Which Figures? Part 3b: True 15mm/Epic Compatibility - Horses

My original Which Figures posts have grown exponentially, so much so that I decided to revise the information.

For the full picture see:-

Which Figures? - the original post, where I ruminate about what I want from figures, and what led me to choose Peter Pig 

Which Figures? What is Available - the state of play with current 'ECW' 15mm figure ranges; a continually updating look at what figures are available, and what is included/missing from ranges.

Which Figures? Part 2a: Size Matters: Foot - I take a look at what is available in 15/18mm and show side by side comparisons 

Which Figures? Part 2b: True 15mm/Epic Compatibility: Foot - a more in depth look at smaller 15mm compatibility

Which Figures? Part 3a: Size Matters: Horses - I take a look at what is available in 15/18mm and show side by side comparisons 

Which Figures? Part 3b: True 15mm/Epic Compatibility: Horses - a more in depth look at smaller 15mm compatibility (this post)

But enough of that, for those of us at the 'true' end of the 15mm spectrum let's look at horses. Again, with the caveat that my benchmark are Peter Pig figures.

15mm figures are not anatomically correct, with perfectly in scale weaponry. They can't be. Figures need to be robust enough to be cast, posted, painted and then used. So as a result, figures are sculpted in slightly strange proportions. Horses are no exception, and I long held the view that the stylistic differences of sculptors would mean that different manufacturer's horses would look noticeably different and somewhat incongruous in the same army. Peter Pig horses' back legs are solid part way down to the hocks (to aid casting and make the figures more robust), which look a little strange on first impression but this 'handling proof' measure is not noticeable once painted and based.

This belief has led me to marry riders, carts and horses from different manufacturers, all with the aim of a common look.

Recently, I ran out of stuff to paint, so I thought I'd try some mounted command figures from Steel Fist.

After much prevarication, I took the plunge, clicked 'buy' and this is one of the posts that have grown from that decision.

I suppose this entry naturally divides into two: draught horses, and cavalry horses.

Draught horses

When it comes to draught horses, I have horses from three manufacturers: Naismith, Essex and Museum Miniatures. Actually, that isn't quite true. I have one Peter Pig draught horse. 

The Peter Pig ECW range does not include any baggage or limbers; but, as with all things there are a few suitable items tucked away in some of their other ranges. My plague doctors have enlisted the help of a dead cart from the Wars of the Roses range.

Naismith horses pull my light limbers, Museum's horses pull my heavy limbers and baggage train. I do have some Donnington wagons, but I paired them with Museum horses to help unify the 'look'. 

In the past I have been critical of Naismith horses - they can be a bit, well, odd looking. Not the case with their draught horses. I think Mike Naismith compensated his horse sculpts to help the look of the horse when it has its rider on board.

Museum's draught horses have a number of poses which is useful for teams of four. I quite like the sculpts, although I think their tails are a little odd (I understand why they have been sculpted this way - to strengthen the casting).

The Essex horses are the largest, and chunkiest of all of my draught horses - but, as they are draught horses, I think that can be excused. Although they may well be replaced with Museum Miniatures draught horses at some point (Update: they have been.)

Unfortunately, all my draught horses have been painted so comparison pictures are a little convoluted I'm afraid. Plus of course, paint is a great leveller, hiding both imperfections and size issues (to a point).

l-r Museum, Essex

l-r Naismith  Essex

l-r Peter Pig, Essex

l-r Peter Pig, Museum

l-r Naismith, Peter Pig

l-r Naismith, Museum

Cavalry horses

Portraying a horse in movement must be one of the more difficult 'figures' that a figure sculptor ever has to create. Thankfully pioneering Victorian photographer Eadweard Muybridge famously captured a galloping horse's movement in 16 images. Unfortunately for the figure sculptor, the horse is barely in contact with the ground. As a rock climber I always like to have three points of contact with the rockface, similarly I like my horses to have three points of contact with their base. All this just goes to justify why figure sculptors add bits of vegetation to horse bases which somewhat coincidentally make contact with legs. When it comes to the smaller sizes of figures, horses with just two legs in contact with a base are not viable structurally.

Peter Pig cavalry make up the bulk of my mounted figures. There are two styles of figures in their range: one-piece and two-piece castings. I have long bemoaned the newer one-piece casts (TL:DR I find them harder to paint, and I just think the older two-part figures are much better figures) preferring the two-piece figures. Price rise- February 2023: four figures cost £4.35, or just shy of £1.10 per figure including horse. A special-order pack of 'just horses' (eight horses) costs £5, giving an individual horse cost of £0.62.

The horses come in three poses, some of the newer one-piece horses (all of the figures in pack 24) are, very annoyingly, missing the chest strap for the saddle. Horses, be they one or two piece in construction, are consistent in height. The horses were remodelled and made slightly bigger a few years ago, so you might come across some very old PP horses on eBay which are quite noticeably shorter.

Scattered amongst the thousand or so Peter Pig cavalry figures in my collection are a handful of Matchlock mounted figures. Matchlock foot figures appear a few times in this blog, and cutting a long story short, are mostly a comparable height to Peter Pig figures but are much, much heftier. The same can be said for their riders, but what of their horses? 

Matchlock riders and horses are purchased separately. Riders and horses currently costing £0.55 each (November 2022). There are three horses available: horse, great horse, and dragoon horse. Each available in a few different poses. The great horse is designed for cuirassiers, and the dragoon horse is a smaller nag for dragoons and Scots cavalry. A nice touch.

