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Remember When -- Fantasy Figures From the Dawn of Time

Rob Dean

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This is the penultimate post in this retrospective. Here are some figures from miscellaneous companies, and I'll finish this up (for the moment) with the Ral Partha.


I posted a picture of the Archive rust monster in the first sampler group. I have only a handful of Archive figures remaining. I don't recall whether we had any humans, but they had a range of creatures that we bought. My brother still has a bunch; perhaps I can persuade him to send me a few more shots later.


This unicorn was done in a "normal" horse color, after a failed attempt at "unicorn white". So if you run into a unicorn (ouch) in my D&D game, don't expect it to be white...




This Archive giant toad sat in my unpainted pile for many years. When WRG released the first edition of Hordes of the Things, it included a rule for spell failure. A wizard stand failing for the second time in a game was to be replaced by a frog figure, and had the possibility of being restored. If no frog figure was available, the wizard would be permanently removed. So I dug around in my backlog and came up with this, which I promptly painted and put into action as my transmogrified wizard marker, a capacity in which it has served on numerous occasions over the past two decades.




I also have an Archive robot, with a very retro flair, currently stowed in with my small pulp collection, and a pixie, who (under the influence of this thread) just got rescued from a junk box and hit the painting table. Perhaps there'll be a shot of him later.


About the same time that we started playing Dungeons and Dragons, a hobby shop catering to wargamers and plastic modelers opened up only a few miles from my home. (Walt's Hobby Shop, for any old Detroiters out there.) Walt's was the source of a lot of our early Grenadier. He also carried Garrison miniatures. Garrison was mostly a historical company, but they jumped on the fantasy bandwagon in the mid-'70s. Interestingly, their molds were revived a few years ago by a guy in England, but he just retired again last fall, so I missed my opportunity to stock up. They have a rather distinctive slender style, and fairly good animation, at least compared to some contemporaries like Minifigs.


Here's a couple of magic users.




The last batch this morning is a group of figures my brother and I picked up at Gencon in 1980. (We finally made it back to Gencon in 2014, by the way, for an interesting mix of the familiar and some culture shock.)


They are from TA-HR Minatures, a small company that only had a couple of dozen items in the catalog. Their sculpting was a bit rough by 1980 standards, but they had some flavor. I painted the team of green and brown magic users early on, but the other two females are things I did with acrylics in the '90s when I was going through my "drybrush everything" phase.


This first one serves as a warning to sculpters. If you compare this to the catalog picture on the Lost Minis Wiki, you can see that he originally came with an inch long gout of flame coming straight horizontally off his left hand. The flame and much of the hand broke off pretty rapidly, and was misplaced before I could work out my pinning techniques to repair him. Great idea still have to meet up with materials science to be realized in the world...




This female is another victim of time. She's been on my redo list for a long time. She was originally holding a dagger in her right hand, which was extremely thin and broke off in handling. I got as far as drilling the hand and inserting a bit of wire as a wand, but she still hasn't been repainted.




I used this fellow myself in a couple of games. I had a spare to try a different paint job up until a couple of years ago, when he went in a donation to a fellow club member who was trying to scrape a fantasy project together on a college student budget. So, someday he'll get a repaint, but not this year most likely.




This sorceress came out looking a little older than expected. Note to self: white is probably not the best highlight for black.




This one has a rather dynamic pose.




And to finish off this batch, here's a TA-HR demon, because everybody's collection needs another demon...




Next and final, as I said, will be the Ral Parthas.

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At a guess, I'd say French & Indian War/Seven Years War Five Nations (Iroquois Confederacy) warriors or the like.

Hmmm. The topknots do give a Native American flavor to them, but the shields and polearms are integral to the castings, and would be a little unusual. I have quite a few French and Indian War figures (mostly in home cast 40mm) for games.

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The very first test model I did when trying to get back into painting with a bit of a false start in 2011 was that Prince August sorceress. I had no idea what it was or why it was so horrible, I think someone cast it in solder! I somehow had a couple like that. This model has not and will never be photographed :p

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I had no idea what it was or why it was so horrible, I think someone cast it in solder!

Well, that is more or less what you cast in. I used to get plumber's bar solder in a 40/60 tin/lead alloy. I've taken to starting with a 63% tin ingot these days (which is the lowest melting point on the lead/tin spectrum) and adding whatever recycle I have, plus a handful of antimony pellets. The antimony expands on cooling, so a bit on the mix helps fill the molds better. Nevertheless, they are pretty "soft" castings, and it took a number of pours before I came up with one I was willing to expend any effort on. Masses of goblins and the like are better suited to home casting, IMHO. That isn't keeping me from gradually working through a set of characters, since I have the molds, and I'm doing a Dux Bellorum army using a lot of the fantasy barbarians. If I expand the old fantasy much, I'll probably have to cast stuff, since almost nobody is doing figures in small 25 anymore (apart from some survivors using the old molds, like Ironwind.)

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This batch of Ral Partha figures will be the last main batch. Digging through old catalogs has reminded me that some figures I didn't take last week are as old as the ones I did, so perhaps I'll catch up on them later.


