CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY . . . AGAIN! A Table-Top Buying Guide

By Bill Gray 30 Nov 2016 0

If you’re a tabletop gamer, particularly in the US and even more so if you live close to the three major HMGS conventions – Cold Wars in March, Historicon in July and Fall In come November – Christmas always comes early. Better still, it comes at least three times a year outside the traditional 25th December celebration. Even at the smallest of the three conventions, there are no less than 68 vendors with oodles of goodies to tempt those hard earned shekels out of your wallet. And given I had to accompany my better half for Black Friday shopping, I figured I had earned the right to indulge at my last con, and I did.

Now, let’s get real. There is absolutely no way I could possibly write about all of the new offerings I found in the Dealers’ Hall. More than other wargaming genres, historical miniature play is very much a cottage industry. Few actually make a living from the hobby. Most dealers and manufacturers are part timers who participate to put a little extra coin in the pocket, stroke an ego or two or simply enjoy the work. Thus there are literally hundreds of small firms putting out new or improved quality products all the time. How many? Check out the home turf of the quaintly designed but unbelievably comprehensive TMP (The Miniatures Page) Website, and you will understand. I certainly don’t have the time for such prose and my editor does have space limitations so I won’t even try; the flogging clause of my contributor’s contract notwithstanding (ahem).

Architectural Heritage 15 mm Italian Line finished

What I can do is pen a paragraph or two on just a very few items that caught my eye. so here you go:

Architectural Heritage. Many years ago a new line of 15 and 25 mm wargaming buildings made their appearance under the name Architectural Heritage. Designed by Dave Paddock, who also did custom design and painting, the little gems were literally museum quality in detail and quite hefty. They were not the type that easily got moved on a gaming table, and that is still a good thing. The best thing about them was that when you bought a piece like the 4100/4101 Prussian church, what you were really buying was a replica of THE Prussian church at Hassenhausen. It was here on 14th October 1806 that French Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout decisively spanked the Prussian army of the Duke of Brunswick at the battle of Auerstadt. This was always the draw for me. The model structures, at least the ones I was interested in, were all designed from actual historical buildings, and not a generic this or that.

In 2013, however, the existing Architectural Heritage product line was acquired by JR Miniatures and integrated into its own, where it remains today. While JR designed its own additions, the hand of Dave Paddock was noticeably missed. That changed when I visited Doug Kline of Battlefield Terrain Concepts at the recent Fall In convention a few weeks ago, where I also ran into the original designer himself. The news is that Dave Paddock is back designing again, so Architectural Heritage has been effectively reborn. I’m not sure what relationship this new activity has with JR, if any, but what I do know is that three new 15 mm pieces were introduced at the show. They are drop dead gorgeous, showing the designer has not lost his touch. They represent three German structures associated with beer, so you bet I picked up a set. I’ve a collection of poorly performing Bavarians, but I’d also wager a little more élan if a beer hall is their objective. The accompanying photo shows the three new buildings along with a couple of new additions to Doug’s own line as garnish. A second photo shows some Architectural Heritage Italian houses painted up and finished (and yes, that is the price, and yes, people pay it).

Right now, about the only company that can really compete with Architectural Heritage in terms of breadth and quality is Time Cast Models out of the UK. Their buildings are excellent as well and ironically, also carried by Doug Kline. Alas they make very few 15 mm buildings as most are labeled as 10/12 mm. Admittedly these are a large 12 mm, but still a bit dinky when place beside 15s and 18s, something I discussed in a previous article. It’s all the more reason that Dave Paddock getting back into the hobby is a very welcome proposition.

Architectural Heritage three new 15 mm Buildings

Blue Moon Manufacturing ECW. Blue Moon is actually a separate product line for Old Glory Miniatures, which currently produces mostly 25/28 mm and 10 mm figures. Old Glory sold off their old 15 mm series to 19th Century Miniatures a few years ago, but eventually decided to reintroduce the scale. Given Old Glory 15s was now owned and produced by another firm, the name Blue Moon became the new standard bearer for 15/18 mm (their name for the scale BTW) figures. The current Blue Moon line is huge and growing all the time. Sure the firm introduces a new figure here or a new figure there for the 29 historical eras they currently cover, and the original design philosophy remains solid and intact. Figures show a rough sculpting style, are animated, have different poses in each set and are packaged in large amounts. Right now 30 foot figures will run you $ 16.00, whether it’s from the Night Chicago Died, the Napoleonic or Mexican American War range.

Thus I was looking for some World War I Austrians and Russians, and stopped to chat with the company CEO (and wife of the owner). She didn’t have the stuff I wanted, but she did introduce me to yet another new historical range, the English Civil War or ECW in tabletop parlance. This continues to amaze me. Blue Moon is always introducing new and complete historical ranges, and they do it so often that I envision some ultra-talented but lamentable churl slaving away in a sweat shop. The range has not less than 43 individual packs, and more is coming, mostly cavalry. Like all of the company’s historical segments, the figures are super detailed and comprehensive in variety. Thus you can buy not less than eight different packs of pikemen. Some are armored, some are not, some have full breastplate or Montero caps, some do not, some are advancing and other packs show the “order your pike” drill stance. Each 30 figure pack has three different poses of 10 pikemen, musketeers or whatever. There are also packs of musket rests, civilians, wire pikes (which do wonders with clumsy players; very sharp), casualties, dragoon horses with horse holders, cannon and a whole lot more. With the heavy horse and lobsters on the way, you can color me impressed.

