By Richard Lloyd
Having played with Airfix figures from a tender age, the first metal figures I ever bought were five Hinchliffe ECW figures (an officer, drummer, and three musketeers). From the long-vanished ‘Bridle Models’ in Shirley, Croydon. This would have been 1973/4. I was about 12 years old. But I remember it as if it was yesterday – Dad inquiring if I really intended to blow my pocket money on little metal men at a princely 9p each. Plus a jar of Plaka orange, for the Earl of Essex’s army…
The figures were duly decanted into a classy little blue Hinchliffe box of my very own.
Five pristine silver figures, nestling in blue tissue paper… It was the start of something.
A mere 47 years and several different ECW armies later, I’ve finally reached the inevitable outcome of that profoundly formative childhood experience: I’ve started my own modest range of ECW figures, Bloody Miniatures.
Back in the glorious 1970’s, at school and the local wargames club, everything was WRG rules and big battles. I bought, painted, played with, and sold on more armies from more periods than I can now remember.
But I stopped wargaming at the age of 20 – other priorities, other hobbies: university; girls; career; mortgage; marriage; kids – you know how it goes.
I also got incredibly bored with the formulaic nature of wargaming back then. Endless bickering over the minutiae of 100-page rule books and gerrymandered army lists. Uptight people shunting (often unpainted) blocks of single-pose figures across upturned Subbuteo cloths. Games yes, but no fun at all. Entirely devoid of joy.
But the Force is strong, dear reader, and by my late 30s, I was back into it – only to discover a hobby transformed. Much better figures (inexplicably now 28mm, not 25mm) and many more of them. And in such different and interesting genres too. Pirates! Darkest Africa! Cossacks! Vikings!
Also much less slavish adherence to the same old doctrinaire rulesets. So I started collecting and painting again, becoming quite proficient at both.
Over the ensuing 20+ years I’ve amassed several thousand figures, done a huge amount of modelling and painting, and become quite a well-known painter, mainly via my activities on Lead Adventure Forum.
I’ve built sizeable armies, but only play ‘large skirmish’ style games with them – often multi-player, and only with like-minded friends, with each player controlling, say, 20 – 60 figures. I use elegantly simple rules, but always play with beautiful figures and on extravagant terrain. For me, wargaming is about the visual aesthetics of the miniature worlds we create, and the narrative and period flavour which invariably emerges from a fun game played with good friends. There’s no arguing over complicated rules, nor fretting about pinpoint historical accuracy. Truthfully, it’s an entirely different hobby.
Despite having already owned (and sold on) three ECW armies, I couldn’t resist investing heroically when the excellent Bicorne and Renegade 28mm ECW ranges first came out. I built a sizeable collection – although for some reason, rarely played with them.
Then one day, a year or two ago, I got them out, looked at them, and reminded myself how much I loved the figures, and the English Civil War setting in particular. Such turmoil. Such drama, fire and fury. And yet so peculiarly British and parochial.
So I began to build out my collection again. I also started playing ‘The Pikeman’s Lament’ (which happens to feature eye candy photographs of my ECW figures). Some people are a bit sniffy about Dan Mersey’s rulesets, but they suit my tastes perfectly. Plenty of period flavour, but dead simple mechanics. Almost guaranteed to deliver a fun, fast-moving game, whether for 20 figures a side, or 200.
I realised however, that despite the loveliness of Nick Collier’s sculpting (he did both the Bicorne and Renegade ranges), my 450-strong ECW collection had certain limitations. Even with myriad variants from those two huge ranges, they were all in basically the same set of stock poses – marching, firing, loading, advancing, and so on… Many different hats, but essentially a lot of similar figures.
Oozing period character of course, because Nick is an absolute virtuoso at portraying mid-C17th soldiery. But somewhat limited and formal in pose. Ideal for set-piece battles; slightly lacking variety and individuality for skirmish type games.
Having taken indecently early retirement after a 35-year career in marketing, I suddenly found myself pondering a small range of my own to plug this gap. Could I? Should I?
Then Covid-19 and lockdowns arrived, so I decided to put dead time to good use. I managed to make contact with Nick, who thankfully was entirely up for it, and so Bloody Miniatures was born. The mission? To create a range of figures to complement his ECW ouevre for Bicorne/Renegade, but portraying the sort of characters never seen in ‘traditional’ ECW ranges.
The range is currently a small but perfectly formed four packs, with four more on the way. We’ve scoped out some 20 packs in total, including such gems as ‘ladies defending a siege’, ‘the Squire’s woodsmen’, and ‘moss troopers’. It probably won’t include rank and file types, since these are already very well catered for, so would rather defeat the object.
One week in, and they’re selling like hotcakes and I’m getting lovely feedback. Including on the red tissue paper wrapping. Just my little nod to Hinchliffe…
Now where did I put that Plaka orange?