Thursday, November 10, 2005

Which Manufacturer?
My interest in particular armies is primarily visual: I have no great interest in the politics, history or economics of the Byzantine Empire; although no doubt that will develop as I read into the subject. I tend to buy my figures based on the sculptor and rarely find ranges where the sculptors are anonymous where I like the figures (an exception being the A&A 3rd Century Romans). I also prefer to buy my armies using one manufacturer. I think it is actually very rare to find two manufacturers whose figures really are compatible in one unit and I am constantly amazed when people say that such and such a figure works fine with another maker when I think that they have quite different builds and sizes. For this period I think I am going to have to mix however so it is just a question of whose figures I use for the majority of my forces.

Having looked at what is out there the choice for figures is going to be between Gripping Beast http://www.grippingbeast.com/shop.php?CatID=138 and Crusader http://www.crusaderminiatures.com/catalog_frames.asp?sub_range=DA . In order to decide which ones to go for I need to analyse their respective ranges. I don’t believe that the two are really compatible in size but I need to order a couple of packs to check. I have also heard via The Miniatures Page that the later GB figures are a different size from the earlier ones: an annoying habit of figure manufacturers which puts me right off!

First off I will look at the Varangians as they are likely to be the first unit I build as I love Norsemen and the only figure I currently own is Harald Hardrada as a Varangian officer which was a free gift with Beyond the Golden Gate. This figure was sculpted by Mark Sims of Crusader and is very nice. If all his Byzantine range is like this then it could be a good bet.

Gripping Beast offer 4 packs of Varangians:
BYZ01 Command (2 officers) a musician and standard bearer
BYZ02 Warriors (spearmen)
BYZ03 Palace Guard
BYZ04 Axemen

So sixteen different figures. Technically the palace guard wouldn’t fight in their full dress uniforms but I will need some for the Emperor’s retinue.

Crusader currently only offer 2 packs of Varangians:
DAB006 Varangian Guard with spears
DAB007 Varangian guard in parade dress.

However I believe that their will be 1 or 2 more packs of Varangians as DAB008 and 009 have not been allocated yet.

The GB spearmen figures are much more animated than the Crusader ones who are standing with spears upright. The poses of the Palace/parade dress figures are much more similar and one is identical ,based as they are on and Angus McBride illustration from the Osprey book Byzantine Armies 886-1118. The GB axemen are all in mid-swing but I have to say I don’t think that they are as nice as the GB Viking Double Handed axemen. These figures were much more anatomically correct than the more recent GB figures (Byzantine included) which are tending towards the dreaded (by me anyway) “big head syndrome”. I don’t think the current GB sculptors are a patch on the Pattens. I think I will pick up a unit of the GB axemen and the Crusader parade dress figures at Warfare in Reading in 10 days time and compare them for size. I suspect GB will be considerably taller.
Grippin Beast weapons packs also offer much more "in scale" gear. The axes on the Crusader figures are part of the moulding and so have pick-axe handle hafts. In addition GB offer Rus and other late Viking and Saxon Axemen who might boost the Varangians. So for this unit I am tending towards GB. I just need to see them in the flesh..

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