A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Hooptedoodle #43 - Stories of the Old Lead Mountains

I read an estimate recently - in one of the wargaming mag trade pages, I think - that only about 10% of the wargame figures manufactured ever make it onto a miniature battlefield, and that much less than half, maybe as little as a third, get painted. It may not be accurate, you may have different thoughts on the numbers, but it's kind of interesting.

You realise what this means? If these probabilities have always applied, this means that something approaching two-thirds of the total historic output of Minifigs, Warhammer, Foundry, Hinchliffe, Marcus Hinton etc etc is stashed away somewhere - if we make a deduction for stuff that has gone to be recycled or just thrown away (not a very common fate, I think), that still leaves maybe half which is lying in spares boxes in lofts, cupboards, desk drawers, sheds, garages, jam jars and old suitcases. Quite apart from the waste of material and money, that is a remarkable vision - imagine it all heaped up in one place. I wonder how many guard mamelukes there would be in there...

Since I decided to start on a new period, I have a refreshed view of my own spares department, and I will be spending some of the forthcoming weeks applying a healthy dose of reality and disposing of things via eBay and otherwise. There is, of course, every likelihood that the majority of what I get rid of will simply relocate to someone else's loft, and the percentages will remain unchanged.

While trawling through the boxes - some actually labelled "GASH" or "INFANTRY SPARES - DUFF" - I am constantly amazed to think how or why I acquired some of this flotsam. OK - I accept that at the end of any project there is a little distortion caused by the fact that what you are left with is the stuff you couldn't (or chose not to) use, but a lot of the time I simply have no idea where it came from. In an idle sort of way, I decided it might be fun to consider a geologist’s view of the Lead Mountains, and try to identify some patterns, in an appropriately scientific manner...

This is essentially a subjective table. Unlike proper rocks, the categories of figures do not have the decency to form distinct chronological layers – they are all stirred together – so the following sections require a lot of tedious pre-sorting...
Possible Origins
Totally irrelevant – a complete mystery – e.g. figures in the wrong scale, or for a period/nation that is out of scope, figures for which you have no idea at all what they are
·   No idea
·   Things very badly described on eBay
·   Extra figures which came in mixed eBay lots
·   The results of being criminally misled about the true size of some manufacturer’s “true 25mm” range
Stuff that’s always been there – even pre-dates the last rationalisation and chuck-out
·   All suggestions welcome
·   In some cases, previous failure to categorise what it was or why it was there may have brought a stay of execution until next time
Incomplete projects, or stalled good ideas that never came to fruition – e.g. large numbers of MiniFigs mounted RHA officers that never did get converted into Light Dragoons
·   Cousin Michael’s Crimean troops, that he grew out of before he painted them
·   Spanish Civil War – what a great idea!
·   Something that was going very cheap at the Bring’n’Buy stall
·   Look at that – WW2 Romanians
Useful stuff – relevant figures but need a few more to constitute a full unit
·   Usual channels – just short of a few FN22s to make another battalion...
·   This category is directly traceable to the emergence of eBay as a source for OOP and otherwise defunct figures.
·   It can get wildly out of control – this is the bit to worry about.
Flights of fancy – e.g. sample figures for the Lord of the Rings (can’t remember why) – superbly sculpted 18mm Zulus that don’t match anything in the known universe
·   Those 8 unpainted figures bought at a Wargames Show after watching a breathtaking exhibition game with 800 painted figures
·   Mystery parcels bought when drunk


  1. Which magazine did you read this in? It confirms what I have long thought, and I actually wrote a piece on this very subject for Phil Olley's short-lived (sadly) Classic Wargamer's Journal a year or so ago.

    Best Regards,


  2. Stokes - I did spend a little time trying to find the reference, but failed dismally - sorry about that. I even searched online for discussions along these lines - there was something on TMP, but not based on same data. It wasn't CWJ.

  3. I suppose my ET is some 2mm (I know, I know) somethings that I defy anyone to identify; i ought them in the early 1980's at some show or another. I reckon the ratios of lead to table is about right if I look into the nooks and crannies of my den.

  4. MSF

    Your post makes an interesting companion to Tim Gow's http://megablitzandmore.blogspot.com/ post about trading old plastic kits.

    I recognize many of these strata (sp?) - I'd like to add a category - the manufacturer/dealer shipped the wrong pack but you kept it any way. My favourite example of this was the two packs of "FIW American militia" that arrived as Macedonian elephants (now in the baggage train of my NW Frontier Brits.


    1. You can understand that one, though - an easy mistake to make! - Cheers - Tony

  5. Seems to me you ve missed one big stratum. What about the poor folk who get convinced about the Next Big Thing which is going to blow all known wargaming out of the water, then get stranded when the maker sobers up and gives up on it?

    Hands up anyone that has the remains of the beginning a collection of Minifigs 5mm blocks, or Hinchcliffes System 12. Any other examples? Maybe the new 18 mm Napoleon at War are the latest in a long and noble line.

    I tried to think of a name for this layer, but I think this is really mud or shale that never formed into anyting solid.

    Anyway, there will only be small stashes of these, but they must add up. - Cheers - Lou

    1. Louis - did I imagine it, or did you once tell me that Warhammer would never catch on?

  6. Jean-Marc today sent me an email which sensibly points out that I have not given enough attention to the most important category of all, which is the stock of figures we have which are still in the plan but we haven't actually got around to painting yet. Of course, as J-M also points out, there is an element of self-delusion in there, as we may never live long enough to get around to painting them!

    Thank you, Jean-Marc - valuable input. - MSF