We’ve had Scifi French Infantry. We’ve backed them up with Commanders and Heavy weapons. But there’s something missing in your 30/40k Napoleonic Empire. Until now there’s been nothing riding to the rescue when plans encounter the enemy – enter the Grognard Cavalry, the latest in the Death Fields range from Wargames Atlantic.
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Before we dive in to the review, thanks to Wargames Atlantic for sending these over
Les Grognards, But Horses
The Death Fields range comprises an eclectic range of Science Fiction infantry kits, usable in any number of games where you need boots on the ground. The Grognards take their inspiration from the late 18th to mid 20th century French military, in-universe the abducted survivors of Napoleonic, Franco-Prussian, Great War and Foreign Legion armies, plucked from la belle France to fight for the entertainment of alien masters. In our world that means taking inspiration from history to produce a wide range of models that can proxy for Imperial Guard, Militia or Solar Auxilia (if you’re in a GW mood), or form a highly themed coherent force for any other 28mm scifi game.
The Grognard Cavalry is the third set in the Grognard design space, after the Infantry and Command/Heavy weapons boxes. It’s a box of 9 hard plastic, multi-part, posable cavalry with several weapons options, richly adorned horses and a great deal of Gallic flair over three identical sprues. 9 cavalry for £30 (or your currency equivalent) makes them a bit of a steal compared to other scifi cavalry equivalents too. In a first for Wargames Atlantic, this box has come through their new STL to hard plastic pipeline, a widely popular set of minis to print now translated into plastic.
I’ll be up front with you right at the beginning – I wanted to like this kit a lot. It promised to be exactly what I wanted – French Scifi Cavalry – and ended up being that, but with some problems that I hope a recut sprue could overcome. I think it’s still worth getting, so let’s dive in to what you get here, because Horses and Riders are quite different.
Cavalry of Space-France
The cavalry miniatures are styled as in the other Grognard kits, with armoured Cuirass, shoulder straps and greatcoats, with a range of heads in Greatcoat, Shako and Adrian helmet styles. Everywhere bar the legs (more on this later) the level and crispness of detail has been upgraded between this Grognard kit and the last. The torsos are crisper, with better definition between metal and leather/canvas, while head detail is more defined and the flat gas mask eyes of the Grognard Infantry have been upgraded with protruding bulbous eyes, a lovely detail that brings out the shape and form of the gas mask to better effect.
Weapons are modelled with an elegant thinness both in the excellent sabres and lances, which are realistically scaled to the model’s size. Each sprue contains a lance or sabre for each rider, and one pistol arm. While the carbines of the STLS haven’t made it to the kit, the torsos are modelled with flat arm (and waist) joints, so arms from the Grognards, Command or Death Fields accessory sprue will work well should you want to go down the carbine route.
It’s clearly made for mixing and matching with the other Grognard kits, with identical joins between neck, waist and shoulder as the command and infantry kits. This bulks out your head and weapon options too – I’ve used a bicorne head and power fist from the Command kit to make a mounted officer (Cyber Napoleon, of course). The heads on the kit are all in gasmasks (and come in three of the four Grognard styles only), but for open-faced and kepi-adorned heads, the dozens of spares from the Grognard kit will set you right.
Horses of Space-France
Cavalry come with that most detestable beast, the horse. Personal feelings aside, the horses you get with a cavalry kit can often be the make or break element of it, and I think Wargames Atlantic have done well here. They’ve adopted a really classic way of doing things; a base horse (also available separately) in a variety of poses that you can gussy up with themed accessories. This approach seems to have fallen out of favour recently, but it really works in this kit – and I’ve no doubt will with others in the range – to make for imposing horses.
The base horse is a nice plastic horse. It works – the generic gear and saddlecloth will work for many eras, both science fiction and historical – and overall it’s a good modern take on what I would think of as the “classic” 28mm scale horse from GW. It’s nice enough to use naked with the Grognards, and the riders sit well on it.
When you start upgrading the horse though it becomes very different. The cavalry sprue contains upgrades in the form of heavily armoured heads, caparisons, armoured collar and a breastplate. When added on they transform a nice but generic horse into a head-tossing, fearsome warhorse with real weight and momentum. The modelling of the heads and caparison fool the eye into seeing a fairly static horse pose as one in motion, while the armour gives a huge amount of heft and weight.
They’re still – a little – French inspired, with that heavy caparison harking back much further than the Napoleonic into the high Medieval. The Knight’s Horse look works well with the heavy armour of the riders, making these very clearly heavy shock cavalry, which is how I’ll be making, painting and playing all my horse-mounted Grognards.
