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Terry Pratchett

It was with great sadness that I read yesterday that one of the brightest lights in literature had forever ceased to shine yesterday. At age 66 Terry Pratchett has lost his long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

I will forever remember and enjoy reading (again) his novels, for they brought me a lot of happiness over the past two decades. Rest in Peace, Terry! I hope Death was happy with the way you portrayed him and treated you like and old friend!

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“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It’s called living.” 

 

“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”

Terry Pratchett – Monstrous Regiment

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2 Comments

Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Books, Discworld

 

Helmut Altner, Berlin Dance of Death

Helmut Altner, Berlin Dance of Death

So here is another one of the books I took along on holiday. Amazing how life can be, for it took me almost a month to read the last 50 pages! 😮

So what is the book about. It is a first hand account of the experiences of Helmut Altner during the last roughly two months of the Second World War. Being 17 at the time he gets drafted into service of the regular Wehrmacht. After extremely minimal training he gets send into the third line defences on the Seelower Höhen. After being subjected to mainly artillery attacks he and his mates join the general flight to Berlin, always trying to keep out of a Russian encirclement until he reaches his barracks in Spandau. Here he and his unit get send back out time and time again to defend Spandau or even counter attack until all hope is lost and he again tries to break out to the west to get to Armee Wenk and the Americans.

The book itself proves quite fascinating. On over 200 pages Altner describes his experiences during those two months. The book was originally published in in German in the late 1940’s. He was able to make notes of his experiences and hide them throughout his captivity as a Soviet POW (yes he was caught shortly before he reached the Elbe). Due to this, his account is not only very vivid, but also very detailed. This is only enhanced by the fact that the editor and translator for the English edition (none other than Tony le Tessier), puts a lot of historical context into the footnotes to this edition. His writing style is a bit undefined, typical of a person just out of his teenage years, but if anything this only adds to the realism.

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His account is very interesting in many aspects. He goes on to tell his own feelings and motivations. He tells about his disillusionment with the Nazi leadership and their ideologies, but also how his sense of duty (and at times treats by NCOs) kept him going. His story also makes clear how general morale and discipline deteriorated over those weeks. How supplies became rarer during those times, only only for quartermaster stores to be opened wide during the last few hours. How weapons and ammunitions were rare and men often received none at all or only recently repaired weapons that had been looted during the Blitzkrieg.
He gives a very good account of the street fighting, how the ad-hoc Kampfgruppen were formed, or now they fought in the subway tunnels under Berlin (one they they are send to fight a relief action towards the city centre). The interesting part is that it also gives a good idea of the fighting spirit of various troop types, like those newly raised troops (like Altners unit), Volkssturm, Landwehr, regulars, SS, Hitleryouth.
I was really fascinated by his account of the final breakout to the west. This seems to have been a real up and down. Periods of mad rushes where it was everyone for himself, not caring if this meant the death of others. At times people trying to stick together or even forming new ad-hoc units to survive. How staff officers were pressed into leading men who never had to do so. What I found amazing was that there were tankers, that even during this time did their best to defend the trek to the west instead of just breaking through to save themselves.

All in all I found this to be a good read, which gives the reader a very good idea how those last days of the Thord Reich felt for those caught in it. So how good is it? The official retail is 14,99GB£ and I would definitely put its value at full price. It is a real good book on the topic and should be part of any library on the subject.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Books, Reviews, WWII

 

Ken Tout, In the Shadow of Arnhem

Ken Tout, In the Shadow of Arnhem

As I indicated, I am off on holiday and the best I can do blogging-wise are book reviews of the books I am reading. So far this has been less than expected. Only roughly a week to go and I finished one of the four books I have taken along.

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So what do we have. It is “In the shadow of Arnhem” by Dr. Ken Tout OBE. For those who do not know him, Tout himself was a tanker in Normandy and I immensely enjoyed his previous books, both on his personal experiences as well as other Normandy actions.

This book deals with the wider parts of the Market Garden operation, that are often overlooked. Many historians go on about what would have happened and how soon the war might have ended, had the bridge at Arnhem been captured. But in reality, this would hardly have mattered. The Allies still needed to open the port of Antwerp to make sure they did not have to drive everything hundreds of kilometres from the Normandy beaches and they would still have had to conquer the areas besides the Market Garden route. Eventually they did, but most people choose to ignore this part of the war due to a fixation on Market Garden itself. And this is what this book tries to achieve, give people an insight into these operations. It takes the reader through the operations to clear Merxem, Walcheren, the Berksen Pocket, the liberation of the Scheld and the other connected operations.

