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A Review of the year – My Top Ten, Part Two!

Well, it’s a funny old world. Just when you think that everything is under control and organised, life reminds you that you’re not really in control at all and that even with the best plan, some events can’t be forseen. I was writing the next part of my Top Ten list, back in January. The snow was laying thickly on the ground and the ‘Big Freeze’ or Winter, as we used to call it in the olden days, was at it’s coldest. There I was, thinking that the best thing about snow was that my garden looked just as good as anyone elses in the street and dreaming about the next kit I that was going to make, when the phone went and I received more bad news about my Father. He had been taken into Hospital again and was seriously ill. Just for the record, despite all the dire reports in the press, the main roads around here were kept open, so I was able to get down to the West Country to visit Dad, so thank you to the guys driving the gritter lorries up & down the A52 & A46.

The upshot of it all was that I have spent about 2 weeks down in Torquay helping to get Dad home and I have had very little time to think about model soldiers, kits, blog writing or any sort of hobby, hence the big gap in my blog. The good news is that thanks to some superb care and support from the NHS, Dad is back home and doing OK for the moment. Also a big thank you to my wife Julie and her sister, Hayley, who between them have kept the business going while I have been away. My head is a bit clearer now and I thought that I would continue where I left off, even though we are a bit further into the year than I planned when I started this article.

So on with the rest of my top Ten for 2009. These next five are all brilliant products and there is very little to seperate any of them.

At Number 5 is a product that I have already reviewed but think that it is a great addition to the genre and bodes well for the possibilities of creating a Napoleonic War game Army in 54mm. I am refering to the new Victrix 1/32nd scale or 54mm set of British Penninsular Infantry Flank Company. I’ve already covered this product in detail in a previous Blog article so if you would like to see more then scroll back……

Number 4 in my top ten is by no means a new kit but I really like everything about the period of History that this range comes from. This was a time of Technology outstripping the ability of the Generals to come to terms with the new developments that were turning warfare into an industrial process. I’m talking about the Great War or the First World War. The War started with Armies still with one foot in the era of Infantry & Cavalry charges supported by Artillery and finished with full scale aerial warfare, Chemical weapons and of course TANKS!

The Emhar 1/35th scale model of the WW1 Male tank has been tempting me for some time now and if I dont give in and buy this kit, it will be the Mk V version that Emhar also make. It’s a super kit, simple to put together and looks as though it will make a lovely replica of the great British Invention, the Tank. Oh! and before anybody writes in to correct me and tell me that Leonard Da Vinci had previously come up with the idea, just bear in mind that as far as I know he only drew a picture of a tank and never built one. Well I’ve drawn lots of inventions in my time, including the portable Jack Daniels producing, solar powered whisky still, but thinking of it is one thing and building it is a whole different ball game!

Anyway I digress, if you are looking to build a World war One tank, look no further than the Emhar Range!

At Number 3, not only a superb set of soldiers but one of my best selling lines last year as well. It is Perry Miniatures French Napoleonic Heavy Cavalry 1812. The figures are sculpted by the Perry Twins, Alan & Michael, who are at the top of their profession. The set contains 14 cavalrymen, including 1 officer, 1 trumpeter, 1 standard bearer. Although you can substitute the trumpeter and standard bearer for troopers giving you 13 rank and file if you like. All of the figures come with both Cuirassier and Carabinier heads, to allow you to build up units of either of these famous Heavy cavalry types. Also included are a dead British Infantryman, as well as a French one and some battlefield debris. As with all the Perry miniatures plastic boxed sets, the instructions are very straight forward and clear, enabling you to complete and paint your models accurately. This set is another reason why I have resolved to start Historical war gaming this year.

At Number two in my list of the Top Ten of last year is not a kit but a rule book. I remember this product arriving at Warlord Games last year. There was a great deal of excitement, with Warlords very own BFG (that’s Big Friendly Gareth) and Big Dave charging up and down the corridors of the business unit with pallets of brown boxes. Being a nosey sort, I had to ask what they were up to. ‘It’s the new Black Powder Rule Book’ they said. ‘Lets have a look then’ I said thinking that I would be shown the standard type rule book full of charts and statistics. Well, what a nice surprise. This wasn’t just another rule book but a Homage to the hobby of Wargaming. I should have known that anything produced by Rick Priestly, Jervis Johnson, John Stallard & Paul Sawyer was going to be a quality production and add contributions from the Perry twins and you have the cream of the wargaming hierarchy. Well, in this part of the world you do!

The book is just beautifully produced in hardback and full colour and isn’t simply a rules book but a superbly illustrated introduction to the hobby of wargaming. The rules allow you to refight battles from the Napoleonic era through to the American Civil war and later Victorian colonial wars. It’s beautifully printed on top quality paper and written in a most accessable and aimable style by two of the best rules writers in the industry. Just to add to the value of this work, it is full of historical fact and information so you will be an armchair expert on this period of history once you have absorbed this easily readable volume. Of course, it is also packed full of superb photo’s of model soldiers fighting on beautifully modelled scenery and wargames tables.

And back to the rules themselves. Underlying the rules system is the constant reminder of the spirit in which the game should be played; that of good humour and fairness, where the game is the vehicle for a couple of hours of good humoured socialising with like minded friends. This book is a must for all enthusiasts!

And so to number One in my list. To be fair, this choice is as much about the range and what it represents as about the individual kit. For me, thanks to a little help from Mr James May, the number one kit of the year is the humble Airfix Spitfire! This iconic brand ( Airfix) and Aeroplane (Spitfire) combine to make the perfect introduction to the hobby of model making. I’ve covered the topic before in my blog, so I’ll try not to repeat myself but I think that the modelling hobby owes a great debt to the Airfix brand. Airfix pioneered consistently scaled models when other manufacturers designed kits to fit a box size or a price point. The Airfix range grew to be the best in the world. The good news is that Airfix have now been taken over Hornby and Hornby are reinvigorating the range. The coming year will see the re release of some real classic kits as well as a good smattering of brand new topics, all with new toolings on the mouldings so expect Airfix to be back as a force in the hobby. The exciting point of all this is that hopefully many more people will either rediscover or discover for the first time the pleasure that can be had from building a model kit and that means more people enjoying the hobby than ever before. Hurrah for Airfix!

So that’s it, those are my favourite 10 items from 2009. Now it’s time to get back to the present and on track with my Blog and model making!