Tag Archives: Grenadier

“Yesterday’s Lead”

It seems I took the month of January off from blogging, quite accidentally. For Christmas I was gifted with Mass Effect: Andromeda for PS4. It was released back in March of last year, but I’m not the kind of (video) gamer that needs to get a game as soon as it’s released. Thus I tend to spend less money on video games overall, as I can wait until the price drops. I am a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, and although this latest game was (unfairly, IMO) derided,  at least in comparison to the previous trilogy, it has accounted for my free time throughout January.

Anyway, it’s nice to be back.

I rarely pick up Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine these days. Although it’s a fine publication, it’s not for me, as it is primarily geared towards the historical wargamer, and even casual visitors to this site will know I don’t fall into that category. The other day I found myself at my newsagent (see what I did there? I used a British term) by complete happenstance ( I was purchasing coffee and donuts for a work meeting at the Dunkin’ Donuts next door), and, since the latest issue of Miniature Wargames magazine hadn’t arrived yet, I gave in to whimsy and purchased WS&S #92. As expected, it had little to interest me as far as gaming goes. I am unfamiliar with most of the historical periods and battles covered throughout the issue. But what issue #92 did have was a worthy article by the great Rick Priestly, entitled “Time, Tide and Yesterday’s Lead.”

You might think Mr. Priestly waxes nostalgic for the early days of Citadel and Warhammer miniatures, but he quickly sets the record straight. Despite his involvement in Warhammer’s development, his particular enthusiasm is the Minifigs line of the 70’s, as those are what led him down the garden path to wargaming.

I must confess that since I live in the United States and I was born a good decade or so after Mr. Priestly, I am unfamiliar with Minifigs. Like so many others, I started gaming through Dungeons & Dragons, circa 1983 or so. I’m pretty sure I got the red box for my 10th birthday and it took me a year or two to start running “The Keep on the Borderlands.” I never played a miniature wargame until I was in college in the early 90’s. Predictably, my first introduction came through Warhammer 40K, then quickly moved to WFB. But I had already been collecting and painting miniatures before then. Despite all my failed attempts to introduce them into my roleplaying games, I found them really cool (an obviously still do). I certainly share nostalgic feelings for the miniatures that got me started down my own path, some 35 years ago. And those miniatures, primarily, are Grenadier and Ral Partha fantasy figures.

The first set of miniatures I ever bought was the often-reissued Grenadier Tomb of Spells set. It’s the second one down in the left column. Starting from the top left and continuing clockwise, we have Specialists, Hobgoblins, a Dragon Lords set that once included paints, Thieves, Denizens of the Swamp, Orc’s Lair, and Wizards. The Wizards set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, and I repainted the set a couple of years ago. You can see the results here, if so inclined.

With the arrival of AD&D 2nd Edition, TSR started packaging miniatures under their own name. The above sets are examples of this era. I bought the Marvel Super Heroes and Dragonlance sets when they came out, and a friend gave me the Magic-Users set long ago. The remaining sets were all recent eBay acquisitions.

I probably paid too much for the Indiana Jones set (it’s rare). I paid less than I thought I would for the Star Frontiers and other AD&D sets, but again, probably more than I should have considering the quality. I’ve said this elsewhere: this era of miniature manufacture leaves a lot to be desired. The sculpting is pretty sub-par across the board. Scale is pretty much an afterthought, even between models within the same set (Star Frontiers is by far the WORST for this). I have been painting some of the Marvel miniatures for use in my supers gaming alongside Heroclix models, which should give you a idea of how random the scale is. Some are compatible with Clix models while some are on the small side of 25mm. To top it off, I have no idea what metal was used to cast this line of miniatures, but for some reason, they do not take paint well. Prior to sealing them, even casual handling can cause the paint to rub off, which is kind of a pain during the painting process.

The last of my old sets are above. The Grenadier Secret Agents set is really good, containing lots of mercs and soldiers for use with Top Secret or any other skirmish wargame. Grenadier released two sets of these. I know I had both at one time, but I can’t remember what happened to the other set. (As an aside, the box art above was painted by famous Grimjack artist Flint Henry!) Below them is an exceptional set of ninja by Ral Partha. I recently bought a second set, because as everyone knows, you can never have enough ninja. The bottom row contains dragon models; a Ral Partha T’Char (one of the best dragons produced, IMO) and a couple of Julie Guthrie Grenadier Dragons. I painted up her Red Dragon a while back. You can see it here.

Nostalgia, as Mr. Priestly aptly observes, exerts a powerful force that drives one from affection for times gone by to collector’s obsession. All of the above boxed sets were purchased either on eBay or at a flea market over the last couple of years. With the exception of the Skeleton King’s chariot (top right), all these sets are complete and pristine. (I even managed to replace the 54mm Batman set with one that included a Joker this time.) The DC Heroes sets were a real find at $10 apiece, all bare metal! I painted up the 54mm Batman a few years ago, and recently painted the Grenadier Halfling set above. Batman is here; the Halflings are here.

