Thursday, August 29, 2019

Wargames Foundry: Agony and ecstacy

I truly love Wargames Foundry figures, but my experience with the company has become a sort of agony and ecstasy experience.

I saw them for the first time at The Emperor's Headquarters when I lived in Chicago in the late 1980s. Foundry had only started up in 1985, but was already gaining a reputation of excellence. I didn't buy my first WF figures until I moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. Back then, every order arrived packed in slim black boxes. Figures were always sold individually and carefully hand packed in the boxes and gently cushioned with quilt batting. They also arrived in about 10 days from the UK, sometimes within a week.

Those days are gone. Figures are available now only in blister packs, whose makeup sometimes seems to be the work of a loon or sadist. The very nice gladiators range comes in blisters that contain more figures you'll never use than ones you will. With some ranges you have to buy multiple packs just to get four or five of the figures you actually want. However, it's not that bad with most ranges and pretty much everybody these days makes you buy in preset packs of 4, 6, or 8 figures.

The other thing that's gone is the speed of delivery. A Foundry order can take two months to arrive. It will arrive, experience has taught me that, but only eventually. Someday. In the fullness of time. Even though I know that now, it's still hard not to get antsy after 6-7 weeks have passed since you ordered.

My order from July 6 just arrived today (7 1/2 weeks). It's the most recent of several orders I placed this year. All have taken a long, long time.

My first order was for some AWI British 5th Foot light infantry that I wanted for the Concord Project that Kevin Smyth and I did for the Enfilade! convention in May this year. Only Foundry makes them in their distinctive caps. After 6 weeks, I called to inquire about the package. I agreed to wait another week and then contacted them again. They sent a replacement, signed & tracked, which arrived in 8 days. Two days after that, the original order showed up.

The agony, but I was impressed that they sent a replacement order so fast. I paid for the replacement, rather than send back one of the orders.

I was so taken by the figures, however,  that I gave the unpainted Perry AWI that I was going to work on to Bill Stewart and ordered the same types of figures (British grenadiers and light infantry) from Foundry. I knew I was cutting it close by the time I ordered. I imagined that the long shipping time was just an anomaly that wouldn't happen twice. But it did.

Waiting for this order made me antsier than normal. I had to have a lot of grenadiers and light infantry painted for the convention and I was starting to feel that time was running out. Another email to Foundry telling them of the deadline I was facing and they sent a replacement by express courier—at their cost—that got to me in 2 days. The original order arrived about 10 days or so after that.

It's hard to be mad when Foundry does so much to rectify the issue, but it's also hard not to be frustrated. I thought they were very responsive and accommodating when the order didn't come. It's still perplexing, though. The orders were shipped soon after I made them, they just took forever to get to me—and I'm not alone. Kevin Smyth recently endured a long, long wait for a Foundry order. He needed the figures for a game he ran just last week at a game day event at the Veterans Museum in Chehalis, WA. With time running out, he contacted Foundry and got a replacement shipment. Then, some time after receiving the replacement, the original showed up.

Foundry also says that they're perplexed about why it takes so long for customers to receive their orders. It's just them. I order from the UK from various companies at least once a month, sometimes multiple times in a month. The average shipping time is 8-10 days. That's true for any company I've ordered from.

I spent a bit of time trying to suss it all out. It seems to me that for whatever reason, Foundry is shipping using Royal Mail International Economy. That's the least expensive, which makes it attractive, but the Royal Mail website says it takes 6-12 weeks for arrival! Royal Mail Standard International to the US is just about 40% more expensive than Economy International and has a delivery time of 5-7 working days. I'm happier to pay 40% more for shipping than to wait 800% longer to get my toys.

The order I just received from Foundry included some exquisite World of the Greeks peltasts. But the peltasts came with hoplite shields, not peltast shields. I didn't want to muck around trying to fix the order. Instead, I've just ordered 2 packs of 12 peltast/psiloi shields from Foundry. It looks like I can't plan on finishing the figures until late October or early November.