This article originally appeared in Pyramid #9
LE MORTE de ARTHUR
"HOUNDS OF WAR" & "COMMONS"
Manufactured by Thunderbolt Miniatures
Sculpted by Tom Meier
Sometimes you just get lucky. The first thing that attracted me about these eight sets was their attention to authentic detail. As it turns out, authenticity wasn't even Tom Meier's goal with his 25mm Le Morte de Arthur line. The first 28 sets in the series are very carefully done, but the inspiration was the illustrations in Le Morte d'Arthur -- beautiful, romanticized, and very unrealistic. King Arthur, Lancelot, and the other famous figures are executed in a wonderful medieval mishmash . . . stunning, but no attempt at authenticity.
But . . . when Tom got down to the last few sets, he needed some regular troops. (There may be a miniatures rulebook for these someday, if Tom gets any time off from sculpting.) Howard Pyle didn't bother drawing the common soldiers. So Tom fell back on the real world, and he did a wonderful job.
These figures are absolutely authentic for the Battle of Crecy period (1346) and perhaps a generation either way. I studied them and couldn't find anything at all to criticize. So I turned Mike Hurst and Eric Kunze, my medieval brain trust, loose on them. For the next ten minutes, they just made admiring noises. Finally, they allowed as how the man-at-arms' lance might be a bit short for the period . . . not even wrong, just a bit shorter than average. And that was all they found.
The detail is not only perfectly authentic, it's very finely done. The studded and scale mail in particular are simply fantastic. The faces are individualized, though not hard to paint. The weapons also hold fine detail. According to Tom, a different alloy is used for the weapons, letting them remain durable even if the user shaves them down to a realistic size and sharpness.
The footmen sets (Footmen with Polearms, Archers Afoot with Longbow, Townsfolk, and Peasants) each contain four different figures. The peasants have a variety of long weapons, while the townsfolk have pikes and much nicer outfits -- but neither has armor. The archers have light padded armor or mail, while the footmen (with assorted businesslike halberds) have a mixture of light and medium scale and mail.
The mounted sets (Sergeant Heavily Armed, Crossbowman Heavily Armed, Man at Arms, and Archer with Longbow) each contain two versions of the same figure -- one mounted and one standing. The lower half of the mounted figure is one piece with his horse, which gives a good effect individually but makes customizing much harder . . . if you want four Sergeants on different-looking horses, you're in for a lot of work. On the other hand, the Sergeant and the Man-at-Arms each come with an assortment of weapons, so the men themselves can easily be differentiated.
Also available are four separate packs of weapons: Medieval European Pikes, Heavy Cavalry Lances, Medieval Pole Arms, and Medieval Hand Weapons. Each pack contains about 40 weapons. The lances and pikes are all alike; the polearms and hand weapons are assortments.
I found no casting problems in any of the packs. Zero, zip, none. The mold lines are small and easily removed. The only difficulty I had was with the feet. They have heavy pegs at the bottom, to fit separate bases (included). To cut those pegs to length, you need sharp, heavy clippers . . . not the sort of thing that's in every tool kit. I finally made do with a two-foot pair of borrowed bolt-cutters, working very carefully!
I think we've got a real winner here. The fantasy part of the line is beautiful, but anybody building a European army of the period will want these detailed, realistic common soldiers. I expect I'll see a lot of them on tables at Origins . . . and I hope to see the whole line on the 1994 Origins Award nominations list.
-- Steve Jackson
Article publication date: October 1, 1994
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