Thursday, November 25, 2010

Conquest Games Plastic Normans: 1

I picked up a box of these at Warfare last weekend. It wasn't really an impluse buy as I have been steadily painting small groups of Crusader Normans for some time. I'm usually not too bothered about the price differential between plastic and metal but for a Norman army, where you need a lot of cavalry, 12 figures for £18 looks pretty good compared with the Crusader cost of £34 for the same number of figures.

I hope to assemble some at the weekend but first thought I would see what is in the box. The box itself is servicable (certainly not up to Immortal standards!) but, not that it really matters, the cover painting is a bit weak. The back of the box shows some painted figures done with the dreaded Army Painter but at least it gives me a target!

Inside there are four sprues of figures (three identical rank and file and one command) plus a sprue of bases.

The bases are 2.5 cm x 5cm for the four singles and 5cm x 5cm for the six doubles (so you get enough bases for 16 mounted figures). One of the double bases would take the casualty figure as well. I use just this size for my bases but never have multiple figure stands (partly because I don't like them and partly because I base my figures first and then paint them - with multi figure stands you need to paint first and then base). I probably won't use the double bases.

Standard Sprue

The standard sprue contains:

Four bodies (without legs). Three in chainmail (two identical) and one unarmoured. All with integral saddles.

Six horse halves. Three left, three right of which there are two of each half with one other; meaning two designs of left and two of right -this would make it possible to build four different horses as each half fits with any other.

Three different horses heads. This gives, then, the opportunity to build 12 different horses, given the four different horses.

Six different helmeted heads. Four with chainmail coifs, one with a cloth coif and one with no coif. So you have choices for the four bodies.

Three kite shields. Two have arms attached. None of them have shield bosses (unlike the Crusader ones)

Three round shields. Two have arms attached. All have shield bosses.

Three right arms holding spears. Two overarm grip, one underarm.

Three right arms holding swords.

One right arm with an open hand.

One left arm. For attaching to a shield.

Command Sprue

This is largely identicl to the standard sprue as regards horses, weapons and shields. However the top section is different and contains:

A one part casting of a fallen knight on a dead horse.

Three bodies. Two identical in quilted armour and one in scale armour.

One head (identical to one on the main sprue).

One right arm holding a lance with a pennon.

One right arm holding a horn.

One right arm holding a club.

One sword.

I have to say that they have really thought about the contents of these sprues. Apart from the fact that you can field twelve different horses you also have the option to field 12 figures in mail as well as having some other non-armoured or different armour options. Also you can give evryone a lance if you wish and everyone either a kite of round shield. Too often you find that there aren't enough components to equip your troops in a uniform way (Warlord Games celts spring to mind). If you are building a big unit you also have enough components to just build rank and file troops as you have enough bodies that you don't need to use the command figure components.

Next time I will assemble a figure, look at the quality and see how it compares with my Crusader ones. So far, however, I am impressed!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gripping Beast Plastic Vikings

The words "Gripping Beast plastic Vikings" were, for me, the wargaming equivalent of the words "Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz in lesbian love scene" for the cinema. Gripping Beast Vikings were the first 28mm metal figures I ever bought. They were also the first metal 28mm figures I actually had a game with. So they were, therfore, the one "must buy" from Salute. Sadly, like the aformentioned Johansson/Cruz scene, they have proved to be something of a disappointment. I have built several and painted one and have the following thoughts.

Four sprues of ten figures each

The standard sprue

Firstly, what do you get in the box? Four identical sprues with each. Each sprue also contains:
10 bodies all in chainmail (five different types; 2 of which have left arms attached)
10 shields (plus one with attached spears)
6 swords in scabbards
2 double handed axes
2 single handed axes
6 scram knives
4 pouches with attached scrams
14 helmeted heads (10 different)
4 right arms holding a sword
2 right arms holding single handed axes
5 right arms with spears
4 hands holding swords
4 hands holding single handed axes
2 arms designed to hold a double handed axe
5 left arms

Detail of the main sprue

This sound like a good varied selection but I have a few issues:

I would have liked a few more left arms: as four have them attached to the figures and you get only five more then it means that one of your figures per sprue has to be a double handed axeman.

Only five spears per ten figures and no separate spears. Vikings fought primarily with spears in a shieldwall; I find that two many swords and axes make it more a sort of Warhammer look.

There are no swords which either aren't in scabbards or have hands attached. The idea is that you cut a hand off an arm holding an axe and replace it with ahand holding a sword (and vice versa). I have done this and it works OK but you have to make sure you cut at exactly 90 degrees

Command sprue (x2)

Next there are two identical command sprues these contain:

2 bodies in chainmail (the same as two of the figures on the main sprue)
2 heads. these are different from the main sprue: one in ahelmet, one bareheaded.
2 shields.
1 right arm holding a horn.
1 left arm holding a sword.
1 right arm holding a sword.
2 swords in scabbards.
One cloak with an animal skin on it.

My issues with this are:
It's a shame that they couldn't have done some new bodies.
There are only two left arms and one is holding a sword so you can't have your hornist holding a shield as there aren't enough left arms.

Overall I would have liked to see: more variation in bodies, more bare-head options, more spears and more left arms. So, the set is not as flexible as it could have been.

Also included is a brief set of instructions (mainly concerned with the assembling of the two handed axemen and some (rather small) paper flags.

First painted plastic. Its is quite tricky to dry brush the rather shallow plastic chainmail detail

The figures go together quite well, although gaps between the arms and torsos can't be filled because of the pattern of the chainmail. I did find on some arms that I had to trim off some of the arm to get it to fit properly. There is only one real assembly problem and that is to do with the scabbards. Most of the sleeves come down so low that there is no room to fit a scabbard (especially if it includes the sword's grip). A number of the figures are depicted with over the chest belts from which swords would have hung but getting them in place is a real problem; you have to make them stick out at odd angles.

One of the few arm/body combinations that permit the scabbard to hang correctly

If the sword hilt is attached you have to angle the scabbard like this

Couldn't get a scabbard in at all on this one as the sleeve comes down too low

L to R: old Gripping Beast metal, New Gripping Beast plastic, Artizan Designs and Foundry

Size wise, they are smaller than many of my old Gripping Beast figures but are similar to the Artizan and Foundry ones which make up the bulk of my army. Certainly you could mix them in with no problem. Two things I don't like: the spears are very fat (compared with, for example, the Immortal Miniatures plastic Greeks spears) and are fatter than the Gripping Beast cast spears I have used on my other Vikings. Secondly, they definitely have a slight case of big head syndrome (some more than others) which is a shame as most plastics are edging towards more normal proportions (Perry, Immortal). In short they are rather more cartoon -ike than I would have expected from the Gripping Beast of old. To be fair I need to get some more painted up and see what they look like en masse but I would give the whole box a slightly disappointing 6/10.