Most of the early Ral Parthas were scultped by Tom Meier. When you look at his 1975/6 work compared to his 1978/9 work, I'm amazed at how much improvement there was technically. One of the oldest Ral Partha pieces I have is this one...which later had catalog number 01-001 (originally ES-1):






He originally came with the scenic base sculpted as part of the model. In fact, you can tell by the reeded edge to the base that the sculptor used a quarter as his one inch round sculpting base. My painting skills in 1976/7 were not up to the base. I've been eyeing him this week, wondering if it's finally time for a redo.


Here's a Vallor (Valar) warrior, ES-11, which was painted for me as a display piece by my friend Joe, back in the late '70s. I missed taking his picture last week, so I apologize for the quality of the tablet shot. As can be seen from the Lost Minis Wiki, the Vallor were eventually replaced in the product line, by angels. The angels are apparently a perennial favorite--they are still available from Ironwind.




My ancient ES-16, Beowulf, in his ancient paint, was in the original sampler post. ES-19, The Angel of Death, is another perennial favorite, still in production by Ironwind today. (So I assume you all have one. ::):) This one finally got painted up in the '90s sometime, while I was in a big push to get some wargaming done. She was finally finished when I needed a God(dess) for Hordes of the Things. I found the wings rather intimidating until I picked up acrylics and learned to drybrush.




We'll be back to the ES range for a few more shots, but the next group is wargame figures from the E- range, Wizards, Warriors and Warlocks. The difference between these and the succeeding CS- (Fantasy Collector) series is substantial. Unfortunately for the cause of great sculpting, these guys are a sentimental favorite of mine, and also blend in better with other rougher 1970s castings such as my Fantastiques Lord of the Rings guys. There's a story that goes with these. I didn't actually have them when they were new and readily available, because of some combination of my limited budget and what the local shops carried. (I used to mail order board games from SPI; I don't know why it never occurred to me that I could order miniatures...) From 1987 to 1989 I had to do a long series of business trips to the Los Angeles area, and spent my off time hanging out at The Last Grenadier in Northridge (or Reseda, not the main store in Burbank). One trip they had a whole rack of tattered Ral Partha blister packs that had come in from somebody's hoard, which they were attempted to move at $2 per pack. Now that was a pretty good price in those years, but I could see that I wanted a bunch of them, and after a bit of negotiation, I cleaned them out at $1 per pack. Many of the historicals from the 1200 AD range in that group got resold, but I painted up all of the E- range figures and a few dozen Turanians from the Royal Armies of the Hyborian age range. Ever since then, I've been keeping an eye out for more of the elves and goblins in flea markets (and I started looking at eBay this week...::P:). In 1995, Ral Partha relased a little retrospective collection, called Ral Partha remembered, which included one pack of wizard, hobbit and a pair of elves, and one pack of three foot and one mounted goblin. I only bought one pack of the wizard (how many Gandalfs do you need?) and two of the goblins, after which they were unavailable again.


Anyway, in approximately catalog number order, here is the halfling esquire and the wizard, E111 and E112:




So my little army of elves has one problem. The California horde included a sword pack, two reserve spear packs, one receiving spear pack, an elf maiden pack, a sea elf attacking, and three command packs, but no archers.


The first group here skips E211, the archer, but includes E212, the elf with the leveled spear, E213, the elf with the raised spear, and E214, the elf with sword and shield. The elf in armor is from E215, the command group. With six sets of the command figures (2 per pack), I ended up tagging each leader and gonfalon with a simple design. The swordsmen all got variant shields. This one is influenced by my historical painting. Just before this, I had done a large 15mm Late Roman army, so this shield design is actually a historical late Roman one, from the Notitia Dignitatum. My little joke...




Here are the three figures of the command group, a leader in armor, a horn, and a gonfalonier. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a spare sea elf, who got pressed into service as the army standard bearer. I just picked up one more of those guys at Cold Wars. I should see if I can talk my younger son into doing a new/additional banner for me...




(Why my younger son, you ask?...In a brief digression, here's his scratchbuilt Arabian Nights flying carpet for Hordes of the Things, with all the carpet work, top and bottom, freehanded...)




The next group includes E231, Sea Elf in Reserve, E232, Sea Elf attacking (with separate spear in the original), and E241, Elf Maiden with shield and spear. The gap in the numbers suggests that there was a plan for more figures, probably overtaken by the development of the CS range.




I have some of the dwarves, which came to me in somebody's "getting out of gaming" sell off already painted, but I need to sit down with the Lost Minis Wiki and figure out what's what.


The California horde included two packs of E551, Southron Heavy Spearmen. We had a couple of those guys floating around since they were new, but not in unit strength. I'll note that the pose makes them rather inconvenient to be posed as a unit, although the sculpt itself is pretty nice.




Also from California are these Goblins of the South, E632 with the hollow scimitar and E633 with the spear. I've got a total of 18 of them, so they usually get supplemented with Prince August orcs in play.




