North Star Military Figures & More! A Talk With Nick Eyre.

Originally posted on https://johnwombat.wordpress.com/ in 2020.

Hailing from Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, via Zambia, Nick Eyre and his family settled into the ‘Lead Belt’ that is Nottingham (so called for the number of toy soldier manufacturers in the area) when he was in his teens. A keen reader from an early age, having already read JRR Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’, by the time of the move to Nottingham Nick had progressed to Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’. He collected Airfix toy soldiers as a boy, delving into model kit making, and it was Nick’s love of Tolkien that led to his discovery of wargaming. Insipred by a mix of ‘Miniature Wargames’ magazineGames Workshop, and their fantasy wargame Warhammer, Nick was hooked on all things wargaming, models and RPG related. A position at Loughborough based wargames company Skytrex followed, thus kickstarting a career in wargames for Nick. Roles within Games Workshop, Tabletop Games, Alternative Armies and Harlequin Miniatures/ Icon Miniatures/ Black Tree Miniatures followed. Then, in 2003, Nick launched his own model wargames company, North Star Military Figures.

North Star Military Figures & More! A Talk With Nick Eyre… Part 1.

In the words of Lewis Carrol, this blog feature “shall begin at the beginning and will go on until it ends”. I started off by asking Nick to tell me a little about where he was born and grew up.

Nick Eyre: I was born in the late 1960’s in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. It’s quite a trendy destination these days, but back in the 1960’s it was a run down mill town that was a bit rough round the edges, and I came from the rough edges. But I actually grew up in Africa. At the age of 6, my father moved his whole family to Zambia where he took up a position of electrical engineer at one of their giant Copper Mines. This meant I moved from a council estate perched on the Yorkshire Moors to a large house with swimming pool and servants in Central Africa. The whole family came back to the UK when I was in my early teens, and rather than move back to Hebden Bridge, we moved to a small village outside Nottingham. Of course, that meant my fate was sealed as we’d moved into the ‘Lead Belt’.

As a keen model enthusiast, I am always interested to know when and how this hobby entered the lives of others, a question I put to Nick.

Nick Eyre: Models came into my life early on. Like all boys in the 1970’s, Airfix Soldiers were an important part of growing up, along with model kit building, Star Wars action figures, etc. But being in Africa, my access to toys, models and books was limited. My re-supply of plastic figures was from ‘care packets’ sent from UK relatives, and I never came across the concept of Wargaming or Dungeons and Dragons.

Wargames figures came to me in the second wave really. Once back in the UK in 1980, I handed all my plastic soldiers and model kits to my kid brother. The thing that remained of interest was getting into more serious military modelling, 1/35th Tamiya and diorama building. At the same time, I picked up ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and totally loved it, I even moved onto the ‘Silmarillion’ at the age of 12 or 13. And it was loving Tolkien’s work that led to wargames.

I was visiting the Piece Hall in Halifax and I came across a little gift shop selling Citadel Miniatures, individually packed in plastic bags with header cards at 25p each. I’d never even heard of such things before and so bought the most ‘Lord of the Rings’ examples, two Ral Partha Goblins, a ‘Feanor-esque’ Ral Partha Elf and a Necromancer figure (I knew the description from ‘The Hobbit’, of course). My plan was to paint the figures to build into dioramas. What changed was when Games Workshop opened a shop in Nottingham, in the Broad Marsh Shopping Centre.

The timeline here gets a bit fuzzy. I was still regularly buying Citadel Figures, but I also got into hex-map and counter games. I had the famous SPI Middle-Earth Game for Christmas one year, And I’d regularly buy ‘pocket money’ smaller games. These introduced me to the concepts that I’d get into with miniature wargaming (dice and charts, etc). Somewhere around this time, I picked up an early copy of ‘Miniature Wargames’ magazine off the counter of the Games Workshop store. Now I knew what wargames was about and became familiar with terms like Ancients, WRG, Ultra-Modern, Kataphraktoi, etc.

