Monday, 14 March 2016

The cast-pike controversy

15 mm mediaeval Florentine spearmen. All my 15 mm and
25 mm pikemen/spearmen have been re-equipped with
wire/pins, but I wouldn't want to do that with 10 mm figures
unless they come open-handed.
Doing the Thirty Years War with 10 mm Pendraken or 6 mm Baccus figures has been on my wishlist for a long time. For someone in Britain brought up on an Anglocentric view of history, doing the TYW rather than the English Civil War appeals to my offbeat tastes.

However, I am completely put off large pike armies by the prospect of bent and broken pikes or the effort required to replace cast pikes with pins or wire. Replacing 10 mm cast pikes is very tedious and time-consuming, and not always successful. Replacing 6 mm pikes is probably not even an option.

I raised this issue on the Pendraken Forum but the prospects of getting open-handed pikemen does not look good. Allegedly, most people want cast-on pikes and seem prepared to live with the fragility. Providing both options would be costly.

Baccus 6 mm, however, do have some Ancients with a choice of cast pikes or open-hands, so I was hopeful that as and when they get round to redoing their ECW range and extending it to the TYW, open-handed pikemen would be an option. So next stop was the Baccus forum. It's a possibility, but most people prefer cast pipes and that remains the priority.

Somewhat discouraged I looked at the idea of going down to 2 mm, but the Irregular Miniatures pike blocks look too small to cover the sort of bases I am envisaging and don't really lend themselves to being combined. Then there is Magister Militum's 3 mm pike-and-shot strips. Their cast pikes are undoubtedly smaller and thus more fragile than 10 mm or 6 mm cast pikes but being shorter are possibly not as vulnerable to damage. 3 mm is a better option than 2 mm, but although they would look good 'as a formation' they would lack the distinct TYW character of the larger, more visible, figures.

Somewhat counter-intuitively I also looked at going up in size to 1/72 plastic figures. Plastics are often inaccurate, poor quality, come in silly positions and lack adequate range, but the Revell and Zvezda Thirty Years War figures covered on the Plastic Soldier Review look absolutely superb.

Unfortunately, the Zvezda figures are a little larger and not necessarily compatible with the Revell ones. On the other hand, there may be additional ECW figures which might be recruited. Now soft plastic pikes may have a bend problem of their own, but the PSR pictures are promising, and soft plastic pikes are less likely to break. Alternatively, they would be easier to cut away and replace.

Less extreme would be to consider the lovely Testudo 15 mm figures now marketed by Khurasan which are supplied open-handed. But I'm forgetting myself. I really can't be painting a mass army in anything over 10 mm, so the most likely outcome at the moment is that I will make up some counter armies and wait for the world to come to its senses.


  1. Replies
    1. We need to get the cast-pike enthusiasts to regret their hastiness and admit that cast pikes are a bad decision in the long-term!

  2. This is a very real issue. My 15mm Tin Soldier pike are cast but are solid enough that they can take punishment. I have added spears to some figures in the Tin Soldier range so know the pain.

    I have also some extra pike (not sure of brand) in 15mm but while their cast pike are gorgeous they are very flimsy and bendy and need replacing. To remove them looks to be a major exercise so don't think it's going to happen.

    I aslo need pike for my Burgundian army which is again Tin Soldier. The figures I used were not pike and therefore from the get go the plan was to replace. When I just had to do (and have done) 16 it was okay, but I need to do at least another 16 and don't feel enthused. Reading about your pain helps.

    I also have to say I have a bit of interest in 1/72nd and find that they do have some potential. I'm now using a special sealer called Plasti-Dip and I'm hoping that will toughen up my finished figures.

    Good luck with your pike challenge

    1. I was aware of this problem from the outset as I had seen the limp spaghetti that other people fielded and was determined to avoid the shame and wasted effort.

      At least with 15 mm and above you have a fair chance of drilling a hole. With 10 mm you are likely to remove a good part of the figure.

      For games requiring only small armies (e.g. Irregular Wars or Crossfire) I am happy with 15 mm but for a big army I really want a mass effect for the minimum of effort and as far as I'm concerned that now means 10 mm or 6 mm.

  3. I share your pain, DoctorPhalanx! As you know, I have plumped for 2mm and avoided the bendy-pike syndrome entirely, but I can accept it is not the soluion for eveyone. I thought that Pendraken offered their League of Augsberg pikemen without cast-on pikes. I know that's a little later than the 30 Years War, but the European later battles of the seventeenth century have lots to recommend them, even if the information is a little tricky to come by. Looking forward to seeing where you end up.

    1. I'm hugely impressed by your 2mm blocks and I've been wondering if it is possible to scale down the game I have in mind. The table would become 72 cms x 48 cms and the infantry units would be 50 mm x 25mm. That would be OK. The difficulty is that basic infantry movement each turn would become 4 cms, which some players might regard as rather fiddly and tedious.

      The late 17thC certainly has its appeal, and in fact I already have some 10mm armies for that period. Some of the figures have pikes (and flags) which I didn't replace. They have survived, but the figures haven't had much use.

  4. I sympathize with you. I have 10mm Renaissance figures from Pendraken and Old Glory and Warmonger. I decided at the start to clip off the casted on pikes from the Pendraken and Warmonger and drill out the hands of them all and use the Old Glory wire they sell. It is extremely time consuming for sure but I think it looks better in the long run and worth the extra effort. In fact I've gone as far as clipping on off the flags that are cast onto the figures as well and putting on paper flags. Looks much better.

    1. I would certainly replace cast pikes rather than not, but with so many other projects on the go it's not an undertaking I'm rushing into...

  5. You've covered most of the issues that have deterred me ever collecting a pike army.
    2 other things to consider:
    Storage - taller boxes required.
    Basing - for those with their pikes lowered (Deep formation with overhang, or a thin line atthe rear of the base).

    Those who play in the Renaissance, or Hellenistic ancients have little choice but to endure the drawbacks of the pike.