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

Sunday, 12 November 2017

A Couple of Follow-Ups... old figures, old scales

Today's post is a bit of a quick revisit of a couple of recent topics. If there is a common theme, then it might be the subject of "the way we were", which will hardly be a first for this blog.

Old figures, old magazines - must get a cup of Horlicks...
First off, I received a very nice email from France, courtesy of Jean-Marc, which was sparked by the discussion of 5mm Minifigs troop blocks.

J-M included a reader's letter from the December 1983 issue of Military Modelling, contributed by Roger Styles, the main man at Heroics and Ros. Apart from the fact that he was obviously very close to the subject of very small figures, it is not lost on me that this letter is pretty much contemporary with the 1984 Claymore show which featured in my earlier post. It also emphasises my point that Peter Gouldesbrough's efforts to popularise the 5mm blocks were at a time when the blocks were OOP and - according to Mr Styles - 5mm as a scale was "moribund if not defunct".

I hand over to Jean-Marc at this point...

My [J-M's] remarks : 

1) I have never seen these 5mm blocks "in the flesh", only pics. But I have, in the past , looked for  them with determination.
2) As far as I know, the moulds are now in the US. [if they are, then one hopes they have the masters, because the moulds were shot to bits before the blocks went out of production - the problems of missing heads and generally unrecognisable artillery becoming major show-stoppers - MSF]
3) The 5mm blocks were produced in 1972. Heroics and Ros company was launched in 1973. 
4) By 1983 Roger Styles (owner and sculptor of H&R) considered that 5mm blocks had ceased to exist, a comment made in a letter to Military Modelling that I reproduce here.


Question of scales    

Dear Sir,

We were most interested in Charles S. Grant's article on scales for wargame figures (Nov. 1983). Although we agree with his general remarks on 15mm and 25mm scales, we would like to correct some details about 1/300 scale.

There has been a tendency to call figures in this scale ''5mm''. This has its origin in the regimental blocks of figures which were produced by Miniature Figurines some 12 or more years ago. These have not been available, we believe, for some years.

The figures produced by Heroics and Ros have a different beginning. In the USA several firms began making model tanks some 15 or so years ago in a scale known as 1/285. In the UK, soon afterwards, model vehicles began to be made in '1/300 scale', The difference in the two scales is minimal, of course, and 1/300 was chosen because it is easy to understand and work to. One foot is almost exactly 300mm (304.8 actually), so that 1/300 scale means one millimetre on the model represents one foot in reality. Except in models of very large items indeed the fractional difference between 1/300 and 1/304.8 comes within an acceptable margin of error. Models of vehicles made in 1/285 are often considerably larger than those made in 1/300, but I am not aware of the reason for this.

Whilst several firms produced WW2 tanks in this scale, Heroics and Ros began to make figures of the same period to match. If 1 mm equals 1 foot, it follows that a model of a six foot man would be 6 mm in height. This is the scale that we have always worked to.

So when Mr Grant says ''5mm figures are very approximately 1/350 scale (although they are sometimes referred to as 1/300'' he is, we are sorry to say, confusing the issue more than somewhat. Our 6mm figures are very accurately 1/300 scale, as are our vehicles and equipments of all periods. The scale of 5mm is moribund if not defunct, and there is no-one working commercially in 1/350 scale to our knowledge. The wargaming hobby has been plagued by the scale problem since the early days. Terms such as''15mm''or ''25mm''are said to mean the height of a man from head to foot without equipment. Some men are indeed smaller than others, so variation in figure size is permissable, though this does not excuse the seven, eight and nine foot men that are often made in 15mm and 25mm scale. If figure makers adopted an accurate scale, as we have in 1/300, customers would know where they stand and each company's figures would presumably match, size for size all others.

Mr Grant brings up the point of painting 1/300 figures. He says ''painting is quick, there being little detail''. In fact our figures compare favourably for detail with larger scales, and have if anything, more detail than many 15mm figures. But painting is quick, not because the models cannot be made as colourful and striking as in other scales, but because there is less area of bare metal to cover. A whole unit of 1/300 figures may have less metal to be covered than one 25mm figure, and so takes less time to paint. Many of our customers paint them exquisitely, though, and take much trouble over them. As far as wargaming with the figures is concerned, there are no problems either for ''beginners'' or for old-timers. Conventional rules can be used by simply quartering all ground scales. The figures can even be based on single figure bases for Micro-Skirmish games. But the small scale allows enormous advantages on full-size tables. Unit sizes can be increased to give more realism, and units can be manoeuvred without falling off the edge of the table so often. I should point out that 1/300 scale is the choice of many wargamers, and they have been in existence as long as 25mm, and much longer than 15mm, and are still expanding into new periods.

