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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Painting Service Providers (or "How I raised an Army without dipping my wick")

Hi Again

Recently I posted on the

"WARGAMES SOCIETY" Forum the following:
Well, in my drive to get my "Grand Army IV Corps and Imperial Guard" and "Opposition" completed I've called on the talents of some Miniature Painting companies to get my Corps "In the field".

"And The Contender's Are"!!

Model Citizen Miniatures (MCM), Fernando Enterprize (FE) and Reinforcments By Post (RBP) have all been sent packages of AB Miniatures 18mm Napoleonic Figures to paint. I also sent some OLD GLORY figs to RBP, as they claim to be "having great results" with Old Glory Figs.

I have also added another service provider to the mix; Dragon Painting Service, (DPS). Why? Well because I've recently been tempted to purchase some of their pre-painted miniatures. It must be stated that DPS will paint AB, Xyston or Essex miniatures for you if you let them know what figs you want and how you want them painted, OR, you can arrange to send your own figs.

A very brief brake-down on costs, (all in US Dollars) for 15mm "Napoleonic" figures.

1. FE charge as follows: Foot $0.80 For "Wargame" Quality, $1.00 for "Collector" Quality and $2.00 for "Showcase" Quality Double the above costs for Mounted.

2. RBP have two "standards", and charge as follows: $1.24 for "Connoisseur" Quality and $1.88 for "Museum" Quality Again, double the above costs for Mounted. RBP do have cheaper rates for less "complicated" uniforms. They class Napoleonics as "Complex". Apparently the "Standard / less complex" types are ACW and WW2, (less "cammo" patterns).

3. MCM has only one standard, as follows: $4.50 for foot and $6.50 for mounted. Suffice to say I expect these to be of a very high standard. Pictures of this painter's work suggest they will be.

4. DPS charge for 15mm as follows: AB/Xyston Foot: $2.50 each if they provide figure $2.00 each if you provide figure Mounted: $5.00 each if they provide figure $4.00 each if you provide figures Gun: $4.50 each if they provide figure, crew as foot $2.50 each if you provide figure Elephant/Chariot frame counts as 1-3 foot depends on complexity They'll do Essex Minitures a tad cheaper. So what have I ordered. Well from FE I've sent off 15mm AB Miniature Napoleonics and Old Glory 10mm 7YW Prussian figs to all be painted to a "Collector" Standard. Expected turn around is about 8 weeks. I was going to ask for some to be painted to "Showcase" quality, but the turn around time was going to be 20 weeks! I do however have some Early Medieval Russians in 15mm scale coming from them painted to "Showcase" standard together with some 28mm Foundry Romans and Macedonians, (also to "Showcase" and "Collector" quality).

I have sent off to RBP Old Glory and AB Napoleonics to be painted to both of their "standards" and also requested they copy a Napoleonic AB Highlander to match a sample I've sent. I also sent off some 10mm Old Glory 7YW Prussians. Expected turn around is again about 8 weeks.

To MCM I have sent of some AB Miniature French Imperial Guard Foot and Cavalry. Expected turn around is about 4 to 5 weeks

From DPS I have sent for some AB Napoleonic Russians, Prussians and French Old Guard Foot. These were alredy painted, so should be here within a few days. Ok, well I'll post more as the "Experiment" unfolds! Cheers for now!

Well, Here we are 3 weeks later, and I have some figures back! HURRAH!

First lets look at the figs from DPS:

These were pre-painted figures from DPS. All are the excellent AB Miniatures; (the BEST Miniatures IMHO). I ordered the following: 2 unit each of 24 Russian Grenadiers (pre 1812), and 1 unit of 16 Russian Currassiers, (Pictured Below):

For my French Imperial Guard I ordered 1 unit of 24 French Old Guard Grenadiers in Greatcoat 1 unit of 24 French Old Guard Chasseurs in Greatcoat ( again pictured below).

And finally 1 unit of 16 Early Prussian Cuirassiers (above)

Well the certainly arrived in good time, (about a week).

Packaging: EXCELLENT. I'd have to give them a 10/10. The figures were packed in pre-cut foam, then wrapped in bubble wrap and the placed in boxes. I dropped the boxes a couple of time and no harm was done. These could easily take the normal Postal Service poundings. Accessing the figures from the packaging was easy, with little chance of the customer damaging the figs in the process of un-packing! (Trust me, it happens)! As for the figures themselves; they were painted to a very high standard. They were painted with appropriate levels of shading and highlights. The Prussian Cuirassiers were uniformed in White uniforms, (always a challange to get right) The Old Guard were in blue greatcoats, (so not a real challenge), but were still a joy to behold. They'll strike fear into their opponents I'm sure! The uniforms were historically correct as far as I could tell.

