Which Figures?

I see the ECW as the complete antithesis of Napoleonic gaming. I have thousands of Napoleonic figures, old school 15mm Naismith and Heritage, all in the same pose, neatly turned out in matching parade ground uniforms. That's how it should be, that is how I imagine lines of uniform troops shooting bravely at one another (maybe not in their Sunday best, the Funckens have a lot to answer for with their Napoleonic uniforms books.)

The ECW, however, is a completely different kettle of fish. Random uniforms, a mix of reds in a single red coated regiment, different hats, their own trousers (as opposed to standard issue). So a wide range of figures, poses, tweaked to give a ‘group of individuals’ look that I wanted. Plus I had a few other questions that needed addressing.

Pikes
Pikes are a thorny issue. Have a look on fleabay, search ‘ECW infantry’ to see some beautifully painted miniatures (and some not so beautiful ones too) armed with what looks like over cooked spaghetti. Separate pikes, most definitely a must have. Vertical pikes too, anything else looks good but is a bugger to store.

If you want to know how long your pikes should be, what colour you should paint them, and what options you have for separate pikes (and where to source them from) see here.

Swords
Swords need to be robust enough to survive use - this inevitably becomes a bit of a compromise with 'scale' and practicality. Whilst I'd rather not be in the position to have replace broken swords, it is possible. Steel Fist style delicate swords can be replaced by Rexel no 56 26/6 or no 16 24/6; whilst  more robust swords, such as Peter Pig, are best replaced by Arrow JT21 1/4" 6mm #214.

Range
I like my figures to all have a unified ‘look’, so by preference I would rather buy from one manufacturer; so, a comprehensive range, goes on the requirements list. Also be careful selecting figures, many older (and some  brand new) ranges are questionable in their accuracy - musketeers in helmets are still available.

Size
Many ranges describe themselves as 15mm. But what is 15mm? You'd think that a 15mm sized figure would be 15mm from sole of foot to top of head. You'd be wrong. It can mean that. It can also mean 15mm from sole of foot to eye line, and it can also mean 18mm to eyeline, or 18mm to top of head. Some manufacturers do describe their figures as 18mm, some don't, even though they are. Confused? You should be.


Size matters: l to r Eureka, Matchlock, PP - all allegedly '15mm', squares are 10mm.



A very useful comparison of 15mm ECW figures from Steelfist Miniatures ECW Kickstarter campaign

It is worth checking out the madaxeman site as there are a number of handy side by side comparison pictures from different angles of painted figures. Madaxeman's images of Peter Pig's Scots lowlanders sold the range to me: still some of my favourite figures.

For my own take on the comparability of the smaller 15mm ranges see Which Figures Part 2: Size Matters, and a focus on horses in Part 3.

Those of you who are ungodly and worship at the temple of 28mm will find this thread on LAF very useful.

The state of play with current 'ECW' 15mm figure ranges
There is also an element of crossover of ranges into 30YW ranges with some manufacturers, so have a look at other ranges. 

Please note: I have probably been hardest on those figure ranges that are 'complete', but still continue to be updated. Legacy ranges are those older ranges still in production , but with no likelihood of new figures being added to the existing range.

have just released a new ECW range, tying into their Furioso rules (and an ECW Furioso expansion). I believe that they are larger 15/18mm sized figures.

The figures, unfortunately look to replicate a very dated ECW look - tight clothes, buff jerkin, scarves, leather gauntlets, big hats and even bigger feathers. 

The musketeers also wear big leather gauntlets, so I'm not quite sure how they'd fire their pieces.

Pikemen are all holding their pikes in the wrong hands, their stances bearing no relation to pike drill. 

Each code has a variant wearing a 'pot helm', I'm not sure what this 'helm' is based on, certainly no historical artefact I've ever come across. The only thing it looks like is an upside down salad bowl.

Having seen the illustration that the range is based upon, I believe that it is meant to be a secret. Unfortunately the picture bears little relationship with historical accuracy, and the sculptor has exaggerated the secret even more - hence the salad bowl look. 

Leaving aside the very questionable headwear and outfit, this soldier's arms appear much too long for his body, or is that an optical illusion due to the lighting/colours used?

