appears to have solved the durability problem through clever posing. These AWI figures are robust and will survive frequent handling.
When I first examined the American militiamen, they strongly reminded me of white metal scale miniatures that figure modelers use. They're that detailed and well proportioned.
Fife and Drum American Militia
I mounted these figures as skirmishers for British Grenadier. I like my militia to look motley, so I varied the colors of jackets, waistcoats, breeches, and gaiters. The sculpts themselves provide some variety, with different cuts of jackets, different pants, varied equipment, and even one man in shirtsleeves.
Here you can see both the variety in accoutrement and the superb level of detail these figures have.
I haven't seen many painted examples of these figures on the web, so I include here some larger images of the finished soldiers. Any crudeness in their appearance is not the fault of the sculptor, but the painter.
When I say that these figures are more anatomically correct than any others on the market, I really do mean it. Perry had set the standard, but look at the Fife and Drum miniatures next to some Perry miniatures.
I have no complaints about the Perry figures. They're beautiful miniatures, and almost all of my AWI miniatures are Perry. Fife and Drum clearly have an edge in their proportions. I will continue to buy Perry's figures, but I will likely be adding quite a few regiments of Fife and Drum.
Old Glory's AWI range is one of their best, and I have been working some Old Glory units into my armies. They have their own charm, but Fife and Drum look far more realistic.
Those wishing to game the American Revolution have an enviable dilemma. With so many excellent ranges to choose from, individual preference can have full reign. Perry Miniatures still have the most complete range of high quality figures. Old Glory Miniatures still have the most animated figures. And now Fife and Drum Miniatures have the best proportioned and most realistic figures. You can decide which matters most to you and buy accordingly, or, like me, you can enjoy each brand on its own merits and mix them in your armies.