If I remember correctly, Tout was twenty when he was in Normandy. This book was published in 2004, which made him and impressive eighty years at that time. When I read the first chapter, I was not too sure, if his age had gotten to him. If I had not had a deeper knowledge of the operations I would have been confused where to place it. For me the book face seemed to suggest, that this would be a tactical or even strategic analysis of the operations and that first chapter simply did not achieve that for me. But once you get to the second chapter the scope of the book becomes clearer.

It is not to give an in-depth analysis of the operations. It rather sums up the operations through the eyes of the participants. Telling their stories and how they experienced those weeks and the wettest and coldest of all conditions, fighting over terrain that greatly suited the defender of which the Germans made good use and hindered the attackers. Tout does this through the recollections of the Commonwealth (mainly Canadians for they bore the brunt of operations) and Polish soldiers, Allied aircrews in case of the Walcheren raids and the Belgian and Dutch civilians. And with this he paints a grim picture of the conditions they had to endure. Some of them can be found in other books as well, others, especially when it comes to the Canadians, were new to me. But I think this is also a big shortcoming of the book. A good number of the German defenders survived the fighting and in my opinion their accounts would have been available as well, but went unused with two short exceptions. I felt that many of the skirmishes Tout describes could have been greatly enhanced with an inclusion of German accounts.
Otherwise I found his writing style to be precise and quite comprehensible.
Unfortunately some of the descriptions of the actually engagements or parts of the operations, ended a bit anticlimactic and abrupt for my taste. And I think he also failed to give the reader and idea of where exactly a given action fit into the wider scheme of things or indeed how an account fits into the action itself. In this regards and map or two would have helped the reader. As a result the book might be a bit hard to understand to those readers who no knowledge of this part of the war.

Overall, I would give the book a split rating. Official retail is 14.99 GB£. For those who only want to get to know how it felt fighting in these actions a fair price would be 10 GB£, for those who want to learn about the operations to open the port of Antwerp a fair price would be 3 GB£.

Anyway, I will leave you with this. Ken Tout is still going strong. This is a recent photo that shows him at the Tank Museum at roughly age ninety!

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Ken Tout Copyright: The Tank Museum

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Books, Reviews

 

Some painted SS troopers and the birthday haul

Now that the big Möckern Project is over, I want to turn my attention a bit towards my WWII minis again (although not completely). As outlined in another post, I want to paint my WWII Brits and a good amount of my SS for this years Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. To get back into the mood I decided to paint some SS this week. And here are the results.

Some years ago I went and looked at all the different patterns used for camouflage uniforms by the SS and painted at least one sample each, both spring and autumn versions. I found that there were two I liked the most and those were Eichenlaub (the spring version) and Erbsenmuster. So while my forces will still have some odd other camo mixed in, the majority of the troops will now wear these two types of camo. And this also suits my needs quiet well, since most of the action these minis will see will be rather late war, when these types were already in use.

Up first are the troopers in Eichenlaub. All the minis are from Victory Force (as are the minis in Erbsenmuster), which are still my favorite minis when it comes to WWII Germans for the love for historical accuracy and detail. I only found that the faces were quiet different in style from the ones I have painted over the past 1 ½ years and that these were giving me some pain. Painting these was straight forward. Feldgraue trousers, jackets in a lighter Feldgrau to represent lighter fabrics for the jackets (you can only see the collars of course), Eichenlaub smocks and in one case helmet cover (mini on the far left). Otherwise it is just the utensils carried by the men and the camouflage painted helmets and they were done.

SS Eichenlaub (front)

SS Eichenlaub (front)

SS Eichenlaub (back)

SS Eichenlaub (back)

Now with the Erbsenmuster I went a bit further. Now the Erbsenmuster was no used for smocks, but for trousers and 1943 and 1944 type jackets. So I went and used Heer type minis for them and painted them accordingly. While the shades are virtually identical regardless of factory and age for Eichenlaub, there are huge differences in shades with Erbsenmuster. I guess this is due to the lower quality of dyes during the late war period. So I went and mixed and matched a bit here. Bold and bleak patterns in this group and even on one mini as well as a regular Feldgrau jacket mixed with camo trousers. I really love what you can do with these.

