As you all no doubt know, both Ralphus and I have been trying to keep abreast of all of the new 1/72nd plastics releases that are either already out or in the pipeline. And there have been many announced sets that have sounded very exciting and some that even showed stellar box art to whet our appetite's. Well, here is an update of sorts on what we now know, what we perceive, and what we suspect:
Zvezda - So far, so good, With only a few minor glitches reported by Will McNally on the Russian Artillery here, here and here, the great review of the Prussian Grenadiers on PSR here, and the advance shots of the Swedish Artillery, it certainly looks like Zvezda has captured the Gold medal.
BUM/GerMan - With all of the announced sets for the Catalan theater of the WSS, there was some real excitement building for these figures. And, to be completely fair, judging by both the PSR reviews and some samples that I've picked up, the quality of sculpting has improved. The inclusion of the resin-cast pre-terrained pieces will either be to your liking or not, but some are quite good. The inclusion of different troop types or artillery mixed in with the main, advertised troop type will probably be an annoyance unless one carefully factors in these "extras" when planning their orders. The biggest drawback is that they are still using that awful plastic that is a bit like an old artist's gum eraser. If one isn't careful, and uses a sharp knife or snips, you can actually tear a figure in half trying to de-sprue it! I say a Silver medal for Quality and Variety, but just barely.
Strelets - Haven't done a lot recently in their GNW range, but the "Narva to Poltava" set, reviewed here, is finally out and contains quite a few useful figures. Ideally, if one already had a GNW collection, these would provide several good character/officer/personality figures and enough infantrymen to still do a decent unit or just provide some variety in existing units. They still suffer from Strelets variable sculpting quality, but are better than some others out there. I would award Strelets the Bronze medal just on the basis of this one very large set.
Mars - Ah, now we come to real disappointment. After years of making copies of other's products, Mars finally set out to do some sculpting of their own and picked some useful subjects. I was really looking forward to their Saxon Infantry set, as well as their Polish Haijduks and possibly some of the TYW stuff. However, based on PSR's review of their Swedish GNW set here, and their Polish Haijduk set here, the excitement is fading fast. To quote PSR's review of the Swedish Infantry,
"They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, and that is something we firmly believe here at PSR. Our pictures of these figures speak as loudly as any, and seem to say, well, ugly!"
And, to make matters worse, Mars apparently have no idea what wargamers actually do with their figures based on the box contents. Each new set has contained exactly four (4) of EACH and every figure, command and non-combatants included. To be fair, the sculpting and casting quality of the Polish set is an improvement over the Swede's, and one can hope the Saxon's continue in this vein. However, based on their previous contents decision and extrapolating the total number of figures contained times the number of poses, the Saxon Infantry will contain the same four (4) of EACH pose (14), for the advertised total of 56 figures. While some of the ranker's poses look decent (assuming the sculpting and casting hold up to comparison), and you can actually simulate a 3-deep firing line if you wish, exactly 50% of all of the figures in the box will be command or other non-combatants! For the sake of argument, if one were to buy, say five (5) boxes to have enough ranker's for a few proper units, does anyone need 20 each of fifers, drummers, sergeants, ensigns, officers, colour bearer's and sappers? And I'm waiting to see someone use their Poles and do a 20-figure unit of "Young Rotamaster's Boys" carrying the great sword over their shoulder! Overall, I'm afraid I would have to give Mars a 10 for Intent, maybe a 7 for Effort, a 4 or 5 for Quality and a 1 for Performance. So far, they not only don't medal in this competition, they might want to consider if they're in the right game.
As always, my opinions are my own, your tastes may vary from mine. And, while I did award Zvezda the Gold, we still need those Russian Dragoons and some types of proper Heavy Cavalry before this range is close to complete.