Monday, September 15, 2008

Reviewing the troops: BMC/Americana Irish Brigade

(Note: Upon reflection, I've removed about 10% of the snarkiness from this post) 

In the words of the great Peggy Lee:

"Is that all there is?"

What a disappointment. After waiting nearly two years for this offering, the let-down matches the build-up.

Here BMC/Americana had an opportunity for a fantastic product launch, one with an eager market hoping that their new Parrot gun and figures are reflective of some new corporate commitment to better sculpting and exciting new products.

Alas, the Irish Brigade has advanced into action only to be revealed as simply their same old, tired, poorly cast, flash-ridden, lackluster Union soldier figures, this time molded in green plastic.

Nice flag though.

Same old sugar, different bag, admittedly, a bag with a much more attractive hang-tag.

Here's a great "Why bother?" moment. A lost opportunity for BMC/Americana to climb out of the quagmire of the lowest echelon of toy soldier manufactures and start a slow but steady climb toward improved quality.

Of the soldiers included in this bagged set, only three and one half are new figures: Father Corby, General Meagher, an advancing guy, and a running guy who's merely a resculpting of an earlier figure. Check this out:

Examine the kepis, noses, beards, collars, and equipment straps of these two figures, one is a "new" Irish Brigade soldier and the other is just the old BMC running Confederate...clearly they are two different sculpts.

Now look at this, two different sculpts OF THE SAME FIGURE!

What was the meeting like on this one?

"再做它,只不相当很糟糕这次." (Chinese for "Do it again, only not so lousy this time.")

It simply takes my breath away.

But back to the Corby and Meagher figures.
The sculpting of these two new figures is head and shoulders above the rest in the set, leaving one to ponder how delightful it would have been if all of the Irish Brigade figures reflected this new attempt at better sculpting in the BMC/Americana studios.

Cast in brilliant green, father Corby is posed giving final absolution to the troops prior to battle.

These closeups demonstrate an uncharacteristic (for BMC/Americana) attention to detail and good anatomy, and of course the sprue lump on top of his head. Corby has an exceptional face and beard, and the detail of his stole and hat/gloves (at his feet) are imaginative and well executed...

a faithful copy of the Corby statue at Gettysburg National Military Park.
(image from the Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area)

This astride figure of General Meagher, with the ground his men covered at Antietam in the background, is similarly well sculpted with simple yet effective detail.

The sword is a quantum improvement over last year's BMC/Americana release of blue and gray cavalry troopers (which will be profiled sometime in the future).

Again, this figure is reflective of the equestrian statue of Meagher on the grounds of the Montana State house, prompting one to wonder; "if not for statuary what would the sculptors at BMC/Americana do for inspiration?"

Finally, the fourth new figure is this guy:

looking somewhat puffy, perhaps too much salt pork in his diet. Nothing to write home about, but at least something new.

Aside from these four anomalies the rest of the figures are the same old thing that we've come to expect from BMC/Americana figures.

Curiously, BMC/Americana choose to mold artillery figures (sadly, their earlier generation) in green to include with this infantry brigade.

What, do you suppose, is causing this company to be so complacent in such a dynamic and competitive market?

If there's a silver lining in all of this, at least the green plastic affords one the opportunity to fill out the ranks of Armies in Plastic's fine Berdan's Sharpshooters...

with ersatz reinforcements, straight from the People's Republic of China.

And face it, poor sculpting or not, we can always use more skirmishers.

Finally, this point I've raised before. The BMC/Americana bottom line for me is the price. If you're just looking for new recruits to fill out depleted regiments, these conscripts are very cheap and plentiful. And sometimes, in the great plastic grinder that is pretend war, numbers trump quality.

As the manpower-strapped Abraham Lincoln said with the 1861 arrival of the first western troops to Washington DC; "Thank God for Michigan!" So might a 54mm Lincoln in similar straits shout "Thank God for BMC/Americana!"

Soldier on!


(See you on the 1st)


Patrick Mungavin said...

Mannie you've got a great site, love it , I think you've been a bit harsh on Americana, I liken them to the bags of Lido figs that were available at my local five and ten when i was growing up , they weren't Marx" but they always seemed to fina a place on my battlefield, I think we as collectors have been "spoiled" with the likes of Conte and Tssd so we compare Americana with them, they're toys plain and simple . Got my two bags today, very pleased, shooting poses are different than BMC originals as are advancing poses and marchers, the differences are subtle in some cases but if you compare them with originals you'll see that the heads and facial details are very different, the green color is not 'bright" either and more of a "deep" green , for me anyhow it does not detract from playability, there are poses that at first glance you'll feel are the same as those of BMC's but do compare and you'll see the difference. Some figures do have flash but in my bags there were only about five or six with flash. So for the money, you can't beat it . This is just MHO but I like them.----Pat


Great site. Check mine Mannie Can I subscribe to yours?

Mannie Gentile said...


Quite right in all respects.

Fixed Bayonets,

Feel free!


Jess. said...

HI Mannie,

l just ordered a bag of these, maybe not the best around but you take what you can get. Great review l thought.


wrightporter said...

Not sure if you have come across it yet or not, but Hobby Lobby is now (July 2019) offering a new incarnation of what look to be BMC knockoffs. The detail on the figures has declined, but the Confederate troops now all have slouch hats.

The most interesting item is a redesigned cannon. It looks to be a 6-pounder. And although the carriage lacks detail, the wheels are beefier than the old BMC guns. Same is true of the caisson.

I enjoy your blog, especially the humor of your "Reviewing the Troops" posts. I just wish there were more options out there for you to review.