Instructions and Detail
It’s not all positive, and there’s a few little issues with the kit that I think could be improved. Wargames Atlantic don’t include instructions (yes, yes, I know you’ve heard this before) with their kits and, again, this led to a little puzzle around how the horse armour would be applied. I can’t stress enough that a dry-fit or a blutac fit is essential to getting it right – I got this wrong on the first try and my Cyber-Napoleon Militia Commander now lacks a set of reins. A tiny printed leaflet for particularly tricky bits would be much appreciated!
For the equally puzzled, the Horse assembly goes like this:
Glue the caparison to the horse body
Add the armoured horse head
Place the reins points forward around the neck
Glue the armour onto the points of the reins
Let’s talk legs. This is very much an adaptation of the 3d print versions of the Grognard Cavalry, and the one place this negatively affects the kit is the legs and greatcoat. The Grognard Infantry and Command/Heavy weapon kit has the greatcoat front pinned back in classic French style, a nice uniform detail that is often clearly modelled on French historicals kits from the Napoleonic to the Second World War. This is also, or is supposed to be, present on the cavalry kit, but instead the kit loses this detail via smearing across the greatcoat. Some of the issues with soft details from other Grognard kits (kneepads, coat folds, stirrups and shoulder pads) have made their way into this one too, but worse – and all because of those legs. All of that means that while some detail on the kit is better than anything else WA have put out – the crisp torso lines and the heads particularly – other bits are a little disappointing.
I can see why this has happened – protruding detail would create an undercut that plastic injection modelling struggles to deal with, and the choice was either a single piece modelling the legs and greatcoat or to split it into several pieces. The latter would preserve that detail, at the cost of a more complicated build and potentially mould lines and gap filling. The former is what we got – a fast build that compromises on some detail. I think it’s better to go with no detail in sections like this than to risk muddy or ambiguous detail. Unfortunately in going for such a close equivalent to the STLs (illustrated below) it’s ended up spoiling some really key detail.
In translating the kit across to plastic, some of the more interesting components have also been lost – the double kit bags across the horses arse (I’m going to presume theres a real horsey term for this that I don’t know) are a particular loss, but the carbine arms would have been nice. Other pieces don’t work quite so well in plastic as they might in printed form – it’s difficult to get the horse together, even following the correct order, and the horse stowage is very difficult to get to sit exactly right.
I think for a first go at taking an STL kit over to plastic this is a good job, but I’d hope that a thorough reassessment of components and models as a whole is part of the process from now on. The model of widespread releases in STL filtering through to popular plastics is a good one – but it’s early days.
When the Grognard Cavalry was first teased as an STL, I thought idly about getting some. When they came out in plastic I was absolutely determined to get some. But the vision galloping through my mind wasn’t really about caparisoned horses, or heavy cuirassiers on charging destriers. It was of French-inspired Chasseurs-a-Cheval riding Dinosaurs. So cross compatibility with a number of different riding options was really important.
I was absolutely delighted to find that the Grognard Cavalry sits really well on Games Workshop Raptadons, because they’re currently my favourite cavalry kit. To achieve what I wanted to do, I had to do a couple of quick conversions. The legs were added as-is, with a little rounding (via file) of the Raptadon body where the Grognard would sit. I pinched in the legs very, very carefully, heating the plastic slightly in order to gain a few millimeters of movement. The fit is not quite tight to the body, but that’s fine – the capacious greatcoat certainly hides a multitude of sins – and I think the overall look is excellent. In order to sell the Chasseur a Cheval of the Guard look, I swapped the Adrian Helmet of one of the Grognard heads for a Dolman from the Victrix Chasseur kit. Historicals kits tend to be lighter and slimmer than scifi ones, but the Dolman is such a chunky hat that it works well.
I’m not sure if every Grognard Cavalryperson will be riding a Dinosaur, as I really like the heavily armoured Horses, but at least one squad will be. I think with the heads and weapon arm options in the kit you can easily sell differences between light and heavy cavalry, so might lights will be dino-riders, and my heavies on the more traditional horses. So you can work out what to stick between your Chasseur’s legs (oo-er!), I’ve measured the gap below:
Overall I’m less full-on enthusiastic about this Grognard kit than I was about the Original and the Command box, largely due to that lost detail on the greatcoat. While I think the other Grognard kits are well worth getting, I think this one becomes a “if you already have Grognards and you want cavalry” buy, rather than a cool kit to have for a lot of different projects.
Having said that, I really enjoyed the building and the painting and I do really like the kit, I just don’t think it’s a must buy as much as the Command/Heavy weapons are. The base horse is nice, the upgrade pieces are very nice and the riders present a thematic, detailed and imposing cavalry force for your Imperial Guard or Militia. I’ll be picking up another box to give me a massive wedge of 40k/30k cavalry, and to add some speed to my Xenos Rampant force. I think if you’re all in on the Grognard theme these are well worth it despite the leg issues, and I’m looking forward to more Grognard kits in the future.
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