More Than Half A Man: Westfalia’s Halfmen Army
Written by Kevin Birge
Oh, sure. Halflings (we can call em’ that here) look harmless. Little hairy-footed, gluttonous drunken blighters. More likely to pick your pocket or trip over your boots than to put up a fight. Peaceful, smiling, and friendly, if a bit standoffish around bigger folk. So the surprise is actually quite immense when an enemy takes the field and encounters an army of them. Why, it’s cause for pointing and laughter. Let the jests begin!
Westfalia does not think so.
A Halfmen army. With goat mounted cavalry, infantry, crossbowmen, and champions. Now, I don’t think the good Professor had anything of the sort in mind when he wrote his books and defined the race. But the race has evolved considerably in the hands of roleplayers, starting with the introduction of Yondalla in Deities and Demigods and continuing through intervening decades of shared imagination. An army of this sort would never have been assembled in a pure Middle Earth environment.
But it is straight out of my gameworld. And probably straight out of yours.
Full disclosure: I jumped into this assignment without a shred of forethought. I saw halflings, and the question was posed, who wants to review them, to which I replied,”me me me me me!” with my hand as high in the air as possible. Because halflings are cool, and they have long held a key position of importance in my gameworld.
That’s it. Not because I’ve got mini-painting skills. The last time I was into that, they were still being cast from lead and came in lavishly illustrated boxes. I’m talking Grenadier days, folks.
So this article is going to be about the figs, the company that made em’, and the very large changes in the state of the fig painting art since the last time I considered it
Firstly, let’s address the big shocker for me. These are not metal figs. They are resin, and meant to be glued onto bases. Many of you reading this have a stash of bases, glue, and all the sundry items that go with assembling this sort of product. I know now, but going in, I was expecting a product much like the old Grenadier and Ral Partha figures I was familiar with from the old days. You have to wash these, dry them, prime them, fix them onto bases, and then paint them. So I have learned something new and interesting.
(Note: I’ve also learned that with age, neither my skill set nor my eyes are equal to the task of painting figs this size. No question: I’d butcher them. Let those of similar vintage bear this in mind.)
As to figures themselves, they are very pleasing to the eye. The sculpts are well done, even unpainted they are good to look at. The Kickstarter had varying levels of rewards to buy into, from a patrol of ten figures to full armies with champions. And the variety is impressive. Crossbows, handgonnes, spears, bows, and halberds. Halfmen militia. Halfmen mounted on goats. The figures look sharp, they are well-detailed, and even within similar types there are varying sculpts. You don’t merely have one repeated swordsman. You have several. And this carries over to every type. The end result is that the army appears to be made of individuals rather than identical copies.
My lot comes with a halfmen wizard with cloak and crystal ball, and a halfmen commander of sorts in an ogre-mounted houda. (Check out the picture of the painted army. The halfling commander riding the ogre is toward the back center of the formation. The wizard is hanging around in the background. So this army has some firepower on tap!)
There are also halfmen militian, and halfmen carrying banners.
Physically, the figures are much better sculpted and have a sharper clarity to them than metal figures. Westfalia sent over a few metal figures (interestingly, they require mounting just as the plastic figs did–times have indeed changed, but I can see the advantages inherent to this approach) and while they are good, the resin seems to cast better than metal. Trick of the light? My eyes deceiving me? Or perhaps the resin is an inherently better medium for casting figs in small scale and brings out the best in the sculpts. All I can say for sure is that moving from the metal, to the resin, and back again, the resin figs are more sharply detailed. Even in the extremity of my elder days, this is easy to spot.
I didn’t receive all of them. A maxed out army would be around 100 figures. And you could easily make them larger. My lot came with 22 figs, representing a very good cross section of the line. Enough to see that a lot of thought, talent, heart, and soul went into the project.
These people love halflings, er, um…halfmen– and did them up right. If you use minis in your roleplaying campaigns, and need a good source of halfmen, this is a particularly good place. If you are a wargamer, and the rules will allow for the use of halfmen, this line should cover about everything you could want or need in the way of figs. Worth noting: the second wave of these figures, appropriately titled “The Second Breakfast”, is out. So you can add more halfmen, more goats, and even some buildings and terrain to the equation if you so desire.
If you have the equipment, skills, patience, and keen eyesight for these figures, they are a no-brainer purchase.
Westfalia, as mentioned earlier, sent along some figs not related to the Halfmen Army that bear a mention. Three metal figs, depicting an adventurer carrying a chest and holding aloft a torch, an evil sorceress, and what appears to be her assistant. The detail on the figures is comparable to the old Ral Partha designs. That is to say, very good indeed. As mentioned earlier, the detail seems quite blurry by comparison to the resin figures.
They also sent along unreleased vinyl figs of a bard, two styles of swordsman, and a giant centipede. The bard and centipede were labeled “unreleased.” I can only hope that these figures get released, they are too good to be shelved. The centipede looks like a job to assemble, however. The legs and antennae are separate from the body. Tweezers and glue, ahoy!
It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of what they have done with this simple, often-overlooked staple of fantasy gaming. We’ve seen hordes of orcs and armies of elves. Halfmen? Kind of a rarity. And the satisfaction of besting someone on the gaming table with these figures would be not inconsiderable.
Hats off to Westfalia for the unexpected and impressive foray into the world of halfmen!