Having not received the other orders back, lets make these guys our benchmark at a very respectable 7 out of 10.

An additional bonus with DPS is that they will base the figures at no additional charge. A big saving if you're planning to either : a) Base them yourself, (as bases and flocking material isn't cheap) or, b) get them based by the painting service, as on average they charge about $0.20 per fig to do it for you. It must be said that DPS use a hard cardboard to base on, (which will "bow" or "warp" I suspect. However they are well flocked and magnetized for safe storage in your average metal wargamer's "tool" box. Also, as a bit of a bonus the units came with colours (flags) already attached. Again, a handy saving. Also, given they only charge $0.50 USD for the actual foot figs (based on their own quotes), you're saving about 40% on the cost of the figure (based on what we pay for an AB fig here in Australia). So, on the Value For Money scale let's hand DPS a

9 out of 10.

Finally, a customer service score is now required. Well, these guys were pre-painted, so it wasn't really difficult for them to provide much in the way of communication; I saw what I wanted, sent the payment and got the figs. All the same, I received confirmation of my order instantaneously, was told when they would be posted, given a parcel tracking number and received the goods in short time. Lets give DPS a 7 out of 10. That gives DPS a total of 33 / 40.

Now lets take a Look at MCM!

I placed an order to have the following AB Miniatures painted:

1 unit of 16 Old Guard Grenadiers (top) and 1 unit of 16 Old Guard Chassuers (middle),
1 unit of 24 French Old Guard Grenadiers in Greatcoat with a Mounted Officer,1 unit of 14 French Young Guard Conscript Grenadiers with a Mounted Officer, 1 unit of 8 Empress Dragoons, 1 unit of 12 Guard Grenadiers a Cheval, (bottom): and finally 1 unit of 10 Chasseurs a Cheval de la Guard Imperial:

Again the figures arrived in good time, (about a 2 1/2 weeks). Of special note however is this was the last of my orders posted out, and yet it was the first to return!
Packaging: Fair. I'd have to give them a 6.5/10. Most of the figures were wrapped in tissue and or bubble wrap and the placed in zip locked bags. Some were wrapped in tissue alone and simply placed in the box. The figures were returned in an Express Post overnight parcel, and no figures were damage. I guess the fact we had no breakages is all that matters.

As for the figures themselves; they were painted to a Extreamly high standard. To say I was pleased is understating it! They were painted with appropriate levels of shading and highlights. Many of the Old Guard Foot and all of the Cavalry were in Full Dress, so there was plenty of "shiney" details to be added. (pictured: Young Guard Conscript Grenadiers)
The uniforms were historically correct. Even with the occassional Legion De Honour to be seen! Comparing with our Dragon Painting Service (DPS) benchmark,
l'd have to give MCM very
respectable 9 out of 10.
Yes, They are fractionally, (but noticably better than DPS. It's the subtlety of the highlighting and attention to detail that gives MCM the edge!
(right: Empress Dragoons)

So now lets talk "Value for Money"! The figures were returned without any basing, (but that's the customers choice). David at MCM did offer basing, but I prefer to do that myself. Given that DPS provides basing at no additional cost, but the painting standard isn't as high.

(pictured: MCM's Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard)

In MCM's favour is the super quick turn around that MCM provides, (amazing given MCM is a "ONE MAN SHOW"), Cost obviously is a factor. MCM's rates are as follows: 15mm Foot $4.50 15mm Mounted $6.50 15mm Artillery $5.00 That's considerably more than DPS, but MCM will discount based on order size. My order cost $400 AUD (including express postage).

So, on the Value For Money scale let's hand MCM an 8 out of 10.

Finally, a customer service score is now required. Like I said, MCM returned my order in record time, with the figures painted exactly as I requested. Communication was great, via email and phone. David even called me to check that the figures arrived on time and asked if I was happy with the order. I guess MCM does have a slight advantage as David is located here in Australia, (Victoria actually), so doesn't have the issues of Customs etc. So, based on all those considerations lets give MCM a 9 out of 10.

That gives MCM a total of 32.5 / 40.

That's almost a tie with DPS, (who scored 33 /40). Hmmmmmm So what seperates the two service providers, (almost nothing apparently)!

Well, I guess I'll be using both services again in the near future. My rank and file "LINE" types I'll probably get DPS to do, but my "GUARD" or "ELITE" units I'll certainly be using MCM. That all depends on how our other two Service Providers compare of course! So now we await Fernando Enterprise and Reinforcments By Post! Before I go, here is a comparison picture of AB Miniatures Old Guard Grenadiers painted by DPS and MCM's. DPS's are based and on the left as you look at them. Obviously they are MCM on the right.

well I guess that's all for now. Cheers!

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