No. It isn't a competition. But as a miniature hobbyist you might be looking at purchasing from one of these two (if not both) and if you are new to this niche in our hobby you might be interested in who these people are and how it is that their miniatures and conversion ‘bits’ are so similar but again so different! If you’re not new to either of these names you may be still interested in my thoughts and honest review of the products produced by these two little companies.
This is not a short review. I felt the need to do this properly which meant first exploring who these people are, how their stores developed, which then explain most of the differences between the miniatures.
To help people read only what they think is relevant or to read this in parts and come back later, here is a contents of what I cover:
1) Victoria Lamb; who is Vic in 500 words or less
2) Rob Angell (what I know of Rob or more accurately Rob's miniatures!)
3) Beginning of the web stores
4) Rob and Vic’s different focus
4) Rob and Vic’s different focus
5) Criticism of each
6) What Vic and Rob have done right!
6) What Vic and Rob have done right!
7) Where does it go from here?
8) Looking back and closing remarks
Before I get any further, what are we talking about here?
Victoria Miniatures, run and mostly sculpted by Victoria Lamb, and Curious Constructs, run and sculpted by Rob Angell.
For people whom these stores are unfamiliar (and the search engines out there) – among other bits, these two small companies make conversion kits which one might use in the Games Workshop game Warhammer 40k, usually as the army know as Praetorians, (but they could be used for any sci-fi/historical 28mm game).
A bit of background for those new to the scene...
1) Victoria Lamb; who is Vic in 500 words or less
A South Australian with a background in theatre, design and visual arts, Victoria works as a professional freelance production designer. Victoria burst onto the warhammer scene in 1999 winning a Silver Australian Golden Demon in the 40k Squad category for “Caine’s Cannon Fodder’ command squad.
In Victoria’s words- “Caine himself was completely scratch built from milliput, one of my first full sculpts. Over the next few of years I collected the rest of the army. In keeping with the style of the unique command squad, every Praetorian in this army has been converted by adding the white webbing to their tunics and the eagle badges to their helmets.”
Victoria has gone on to win a total of 8 Gold, 5 Silver, and 2 Bronze Golden Demons as well as the Slayer Sword and Manufacturer’s Prize.
She is ‘known’ here in SA in the theatre scene, as a sculptor and as a designer. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I have heard her name in reference to something completely unrelated to warhammer!
Two quick examples-
Here in Adelaide there is an amazing bar called the BOHO bar. It has a really cool circus, Moulin Rouge, theatre themed interior, designed by… you guessed it Victoria Lamb.Second example, I have mention on this blog before that I am ex-military. In December 2010 the RAAF retired its F-111C Fighter-bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. These affectingly named ‘Pigs’ had a long history with the RAAF originally being ordered by the Australian Government in 1963! So it was a big deal when the last of them were finally retired. At the retirement ceremony the aircraft's mascot was presented to Air Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of Air Force (at the time). The mascot was sculpted by…you guessed it again Victoria Lamb.
I have met Victoria personally at a local model show and had quiet an extensive conversation about what she is doing with her little business and where it is heading. I had originally planned to interview her and post it up on my blog. But when it happened it was more of a laid back chat and I didn’t ask to do an interview so it never appeared on the blogosphere. What I will say though is that she has got lots planned and great ideas for where Victoria Miniatures is heading. She is also scouting talented people to sculpt and paint for her, which means she can bring out more bits and do it quicker. At that time Ben Makepeace (another South Australian Golden Demon winner) was painting up a heap of stuff for her. I asked Vic if Ben was on board permanently and with other sculptors adding things, whether she was building an ‘Avenger’ like super miniature team – Team Australia? But alas, no. Vic is interested in talented people to do commissions for her store, but it didn't seem that it was a permanent super squad.
One last thing that I really should also mention is Victoria’s own game - Labyrintus. It’s a quirky labyrinth game with fantasy miniatures that are very distinct and fun. She has said that one day she would love to produce at a small commercial level but that’s a while off.SO that’s my quick intro for Victoria Lamb.
