6 February 2014

Challenge Day 54 - Hail Caesar and erasing my plastic prejudice !! (Part 1)

This post come about from an interesting comment made a little while back, and it deserved further space than a humble reply box could give it. I had intended to post this much later down the line, but another comment appeared that showed surprise at me not painting 28mm figures so I thought it was time for the post to be written and appear here.

I had intended to make this a single post but for sake of completeness and to give you a rest as it is rather lengthy it will be a part work.

I have to admit that over the years I have shown contempt for those boxes of 1/72nd figures for one reason or another. Instead preferring my toys in metal. Scale has not been a problem for me in the past, having painted and owned whole collections in 15mm, 20mm and 28mm and bobbing betwixt and between as the mood or need arose. Kevin however has always extolled the virtues of 1/72nd figures and indeed has a fair number of them.

I think my disenchantment with plastic came from those heady days of youth, when boxes of Airfix plastic figures were the only readily available source. The big problem always came in trying to paint them. Priming them was always a chore, the fact you could spend a fair amount of time painting them as they are detailed figures, only to watch all your efforts flake off if the figure so much as bent a mm. The lack of suitable poses for most periods I wanted to play. You name it I pretty much had an excuse not to want to go down this road again.

So what bought about the change? To be perfectly honest a combination of several factors in reality.

This whole change has mainly occurred since we decided as a group to ditch the myriad of rule books and focus our gaming on two sets of rules and their various supplements. Those being Hail Caesar and Black Powder, both have breathed new life into our games, they are simple to play and give us a result in our night of gaming. We did realise though that gaming on Kevins 6 x 5 table with 28mm figures did affect the ability of some games due to the lack of deployment space, most of our games are played with four of us and 28mm Napoleonics take up a heck of a lot of room.

So that triggered some healthy debate about scales, although we remained adamant that our Napoleonic collections were not going to change in scale. This change would be for new periods mainly that we wanted to play. Now was Kevins opportunity to bring 20mm plastics into the foreground, his logic was simple they fit onto smaller bases and are much cheaper. Can't fault that if we were going to build new armies then cost had to come into play and after some research it became obvious they would be much cheaper than even 15mm metals.

The biggest discussions centred around the available table space, and the number of figures we would need to purchase to make up various forces. The ground scale issue was resolved when we studied the rule book and decided to use the unit widths of 15mm figures for our Hail Caesar games and for Black powder we were a bit more radical and decided to rebase everything using a 50% reduction method. Now this is fine for us a we play amongst our own group so it will cause no gaming issues.

As for the number of troops this only really affected armies we were going to create for our Hail Caesar games, once again myself and Kevin sat down with rule books and lists and came up with a way to define not only troop types but also make the different types easily recognisable on the table top. The solution we came up with is a simple one. Heavy Infantry would have 4 figures to a base, Medium Infantry 3 to a base and Light infantry based in twos.

I still had my concerns regards the priming and painting and above all poses, however I did spend an inordinately large proportion of my time on the plastic soldier review website looking at the ranges for armies that I wanted to build. Once I had the information it was then a case of working out my army lists and fitting various figure manufacturers ranges around the games requirements. What was obvious was that a vast majority of the armies were workable, some would require a little bit of figure modification and the like but in the main it was an achievable objective to reach.

In the next part I will deal with the painting and costs in more detail.



  1. I've gone through these same debates - mostly with myself, though. I'm in a bit of a bubble here - most of the guys I game with are not miniature painters and so I've always supplied both sides in any games we've played. So I've rarely had to worry about what other people in the group want to do. But, I have, nevertheless, in the past debated cost vs gaming space vs storage space vs whatever else with myself and ultimately decided that, for the most part, I would stick with 28mm metal figures simply because... well... I like them... I get that 1/72 is way cheaper... and that 15mm takes up less space on the table... but as I have the luxury of doing what I want, and because painting the minis is really what i enjoy most, I'd stick with what I enjoy painting. I've just never found painting plastic 1/72 or 15mm stuff enjoyable.

    I have, however, started buying a few plastic 28mm things lately - but not for me. My kids started painting miniatures in the last year and they love it... but they just slosh the paint on and then say DONE! I just can't go spending $5 on single figures that they "paint" in five minutes and they say they want another... So I've been buying boxes of 28mm plastic stuff for them to paint and Reaper Bones. Never say never, I guess.

  2. Very interesting Loki, looking forward to reading your next installment.

  3. Interesting. My concern in another scale would be terrain. So far everything I have is 15mm. Now there is 15mm plastics too. I have been thinking of getting some.

  4. I've been round this debate myself. A dyed In the wool 28mm gamer, metals then hard plastics. But Gharak and I also dabbled in plastics ancients. They've come on a long way since air fix but I still struggled with the monopose look of units.

    But, to each their own - I've seen some very impressive 1/72 armies.

  5. I can understand the reasoning behind this switch. My main problem has been twofold - as i grew as a kids playing with 1/72 airfix toy soldiers - they will always be that to me - 'kids toy soldiers' not 'wargaming miniatures'... pedantic perhaps but thats just the way I feel.
    Plus I concur about the prep'ing and painting issues - the soft plastic is horrible to trim/'file' , find any glue that will actual stick them is nigh on impossible - every tried getting scutum shields to stay on Airfix Romans? Good luck with that! And as you say - flaking paint...
    But after all that said, I still wish luck in your new endeavor.

  6. Interesting stuff mate. I've always avoided 1/72 plastics because I felt the detail was quite soft and the ranges incomplete. Clearly that is no longer the case and I've also spent a good chunk of time wandering about on PSR. I'm very interested to read the second half of this on painting and priming as well. Keep it up mate, great stuff.

  7. the club I'm in has an ancients gamer that has beautiful armies in 1/72 scale (90% plastic) for Big battle dba all on 28mm frontages and double depth. Cheap, cheerful, well presented and the paint stays on as the real flexible bits he has replaced with metal pins/spears. We can play Alexandrian Empire and the Whole punic wars. The real plus is that the kids in the club like'em too and cant believe how cheap they are. I am slowly coming around too only becasue the lead and hard plastic mountain is already everest in height, do I need a soft plastic mountain too?.....................probably.................

  8. Well said, Andrew.

    I'm willing to paint and play in whatever form or format brings people out to the tabletop. Chopping things down to 2 sets of rules is a clever idea as well.

  9. I'm a Hail Caesar and Black Powder fan too. For the same reasons as you and your crew - simplicity and speed of play, as well as fun. I am also impressed with 1/72nd sculpts, but already have a lot of 28mm in both Ancients and Napoleonics - plus I have an 8X4 foot table so not a problem. Looking forward to seeing your plastic painted up. Best, Dean

  10. There is a lot here to think about. I have stayed clear of plastic "toy soldiers" partially for the material, soft plastic which has painting issues. But I suspect mostly because It reminds me of my Childhood and I think I want to feel a bit more grown up, which a change of scale and material reinforces.

    I am keen to see how you tackle the paint flaking issue as it could draw me back to Plastics in the future.

  11. This is an interesting post, and I am glad you have started it, I was getting the feeling I was the only one who was staying clear of plastics cos it would have made me feel I was 10 yrs old again, smelling the house out with that awful smelly plastic glue stuff while putting together some plastic tank or figure.
    But as you say plastic is cheap as chips over metal and its great for the kids to have a go at painting !!!

  12. Like you I've always shaken my head at 1/72 plastics but I can see your reasoning and couldn't agree more....maybe one day??


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