SS Erbsenmuster (front)

SS Erbsenmuster (front)

SS Erbsenmuster (back)

SS Erbsenmuster (back)

What else. Well this week saw my birthday (36th if anyone is asking). So what did I get? Well my better half was kind enough to grace me with a few vehicles from Warlord Games. Three Daimler MK I scout cars (one will be converted) and a Unic Halftrack with 3,7cm PaK (this will joined the three regular and one command variants still in my painting queue). Great stuff, which should allow me to round out my armored forces in due time. From my parents I got the Rousellot book on French Napoleonic uniforms. Leafing through it, this is one of the best and most comprehensive books on the subject I have seen so far and should make a great addition to my collection. Some of the first minis painted for the above mention Painting Challenge will be the Limited Edition minis from Martin K´s Befreiungskriege blog which contain a foot artillery drummer and two train soldiers. Looking at the drawings of those last night, I am sure this book will be extremely handy!

 

Birthday giveaway

As announced in a recent post, I was going to do a birthday give-away on this blog.

So what are we celebrating? Well, three things actually. For one this blog turned two last month. Second this blog reached 150 followers (actually this figure was actually breached this week, so welcome to the two newest followers). Third we breached 150.000 hits. So with three such benchmarks within 1 1/2 weeks I feel it is time for a giveaway.

Wappen (groß)

So what is up for grabs?

Well as some of you may have noticed this blog is mainly about historical wargaming. You may also have realized that for me, historical wargaming is not just about taking stats out of a rulebook or army book, but about getting a feel for the background and understanding the history behind it. Obviously one needs to do some historic research for that and for me, the best thing to do that are still old-fashioned books. So I am giving away books and in this case from my most played eras. So in historical order:

First up there is “1815, The Waterloo Campaign, The German Victory” by Peter Hofschröer. (Paperback, read once in good condition). I like Hofschröers books. They are off the beaten track when it comes to the Waterloo campaign. since they do not just focus on the view of things based on Wellingtons memoirs, but try a broader approach. Especially taking into account the German perspective of things. I often feel that this makes sense, since the majority of Allied troops actually came from Prussia, Hannover and Brunswick or in other words… what is now Germany. The nice thing about this particular book is, that it also goes into what happened after Waterloo when the Allies marched on Paris.

1815, The Waterloo Campaign, The German Victory, Peter Hofschröer

1815, The Waterloo Campaign,
The German Victory
Peter Hofschröer

Up next is “The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg, Volume II: The Americans” by Roland Gaul. (Hardcover, unread [for some reason I bought this one twice, so I am giving away the mint one]). Gaul, a historian from Luxembourg , covers the events from the American perspective, breaking the events down to into small actions. The book is ripe with first person accounts and photographs. I think this offers great ideas for skirmish games set during the Battle of the Bulge.

The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg, Vol. II, Roland Gaul

The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg, Vol. II
Roland Gaul

Up last is “American Soldiers” (Paperback, unread). This one features excerpts from a number of books outlining the actions of American elite forces during the last two decades. While not a coherent book, this should also give people a good inspiration for small unit actions.

American Soldier

American Soldier
[various authors]

Now what do you have to do to get into the draw?

  1. Comment on this post If you prefer one of the above books above, mention it. If it is still available at the time your name gets drawn, it is yours.
  2. Be a subscriber to this blog. There are essentially four ways to do this. (i) If you have a WordPress account you can follow this blogs, via WordPress. (ii) You can subscribe via eMail (first option from the top on the right). (iii) Or you can be part of my Facebook friends list. (iv) The fourth option is to have this blog on your blogroll on your own blog (I know there are people who follow blogs that way). You need to be a subscriber at the time of the draw obviously, but I would be happy if you remained one after it, too!
  3. You do not need to post about this give-away on your blog. But if you do, you get a second ticket in the draw.

And this is it. The draw will be held on the 12th of this month 0800h CET, so make sure you toss your hat in the ring by that time! Good luck!

 
32 Comments

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Books, General, Historic research

 

Tags: , , , ,

Offensive Miniatures French Artillery Casualties review

Some of you might remember my review of Offensive Miniatures French Artillery last year. Well a couple of weeks ago Dave from Offensive Miniatures asked me if I would be willing to do a review of their French Napoleonic Artillery Casualties pack (FNFR252). Obviously I was happy to oblige, especially since there is a general lack of artillery casualties on the market and I was keen to lay my hands on them.

