Tuesday, February 5, 2008

1/72 Plastics

I've been rather busy of late and so I have been somewhat neglecting the blog. My friend Tom wondered about an update so I figured now was as good a time as any to write the little blurb I had promised on why I like 1/72 plastics so much.

I discovered 1/72 plastics quite by accident. Being a Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000 player I was trolling the net one day in an effort to find cheaper alternative miniatures to feed my need to own every single army under the sun. As it happened, searching for "plastic miniatures" brought me to Plastic Soldier Review which is an excellent site devoted to 1/72 plastics. While it didn't apply to my needs at the time I bookmarked it for future reference.

Time went on and I started to get interested in perhaps doing WWII and Moderns skirmish gaming and had purchased some rules for that but I had such a heavy investment in WHFB and WH40K that I didn't want to go down the 28mm path again. I really like 28mm miniatures but their cost can be prohibitive especially when you add vehicles into the mix. So I began to look for alternatives and low and behold I read that 1/72 was a popular scale for these genres due to the inexpensive and prolific vehicle kits. This of course reminded me about Plastic Soldier Review so I went to have a look at what was available for actual soldiers. The reviews of WWII soldiers seemed promising but I wanted to see them in the flesh before I committed.

The next day I went to a local hobby store that I thought carried 1/72 plastics and got my first look at a set of Italeri WWII Americans. They were far far better than I had expected. Their detail was superb and it was only $9.50 for a box with 45 miniatures!! I bought them and some Germans and a couple of 1/72 tanks.

At the same time I was getting interested in both Ancients and Napoleonics and decided to buy some boxes for those periods as well. As time has gone on I have extended my collection a great deal with 1/72 plastics.

I can hear you saying, "Great, but why? What makes 1/72 plastics better than 15mm or 28mm?" Well, I wouldn't say they are "better" necessarily. It really is about perspective. For me cost is the number one issue. This is simply because I know myself and knew exactly what was going to happen as soon as I started playing ancients with my gaming group. I was going to start wanting armies, lots of armies. That same motivation had really hit my bank account with WHFB and 40K and I didn't want a repeat of that. At the same time I knew I didn't want to try to limit myself on army counts. So in the end, price, above everything else was what made me decide that 1/72 were for me. Having said that, price is irrelevant if the miniatures were not good enough for me and 1/72 were very surprisingly good.

Are there draw-backs to 1/72 plastics? Oh you bet there are.

First, they are a real pain to work with. Cleaning up mold lines and doing conversions are made that much harder by the soft plastic that is used. Regular plastic glue (usually) doesn't work and so you need to find alternatives such as plastic activator with super glue or "hot welding". Even more than with regular hard plastic and metal miniatures you need to be sure they are thoroughly washed and properly primered before you paint them. For me, the glueing and painting issues are small and easy to deal with. The only one that really bugs me is mold lines and they vary from none at all to just bad enough to be annoying.

Second, while the periods and armies covered is rather broad, the depth of coverage is inconsistent and things such as command models are a bit harder to deal with.

Third, quality isn't always consistent between sets from the same manufacturer so you have to carefully review your potential purchases to be sure that they meet your needs.

Fourth, historical accuracy isn't guaranteed. As with quality, if you are concerned with historical accuracy make sure you review the sets you wish to purchase first. Plastic Soldier Review is the perfect resource for this.

In the end, I don't regret deciding on 1/72 plastics. On the contrary, I am very happy with that decision. As it stands I now have two painted DBA armies in this scale and nine more waiting their turn in the queue. There is no way I could have gotten so many of the armies I am interested in if I had chosen any other scale. Even if you never decide to use them, I would suggest you look at a few boxes at your local FLGS and see for yourself that they really are every bit a valid part of miniature wargaming as lead.


Tomistokles said...

Thanks, Larry, for the blog update. I really enjoy reading your postings. And I appreciate the additional info about 1/72 Plastics. I believe that if I was not already so heavily committed to 15mm ancients I would probably be buying some (lots?) myself. Have you considered playing Flames of War in that scale?


Larry said...

Actually I have. Despite having purchased a British Rifle company in 15mm I really don't want to start investing in that scale. Sad I know but true none the less. Frankly 1/72 are here to stay for me and Flames of War (or any other Company scale WWII game, like Crossfire for example) would be great with them.

Of course I would like to actually play the WWII skirmish games I bought too... /sigh Life as a gamer; buying more crap than you can use.

Tomistokles said...

Hey, Larry. As if you needed another wargame... Have you heard of a system called The Sword and the Flame (TSATF)? It's a kick-ass British colonial skirmish system I used to play a lot down in Cali in the last century. We used 25mm minis, mostly the old Ral Partha Brits, Zulus, Gypos, Indians and Pathans. Lots of fun! Anyway, I was wondering if the plastics manufacturers make those type of figures in 20mm scale. You see, I sold all my colonial lead when I moved to Oregon, except for a bunch of French & Indian War figs. Is that a system and period you would be interested in gaming in?

Larry said...

HA! As if there is any such thing as a period I'm not interested in. I thought you knew me Tom... ;-)

I have hear of TSATF but I don't know much about it. Does it actually cover such a swathe of time? I mean French & Indian through Zulu?

Now as to figure coverage the FIW should be fairly well covered though we would likely have to use some AWI figs they should be close enough.

Here is a link to the stuff that is most likely available for Zulu.


Probably won't be able to get the Nikolai stuff, but the Italeri boxes are currently available from Michigan Toy soldier (www.michtoy.com).

I would love to do either/both of those periods. I know it means yet another game and yet another pile of figs to work on, but I don't care. It looks like fun and if we get bored of it, well, it's not like we invested a ton of coin into it right?

What do you think about doing Flames of War with 1/72? Sound like another project we might tackle in the future?

Tomistokles said...

TSATF actually covers the traditional "Little Wars" period of British colonial activity, namely c.1878 (2ND Afghan War) to 1884 (1st Sudan Campaign). It can be fairly easily stretched to work with earlier struggles (Indian Mutiny & 1st Afghan War), and later conflicts (2nd Boer War & China 1900). There was also an expansion for the F&I War. I have enough old 25mm lead to play both sides of that conflict (mostly RAFM minis). What I was interested in for 20mm scale was Zulu War and perhaps the Northwest Frontier. If I can come across the rules by next Wed I will bring them with. Otherwise, I am looking forward to playing DBA with your cool Athenians and (hopefully) the Spartans. See you then!