Well, I say that rather tongue in cheek, as the scale does not particularly matter, but the title will resonate with anyone familiar with Warlord Games’ Epic system.
Last year Warlord Games, best known for their 28mm plastics, released smaller scale American Civil War figures in a range that they described as ‘Epic’. The figure size is around 13.5mm and they are ranked shoulder to shoulder, with the infantry coming in strips of 10 soldiers.
Recently they announced a new period in the ‘Epic’ scale ….. Napoleonics! due for initial release in January 2022.
This will excite a lot of people. As a product, it is more complicated than ACW simply because of the number of different unit and uniform types that the company needs to represent in a single release. The ACW starter boxes were all based around a single plastic figure sprue that served both sides, then subsequent releases of the more niche units were done in metal ….. by contrast, the Napoleonic release is going to be supported by 11 different plastic sprues across the various waves of release.
Having regard for the tooling costs of each sprue, that is a huge commitment to the product. The CEO, John Stallard, while chatting on a podcast recently, let his mind wander to possible future Epic interests, mentioning English Civil War and Rome V Barbarian ….. can it be true, is Epic about to become what could be thought of as a cohesive ‘series’ of smaller plastics?
Anyway, the rest of this post just gives way to a general chatty discussion of Epic - nothing too great to hang your hat on, as I am just a punter, not on the inside track or anything, but the potential of the product is worth spilling some e-ink over.
Please use the ‘read more’ tab for the rest of this post.
When the ACW Epic line was first announced and we scrambled for information, we found that the figures were smaller than typical 15mm, but that a standard unit (a regiment) was to be five bases wide. At 60mm frontage to a base, that gave the regiment a tabletop frontage of 300mm, which was larger than the 240mm frontage of a typical 28mm regiment (using Black Powder rules).
How could this be? surely the whole point of the ‘little fellas’ would be to allow a Black Powder table to be reduced from a 12’ x 6’ to a more conventional 6’ x 4’ type of size, but of course that would be a single view that small scales are just to accommodate space strapped gamers (me). It seems that the whole point of Epic (the clue being in the name) is that a regiment on the table can have 100 heads instead of 24.
However, those gaming in a smaller domestic setting (me again) have always been adept at changing things to meet their gaming needs and so of course, for Epic, all that needs to be done is to just use one, two or three bases (not 5) as best suits to represent the regiment.
There must have been enough people doing this and giving feedback to Warlord Games, that they went on to produce support packs of five command stands (metal), so that gamers could break the basic starter set down into smaller units - each with its own command stand, which consequently and perhaps unnecessarily to the space strapped gamer, allows for more units to be built from the starter set. So, there we are, something for everyone! It’s like a lovely fluffy ending to a scary story.
Being Mr. Space Strapped, I will be using reduced unit sizes, but more of that anon.
With both Warlord Games and Victrix Games now doing smaller scale projects, one might hope that their advertising muscle and hobby presence will bring a better diversity of model scale to our magazines and wargame shows, institutions that for some time have been strongly 28mm focussed and if it wasn’t for the likes of Baccus (6mm), Pendraken (10mm) and Kallistra (12mm), being stalwarts of the UK show circuit, the gamer of smaller scales might eventually come to be dissuaded from attending shows altogether.
Looking back to last year, Warlord Games doing ACW at the smaller scale now looks like they were carefully dipping their toe into the ‘scale’ water in a safe period. They produced a single plastic sprue that had infantry, artillery and a commander, universally usable for both sides, taking advantage of a loose ‘generic’ type look for this particular conflict and using it to exploit mass production. It was a step into the unknown and it appears some lessons were learned.
Firstly, it was hugely popular, more than they had anticipated and needed a further production run. It generated a strong demand for the associated subsequent staggered releases (called waves) of the distinctive troop types of Zouave, Iron Brigade, Cavalry (mounted and dismounted) and skirmishers. These were to be done in resin, but apparently there were issues with using their resin on small figures in the large numbers needed and so, these later additions were done in metal instead.
This happened just as the global costs of metals were going through the roof and a consequence was that to the customer, it looked like the marketing of Epic was based upon a cheap entry box, followed by a high priced follow-on support, in a scale that some felt was proprietary to Warlord Games, though it turns out that Kallistra did 12mm ACW, which has been a close enough fit in scale terms to provide an alternative source of support for the likes of limbers, wagons, zouaves, cavalry and leaders.
|A Kallistra artillery limber next to the Warlord Games regiment|
Fast forward to the Napoleonic Waterloo release and from the off, this is well supported by plastic sprues for a bigger proportion of the overall order of battle. So the French for example get four cavalry types. There will be two sprues in a subsequent wave to cover the Prussians, so at some point in 2022, we should be able to gather three of the five main Napoleonic armies in Epic plastic.
Anyway, there is much to like and considering that we are a niche hobby, that itself has lots of niches, it is a fantastic thing to see this level of commercial and professional product support within the hobby, regardless of what one thinks about the scale or period or battle focus.
I had bought the original ACW stuff, but for a variety of reasons, I abandoned it and sold the bits off. Now with the news of the Napoleonics on the horizon and potentially other periods to follow, I have re-bought the ACW starter set, simply because if this is to become a series, from a collectors perspective and generally favouring plastic, I would quite like to be with it from the outset.