R. B. Styles, Heroics, & Ros Figures.

Apart from the fact that his letter is an unashamed plug for his figures (and quite rightly so), Mr Styles is in some danger of getting us all back into the eternal "how tall is a man?" and "height or soles-to-eyes?" debates, which in turn will get us back into the traditions of the German flats industry and all points south. J-M mentions in passing that Styles is wrong about the existence of 1/350 as a viable scale, since Helmet Products made 1/350 aircraft from about 1975 - some visible here.

The important point (if there is one) is that the letter gives a manufacturer's view of scales from the same period as the Claymore show I referred to.

Since I am nothing if not persistent (or, alternatively, since I am a relentless bore when I feel the urge), I have come up with the original article by Charles S Grant, from the November 1983 issue. It seemed that it must have said something fairly controversial, judging from Mr Styles' response. So here it is - in fact it is pretty bland (with all due respect) - it also reminds me, now I come to think of it, why I stopped reading Military Modelling a couple of years before this - too many interests covered too thinly, too much vanilla, too much courtesy offered to the advertisers.

Still on the topic of very small men, I received an email from the Jolly Broom Man (who is also in France, as it happens), with some pictures of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops. I like them - they have a determined, jaunty look which is very pleasing - don't mess with these boys!

JBM was inspired by my guest picture of Steve Cooney's Hinton Hunt ECW cuirassiers to make the point that headswaps in 6mm scale are a daunting idea - though I'm sure someone has done it. In fact, if anyone has ever done it, I would suspect it might have been my good friend Lee, which gives me an excuse to show some old photos of his 6mm Baccus ECW troops, which have subsequently moved on to a new owner (and I, for one, miss them!).

To enlarge the view to 20mm, I was encouraged by Stryker to give a progress shot of the batch of vintage Der Kriegsspieler Napoleonic French infantry I am currently restoring. I am rarely embarrassed about publishing photos of my armies, but I produce these with some trepidation, since they are really just a recruitment exercise, and not really the sort of thing I would choose to expose to the risk of supportive criticism and the tender mercies of Dr Raul, Marc the Plastic Accountant and assorted other worthies and reluctant friends of mine at a certain American-based miniature modelling forum whose name I am not fit to mention. Perhaps I shall be spared this time.

I am working on generating 5 line battalions from these old DK figures. These are heavily converted, old figures (certainly 12 or 13 years older than the magazine I have just been discussing), and the paint needs a bit of attention, to correct yellowed whites, faded reds and the general ravages of time and the spares boxes. I have still to source a full complement of command figures. I have retouched half of the fusiliers (who are now mounted on their bases, just to keep things tidy and organised), the other half of the fusiliers are in the official Next in Queue box, and the flankers are waiting for the next shift after that.

These photos may give an idea what is involved. Some of the chaps who have been finished are in the picture at the top of this posting. Some thoughts:

(1) Retouching is always - repeat always - more work than I think it's going to be, partly because I change my ideas on what I'm going to do once I see the effect of the new painted bits

(2) A half-batch of 30-odd fusiliers seems a lot when you're painting them, but they don't look like very many when you stick them on the bases!

The second half of the fusiliers are ready, in the Next in Queue box - scheduled
to start on Monday evening

The flankers and various command odd-bods are in one of the big store
boxes, along with the finished chaps, who don't cover much of the base area yet!

***** Late Edit *****

I received a rather apologetic email from Steve C, who supplied the big shipment of DKs, lamenting that he might have given me a huge amount of work to do to get them into shape; somewhat shamefaced, I've been re-reading my post, to check I hadn't accidentally been rude about them!

It is kind of Steve to get back in touch with me, but I have to emphasise (to him and everyone else) that I bought them knowing exactly what they were, am very pleased with them, and really wouldn't have started on the job if I hadn't thought they were worth the effort. I'm sorry that I sometimes express myself imprecisely - enthusiasm rather than malice! - and I shall attempt to be more careful in future. Thanks again Steve - no worries, mate!



