March 20, 2017

TOM STARK'S PLASTIC PASSIONS: Expeditionary Force’s WAVE 3 Zulu Wars & Colonial Wars 1878-1902

Tom Stark takes a multi-part look at the Zulu Wars from Expeditionary Force...Here is Wave 3 Releases of Colonial Artillery

  It was not my intention to turn this BLOG into a “new products” review column and I promise it will not be limited to that, but the pace of releases by Expeditionary Force (EF) is hard to ignore so I am once again writing about new releases for this segment.

When I wrote the last installment, I had said artillery for the Zulu wars was on the way. Well it’s here already along with several other related sets. There are actually two “artillery” sets consisting of two field guns or two gatling guns with four man crews for each and a single officer. Historically these are a bit too modern for me to feel I know what I am talking about from a detail perspective but I can say they display very well. Both are on the same carriage depicting bolted metal for which Scott Lam, the man behind EF, somewhat sheepishly apologized, giving me the impression that one of them, likely the gatling, should have been on a lighter, wooden carriage. To save tooling costs he elected to use the canon carriage for both. Not a problem for me but I suppose it could be for some. Assembled, you have a field piece that heralds the innovations coming to artillery for the Great War.

Both come in a medium-dark blue, a bit too intense for my taste. The gatling “kit” consists of the carriage, two wheels, the gun-barrel, a cartridge drum and two cartridge drums in wooden crates that mount on the axels. These are easy to assemble with superglue. The canon consists of the carriage, two wheels, the barrel, two seats that mount on the axels and two arm guards that mount on the outside of the seats. Putting this together takes a bit more effort due to the separate molding of the arm rests or guards. Historically, the arm guards sat just above the wheels to protect the gunners’ arms from getting mauled in the wheels while riding to the front.  These guards are not plug-fits so must be held for 30 to 60 seconds after gluing and care must be taken to keep them positioned correctly above the wheel.

Crews for both are in the same blue; naval personnel for the gatling and Royal Artillery for the canon. Torsos for both include kneeling and standing gunners and a standing officer in the appropriate dress; braided jackets for the RA and bibbed blouses for the RN. Pith helmets with spikes for the artillery plus a bare head and bonnets or straw hats for the Navy with a peaked cap for the officer. Scott also reported that history buffs had informed him that straw, or Sennet, hats for the navy were not in use for the Zulu period so he was going to pull those but, for my taste, the variety of the headgear is fun. I also believe a sailor could have found a straw hat somewhere if he wanted one and not every officer on campaign would have demanded uniformity. To add a bit more variety I have begun attaching items to the bases of some figures, a spare hat/helmet with a bareheaded pose, a crate with a spare gatling cartridge drum etc. Various arms provide sponges, buckets, cartridge drums, shot, and rifles for the crew members and pistols, swords and binoculars for the officers.  There is an arm holding a firing devise for the canon and an arm holding the crank for the gatling. When attaching these, care must again be used to be sure they get glued at the right height to appear “attached” to the guns where they should be.

Speaking of variety, I recently had a dealer tell me that there was little of it in the poses EF provides. While I understand where this comment comes from, I have been pleasantly surprised with how much visual variety can be achieved out of just 2 or 3 torsos and a bunch of arms and heads. An example of this is the naval pose shown with the canon, slightly out of focus for which I apologize. This figure uses the exact same parts as the sailor shown with the falling Conte Zulu but with the Zulu, his arms have been raised up so instead of being at the ready, he is clubbing with the butt of his rifle. Just moving the arms makes an incredible difference. This is also why in many of my photos you may see a bit of a gap at the should/arm joint. Generally, the fits are so tight,  glue is not needed to keep the arms on which allows me to adjust the arms for whatever little diorama I am fiddling with at the time.

And speaking of variety, the Conte Zulus are a very good color and scale match for the EF Zulus which I may cover another time.

Also available now is a set of Frontier Light Horse in the same blue. A more traditional set of 9 consists of two standing torsos for the enlisted ranks and a standing officer. Uniforms are braided jackets and two styles of slouch hats that fit atop a variety of heads/faces. This set has relatively standard arm pairs with carbines; firing, at ready/at high port and at ready/low port. Pistols, binoculars and left arm with sword for the officer although mixing and matching between ranks can add to the fun. As the Light Horse was a substantial part of the colonial forces, there are plans for a mounted set. Not reviewed is a set of foot Carabineers, also in blue, which appears to be much the same but with spiked helmets rather than slouch hats.

