Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lars Porsenna's boys: A review of Gorgon Studios 28mm Etruscan line

I discovered Gorgon Studios back in July this year. The figures I'm painting for my De Bellis Velitum project are all Foundry Greeks, which were sculpted by Steve Saleh. I was browsing the web to see if there was any current range of figures being sculpted by Steve Saleh and sure enough, Gorgon Studios came up on Bing! Not only was I happy to see that Steve was sculpting more figures, but equally happy that the new figures were Early Etruscans, ca. 6th - 5th century BC.

The pre-Roman period of Italy has gotten short shrift so far from most figure manufacturers and I have been hoping for someone to attend to it. Aventine Miniatures does a beautiful range that includes Late Etruscans, which are suitable for use as Italian allied legions in the Republican Roman army, but until Gorgon's line, no one that I know of has done the earlier army that was Rome's first great enemy after they ejected king Tarquinius Superbus and became an republic.

I ordered online on a Tuesday evening and my figures arrived on Saturday from Peoria, IL, where Gorgon Studios is located. That's good turnaround. The cost of the figures is in line with other premium figure ranges: $8.00 per pack of four foot figures,  $14.00 per pack of three mounted figures.

The Etruscan range so far consists of some first class hoplites, second class spearmen, cavalry, and command sets for each. Hank Edley, listed on the Gorgon staff page as taskmaster of Gorgon Studios, says that the Etruscan line will expand. I presume that means that they will create figures for the remaining three classes of the Etruscan army: class 3 (spearmen), class 4 (light spearmen/javelinmen?), and class 5 (slingers).

The figures are sold in packs of four foot and three horse. There are three packs for each, one of which is the command pack.

1st class hoplites, more pictures from the 
The casting is very clean with minimal mold lines and no flash. Also minimal are any of the spikey bits that come from the air-holes used in the casting process. Cleaning the figures has been very quick. The metal has a high tin content and is very rigid, which might make cleaning up some areas more difficult, but since there is little cleanup required, I had no problem working with the figures.

Each figure in a pack is unique. The poses for hoplites and spearmen vary between attacking with spear overarm, thrusting spear underarm, advancing with spear upright and standing/defending with spear upright. The command packs include two leader figures and two musicians.

The poses for the cavalry are various positions of horsemen with spears: overarm, thrusting, and underarm.

All of the figure poses are lively. For my use, skirmish gaming, the variety is perfect. However, I suspect that someone wanting to build larger wargame units for WAB or FoG will want figures that are doing something similar, such as all overarm, all advancing, etc. Gorgon sells their excellent Spartan range packs with figures doing the same thing, so I'm not sure why the Etruscan range should be different.

Detail and accuracy
I'm no estruscologist, so my observations are based on what I've read in secondary sources. The hoplites' helmets and armor look correct and are beautifully executed on the figures. The hoplites wear muscled cuirasses except for two who wear a kind of linothorax-style, where the body is scale and, presumably, the pteruges and shoulders are linen (or maybe leather). The helmets are typically Greek in style.

The tunics are just about knee length, which seems a bit long based on frescoes and statues that show a very short tunic, so short in fact that in some of the sources, the warriors goolies or their rear end hangs out—obviously a premodest society.

Shield forward, spear up, tackle out!

"The uniform 'e wore
Was nothin' much before,
An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind"

I'm not complaining about the lack of full-frontal (or full-backal) male nudity in the figures, but I always thought that the short, short tunic was a distinctive look for Italian hoplites and I miss it in the figures.

The figures measure 28M on the Barrett scale and are completely compatible with Foundry's World of the Greeks range (no surprise given that the sculptor is the same for both). The bases aren't thick enough to skew the size of the figures compared to others and the overall height, including helmet crests is about 35mm.

I'm painting several of the figures right now: six mounted and 16 foot. I use the excellent North Star wire spears for arming my boys, cut down to about 40mm in length, which, I think, approximates about 8' length in scale.

I'm using a lot of "pretty" colors for tunics for the hoplites. The 2nd class spearmen will be less flashy. The critical issue is painting the shields, which I've decided to hand-paint rather than use decals. I'm going on the theory that hoplite's shield designs were certainly naive in execution, which happily is much like my painting.

So far, the Etruscan cavalry released in July, 2010 are the last figures produced for this range. I hope to see some light troops soon so I can get some serious skirmish forces painted. I'm also crossing my fingers for early Romans (who may, after all, be the same as Etruscans for this era—so, maybe not).

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