Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bac Ninh Miniatures and the Boshin War

     I received a package today from Bac Ninh Miniatures; a small, minimal-investor company from Madrid, Spain. This business model is becoming more and more common in today's miniatures gaming scene. Like many typical miniatures companies, these companies are the born out a love for gaming. The big difference between one of these smaller companies, and say perhaps Perry Miniatures, is that they often make available genres or armies that would otherwise never see the light of day. It is not that there are no common interests in the gaming community, but rather that miniature gaming is by no means a grand money making scheme. Margins are tight, and capital can be scarce in such small business entrepreneurship.
     Bac Ninh currently offers only one product code: BW-01: Officers & NCOs (4). The code is anticipated to be the beginning to a larger line of figures for the Boshin War of 1868-1869. A follow-on set of four figures is already underway by Paul Hicks who is the sculptor for this venture. Paul is a talented fellow who can be credited for a good deal of great miniatures as offered by a large number of companies spanning numerous eras and armies.
     Jose, provided professional and courteous communication, making the transaction quite painless. The figures were dispatched in a speedy manner, packaged in the pictured plastic bag as well as the pictured padded envelope. I am currently serving in Korea which means that the envelope travelled a considerable distance, passing through many postal transfer points before making it to me. Considering all of the postal handling dangers, the figures suffered only a few minor bends. The swords were slightly bent as was the NCO's rifle. These bends were very minor, and easily fixed as can be evidenced in the photos.

     The figures are cleanly molded with only very slight mould lines. The lines appear on the inside of the figures legs, and on some of the figures sleeves. These will clean up with great ease by using the standard technique of a backwards drag from a No. 11 hobby knife blade. The castings are fully filled with no imperfections, or short fills. The metal used is of medium density which made the straightening of postal damage easy and safe to perform. The excellence of detail can be evidenced by Bac Ninh's own photographs of painted samples. I will only reinforce your observations by saying that they look just awesome in person.
     Bac Ninh was a pleasure to transact with, and their figures are a welcome addition to my collections. I have a soft spot in my heart for small companies such as theirs, and have enjoyed doing business with all of those that I have. Let's hope that the follow-on figures can continue to be offered on a regular, periodic basis. Remember, capital can sometimes be hard to come by for smaller companies, and the purchase of a sample pack could quite possibly make the difference between the demise, or the growth, of another great gaming era!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chalk Another One up to Experience

     Where did my joy in painting go? I don't know, but there is surely none right now because I am not...painting! :-(  I know, that today is only the 11th of the month, but I feel that it is turning into an emotional and production value loss. This is directly attributable to my recent foray into 28mm plastics. These plastics are rapidly becoming a ball and chain around my ankle, and I am running from the gang boss.

     To be fair, I decided on a plastics purchase out of the extreme pricing difference; $.68-.75 US per figure as opposed to $1.00-2.40 US per figure. The figures have excellent relief, and accurately patterned equipment. They sport very dynamic faces and a good variety to boot. The figures are also nicely proportioned and do not exhibit any one detracting anatomical characteristic. Unfortunately, the pose designs are not consistent. They are a mixture of believably spontaneous action and department store mannequin.

     I am a sporadic plastic scale model builder, first having done so approximately 30 years ago. I have built both straight from the box as well as having done a share of complicated scratch builds. I say this so as to qualify my opinions not as a newcomer to things plastic, but rather a guy who has been around the block a time or two.

     Issue #1: The pieces as moulded on the sprues suffer from a mixture of light, medium and heavy parting lines. Thankfully, since these so-called hard plastics are actually only semi-hard, the lines clean up in short order with the use of a hobby knife #11 blade. I will give credit in that none of the halves are so far out of alignment that they look like worn out moulds, and as we all know, mould lines are routine in figure preparation no matter what the medium is. Still, the legs are bad enough to cause an overly narrowed appearance once fully cleaned up.

     Issue #2: There are also some minor fill problems which mainly manifest themselves in the shakos. These have dimples and even obvious holes in their sides which must be filled and sanded.

     Issue #3: The components on the sprues are not all numbered as one would expect from a plastic model. You might say that this is not a big issue for the intent is allow for minor variations in figure pose, anyway. My plan was to build the first 13 based upon the manufacturers recommendations to acclimate myself to the plastics experience.

     Issue #4: The next bit of bother came from the recommended component matches having fit problems. I also chose to follow the manufacturers recommended component matches as they were likely patterned to be assembled in this way. Arms do not properly align with hands, and shoulders can often protrude in peculiar fashions, or worse unintentionally expose the flat mating torso surface.