Just when I was getting familiar with this new hobby, Games Workshop launched Warhammer. It was the perfect time for me, I probably bought it the first week it was out. I got the whole concept straight away, and was snapping the painted fantasy figures off those dioramas to re-glue them onto card squares. It also meant from then on I wasn’t buying random Citadel figures, I was buying regiments of Orcs and Goblins.

I really got into the ‘Warhammer hobby’, buying all the compendiums, journals, Warhammer II, the scenario sets like McDeath and Orcs Drift. But I also continued to get ‘Miniature Wargames’ every month, rather than ‘White Dwarf’, because it was miniatures and wargaming I liked rather than RPG’s. I only started buying ‘White Dwarf ‘when they added ‘Tabletop Heroes’, the precursor to ‘Eavy Metal, to the magazine.

So my hobby progressed playing Warhammer, the hex-map-counter games, ‘Fighting Fantasy’ books a bit, some different style board games and I picked up some other wargames rules, even checked out this Dungeons and Dragons idea. It was all with friends, I never joined a club. My hobby then took a new direction in 1986. Instead of going to Uni, I took a job at Skytrex, the Loughborough based wargames company, and have worked within the Wargames hobby ever since.

Next on my list of questions was, aside from Warhammer, which game systems Nick was especially drawn to.

Nick Eyre: I am a wargames enthusiast, I’ve never stopped even though it’s 24-7 for me. I’m a bit like most wargamers, the ‘butterfly’ mentality, I flutter from one game/ period to the next and often don’t even finish one before moving on. I mentioned my enthusiasm for Warhammer in the last answer, but actually I put that down in 1990 and never picked it up again, I ‘fluttered’ onto other fantasy games, too many to mention really. It might be quicker to mention the periods that ‘haven’t’ grabbed me over the years rather than the ones that have (Napoleonics).

You specifically asked about game systems though. I did love Warhammer for many years, and although I stopped playing the Fantasy version I got involved with Warhammer Historical for many years, I probably would still be playing if GW hadn’t killed it. Another big game system I played a lot was WRG’s DBA and DBM (and HotT), I played that for years, even entering tournaments. I don’t play it anymore, but I occasionally still play the Renaissance version DBR.

I played a lot of Fantasy last year, specifically the Osprey game FrostgraveI’m a big fan of our own Death in the Dark Continent. It’s a game of 19th Century African warfare. It was written by our friend, the respected writer Chris Peers. We both have a love of Africa, so I was keen to get into the period, and it’s such an enjoyable game to play it has stuck with me.

My current favourite period is the American Civil War. I’ve managed to stick with it long enough to get both sides done, and in true bonkers wargamer style, it’s not even a period my company makes many figures for. I’ve had to buy cavalry, guns and generals from other companies to finish the armies. Because I like Death in the Dark Continent so much, I’ve been playing an adaptation of the rules for the American Civil War. In essence, I treat both sides as European Soldiers. I’m enjoying working through it. Once this ACW bug has been played out, I’m really keen to take up Oathmark, the Fantasy Battle game Osprey have just released. I’ve got the armies, I just need to put the time aside and get an opponent to play against.

These days Nick Eyre’s North Star Military Figures is the home for a wide range of North Star models and model sets, from the Spanish Civil War to Fantasy WorldsAfrica to Horror, and a lot more besides. In addition, the company also holds a host of products from other model manufactures, such as Conquest GamesFireforge Games and Gripping Beast.

Nick Eyre: I started North Star Military Figures in 2003. Rather than it being some great business plan, it just kind of happened. My first job was in 1986 with the wargames company Skytrex of Loughborough. I then went on to work for Games Workshop, Tabletop Games, Alternative Armies, Harlequin Miniatures/ Icon Miniatures/ Black Tree. Over those years I not only learnt all aspects of miniature manufacturing, but made many friends and acquaintances in the hobby, especially around Nottingham, the ‘Lead Belt’.

