Friday, October 10, 2008

Eureka! They're here! (updated)

Back view- what the gamer sees as his brave boys go into the attack!
From left, Minden, Eureka, Front Rank.

The Dutch infantry from Eureka, that is. And they are really- really- nice! I'm quite pleased with them.

Here is a photo teaser- I'll update this post tomorrow with a review comparing them with other miniatures available for the War of the Austrian Succession. Let's just say for now that each range is a contender for some quite different reasons.

On the left, French infantryman from Minden Miniatures.
In the middle, the one of the new W.A.S. Dutch infantry from Eureka.
On the right, a French infantryman from Front Rank.

Now I have to say that I like all three ranges for different reasons. They all have their strengths and weaknesses (but Eureka seems to embody the best of the other two). Posing is excellent with all three in my opinion- the Eureka and Minden minis in particular capture the staid pace we associate with the soldiery of the time.

As far as posing goes, we are a far cry from Old Glory offerings here- thank heavens!

The first thing I noticed when placed alongside the Front Rank and Minden Miniatures offerings was that the Eureka miniatures are big! True 28mm from soles of the feet to the eyes. In height, the Eureka model is a very close match to the Minden figure. Both tower a fair bit over their Front Rank equivalent. To be fair to Front Rank, their SYW range was early on the scene and when they first saw the light of day, they were larger than most other ranges out there.

We all know that prices generally tend to rise over time. The same seems to apply to the height of our toy soldiers. New releases of miniatures nominally the same size tend to get only larger as the years go by. Must be due to changing diets.

Because of the height- and style- differences, I wouldn't mix these within the same units. However, combining figures from all these manufactures to represent your armies on the table top would not pose much of a problem as the differences are not too pronounced. I'll be happy to have units made up from all three manufacturers on my table.

No problem with the Dutch, mind you- there are no other alternatives out there to mix with them!

Moving on the the "heft" of the figure, it is clear to see that the Eureka mini is much more slender than Front Rank's, which looks decidedly chunky in comparison (again, though, bear in mind that the SYW are relatively old releases for Front Rank- many of their more recent releases in their Napoleonic/ Marlburian ranges are much taller and much less "rotund").

Eureka's Dutchman is, however, somewhat beefier than the Minden model. All three pretty much push Dixon's SYW figures off the radar!

Interestingly, the muskets of the Eureka and Front Rank samples are of much the same length- the one on the Minden chap is quite long and slender- closer to the original without a doubt.

Note the head and tricorn sizes- the ones on the Eureka and Front Rank minis are quite robust- and this is where I have my reservations about the Minden miniatures.

The detail on the Minden is very fine, and the proportions are overall quite natural. But I have problems with those heads on two grounds:
  1. I am not sure that my painting style suits the small faces, which are much more like 1/72 scale plastic figures. Fine works of art, but I can't help thinking that to do justice to the casting, the faces call for a time-consuming and subtle painting approach to bring out the best in them. Personally, I prefer the larger "canvas" offered by the Front Rank mini. I'm okay with the Eureka model, which has a face which while slender, is "big" enough for me to use my current painting style easily.
  2. Personally, I think that the Minden head is too small. This is not to say that it is not properly proportioned- it may well be so- but it just looks too small for me, especially when viewed at any distance. This isn't helped by the sloping shoulders, which seem to accentuate this and which for me make the minis look somewhat too 'lethargic". I think the more square-shouldered look of the Eureka and Front Rank models come out best here, especially when in closely-packed ranks on their bases.
I'd like to comment on this a bit, as it seems to come up a lot in discussions on miniatures, especially with 18th C. ranges for some reason. The trend seems to moving from the "chunky, caricatured end of the scale- think Foundry, earlier Front Rank offerings and Crusader- towards more slender minis such as the older RSM range, Minden, The Perry twins, Alban Miniatures, and now Eureka.

On the whole, I think this a nice change, but I do have some reservations. One is that I believe we are dealing with representational art here, not with scale models. The figures may look "realistic" on an individual basis, but when placed in units of 12-16 or even 24 figures as I am doing, I realize that some other visual dynamic is at play. I can't quite put my finger on it, but to me figures need some degree of exaggeration in sculpting-call it artistic license- for them to establish a visual "presence" on the tabletop when viewed from two or three feet away if they are to stand out. What works when looking at one miniature in the palm of your hand may not work when looking at a number of them in units on the tabletop. This is as true of painting as it is of sculpting and posing.

Another issue- as Bluebear Jeff will appreciate- is ease of painting!

Regardless of how detailed, well-proportioned or accurate a miniature is, it will only look as good as it is painted. I feel that a chunky miniature with the wrong shaped cartridge box or grenadier cap will, if attractively painted and based, result in a much better impression overall than a well-proportioned and accurate scaled-down version of the prototype but which has been given a slap-dash paint job. For example, exaggerated raised straps are usually much easier and quicker to do than more subtly-sculpted ones, and if that translated into a more neatly-painted unit then it may well be an overall plus.

Enough meandering for now. I need to get to the workbench, remove flash, get some priming /painting done and report my findings! Stay tuned.

Side view; Minden, Eureka, Front Rank.
Clearly our Dutch infantrymen has a strict sergeant- he knows how to "stand up straight, Damn yer eyes!!!"


Bluebear Jeff said...

My suggestion is to take the time to paint each of these contenders . . . for me the ease of painting is a HUGE factor in deciding which figures to use.

If a figure is too fiddly to paint easily, I don't want it. (Obviously I'm not someone who loves to paint our little men).

Doing this also provides a good 'test bed' for some color combinations. So paint away, sir.

-- Jeff

Frank said...

Interesting . . . .

However, how you can say the Minden head is too small is beyond me quite frankly, as these ARE actually scale models, not "True 28mm" whatever that means.

Mindens are 1/56th scale.


Robert said...

Not "is" small, but "looks" small- a subtle but important distinction, Frank!

The Mindens are indeed to scale- beautifully done minis, and my comments should not detract from the fact that I really like them- something I should have made abundantly clear. There is no faulting their accuracy or amazing detail. I certainly won't hesitate to add them to my collection, especially as they match well with the Dutch from Eureka.

And as you point out, it is really comparing apples to oranges- Minden minis are scaled, whereas the others are made to a "standard"- sort of- size.

I was at pains to say that the heads and tricornes *looked* too small- and that it was a personal view. But re-reading my initial post, I realize that I should have expanded on that point.

It may well be that I have just become used to the outsized heads and broad shoulders that have previously been the norm; and that is a reflection on me, not on the miniatures! But certainly when placed amongst my other miniatures, "small heads" was the visual effect that came to mind.

The issue of legacy comes into play here- no company out there offers a full enough range of figures of all the nationalities involved, it will always be a case of "mix 'n match". So significant differences in size and style will always stand out.

I have to say that I still have some reservations about what I perceive as the "sloping" shoulders and the visual impression that this left me with- hence my observation that scale accuracy in this case may not be striking an aesthetic chord in me.

But in all it is not a big deal for me. Any issue I may have with the heads are more than compensated by those gorgeous muskets- they are without compare the best out there.

And it could simply be, as I pointed out, that I haven't gotten the hang of how to do paint the faces on Minden miniatures in a way that could do them justice! I've held fire so far on finishing them because I haven't found a technique that "works" to my satisfaction yet. I'll give it another shot this weekend, and hopefully post some pics in a day or two.