Sunday, 21 February 2021

Mission Creep

This is quite a long post with only one picture.  It chronicles how a small rebasing and re-flagging project mushroomed into a major piece of work.  Many of you will have experience of similar projects and may recognise the "mistakes" I've made and issues I've tackled.

The Story So Far
In early January I began what I thought would be a small project: rebasing some of my Wars of the Roses archer command bases.  At first I had a few issues with removing figures from the bases but eventual settled on a simple enough method.

Fully aware that this sort of thing can get out of hand I finished six bases by the end of the month complete with new laser printed livery flags.

I limited myself to:

"In addition to rebasing I .. repainted [just] the faces and most of the legs and shoes as they were damaged during removal from the original bases.   Wherever possible I kept as much of the original paintwork as I could; it's over twenty years old after all."

A Step Too Far?
Next I decided to convert some of my (three to a base) levy archers to regular (four to a base) archers so more re-basing and touching up old paintwork.  The logic behind this was simple.  When done I would have three, easily distinguishable, types of late medieval archers: retinue (superior/elite), regular (ordinary), and levy (irregular).

This is when things started to go awry.

Figure Compatibility
My collection of levy archers is composed of a mix of two Essex codes (MER14 & MER15, Heavy Archers firing and loading respectively), and two Feudal Castings codes WOR4 (Bow Firing, Assorted Clothing/Armour) & WOR2 (Bow Firing, Livery Jacket).

Twenty odd years ago I was happy to mix manufacturers, poses and codes but now I realise that the Essex codes are more suitable for the late Hundred Years War and mixing them with the later 15th century Feudal Castings looks wrong.  They are still usable but in separate units to represent HYW veterans rather than as English Shire levy.

I was also less happy mixing the Essex figures with the Feudal Castings for a second reason.   Although the size match is not a problem, the classic Essex poses didn't look right next to the slightly less wooden Feudal Castings.

This meant that if I was going to do anything I would have to remove all the figures from their bases and re-base using one manufacturer per base: a major task.

A Possible Solution
Before committing to the epic task of removing figures from 30 plus metal bases, I looked around to see if I could get some extra figures from a different manufacturer to break up either the Essex or Feudal Castings figures.

I settled on the Donnington "New Era" range which covers both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses.  One advantage is you can buy single casting not packs.  It's a little bit more expensive but the flexibility is worth it.

My small order arrived very quickly and at first I thought they'd solved my problem; alas it was a false hope.

Once I'd cleaned and primed the figures, it was clear they wouldn't match either Essex or Feudal Castings.  The figures are roughly the same size but are much broader in the chest and have a noticeably different sculpting style.

Nonetheless I like the figures and I ordered more to make a further eight bases (three to a base) to provide even more late HYW veterans and to increase the size of the project yet again.

The Final Straw
At this point I was faced with painting 24 Donnington figures, removing 90 odd figures from 30 plus bases, repairing them and putting them on new bases.  This was no longer a small project.  It got worse.

As noted above, I was hoping to get away with painting new faces and repairing any damage below the knee caused by removing figures from their bases.  However on closer inspection lots of the figures weren't that good.  In particular the quilted body armour on the Essex figures really needed repainting.  Some alright but many were truly awful. At least repainting them allowed me to introduce more variety by varying the colours of the cloth armour (see next section).

Another positive emerged.  The more I figures I repaired, the more I realised it was a lot easier for me to repair already painted figures than paint anew.  I found I was essentially highlighting the figures; a painting step I've always enjoyed.  As you'd expect I ended up doing more than repainting the faces and repairing the legs but it was still quick.

Project Management
I reconciled myself to a long grind and set to work.  To avoid being daunted by the size of the task I worked on small batches: little bits and often.  Until this week that is.

After four weeks of solid graft I finally decided to stop working through the pile and work out just exactly what I wanted to achieve.  I settled on the following:

  • Irregular Levy - 8 bases (three to a base) Essex, 4 each of two poses.
  • Irregular Levy - 4 bases (three to a base) Donnington
  • Irregular Levy - 4 bases (three to a base) Feudal Castings
  • Irregular Levy - 4 bases (three to a base) Command/Livery Flags
  • "Regular" Levy - 8 bases (four to a base) Feudal Castings

The above leaves me with just over 30 spare figures which will be stripped and sold through eBay.  The list also significantly reduced the scale of the task facing me which is a great relief.

I also decide to base the Essex figures using only one pose per base. This "mono pose basing" is decidedly "Old School" and against the current fashion.  However, I was able to introduce enough colour variation to soften the look and in Art de la Guerre (ADLG) I will using bases in pairs with a firing base in front and a loading base behind.  Not exactly diorama basing but yet another variation.

Progress Report
This morning I finished the eight bases of Essex figures. The fourth Command base is also finished. The "Regular" Levy (four to a base) is half done and the Donnington figures are well over half way finished.

When I say finished I mean the figures have been painted or repaired (repainted?), varnished and stuck on new bases with only the groundwork to be added.

Once they basing has been done I'll photograph the units and you'll be able to compare the various units in all their repaired (repainted?) glory.

Overall this project is well past half way and I can see me finishing it in the next month.  I'm already thinking about what to do next.

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