These next figures (of which I have two each) are the Ral Partha Remembered ones. I think they're all Goblins of the Night, so E621, E623, E624, and EW642.




These not-Rohirrim are Lancers of the March, EC541:




My elves are usually accompanied by an ES-21 Elf Princess, who's the designated magic user for the group. She's accompanied here by a CS-10, High Elf with Sword. Now those of us who have been around for a while know that D&D was originally developed from tabletop wargaming, and that women were underrepresented in the original demographic. As a result, a lot of early female figures were not the sort of thing that women players would really have wanted to use for personal representation, nor sculpted with a reasonable selection of costume and equipment for adventuring. However, that did change eventually. BUT...can I put in a plug for an even more underrepresented demographic? CS-10 was a favorite of mine for many years (and this one has been repainted once already, and I'm keeping my eye out for a clean one for another try) because it was, for those many years, the only left-handed figure in my collection. Sinister figures are still pretty scarce. My local miniature wargames club, by the way, for whatever reason, runs 75% lefties, so we always have to juggle seating carefully when we go out for group dinners...




Here's a stand of 2 ES-35, Land dragon with lancers, that are the heavies in my lizard rider contingent. This is the version 2 land dragon. (IP issues? Version 1 was from a Frazetta or Vallejo original?) I dont really care for the version 3, which was available in stores when I was expanding my original lizard riders (McEwans...) into a Hordes of the Things army, so I had to go scrounging, and came up with four, including one with the Captain rider, not pictured (today, at least). The hand holding the lance, by the way, is a bit fragile, which is unfortunate, given that the lance is easy to whack by accident in play. One of the three broke irreparably, so I ended up replacing him with a Byzantine fully armored klibanophoroi rider as my hero.





The California horde included several copies of ES26, the Adventuress on horseback. She's originally armed with a dagger, which wouldn't be my first choice for a horseback weapon. I ended up drilling the hand and replacing the dagger with a lance on these four, who serve as light cavalry in my army of Amazons. In this shot, the on the right with respect to the orientation of the base, is the original I've had since the 70s, and you might note that she's mounted on an earlier, bulkier horse casting. The later ones all had the slender horses.




I'll throw this in here now, with the rest of the ES figures. After starting this thread, I went digging through all my backlog stuff, and turned up three ES figures (29, 55 and 58) in a box of miscellaneous castings given to me by a friend who was moving. This is ES29, the Sorceress, as painted by me yesterday...




I got a few packs of Turanians, from the short-lived Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age range, which was sold afterwards to RAFM. If anyone revived it, I could use some Acquilonians...I had a few Bossonian archers BITD, but they went to a friend in a trade a long time ago, and I'm not quite to the point where I'm calling around to see if anyone wants to sell anything back...yet.


Here are some Turanian heavy cavalry, H212:




Here's a sample of the Turanian infantry. Like the elves, they came with a lot of leaders and not too many followers, so every stand has a command element represented. This stand includes H222 (Infantry with Scimitar) and figures from the H246 infantry command group.




I've got two more shots to close this out for the moment, both of later figures. There's another thread showing off 01-105, the three headed troll. Here's mine, as I received it as a gift, painted by my brother:




And here's a later Ral Partha, a left-handed human fighter (which I noted recently is also still in the Ironwind catalog). His shield design is another Notitia Dignitatum riff...




I'm thinking, at this point, that what I want to do is paint a few more ES figures to use as the personalities, and then collaborate with my brother to lay out some sort of game using as many of the old figures as we can squeeze in, with a loose cut-off date of about 1980 on the sculpts...

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One more aside:


Here are some of those E- range elves and goblins in action a couple of years ago, in the Scuffle at the Elven Tower...




There's also a Prince August home cast orc, and a later Ral Partha Cyclops-kin involved.


Here's a view of the whole table, with my sons in command of the forces. I had recently acquired a Gale Force 9 tower and wanted to see it in action. The whole thing is being played with the Heritage Knights and Magick rules, which is very suitable for small actions on a 3x3 cloth.



Edited by Rob Dean
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The freehand on the flying carpet is amazing

He's good. Here's his regimental standard for our Prince August 40mm semiflat 18th century imaginary countries project. The style is deliberately toy soldier-y:




His country is the Imperial Free City of Wiegenburg (which makes the inhabitants Wiegenburgers, or Vegan Burgers, hence the cow as the main charge on the field of daisies seme') ... )


Guess I raised them right. ::): (However difficult that may be to explain to the rest of the world sometimes...)

Edited by Rob Dean
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And this is the regimental mascot and handler:




Speaking of figures from the Dawn of Time, the cow is from a home casting mold that dates back to the 1930s or before, collected up by one of our group members (Chris Palmer; here's a link to his current Bones painting blog: http://allbonesabout.blogspot.com),who is/was in the antique business and in a position to sift through a lot of stuff looking for the treasures.

Edited by Rob Dean
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Hurrah for left-handed figures! About half of my husband's family is left-handed. Seating at dinner parties can get involved, and it's become one of the diverse variations I keep an eye out for in minis.

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