Saturday 2 October 2021

The Lead Pile Revisited

Those of you with long memories and high boredom thresholds might remember a post last year revealing the size of my unpainted lead mountain. Having, as it were, sized up the problem and roughly added up the total for painting in the previous year (when no official records were kept), I challenged myself to paint 1000 of the figures over the next year.

The original numbers were that I had 2248 figures to paint in the mountain. Over the year that number got revised and distorted. Firstly, as the blog record shows, I also acquired a Vauban-style star fort, which was painted, and a Russian village, which has also been painted. Alongside the village, a Muscovite army was purchased, adding 179 figures to the pile. The star fort, or rather the companion besiegers pack, included some sappers as well, which increased the pile again, and I tracked down some gunners and guns, officers and snipers, and a few other bits. So the pile grew by about 200 in that process. I also found some Early Modern civilians and ECW generals. So the overall total grew to 2534 unpainted little men, consisting of 1880 infantry, 621 cavalry, and 33 others – guns and chariots, for example.

The aim of roughly halving the size of the lead pile had to be shelved, of course. But nevertheless, the challenge of 1000 figures remained. I gave a mid-term report, which gave a total of 589 figures painted, 171 cavalry, and 403 infantry, along with 15 guns. This included the new purchases, and so I could feel rather virtuous about the whole thing. Not smug, of course, for my painting is nowhere near good enough to feel smug about but virtuous in that the lead pile had not grown any more by random purchases, and had, in fact, shrunk a bit.

At that point, 15 wargames had taken place and had, in the main, been reported upon. Some of these used the newly painted troops, and some did not. To date, a further 7 wargames have been played, bringing the total to 22, which is quite pleasing, even though few of them have progressed any of the ongoing campaigns, but have either been one-offs or played because I was avoiding the higher stakes games of the campaigns. Sometimes my own psychology seems to be a bigger enemy than any lead pile or table-top foe.

The initial painting phase focussed heavily on the early moderns, although the wargames included ancients: Caesar’s late Republican Romans and the Celts got a couple of run-outs, as did Marathon. The first try of Marathon hinted at some further painting requirements for the Persians; they were very limited in terms of reinforcements, and even more so if Immortals were not included (they probably were not at Marathon, after all). So as Persians formed the greatest unpainted force in the ancients part of the pile, effort was concentrated on them and nearly 200 figures completed.

I suppose that I had better clarify the basing for these figures. I am a lazy painter, as all of you out there who spluttered ‘Only one thousand figures?’ will aver. For the Irregular figures, infantry are six to a base and cavalry are five. For Baccus figures, there are eight infantry and six cavalry to a base. This is except for the ECW and similar figures, where there are sixteen infantry (or twelve Irregular) to a base.

You might deduce from that that my view of basing in muddled, and you would be right. I quite like the aesthetic of two ranks of figures on a 40 by 20 mm base. On the other hand, if you work out the ratio of frontage to depth for a 500 man battalion you get a width of around 60 men for a depth of 8. Hence you get an aspect ratio of 7.5:1 or thereabouts. Thus it seems to me that a single line of 8 figures captures the aspect ratio of the formation a lot better than two lines of figures, for all the aesthetic appeal of the latter. Therefore I shall keep basing inconsistently.

Army              Inf     Cav     Guns         Total

Polish GNW      48     48                          96

Danish GNW      8                                     8

Officers / snipers 9                                      9

Sappers              12                                      12

Scots              144     18                              162

Muscovite      102     75         2                  179

Civilians (EM) 39                                          39

Gunners              33              13                      46

Irish ECW          96                                          96

Anglo-Dutch WSS 56         30                      86

Bavarian WSS        64         30                      94

Persian                  176         21                      197

Totals                  787         222     15          1024

The current totals are shown in the table. The WSS troops are now complete, although I have not figured out my WSS in an afternoon scenario yet. The Persians are the only ancients to have been painted, and await further opportunities for winning at Marathon, although Plataea has been suggested as a more winnable battle for them.

The Scots and Irish ECW figures are finally being painted for a plan, that plan being the Battle of Benburb in 1646. JWH of Heretical Gaming had a go with the Polemos: ECW rules a while ago, and I have now read Hayes-McCoy’s account of the action, and it seems feasible, if I paint up some of the outstanding Scottish horse, including some of them as Irish. Hayes-McCoy claims that some of the horse on both sides were lancers, but I have no idea why. Still, it should be possible to give it a go with only a modicum more painting.

As for the future, I suspect (although I have note performed the subtractions) that I am starting to run a bit thin on Early Modern figures, except three regiments of Irish foot. A return to the ancients seems to be on the cards, where the largest outstanding army is the Parthians with a fair shed-load of cavalry. As they are one of the un-doubled ancients armies, they seem to be top of the priority list. After them, the rest of the ancients are really dribs and drabs of left-overs from old projects.

Of course, other things may occur. In the back of my mind I have Anglo-Dutch War ideas, more ECW infantry figures (see the Braddock Down write up for why) and possibly Punic Wars. But I would like to get my lead pile below 1000 this next year, or even (whisper it who dare) under 500. The current outstanding pile is 1510, by the way. Who knows?


  1. By my reckoning you've painted around 1500. Purchases took you up to 2500, and you now only have 1000 to do. Not a bad effort at all!

    1. I think I might hire you as my accountant... :)

      Thank you for the encouragement. I'm struggling to get painting again, but I imagine it will happen in the next year or so. It would be nice to get the pile below the 1000 mark but I need to avoid new purchases.