Goonhammer Historicals: ESR Miniatures – French Review

We’ve been enjoying our experiences with Et Sans Resultat! Series 3 from the Wargaming Company over here at the Goonhammer Star Fort. Alongside the Core rulebook and 1812 Campaign book, the Wargaming Company have branched out into miniatures, with the first releases of French and Russian sets. With our models painted and put to the table, it’s time to see how these new entries stand up compared to long-standing names in the small scale Napoleonics world.

Before diving in to the review, thanks to David at The Wargaming Company  for providing materials for this review.

This review is part three of our reviews of ESR Series three, The French Force Pack review. The other parts of the series are here:

The Core Rules
1812 Russian Campaign Book

ESR Miniatures – French light and Neapolitan Line

ESR Miniatures

You’ll have seen in the previous reviews that ESR requires quite a lot of miniatures to look at it’s best. The game and Russian campaign are both scale agnostic, but with a recommendation that 10mm works best. Clever, that, because to go with the new edition of the game the Wargaming Company have jumped full-force into the miniatures game with French and Russian force packs designed to suit the Russian Campaign. There’s a lot to talk about even with just the French on the table – look out for Russians coming soon – and the Wargaming Company have made big promises about the quality and quantity of their range.

I received the French Force pack for review – built to allow you to dive right into fielding the Grand Armee in campaign dress from around 1809 to 1815. It’s intended to give you absolutely everything you need to play ESR properly – not just battalions and squadrons of soldiers but objective markers, limbers, reformation areas, bases, status and directive markers, even including stat cards and a force commander to lead them to victory. There’s a lot in there and aside from a tape measure and terrain, it really is everything you need to be playing the game. A set of the core rules and two force packs, one French and one Russian will not just let you play starter and intro games, but full-blooded, rich and interesting games of ESR.

ESR Miniatures – they come in a very nice box, too!

In terms of your actual soldiers, you get a lot, and it’s all very nice. In a box you receive:

6x 10 figure battalions of Light Infantry

18x 10 figure Line infantry

2x foot artillery batteries (2 guns) – with limber

2x horse artillery batteries – with limber

Line and Light Sappers

4x 4 figure Chasseur a Cheval squadron

3 Reformation Areas represented by wagons and horse teams

A smattering of Generals, Aide-de-Camps and other mounted Officers

Directive and stance markers

Tell me about Scale Already

Alright, alright, I know my Napoleonics audience. The ESR miniatures are a slightly heroic 10mm scale, which gives them quite a chunky but highly characterful look.

You’ll have to forgive me here but I have no other 10mm Napoleonics to compare to, but instead here’s a shot compared to Warlord’s almost-competitor line at 13.5mm. You can (hopefully) see what I mean about the ESR miniatures being slightly more on the “heroic” side of scaling. They’re slightly broader and with slightly bigger heads and hands than “natural” 10mm, and I think this was the right call. They’re easily identifiable (even between light and line) at a glance, they allow you to focus painting on the important areas for good small scale painting – head, chest, hands – and weapons are large and thick enough to withstand tabletop use and the painting process.

ESR Miniatures compared to Warlord’s Epic range

The next big thing is the material. These aren’t plastic or metal or resin, but thermoplastic – SioCast. This means they have a great level of detail, but will not have the very fine edges you can get at smaller scales with metal. The material is firm with a little give. You won’t be able to bend a line soldier, but his bayonet will bend under pressure. They’re somewhere on the harder end of the HIPS to toy-soldier-plastic spectrum.

ESR Miniatures – Artillery Limber

These are the first SioCast models I have worked with, and I enjoyed the process. Having 10mm in plastic-ish rather than metal or highly brittle resin is great! There’s a flexibility there, even a conversion potential with easy head swaps, that metal at small scale doesn’t have, and as each model is cast individually rather than as a strip you have full detail on all sides of each model.

The Miniatures

The miniatures are highly – and accurately – detailed in all respects, and often full of character. Detail is uniformly precise and well defined, a clear benefit of 3d sculpting followed by SioCast use, so there are no massive undercuts or flat areas that lack detail (except between pairs of horse legs) and this extends to little fiddly details too. Sabres, cuff piping, collars and shako cord knots are all present and correct. On the whole, they’re impressive models, and every one looks right to pre-Bardin uniform.

There’s a couple of pieces I’m particularly impressed with where masses of character have been squeezed into tiny packages. For me, the stand outs are the officers, artillery crew, the sappers and cantiniere, where the uniqueness of each model really stands out. The artillery come in both gun laying and firing poses, and the officers are widely varied.

Your main body of troops is less varied – Line and Light infantry and the cavalry are mostly in one pose (advancing with shouldered arms for the infantry). In the infantry this looks exactly right, and en masse they look great, purposefully advancing on their objectives, just as you’d like. You don’t notice that your Carabiniers and Fusiliers are mostly the same model – though having said that I should note that I love the details that distinguish between Line and Light – because, shoulder to shoulder, they look like a very grand army.

ESR Miniatures – Neapolitan Line

The one sculpt I don’t particularly like is the Chasseurs a cheval, who look a little static as all the horses are standing with heads up. For the first set of miniatures from The Wargaming Company in this new material think this is understandable, a safe choice, and I hope the lessons learned here lead to more dynamic horse sculpts in the future.