     Collectively all of this sounds quite routine for a plastic modeler, and it is. My personal complaint is not that these are plastic models with plastic model problems, it is that they are figures with plastic model problems. I buy figures to spend time painting, and boy do I need the time for I am as slow as slow can be. The cost per figure savings simply do not justify the added plastics-specific time, or the anguish incurred. From here on out, unless I am in a premeditated mood to combine modeling with figure painting I will stick with metals.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Super J, Charity Mini

This post is dedicated to a young man named Jason.

     As can be discerned from the subtitle on this blog, I am not normally one for gaming genres outside of historicals. This has not stopped me from making a few odd purchases in the past, and has not done so again recently. While I will likely not add to my list of projects gangsters or super heroes, I have enjoyed painting such things in the past. Today I made a small but intentional purchase for a superhero figure named "Super J". While I am sure to derive a bit of fun in painting the mini, the purchase had a purpose, which is a charitable one. Since it is always best to cut out the middle man when passing along important information, I will defer to the original post by Jason's Father, Brian, on Lead Adventure Forum:

The real Super Jason!

     This gaming mini was made in the image of our son Jason and his best pal, Snakie. Jason was born with a rare genetic disease called Friedreich's Ataxia. This is a degenerative disease that attacks many areas of the body, including the brain, spinal cord and heart. There is currently no treatment for Friedreich's Ataxia and it is a life-shortening illness, so we're trying to raise money for the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA). This organization is our only hope for a cure.

     Jason has a quickly advancing case and is losing his ability to walk, see and speak clearly. He also suffers from heart disease and skeletal problems. Since there is currently no treatment for Friedreich's Ataxia, raising money for FARA is really our only recourse. Jason is a happy boy enjoying a great childhood and we want him in our lives as long as possible! As many of you know that I use to run What The?! Miniatures and it was with my son's diagnosis that led me to sell it off so that I could better make him more comfortable. Since he loves minis we though his own mini would be awesome! We are selling Super J minis on eBay, where all proceeds will be automatically donated to FARA through MissionFish.

     Aaron Brown of Black Crab Sculpting Studio was kind enough to donate his time and skills to sculpt it and Forrest Harris of Knuckleduster Miniatures generously cast Super J for us, free of charge. We are very grateful for their help!

     The Super J mini comes unpainted and is in the 28mm range (actually 18mm in height since his just a little kid after all) on a round 20mm slot base. The one pictured here was painted by Simon of Stone Cold Lead.

For $10, with free shipping, you can get a great miniature for a great cause!

The Auction

Thank you,
The Cottrells

Feel free to use the pics to plug the mini on your own blogs or other forums that you might think would be interested. Every bit of exposure will help my little boy.

The guys who made it all possible!
The Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance:
Black Crab Sculpting Studio:
Knuckleduster Miniatures:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fife & Drum Lights

     Yesterday, I finished up 12 Fife & Drum Miniatures British Light Infantry. I had hoped to complete them yesterday, but one day off of target isn't all that bad. I think that they turned out rather swell. I just need to improve upon my faces a bit, but that will come with experience. I painted eight figures in white trim (17th) and the remaining four in red (33rd). The plan is to complete the 33rd with my next purchase from F&DM. For now, I need to order some bases from Pendraken Miniatures!  

     Being an extraordinarily slow painter, along with recently switching my primary figure scale to 28mm, I have decided to rethink my attitude towards project completion. The plan is simple; use the months of the year as my own production scheduler. As the calendar changes so does what is on the workbench; no matter their state of completion. This should alleviate monotony, and my usual burnout from lack of project progress. If I don't set any major deadlines, I can't fail to meet them!

With the shift in figure scale, I have also gained the opportunity to rethink my gaming era pursuits. At the moment, these are the interests that I have sorted out:

Dark Ages
Napoleonics (to include the War of 1812)
Interwar (Irish War of Independence, German Revolution, Italians in Abyssinia, SCW)
World War II (air, naval, and ground)

You ask, "what is on the workbench for September"? Victrix British Peninsular Infantry Centre Companies!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fife & Drum Miniatures Review

     Last month, as a part of  Fife & Drum Miniatures' 1776 Deal, I ordered a batch of 12 British Light Infantry. This was so as to test the 28mm (30mm) waters so to speak. While I have painted a few 28mm figures before, the sum is no more than Copplestone Castings' Swell Dolls from their gangsters line, and the two free Perry Miniatures British rifleman as came with an issue of Wargames Illustrated.

