Troops in Review: Woodbine Turks

It’s a Friday double feature as I review two forces from Woodbine Design’s excellent Middle-East range. You can check out the ANZAC Troops article here, but if you trade cigarettes for bully beef, you can have a look at the Ottoman forces below.

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 dashing gentleman in the center is meant to be any Ottoman officer, but I decided to paint him as Lt. Col. Mustafa Kemal, the future ‘Attaturk’. He is wearing the purple shoulderboards of a cavalry officer. The man on the right is actually wearing a uniform more suited to the Balkan Front.

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 8-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 TURK18 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 Maxim HMG. It seems that this starter was updated at some point, as mine came with a few sculpts which don’t appear on their site. I’m assuming that they’re meant to be the NCOs.

‘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 75mm Krupp artillery piece and crew. The ‘Expansion’ adds a second Vickers Gun, the aforementioned Krupp gun and crew, plus a really cool trench catapult. The ‘Army Deal’ is essentially the starter pack plus the expansion, but it drops the second Maxim in favor of some battalion command figures.

My figures all came as single-piece castings. I got a mix of headgear, and some interesting footwear as well. The Turkish troops at Gallipoli suffered almost as severely as the Commonwealth troops when it comes to supply shortages. This was a remote battlefield even for the Ottomans, and as the “sick man of Europe” they weren’t really prepared in the first place. The local Turkish population was on the hook to help provide for the men; and they were motivated by a desire to defend their homeland. They sent whatever they could to the front, including – according to one memoir – a fine pair of gentleman’s slippers. Some of the Turkish soldiers are therefore wearing odd shoes, including a sort of sandal made from their own cut down boots. More than one is barefoot. The hats too, come in some strange varieties of service and civilian dress.

The Ottoman Bombing Party is a good example of the mixed head and footgear. The guy furthest left is wearing a questionable civilian cap, and has on some kind of slippers hidden by the basing. The man on the right rear is barefoot entirely.

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. There’s a choice specifically for officers, and also options for the later German ‘stahlhelm’ with or without gas masks. You can also get them with the turban-like ‘Enver Pasha helmet’ (actually called a ‘Kabalak’) or with a fez.

The second of my Rifle Sections. There are very few repeated poses among these 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 Ottomans used the German M93 Mausers, and the barrels extend far beyond the wood stock, which means there is a tendency for the entire barrel to come away instead of the bayonet. The British SMLE isn’t as bad, because it’s encased in wood all the way up and therefore a bit more “chunky” on the model. I had to content myself with the fact that Attaturk was a cavalryman, and so perhaps some of these men were wielding some sort of weird carbine. There’s also a small problem with the models’ ankles being a bit weak, but this was more of an issue with my ANZAC troopers – not sure why.

The two models on the left are definitely NCOs, but I wasn’t able to find the 3 models on the right anywhere – they seem to be exclusive to the army deal. I really like ‘Not Comrade Stalin’ with the banner on his rifle.

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 Ottoman-Turk 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, and you can get German advisors to sprinkle in. There is also an entire range of Arabs in Ottoman Service, if you want to move your force to the Macedonian front. The wider range covers the whole theater, with French troops, ANZACs, 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 ANZAC troops from the same offering, and keep your eyes peeled for a painting guide coming soon!

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