Thursday, 7 October 2010
I am not going to grind any axes here. I thought, and still think, that NapoleoN Miniatures were underrated. I bought a lot of them, and am still hoping that they come back from retirement so I can buy some more.
First problem is - what do you call these guys? You can't stress the final capital in NapoleoN, so I tend to refer to them as NapoleoN 20 (their original name) or NapoleoN Minatures, as they became. Based in Murcia, Spain, and set up by a small group of real wargame enthusiasts, their range included, in addition to 1/72 white metal figures, hex-based rules (still downloadable from the website) and army lists for the Peninsular War.
The first, considerable attraction for me is that the chief sculptor (Ventura?) is a real talent. The horses, cannons and general officers are especially lovely, though there were also odd figures which are clearly the lovely ones with a spare head tacked on. They produced a limited range of positions - infantry are marching, with flankers, officers, standard bearers and drummers (plus loading and firing skirmishers for French, British and Spanish armies), cavalry are also fairly calm - sabres shouldered, walking horses. They added a nice touch by casting variations of the figures with differing head angles, and there was a choice of horses - they sold the figures primarily in multiple packs, though they were also available singly, and a pack would normally contain a mixture of poses to make the units interesting.
They did have a tendency toward extreme optimism when announcing launch dates for new products, but they were really nice, courteous people to deal with. They sold the figures directly, or through online dealers like Kamar. It was wonderfully refreshing - quite nostalgic, in fact - to be able to browse through a catalogue and say, "I'll have 70 of those, and 30 of those, and I'd better have some of those...", and just order them! Shades of Hinton Hunt in the Old Days, except - for a while at least - the stuff that came back through the post was a bit more predictable than HH.
The muskets on the British infantry were a bit fragile, a problem that they sorted out with later releases. At the time they ceased trading, they had just re-launched the old Les Higgins/PMD range, were bringing out some terrific Spanish cavalry, and were talking about diversifying into other campaigns - helmeted Austrians with separate heads were mentioned.
Sadly, it didn't happen. I understand that they ran into problems with the casting facility and, especially, the courier service which handled their shipping. Also, their new, improved website-cum-online-shop, which was always a little clunky, got choked to obliteration by the inevitable moronic Russian spam engines (I have fantasies about being locked in a room with one of the degenerates that write these things, and a baseball bat...).
Around the beginning of 2009, just as they announced changes in the packaging, some new 15mm Spanish Civil War figures and the first Les Higgins re-issues, things suddenly went quiet. Presumably the economic unpleasantness didn't help - maybe someone just got fed up. The intention was to get themselves sorted out and then start trading again, but since then Angel, the main man, has started a related business elsewhere, so I guess we just wait and see.
I am uncomfortably aware that I brokered the sale of the Les Higgins moulds and masters to NapoleoN, so I do not propose to say very much about that - I cannot believe that they are lost forever, so I have to trust that they will reappear sometime in the future, though I have nothing definite to base this view on. We all need a little faith.
Like composers, wargame figure manufacturers seem to acquire status after they have gone. I do not propose to present any sort of cod eulogy - I am simply putting out a lot of pictures here - admittedly with my painting! - to let the figures speak for themselves. Please enjoy, and perhaps shed a little tear with me.