All the figures require are noticeably rubber swords and they'd fit right in on the set of the 1963 film "The Scarlet Blade".

There's simply no excuse to create such historically inaccurate figures nowadays. I'm normally very supportive of new ranges, but I'm afraid that on this occasion I'll give these a very wide berth, and would advise everyone else to do the same.

The moral of the tale? Sculptors and designers, please do your research, rather selecting pictures from a Google image search.

A very extensive range of 18mm figures, that are marketed as 15mm. Extensive variety of armoured and unarmoured pikemen, with separate pikes. Musketeers come without rests, but can be converted with pack of musket rests. Baggage train covered by other era wagons, with ECW drivers and drovers. Recently the range has been expanded and now extensively covers the Scots (highlanders and lowlanders). Range now has approximately 60 packs.
Interesting packs: musket rests, engineers, siege mortar, civilians, and a large camp set. 
Main omissions: frame gun, limbers, Irish.

Limited range of large 15mm/small 18mm figures. Good variety of pike, in armour/unarmoured (open hand). Musketeers do not have rests. 
Interesting packs: limbers, generic baggage and camp items available. Also some packs of loose generic weapons in their 'new era equipment' range.
Main omissions: Scots, Irish, musketeers with rest, limited number of artillery piece designs (just the 1), dragoons.

Extensive ECW/30YW of larger 15mm (neither true 15mm nor 18mm) figures in slightly esoteric poses. Large variety of musketeers and pikemen. Cast pikes and flags. 
Interesting packs: large range of generic carts, coach, limbers with horses and oxen, galloper gun. 
Main omissions: Irish.

Range of larger 18mm figures. Foot figures appear very broad in comparison to other similarly sized figures, not noticeable when used by themselves. Armoured and unarmoured pike available open handed; limited range of musketeers, no rests. Scots lowlanders, and personalities recently added to the range. 
Interesting packs: harquebusiers on foot, petard. 
Main omissions: dragoons, musketeers with rests, baggage, limbers, civilians, Irish, highlanders.

A Polish company manufacturing figures for the 30YW, specifically the Eastern European element. They have shared some pictures of their ECW masters, as they have an ECW rulebook in the pipeline. No details of release, they are believed to be on the 'backburner'. Larger 15mm figures, but not 18mm.
Interesting packs: figures throwing caltrops (from existing range, not forthcoming ECW range)

Perhaps best described as another legacy range of 15mm figures. Size varies considerably, some figures true 15mm, others nearer 20mm. Extensive variations of pike (open hand) and musket. Two ranges 'ECW' and '30YW/ECW'.
Interesting packs: frame gun, limbers, camp followers, some highlanders and English officers have separate weapons. 
Main omissions: baggage, Irish. 

February 2023 update: the range is now available again.

An older range of 42 packs formerly sold by Black Hat Miniatures, now sold by Fighting 15s. I must confess that I know little about the range, never having seen them in the flesh. Only 2 of the packs are illustrated. I don't know what size 15mm they are either. Pikes are cast on.

A legacy range recently resurrected. Normal 15mm (as in not true 15mm, nor 18mm). Limited range. I know nothing about them, other than I used to own some of their Napoleonics (which had a reputation, at the time, for snapping at the ankles - as many of mine did). They towered over my Heritage Napoleonettes (which match Naismith well).

Khurasan sell two ranges of Civil War figures, their own covering the Irish and Scots, and the Testudo range covering the English armies (and 30YW). Both ranges are 18mm, the Testudo being better fed than the Khurasan figures. Good range of English pikemen (open handed), only one pack of English musketeers suitable (all with rests). 
Interesting packs: probably the most extensive Scots and Irish range currently available
Main omissions: English musketeers without rests, Scots dragoons, Scots frameguns, highlanders with pikes

Large, but no frills, range including armoured and unarmoured pike (cast on pikes); musketeers available with/without rests. Scots Covenanter range.
Interesting packs: none
Main omissions: limbers, baggage, Irish, highlanders, civilians, harquebusiers on foot, engineers, frame gun

Magister Militum sell (and produce) a number of ranges: Chariot Miniatures are described as "our own range of 15mm", they also produce Hallmark's range of wagons. The following comments come from searching their site with the parameters 15mm and ECW. 