Or more the story of Rob’s army, his conversions, and how that led to a Praetorian bits store.
I don’t know anywhere near as much about Rob as I do about Victoria. I have never met him personally but have exchanged the odd email with him. I know far more about his models though, seeing that I have been watching his army grow and change for at least the last 7 years. I feel like I have a bit of a relationship with them!
Many will know him as the illustrious Col. Gravis from his blog “Col.Gravis' Praetorian Imperial Guard”. I, like many, came across Rob’s work on numerous web project logs on different forums. Personally I noticed them somewhere between 2005 and 2007; some may have even been earlier. At that time I didn't have a blog of my own or any membership to forums but I would search for Col. Gravis’ stuff every 3 or 4 months to see his progress. Rob said early on that (like most of us) his modelling was inspired by Victoria’s Praetorian army.
One of his early miniatures really struck a chord with me and inspired me to take modelling further and start experimenting with head swaps and trying out that green stuff that was about the place.That miniature was Gravis’ Major Ackland, his original regimental commander.
I suspect that the miniature was a real turning point for Gravis as well. From there more and more conversions began to appear in his army. Finally, Gravis really exhibited his growing abilities with first the Dullest and later Capt Caine and the Cavalryman (Col. Ackland).
A brief temporal progression of models and sculpting:
Gravis' early stuff- Banner Bearer and Company Commander
Rough Riders, 2007 (first lot)
Rob's Caine, 2007 (Personalities of Orks Drift)
Sculpting up men for Pheonex Club in 2008
Mk 2 Rough Riders in 2008
Colonel Ackland, 2008
Ogryns in 2009 (among other sculpts and commissions) leading up to 2011
2011 Mk 3 Rough Riders
The next step came when Rob tried his hand at doing what all of us Praetorian gamers wanted to do, make up some Rough Riders. Up until that point most of us had simply cut Praetorian miniatures in half or used the heavy weapon gunner torsos and glued them to Attilan legs. But Rob sculpted up his from scratch with wowing results. With these being very popular miniatures, Rob sculpted up some Praetorian components for the ‘Phoenix Club’. This was a non-profit group which “arranges for the sculpting and casting components and models for gamers, by gamers”. The project was never finished but some of the components became available on Bartertown by a chap named TrooperXP. [I got burnt badly in a transaction by this chap trying to get hold of Robs Praetorian bits – but that’s a rant for another time!] Also around this period Rob sculpted up some Praetorian heads for Secret Weapon miniatures.
At that point the idea had been born, the skill was there, the market had shown interest, it was just a matter of time for it all to mature…
Beginning of the web stores
In the beginning of 2011 Victoria Lamb added a Drookian Fen Guard conversion kit to her web page. She had already been selling other original sculpts and miniatures for her Labyrintus game, but this was the first 40k conversion kits (they were even originally pictured with Cadian parts). These seemed to sell pretty well. I picked up 30 of them myself to do some Praetorians in kilts (while that never eventuated and the kilts are still kicking around in my bits draw others such as Col. Winterborne later achieved some beautiful kilted chaps).
|Victoria's kilts & Rob's torsos (with conversions)|
by Col. Winterborne
Later in July 2011 Rob finished his 3rd Rough Rider sculpts, got them cast and had them on sale on his blog in the beginning of August that year. These seemed to sell very well.
Victoria also started to sell a Rough Rider conversion kit and bits, Rob added some new torsos and both web stores were born in their current form.
so why does any of this background matter when comparing Vic's and Rob's bits?
It is important because, as you will see, it explains the differences between models that both companies produce.
Rob's and Vic's slightly different focus
Rob's and Vic's slightly different focus
Vic's early additions to the store leant more to a historically accurate influence. This can be seen by the fact originally she didn't have shoulder tassels (epaulettes), but did have webbing –just like the real-life Boer War British troops.
