This week, Marc “Ilor” Renouf takes a look at the Norman Infantry kit in 28mm scale from Victrix Limited.
Disclaimer: This kit was provided to GoonHammer free of charge for review purposes.
A while back I did a review of the Victrix Vikings kit and loved them, so when I heard that the Goonhammer Historicals team was being offered a few Victrix kits for review, my response was an enthusiastic “yes, please!” That was how I ended up with the Norman Infantry kit (which is kit #VXDA004 if you’re looking for it by stock number).
The kit came the way these kits do, as a bunch of sprues in a clear plastic bag with a card-stock topper stapled to the top (designed to hang on a peg at your FLGS). This time, having more experience with Victrix’s particular way of doing things, I knew not to throw the topper away. Like the Viking kit, the bag contains 6 regular sprues (with 8 figures each) and 2 command sprues (with 6 figures each), for a total of 60 figures. Given that the retail price of the kit is only $41 directly from Victrix, I am once again just blown away by the almost criminally guilty value this kit offers. It’s so good!
The bodies on the regular infantry sprues are split with four having chain hauberks and 4 having padded armor or just tunics. This is great not only for aesthetic variety but also to offer clearly distinguishable options for “light” versus “heavy” troops, which you’ll need for a number of game systems. In a game like SAGA for example, easily being able to tell the difference between your armored elite troops and your more common rabble is very useful. The command sprue messes with this ratio a little bit, with each offering four mailed figures and two in padded armor.
Overall, the detail on the various components is crisp and the texture is deep enough to come out very well when painted. This is especially true of the chainmail, which has deep enough textural relief to take drybrushing exceedingly well. Further, the inconsistent scale of the holes in the chainmail that I mentioned in my Vikings review seems to have been corrected. Finally, there are a lot of cool little details on these minis, one of my favorite being the belt-ends – most of which are little filigreed end-caps that really evoke the kind of stuff you’d see in period archaeological finds. There are loads of different scabbards as well, ranging from very simple to extremely ornate and which allow you to give a variable sense of wealth or status to your tiny warriors.
One thing that did disappoint me a little bit with the sprues I got was that there was a significant amount of visible mold lines and flash on about half of them. Given how little was on the Vikings this came as bit of a surprise. I am super, uh, “detail-oriented” when it comes to cleaning up mold lines, so prepping these for assembly took a little bit of extra work – especially in those areas where the flash obscured bits of chainmail. I think most people would probably not care to the extent that I do, but for me this tempered my enthusiasm a little bit.
One very very bright highlight of this kit, however, is that the “instructions” are head and shoulders more clear than what I previously experienced with the Viking kit (which actually had errors in the first release). Not so here, and the difference is in both the options themselves as well as their layout on the sprue. With the Viking kit I felt like I was hunting all over the sprue for the particular arm or hand or weapon or whatever, but with the Norman kit pretty much all of the “correct” arm options for a given torso are co-located on the sprue. I cannot overstate how much of an improvement this is, as it makes assembly SO much easier.
Generally speaking, each torso comes with an easy option for one right arm with a spear and one right arm with a single alternate weapon (either a sword, an axe, or a mace). One important caveat: remember that these are more realistically proportioned than most heroic-scale fantasy miniatures, so be careful to avoid snapping off blades or spear hafts when assembling or painting these miniatures. Since you’ll only be using one of the weapon options for each torso, you’re going to end up with lots of stuff in your bits box, which is also great. The torsos themselves have some really nice stances, making for some very dynamic poses in mid-thrust or cut.
For each torso there are two left hand options, one for a kite shield and one for a round shield. Kite and round shields are generally held differently, so having arm options for both is a nice touch, and prevents weird cases where the shield is held awkwardly. The sprues offer enough kite shields to give one to each of your warriors, but it does not include any round shields at all. In my case it doesn’t matter because I have spares from the Viking set, but if you want round shields you can get them as a separate product from Victrix – plan accordingly when ordering!
What is not as common, however, are left-hand weapons. The command sprue has exactly one left-handed hand-axe, and a couple spears held in the left-hand that are suitable for banners/pennants. And there are no two-handed weapon options at all. This doesn’t give you the option to make as many dual-wielding or battle-axe-toting psychos as you can make with the Viking kit. And while there are a bunch of different scabbard options as mentioned above, there aren’t as many pouches/knives/hand-axes available on these sprues. But honestly, that’s probably OK, as it results in a group that looks more ordered and cohesive. These guys look like they’ve marched to war, not ridden on a light boat and carried everything they own (or have already looted) to the battle, which I also think is evocative of the period.
That’s not to say that there’s not still huge variety in the kit, however. The sheer profusion of heads and helmets is dizzying. Combined with the different arm options and the general posability of the kit, you can easily end up with an extremely varied looking force even before you get to painting. And since the bits between Victrix’ various Dark Age kits are compatible, there’s nothing stopping you from raiding your Viking or Saxon sprues for those extra left-handed weapons or cool accessories.
OK, I’m going to quibble about something again, though: their feet seem tiny to me. Yes, they are all generally wearing soft boots or shoes and they are probably realistically proportioned, but their feet just feel small to me. They also seem kind of…flat? When I was applying sand to the bases (I put them all on 1″ steel fender washers as is my wont), I had to pay special attention so as to not inadvertently cover over their feet, or rather had to sort of feather the sand to make it not look like they were standing in holes. This is such a weird thing, but I wanted to mention it just so no one else was taken by surprise. Maybe I should be using finer sand, who knows.
But let’s talk about the thing that really captured me with this kit – its potential is so much greater than just for historical games. I mean, sure, if you’re playing a wargame set in the early medieval period these miniatures are fantastic. But beyond that, if you are playing any game with a broadly medieval theme, these miniatures are fantastic. If you are running a D&D game and want minis on your map to represent the King’s men-at-arms who are trying to arrest the PCs, you cannot go wrong with this kit. Want to bulk out your Kings of War army? These guys look the part, and would make perfect game pieces on the tabletop.
I’m sure this comes as a shock to you, but I am a huge nerd. I love RPGs and since the mid 1980s I have used the HarnWorld setting by Columbia Games as a backdrop for many of the campaigns I have run (and full disclosure, when I’m not writing for GoonHammer I freelance for Columbia Games – that’s how much I love that world). For literal decades I have wanted to combine my love of RPGs and my love of tabletop wargames. We got the opportunity to do just that a while back, running tabletop battles with a modified version of Dux Britanniarum to provide story backdrop for a fellow freelancer’s long-running RPG campaign – and it was a blast! But one of the prohibiting factors has always been the cost (so many of the miniatures we’d want to use were metal). The Victrix Normans are almost tailor-made to represent the kinds of forces we’d be putting on the table, and their extremely reasonable cost really lowers the barrier to entry in making that happen. Finally, the ability to game out skirmishes of the Rethemi Civil War or the Kaldoric Succession Crisis is within my grasp!
And that is what makes this kit so cool. Not only have they really captured the period, they have given us a set of miniatures that almost transcends the period – all at a tremendously low cost for the both the quantity and quality you get. If you have an interest in the early medieval period or are looking for a inexpensive way to get a bunch of broadly medieval looking figures on the table for your non-historic games or RPGs, this kit is going to be a great place to start!