Campaign Gaming - Using 1/72 & 1/32 Scale Plastics
Here's an article I originally submitted to WI Magazine that did not get published as they chose another article I wrote instead. So rather than waste it I thought I'd post it here. Happy reading.
As I am nearing the end of a marathon 1/32 scale army building project for the Roman campaign in Germania I thought it appropriate to feature it in this article. Further on I’ll also take a briefer look at some other suggestions for campaign forces in both 1/72 and 1/32 scale for later eras.
One Teutoburger Wald inspired scenario I intend to fight out is a series of linked battles whereby the Roman force is attempting to navigate itself out of the forest harassed with little respite by Arminius’ Germans until they can proceed no further.
Above Photo - BBQ skewer wicker fences to block the Romans.
This will enable me to best utilise my forces with the Romans slowly whittled down battle by battle whilst the Germans start afresh each time representing new tribal units joining the fray. It also mitigates the need to either have a vast Ancient German army capable of defeating the Romans in a one off pitched battle or to make the Roman force weak or small neither of which I was minded to do.
Into the Forest 1/32 Style
I chose 1/32 scale mainly figures for this project for several reasons which I’ll outline below:
* On a purely practical note I find them easier to see! I had some eye problems a while back meaning 1/72 scale and 28mm figures are a bit tricky at times for me but I can still appreciate the full spectacle of the larger 1/32 scale troops.
* Partly because of the previous reason and partly just personal preference I could not face assembling armies of smaller multipart figures or applying myriad shield decals. Also I had about 150 spare factory painted 1/32 Roman shields on hand that I could use which would be enough for the core of a decent Roman force.
Above Photo - A Call to Arms Romans before and after painting & shield conversions.
* One of my favourite figure sets is the A Call to Arms #29 Romans which I was keen to use. These are very nicely sculpted troops apart from the rather awkward shield positions on three of the four different poses. However with a bit of work I cut these off and my stock of spare ready painted shields were glued on. This both hid the ‘surgery’ and enabled the Romans to have sensible forward facing shields.
Unfortunately this great value set has recently gone out of production and I do not know when / if it will be re-run. However all is not lost as Toy Soldiers San Diego (TSSD) offer some Imperial Romans in two different sets. One is a stand-alone pack of 16 Romans in 8 poses and one mix Romans & Barbarians
Photo Above - Expeditionary Force British Chariot (Master)
Additionally Expeditionary Force are planning a 60mm Wars of Rome series starting around August 2018 which promises all manner of delights for both the Romans and their enemies (Gauls, Ancient Britons and Galatians to start with). I can’t wait if the quality of these is anything like previous releases in other periods which were exceptional. As you would expect such quality does not come particularly cheap though so I will most likely just add a sprinkling of these as highlights to my mass units.
* As well as their Romans some great Ancient Germans / Barbarians were and are still available from TSSD. There are 12 different figures in total, including a couple of welcome archers, spread over two packs in all action poses. The look of these is generally wonderfully wild and hairy! Some weapons may need the hot / cold water treatment to straighten them out but this useful technique is easy and little hassle.
Above Photo - Painted and in some cases converted TSSD 'Barbarians'.
Also Weston Toy Co’s Mexican Peasant set offered great conversion potential at good prices for Ancient Germans (and also for Gauls and Dacians) in more plain tunics and trousers. The styles of the TSSD and Weston figures are a bit chunkier and bigger than the A Call to Arms Romans and this is the sort of size variation I was looking for between the opposing forces. One documentary I saw recently suggested the average Roman was 5'4" and the average German 5'11" so quite a height differential.
* Lastly to build a comprehensive 1/32 scale force for both the Imperial Romans and the Ancient Germans would involve a lot of converting, problem solving and searching. All aspects that appealed to me.
1/32 Army Rosters
Rules for my Ancient battles are a home produced effort with a strong measure of Fire & Fury type mechanics the core of them. Hence all my non-light units have a variety of status markers which I enjoy making. These include ‘worn’ & ‘spent’, ‘disorder’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘out of ammo’ for pilum armed Romans & archers and ‘first charge’ markers for the Germans.
If you don’t want to do your own thing other rules you might want to look at include Dirk Donvil’s ‘About Caesar’ which is designed for larger scale troops and ‘Hail Caesar’ from Warlord Games.