French artillery battery (Offensive Miniatures)

French artillery battery
[Offensive Miniatures]

So what is in the pack. You get two small vignettes. One is a dead artilleryman laying facedown besides a wheel, the other one is a dead artilleryman lying sprawled over the half buried carriage of a 12pdr gun. The later features a displaced barrel and a broken wheel on the carriage. Both are cast mainly in resin. Why mainly? Well the axle on the carriage is definitely a brass rod and while cleaning them up the pieces up, the soldiers became very shiny where I scratched them with the hobby knife, so I suppose those are white metal. The barrel and broken wheel were white metal. Everything was already primed in a mid grey, which is nice, since cleaning up resin can be a pain in the behind at times. The official retail is 10 GB£, which I think is fair for what is essentially two minis, a gun and two diorama bases.

So my first impression? Well I was a bit skeptic to be honest. Having painted their original set of artillery last year, I quickly realised that the two dead soldiers were not dedicated new sculpts but slightly rearranged versions of the original artillery crew. With the uniformity of the grey primer, it was hard to tell, if they would look like proper casualties or too animated to be dead (sorry for such a grotesque wording) and I decided to leave my final decision to the moment they were finished. Otherwise I was quiet happy with what I got. The castings were very clean and flesh was minimal. Over all I think I spend less than five minutes cleaning these up and I am pedantic about these things. The nice thing about the carriage piece was that there were impressions on the base. So it was easy to know where the barrel and dead trooper were supposed to fit for the best look.

A little word of advise regarding the preparation and painting. The bottom of the pieces is very smooth and if you want to glue them to a base you should definitely roughen them up before you paint them. I found it best to paint the carriage piece un-assembled. Since the dead soldier, broken wheel and barrel come as separate pieces, there are lots of open spaces between them and the base carriage itself. These would be hard to reach with a brush when already assembled. Also I would advise to paint the soil first followed by the rest. The soil has a nice structure that lends itself to drybrushing and it is easiest to do this first.
Talking of structure… The carriage itself has the nice defined structure I have already seen on their artillery set and this worked well for drybrushing as well.

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

So final impressions. Well my first scepticism evaporated when painting and assembling them. Even though the dead crew are “just” variations of the living crew, it does not show. I was very impressed with the soldier hanging over the carriage in this respect. If you place his feet and knee in the locator impressions on the base, he really looks like he was made for this piece. As I said before, the casting quality and detail / structure are superb and made these a joy to paint.

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Overall I can highly recommend this set. It is unique, since to my knowledge this is the only set with artillery casualties on the market. And not only casualties, but also broken pieces of equipment that add lots of character to the set. Actually character is what this set has in abundance and I think that it will be great on any tabletop either as battlefield debris, casualty markers or just decoration for a command base.

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

Offensive Miniatures French artillery casualty

By the way, watch out for the next post, which will feature some Prussian officers. One of these pieces already found its way onto a command base as decoration! 😉

 

Perry plastic Austrians review

So I finally get around to another post. This time it is going to be Perry plastic Austrians. I have had these since Crisis earlier this month, but unfortunately Iwas so busy at work that I never got around to write this review. But I know that these should be very interesting to people. Especially in light of the question “can I mix and match with Victrix?”. So here is the review in hopes you like it!

Contents of the box:

With the box set you get a total of 48 minis.
There are 42 plastic soldiers spread out over seven sprues, each containing six different minis. Also included is a six-mini command sprue. They all come with separate heads and backpacks. Each sprue comes with enough heads to equip all men with either the early helmet, later shako or Landwehr Korsenhut (with the exception of the officer where you a bicorne instead of the Korsenhut). The backpacks are all cast with the swords and ammo pouch hanging down from them. All uniforms are the German variety.

Likes and dislikes here… The command sprue contains an officer, two NCOs, a standard-bearer, a drummer and a sapper. The later is really great, since this is one of the minis you usually do not see in a plastic set. The ratio of standard and NCOs came as a surprise to me though. If you are building one battalion from this box, then this is fine. If you are building more than one (either because your rules require less minis or you are depicting a unit that fought under-strength), you will have to get more command minis. But to be fair… this is a battalion box, so they never intended people to build two battalions with it and you can get separate plastic command sprues from the Perrys. What really confused me though is the lack of Grenadier heads! There would have been enough room on the sprue and they would not have any difference in uniform and equipment could have been solved with a hobby knife. So this is a chance missed in my opinion.

