Thursday 27 June 2013

Vikings! (& 28mm Wargames Factory Miniatures)

Initially I was unimpressed with this TV series, perhaps spoilt by the drama and production values of Game of Thrones.  But as the series has progressed I have become more and more interested.  The battle scenes are good, and the portrayal of vikings, whilst not 100% accurate, is far less Hollywood than I initially expected.

Vikings - a surprisingly good show, by..   ...the History Channel...

Inspired by the small scale skirmish potential, I have decided to finally plunge into Dark Ages warfare.  I already have the interesting SAGA ruleset, and I am impressed by the flexibility and versatility of Lord of the Rings.  Although SAGA is popular and purpose-built for Viking warfare, and I really like the layer of tactics introduced by the battle-boards...  ...I am likely leaning towards LOTR.  The system is well proven in the Legends of the High Seas/Old West series of skirmish campaign games, and allows for individual warriors to progress, something SAGA currently cannot cater for.

As a bonus, terrain requirements are relatively light - I am tossing up between grabbing a few pre-painted hovels by ACE or simply scratch-building my own.

 The 4ground mdf prepaints are dirt cheap at $15ea, but it would also be simple to make my own. A benefit to viking warfare; terrain is not a major issue.

I have recently got a Revell 1:50 viking longship. The shields in the longships perfectly line up with the shields on the miniatures I have, which was an unexpected bonus.

 The viking longship scales (to my eyes anyway) perfectly with 28mm miniatures. 

The shields on the minis and the ship itself are identical in size.

Wargames Factory Miniatures Review (Viking Huscarls, Viking Bondi)
 Wargames Factory miniatures have a bit of an indifferent reputation.  A bit of a shame, as they are priced well (32 for $20), and make their miniatures in conjunction with wargamers (the Liberty & Union League). They even tried to recycle used sprues....

Multi-part Models... every miniature unique....
Well, I have a bone to pick with the Liberty & Union League, as they wanted the models with separate arms, legs and heads. And regular followers of this blog know how much I adore multi part models. This has enabled me to build every model with its own unique look. Unrealistic, contorted, but unique, tis true.  Although easy to attach arms and heads, the joins look a little "off."

The Miniatures look unique but most possible poses would give this girl a run for her money. The archer arms in particular are rather nasty. I'd recommend using Perry WOTR archer arms instead. 

The archers were the worse culprits for weird poses. It was hard to do a "shooting" pose that didn't look like a drunk playing air guitar
Bitz Galore
You can't complain about what you get on a sprue.  Spare heads, and enough arms to make every man look like Shiva.  The sprues are very handy for spare heads, arms and weapons - though the weapons are rather finely proportioned.

 There's so many spare arms, you could kitbash this dude if you wanted.  Admittedly, he'd have viking headgear.  
Fine Scale
They are comparable to GW's LOTR 28mm with fine proportions.  Weapons in particular are quite small, and the models are indeed 1:56 "true" scale rather than the more heroic 28mm.  A quick google around shows they do mix fine with Gripping Beast metals and plastics, which surprised me somewhat. 

You get a lot of spares. As you can see, after assembling 44 vikings, I have 20 bodies, 30+ heads, about 100 pairs of arms, and enough weapons to arm them three times over. 

Detail is quite reasonable and again I would compare it to GW's LOTR range by the Perrys.
Detail is sound but unspectacular, and should be pleasant to paint. Weapons and arms are a bit fine and I bent/broke a few weapons when taking them off their sprues. 

+ separate arms & heads allow lots of unique poses
+ sound detail
+ plenty of spare parts on the sprue
+ fine scale but mixes fine with Gripping Beast 28mm plastics
+ price is good; $20 for 32 models
- multipart models as usual take ages to put together
- poses/joins look unnatural (<--this is the big concern)

Recommended*: Well, I'd buy more Wargames Factory stuff (and in fact ordered some Ashigaru for my samurai project), and the sprues are solid value for the kitbashing purposes alone. I could make two SAGA warbands for $40 which isn't bad value.  I found the unarmoured "Bondi" sprues the most versatile.  The most annoying thing was the weird poses, due to the multipart nature of the models.  Apparently the customers wanted them that way. I'd like to find those customers, and force them, on pain of death, to put mine together in natural poses.

