Sometime ago I did an article listing some of the best miniature wargaming rules covering the First World War, one of the up and comers being the 1914 Miniature Rules by the UK’s Great Escape Games. I also noted the rules had its own, in-house, supporting miniatures line in 12 mm (yes, 12 mm; more about that later). Well, in a strange, twisted kind of déjà vu, one of the vendors at the recent HMGS Historicon convention had a few of the firm’s brigade boxes on sale, so I quickly scooped up a brigade of 1914 French and another of 1914 Germans. It took a few days to find the time to tear (more later about this as well) into the two small containers, but I did and what was my reaction? The next morning, I ordered three more brigade boxes from eBay, am about to order three more, followed up by about a bazillion direct from the UK.
Oh yeah, I was impressed. Read on to find out why.
The 1914 Miniatures product line covers four countries (Belgium, the UK, France and Germany) and only for the Guns of August period of the war. As such the figures are sold in individual packs by type, with several various packs bundled together as a boxed brigade set, per the scale of the company’s 1914 wargaming rules. Brigade bundles include one brigade command pack, one cavalry pack, one artillery pack and four infantry packs with a flat price of £ 35.00 regardless of country. Individual packs are also a flat rate regardless of army and are near universal in their contents. These include:
- Infantry Packs – 15 regular infantry soldiers, one commander, one machinegun for£ 5.00.
- Artillery Packs – two field guns and four crew for£ 5.00.
- Brigade Command Pack– four figures plus a map table and accessories for£ 4.00.
- Cavalry Pack – 12 cavalry, 12 dismounted cavalry, one machinegun for£ 10.00. For the French the figures are Cuirassiers, and for the Germans and Belgians lancers, but the latter two formations can be purchased with or without lance.
- British Cavalry Pack – nine regular cavalry with sabres or lances, nine dismounted cavalry, one machinegun for£ 8.00.
If you’ve done the math, you’ll see about a £4.00 savings when purchasing a German infantry brigade vice buying the packs individually. Now for my Colonial colleagues, consider that right now the British Pound Sterling equals about $ 1.30 US. Now also consider that Great Escape will ship your purchase world wide for free if you purchase over for £100 worth of merchandise. Hell, I could spend that much on paint brushes at some conventions, so this is an exceptionally nice price point for all you budding General de Division Lanrezac’s out there.
About the only thing even remotely negative I can say here is about the damn box for the brigade sets. The small box is plain but comes inside a very nicely designed, color sleeve. OK, now what wise guy thought it would be clever to secure box to sleeve by judicious use of heavy, double stick tape on the inside? Almost dislocated a shoulder opening the merchandise, so not funny.
However, the rest of the experience was top notch. The figures are packaged in small, resealable plastic bags by type such as the artillery set. The four infantry sets, however, are all inside a single bubble wrap pouch. Like the individual sets, the brigade box comes with heavy, wooden movement stands precut for use with the 1914 rules set. Honestly, I put these aside as they are very thick so give the impression of military units moving around the tabletop standing on two-foot-high pedestals. Instead I use Evergreen 0.020 to 0.040 thick plastic styrene sheets for my bases. They are sturdy, yet thin and make the table look like a real battle, or at least a reenactment of it, with troops slogging thru real terrain.
I really like the packaging scheme that Great Escape uses for individual sets. Instead of having to buy a separate set of machineguns or dismounted cavalry, everything is included. Infantry sets include a commander and a machine gun as well as 15 infantrymen. Cavalry also includes a dismounted trooper for each mounted sabre swinger, as well as the unit’s organic machinegun. Mounted cavalry are one piece, and not a horse and rider you need to glue together (yes!), and like most manufacturers these days, each type of set includes figures in a variety of poses. There are two poses for the cavalry and three for the infantry, the latter being two types of advancing with one marching. Dismounted cavalry also comes in three poses of folks kneeling and putting rounds down range.
Quality is excellent in both detail and casting quality. For the former the detail style is closer to the smooth sculpting process used by modern Minifigs as opposed to the heavily etched, rough style used by Blue Moon and others. Yet detail is high, anatomical and equipment proportions are correct, while all of the equipment you would expect to find dangling off a 1914 French Poilu is included. Indeed, an extra set of shoes is seen strapped to the blanket roll on French infantry field packs. There was some flash on the cavalry to remove, but none anywhere else. The bottom of the miniatures, the base, is quite smooth with no nubs that need to be cut off (along with a finger or two) with that heavy duty Exacto you always wear out. This will greatly reduce the time to base these lads, making overall army creation a lot easier as well. In another good choice, extended portions of miniatures (such as swords) are pretty robust so won’t break easily.
Finally, there is the question of scale, as in who does 12 mm besides these guys? Well, that may not be a problem because you could make the argument that these miniatures are not REALLY 12 mm, but closer to 15s. Remember the good ole days when 15 mm was 15 mm, rather than 18 mm as produced by Blue Moon, AB and other companies? I noticed and just for grins and giggles I did a side by side comparison of these figures with some mounted and foot troops from the old Heritage Napoleonette series. These really were 15 mm and sure enough, the 1914 miniatures do compare favorably, perhaps just a micron or two smaller for horse, but dead on for foot. Yes, the 1914 figures will look odd next to Blue Moon’s, but I seem to recall the World War I 15 mm Minifigs series as well as Peter Pig figures were true 15s, the former a little on the small size I always thought. Bottom line is that 12 is the new 15 so I think you can combine these lines with little issue.
This last point above is important because if there is one turnoff it would be that the product line is simply too small. Here I don’t mean because only the Guns of August campaign is covered. Lord knows, there are plenty of releases by everybody covering 1915 thru 18. It’s what you always see on TV, so its what customers expect. However, the 1914 figure line does not include any Austrians, Russians or Balkan armies. Exacerbating this fact is that even the armies represented are incomplete. There are no German Jaegers or Landwehr, German Pickelhaube cavalry of any type, German Hussars, French Chasseurs a Cheval, British Highlanders, Indian infantry and so on and so on and so on. There are also no artillery limbers period, though the French 1853 model limber was so universally used for like forever you could likely wing it with American Civil War hardware. And seriously, I was hoping for a Captain Edmund Blackadder command set, all for naught.
Yet I am all giddy about these figures. Sure, it allows me to build forces to advertise my own rules for the period, but more than that, it supports little played but fascinating, counterintuitive Great War combat where trenches had yet to be dug and maneuver was still deadly important. 1914 battlefields were not massacre central unless you had all the French Char Saint-Chamond tanks in support. That tends to be all you see at conventions these days, so Great Escape has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air. Now add to this really smart, gamer friendly packaging, pricing based on excellent exchange rates, free postage over £ 100 and highly detailed miniatures both accurate and easy to paint. Who could ask for anything else?
Well I could, for some extra coin in my pocket, because I’m about to place another order.