Perry Plastic Austrian Command sprue

Perry Plastic Austrian Command sprue

Perry Plastic Austrian infantry sprue

Perry Plastic Austrian infantry sprue

Also included in the box are the usual bases and a two-sided A5 sheet with historic uniform information (facing colours and button colours for the German infantry regiments) and two flags, the regimental and Ordinar flags. Since the sheet is printed on heavy and glossy paper one would need to photocopy the flags for use as usual. The flags are quiet nice, only the shadows are a bit strong for my taste. The quality is good enough that one does not need to use aftermarket flags.

Perry Plastic Austrian Info Leaflet (front and back)

Perry Plastic Austrian Info Leaflet
[front and back]

Perry Plastic Austrian Info Leaflet (inside)

Perry Plastic Austrian Info Leaflet
[inside]

Price (as in November 2012):

This box set retails for 18 GB£, which equals 0,38 GB£ per mini and also includes bases. By comparison the Victrix sets (a review of them can be found here by the way) cost 0,39 GB£ per mini (and include mounted officers) or in other words… virtually the same ;-). So both Perry and Victrix are the cheapest option for Austrians on the market. And they are cheaper than metals as well. For example Front Rank are 1,15 GB£ per mini (or 1,08 GB£ if part of a Battalion pack) and Foundry are 1,50 GB£ per mini.

Detail:

The detail is good and as crisp as usual with the Perry plastics, but not quiet up to the level of metal minis. The undercuts are minimal. There are no mould misalignments, and the casting quality is back to superb again (not the strong mouldlines, sinkholes and flesh I got with their plastic Russians). Especially this made me really happy here!

Compatibility:

So now it comes to one of te most interesting part… how do they compare to other manufacturers?

I had both Front Rank and Victrix Austrians here and also used a Foundry Russian to compare them to.

The style of sculpting is vastly similar with Victrix and Foundry. You can see a difference in style when compared to Front Rank though.

When you compare them to the Front Rank minis, you will also find, that the Front Rank minis are taller and have a much stronger heft. I honestly would not mix these inside a unit unless you want the looks of Arnold Schwarzenegger (Front Rank) in a Kindergarten (Perry).

The Perry’s are taller than Foundry minis (please bear in mind, that I only had Russians to compare them to). This is enhanced by the fact that the Perry´s have thicker bases. The heft is comparable, but the Perrys look leaner. The Perry muskets are longer and thinner as well. In the end one could mix them inside a unit, if you slip a piece of card under the Foundry minis, but they do look different enough that I would advice against it.
[Edit: Just to clarify, I used a foundry Russian for comparison purposes since I had none of their Austrians. Please also see the comments below for input on how the Foundry Austrians size up!]

The closest match are Victrix and Perry. The Perrys are a little taller, but well within the normal variation in a population. Since the legs on the Victrix minis are not spread as wide, their coats appear longer, but I would say that this will not stand out once painted. The muskets on the Perrys are a tiny bit longer and thicker, but otherwise the equipment is the same size. Bottom line… they are a perfect match.

Perry Plastic Austrian size comparison

Perry Plastic Austrian size comparison
[Left to right: Front Rank, Perry, Victrix, Foundry (from their Napoleonic Russian range)]

One thing that did strike me was the interchangeability between the Perrys and Victrix. The good thing is both companies sculpted the collars attached to the bodies, so you can swap the heads around. Since the Perrys have done the normal infantrymen with only separate heads and backpacks, one will only be able to swap a few arms on the minis found on the command sprue, but this should give you still more variety. Since the Victrix backpacks are cast with the cartridge boxes attached just like the Perrys you can swap those around as well. Again this is quiet a perfect match.

Conclusion:

Again the Perry offer all one can ask for. They are the cheapest plastic Austrians around (together with Victrix), the detail and animation are good and the castings are generally crisp. If you want to build a big Austrian army on a budged, they are a perfect choice, especially since they mix well with the other budged offering out there. So my bottom line is… they are really recommended!

 

Some thoughts on “The song of ice and fire” (so far)

Some thoughts on “The song of ice and fire” (so far)

OK, some of the regular readers of this blog might remember that I told you I had started reading the books that the TV series Game of thrones is based upon. This week I finished the last one published so far and wanted to give you my verdict.