Before moving on to painting I wanted to talk specifically about the reformation areas – a key part of ESR – because these are probably my favourites in the force pack. The Cantiniere wagon is such a nice model, I’d buy a ton of these separately and arrange a massive wagon trail moving scenery piece for smaller battles. It’s great to see care and attention being lavished on a largely ignored part of the Napoleonic battlefield and surrounds.

ESR Miniatures – my favourite model in the set!

Prep and Painting

I found preparing these models very simple – each unit comes on it’s own strip and is individually cast on it almost as on a full sprue, so cleanup is simple and straightforward. As Siocast has a little “give” to it, a knife will be much more useful than clippers, particularly with stray flash on plumes and sword tips, where clippers can sometimes deform rather than cut. For a first run in a new casting method I found them remarkably clean and requiring very little preparation. Almost every model I painted for this review was done on the strip after at most 30 seconds of cleaning and trimming before being cut off and added to the base. The caveat here is the flags. The set comes with a nice group of flags, but the infantry flagbearers at least pose real challenges in how to get flag on model – I couldn’t manage to do it to a standard I was happy with. There’s a guide provided by the Wargaming Company but even with that it was quite a frustrating process.

ESR Miniatures – Cantiniere’s Wagon

There was a little mould slippage on the models I received, which I have heard is a common problem with SioCast. The majority of these were resolvable with a hobby knife, and those where the mould slippage took away detail were relegated to the back ranks where it wouldn’t be noticable. If you haven’t worked with Siocast before, then one big tip here – don’t file it. It messes up both the model and your file. Take a hobby knife or mould line remover and use that.

A little mold slippage – very few of my models had this much cleanup to do.

One of the big claims made by the Wargaming Company is that the models don’t require priming. I ran a couple of test of primed versus unprimed and I’d agree that you don’t *need* to prime, but you probably want to – and you have to if you’re using contrast/speedpaint/other similar products. Priming isn’t necessary with these models, but it will give you better adhesion and richer colours. I’d recommend still priming but a light dusting of spray primer is more than enough.

ESR Miniatures – French light. Primed (right) and straight on Siocast (Left)

I’ve painted an absolute shitload of Napoleonics in several different scales over the last few years, and these were the first time I finished a line battalion and had enjoyed the experience enough to just go pick up another one. That is all about those slightly heroic proportions making everything recognisable, easy to get a brush on and visually pleasing both close up and at tabletop distance. I particularly enjoyed that facings, cuffs and turnbacks were large and raised enough to make painting them with the distinct regiment colours a breeze, rather than trying to pick out microscopic lines of detail. They took paint both in classical layered style and contrast/speedpaint very well.

There’s a lot in the Force Pack (and unfortunately I didn’t manage to get everything done for some reason) but what you get is varied enough that I think with a plan you could reasonably get them all done quickly. They’re certainly fun enough to prep and paint, unlike, in my experience, the 13.5mm equivalents in the Epic battles line.

Command and Control

Alongside your models, you also get a randomly selected Commander stat card who can be used to lead your men. I got Davout as mine and I was so pleased with this I went to go and tell my wife who – unsurprisingly – had no idea what I was on about. You also get the stat cards for all the troops in the box, making this a really complete product – you do only need the box and the core rules to get playing. This is a great model, and I enjoyed the pokemon-style random commander draw, adding a fun bit of surprise to the box.

ESR Miniatures – Cackling like a madman as I get DAVOUT in the force pack

If you want to expand further, you need to pick up the French Commander Deck, which The Wargaming Company also sent over for review. They’re what I now see is typical for the Wargaming Company – meticulously researched, high quality and well presented, with a welcome touch of Napoleonic fanatic about them. In the deck you get 16 trait cards which can modify your base stats to provide some customisation and elite/green unit distinction in your formations, but much more excitingly you get 74 Commander cards representing Napoleon, Marshals, Generals and hommes d’importance to lead your Grand Armee.

Yes, that’s right. 74 Commanders. Seventy Four. I love this, and again it’s something that made me really excited about the Wargaming Company’s output. Everyone makes rules for Napoleon and the Marshals. Who else works out stats for Arrighi? Or Gudin? Or Walther? Reading through the cards and noting the attention to detail, the sheer love of Napoleonic gaming that went into them, I felt absolutely determined to not only play with them, but to play Borodino. David (The Wargaming Company’s founder), you’re a mad genius. I love these cards. 

Armee, March!

ESR Miniatures

If I recommended ESR with a caveat, and recommended the campaign book with a couple of them, I can wholeheartedly recommend these models both for ESR and for any other system you want to play. They’re lovely sculpts, quick to paint, appropriately detailed for the scale and look fantastic on the table. Really looking forward to getting more of these done over the next few months! Seeing as you get enough in each pack for a really decent sized game of ESR and a massive game of anything else, picking up one is really a no-brainer. I think they set a new – and high! – bar for the sometimes tricky 8-15mm scale, and I can’t wait to see what the Wargaming Company come up with with the rest of the range.

Questions, comments, suggestions? or leave a comment below