I’m currently working on a Tang dynasty army for L’Art de la Guerre. I’ve wanted to build a Chinese army for a while, and the plan was originally to start with a Han force, but a possible club tournament focusing on the Dark Ages theme for ADLG pushed me towards list 171, Sui and Tang Chinese. In this post I’ll review the figures I used, and make a few comments on possible lists.
There’s a few good ranges of Tang figures in 15mm, but in the UK the most readily available are those from Outpost Wargame Services and Essex Miniatures (Khurasan in the USA have some very nice figures, as do Viking Forge). I went with Outpost; while the Khurasan figures are excellent I was wary of the cost and time needed to order from the US. Outpost have some really nice sculpts, and the quality-to-price ratio is very impressive. The figures are crisply detailed, well-researched, and generally dynamically posed. I’m especially impressed with the Sui heavy cavalry (STC2), which I’ll use as Tang medium horsemen; as the Sui lasted less than 40 years, I think a little leeway is reasonable.
One minor disadvantage with the Outpost figures is some lack of variety of poses. While some packs have two poses, such as firing and reloading bowmen and alternate riders for the Sui cavalry, or 2 different options for armour (crossbowmen) or shields and weapons (unarmoured and armoured spearmen, Tang heavy cavalry, 3 poses for peasants), the cataphracts and light cavalry only have one. However, once based the figures look more varied.
The figures clean up easily, without too many annoying mould lines and only some easily-removed flash, mostly on the cavalry. The metal used is softer than that used by other manufacturers (Essex, Xyston, Forged in Battle, Donnington, Irregular, Museum, Baueda being those I’m familiar with), which does mean extra-bendy spears, the occasional lost bow half, and some mould lines on weapons which are very hard to remove without damaging them (I gave up). Possibly just me, but the metal also seems to take a bit longer than others to stick with super glue. One advantage of the metal though is easy reposability, as in the below photo.
One reason I went for Outpost for most of the figures was the horses. Weirdly-proportioned horses annoy me somewhat, and lured me away from Essex Miniatures – however, I did pick up the Essex mounted general pack, which has two reasonable horses and one very elongated horse in full armour. The only drawback of the Outpost heavy cavalry packs was the lack of spears provided – especially strange given the infantry come with separate spears, the cataphracts have spears sculpted on, and the heavy cavalry do come with shields, despite few of the common visual sources showing them (such as paintings from Dunhuang). I’ll need to order an extra spear pack, which might be an excuse for some extra additions to make a more flexible list…
In addition to Outpost and the Essex generals, I picked up the Essex Chinese ‘slaves’, carrying baggage, and Bactrian camels, combined with a Baueda tent and some spare soldiers to make camp bases. I’ve also based some spare figures to be ambush markers. Personally, I prefer painting 15mm figures once their already glued to their bases – usually you can still access all parts of the model with a brush, and any imperfections will be much less noticeable once painting is complete (especially if using washes and Citadel Contrast paints).
So, what do all these figures amount to rules-wise? In total these give around 300 points for ADLG, offering flexibility. In total, 8 bases of fubing (mixed heavy spearmen and bowmen), 2 of crossbowmen, 2 of halberdiers (medium swordsmen polearm), 2 light infantry bow, 2 light infantry crossbow, 1 light artillery, 4 cataphract, 7 medium or heavy cavalry, 2 crossbow cavalry, 4 light cavalry, and 3 levy. Plus 2 foot commanders. The Outpost mounted commander will be Li Shimin/Emperor Taizong, the strategist option for the Sui and Tang list. The Essex commander will represent Guo Ziyi, a brilliant Tang general and the strategist option for list 175, Tang and Five Dynasties.
Overall, this provides a good base for a range of options for both ADLG lists, working as a Sui or Tang option. With a couple more bases of spearmen, and medium swordsmen as Tribal Auxiliaries, it can also make a serviceable later Tang list or Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (if Southern Han, there’s also an option for an elephant…). This provides a good range of possibilities, and the figures could also work for a later Northern and Southern Dynasties army (list 119).