It seems that Rob was coming from a ‘Praetorian’ place rather than an historical place. What does that mean? Well Praetorians are not historical. Praetorians are a 40k Guard army that has the style, feel, and archetype of 19th century British colonial soldiers. Gravis's work seems to emulate this, rather than the original historical influence.
Currently both companies are expanding their ranges with non-British references. Vic is re-doing all the old GW guard favourites – Valhalla’s, Mordians, as well as other historical references- finally some Ausy slouch hats and Pickelhaubes, filling the void of GW Guard love.
Robs work has obviously evolved out of his army- take the Gatling gun, rough riders, tank commander as perfect examples, and is expanding his range too (also with Pickelhaubes LOL)
Let’s face it, to be a true review one should be as honest and critical as they can. So get out your broad shoulders guys here are my biggest criticisms of Vic’s and Rob's stuff…
Victoria’s scale is too big and Rob’s range is too small. (I know, harsh right)
-Victoria’s scale is too big
Scale is important! No, scratch that, scale is everything!
I remember having a conversation with Nick from Eureka Miniature’s– the good chap that casts Vic’s minis as well as heaps of other stuff. He was telling me about a young guy that came up with some sculpts. The quality was ok, but what made them so cool was that they were spot on the scale of the original Dungeons and Dragons miniatures. The hands, heads, weapons, and overall body had the same originally D&D look and feel. These miniatures were actually really cool, despite their average sculpting, because of their scale. When we play with scale miniatures scale is everything.
The scale of the miniatures are the biggest different between Rob and Vics stores.
As has been pointed out, Rob always emulated his work on the original Perry brothers Praetorians. Vic’s first commercial conversion kit was the kilts to kit bash up Drooken Fen Guard using GW Cadians. Her range grew from that and I think that there has always been an (unsaid) emphasis on keeping them easily convertible with the current GW plastic Guardsmen.
While Rob was emulating the early GW guard, Vic was emulating the later range. So, one of the big difference between Vic and Robs minis has been caused by the heroic scale creep that has plagued 40k over the last 2 decades.
Let’s break down this scale thing!
28mm heroic, what’s that?
From whiki: “Metal figures for tabletop wargaming and role-playing gaming are usually not described by scale ratio [1:64], but by the approximate height of a human figure, in millimeters. Manufacturers gradually enlarged the standard 25 mm figures of the 1970s, at first describing them as "large 25s," or "heroic 25s." By the 1990s, they were simply called 28 mm. figures, and have largely replaced 25s as the standard size for role-playing and many military games. Accessories scaled to match 28 mm gaming figures are generally built to 1:64 scale.”
Perry brothers GW Praetorians and Cadians: 27mm to the eye 30mm to the top of helmet
Early Space marine: 28mm to the eye, 31mm to the top of the helmet
Current GW plastic Cadian: 28mm to the eyes 32mm to the top of the helmet
Current GW Plastic Space Marine: 30mm to the eye, 33mm to the top of the helmet
Victoria’s Capt Caine: 30mm to the eye (no helmet)
Victoria’s Praetorian bits: 31mm to the eye, 36mm to the top of the helmet
(A mini made from Victoria’s kilts but GW torso: 28mm to the eye, 31mm to the top of the head)- Not surprisingly the same as current GW Cadian.
You can see that the legs and torsos of Victoria Miniatures are larger, but is this even a reasonable criticisms to make?
The answer is no. Firstly, I really can’t say that Vic’s miniatures are wrong because they are how Vic (and her sculptors) makes them. Secondly, Vic clearly states that her miniatures are 30mm. On that point I have to agree, they are perfect 30mm. They look good on a gaming table. Despite being slightly bigger than the current Cadians they convert well. The only issue when using them for 40k is that they stand as big as a Space Marine – but then again a lot of people will say that Space Marines are too small. Personally, my only issue is that they don’t fit well with the early GW miniature’s and as a Praetorian player that’s what’s important to me.
