Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Further Thoughts On Zvezda's GNW Figures and Plastics

OK, this will be a bit of "editorializing" (and long), but I feel its warranted. Why aren't more people doing something with the Zvezda GNW figures? Or, for that matter the StreletsR GNW figures? Well, to be blunt, in the case of the StreletsR figures, they just don't match the quality or style of the Zvezda that well, but they do offer a plethora of poses that can be useful for skirmishers, artillery, command groups and other interesting things. And, as Will McNally has proven, when painted up and used en masse, they actually aren't bad looking units in their own right, as you can see here and here.

So far, that I'm aware of, there has been very little photographic evidence either in print or on the net of these figures being used much, and that's a shame. Many are aware of American Stokes Schwartz and his excellent blog, the Grand Duchy of Stollen. Stokes began his collection using the excellent but sadly OOP Revell SYW figures before adding RSM's, Minifigs and others to his collection. But his plastics are excellent and are still featured prominently in his posts and battle reports here. But still no Zvezda.

Returning to Will McNally's efforts again, he has turned the Zvezda figures (and a few StreletsR as well) into excellent Austrians for the Siege of Vienna 1683 to face his Turks (also excellent by the way). You can see Will's Austrians ranked up here and here with a few of his Turks lurking about as well.

So far I've seen one new set of rules that actually feature pictures of the Zvezda figures, the new "Flintlock Battlefields 1700 - 1790" published in Australia (where they seem much more accepting of plastics, if the amount of Ancients activity is any guide). Here is a link to their web site page on the rules, and sharp-eyed readers will notice that Zvezda's Russian Infantry have a very nice picture right on the cover, and more plastics are pictured in the rules themselves.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there are several challenges to using plastics for "our" period. The old "paint falling off" story just doesn't hold water any longer. First, there are several excellent web sites, as well as threads on TMP, that detail exactly how to get lasting, durable paint jobs on plastics. And between several of the new plastics being "glueable" and the availability of newer adhesives that make almost anything "glueable", that old excuse doesn't make it either. So I don't consider those to be the biggest challenges.

No, the biggest challenges are still the availability of even the majority of necessary troop types to field representative armies for the period. This is improving with Zvezda's continued GNW releases, and will be helped when Hät release their announced SYW Prussian Grenadiers. Also from Hät we finally have a somewhat suitable replacement for the old Revell Prussian Hussars in mirlitons, with their release of 1806 Prussian Hussars in mirlitons. And one figure on each sprue even accepts multiple arms which will allow for officers, guidons and trumpeters with minimal effort. The only real problem with these Hussars is that they are wearing campaign overalls with buttons down the outside of the leg, as you can see here, so a bit of carving and paintbrush conversion will be required to use them as earlier 18th century Hussars, but not beyond the ability of most gamer's. But for now at least, that's pretty much where things end.

There are rumors that Zvezda will be bringing out Russian Dragoons, but these will probably be very distinctly Russian and probably include a number of foot figures, so they probably won't adapt easily to other uses. And it's true that there are maker's out there of 1/72nd scale metal figures, Outland Games and Tumbling Dice spring to mind. However, the Zvezda figures are "large" 1/72nd (plastic scale creep?) and the figures from Outland and Tumbling dice do not mix well. Certainly some could probably be fielded in separate units, but the difference is noticeable, and the selection there is not all that great either. But they can be used, as Will has done to fill out some Lobster-style Cuirassiers.

No, what are needed are Grenadiers in bearskins with hanging bags, true heavy cavalry (both with exposed cuirasse and with coat over the cuirasse without turnbacks), and some Lobster-style Cuirassiers (possibly from "A Call to Arms" in their ECW range?) for Bavarians and German states. And if someone chose to offer some infantry like the Zvezda Russians but with earlier round hats, well then that would just be grand.

With that figure availability, unless you're a "button counter", these figures could be used for pretty much any campaign from Sedgemoor to just short of mid-century. You basically have your "Swedes" for foot in turnbacks and your "Russians" for those in plain coats. Fontenoy anyone?

I actually own a great deal of these figures, although I have shelved them to continue my 15mm French project for now. When the infantry was released, I found a web retailer who was offering bulk pricing for large purchases and bought 12 boxes of each! At the time I was contemplating using them for Bill Protz's BAR rules and ImagiNations gaming, and I may still. But, as more sets are released and more possibilities present themselves, I may yet dive into the GNW or WAS, or even the Austrian-Turkish Wars as Will has done. Especially with the great Poles available and all the new Turks and Steppe types also becoming available. Even the "Deluge" could be done quite well. The Zvezda's have a very elegant "Old School" style to them that won't be to everyone's taste, but they do make up some lovely looking units that, IMHO, do evoke the feel of the period. My real concern is if these figures don't start getting used and getting some "good press", in a few short years we'll be paying the same kind of speculative premiums that the Revell SYW sets now command. And there will be no incentive for the maker's to continue expanding the ranges.



Bluebear Jeff said...

Like you, I want to see more mounted figures.

-- Jeff

Corporal_Trim said...

Very nice work indeed on Will's wargaming blog.

Regarding Zvezda Russian dragoons, whether or not they're useful for other armies depends upon the headgear. Those in kartuz caps won't be suitable for anyone else's army without a head swap, but those with tricornes and horse grenadiers in mitre caps should be just fine.

My main objection to any company's plastic cavalry is no matter the caliber of the sculpting, you never seem to get anything but mad hell-for-leather charging poses.


Sir William the Aged said...


I couldn't agree more! You are usually lucky if there is one "sedentary" pose in any Zvezda cavalry pack, what we might call an "Old School" pose, at rest. Now, some of their more aggressive poses can work when you buy enough sets to group them together, similar to some of Holger Eriksson's. However, too many of them are not only "Hell for Leather" as you say, they are also facing the side instead of straight ahead because of casting problems inherant with the steel mold process. Maybe they need to look at a multi-part rider joined at the waist, simple assembly and you now get closer to the pose you really want.