Limited range of true 15mm figures. Many of the figures listed as ECW are late C17th early C18th, probably more suited for the Monmouth Rebellion. Pike available open hand. There are currently no figures available to represent Civil War musketeers.
Interesting packs: coach, Scots frame gun and pack horse, generic baggage available.
Main omissions: musketeers, Irish.

August 2023 Update: Magister Militum are closing their shop towards the end of September. Their ranges are up for sale. No news on the fate of the Chariot and Hallmark ranges yet.

Old range of figures that vary in height from 'true 15' up to 18mm, the smaller figures look very 'well fed' compared to other true 15mm figures. Figures are sold individually, some codes not always available. Extensive variety of musketeers and pikemen (open handed). 
Interesting packs: whole section of 'characters' including a general in a mule litter, rat catcher, clergy, and a three man surgeon at work vignette.
Main omissions: another legacy range.

Old range of figures that vary in size, some are true 15mm, others suffer from scale creep. One pose per pack. Limited variety of pikemen with cast pikes; musketeers only available with rests, including wearing lobster pot helmets. 
Interesting packs: limbers (2 varieties), civilians, galloper gun. 
Main omissions: a 'legacy' range, lots of omissions by modern standards.

Limited range of 18mm figures. Extensive variety of pikemen (cast on pikes), musketeers available with/without rests. 
Interesting packs: extensive generic baggage train, limbers, armed civilians. 
Main omissions: highlanders, Irish.

Naismith
Legacy range of true 15mm figures: currently out of production. All but sold out now, a handful of packs are still  available from Keepwargaming (no relation). Musketeers with/without rests; pike armoured/unarmoured (cast pikes). Flags also cast. One pose per pack.
Interesting packs: limbers, some Irish. 
Main omissions: considerable.

A pile of Peter Pig figures awaiting paint

An extensive range of true 15mm figures (about 70 packs in the range, and 11 packs of heads). The range has a large variety of musketeers with and without rests. Pikemen available with cast pikes or open handed, only available in a half armoured state (no tassets). Irish, lowlanders and highlanders are covered (some gaps though). Usually three poses per pack (some packs have two, some four). Pack contents can be altered for a small fee. Considering the size of the range there are only a couple of 'dubious' figures - a drummer wearing a morion helmet (pretty unlikely headgear for a drummer), and a clubman who looks like he is Captain Caveman with a dodgy looking stave/baseball bat.
Interesting packs: plague doctors, civilians, wide range of separate heads available for conversions, petard and grenadoes, frame gun, preachers, small range of buildings. 
Main omissions: highland pike, limbers, baggage, Scots dragoons, engineers, harquebusiers on foot, unarmoured pike, fully armoured pike, limited number of personalities/generals, lowland pike only available with cast pikes, 'open hand' Irish pike still require their hands drilling out.

A newer range of true 15mm figures, still very much in the development stage. Extensive varieties of pike (open hand), musketeers, simply oodles of cavalry, and now artillery, dragoons (horses and horseholders are imminent) and characters. Figures are sold in large packs, with a large number of poses.
Interesting packs: character figures are easily recognisable from portraitures; a new pack of dismounted cavalry have been previewed and will soon be on sale. Royalist musketeers with pouches rather than bandoliers. Dismounted harquebusiers (which makes me very happy). More 'interesting' packs have been promised. Regular readers will not be surprised to hear that I have asked if they create a pack of siege engineers that they ignore the illustrations in Haythornthwaite.
Main omissions: currently mainly early First Civil War available; Scots are due in the very near future (they are just starting to be sculpted).

September 2023 Update: Steel Fist have temporarily closed their shop for health reasons. Get well soon Simon.

The Gallia legacy range, now sold through Warrior Miniatures. Large 15mm (aka 18mm, and in some cases nearer 20mm). Good range of pike (separate cast pikes provided) and muskets. Figures are sold individually. 
Interesting packs: Female camp follower on foot, preacher with Bible.
Main omissions: Scots, Irish, mounted dragoons. limbers, baggage.

February 2023 update: Warrior are temporarily closed and not taking any orders.