Which brings me to painting, or rather, repainting. In his article, Mr. Priestly mentions that most Minifigs of the time were likely “favored with a hefty coat of Humbrol Enamel…and then gloss varnished to within an inch of their little metal lives.” Again, I can relate. Here in the States, Testors enamels were the model paints of choice, and I laquered many a miniature in them before “discovering” acrylics right around the time I started playing 40K. Prior to that, every miniature I painted, including many from the sets above, were done with Testors enamels and gloss coat. I shudder to look at them now, but if you’d like to see some before and after shots, look no further than here.

The question then becomes “To strip and repaint, or not to strip and repaint? I am a big advocate of repainting. I’m not the best painter in the world (not even close), but I am exponentially better than I was 35 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the old miniatures I have repainted recently, and I think they are the better for it. But, if even if I were to strip and repaint one miniature every day for the rest of my life, I would likely never finish what I already own, never mind any future tempting purchases. A somewhat sobering and morbid thought, but true nonetheless.

What do you think? Do you get dewey-eyed for a certain manufacturer or era of miniatures? Do you advocate repainting, or are you content with (and perhaps comforted by) viewing your early efforts for what they are?


Classic Grenadier Halflings

It’s been a while since I painted some old school miniatures. I decided to do yet another Grenadier TSR boxed set from yesteryear. Last time it was Wizards, this time it’s the wee folk: Halflings!

Unlike the Wizards, I never owned this set growing up. I bought it off eBay about 2 years ago. The box is in great shape. The miniatures were painted, but not well. So I stripped them down to the metal before repainting.

One of the reasons I love these classic miniatures is that they have a lot of character. There’s usually one or two per boxed set that really stand out, especially for the time. In this set, one of the miniatures that stands out most for me is the Halfling lookout team, all the way on the left. Continuing left to right, we have a Swordsman, Camp Guard, Spear Chucker, and Thief. Both the Thief and the Swordsman are pretty good sculpts even by today’s standards. The Spear Chucker, despite being equipped with an atlatl, is my least favorite miniature in the set. I’m also not overly fond of the Camp Guard, because they included a ridiculous-looking tree for him to lean on. I think it would have been a better miniature without the tree, and you wouldn’t have even had to alter the pose all that much!

From left to right, the remaining models in the set include an Archer, an Axeman, a Slinger, and a Lancer on Pack Mule. I like all these models, but I especially like the Lancer. He would be great to represent the “Shiriff” of a Halfling shire. I assumed the haft of his spear behind his hand had broken off at some point, but looking at the enclosed picture, it seems he wasn’t modeled with a full spear haft to begin with. I fixed that by making one out of some 5/64 brass rod, thus giving him a full spear, and I like the resulting look much better.

Here’s a view of some of the Halflings from the rear. I didn’t use any white flock on the horseman’s base. I think the color is due to a reaction between the glue I used and the matte sealant spray. I think it looks ok, like the last remaining frosts of the season. I’m not sure if I’ll paint over it yet.

Classic Grenadier Wizards

This boxed set was the second set of miniatures I ever bought, the first being the well-known “Tomb of Spells”. I bought them when I was in 6th grade.  Like all of the miniatures I painted back then, I covered them in Testors gloss enamels and thought I did a swell job. Many years later, when I discovered things like acrylic paints and shading, I realized they looked truly horrendous and stripped them with the intent of repainting them later. Years passed and they languished. Then came Warhammer, and all my painting time was taken getting my armies ready for the table. I wanted to paint them last year for WizarDecember, but couldn’t find the time. Now, at age 43, they have finally been repainted.

I painted these first five to resemble the Istari, the five wizards of Middle-Earth. From l-r: Pallando, Radagast, Gandalf, Saruman, and Alatar. Who are Alatar and Pallando, you ask? Well, they are the Blue Wizards, referred to by Tolkien as “lesser” wizards, of which little is known other than their names. After their arrival in Middle-Earth, they quickly “passed into the East”, where nothing was ever heard from them again.

Of course, Iron Crown Enterprises, who once held the license for the Middle Earth RPG and the Middle Earth: The Wizards CCG, did much to expand (i.e. create) the lore of these two wizards. In the CCG, players take the role of one of the wizards. Pallando is portrayed as a diviner/seer, and many of his card effects allow some sort of precognitive ability. Alatar is a very martial wizard who can dish out some heavy damage. So I chose the Illusionist miniature for Pallando and the Druid (with shield and sword) for Alatar. The others were also fairly easy choices: Radagast is a “Druid with dart”; Gandalf (Enchanter)has the big floppy hat, and Saruman (Sorceror) is holding a crystal ball (a palantir?).