*EDIT: I've recently unboxed my assembled Wargames Factory vikings and compared them to my Gripping Beast plastics.  I'm changing my recommendation from "on the fence"  to NO based on 
(a) GBP poses are far more natural
(b) 50%+ flimsy WGF weapons are broken from being in box - excessively more than any other plastics I have owned
(c) Multipurpose weapon hands look like crab claws on close examination
(d) flimsy weapons may be more realistic in size but just look a bit "off"

Gripping Beast plastics are simply better. Get them instead. My WGF vikings are either broken (a good half of them!) or sitting unused due to their noticeably inferior poses and weapons.


  1. I've made the GBP plast saxons and vikings boxes and found them fun and relatively painless to assemble. SAGA is fun, but as you say, no opportunity for progression/development, so I'll have a look at LOTR. I've also got the revell longship (boxed gathering dust atm); it's good to hear that it does scale properly as I'd hoped!

    1. I get the vibe that GB plastics are better than WGF (and more "natural") looking - a box of Saxons is on my wishlist.

      LOTR is a vastly underrated system. Check out the LOTR "Battle Companies" rules (I think there is a link in the LOTR link above) which enables characters to develop and gains stats, equipment and heroic abilities. It's kinda like Mordhiem but simpler. There are a zillion LOTR mods, from wild west, to samurai, pirates and medieval.

    2. Thanks for that evilMonkeigh. The GBP plastics are really nice, all the quality of their metals IMO; obviously YMMV.

  2. Any chance you could provide a link to where you got that pre-painted terrain? Curious to see what else the offer as I'm trying to flesh out a few Malifaux boards for a tournament.

    1. Found them on the Gripping Best website:

      Their own website is here:

      I can also recommend Sarissa Precision mdf stuff as well as the purpose-built Malifaux Terraclips. I've reviewed both:


  3. It's true - watching Vikings I was constantly saying must not start saga, must not start saga! The plastics are tempting due to the price, but you are right about those archer arms. Perhaps you need to shave bits off the connection point to make different angles?

    On another note, I highly recommend Legends of the High Seas, and one could theoretically convert the rules over to viking warfare pretty easily - and even have ship to ship combat! (and I understand that LOTR would provide everything you need for the dark age weapons) The rulebook is difficult to find though.

    1. I do have Legends of the High Seas - it was the pirate LOTR variant I mentioned above. True that it is a good source for ship rules - I'll have to dig it out.

      I love the Saga battleboards & fatigue for the tactical layers but the beer-and-pretzels nature of combat resolution, combined with lack of character advancement - it isn't exactly what I'm looking for - more "get a viking crew and go raiding, collecting loot and "levelling up" characters.

      Since you mention pirates I do have the Cutlass rules I could look at. Also good for all purposes is the Savage Worlds engine...

      Shaving the arms might work. Or I could simply flog bitz from my Perry box. Meh. I was so tired of putting them all together I am painting them slowly and unenthusiastically.

      Vote #1 for single piece metal minis....

  4. Great Post! Really good discussion about affordable options out there. My gaming group is looking to get into some Viking mini gaming (likely with Saga, but we might just try to continue using Song of Blades and Heroes) over the winter. I very much appreciate this, really a nice set of pics, discussion of scale and compatibility, etc.!

    1. Glad it's helpful! I enjoyed SoBH and have a few fantasy warbands. However I'm kinda interested in the 20-50 per side, which is where it bogs down.

      SAGA doesn't have individual "level up" ability and whilst the battleboards are fun, I find it too "beer and pretzels" aside from that.

      LOTR is my pick, as there are already mods for it. A very underrated game. However Two Fat Lardies are getting into the Dark Ages with Dux Brittanium - and there is also solo-play stuff by Two Hour Wargames.