     Let me just start with the fact that James is a wargamer's wargamer. His is a prolific wargamer who runs an excellent blog, "Der Alte Fritz Journal" and who decided to expand into the selling of miniatures themselves. The figures are sculpted by Richard Ansell, and are simply stunning.

     The game scale of the sculpts is 30mm which has been intentionally done so as to approximate 1/56 modeling scale. In fact, these figures look more like models than wargaming pieces! The figures themselves are anatomically proportioned which is quite uncommon in the wargaming world. We constantly find historical miniatures with: pumpkin sized heads, goblin like faces, baseball glove sized hands, stubby legs, and stuffed sausage bodies. Do not take from this that I do not appreciate these design styles, I wholeheartedly do. Such as with 6mm, Adler with their big heads and all, are king in my mind. It is just that if I were pressed to provide an opinion, I prefer the look of a balanced anatomy.

     The F&D's figures have exquisite detail with high relief and the authentic levels of equipment carried. This makes for enjoyable painting for a non-artistic person such as myself. The castings are quite clean with almost no flash or irregularities. About 1/3 of my figures required no clean up at all. The cast on bases are appropriately sized as being only large enough to mount the figure. This is well received for two reasons. First, with some figures it is difficult to pack them in closely unless trimming is done. I do not like trimming and cleaning a casting as I dislike the metal shaving produced and the potential health hazards that follow. Secondly, with a reduced base comes less opportunity to have it exposed as you basing material shrinks during curing.

     I would like lay praise to James' customer service. My ordering email was answered quite fast, but with his sale creating quite a business boom he was needing to back order some of my requests. He kindly offered to send the items in two separate packages which I declined so as to save him both time and expense. I appreciated his offer, but I was in no dire need (the lead mountain is already quite large). By month's end, he had replenished and payment was remitted. The packaged shipped out the next day. When it arrived, the contents were well protected in bubble wrap ensuring no bumps or bruises of the product. To my delight, there were a few samples kindly packed in there as well. Very savvy business move; get the hook in the fish's mouth and set it real good!

     Overall, the purchase was a great experience. I knew from the pictures on his blog that the figures were of high quality already, but once they were in my sweaty hands, the wow factor got even higher. The pricing was more than fair; the customer service was excellent; and, the shipping was fast.

     As of today, I have primed the Lights and will start on them throughout the week. I decided to first paint up a few of the samples, ensuring both colour choices and painting methods. Below are a few pics of the finished work. Sorry for my typically poor photography. The figures have a semi-gloss look in the pictures, but are dead flat in hand.

     Overall, I was quite pleased with my work. I have decided to not change a thing on the British Grenadier figure. As for the militiaman, I will not use the medium green again as applied. I actually have four shades of green on him with all being too similar. The end result is not dramatic enough for the gaming table. Next time it will only be three and there will be a larger colour shift from bottom to top. He will likely be my only solidly green figure anyway. So, not to big of a blow to my painting mind.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

17th Light Dragoons

     As mentioned before, I have been whittling away at some Pendraken, 10mm, 17th Queens Light Dragoons. Well, here they are. :-)

     They are mounted on Pendraken 20mm X 25mm bases textured with Vallejo Coarse Pumice and painted entirely with Vallejo Model  Color and Panzer Aces acrylics. I decided to forgo static grass and foam flocking for painted vegetation. After finishing my earlier Militia, I was unsatisfied with their look. It just seemed like the grass detracted too much from the figures themselves. I will eventually re-base them so, all is not lost. 

     While I am a HUGE fan of small castings (6 and 10mm), I find joy in all scales as each offers something different to the gaming expreience. This varied appreciation will likely be my downfall as I complete figures in more than one scale! :-/  It's okay though, I never get much gaming in anymore, so painting for pleasure is the order of the day. :-) 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Bit of Toy Soldier Fun! III

     Back again with another toy Soldier. I am actually in the process of painting some 10mm 17th QLD and will post them once finished and based. Today, I have what is actually the first toy soldier I painted for my co-worker. He is rather generic in uniform, but is quite close to being spot on for a SYW Prussian officer illustration I ran across. I had to retrieve him from his new owner since I forgot to photograph him the first go around. He is now back with his friends probably somewhere on a cabinet shelf most assuredly being appreciated for what he is....a classic toy soldier!

Thanks for stopping by for a look and keep your eyes peeled for some devilishly handsome dragoons!