Monday, 17 August 2015

The Bear Necessities (Animals 1)

The Italeri bears looking like a comedy act
Anyone who has the slightest bit of knowledge of the gladiator genre will know that animals were used for what passed as sport, but mainly consisted of slaughtering thousands of animals in a very one-sided fight. Every imaginable animal, of the ancient era would be used, some of which posed little to no threat to their antagonists. For my fights I thought I would stick mainly with the well known big cats, wolves, bears and maybe a few others.
In the Italeri Gladiators pack you get a pair of bears and  a pair of lions.
Flannigan and Allan ?
The bears are depicted on their hind legs which although a great pose, it's not completely compatible with the rules I intend to use, as bears are normally on all fours and have the ability to rear up on their hind legs. I could of course just use a counter to show what pose the bear was in but that somehow defeats the point of using models.
Two x fours
Finding suitable 54mm scale animals is by no means easy, unless you're willing to fork out some ridiculous prices for the old Britain's zoo figures and there are also a few manufacturers that do them in metal at comparative prices. So being the skinflint that I am I looked around for some suitable alternatives, coming up with some £1 bags of animals from the likes of Poundlandworld. Each bag of six or more animals at best had maybe two usable animals, which still worked out at 50p an animal (a bargain in my eye). There are many other such bargain buys around and it pays to have a firm idea in your mind of the size  you want your animals.
I was lucky enough to find a suitable bag that contained a single bear on all fours and bought two of them of course.
Two legs good, four legs better.
They're a little larger than the Italeri bears but fit in well enough for my purposes. As can be seen in the photographs the large animals (lions, tigers, bears etc.) are mounted on a double sized base (30mm x 80mm)  as they're meant to occupy two hexes. Smaller animals (wolves, dogs, boars, lynx etc.) have the normal single hex-sized base - I use 30mm x 40mm. 
The photograph clearly shows the smaller head/face on the Italeri model and to distinguish my two bears and their counterparts I painted one pair in a very dark brown and the other i a less dark brown, this can be clearly seen in the photograph above (I hope).
Two hex range good
So how do they compare with my 54mm figures, well the photograph on the right shows the Italeri bear against one of my 54mm gladiators for comparison purposes. You'll notice that the gladiators base colour doesn't match the arena's as the arena 'sand' colour hadn't been decided when my gladiators were painted and when I realised this future painted bases were put on hold until the arena base was finished.

Oh stercore!
Looking a bit more imposing, in my view is the bear on all fours shown on the other photograph.
A final word about these bags of plastic animals (I did buy quite a few) is that they really are garbage ! All are made in a soft plastic, that wouldn't be out of place if used as a squeaky toy for a dog and they also have other issues ! The bear for example has a distinctive 'join'  around its mid-rif as well as the normal flash I associate with cheap toys. I've cut the flash from the model, smoothed out the join and then re-cut the bear's fur patten into the model before painting (they took paint well) and I'm more than pleased with the final effect.

With a quick welcome to my latest follower, thanks for taking the time to look and that's it then for this week. 


  1. I did try to find more beasties for my 54s as well Joe. Although I saw the squishy plastic creatures in poundworldland I didn't think that they'd be paintable, but thanks to you I now know they are - thanks!

    Your project is really coming along Joe; the 'two hex range good' pic looks like it came from a game! Keep up the great posts!

    1. Thanks Colin, I too had reservations about painting the squishy plastic animals, but after a 'test' purcahse I was pleased enough with the outcome to go all out for it.
      Unfortunately the 'combat'piccy is not from a game - I'm still awaiting my first combat.

  2. Great Idea! I always forget about the animals in gladiator arenas. Could always add a touch of mythical to spice things up a little.

    1. Animal fights had their own time slot in Gladiator games, so can't be left out if you want to represent the games properly!
      Fantasy 'arena' games have a lot of potential for fighting animals and in a rpg style you can increase the 'level' of beast you face as your combatant's abilities increase (it's a feature of many a computer fantasy rpg)