The 'standard' horses are comparable sizewise with PP but the horse illustrated (H1 horse walking) has a slightly hobby-horse appearance in comparison (I think I'll replace it with the better proportioned H5 great horse standing); but the riders are noticeably different. I have paired my Prince Maurice with a PP cuirassier ensign. The helmets are very different in size. My thinking is that once I put a standard on the base the cuirassier's helmet will be a little less visible.

Matchlock 'Horse-BO' on Matchlock 'horse H1' (I think), with a PP cuirassier ensign



Naismith cavalry are out of production, but some packs are still available from Keep Wargaming (no relation). November 2022: three identical figures per pack costing £1.60, so about £0.53 per figure including horse.

I have a lot of Naismith Napoleonic figures, and some of the horse poses are slightly esoteric to say the least. They look okay painted up, but stylistically are a very poor match for Peter Pig mounts. The ECW horses are considerably better sculpts, but I decided to ditch them and mount the riders on PP horses. 

l-r Naismith, Peter Pig
the more I look at it, the more the Naismith horse looks like a pantomime horse costume. I think it is the legs...

When I initially wrote this post, I no longer had any of the Naismith ECW horses, having put them in the recycling a long time ago. A spontaneous purchase of some mounted highlanders (to use the words of Baldrick I have a cunning plan...) meant that I would have some Naismith horses to illustrate the post. Unfortunately, this was some time after I had photographed my side-by-side pictures. So, I'm afraid that their comparison shot is with a PP horse only. Not too bad a match heightwise, but the back legs look to be a little shorter than the front legs giving a slightly strange appearance. It seems so strange that all of the ridden horses from Naismith that I have had (be they Napoleonic or ECW) are a little odd when their draught horses look so good.

The riders are much daintier than PP and Steel Fist riders but are a similar height. In comparison to Matchlock they look a completely different figure scale/size.

Steel Fist horses look much more anatomically correct and proportioned and are as a result much more delicate. Unfortunately, this delicate look is to their detriment, from my own experience several horses have not survived passage through the postal system and their riders have had to be remounted upon Peter Pig horses. November 2022: Steel Fist cavalry cost £14.95 for a pack of twelve cavalry which is roughly £1.25 a figure, mounted commander packs are £7.90 for six figures roughly £1.32 a figure.

l-r Naismith rider on Peter Pig horse, Steel Fist, Peter Pig, Matchlock

Update: A tale of three cuirassiers.

Thanks to regular reader Dex for providing some Essex and Museum Miniatures cuirassiers for comparison.

The Peter Pig is one of the new one-piece cuirassiers, which I have not used in my cuirassier units (as I much prefer the older two piece castings). In the picture his head looks a little small, in real life it does look correctly proportioned. I must say that I think the Essex figure looks to have too big a body for his legs (and in profile is very flat); the horse, however, is nicely sculpted. The Museum Miniatures is very nice, but is alas a full head taller than the rest of my Peter Pig and Steel Fist cavalry, the horse is noticeably larger.

from l-r: Peter Pig, Essex, Museum

Two piece cavalry figures from l-r Essex, Peter Pig. The Essex figure's head looks a little on the large size for his body. If I was using this figure, a Peter Pig headswap might make him more usable.

From l-r: PP personality, Epic, 'normal' PP

Those of you of the 'Epic' persuasion might start thinking about Peter Pig's new personality figures (on account of Warlord's resin pack being ludicrously expensive). Caveat emptor as my old Latin teacher would say (only he didn't, he was more interested in talking about Aeneas and Dido, Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, Cogidubnus Rex, Mons Vesuvii etc). The new Peter Pig character packs are noticeably bigger than the normal packs, so will tower over Epic figures.

Conclusion

I think that the Peter Pig and Steel Fist figures work together quite well, horses are more or less comparable in height, and the riders are an acceptable mix. I don't think that they would work quite so well in a mixed SF/PP unit - not because of the horses or riders, but because of the very noticeable difference in swords.

I did contemplate remounting my Matchlock cavalry upon Peter Pig horses, but unfortunately I'd forgotten than Matchlock riders have their saddlery attached. I wish I'd remembered before I painted the new horses up. They are now going to be remounted upon Matchlock's great horse walking.

Naismith and Matchlock riders are just about acceptable on the same gaming table with Peter Pig and Steel Fist riders, but I don't think that I'll be buying anymore of either brand.

Afterthoughts

Wargamer, the Polish company behind By Fire and Sword sell packs of separate plastic horses. I believe that they are more in keeping with Essex figures sizes and above than true 15mm ranges. Packs A and B look the most useful for the Civil Wars. November 2022: £9 for twelve horses, £0.75 a horse.

Warlord Games have now entered the market with their Epic Pike and Shotte range. The boxed 'cavalry' sprues are difficult to calculate a price per head cost as the box contains mounted and dismounted dragoons, individual musketeers (which Warlord term commanded shot), artillery, and foot ensigns. £26.50 gets you 51 assorted mounted figures, 6 artillery pieces and crew, and 36 assorted foot figures. By far and away the cheapest option. Warlord also produce packs of mounted command figures cast in resin: these are a more like for like comparison with metal figures from Steel Fist and Peter Pig - the resin casting process allows sharper all round details. Five personality figures will set you back £12, a whopping £2.40 a figure! For my review and a closer look at the Epic cavalry sprue see here.

Update 

Since originally writing this post I have taken the plunge, and changed the Matchlock horses so that cavalry are all now mounted on great horse standing.



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