I already have some 10mm / 12mm terrain for my Kallistra ACW and 1066 collections and for my Pendraken WWII armies, so building on that should be pretty straight forward and should not stress the storage situation too much.
Over the next few months, I will work on the ACW stuff, while I wait for the Napoleonic Epic to filter into the Bricks and Mortar stores and then likely buy into the starter sets. The store gets supported and the resellers often offer a discount.
To get into the mood and immerse myself in the background fluff, I have just started reading Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo (Published by William Collins) The History of four days, three armies and three battles. Sitting in the queue right behind that, is Tim Clayton’s Waterloo (Published by Abacus) Four Days that Changed Europe’s Destiny.
Both look wargamer friendly and I will particularly keep an eye out for some examples of smaller side actions that might make good scenarios that help smaller tables.
These 13.5’s might be ‘diminutive’ chaps compared to their 28mm brethren and the first thing that springs to mind is the hope to do ‘a quick simple paint job’, but I have been surprised how much painting there is to do per unit, simply because so much detail is present.
There are a lot of figures in the ACW starter box and the two British / French starter sets, so I am going to need to find a painting style that cuts across that, to get better output - especially knowing that Napoleonic forces are close at hand.
While true that after all of that painting, when the unit is on the table, most of painting work disappears (the three foot rule bites hard), I still appreciate the detail being painted. I have another set of figures that I did ‘speed painting’ on years ago and now whenever I use them, I ‘see’ that speed painting and wish that I had taken more time with them.
As I write this, I have just painted and based up some ACW mounted commanders (above) and they feel like they have taken a lot of work, but I have just seen a video about using Games Workshop Contrast Paints on these figures to increase productivity, so perhaps a solution lays in that direction - some pots have arrived for me to trial and more are on order to extend the colour range.
One thing I have not been keen on with the ACW infantry bases is that the strip of figures is 5mm shorter than the length of the 60mm base. The effect is that when bases are placed into a line, there are noticeable gaps between the individual blocks of figures. To dampen this effect down (photo below), I am cutting a thin sliver off each end of the infantry bases.
On the flip side of the base there is a lip. I am cutting just inside that lip with a razor saw, the line of which provides a consistent and accurate saw guide, a more reliable way to measure than the variable results that my pencil and ruler has been giving me!
It doesn’t quite close the gap (it would if I cut the base to 55mm), but looks better and works with the awkward command base, which has a musket sticking out to one side.
Warlord Games are using their Black Powder rules for their Epic ACW and Napoleonic games and they include an A5 version of the rulebook in the starter box, but while I use and enjoy Black Powder, I shall also be looking at exploring some other sets and seeing how the 60mm base frontage works with them.
For ACW, I am looking at Pickett’s Charge for mid sized games and Bonnie Blue Flag rules for the smaller actions that might have just a few regiments per side. For Napoleonics, Shadow of the Eagles and General d’ Armee top the list of candidates, while Bataille Empire is rudely winking at me from the game shelf - trying to jump that queue!
The last time that I dabbled with Epic ACW, I put up a blog post (see Resource Section below) covering the first scenario from the starter set (Battle of Greenbrier River) and I extolled the virtues of initially gaming with unpainted units, while rotating units across the painting tray, simply to keep the enthusiasm up, rather than waiting to slavishly fully paint two armies before getting a first game and then possibly discovering it is not for you ….. sound familiar!
|Rotating painted units into an army of bare plastic!|
For the Waterloo games, I will likely go down the bare plastic route for the initial games, while I paint, explore rules and decide how many bases I want to represent various units, but for the ACW games, I already have existing Kallistra 12mm armies, so this time I will likely just rotate painted regiments into them, while I get things going.
|The second rank are 3 x 40mm bases of Kallistra infantry|
For ACW, I will be trying out two Epic bases per regiment (for a 120mm frontage, which equates to 3 of my Kallistra 40mm bases - see above). Visually, this gives a good compromised balance of line v limited footprint.
For Napoleonics, I am hoping that 2 bases will look right for line and 3 will give a good visual representation of massed column. 2 bases can also represent square (back to back), though I have seen a photo of 4 bases doing a napoleonic square and it looks right and much better to the eye.
|This what a column of 3 x Epic bases looks like.|
If I am doing a particularly small battle and have spare bases, then adding another base to each unit to make it look more eye catching also seems a good way to to go.
For both periods, I see an advantage in sticking with 10mm (N Gauge) terrain, as it obviously has a smaller footprint than 15mm terrain and buildings are less likely to visually overpower regiments of two to three bases.
Most of this is for the near future and as always, fully dependent upon what grabs my butterfly interest at the time. I will log progress over on my Commanders web space (see Resource Section below) as things unfold.
Anyway, I’m in reflective mood, so will close by saying thanks to all those that follow / read this blog and to the kind folk who regularly take the time to comment.
I am consciously grateful to the entire fabric of this wargaming community, bloggers, vloggers, wargame show organisers, magazine editors (and staff), rules writers, publishers, manufacturers and traders for keeping the wheels of a niche, but fantastic hobby, turning and making it viable for the long term. Thank you.
Playing Epic with unpainted plastic - scenario 1. LINK
Commanders - my other webspace, which covers various projects and favoured systems. LINK