  1. That all looks very organised Tony - can't wait to meet the troops in person!

    1. They will come with some additional tasks - an entourage - I need to generate an extra light infantry battalion (I may be able to swap around the ones I have) to complete the new division, then I need two small "merged" units of voltigeurs for skirmish duties - one for each brigade - and then I need two brigadiers and a new division commander (with regulation ADC). And then, of course, I need a foot battery for them, but I think I'll simply transfer a battery from the Army Reserve, which rarely has anything to do anyway, and I have some new artillery draft teams (from Imperial Models, at Hagen). What can possibly go wrong? [Answer: one thing might be that I could run out of available unit numbers for the Master Catalogue...]

      Anyway - thank you, Ian - organised is the only way I can do this kind of work. It doesn't guarantee I'll actually do it, of course, but it reduces the number of excuses if I don't!

  2. The discussion of scale, size, etc. is always an interesting one. I am familiar with the issue of MM and letter you mention and share above. On a related note, I may yet have a go at mid-19th century with 1/300th Baccus or Ros and Heroics which have always appealed to my baser (ha, ha) instincts. But, darn it, those 30mm mid-19th century classic wargaming figures from Spencer Smith look mighty tempting too. And in any case, there is a pile of 18th century stuff here to finish before any of that can happen in good conscience.

    Best Regards,


    1. Though they would deny it, I believe the manufacturers have deliberately made their various ranges incompatible to keep their customer base captive! Some of the earliest 20mm metals (or metal figures that were the same size as what was generally regarded as 20mm!) were designed to match the new Airfix figures. Things slipped a bit thereafter, of course, though subsequent Airfix sets were rarely the same size twice (some say once...).

      These projects you have lined up (even the smokey ones) look very interesting. More power to your brushes!

  3. I await the results of your latest conversion and paint work!
    The 6mm ECW figures and basing look fab. I have a large collection of Baccus ancients and they work so well with Commands & Colors.

    1. I have no experience at all of the tiny sizes (apart from with the 5mm blocks, which was rather a fringe area in my case), though I am living in hope that I might just get to play with some 6mm ACW troops some time soon (can't say much about that - hush-hush - you know how it is...).

  4. Your DKs are already looking pretty smart, Foy, and should produce some spectacular regiments.

    I've never tried retouching. I suspect I wouldn't know where to stop, and would just end up completely repainting them!

    1. I consciously decided where to stop with these DKs - I have not done the red piping around the lapels and turnbacks, neither am I doing buttons (though I probably will for the officers and drummers). I am also keen that the job I do on them will maintain the standard of the way Steve painted them originally.

      Last time I did a job of this size for the Napoleonics was when i bought up Pete Welch's collection of Les Higgins figures - many years ago - that was a lot of work, but provided the backbone of my big army expansions - I never looked back. Or I was never the same again, depending how you look at it.

      I also did a mighty touch-up job on a mass of ECW figures I bought on eBay - that was always a compromise effort - I got lots of extra troops out of it (most of my Montrose stuff, for a start), but the quality was never going to be brilliant.

      So? All in all, these big recruitment jobs have been key to my developing big OOBs for the big games I enjoy most. Not very subtle, me...

  5. Lee's 6mm stuff opened my eyes to what was possible in the scale and his work was a major inspiration. I hold him entirely responsible for the daunting baccus ECW lead pile currently cluttering up my desk. Lol.

    1. They look very good. It occurred to me that you and Lee (whose figures appear below yours in the post) may be the only people I know of who have used my C&C-based ECW rules, so the 6mm boys appear to lend themselves well to that approach.

  6. One thing that occurred to me Tony, reading through this and the previous post was that when I had the 6mm stuff at least I DID actually play with them frequently. Having sold them all on and moved into 25/28mm the Big Soldiers mostly sit in their boxes because I find laying out the large boards and terrain etc quite tiresome! Recently painting the 'Travel Battle' 8mm figures was a happy reminder that my eyesight can still cope with the fine detail of the smaller soldiers so I'm very tempted to have another go at something - and it would only be Baccus for me - while I still can.

  7. Those 6mm figures are fantastic, but also a bit depressing - I would struggle to get that level of detail on 15mm figures! ( "I'm going for the mass effect.." )
    Your re-furbed French look great, too.

    1. At normal gaming distance the detail is not noticeable on 6mm figures, so I wouldn't worry.

      But they are impressive aren't they!