Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On Toy Soldiers

So, having decided to create two imagi-nations, and to fight a campaign (or more than one? Time will tell) between them, what about the toy soldiers that will fight these battles?

One could describe the recruitment of soldiers for this campaign and the creation of the states of Baden-Hundsheim and Formulgala as a chicken-and-the-egg story. Which came first? Well, both.

First came the project idea itself. The decision to embark on this wargaming adventure. Then, with an eye toward the project, I started examining the piles of miniatures I've amassed over the years in this hobby. Many years ago, I chanced upon a real find at a local game store. This game store has a "bits bin" and buys your old miniatures cheap, then dumps them in the bin and sells them less cheap, but still very inexpensively. And, should you happen to find anything in the bin that doesn't come from one of the most popular games in our hobby, you may well be lucky enough to strike a blind patch in the clerk's knowledge of going rates. Sometimes this works in your favor, as it did for me in this case, and sometimes they'll quote you a price above retail out of ignorance. That's ok. They're good people and willing to listen.

So, one afternoon, I poked my head into the store and looked into the bins, discovering a plastic baggie chock full of American Revolutionary War figures in 15mm from a vendor I didn't recognize. I took a few up to the counter and asked the price, not knowing what to expect. "How about $0.05 each," the clerk said. I tried not to grin too large, and returned to grab the bag and hunt for all of the loose figures that had escaped into deeper recesses of the bin.

I left the store that afternoon with a large collection of figures from Jeff Valent's "Washington's Wars" line (sadly unavailable anymore, so far as I can tell), including line infantry, light infantry, artillery and officers, for about $30. Score.

About a year later, I toyed with the idea of running an American Revolution campaign, and traded for some more of these figures on Bartertown, adding a few packs of Musket Miniatures Continentals to round out the gaps. I had enough, then, for two good sized armies, as well as supporting units of Hessians and French.

And then the project languished. I don't call my other blog "Ramblings of a Distracted Wargamer" for nothing.

Then along came this idea. I dug through the collection, and found that a number of the figures had, rather than the usual "two-and-a-half cornered hat" so common during the American Revolution, more useful proper tricorns. I pulled them out, along with the Hessian grenadiers, because they look great and properly Germanic, and added to this pile the various officers and some tricorned artillery crew with their guns.

And here's where the chicken-and-the-egg part comes in. I'd also collected, at one time or another, Napoleonic Ottoman Turks. I remembered those figures now (actually, I woke up in the middle of the night with this in my mind) and went through that collection looking for likely additions to my budding collection. I have a weakness for adding character to collections through the inclusion of irregular formations. I had two units' worth of Minifigs Nizam-e-Cedid infantry and three cavalry regiments' worth of Spahi and Mamluke cavalry. This made the inclusion of a "Turkish" neighbor country and "Germano-Turkish" border provinces a natural fit within the campaign.

About this time, I sent an inquiry out into the gaming community by posting a request on Bartertown, and by emailing the members of my local gaming group. Surprise, surprise, serendipity struck. One Bartertownian had SYW Russian infantry, cavalry and artillery to sell at a friendly price. A local friend let me know that he had some cossack cavalry and possible infantry he'd be willing to part with. And so the inspirational notes behind the Formulgalan army's battle hymn were struck.

So, as you seen I hope, the miniatures inspired the national character of the two imagi-nations who will contest for honor and territory in my little self-made world. And the character of these two countries will further influence the purchase of additional figures to fill out the ranks of the armies. For instance, I plan to add some Napoleonic Moscow Militia, with their tall hats, pikes and muskets to the Formulgalan army before long. I do so like irregular formations. But then I've mentioned that.

More to come soon, discussing the painting style I plan to use, and the particulars of unit formation and basing that will turn this pile of lead and pewter into standing armies.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a very interesting mix of figures . . . and should have a very interesting look on the table top. I like it.

    -- Jeff