I don’t normally rebase these old classics, but I decided to make an exception with this set. I considered adding a sword to Gandalf to represent Glamdring, but chose to leave him unmodified.

The remainder of the set is above. From L-R: Wizard, Cleric, Archmage with spell, Magician, and Warlock. The wizard was my least favorite miniature to paint because his detail is somewhat ambiguous; there are times I didn’t know what I was supposed to be painting. His “familiar” on his shoulder is horribly sculpted as well. I have no idea what it’s supposed to be. The Archmage comes with two “spells”; the hand shown above and  the head of something so poorly sculpted it also defies description. I chose the hand. The Cleric and Magician models are my favorite miniatures in the set, and to this day when I think of a wizard or cleric these guys come to mind. Last is the Warlock; not one of my favorites but I did what I could with him. I decided to paint him as a Bright Wizard; someone who can fling a fireball or two. I hate painting orange, but I think he turned out ok.

Painting old school miniatures like this is always fun. I think I’ll paint another Grenadier boxed set soon.

Red Dragon

I don’t often paint large models, but I’ve had this fellow on my painting table in various states of assembly and painting for a couple of years now. It’s  a red dragon from Grenadier’s Julie Guthrie’s Dragons line, circa late ’80’s-early 90’s.

Of course, nothing says I had to paint it as a red dragon. In fact, I was considering painting it a greenish-black and using it as a swamp dragon. I even went so far as to basecoat it green, but then changed my mind and went with the red scheme. I used mostly Vallejo colors (Red Black, Rusty Red, Gold Yellow) and Citadel paints (Stegadon Scale Green, Sotek Green, Scorpion Green).

Compared to some of the dragon miniatures available today (i.e. Reaper), this one is pretty small, but is perfect for representing a young dragon rather than an ancient wyrm.

I have a love for Grenadier miniatures, as together with Ral Partha they were pretty much the only game in town for Fantasy miniatures when I was young. These dragons could be a pain in the ass to assemble, and this one was no exception, requiring copious amounts of green stuff to fill the gaps where the wings join the body. Nowadays it would probably be cast from plastic, or at least the wings would be, which would make it easier to assemble as the weight of the wings wouldn’t require pinning.

For the base, I added an axe along with a bit from an Army Painter accessory pack (the helmet with the snake). I smoothed out the contours with green stuff and added sand, tufts and static grass.


Some Old-School Miniatures

I went on a bit of a buying spree these past few months on some old Grenadier and Ral-Partha stuff. Mind you, I already have a ton of this stuff from my days of youth, but lately I’ve been feeling somewhat nostalgic. I present to you some of my recent painting efforts.



Up first are these two knights. Both are repaints of miniatures I first painted when I thought using Testors gloss enamel was a great idea. I’ve been trying to identify them from The Lost Minis Wiki, but I haven’t been able to. I could have sworn they were Grenadier or Ral Partha, as I’ve had them since the early 80’s at least. For some reason I want to say the guy on the right was labeled a cavalier, but I’m not 100% on this. Anyway, they both have morningstars (or maces-and-chain, depending on who you ask), and that wasn’t so common on miniatures in those days. Any assistance identifying these guys would be most appreciated.

UPDATE: Thanks to some fellow enthusiasts on The Miniatures Page, I found out that the one on the left is from Superior Miniatures (Knight with Mace-and-Chain). The one on the right is from TSR, part of their “AD&D Heroes boxed set. And sure enough, he’s a cavalier!




I love miniatures that tell a story and aren’t just “generic guy holding weapon”. This one is an old miniature I bought recently. It was part of Grenadier’s “Woodland Adventurers” boxed set. I don’t have the rest of the set, but I love this halfling sniper. This is not a repaint. In fact, I don’t believe this miniature was ever painted before I got him.

I’m under a pile of lead now, but I’m going to continue to take a break and paint (or repaint) some of these old miniatures every now and then.

54mm Batman


I bought this old Grenadier figure set on eBay, mostly for posterity, since I don’t game in 54mm.  I remember when this came out. It was a set designed to go with the Batman RPG from Mayfair, which was really just a simplified DC Heroes RPG. Why they cast these miniatures in 54mm as opposed to the more popular 25mm is beyond me. Unless they were going for a collector’s market.

The set came with two miniatures, Batman and the Joker. Well, when I received my package in the mail, the Joker was missing. I contacted the seller and he immediately issued a refund. I would have gladly shipped Batman back to him, as his feedback was positive enough for me to think it was a fluke and not a deliberate attempt to screw me over, and I wasn’t trying to get anything for free. But he told me to just keep Batman. So I did.