First of all let me say, that George R. R. Martin has created a great setting and a marvelous background. The world he describes is great and en par with the ones created by for example Tolkien or Pratchett. I really love the depth to it and the fact that it is not all magic. If you read the first book it is (with the exception of the White Walkers and the Wrights) a medieval story more than anything else, although with very fantasy like settings. At the end of the first book you get the birth of the Dragons (for those of you who have not read any of the books or seen the series this is going to be the only spoilers… promised) and magic finds it way into the world. In the books this is done in a very sublime way, which is great.

Now the mass of detail which gives so much feel to the world carries on to the characters both in their detail and numbers. But in their case this can be a let down as well. At times he goes on for pages about the history of some minor knight and their heraldry symbols, which can leave the reader overwhelmed. At one point I learned, that it is often not worth remembering, since these characters never make a second appearance. And in those cases that they do… well you can always look it up on the internet. This wealth of characters also carries a second problem. There are so many that Martin can kill them off like flies. Which is not a problem when it is some lowly Sergeant or stable boy, but often it is main characters as well. And this is often done in a single sentence or even just by word of mouth. If it is a character that you have come to like, a villain that you expect to have a moment of compassion or one character where you have had to read hundreds of pages of their plans, this is just plain annoying.

Same also goes for some subplots which are just hinted (over dozens of pages), but never lead to anything and probably never will since all the characters involved are dead. If you have had to read through dozens of pages that left more questions than answers that will never be solved, it is just plain annoying, too.

The other big let down from my point of view is his writing speed. I know everyone can work in his own speed , but the work should not suffer from it. Now I need to do some explaining here. The fourth (“A feast for crows”) and fifth (“A dance with dragons”) book are not in chronological order, but virtually simultaneous. They are split geographically with some character only being used in one book while the rest are used in the other (the last few chapters of “A Dance with Dragons” brings both lines back together though). Now between the publishing of the third book and the fifth there were eleven years. Now if I had not read the books back to back and would have had to wait eleven years for a word of some of my favourite characters, I would have been bleeped. But as I said, Martin has a right to his own speed. But the bad thing about it is… if you read them back to back you will realise, that some of the characters have changed a lot over the course of a couple of days (which is the time that lies between the 3rd and fifth books in the story). While they had important events happen to them, none would explain the gravity of their changes. Which is sad since I feel that Martin himself has forgotten the essence of some characters over that period of time. So in that sense he took too long for his own good.

The last mood point is, that some times the books can get slow going. For example I felt that most of them held too little tension for the first between 100 and 200 pages. And the arc of suspense is usually too steep with his books. It rises fast, but drops even faster after a short period of time (usually through the one-sentence-death of one of the main characters).

Final verdict? Well I think there are deficits to the books and I hardly dare say it since many people hold Martins writing style in god like status, but it mostly comes from his writing style being a bit rough and not fully developed. Writers like Steven King, Dan Brown or Terry Pratchett could have turned this into a real masterpiece. But bottom line is, it is good enough and the setting so intriguing and addictive, that it is well worth reading it. I am waiting for the next installment and hoping that not all character meet such a hasty death in the end!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Books, Reviews, Uncategorized

 

Perry plastic Russian review

Perry plastic Russian box art

Perry plastic Russian box art

Another week, another review. This time it is going to be Perry plastic Russians. I know these have been for sale since Salute or in other words a couple of month now, but mine only arrived last week and I have not seen any in-depth reviews of them since, so I wanted to give them a go after all.

Contents of the box:

With the box set you get a total of 40 minis.
There are 36 plastic soldiers spread out over six  sprues, each containing six different minis. Also included is a four-mini command sprue. They all come with separate heads and backpacks. Each sprue comes with enough (four in case of the command sprue, six for the infantry) heads to equip all men with either 1809 Kiwer, 1812 Kiwer or fatigue cap. The infantry sprues also come with two grenadier Kiwers each of the 1809 and 1812 pattern. The backpacks are all cast with the swords and ammo pouch hanging down from them. The ammo pouches all come plain, without any plaques and such, so one is free to us them for both grenadiers and musketeers.

