Review: Blue Moon Manufacturing 15/18 MM Italian Wars Miniatures21 Feb 2018 0
Review: Blue Moon Manufacturing 15/18 MM Italian Wars Miniatures
Released 08 Feb 2018
TMP (the Miniatures Page) is a great place to keep abreast of news in the world of miniature wargaming, a hobby richly diverse because of the cottage nature of the business. Few folks do this to put food on the table, which leaves room for hundreds of small vendors to ply their trade as a side business.
Recently TMP has announced new 28 mm Spanish Walloon Guards from Eagle Figures, Roman Coliseum Patrons by Steve Barber Models, and even a new site by ESLO Terrain selling digital files for your 3D printer so you can produce your own terrain and buildings. We’re talking a good six or so new products a day here, far too many to review. But there are a few bell weather firms I keep track of and one of them popped up with not one, but two announcements over the course of 48 hours.
The company is Blue Moon Manufacturing and the shekel grabbing merchandise is a new line of 15/18 mm figures covering the Renaissance era Italian Wars, a series of conflicts that lasted from 1494 thru 1559. Here is my reconnaissance report.
As noted above, the Italian Wars lasted some 65 years across eight conflicts originally caused by dynastic disputes over the Kingdom of Naples and the Duchy of Milan. Eventually, alliances and counter alliances caused most of Europe to become involved, including the Ottoman Empire. It's not the most popular topic, but because fighting during this era was transitional it has often been a niche favorite of many, particularly at tournaments.
By transitional one means that the various arms of service started the war as one thing, and ended the wars as another. Artillery became far more important as most guns were now mounted on wheeled carriages and pulled by horses vice oxen. New casting techniques made guns lighter, and enabled the French to produce a technological miracle called the iron cannonball. Previously, cannon shot were actually stones.
Likewise, while mercenary Swiss pikemen - halberdiers and their German Landsknecht (formed by Georg von Frundsberg in 1487 to counter the Swiss) opponents ruled early battlefields, they slowly gave to a new type of soldier carrying a new type of weapon, the Arquebus. So impressed was Niccolò Machiavelli that in his Art of War he suggested every city citizen should be trained to fire a gun.
Finally, the Italian Wars saw the ultimate evolution of the heavily armored knight, sorta a Renaissance tank on the hoof given the amount of surprisingly flexible plate armor for both horse and rider. As with the infantry, mercenary Italian Condottieri (“contractor”) free companies played a significant role, though French Gendarmes were normally thought superior due to the quality of their horses. Regardless, the whole gaggle conveys a veritable cavalcade of color when deployed, certainly not a bad thing in miniature wargaming.
The quality of quantity
As I typed in a previous article, more and more figure manufacturers are producing esoteric periods of history as things like ever-popular Napoleonics have been done to death, and then done over again. Blue Moon is no exception, but they have elevated that process with a reputation of not only high quality figures, but very large and very complete product lines, normally released all at once. In the case of the Italian Wars, however, the latter practice has been exchanged for a more phased approach. Over the period 8th and 9th February 2018 the company announced the availability of mercenary Landsknechts and then their Swiss and Italian counterparts. Still missing are the cavalry and cannon, though they are listed in catalogs, and no word as to other participants such as the Ottomans and their Janissaries. Pricing remains relatively stable with packs of 10 speciality figures (e.g., drummers) going for $9.00 US and packs of 30 regular infantry (as in halberdiers) priced at $17.50.
Here is the complete lineup so far, with the items now ready for purchase in bold:
Seriously, when a firm decides to include the dead and wounded, you can bank on the series as being as complete as possible.
Yardstick of quality
Marshal Saxe supposedly said, “Big armies don’t win battles, good ones do.” As is typical of this firm, Blue Moon is thus favored for success. To be honest, I thought the Swiss and Italian figures a bit plain and under-detailed, but this is likely due to the historical dress of these participants and not the sculptor’s tool. The Landsknechts, however, really shine in this department. Some firms, like Minifigs (Miniature Figurines Ltd) use a very smooth sculpting style for an almost parade ground appearance, while others, such as the first Old Glory 15 mms produced so many years ago, go for a very rough, deep sculpting style that is very difficult to paint though it looks very realistic when finished. Blue Moon seems to opt for something smack in the middle and it shows with Landsknechts figures. Given the costumes these characters wore with cod pieces, striped fluffy sleeves in various hues, the etching is just the right amount. It’s not too deep to make painting overly difficult, but not too smooth as to prevent the paint sliding into crevices for shading. Beards and plumes have just the right texture to show up without looking too pronounced.
Variety is also evident in both the type of sets offered as well as the individual figures included with each set. Thus one can select not less than four types of pikemen, to include heavy and regular, further divided by pike advancing or pike grounded poses. Within each pack the diversity continues with 30 figure packs containing two sets of 15 individual and unique poses, and speciality sets two groups of five individual and unique poses. This gives almost a reenactment visual quality to the figures. Having seen a few in my day, I can tell you that real humans do not march with their muskets or pikes at the same angle, or even using the same arm. Some figure sets are built that way, but the more varied Blue Moon approach is certainly much more realistic and I simply think it looks better. Likewise, adding things like barrels and cannonball stacks to the artillery crew set is really a nifty touch.
It’s also nice to see the figures sculpted without appendages like pikes or flag poles. Instead the customer is invited to purchase a pack of thick solid steel wires for use thereof. I much prefer this to the sculpted option as no matter how thick the pewter there seems to be no way to prevent pikes, lances or flag poles from being bent or entirely broken off by enthusiastic players. This solves the problem, not only thru enhanced durability but also enhanced pain if a player doesn’t handle the stand with the pointy poles with due respect. My only suggestion would be to add small drill holes to each figure to improve attachment.
Blue Moon has come up with yet another quality product line, so if this is your period of history please give it uber strong consideration. It boasts a perfectly balanced sculpting style matched with unparalleled variety and animation. For me, the set of Landsknecht two-handed swordsmen set alone is well worth the proverbial price of any admission.
Almost. I’ve promised the spouse no more miniatures until I paint what I have and I just don’t see me having the time to do another period of history. So why am I looking at the Arquebus game I recently reviewed and investigating how many packs of Blue Moon lead I would need to recreate Pavia? Research, that’s all, trust me. Seriously, no kidding. Just don’t tell my wife. Ever.
NB. Figure images from Blue moon Website, Landsknecht flags from Des Reichs Fahn, by Jakob Koebel, 1545.