The current state of play is that my Imperial Roman army is finished featuring 6 units of A Call to Arms Legionaries (each of 24 figures mounted 4 to a 7cm square plastic card base), 1 unit of Auxiliary Infantry (Blue Box Elite Command) , 1 unit of Marines (A Call to Arms), 1 unit of cavalry (Forces of Valor) plus artillery (Britains & Toyway), command (Safari, Publius etc) and slingers (HaT & Expeditionary Force). In reserve I also have a Praetorian Infantry unit (A Call to Arms) and cavalry unit (Del Prado) plus some Thracian light auxiliaries (Expeditionary Force).
My Germans are nearly finished. I have 6 units of TSSD Infantry (each of 36 figures mounted 3 to a 7cm square plastic card base), plus cavalry (Del Prado with AOME LOTR Gandalf heads!), command, archers and javelinmen (converted HaT Roman Velites). Outstanding are 4 more warband units currently still being painted up using Weston’s Mexican Peasant conversions instead of TSSD’s figures to represent different looking allied tribes.
Above Photo - Weston Mexican Peasants converted into Ancient Germans.
I have found all 8 original peasant poses usable as ancient warriors. The two with rifles I have turned into either archers or spearmen with added shields hiding any inconvenient marks left over from removing unwanted parts. The guy with a spade becomes a spearman. The chap with a piece of wood becomes a clubman or axeman or man with a war hammer. The machete guy can easily be given a spear or hand weapon instead.
The woman with broom is the only one that I have yet to find a use for as a whole figure. But I do use her head for converting some of the other poses and her hands allow the guy with the length of wood to nicely wield axe or hammer instead. The two casualties just need painting as they are pretty much although the injured man’s top half is also good for joining with spade guy’s legs to make a nice new pose.
Above Photo - Trial conversion experiments!
For spears I mainly now use Fireforge’s DV006 set of 24 spears to make suitable weapons for my peasant conversions. Shields I make either from tiddly winks or fairly thin plastic building card (Javis 40b) with upholstery pin bosses. Clubs, axes and hammers can all be made from spare plastic pieces within the peasant set itself. Swords are a bit more tricky but my research showed not that many were used by the Germans so my bits box covered it. ‘Captured’ Roman equipment also looks good.
For more details on these Germanic conversions and also conversions into Gauls & Dacians see my 1/32 scale hobby blog entries: https://www.drumandflag.co.uk/blogs/news/tagged/1-32-scale-blog.
I have found planning and executing the conversion of these figures great fun and it shows you what you can do if needs must. Plastic in this scale is pretty forgiving and easy to work with - I just Superglue the parts and don't pin. So even without lots of Greenstuff and with only limited talent decent conversions can quickly and easily be brought to life that look pretty good when used for large tabletop armies.
If just doing small skirmishes then extra time and effort put into each figure may well be worthwhile as your soldiers will be more closely scrutinised as individual pieces. GW’s LOTR/Hobbit Strategy Battle Game rules work well adapted for Romans vs Barbarians by the way if you prefer this type of gaming.
“Varus - give me back my 1/72 legions”
If you wished to tackle such a campaign in 1/72 scale instead it is more straight forward and 2018 is a good year to do it as German company linear-a are bringing out four new sets. These being two sets of German Warriors of various different tribes and two sets of Romans.
Above Photo - Linear-a German Warriors set #1
The first set of Germans subtitled “Varus - give me back my legions” is already available and contains 48 figures in 12 poses with painting guides as Markomanen, Brukerer, Cerusker, Freisen, Chauten and Hermuderen on the back of the box. I sell it in my webstore for £10.99 a set and it is also available from other good specialist hobby stores around the globe. The other three should follow soon with the second set of Germans something to see if the advanced previews are anything to go by. Characters, leaders and vignettes this time by the look of it more than fighting warriors but not for the squeamish!
So together with the existing Ancient Germans and Imperial Romans from the likes of Strelets, Caesar, Hat, Italeri and Zvezda (Romans only – but they are excellent) which are nearly all still in production, the 1/72 scale gamer has plenty of options for fighting Campaigns in Germania. Even more so if you wish to maximise your options and pitch your Germans against neighbouring tribes such as the Gauls or Dacians.
For Gauls Hat and Italeri have produced several sets. The old and iconic but still pretty useful Airfix Ancient Britons figures can be found on ebay if you want those too. For Dacians see Strelets and HaT. Cost wise these 1/72 scale sets typically retail for between £5-£10 depending on the manufacturer and usually contain 40-50 foot or 12-18 mounted. For more detailed info on all these see www.plasticsoldierreview.com.
Sources I found helpful – Ancient Warfare Special Issue 2009 “The Varian Disaster”, Warlord – Hail Caesar Germania, Osprey – Campaign 228 Teutoburg Forest AS 9 and Das Heer des Arminius by Zeughaus Verlag (which is in German but is very well illustrated with plenty of detail).