-Rob’s range is too small
While I feel that Rob has nailed the early GW scale well, the biggest issue I see with Curious Constructs is that I still can’t make an entire infantry miniature from Robs parts; his range is mostly heads and torsos. If I wanted to make some infantry troopers with his stuff I’d need to use GW Cadian/Cadachan legs or Vic legs (as pointed out above, none of which are the right scale for Rob’s 90’s 28mm heroic scale).
He is just one guy. An exceptionally talented chap, but can he keep adding to the range regularly? It is a harsh point because I’m sure for Rob this is a hobby not a full time job. In fact I’m not sure how he has managed to keep adding all his recent stuff?
This is one of those issues that will sort itself out over time. The way I see it, as soon as Rob casts up a set of legs that are the same scale as the original Praetorian miniatures, his store will sell out as soon as stock comes in.
What Vic and Rob have done right!
-The character and feel
Both Rob's and Vic's models are busting with character! I'll let the pictures talk for themselves.
-Quality of the sculpts and casts
The quality of both the sculpts and casts are at a high professorial level. Both have few seam lines and any possible casting flaws have been remodelled before sale.
The price and postage costs are very fair. The only thing to remember with Vic's store is that adding lots of optional extras, like epaulettes, holsters, goggles etc. can quickly increase your cost-per-model.
-Good store service
Both Rob and Vic maintain excellent customer service. They regularly update their Facebook pages to tell people what's coming, they post items promptly, and are available by email to ask questions. You will be hard pressed to get service like this from any large game manufacture.
-Vic and Rob are 'good evolution'
There comes a time when some companies get so big that they take on an ego of their own. They lose touch with their costumers and sell out the loyalty that the community had developed towards them (just think Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons and all the other games that were big in the 80’s). Dealing with companies like this can leave you feeling empty and abused. With both Vic and Rob however, it is like purchasing handmade pieces from friends. Actually, it isn't like that, it is purchasing handmade pieces from friends!
Throughout our hobby life we all strive to better our skills. When talented dedicated people get to a near professional level, if they feel compelled, this is what they should do with their hobby. Big companies getting too big are a bad evolution. But talented hobbyists going semi-pro by selling their unique miniatures are a good evolution. When the community starts sustaining itself with beautiful work like this, it is a good sign that the hobby echo system is evolving into a very sustainable healthy environment that will live on.
Where does it go from here.
What we don’t want is for any one of these small, special companies to go under – or simply lose motivation and stop what they are doing. Are they in competition? At some level obviously they are, but only like two small trees that are growing next to each other: They both are in competition for light and recourses but as they grow around each other they actually begin to support one another rather than kill the other off.
As I have been pointing out- if you look very closely they are both fulfilling two different niches that overlap. Rob’s is for the retro Praetorian players, -with the original scale nailed and the original feel in every sculpt that comes out. Vic’s is for the new GW player (mostly) that wants a characterful guard army, which is a void that was left when GW didn’t keep grinding out new guard models. While sometimes this overlap will mean that they both come out with the same head, I would argue that any two sculpts from two different sculptors are going to be different anyway.
When I brought my first Forge World mini I got a survey asking me what I wanted FW to make. I said 'Praetorian pith helmets', but unfortunately they never did. But looking back today we have stuff that surpasses my wildest dreams of what I wanted. For what seemed like forever I looking at people’s armies, like Vic and Robs, and wished that I could have minis like that. Well now I can. While I just said that it was unfortunate that FW never took up my suggestion, in reality it was very fortunate that they didn’t. I would much rather people like Rob and Vic be doing what they are doing. The fact that I can email Rob and say ‘what about this?’ Or speak to Vic and say ‘I love this, have you thought of this’ is way cooler than trying to have relationship with some faceless sculptor from some big company keeping secrets about releases for no reason.
Thank you Rob and Victoria. You guys rock.
Curious Constructs and Victoria miniatures are different and both very special. If per chance Vic or Rob are reading this, I must point out that this is simply my own thoughts on what you are / have done, I accept that I may be completely wrong about my analysis of your work. I hope no offence is taken at my ‘outside’ analysis. Please keep doing what you are doing and continue to evolve our hobby in positive ways.