The Ballbusch Review: Perry Miniatures
Today, as part of our continuing series of reviews, and sub-series of pieces about sourcing historical miniatures (see how I weave it all together? Wheels within wheels) we’re going to look at the acme of historical miniatures, Perry Miniatures.
I’m just going to say this: I really don’t care for gaming with 28mm figures. They’re lovely, but they’re also too big. You need big tables, and big terrain to make 28mm work. End then the table will still be too crowded for any true battle of maneuver. Am I slowly being converted to 6mm? I think so, and I’m afraid. Still, 28mm is great for so-called ‘skirmish games’ and role-playing. And they do look incredible, but the space for play and storage quickly becomes an issue. Still 28mm is here to stay for all sizes of game.
I won’t hazard a guess at which of the Perry’s ranges is the most popular. I seem to vaguely remember that at one point in my life someone told me, but like so many others, that particular detail faded from memory. If size and loving attention is any indication, then the Napoleonic range takes pride of place.
For the most part the Napoleonic range has focused on the wet picnic, Waterloo. While a watershed event in British history, it is somewhat less appreciated in the US. However, recent national amnesia about which side we were on has led to greater sympathy for the Coalition cause.
In any event, the Perrys have been expanding the range to cover the various other theaters and combatant nations. Their Rheinbund range is to my knowledge unique in any scale. No right thinking gentleman can see such eccentric uniforms and not feel some temptation.
Of course, Napolonics in 28mm makes one swoon at both the cost and space required. I admire those who do it, but I also suspect that they’re ever so slightly mad. Though, if you paint quickly, and have a tennis court of play on, go for it.
The American Civil War range is good, perhaps definitive. Plus it has good plastic support. A Federal infantry kit is lacking, but the generic plastic set works unless you’re a stickler. The only thing I can really say is that this is mostly an early war (1861-62) Eastern theater range basically covering the period of the Battle of Bull Run through Second Manassas. For those who want something a little more fanciful, the Perrys also do a British intervention Force for the period. While seemingly absurd 150 years latter, in 1861 there was the very real possibility that John Bull would intervene and create a general North American war.
I’m capable of a good deal of patriotism, but the idea that hastily assembled Federal militias under elected officers with no general staff to speak of could have stood up to expertly lead, hardened British regulars is laughable. Still, it makes for some interesting ‘what if’ engagements.
The English Civil War range is small and somewhat neglected. There are some good figures, but I think it’s overshadowed by Warlord (plastics, more complete) and Empress (more historically accurate for the early years of the war). I have a few mixed Perry-Foundry pike units around somewhere and always thought them very handsome.
The only other Perry range that I have personal experience with is their Crusade range. I painted up a few packs of Saljuqs for a lady who wanted to use them in her Dungeons and Dragons(?) game. A project I approved of as the mysterious Orient is a far better setting for a RPG than tired Lancasterian England. The figures were animated and certainly looked exotic enough to serve in a low fantasy setting. Also, this is as good a time as any to point out that ‘historical’ 28mm figures are actually 28mm as opposed to GW and (newer Reaper) ‘fantasy’ 28mm, which are more like 32mm.
Perry metals come six infantry or three cavalry in a cute little black box. The metals are always well cast and handsome. they are wargaming figures, so tend to be a little monopose; made with the obvious goal of ranking up cleanly. Metal quality, in my experience is high. And I’ve never had any breakage.
The figures are hefty and the sculpting crisp. You really can’t to wrong with them, and the sight of a full unit ranked up will make any wargamer’s breast swell.
These days though, I’ve willing to bet that Perry Miniature’s main draw is their plastic sets. Full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of plastic miniatures. I mostly use them for armies I plan on using in public. They’re light, inexpensive, and expendable. Some people get wonderful results painting plastics, but they always seem second best to me.
Perry’s plastics are good quality. As always with plastic sets you get soft details in places and rather heavy mold lines. Assembly can be a little fiddly. The Napoleonic British Line set in particular takes some work to get right.
In the case of their 19th Century sets Perry plastic kits attempt to provide a regiment (American) or a battalion (European) at a scale of one figure equals twenty men. The WW2 sets contain a 1:1 platoon (or zug). The medieval sets are a grab-bag since the period had nothing approaching standardized formations. As an added bonus to beginners the sets include bases, a painting guide, and flags.
The guides cover the bare basics and also notes the proper placement of elite companies and officers within the battalion. It isn’t the full story by any means, if you follow it you won’t go far wrong. They’re also very handy references while painting (I hang them on my wall) if you want to check the proper color for facings or some minor piece of gear you don’t have to go drag out some heavy tome.
As an aside, the figures included in the plastic kits are for paper strength. Few formations have ever put anything approaching their theoretical establishment into action in a given engagement. So, if you’re after ‘historical’ strength you can usually peel off a full third of the figures to start a different unit.
The Perrys do romanticize their subjects. Their miniatures are all upstanding gentlemen soldiers of good character and stoic patriotism. Even their militia and fugitives have a nobility of bearing and display a sort of classical calm. Of course, even the most cursory review of the rank and file in most nations reveals something more along the lines of “…rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists,” to quote Hedley Lamarr.
Maybe a little too clean, actually
None of that is bad at all. But there are refined, almost Victorian, sensibilities in Perry Miniature’s offerings. People who want their models to ooze character and capture the view from the trenches aren’t going to find that attitude. It really comes down to how you like your toy soldiers.
Perry Miniatures are great, and all the greater because they’re freakishly inexpensive. It’s hard to find much of anything to complain about, other than the fact that I have to make more 28mm terrain, which I just don’t want to do…