Warlord Games have just released their next Epic Battles range - Pike and Shotte. Their Epic figures are a unique size sitting between 10mm and 15mm ranges. However, they have slowly crept up in size since the original ACW Epic release, and are now best described as 'true 15mm'. See how they they match up with Steel Fist and Peter Pig ranges: for the infantry see here, and the cavalry sprue here.

Pikemen strips with the obligatory ruler

With a Peter Pig dragoon for comparison 

Figures released so far are an infantry box with strips of musketeers and pikemen, and some individual pikemen with pikes at port. The cavalry sprue contains mounted and dismounted dragoons, cuirassiers, harquebusiers, commanded shot and artillery. Resin cast command packs are available at premium prices.

Mixing and Matching
I chose Peter Pig figures, and I have supplemented them with figures from other ranges. Most notably, some of the characters and mounted officers from Matchlock. I have a small number of Magister Militum figures, which are slightly shorter and more slender than the PP figures. I have gone for a baggage train and limbers from Museum and Donnington - horses match up nicely with PP, cart wheels are slightly larger than PP artillery wheels but aren't so noticeable. I have also used some Naismith mounted command (transplanted onto PP horses as the horses weren't quite right) and light limbers (horses and wheels matching PP nicely).

Conclusion
When I chose which figures to buy, PP had a clear advantage. Recently they have started  replacing their mounted figures with one piece castings; which, leaving aside the issue of unsightly infill underneath pistol arms and flat appearance of the new figures, reduces the number of figure variants available (new packs may have two, or three poses; older packs had two riders, and three horse poses giving six unique combinations even before you get into headswapping). 

If I was starting this project now, the answer wouldn't be quite so clear cut as it was when I started. As well as PP's crown slipping, Blue Moon and Eureka have entered the market with very comprehensive ranges. Steelfist, albeit early days, look to have great promise.

If price was the important factor then Warlord Epic are going to figure highly. However, the poor quality of the cavalry sprue, exorbitant price of the command packs, and the 'stepped out of an illustration in Haythornthwaite' inaccuracies would mean that I would have to look at other manufacturers for a considerable portion of my army.

Since originally writing this post I have compared a number of 'true' 15mm ranges:

Part 2 looks at foot figures, Part 3 horses and mounted figures.

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Thanks.

Comments

  1. I really like your Peter Pig figures, although if I was starting again today, I think Steel Fist would be my first (and probably my only) "pick". I did think you were a tad harsh on the current Minifigs range (let's call them the 3rd Generation, the 1st being the strips introduced in the mid-1970s). If you include the TYW/European packs, there is pretty much every troop type available and the command and artillery packs contain some absolute gems of the sculptor's art - the sergeant with halberd swigging from a bottle in the TYW Mercenaries command pack, automatically springs to mind. The real downside is the pose given to the pikemen of marching about, in some cases even running, with their pikes raised high, virtually guaranteeing bending AND breakages.

    However, I have spent the past 20 years accumulating literally thousands of 2nd Generation Minifigs (the first individual figures that replaced the original "strips" in the late 70s, but were replaced by the current range less than a decade later - why? nobody knows.....). Again, by carefully mixing and matching the ECW and TYW packs, it is possible to replicate almost any desired troop type from the three kingdoms. OK, pike and shot in woollen "beanies" are missing, ditto those in montero(e)s, and they are not top notch in terms of historical accuracy - this was a time of Royalist foot all in plumed hats and Roundhead foot all in lobster pots after all (though I have cunningly converted the latter to montero(e)s) - but the poses were much more "useable" and anatomically realistic than the current range, especially the walking horses. Each to his own, I suppose! I shall try to send you some photos of my FoG:R armies - once I have painted/repainted them using your excellent series of guides, of course!!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind words. I agree that I would probably give Steel Fist range a long hard look if I was starting anew. PP have some great figures but their crown has very definitely slipped due to the remodeling of the mounted figures.
      Agreed there are a few gems tucked away in the Minifigs ranges. Very nice sculpts all round but I do think that they are showing their age now. Blue Moon and Steel Fist are undoubtedly the two ranges that everyone else has to beat.

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