Gaugamela | Print |  E-mail
Written by Dwarfman   
Monday, 22 January 2007
Dwarfman agreed to build a diorama of the battle at Gaugamela, and he shares the process with us as he selects, prepares, paints, and finishes figures from several vendors.
Jan 22, 2007 
by Dwarfman 
Like Alexander, they're Great.

Dwarfman talks through the building of a Gaugamela Diorama


Recently I committed to making a diorama that would bring to life Alexander the Great's battle of Gaugamela. I didn't want to spend lots of money on metal miniatures, so I decided to go plastic.

After a quick look around Plastic Soldier Review, I decided to buy my miniatures from H�T Industrie. For comparison I also picked up some metal minis from Navigator, which is, to my knowledge, the only company to make 20mm Ancients in metal. Had time not been so short I would have bought from some other companies besides H�T so that I could compare, but I really liked the H�T sculpts, and thought they would look best on my table. I had to show the diorama on Dec. 10 but unfortunately, I didn't order my figures until Dec. 1! Luckily the models arrived very quickly, and I set to work.

I soaked the minis in a 10:1 solution of water to pure ammonia for a day to keep them from cracking. While only time will tell if this treatment actually prevents cracking, the pieces did feel more stiff after drying. After their bath I put the models on their plastic-card bases and was ready to paint by Dec. 8. I used Minwax Water-Based Wood Stain (Onyx color) and "did the dip" to my models, one at a time. On the first day, I did 96 Macedonian Phalangites and at least 24 Macedonian skirmishers. I found dipping extremely fun and easy, and it did not ruin the figures, as some people think. In the end, I finished all 300 of the figures, priming to completion, in time to make my deadline and had a great time putting on the diorama.

Some Phalangites getting dipped.

Before and after pictures of a Macedonian skirmisher

Now, on to the figure comparison!

H�T Plastic Macedonians
Overall, the H�T sculpts were extremely detailed, with proportions almost identical to a normal human being. However, this meant that belts, straps and faces were very small, and difficult to paint. It would have been nice if the sculptor had exaggerated these minutiae just a bit (but not too much) so that they would have been easier to get a brush on. The horses were very nicely proportioned as well. However, I thought there were too many horses with leopard-skin saddle blankets. You don't see too many of these skins in ancient artwork and mosaics, but for some reason, the sculptors at H�T thought about half of the troops should have hides draped over their horses. Moreover, some of the faces on the leopard skins looked particularly � interesting. One resembled a deformed monkey more than a fierce predator.

Another thing that should be noted is that none of the Macedonian boxes came with any suitable Leader, Standard Bearer or Musician models. This was important to me, as I was using the Warhammer Ancient Battles rules, but it might not be a necessarily bad thing for players using other rule sets. The bases on some skirmisher models were a bit large, and thus were hard to fit on a 20mm round base. Nevertheless, with some tweaking I was able to squeeze them on.

In addition, none of the Macedonian pikemen came with pikes. I found some 19-gauge floral wire that fit the bill nicely, however, it was a real pain cutting out 96 pikes and super-gluing each one to its respective model! Most of the cavalry and skirmishers were supplied with plastic spears, but I chose to replace these with floral wire, as the spears were a bit floppy and wobbly.
Overall I was extremely happy with the Macedonian models. They were generally well sculpted and very fun to paint, besides a few minor glitches. It would have been nice if H�T had supplied some Leader models, but a conversion would not be too difficult.

H�T Plastic Persians
These models, just like H�T's Macedonians, were extremely well sculpted and historically accurate. Unlike the Macedonians, the Persian Infantry box came with four Leader models and four Standard Bearer models. The standards even had an Ahuri-Mazda embossed on the standard for easy painting! I found this extremely helpful�it saved me from having to buy a transfer or paint by hand an Ahuri-Mazda, by no means an easy thing to do! As with the Macedonians, many of the Persian infantry and cavalry didn't come with spears, so the buyer will have to supply these. The Persian infantry were a real joy to paint, with all of the bright colors and designs on their uniforms. As with the skirmishers, some of the Persian infantry had rather large bases, and I had a hard time fitting these models onto a 20mm-deep base. I ended up having to face the models obliquely on the bases!

At the time of writing, no plastic manufacturer makes a Persian scythed chariot model. I used the Assyrian chariot model from H�T, as it was the model that most closely resembled the Persian chariot. Simply switch out the Assyrian crew for Persians and add scythes to the wheels, and presto! You have a Persian scythed chariot.

Like the Macedonians, the H�T Persians are very nice models, well done and historically accurate. The only major problem I had were the oversized bases, which caused me lots of trouble.

Metal Navigator Macedonians and Persians

To go along with my plastics, I thought I would pitch in a few extra bucks and get some metal miniatures from Navigator. I bought its Macedonian High Command and the Persian Scythed Chariot models. The Macedonian High Command pack came with one mounted General, one mounted Standard Bearer, and one mounted Musician blowing a trumpet. These models were considerably heftier than their plastic counterparts!

A comparison of a Navigator Macedonian (Left) to a H�T Macedonian (Right)

A comparison of a Navigator Persian chariot (left) to an H�T Assyrian chariot. Note that the crewmen on the left in the Navigator chariot is a crewman from the H�T set, as my Navigator chariot came with only one crewman.

At "gaming distance" these models looked just fine when mixed in the same unit as plastics, however, when you get up close and compare the two, the Navigator models look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in contrast to the H�T plastics! I am happy mixing the Navigators with the plastics, but I think that some players might disagree. My H�T Companion cavalry will be led proudly by a Navigator command figure. The Navigator sets are extremely useful, filling those gaps where H�T has left out command figures and other obscure troop types. One last thing to note is that my Persian chariot came with only one crew figure. I believe that it was supposed to come with two, but I only received one. I replaced the missing figure with one from my Assyrian chariot box from H�T.


Overall I was extremely happy with my new plastic army. I will definitely be making weighted movement trays for my troops, as they tend to fall over at the slightest touch because of their light weight! I found the Navigator models extremely well sculpted and fun to paint, and will probably add more of their command figures to my army.

20mm plastics are really a great way to start into a period. Buy a small army of plastics, play a test game or two, and, if you really like the period, you can sell off your plastics and replace them with metal.

If you're interested in buying a 20mm plastic army, you MUST look at this webpage � it is a goldmine of information for figuring out what models come in a certain box, how historically accurate the said models are, and other details.

Plastic Soldier Review

December 14, 2006
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