A lesser component of the colonial forces, there is a single set of auxillary/volunteer figures in a medium-dark tan which include both horse and foot. Certainly suitable for Boers when the time comes, these have a number of civilian clothing items including some top hats with plumes right out of the American wild west! Carbine and double barreled shot gun arm pairs are provided. There are two mounted torsos in one pose and a total of 6 foot torsos, 2 kneeling and 4 standing, one pose each. The horses include both a walking horse with 2 interchangeable heads and left rear legs and a running one. A tan saddle with rifle boot is supplied for both. These mounted torsos fit in the saddles better than the earlier Dragoons fit theirs. I equipped one of my foot with a Zulu assegai for a bit more spice.

Finally, there is a mixed foot and mounted set of Natal Native Contingent in the dark brown plastic EF uses for all its Zulus. Some heads have western-style headgear and, in some cases, torsos with shirts and trousers which set these figures apart from their Zulu counterparts. There are many component parts, torsos, arm pairs and heads, that do duplicate the Zulus but this is a historical reality, not a criticism of the set. Carbines and optional shoulder slung cartridge belts and blanket rolls provide a western distinction for these colonial allies but torsos and arm pairs for wielding native weapons, provided in matching brown hard plastic, and shields are also provided. The horses are the walking and running and a nifty boot of spears for mounting on the molded in saddles is also present. EF shows one of these slung over a foot figure’s shoulder but it would be a challenge for the figure to “draw” one of the rather lengthy spears form over his shoulder. Looks good though so maybe “Who cares” applies.

As I said at the start, EF’s pace of new releases is really unheard of in today’s plastic market and has not been all that common in the past either. AIP kept up a somewhat similar pace for many years but relied on a large extent on simple color options for much of its variety. Conte seemed to start out about as strong as EF but pretty quickly slowed down and then simply disappeared. I am hoping this is not the fate of EF and I have no reason to believe it will be at this time. For now, anyone that wants to can assemble a display of the Zulu wars that can cover any size display area they choose. Enjoy!
Click HERE to View the Review on Wave 1 & 2

Expeditionary Force Colonial Wars 1878-1902
Zulu Wars
British & Colonial Forces
EXP-54ZBR01-M British Infantry 1879 in Badged Sun Helmet- Zulu Movie Version
EXP-54ZBR01-P British Infantry 1879 in Plain Sun Helmet
EXP-54ZBR01-S British Infantry 1879 in Spiked Helmet with Metal Strap
EXP-54ZBR04-C British Auxiliary Carbineers in Spiked Sun-Helmets (Dismounted)
EXP-54ZBR04-F British Auxiliary Frontier Light Horse in Slouch Hats (Dismounted)
EXP-54ZBR05 Natal/Boer Volunteers
EXP-54ZBR06–H Naval Landing Party in Sennett Straw Hats
EXP-54ZBR06–S Naval Landing Party in in Sailors Flat Cap

EXP-54ZBR02-N British Dragoon Guards Cavalry - Helmet with Pugri
EXP-54ZBR02-P British Dragoon Guards Cavalry - Plain Helmets 
EXP-54ZBR02-S British Dragoon Guards Cavalry - Spiked Helmets

EXP-54ZBR03–P British Artillery in Plain Sun-Helmets w/9-pdr RML Field Gun
EXP-54ZBR04–S British Artillery in Spiked (Ball) Sun-Helmets w/9-pdr RML Field Guns
EXP-54ZBR06-G Naval Landing Party – Sailors with Gatling-Guns

Zulu Kingdom
EXP-54ZUL01-M M Zulu in War Dress (Married)
EXP-54ZUL01-U M Zulu in War Dress (Unmarried)
EXP-54ZUL02–C Cetshwayo’s inGobamakhosi Zulu Regiment
EXP-54ZUL02–M Mpande’s uThulwana Zulu Regiment
EXP-54ZUL02–S Shaka’s uGibabanye Zulu Regiment
EXP-54ZUL03 Natal Native Contingent including Natal Native HorseEXP-54ZUL04 Zulu with Rifles including Zulu Officers in coattail kilts
View & order the current range HERE

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