Around 2002 I began planning North Star Military Figures. It was going to be a small online business making true 1/48th scale World War Two figures. I was going to have that as a ‘side-line’, and move into doing something outside the hobby. It never happened. While looking for ‘other’ jobs, to bring money in I was figure painting, helping ‘Wargames Illustrated’ a couple of days a week, helping Perry Miniatures, selling the North Star figures. Before I knew it, my doing a little bit here and a little bit there was a full time job, and I decided to throw myself into it full time. 17 years later, I’m still here.

I have left out a major part of why I went full time with North Star. That is in Sales and Distribution. Working in the industry all those years, I made a lot of friends on the manufacturing and figure design side. But I actually spent many years in sales, and had made many contacts with retailers and distributors around the world. When it became known I was working for myself not another company, those friends like Mike Owen of Artizan Design and Mark Sims of Crusader Miniatures came to me asking if I could get their lines into the shops I knew. “Sure, why not?”

Then those shops would say, “Yeah, I’ll take Artizan Design from you Nick, but can you get the Warhammer Historical books for me?” “Sure why not?” The break that I’m forever grateful for was all those figure companies and rule publishers who trusted me enough to sell me their products at wholesale prices, so I could then supply game shops. The company then grew in increments as the ranges I carried got bigger and more ranges were added.

That is our face to the industry. We’re probably better known to hobbyists for our work with Osprey Games, making figure ranges to go with their games Frostgrave and Oathmark. This came a little way into North Stars existence, around 2012. We were already a distributor of their games, and in a conversation with one of the chaps there we both thought making licensed figures to go with some of their upcoming games would be a good idea. The idea grew and grew to the point we’re at now with hundreds of metal figures and sixteen box sets of plastic figures.

North Star Military Figures & More! A Talk With Nick Eyre… Part 2 (continuing from Part 1).

Being an avid reader myself, with my preferred genres ranging from biographies to fantasy to horror (I’ve just reread John Wyndham’s ‘Day Of The Triffids’ for the umpteenth time and I am currently reading through Henry Wolff’s ‘The Prince And The Woodcutter’ (illustrated by John Blanche)), I was interested to find out more about Nick’s literary direction and expand on his enthusiasm for JRR Tolkien.

Nick Eyre: I am a keen reader. I was reading at an early age, I still recall reading my Enid Blyton books at the age of 5 – 6. As a kid I had read anything I could get my hands on. I was a particular fan of CS Lewis’ Narnia. I also read a lot of history, which stood me in good stead with my chums when ‘playing out’, I’d hand them all dustbin lids and planks of wood to suggest we played Romans and Britons instead of Cowboys and Indians. Like all kids in the 1970’s, I read comics a lot, I loved The Beano, etc, but I collected Marvel Comics, the Star Wars and Planet of the Apes series and bought 2000AD from issue 1 onwards for years.

Reading ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was a big influence in my life. After reading ‘The Hobbit’ then ‘The Lord of the Rings’ at the age of 12, I picked up the ‘Silmarillion’ straight away, and read it twice. Over the years, I have read just about every one of Christopher Tolkien’s books of his father’s notes, many of which are nearly impenetrable! In my teenage years I did move onto a lot of other fantasy fiction; probably every ‘Conan’ published by the 1980’s, all of Moorcock’s ‘Elric’ series and a good number of his other works. 

But as an adult, apart from Middle-Earth, I have found fact to be stranger than fiction. I tend to get into a wargames period, and read everything I can on it. So for example, about 10 years ago the Spanish Civil War became my obsession. The first books I read were the histories of the war, Anthony Beavor and Hugh Thomas both wrote quite thick volumes of books that covered it well. Then I would pick up books on specific subjects, like the International Brigade, the Foreign Legion, the Condor Legion, etc. Then it would be on battles and campaigns, the ‘Siege of Toledo’ was a particularly good book. Then I would look for literature of the period, this was my introduction to Hemmingway and Laurie Lee, and reading more of Orwell’s writings, ‘Homage to Catalonia’, in particular. I would also pick up any modern novel set in the Spanish Civil War, Victoria Hislop published one right in the middle of my ‘froth’ that I picked up.