Command sprue

Command sprue

Infantry sprue

Infantry sprue

Also included in the box are the usual bases and a two-sided A5 sheet with historic uniform information (sword knot, shoulderboard and pompom colours) and flags. The sheet contains five flags. The white Colonel´s flag and Regimental flags for the Simbirsk Regiment, Regiments of Marines (1st to 4th Regiments), the Vilna Regiment and the Tarnopol Regiment. Since the sheet is printed on heavy and glossy paper one would need to photocopy the flags for use. The flags are quiet nice, only the shadows are a bit strong for my taste. The quality is good enough that one does not need to use aftermarket flags.

Leaflet [front side]

Leaflet
[front side]

Leaflet [back side]

Leaflet
[back side]

Price (as in June 2012):

This box set retails for 18 GB£, which equals 0,45 GB£ per mini and also includes bases. (BTW this means that together with their British infantry this is the highest per mini price of their plastic sets.) By comparison the Warlord sets (a review of them can be found here by the way) cost 0,56 GB£ per mini or 0,62 GB£ in case of the Pavlov Grenadiers. So this puts them on the cheap end of plastic Russians on the market. And they are cheaper than metals as well. For example Front Rank are 1,15 GB£ per mini (or 1,08 GB£ if part of a Battalion pack) and Foundry are 1,50 GB£ per mini.

Detail:

The detail is good and as crisp as usual with the Perry plastics, but not quiet up to the level of metal minis. The undercuts are minimal. There were no mould misalignments, but the rest of the quality is a bit of a mixed bag. Half the sprues were fine with only minimal mould lines, but the other half had quiet heavy flash and also sinkholes on top the Kiwers. This is the first I have seen that in their plastics and I hope I only got a bad batch and not a sign, that the quality control on their plastics is not going the same way as on their metals.

Compatibility:

So now it comes to one of te most interesting part… how do they compare to other manufacturers?

I had both Foundry and Warlord minis here. The style of sculpting is vastly similar with all manufacturers. This does not come as much of a surprise, since the Foundry Russians are Perry designed and Warlord and Perry are cooperating on their Napoleonic ranges.

The Perry’s are about as tall as the Foundry minis and a little smaller than the Warlord´s. This is enhanced by the fact that the Perry´s (as well as Foundry) have thinner bases. The heft is comparable on the Perry, Foundry and Warlord metals. The Warlord plastics have a stronger heft and less detail though. One can see a real difference with the muskets. Both Warlord and Foundry are thicker then Perry. The Warlord muskets are the longest and the Foundry ones the shortest with Perry being in the middle. In the end one should be able to mix all manufacturers in one unit and even on one base (if you do not mind the muskets).

Size comparison

Size comparison
[Left to right: Warlord (metal), Warlord (plastic), Perry and Foundry]
Click for a larger version

One thing that did strike me was the interchangeability between the Perrys and Warlord, or rather the lack of it. I would have expected this to be high since they are cooperating on their Napoleonic releases. While one would not need to be able to mix and match backpacks, I thought that mixing their heads would give people more variety. But this is not going to be that easy. With the Perry minis the uniform collar is sculpted as part of the body, with Warlord it is sculpted as part of the head. So if you want to fit a Warlord head onto a Perry body you need to carve off one of the collars. If you want to do it the other way round you need to sculpt a collar.

Conclusion:

The Perry offering what one can ask for. They are the cheapest plastic Russians around, the detail and animation are good and the castings are generally crisp. If the flash and sinkholes on half my sprues are not a trend, this is all one can ask for and they are definitely recommended.

 

Offensive Miniatures French Artillery Review

Offensive Miniatures French Napoleonic artillery pack

Offensive Miniatures French Napoleonic artillery
[Stock number: FNFR251,
Early French Line Artillery – 12lb Btty
(4 Guns/24 Crew)]
Click on the image for a larger version

The other week I found something pretty Offensive in my mail, but I was expecting that and was happy with it, since it was Offensive MiniaturesFrench Artillery. (I never said I had a good sense of humor! ;-)) Usually I know what you are going to say… “Will he do a review of every metal mini released as well?” No, I will not, but Offensive Miniatures is relatively small company and those who know them will most likely rather associate them with their WWII ranges, so I decided to give them a go.

