Sunday, 5 July 2009

Minifigs and "Pas de Charge"; Good old days?

Shameless nostalgia time. I came across these pictures on the Minifigs website. The very first metal wargaming figures I ever ordered were some of these Prussian and Russian 25mm Minifigs to supplement my buckets of Airfix figures. I remember ordering them through the mail from a company in Pennsylvania- Soldier World USA I believe it was. Long gone now, of course!

Being 25mm, they of course dwarfed my HO/OO Airfix plastics, but in those pre-
Grognard carefree days, I didn't really care. My Russians held the Airfix La Haye Sainte against hordes of French cuirassiers painted (badly!) as dragoons, and no-one thought to give them a red-card for the historical faux-pas.

Forty years on since they were first released, they are really looking "long in the tooth" and are not really compatible with anything else out there. And they all seemed to be in the same pose, steadily advancing and eyes straight ahead. Yet I still think they had a charm of their own, although these days we have come to expect a lot more detail in our miniatures. But certainly there was no faulting the depth and breadth of Minifig's ranges- they covered just about everything the wargamer of the time could want!

No doubt modern miniatures represent a lot of progress on the part of the sculptor and caster, but I cannot help but to realize that I was able to paint my old Minifigs Napoleonics and Heritage/Hinchliffe medievals (I must have had hundreds of these!) a lot faster than I do my minis these days.

Make no mistake, I still love my Front Rank figures, and I'm certainly not about to go "retro".   Some consider the Front Rank poses too staid when compared to, say Elite or Foundry, but for me, perhaps, they are reminiscent of those old Minifig days, while incorporating the detail that we have come to expect with modern castings.

Nostalgia isn't all it's cracked up to be.    I used to use the old (1977!) Pas de Charge rules by the venerable George Nafziger, which seemed fine at the time with some mechanisms that I still like.

But when I dragged them out of storage years later and read them through again, I realized that not only had a lot of our notions of Napoleonic warfare changed over time, but that the rules themselves were full of omissions and "wierd goings-on". I think that some of the original charts and tables never made it into the book, as there remain references for mysterious tables that I have never found within the pages!

The rules served me well in their time, but time goes on, as it does with miniatures and just about everything else. And the choice in figures and rules out there now is stunning! These are great times to be a wargamer.

And while it is fun to look at old rules and figures again, there sure isn't any going back for me.

So when ARE Perry or Victrix going to release plastic Russians? And then there are those superb Prussians and Saxons from Calpe. Not to mention some interesting- if expensive- early Napoleonic wars ranges coming out from Foundry.

But practically I should just get on with painting what I have, first...


Peter said...

Howdies Robert

I too started in metals with Minfigs and Hinchliffe. I remember the move from the plastic sets and how we all longed for units where we could finally get all of the rank and file figures in the same pose. Now we want varied posing! Pity the manufacturers!! 8O)

My preference was for the Minifigs over the Hinchliffe which I thought were too inconsistent, gangly and scrawny. Others disagreed.

I got the Prussians without the covered shakos so that I got all the lovely edging along the top and other decoration on the shakos.

The first rules I used were the Bruce Quarry Airfix Napoleonic Wargaming guide.

von Peter himself

Robert said...

Good point on the posing! Times certainly have changed.

I never really got the hang of painting Hinchliffe Napoleonics. While I have to say that they were- and remain- capable of being painted to an extremely high standard by many people, I wasn't one of them!

I also found them somewhat over-animated for my taste, which is why I'm still no fan of Elite. With Minifigs the product was consistent, if unspectacular, and the range was vast. Few if any real gaps.

Minifigs were also easier to paint, no small consideration for me back then struggling with my tins of Humbrol enamel, and the all-pervasive smell of turps which earned me dark looks from my mother!

Yet I remember pictures of masses of Hinchliffe figures painted up for the Leipzig game at the Wargames Holiday Centre many years ago in the early issues of Wargames Illustrated, and they looked magnificent; the hobby doesn't get much better than that!