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Discussions related to the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879
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mike snook 2

Joined: 04 Jan 2006
Posts: 920
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I'd like to draw the attention of people who have an interest in wargaming the AZW or modelling it in 28mm scale to the website of a new firm called Empress Miniatures, which you'll be able to find readily enough by googling their company name.

On their website they have promised a genuinely comprehensive AZW range, including mounted troops, artillery and transport, and potentially some terrain pieces, all of which which will be truly welcome. The first releases are four x four-figure packs of British imperial infantry, and four x four-figure packs of Zulus, two portraying unmarried warriors and two marrieds with headrings, all of which are available now.

I haven't yet seen the Zulus in the flesh but have sent for some and will pop back to add a paragraph or two when they arrive. Of note is that they are in campaign rig without their valuable parade adornments - quite right -just how the amabutho actually went to war. The website indicates that figures with cowtails at the arms and legs will follow, for those who prefer their Zulus to be a bit more colourful or stylish. All the Zulus come with separate weapons and shields and are designed to have their arms bent around a bit for maximum variety of pose.

I have, however, got some of the imperial infantry in hand. A word of advice prior to your first visit to the Empress site - when you are looking at them on the website, they appear to have quite chunky legs, but this is one of those illusions you sometimes get with photogrpahy of wargames figures and the effect is not apparent 'in the flesh', so to speak.

One pack depicts four soldiers in full marching order, complete with blanket and valise. One of these is a chap, who, having lifted his helmet, is portrayed drawing the arm of his tunic across a sweaty brow - a very nice little character. One man is at the slope, one at the trail and one has his Martini cradled in his arm as he strides along.

Now to the firing line pack - again four very attractive figures - one standing firing - a nice relaxed pose - he might actually hit something with his shot - one ejecting a spent case, one about to bring his rifle down into the aim, and a fourth thumbing a cartridge into the breech with his rifle held at waist level .

The command pack has two officers, a colour sergeant and a 'drummer' - that is to say a bugler. The first officer, clad in a peaked officer's forage cap and a scalret undress frock, has an Adams revolver raised in one hand, and is resting the other hand on the hilt of his sheathed sword. The second officer, also in an undress frock, but this time loading his revolver in front of his chest, has his sword slung from his waistbelt. The colour sergeant, shown gesturing, with his rifle held in front, has his sword bayonet fixed. The bugler has his instrument resting on his hip, and, [the only figure in 16 Brits to have one], a helmet cover, which historically speaking tends to restrict him to the second invasion. A head conversion to a glengarry is a simple enough job however.

The fourth pack are all posed in the same stance - which Empress calls 'stand to' - but which shows rifles levelled at the waist with fixed bayonets. The pack is essentially four head variants of the same figure, including one chap in a glengarry with mutton chop whiskers.

The attractive thing about these sculpts is the close attention to detail in the accurate portrayal of uniform, weapons and equipment. It's also worth noting that Empress have set to capture 'campaign' rather than 'parade' appearance, so full beards are to be seen in the ranks. The guiding hand is that of Paul Hicks, an extremely talented sculptor, and I must say these are pretty much state-of-the art figures. His portrayal of the Martini-Henry is by far the best I have seen, and he has accurately reflected the great length of the Martini with bayonet fixed. The bayonets, which so often spoil wargames ranges, are nice, slender, subtle sculpts. It is worthy of note that the firing line figures are 'unfixed', which makes them great for Kambula or Ulundi and so on, but not so great for Isandlwana or Rorke's Drift. Perhaps a fixed variant will follow. If I have one reservation, it is with the back of the helmet, which isn't quite right, but this is very much a perfectionist's criticism, and I fancy most gamers wouldn't necessarily spot the difference, or for that matter be particularly bothered by it - and who knows - the helmets might well attain perfection as the range unfolds over the next year. It's also worth noting that none of the longstanding ranges in the market do the helmet very well anyway, and Empress has to my mind got much, much closer than anybody else.

In terms of compatibility with other manufacturers these boys would readily fit in with Perry Miniatures and Foundry, whilst, at a stretch, they could 'mix it ' with Black Tree Design Zulus. Redoubt Zulus, however, would be too big. They could not be mixed in the same redcoat unit as Black Tree, Redoubt or Baker Company figures.

One use outside the AZW which occurs to me, and in which compatibility is not at all an issue, is that they could readily be pitched against Michael Perry's excellent range of Egyptians and alongside his highlanders for the Tel-el-Kebir campaign.

In summary, these are first-rate figures from a promising new company with the talent and imagination to really do justice to the AZW at last. To my mind, Empress have launched the best 28mm AZW imperial infantry available in today's marketplace. I look forward to seeing the range expand to become genuinely comprehensive over the coming year. If you do a bit of wargaming or modelling you will be well advised to have a look at the website, see what you think, and, if you agree with me, invest some hard-earned pennies. I did and am delighted with the investment. Packs come at 5 for 4 figures (or 1.25 each) plus 50p per pack for postage. Just need a bit of painting time now.


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