July 17, 2001
About a year ago, I contacted Michael Hickling of AB Miniatures, to find out whether Tony Barton would consider doing a Seven Years’ War range. The clipped nature of the response had me wondering whether I’d asked for a line of leather fetishists by mistake….
Since then, I had the opportunity to look at Minifig’s 15 mm War of the Spanish Succession range (see review), and Dal and myself have been soliciting SYW samples. Let this serve in part as update, in part as review.
It will come as no surprise when I tell you not much is available for 18th Century war gaming, that is, unless you like pirates. Whether it has to do with the general dumbing-down of historical interests (i.e., that history began in 1932), the difficulty of designing and sculpting demanding uniforms, or the mono-focus of late on Waffen SS and shades of gray, your work’s cut out for you if wishing to refight Malplaquet or Minden.
After a search of several months, I ordered some of Minifig’s comparatively new, redesigned SYW range from a distributor, Heritage Crest (Ohio). Their online service is a boon and turnaround on orders is very good. I was more than pleasantly surprised when the figures arrived. Finally I have found a "user friendly", decently done range for the SYW period.
Minifigs USA sells the figures in convenient blister packs. These are "true" 15 mm figures, measuring 15 mm from eye-level to foot. There are 24 miniatures per pack for line infantry -- 18 infantrymen with two command groups consisting of officer, standard bearer and drummer. At a cost of $6.19, that works out to 26 cents a figure. I found the castings to be clean and the logical 12/24 division means there would be little wastage. A good bargain.
I liked the fact that Minifigs is using lead-free pewter. While some people aren’t all that sensitive as to environmental concerns and strike an "I-sniff-lead" posture, I’m not one of them. It is a definite plus to no longer be handling lead, or putting lead byproduct into the water, trash, etc.
The Minifigs’ Stereotype
Again, let me remind readers that I’ve only been involved in the hobby actively for five years. So I don’t go back with Minifigs, but am familiar with the rap the line takes… that the miniatures are wooden, too toy-like, and have no variation whatsoever. On the wooden count, it’s true. On the no variation whatsoever, true. But as to the overall look, they are, in my opinion, far more realistic than most and superior to their major competition, Old Glory.
Anatomically, Mini’s are proportional, and as such, are more realistic than either the 25 mm poisoned dwarfs of Foundry and other copycat manufacturers, or the overly animated, squat figs of OG. A fellow recently commented to me that OG figures look like they’re stomping grapes. I suppose it depends on your frame of reference (needing a restroom or whatever), but they definitely look like someone should give them medication. Are they soldiers or football fans?
While the enormous size of Minifig bayonets looks a little ridiculous, one soon learns that to be a war gaming hobbyist is to learn the fine art of compromise. Their bearing is martial and the limited number of positions, historically accurate. The lack of variation actually works in Minifigs’ favor in depicting 18th Century warfare, where the goal was to have large bodies of men move in unison , in perfect evolutions, without variance, as precision automatons.
The faces of these reworked SYW figs provide just enough detail in the right places, so that those of us concerned about producing well-painted figs can pull some good results out of the castings. I think these are slightly better than their War of the Spanish Succession line (though the latter remains my favorite period).
The Achilles Heel(s)
If there is one thing that keeps me from waxing more enthusiastic, it is the cavalry. It should be remembered that a third of your army may be composed of cavalry, so while you might be able to work around the awkward-looking horse, etc., for Napoleonic armies, it’s a tougher bill circa 1758.
The horses aren’t bad and better than those provided for the WSS range. The main complaint, again however, is that the rider sits much too low in the saddle. I use milliput to raise the figures a tad, but am left wondering why Minifigs’ designer hasn’t addressed this rather simple problem. And with horses, the lack of variation is particularly telling. There is no way to make them look natural.
The total absence of variation is something that will hold Minifigs back and it would be in their interest to develop some – not a lot – but some. The French army of the period had a 1:19 ratio of officers to men. Attempting to depict a little variety in the ranks is problematic.
I communicated with Tom Dye (Minifigs USA’s CEO) on the matter, and it should be remembered this line in still in development… it’s new. Tom has plans for additional infantry positions, etc., and I sent him a wish list of figure types I thought might provide for a rounded, basic French range.
The Moment of Truth
It’s Olympics time and I’d rate the SYW line infantry 7.0 on our standard artistic scale, but give them a 9.5 on the user-friendliness rating. They are easily found, clean, stronger than AB’s, marketed in wastage-proof numbers… this is a good product and of the 18th Century lines out there, Minifigs gets the nod for now.
I have started collecting these myself…. what more can be said? Do I wish they were 20 mm and sculpted by Tony Barton. You bet. Do I wish they were a bit more animated? A bit?, you bet. But taken from a price vs. product standpoint, these are a very good deal, are generally well-done, and most importantly, can be painted to look comparatively realistic!
If you are interested in the Seven Years’ War, buy some. I don’t see anything else on the horizon, and I’ve enjoyed painting them.
Game Figures Inc.
Makers of MINIFIGS for the Americas
538 Unit E Olathe St.
Aurora, Co. 80011
Fax : (303)361-6474
Heritage Crest Miniatures
[DFHM Editor’s Comment: As of 9/2004 Heritage Crest is closed for business.]