Friday, 12 April 2013

A 'Crappy Figure' rant...

I am sure I have mentioned this before in various posts, it is a subject dear to my acid reflux...but I am sooo sick of crappy wargames figures. But wait, I hear you all cry. We live in a free market economy Leofwine, you do not have to buy these crappy figures that befuddle you so; it would also save us having to read about your odd rants! Fair comment, but my issue is that the chaff is hidden away amongst the wheat and you only realise you have crappy figures when it is too late.

Let me give you some examples. Only the other day I was cleaning up some Gripping Beast Norman figures for my Saga force. You can buy a Saga unit as a sealed pack and here in lies the issue. If a company has some odd looking figures that they cannot get shot of because no bugger likes them, then what better way of clearing them out than by stuffing one or two into a 'unit pack'? In the Norman infantry/spearman pack you get the required eight figures, one is standing there with his shield on the floor and resting against his leg. The figure is nonchalantly leaning over his shield and all that is missing is a fag in his hand to give him that really accurate 'Bored Guard in charge of the latrine' look. Now, what use is such a figure on a wargames table in a dynamic skirmishing/battle unit? There are a couple of similarly 'Guardy' figures in this pack that really make me lose faith in Gripping Beast....and I really love Gripping Beast usually. Also, the crossbowmen are a real pain as the prods (the twangy bits of a crossbow) come as a separate piece to be glued onto the stock. These are not only fiddly but are starting to cast badly and are different sizes. Picky? Possibly, but I was already on a downer over the stupid spearman figures and the crossbowmen were the next lot to put together.

Let me now turn to Renegade. Now, I should make it clear that, as with Gripping Beast, I love Renegade. The figures can be a little large compared to some 28mm figures but they generally look great and are fantastic value for money. You can often get some fantastic deals from Renegade too, buy four of their eight figure blister packs and get a fifth one free, or by so many regiment packs and get another free. These generous offers on top of an already generous figure price and you get a brilliant deal. However, I bought the WW1German infantry regiment only to find that, yet again, the regiment packs had some bloody awful figures in them. Guys carrying boxes, officers looking like they were next in the queue for negotiable affection...just where would you use such figures????? The blurb on many company websites and flyer's states that the figures are meant for wargamers and collectors, to my mind this is a get out clause so crappy and unusable figures can be dumped into your pack! Now, I do think that there is a major difference between the more linear units of say the Napoleonic period or ECW and WW1. In the linear period packs where the unit is more formal and regimented in stance and look an odd looking figure can be hidden and may even be acceptable. Not so in a more mobile period unit...or is it just me??? Its ok, you can be honest. I am married to Mrs Leofwine so I am used to criticism.

Old Glory seem to have similar issues with some of their 15mm packs. A good friend and fellow MHWC member, Martin, uses them a lot and it is easy to see why. Martin has some lovely looking figures in his SYW and ACW collections and he likes a big unit too. But even he tells me that in the large packs these ranges are sold in he will often end up with a pile of musicians or some other figure you would ordinarily  only need one of. Just what do you do with these damn things?

Ok, these packs may well work out cheaper and provide value for money, but much of this is lost because you cannot use X number of figures and so have to buy extra packs to compensate. How many of you remember our early days playing with airfix figures? Fine when you are six and need to add a running narrative to your games and a suitable dynamic and expressive soundtrack (weeeee, booom aaarrgh, booom etc.) As we got older of course this change...a bit....and we needed more regimentation in our figures. The amount of figure posed doing something random and odd was a real pain then and so how pleased were we all when we discovered proper wargame figures....most of which you bought individually so no waste!! Is it me or are we sliding backwards a tad here? Or, worse given that I am now 1046 years old, am I turning into a grumpy old man???

Okay, rant over. Thank you for listening.


  1. I remember going to shows in my early wargames days and buying Foundry figures singularly. To me that makes sense, you buy what you want, with no wastage and if you want to buy the non-action pose you can. I hate blister packs, they really get on my nerves, there's absolutely no need for them.
    You going to Salute?

    1. Hi Ray,

      Its always good when such great minds are in agreement!! I remember having to make up long lists of individual figure codes on handy scraps of paper at a show...happy days.

      Sadly No, I wont be going to salute :( not enough cash for a start! I hope you have a good time tho.

  2. I like how Foundry splits out some of their packs into squaddies, supports and officers. One avoids getting stuck with 5 Lewis guns or similar when trying to build up a platoon. However even here, the majority of packs have at least one figure in a standing around doing nothing pose.

    I think the effect of the odd man out is really a function of game type, period and scale. Skirmish games can account for the odd musician, ancient hairy barbarians can spread the static figures across a number of bases and in 6mm, a figure missing its head can barely be seen.

    At worst, the idle lay about figures can be introduced to Mr. Hammer and turned into casualty figures. ;)

    1. Hi Pat,

      I like your thoughts on game type and scale...6mm can be so useful! And as for Mr Hammer, I also have a Mr Pliers, they are quickly becoming constant companions.

      Perhaps we should form a new 'no crappy figuers hidden in packs Society'?

  3. Couldn't agree more Alan - as you know i'm a fairly easy-going sort of chap but I was a tad miffed at getting a couple of 'wrong-uns' in a Gripping Beast Anglo Danish pack recently. A fellow is not going to get much pillaging done if he's cowering on his knees behind his shield.

    Now, I don't know how the manufacturers cast their figures, so this may show my ignorance, but if they have figures they need to get rid of, why cast them in the first place? If a mould contains more than one pose then I can see how these odd ones start to accumulate in high numbers. Or, maybe they genuinely believe that their market wants this variety, and it's also possible that we're the minority view. I certainly don't buy the 'collectors' argument, because these figures are appearing in Saga starter packs, not the first port of call for a collector surely?

    We're starting to pay a hefty price for metal figures now so we should be raising our expectations, and manufacturers really ought to start responding. And high prices are not just about raw material costs. A Minifig costs roughly the same as a Gripping Beast figure these days, but have you felt the weight difference? There is far more to these guys pricing methods than just the market value of the metal, which, being in business, I understand entirely.

    But if I am going to pay a higher price for a quality figure then I also expect a better understanding from the supplier of what a wargamer is after for their cash. I can easily change supplier - after all, they all try to be compatible in the 28mm market, so a switch is really not a problem.


    1. Hi Simon,

      I think you have hit the nail on the head here. The Gripping Beast figures are also quite old now and beging to show their age and the moulds are beginning to wear; I think the arrival of Saga has extended their commercial life. This is only by reputation though I am sure, but a reputation that may dwindle now that there is real competition out there.

      I may sound dull here but I still think you have to go a very long way to beat Front Rank for cast, look and price. Even their battalion packs work and you are clearly told what figures you are going to get, you can even check these with the many figure pictures on their website. If they can do it....

      I think we need to form some lobby group...hold marches outside of the various stores and stuff. Perhaps one of the magazines will pick this story up?