Friday, December 4, 2009

Victrix French Napoleonic Figure Review

I have started the Victrix but to document properly I should start with a review I wrote for WI:

REVIEW: Victrix Ltd. French Napoleonic Infantry 1807-1812

In keeping with their release of British Napoleonic infantry sets, Victrix have recently released the accompanying French. The boxed set comes in eight separate sprues containing parts for 60 figures in hard plastic. Advertised as ‘multipose’, they are in kit form with separate arms, heads and accessories. To say ‘some assembly is required’ is an understatement but with the variations provided, the combinations to create different and unique poses are only limited by your imagination. Being quality HD plastic, they are also ideal for conversion.

The French can be made into both line fusilier and elite grenadier or voltigeur figures, with ten each of bearskin and tall-plumed shako heads available. Together with plenty of fringed epaulet arms, there’s easily enough to make up 24 elites. In addition there are also a plethora of command figures available with eight officer figures in two poses/uniforms, with either plumed shako or bicorn head variants. Another nice optional extra is an officer’s coat racquishly slung over the shoulder. There are also four each of flag bearers, drummers and enough spares to also make up four of the infantry figures into buglers/cornets – ideal for creating light infantry (legere) commands. The flag or eagle bearers can also be made into port aigle or ‘eagle guards’, uniquely armed with a piked axe pole-arms and twin holstered pistols. Again there are enough spare parts that you can mix and match up to four of either figure.

The infantry figures are standing or marching poses but also include eight kneeling. I’m not usually a fan of these poses but with this set, given the limitless variations they are ideal for making skirmishing combinations. The huge number of arm variations means you can make up figures at attention, marching – there are even a few with slung muskets – with port arms or charging, loading or firing. The head variants include shakos with pom poms or short plumes, covered or with partial or full ornamentation, with the ‘pokalem’ forage cap or bare-headed. There are also a few arms (with and without epaulets) carrying shakos, a nice touch as with a bit of scalpel work, you can have the figure waving it in the air!

The figures themselves are well-proportioned with crisp, well-defined detail and minimal flash on most mould-lines. Being hard plastic, with priming they take paint very well. Well animated, they are augmented by the huge number of variations possible with different arms, heads and backpacks with all manner of paraphernalia strapped or tied to them meaning that once assembled, no two figures will be exactly alike.

Nonetheless there are some criticisms, the biggest being their size. The labelling on the box says they are 28mm but they are 30mm from toe to eye-line. To the top of the headwear, closer to 40mm and towering over ‘true’ 28mm equivalents. More minor irritations include the musician figure – if the drum and apron were separate rather than on the figure, you could have made the musician up as either drummer or bugler, without having to use other standing/marching figures. Being too small, the cartridge boxes should also have been separate. While there are many head variations, the pokalem is the only soft cap, with none of the old tasselled fatigue caps favoured by elite companies. Although figure combinations are dictated by the two different sprues to a pack, with a generous four of each, there are too many command figures as half of the eight officers available would have been plenty.

Even for the experienced model maker these figures are fiddly to make up, and thick plastic bases on the figures make them even bigger still when basing, unless you cut them off – another tedious job! The box itself has good cover art, uniform suggestions and a modest sheet of instructions – although some assembly diagrams to help the inexperienced would not have gone amiss. The flags printed on them are also very nice but a little too small for the large flag poles. Finally, the flagpoles, muskets, bayonets and swords are very slender and difficult to remove cleanly – although there are plenty of spares unless very careful, you will have a few breakages.

That aside, these are minor quibbles as overall the Victrix French are beautiful figures. With huge variations possible and 60 figures per box, they’re the best value in ‘28mm’ figures going at present and most wargamers will relish the further releases planned in this range.