Turns out I know a 13 year-old girl who is really into Batman. She’s the daughter of a friend, and I figured, since I have an incomplete set that’s not doing me any good, why not paint Batman up for her? So I did. And here’s what I used.


First off, apologies for the paper plate. It’s the only white thing I had in reach when I decided to take the photo. I put Batman on a 50mm square base and applied green stuff to smooth out the contours of the base. Then I applied my first coat. Most of the colors are GW paints. I started with Deadly Nightshade for the blue, Iyanden Darksun for the yellow, and Skavenblight Dinge for the gray.

The next layers were Regal Blue, a mixture of Skavenblight Dinge/Dawnstone in a ratio of 70/30 for the gray, and a wash of Badab Black over the yellow.


Once that was complete, I painted the base Shadow Grey and added the next layer of highlights: a mixture of Regal Blue/Mordian Blue in 50/50, straight Dawnstone for the gray, and Privateer Press’s Sulfuric Yellow for the belt and chest emblem.


About this time I decided I would need something more on the base. So I added a 30mm RAFM sewer lid base and built it up with more green stuff. Then I did the next layer of highlights: Mordian Blue, Administratum Grey, and Bad Moon Yellow. Then I repainted the base with black Vallejo surface primer.



Lastly, I finalized the highlights. I did a watered down layer of Festering Blue, followed by a highlight of Teclis Blue. I painted the eyes Skull White and the bat emblem with Chaos Black. I painted the manhole cover with Tin Bitz and washed it in Armour Wash. Then I applied a little MIG rust pigment to the manhole cover and put sand on the base.

A note about the sand…it’s actually volcanic sand from the beaches of Sao Miguel, Azores. Most folks probably don’t have that stuff laying around their house. But I do. 🙂

Hopefully the kid I painted this for will like it. He was pretty easy to paint, all things considered.

Someday I’ll get the complete set and paint it up just for fun.


What’s Old is New

I’ve been on a bit of an old-school miniatures kick lately, no doubt inspired by guys like the Old School Grenadier Miniatures blog (now sadly gone, it seems).

A bit about that. I first started painting minitures in the 5th grade. Since I’m 40, I’ve been at it a while. I don’t claim to be a master painter; I learn more and more every day. But back then, and pretty much right through high school, I truly sucked at it. I painted all my miniatures with Testors gloss enamel paint, which doesn’t lend itself to shading, highlighting, mixing, or just painting in general. Not that I made any attempt whatsoever at any of those techniques. Most of my miniatures looked pretty gloopy.

It wasn’t until I started playing Warhammer and 40K in college that I discovered acrylic paint. A huge difference for sure. And although I have little love left for GW, I learned a lot from their publications and my painting dramatically improved in a relatively short period of time. Since I was building armies to game with, I painted GW figures pretty much exclusively from the early 90’s -2000 or so.  Around 2003,  I took a long hiatus from both wargaming and painting, having to pack up my paints and miniatures in storage. I only started up again about 3 years ago, and now I can’t stop.

Partly because of nostaligia and partly because I look at them and cringe, I’ve decided that in between my regular projects I’ll give some of my earliest efforts the repainting they so desperately need. Here are some of them.

Everyone I know who collected miniatures back in the early 80’s had the guy on the left. He’s from the Fantasy Lords set 121: Knights. I think he’s a pretty cool miniature from that time, plus he has a bec-de-corbin. How many miniatures do you own that are similarly equipped? Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of him with his old paint job, which was a true atrocity. I never bothered to base any miniatures before I started playing Warhammer, and I see no reason to base them for repaints. Next to him is a Ral Partha Dwarf: I can’t find the number. If any of you can, I’d appreciate you telling me. I recall he was in a blister labeled “Conquistador Dwarf”, but I’ve also seen him referred to as a “Dwarf Champion”. This guy never had any paint on him before now, so there was no “before” picture to take. I did base this guy, because I’ll probably be using him in my AD&D campaign as an NPC. I’m pretty happy with the way they both turned out.

Here’s an example of my work back then. Note the lovely Testors glossy flesh color on the charging halberdier. Impressive, no? Now just imagine if he had a face, how good that would look, and you get the idea of the general quality of my painting back then.

These are the repaints. The miniatures are some classics from that era: Ral Partha’s Chaotic Knights of the Skull (01-137). Like many of the miniatures of this time, scale was all over the place. These were supposed to be 25mm miniatures but they’re more like 32mm. The halberdier’s legs are far enough apart that you could fit the knight in the first picture within  his stride.  Although I think they’re both kind of silly, they were easy and quick to paint in between my current projects. I still don’t like the miniatures, but I like to think my paint job has improved over 25 years.

I think I’ll keep repainting old stuff and posting the results from time to time.