In my first article for this occasional series I set the ground rules by which I would take some obscure conflict and see what the tabletop community had to support it. The discussion would revolve around the various figure and rules manufacturers, scale, cost, availability and so on. This time, however, will be a little different in that I will target one company that produces miniatures for the 55 Days at Peking epic, the Boxer Rebellion. That firm is Blue Moon Manufacturing, a division of Old Glory Miniatures here in the Colonies. They produce several high quality 15/18 mm pewter product ranges, and their Boxer Rebellion series is no different.
So why pick one firm instead of several? It could be because this line is brand spanking new, just hitting the streets last July. It’s not. It could also be the quality and breadth of the range as regards sculpting detail and variety. It’s not. Instead the thing that really makes this new figure series shine so brightly is not the figures at all.
Order of Battle
As typical, the figures are packaged with 30 foot figures for $16.00 US or 15 mounted figures for $20.50. There are also a few speciality packs such as foot command (12 figures for $9.00) or killed and wounded sets for $8.00 and so on. As usual the packaging includes multiple poses in each set with differing styles of animation and different weapons for various figures. Typical of this would be several Boxer infantry sets which include 30 separate shields of different styles and shapes. One thing that did surprise me was the smoother sculpting style for this range, instead of Blue Moon’s traditional rough, deeply etched process. I base this remark on the several packs of Russians and Japanese I bought (more on why these two armies later), so perhaps other sets are different, but I do prefer this new perspective.
On the other hand, I was not surprised at the size of the range. As is typical, when this firm releases a new miniatures series, it does so all at once with very few sets still waiting design. No different here, as can be seen in the list below. I mean seriously, who does fighting and passive civilians (both European and Chinese yet), Frank Gamewell and the Fighting Parsons or the International Gun. The latter, for those not aware, was the only artillery defending the legations during the 55 day siege, consisting of a British barrel, Italian carriage and Russian ammunition, all lashed together using rope with an American crew.
Yet there are a couple of conspicuous absences. None of the packs seem to have flag bearers, though standards, colorful standards, were marched into battle by both sides. Also, while gun crews are provided, the artillery manned is not. The Qing Chinese used older model Krupps, so those are easy to acquire, but for countries like Japan and Russia? Not so much. The Russian guns in service for the Russo-Japanese War (the Model 1900) had just arrived on the scene, and the Japanese Type 31 had not yet been fielded. Gamers will have to fake it with Krupps. Nit pics when compared to more important things like the Great Power Personality Pack, however. If Charlton Heston and David Niven are not included, now that will be a travesty.
15BRL-100 U.S. Marines with Command 15BRL-101 British Royal Marines light infantry with command 15BRL-102 German Sea Battalion with command 15BRL-103 Russian infantry with command 15BRL-104 Japanese infantry with command 15BRL-105 French sailors with command 15BRL-106 French marines with command 15BRL-107 Passive civilians 15BRL-108 Fighting civilians 15BRL-109 Naval artillery crews 15BRL-110 Russian Cossacks with command 15BRL-111 Dismounted Cossack guards with fur caps 15BRL-112 Japanese cavalry with command 15BRL-113 Russian artillery crews 15BRL-114 Japanese artillery crews 15BRL-115 Italian sailors with command 15BRL-116 Austrian sailors with command 15BRL-117 Italian Bersaglieri with command 15BRL-118 Great Power personalities 15BRL-119 Fighting parsons with Nordenfelt gun 15BRL-120 International gun with crew
15BRC-100 Boxer command 15BRC-101 Boxers with swords 15BRC-102 Boxers with pole arms 15BRC-103 Boxers with rifles 15BRC-104 Chinese regulars advancing with command 15BRC-105 Chinese regulars skirmishing with command 15BRC-106 Chinese artillery crews 15BRC-107 Tartar Calvary with command 15BRC-108 Dead Boxers 15BRC-109 Wounded Boxers 15BRC-110 Tigermen attacking 15BRC-111 Red Lanterns 15BRC-112 Chinese passive civilians 15BRC-113 Chinese with wall guns
Yet as good as they are, the figures are not the star of this new product ensemble. Buildings are. I’ve seen a lot of Boxer Rebellion games at conventions and with a very few exceptions, the terrain is second rate. Its second rate because few firms make terrain specific to fighting in beautiful downtown Peking in 1900. You either have to build your own, or substitute. There are a few folks that can produce some unbelievably accurate terrain from scratch, but I’m not one of them and most other folks aren’t either.
Thanks to Blue Moon, problem solved. They now produce building sets for every one of the European legations involved in the siege, and then some. There are now 38 different line items for this building series, some single structures costing as low as $8.00 US and the British legation compound, as in the whole damn thing, running you about $ 300. It’s made of solid resin and 25 x 24 inches large, so we are talking substantial here. According to the Blue Moon Website, all five legations would cost around $975, but the entire European community is on sale for $700 direct purchase, or $500 for members of the Old Glory Army buyers’ club members. Outside that there are individual building sets for generic legation structures such as walls, church missions and tea bale barricades, paired with a large selection of Chinese structures to include homes, industrial plants and market areas, both pristine and battle damaged.
The photos from the company Website really don’t do justice here, but thanks to the folks at www.wargamesterrain.blogspot.com, I do have a couple of close-up snaps that do. Looking into the interior of a legation compound one sees crisp lines and sharply etched details. The buildings have damaged doors and windows, nearly all the latter with sandbags inserted. In fact, sandbags and other barriers abound, even on the edges of rooftops. Scale seems perfect for the miniatures that will be doing all the street fighting as well. So after doing a little bit of history homework on my own, I have to say the Blue Moon guys obviously did a lot more and it shows in the quality of this product which is very high, even if one discounts how unique it is, which quite frankly you can’t.
Yes, this stuff is expensive, tho what in this hobby isn’t? And not only will your Boxer setup actually look the way it’s supposed, you’ll no longer have to seethe at those architectural geniuses who do their stuff from scratch. Trust me, they’ll be fielding the same models and using all this new spare time to paint more figures.
Truth be told, I ran into this release during Historicon in July, and as I was doing some research for this article, I became surprised how many miniature firms make figures for this short conflict and how many pictures I found online thereof. One reason is that the figures and the buildings can easily be ported to other wars in other eras. That’s why I forked over my hard earned shekels for some Japanese and Russians. These armies looked not one lick different in the Russo-Japanese War and finding figures for that little tiff is not easy. Likewise, many know that the Boxer Rebellion isn’t simply the siege of Peking. There were not less than two relief expeditions sent out to rescue the legations, two because the plucky Chinese forced the retreat of the first. This means battles like Tientsin and Yangcun, nasty and bloody affairs which few have ever heard of. The Boxers themselves provide spectacular color, so what more could anyone ask.
They could ask for the buildings, and likely have for some time. Now thanks to Blue Moon, the only thing lacking is money for shopping. But if I know gamers, there is a secret: the spouse knows nothing credit card standing by. Just be discreet.
Boxer Rebellion tabletop battle images courtesy of Din of Battle.