Whilst I don’t do modern video gaming I did also find Google and YouTube very useful in turning up imagery and information mainly from Total War Rome / Germania to compliment the written material.
Introductory 1/32 Sets
Should Romans vs Germans not appeal for a potential campaign then I can suggest BMC’s recently re-released themed bagged 1/32 scale figure sets instead as something quite different. These are particularly ideal for kids offering two or more opposing sides for only around £10.99 per bag each containing 25-35 figures depending on the set.
Above Photo - BMC's Bagged Yorktown set.
The sets currently available include Appomattox for the American Civil War, Yorktown for the American War of Independence, The Alamo and WW2’s D-Day. The Spanish-American 1898 San Juan Hill Playset is in the works for re-issue next I believe. The BMC sculpting style is at times a little basic but even so I have seen painted up examples that look pretty good. There are also plenty of other troops, buildings and accessories out there that can be used to expand on these sets as somewhere to begin both from BMC themselves and several alternative makers such as CTS, TSSD etc…
The Hundred Days in 1/72
Staying with the introductory set idea but now in 1/72 scale one of my best childhood Christmas presents in the 1970’s was the Airfix Waterloo Assault Set. Over the past few years this has been repackaged and re-released a couple of times. Sadly it is now out of production once more but is still relatively easy to find. It is a great place to start for Napoleon’s last campaign featuring as it does the classic model of La Haye Sainte, diorama base, paints, farm accessories and 9 sets of figures including French, British and Prussians all in one big box.
Above Photo - The most recent incarnation of Airfix's Waterloo Set - rear box artwork.
For more of Blucher’s forces HaT have recently released a couple of Prussian Landwehr sets to add to the large number of existing Napoleonic offerings suitable for the Hundred Days Campaign. Set code #8310 contains Action poses and the other with set code #8309 contains Marching figures. Both retail for around £8.99 and contain 56 figures in assorted poses.
Napoleons’s last roll of the dice is one of the most famous campaigns in all history and this is certainly reflected in the volume of 1/72 scale product currently available for not just the French and British but for the Prussians, Brunswickers and Dutch-Belgians as well. HaT’s back catalogue is well worth exploring if this campaign is of interest to you. See PSR and HaT.com for more details.
Keep an eye out also on their future releases too with set #8294 1815 French Infantry Marching due out in their next batch of new releases. It will come out alongside three other French Napoleonic sets #8234 French with Greatcoats Marching, #8296 1805-1812 French Line Infantry Marching and and #8297 French Line Infantry Command. All sure to sell well give the very popular subject matter and long building customer anticipation.
Lastly Strelets offer both British Infantry and Highlanders in ‘At Ease’, ‘Attack’ and ‘Marching’ poses presenting welcome options for the British element of Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army. These are relatively recent releases selling for around £7.99 per box and are well worth considering. French and Prussians are in the pipeline too so happy times for Napoleonic enthusiasts in this scale.
So there you have it – a mix of ideas for various campaigns in either 1/72 or 1/32 scale.
I’ll finish up as usual with ten general tips regarding researching, purchasing and preparing plastics that may be of use if contemplating plastics in these scales is something new to you.
- For 1/72 scale Plasticsoldierreview.com is the place to go for your figure research – there’s over 1000 active plastic sets out there plus complimentary metal and resin specialist pieces.
- For 1/32 scale there is no similar hobby website but searching Google turns up a lot.
- Plastisoldierreview.com features a list of worldwide retailers who often stock both scales.
- Buy figures when you see them as many sets come in and out of production quite quickly.
- How makers interpret 1/72 & 1/32 scale varies so not all figures will be the same height.
- Superglue or Revell Contacta are my tips when glue is needed depending on plastic type.
- Washing plastic figures before painting them can help give a better application & finish.
- Use well mixed water based acrylics for painting and then spray varnish for extra protection.
- For wargames rules adapt whatever system appeals to you as you see fit for your requirements.
- You can keep abreast of what other 1/72 scale and 1/32 scale plastic wargaming enthusiasts are up to on various Facebook groups and internet forums such as HaT, Strelets, Littlewars, Bennos and TMP.
(I am a 1/72 & 1/32 scale plastics collector, gamer and painter. About 12 years ago I let my hobby get the better of me and turned it into a business spawning internet retailer Drum & Flag. Many of the products I mention in my article are available at my webstore www.drumandflag.co.uk)
Information correct to the best of my knowledge at time of writing – June 2018.