Since returning from my cruise, it’s taken a little time to get back in the swing of things. It’s further complicated by the fact that I’m back at work, even if I’m pretty much working for free.
In any case I’m back hot and heavy working on Aztecs. I’m using figures from two different ranges. There are a number of manufacturers who make figures for this period, including the British company Gringo 40’s. But I’m sticking with Eureka from Australia (though I order, quite happily, from Eureka USA,) and The Assault Group in England.
Honestly, both do a nice job of interpreting the appearance of Aztecs and the Aztec world. But their ranges are quite different from one another.
The Eureka figures are quite nice, but not perfect. I’ve painted four units (48 figures.) Their “novice” bowmen and atl-atl figures are simple, just appearing in loincloth, and can be painted in an evening. Unfortunately, they can also seem a little flat. They don’t seem to be as robust as other figure ranges, and lack animation. This characteristic is accentuated by their height. They are quite tall, and seem to have that lean and hungry look-a little less proportional than I’d like. At least half an Aztec army should be these novice and peasant classes. Non-noble types, like these, were forbidden from wearing cloth armor (with some exceptions,) and sandals-which seems just a little punitive.
But you may know, the really cool Aztecs wear brightly colored feather suits. Only nobles can wear these suits. The gear is often determined by local custom AND the number of prisoners taken in battle. Eureka has painstaking included the individual feathers in these suits. It makes for a beautiful miniature, but also not sure they have it right. They seem a little too spiky, and, as we will see, hard to work with. Eureka figures have their weapons molded into their hands, with no ill effect: the macuahitl, or war club, and tepoztipili, or obsidian edged spear. They also have large, feathered shields. I’m not quite sure they have these correct, but they certainly are nice to paint.
I’ve painted a few units by The Assault Group. TAG has a broad range for this period, covering units by specialty and region of the Valley of Mexico. Their figures are shorter and rounder than the Eureka figures-proportioned a bit more correctly. I’ve painted three units, including a Tlaxcallan upper class unit-allied to the Spanish. I’ve also painted a non-noble unit. This last unit is particularly nice, with a mix of bare-chested and quilted armor types. TAG figures have to have their weapons glued into their hand, offering moments of frustration. The shields are varied, with feathers and without, but seem much too small to me.
The feathered suits of the TAG Huaxtecs are less detailed than the Eureka miniatures. They have an irregular surface indicating something is going on, but the feathers aren’t individually articulated. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Huaxtec suits often carried the parallel black “hawk scratches.” It wasn’t hard to paint these on to the TAG figures, but virtually impossible with the very rough feathered suits on the Eureka figures..
The size of TAG Huaxtecs is considerably smaller than the Eureka figures. David Sullivan suggested they look almost like Huaxtec warriors and their sons with figures side-by-side. The photos show a clear size difference. What to do? I’ll likely stick with the Eureka as my go-to figures of choice.
One thing, more than any other determines my future figure purchases, and that is ease of acquiring figures and service. The Assault Group is located in the U.K., and they have no U.S. distributors. A local game store, The Panzer Depot, was their American distributor, but finding them difficult to work with, the owner chose to discontinue that relationship and sold off his stock cheap, which is why I have some. On August 15, I placed an order for some Tlaxcallan troops to fill out my Spanish allies. You must be an approved member of their site to order from TAG-it is impossible to order without an email approval of membership. When my order was completed, and payment was made through PayPal, I didn’t receive a receipt as I do from all other online orders. I finally contacted them August 26th, just to insure they received my order. Coincidentally, I received an e-mail the same day to let me know my order shipped. That’s not terrible or even slow service, but I would like to know my payment was received, and fewer hoops to jump through in an international order.
Eureka USA simply has the best service I’ve ever received from any manufacturer or distributorship in any country. The website lets you know what is in stock. The shopping cart is easy to use as a guest or member. Rob Walter, Eureka’s “Man in America” gives super customer service, responds quickly, and turns around orders very fast. I receive e-mails letting me know my order was received, receipt given, order shipped, and my order is about to be delivered. I always have an shipment within five days of making it-and Rob is near Boston, I am in the Seattle area.
Finally, TAG and Eureka figures are about the same price, $2.25 per figure. Purchasers from The Assault Group will benefit from the currently positive exchange rate with the U.K., otherwise their figures would be more spendy. Eureka usually charges about $7.00 or so to ship. TAG has a shipping policy based on points determined by number of packs purchased. Orders over 52 pounds are shipped worldwide free.
About the Huaxtecs
These aren’t actually Huaxtecs, they are Aztecs in Huaxtec dress. That is characterized by the feather suit (troops in these suits are often referred to as suit-wearers.) Though there are many types of suit-wearers, the tall conical hats make them unique. Huaxtecs also sported some unique facial jewelry, a gold ornament often covered their mouth. The shield pattern is unique to the Huaxtec region of the Valley of Mexico. These were sent as tribute to the Emperor in Technotitlan. According to a wonderful little guide to the Aztec army by web designer Chronofus (be sure to download the .pdf on Aztec shields etc.,) these soldiers are nobles who have taken at least two prisoners. They are allowed to wear feathered suits and sandals.
I painted my Eureka figures in a variety of suit colors. I chose four different shades of red for the TAG figures. They have similar shield patterns associated with the Huxtecs.
On my painting table
Aztecs, millions of ’em. Almost. Another unit of suit wearers from TAG. I’m also finishing my cannon by Eureka for my Spanish forces. I have one week left before school starts and takes over my life, but an entire week of teacher training. Will squeeze in as much painting as I can.
Music to paint by
Pat Benatar was in town last weekend, playing the the King County Fair in Monroe. I was not a huge fan during her MTV days. Her image and her songs took advantage of her amazing voice to create something that seemed to be incredibly contrived, and it just didn’t feel authentic to me.
But the little minx really did get my attention with her first record. In The Heat of the Night seemed to have a bit of a New Wave sound, featuring a belter who could cover ALL the octaves. Benatar got my attention with “Heartbreaker,” not the Led Zeppelin version (all four guys have writing credits,) but rather the Geoff Gil/Clint Wade song. With future husband Neil Giraldo on guitar, this song just smokes in a way that “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” never did. The album also has a solid cover of John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover (Who Won’t Drive Me Crazy).” Lots of other gritty, streetwise songs, including the quirky, but wonderful “My Clone Sleeps Alone.” The title track is also quite good, and the good stuff doesn’t stop there.
In The Heat of the Night may not be the most memorable record of 1979, but it is quite good. It is an album that is usually available pretty cheap.