Troops in Review: Woodbine ANZACS

It’s a Friday double feature as I review two forces from Woodbine Design’s excellent Middle-East range. You can check out the Ottoman Troops article here, but if you’re specifically craving kiwi, here’s your look at their ANZAC minis.

Firstly, let me say that I’m not affiliated with either Woodbine or their parent company Gripping Beast (makers of the lovely lineup of SAGA miniatures and accessories). I had to buy these minis “full-fat” from the UK and have them shipped across the sea to me. And since this is a review, I’ll get that out of the way right here: it wasn’t cheap. Gripping Beast advertises free shipping on orders over a certain dollar amount, and although I was quite certain that I hit that number with the rate of exchange, I was charged full-price for shipping. So far, I haven’t been able to find a US retailer for this line. If you’re aware of one, please comment it below! That said though, I wasn’t particularly sore – these models are shockingly inexpensive. With exchange, you get a rifle section of 10 men for around $20.

The 4-figure Bombing Section. The guy center-right is carrying a sack of improvised jam-tin bombs. Mine may or may not be painted up as anachronistic Campbell’s Soup cans “for the family” 😉

Once I had the models in hand, I was very surprised at the quality of the castings. This line is not terribly old, which certainly helps, but there was minimal flashing or mold lines. I was in a rush to get my units painted and on the table for my Chunuk Bair demo table, and I did less than my due-diligence on cleanup. Any blemishes that you see in the paint are about as bad as it gets. They also have very deeply cast eyes, which are great for those of you who like to just let the ink wash do the talking.

One of my 10-man Rifle Sections minus their NCO. Notice the deep, sunken eyes?

Scale wise, these guys are on the tiny side. I would call them 25mm, and they scale pretty well with most places’ 25mm offerings. They go swimmingly with the popular ‘Great War’ line of miniatures from Northstar. Although Woodbine is advertised as “approximately 28mm figures” and note that “they do vary slightly, as do humans” – they do not scale up with the popular Phalanx Consortium or Wargames Atlantic 28mm models. I think what’s going on here is a combination of the Woodbines being “true scale” 28mm, and perhaps a bit of marketing, since 28mm has become a more popular scale than 25mm. It’s also totally possible (and very likely) that the marketed 28s from Phalanx and WGA are more in line with 32mm. Scale-creep is very real, and it certainly affects the B&P line from Firelock.

Although it may be unintentional, Woodbine does a great job competing with both Phalanx and WGA for offering “starter packs” of their range. I picked up their ANZ13 Starter Army deal, for about $65. It only saves you 10% on retail, but it comes with everything you’ll need to get started. 20 Riflemen, 4 NCOs, 4 Officers, 4 Bombers, and a Vickers HMG. One thing you will not find, are Lewis Gunners. They’re not an option for the ANZAC list in 1915, because they weren’t rolled out for service until the following year. More on the Lewis Guns later.

‘Goblin-Green Sawdust Flock – a pic taken straight from Woodbine’s page

Above the Starter Army they also offer a prepackaged ‘Expansion Deal’ and a ‘Battalion Deal’. These have diminishing returns for B&Valor players, because of the inclusion of a 18pdr artillery piece and crew. The ‘Expansion’ adds a second Vickers Gun, the aforementioned 18pdr and crew, plus a really cool trench catapult. The ‘Army Deal’ is essentially the starter pack plus the expansion, but it drops the second Vickers in favor of some battalion command figures.

My figures all came as single-piece castings. I got a mix of hats, mostly split between slouch and service. A few of the slouch hats are pinned up. Nobody is wearing a brodie helmet, because at this point in the war it was all soft caps for everyone.

My NCOs are a prime example of some headgear options from Gallipoli. From L to R – a ‘Gor Blimey’, Service Cap, Slouch Hat, and pinned Slouch Hat

Usually, the figures come with your choice of head, which is excellent. You can order them with all manner of heads selected from a dropdown, whether historical or not. Want ANZACs in their tunics but wearing the tin lids? You can order them like that. You can also order bandaged heads for your wounded, and pinned slouches with feathers for your dashing Australian Light Horse. These head options are more useful for ordering British troopers. If you need Royal Navy Riflemen, you can order Woodbine’s British sections and check the box for RND soft caps. They offer Wolesley Hats if you’re fighting in the Middle East. I’m going a bit ahistorical and have ordered a handful of Lewis Gun teams in British Uniforms, but with Slouch Hats so that they blend neatly into my Gallipoli troops for tournament purposes.

The second of my 10-man Rifle Sections. There are very few repeated poses among the ANZAC figures

I have only one complaint with these figures – they are incredibly fragile. So much so, that I instantly regretted using them for demo games with uncaring punters. Every man has a fixed bayonet, and they’re extremely easy to bend and snap off. The ANZACs are a little better off with their SMLEs though, as at least the barrel doesn’t come away when the bayonet goes. The Ottomans with their M93 Mausers have a tendency for the entire barrel beyond the stock to come away. To make up for sturdier guns, my ANZACs seem to have weak ankles. I had one officer shear right off at the ankle while I was trimming some flash, and another trooper popped out of his sock when I was holding him between my thumb and forefinger for some touch-up painting.

I love this officer sculpt, with his pipe and swagger stick. Those were the days; when officers didn’t duck, and went to battle with naught but a tin whistle, pistol, and testicular fortitude!

Quibbles aside though, the miniatures look amazing and are a great price (if you can somehow get them to honor the free shipping, or go in with a bunch of mates and split the cost). The ANZAC line includes everything you need to play this force straight from the book – trench catapults, machinegun teams, and bombers to use as “Assault Specialists.” It also has a nice selection of character packs, including good old Simpson and his brave donkey ferrying wounded back down to the beach. The wider range covers the whole theater, with French troops, Ottomans in Turkish Service, the Indian division, and British in their early-war uniforms.

Some of the troops in action on my demo board

Don’t forget to check out the companion article reviewing the Ottoman troops from the same offering, and keep your eyes peeled for a painting guide coming soon!

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