Contents of the box:
Now I got a battery boxed set. It contains 24 men (six for each gun), four guns and some loose equipment (two spare wheels, two stacks of cannonballs and a total of six ammo chests). In my case, since I went for FNFR251, this meant three 12pdr. guns and one 6″ Howitzer.
The minis themselves wear the pre-1812 uniform with uncovered shakos. Each mini is in there twice, so there are 12 different poses in all. While one crew is loading / running the gun and the other firing, there are a few poses in each set, that are not distinctive of that phase, so one could shuffle them around a little, to create 4 different crew compositions. All the minis are nicely animated and anatomically correct.

The guns are from the Gribeauval system period. Since the newer an XI (Year 11) guns did not arrive in Spain these would be suitable for the Peninsular Campaign. I doubt that a complete transition had taken place by 1813, so in small numbers they should work until that time, too.

Price (as in June 2012):
If you buy these as a single gun with crew, the price is 12 GB£ for six minis, one gun and some spare equipment. If you buy them as part of a battery set the price for each gun with crew comes down to 11,25 GB£.

By comparison a Perry gun with six crew (FN 132) costs 10,50 GB£.

If you buy a Front Rank gun and add six crew to it the cost is 13,25 GB£. (They do have discounted packs as well, but those have a different composition.)

Wargames Foundry would ask for 17 GB£ for six minis and a gun. (They have discounted packs as well, but those have a different composition, too.)

So price wise they are at the lower end of the metals around, especially when bought as a pack, like the sample here.

Detail:
Now the detail on the minis is really good. Nice crisp and clear with no undercuts (as can be expected from metals). The animation is good and lively, as well as anatomically correct. I had no bubbles or mould misalignments with these minis and flash was minimal. In some cases (as could be expected with the lively animation) there are mould-lines running over the faces, but these were removed easily and without damage to the faces.
Generally much the same goes for the guns. Minimal flash and no misalignment either. I was very impressed with the insides of the wheels. Those were all cast perfect with no bubbles in the spokes and even less flash.

The 12pdr. barrels all had a minor dent at the same spot, which suggest damage to the mould, but this can easily be fixed with greenstuff or even white glue.The carriages feature a very nice woodgrain detail. On the 12 pounder carriages these is obscured around the handles, my guess being that this is glue from fitting together the parts on the master. This can be recut with a sharp knife, but it still is a shame. Do not take these “defects” as major shortcomings though. I have had more miscast spokes and carriage details on an average Perry piece.

Compatibility:
Size wise these minis should work well with the Napoleonic minis produced by the other mayor companies. Obviously the real test comes if you want to mix them in one unit or even on one base.

Size comparison

Size comparison
[Left to right: Offensive Miniatures, Foundry (Russian artillery), Perry Miniatures, Victrix (infantry)]

When compared to Foundry or Perry Miniatures, they are a little smaller, but their bases are a little thicker, which makes them end up the same hight. The heft is stronger on the Offensive Miniatures, which is mainly visible on the faces, but not enough that one would notice too much… IMHO they could even be mixed within a crew. The style of sculpting is vastly similar. Even to the level that when I saw some early Foundry French artillery on another blog the other day, I first though they were Offensive Miniatures. So one should be able to base them together without either standing out.

While they offer no French plastic artillery (yet) I also decided to compare them to the Victrix French, since their infantry is a good fit period wise. As you can see from the shot above, they are smaller than Victrix, with the bases about the same size. The heft is vastly similar and the same can be said for the sculpting style. The main differences comes from the different mediums (metal and plastic) and the fact that the faces on the Victrix minis are a bit more exaggerated. I would not base them together on one base (maybe if you cut off the base from the Victrix minis), but would not mind fielding an Offensive artillery battery besides Victrix infantry.

I would have loved to compare the guns to other manufacturers (size wise) but the only 12 pounders I have are from Perry and those are an XI models, so they can not be compared.

Conclusion:

All in all this is a very good offering. You get very detailed, historically correct and animated minis, for a price at the bottom end of Napoleonic French artillery. Plus some extra parts, which even if you do not use them on these bases will make great battlefield clutter on infantry or command bases. (By the way… there is also a very nice set of French artillery casualty markers that go with the artillery and if you want to add a little flavour to your bases you should take a look at those as well!)  The minor defects do not offset the quality and value of the rest of the set and I would recommend them to anyone who feels they do fit his collection period wise. I shall definitely get myself the 8 pounders in due time.

Dave at Offensive has also hinted, that they will add to their Napoleonics line in the future and am looking forward to seeing those as well!

Gribeauval system period French Artillery

Gribeauval system period French Artillery