Santa was kind enough to bring me one of the latest BF boxed sets: the mounted Cossack Company. This was quite fortunate, as I needed thirty of them for the next Vyazma or Bust scenario in the campaign I'm currently playing!
So, what do you get in the box? Well, I was impressed. For £33 you get enough bits to make up 44 mounted Cossacks and two tchanka's. That's 52 horses, 50 blokes, and two carts. Certainly all the mounted Cossacks you could ever need, unless your name begins with a K! The mounted troops divide into three squads of 14 (well, there are three commanders and three LMG's) plus a Commissar and a flag holder.
A note of caution, however. That's what's supposed to come in the box. Unfortunately mine suffered from the now almost usual BF problem of bad packing in that I had 12 extra tchanka horses and was missing 12 Cossack horses. Lucky I only needed thirty Cossacks! I've written to BF (no reply yet, unusually) and I am sure that I will eventually get the other horses I need...but it's still very irritating.
Pose-wise, the variety is quite good. For the mounted figures, there are four very slightly different horse poses, all of which are fairly realistic. Their riders are either holding their sword up in the air (SMG or rifle on back), or down by the horse's flank (rifle on back), or holding an SMG slung on the right side as if firing from the hip on the move. En masse, there is enough variety to make it look like a mob of Cossack horse rather than the Russian Life Guards!
The mounted figures come with the bottom half of each rider's body integral to the horse i.e. you have to glue the top half of the riders body to it. This I haven't seen before, and am not sure if it is a good idea or not. I couldn't be bothered to drill and pin all thirty, and had a few problems getting a good fit between top and bottom half. This meant that I had to use modelling clay to fill the gaps on almost every figure, which seems to make a lot of work for no good reason. I know that Evan from BF posts on the TFL group, so would be quite interested in their rationale for not using the more traditional complete rider route. Having dropped three assembled figures during the painting process, I can vouch for the fact that the join (without pining in my case!) will break one out of three drops, even when modelling-clayed together.
One other problem is that because the scabbards are part of the horse furniture, the Commissar and the guys holding the SMG's and the flag (i.e. something other than a sword) have an empty scabbard hanging from their saddle. Surely they can't be that short of sabres: a case of the man in front carries the sabres, the man behind picks up the sabre...?
Having said all that, the figures were the usual BF joy to paint. The horses have clearly defined reins and enough contours to their bodies to take washes and drybrush's very well. I painted them with a book of pictures of horses borrowed from my daughter open in front of me, and was able to get very nice and very real looking horses, even for the commanders' dapples and the Commissar's grey. The chestnuts and tans came out very well indeed.
The riders also take the paint well. So well, in fact, that I ended up painting them a la Foundry system not my usual black-lining. Every item got a dark shade and a light shade, which doubled my painting time, but looks really good. One note of caution, though, several of the faces had extremely unusual castings that gave the riders very, very, very long noses! I could have filed them down, I suppose, but preferred to keep them looking a bit odd and now have at least four Cyrano-vitches in my company! Oh, and the modelling-clayed join was, as you might expect, a pain to paint.
The final question was how to base them. BF/FOW suggest basing them on big BF bases in fours, with the commanders based with a wingman in two's on medium BF bases. They looked quite good on the back of the box, but didn't suit the rest of my army which, as most of you know, is mounted in singles: a pain to get out and put away, but a joy to play! Also, the thought of dropping a base with four cavalry on it filled me with dread! I tried various combinations, but eventually decided to mount them in singles, one to a small BF base. This looks very good...but does mean that my force of 30 Cossacks takes up a lot of room on the tabletop. This worried me a bit, but then I thought: but so it should! Charging across the table in three lines of ten, or a column five wide, they look most impressive, and would certainly scare the shit out of me if I was playing against them. Whether it would scare me enough to forget that horses are big targets and I have lots of guns remains to be seen...I shall let you know after Neil uses them against me for the first time on Saturday!
In summary then, I am very happy with my BF Cossacks. Admittedly the box had lots of wrong components, and they were a pain to put together, and took ages to paint (all my painting time for a month has gone into completing 30 figures) but they look bloody good, and I shall be seeking every excuse to use them in future!
PS: I had a bit of a varnish disaster first time around, so the pics below do look a bit speckle-ly. All sorted now, but not the best photographs.
Battlefront have now sent me all the missing parts. It did take them three months to do it, but they did do it in the end!