By Fire and Sword Wargames. This is a Polish company. Seriously, Polish? They play wargames in Poland? Well yes they do, a lot evidently, and the By Fire and Sword – Wargamer Company seems to be making a lot of money supporting this hobby. The company continues to fly over to the US for HMGS conventions, and has now established its own US subsidiary of sorts. Not only do they bring lots of their products, but also custom designed polo shirts, coffee cups, banners, calendars, even free movies.

By Fire and Sword Armies Vol I

And their product shelf is extensive, probably the most complete I have ever seen, all supporting wargaming in the era of the Polish Commonwealth as it battles Swedes, Ottomans, Cossacks and so on. The entire franchise seems to be based off a famous literary trilogy on the period as well as the three movies the books inspired. There are not only figures, but order tokens, terrain, flags and of course a series of very well done and very colorful rules books. There is even a series of packaged dice that are specifically colored and labeled to match the faction they are used with such as the Swedes, Holy Roman Empire or Cossacks. It’s all wrapped up and presented in what has got to be the most attractive and professional marketing scheme the hobby’s ever seen. I kid you not, but everything for sale looks like it was put together by a large mainstream toy firm, such as Mattel in the United States. I will also say that the English version of their stuff is pretty much the best translation effort I’ve ever come across.

This time around the Poles have dropped yet another coffee table type book for us to consider and a few other trinkets as well. The book is called Armies of by Fire and Sword Volume I and is a full color glossy hardback publication as were the two previous by this company. The book has no new rules, but instead concentrates on the armies of the period, introducing the Royal City of Gdansk and Courland as two new factions. It also includes data for 19 new skirmish forces, 18 divisions, 26 new commanders, a plethora of new units along with their regimental structure, all for $ 40.00 US. Other new items include the first of a series of campaign books, this time covering Warsaw 28 – 30th July 1656, a 48 pager selling for $ 20.00 US. The company was also taking pre-orders for two brand new, exclusive units supporting this campaign, those being the POL-26 Lithuanian Winged Hussars led by Alexander Hilary Połubiński and SWE-20 Carl X Gustav Horse Guard. Only 360 numbered sets of each are being produced, in celebration of the 360th anniversary of the battle. Polish heavy horse and Swedish Reiters rounded out support for the book.

Now I don’t play this period, but I do buy some of their products because the figures can be used in other periods of history. Thus, nearly my entire Ottoman army at Peterwardien in 1718, to include artillery with custom siege fortifications, come from these lads. Yet I will admit the merchandising was good enough for me to grab the base rules set (By Fire and Sword, Revised), all $ 75.00 of it. Guess what? The book proved fascinating reading as pure history and I enjoyed it immensely. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but also 400 pages and very well done.

Other items of note. OK, so here are a few other things that caught my fancy at the convention.

Clash of Arms la Bataille de Ligny

There wasn’t too much to be found in the board game genre as companies like Decision Games only drop by for Historicon, the largest of the three HMGS conventions. And unless the Matrix-Slitherine crew is present, absolutely nothing from the PC or video game side of the house shows up. Nevertheless I did notice a booth for Clash of Arms Games where they were promoting their 2d Edition la Bataille de Ligny board game, boasting redone graphics and an entirely new rules philosophy. The game is part of COAs series of Napoleonic battle games that has continued the tradition of the revolutionary la Bataille de la Moscowa game privately published by Laurence Groves and Marshal Enterprises. I could only find data concerning the 1975 Game Designer’s Workshop 2d Edition, so the original must have arrived prior to 1975. Yes, the series is that old and that I can remember the 1st edition will be discussed no further.

Finally, something seen not so much new as rediscovered. L’Art de la Guerra was first published back in 2008 as a set of rules that allowed battles from 3000 BC thru 1500 AD to be played with only about 20 units per side. The game was notable as being a one stop shopping publication, as in everything needed to play, to include 283 Army Lists, was under the same cover with no need to buy any additional books. Originally in French, both an English and Spanish version was produced in 2014, but then the system sort of vanished. There is now a completely new and revised version as of October 2016 and sure enough, when I dropped by the Lampeter Room where all the Ancients Tournaments and Flames of War events were being held, its banner was proudly displayed in front of a large number of tables hosting miniature battles. Admittedly this may not be the first time the game system has graced an HMGS convention, but it is the first time I can remember seeing it, so congrats to author Hervé Caille for a product that continues to stand the test of time.

In conclusion apologies to all if I missed your new release, but I do have to sleep sometime. But these will be pleasant dreams as toys and books like these, if nothing else, show the tabletop remains steadfast and vibrant. Congratulations and keep up the good work. Because I get grumpy if I don’t sleep and nobody wants to see me when I’m grumpy. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

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