By this point, briefer histories, like Osprey books, just didn’t ‘cut it’ anymore, I’d know more about what they’d left out, never mind what was in it. So I would cast the net further afield, the biography of George Steer was a good example. He was a journalist who reported the bombing of Guernica, but that was only a chapter or two in his book, the rest was his experiences in the Abyssinian War and World War Two. The good thing about this absorption of knowledge is that it spills out into the figures North Star makes, the rules we work on, the figures I’m painting and with the Spanish Civil War, it was in a two issue magazine article I wrote on the Battle of Jarama. Currently, that single subject focus is on the American Civil War, if you want to know about Butternut, I’m your man.

Released in 2015, Frostgrave: Fantasy War Games In The Frozen City is a fantasy skirmish game in which different wizard led warbands battle it out in a quest for greater magical knowledge and abilities. While Osprey Games provide the rules and literary supplements for Frostgrave, it is North Star Military Figures  that design and manufacture the official miniatures. I asked Nick why he felt the game was so popular among fantasy wargamers.

Nick Eyre: Why has Frostgrave been so popular? First and foremost, it’s a good game. When people enjoy playing a game, and start telling their friends, it’s better than any contrived marketing campaign. Frostgrave is quick and easy to pick up, around the launch a bunch of North Star’s chums would demo the game at UK shows, and people only had to play a quick 1/2-hour game and they’d leave smiling, already planning their wizard’s warband. Frostgrave ticks a number of popular gaming boxes. It’s got a bit of RPG in it, it’s a familiar D&D type world where your wizard and his warband have a degree of post-game character advancement. It’s a skirmish game, so wargamers don’t have to invest a great deal of time into building their armies. And because Frostgrave is ‘figure neutral’, people often built their first warbands up from the figures they already had. But even though you can use any figures you want in Frostgrave, the Frostgrave figure range has been a massive reason why the game is so popular.

The figures are great, the design team is a who’s who of miniature designers: Bob Naismith, Mark Copplestone, Bobby Jackson, Mike Owen, Mark Sims, Giorgio Bassani, Michael Anderson, Nick Collier, Alex Huntley, Richard Kemp, Jason Weibe and apologies to anyone I’ve forgot. The metal Frostgrave range is a great set of models, classic Fantasy figures in a cold northern setting, but it’s the plastic figures that have really grabbed hobbyists imagination. For the first time ever, we have given gamers a large series of inter-changeable classic fantasy figures. In the words of North Star’s Kevin Dallimore, “having a selection of Frostgrave plastic kits is the closest you can be to a figure designer without learning to sculpt.” Frostgrave players can easily build up a completely personal and unique warband for their games, and importantly we’ve tried to have as many female figure options as male figures.

Osprey Games have published a big series of supplements for the game, all written by the original author Joseph McCullough, that keeps people excited and interested, and we’ve supported that with constant new figure releases. One other factor, one which will bore gamers, is the sales and marketing power of Osprey Games and North Star. Many game publishers create a game, then need sales people to push it into the marketplace. Osprey and North Star both already have an extensive network of shops and distributors around the world that we sell to every week. Frostgrave was an easy addition to our catalogues and that accessibility really helped spread the word.  

Released earlier this year, Oathmark is the latest joint venture between North Star Military Figures and Osprey Games. Dwarfs, Elves, Goblins and Humans already have a selection of North Star box sets and metal blisters. With the games’ first supplement, Battlesworn, lined up for release later this year, there are plenty of new North Star Oathmark models yet to be unleashed.

Nick Eyre: What’s next for Oathmark? I feel like we’ve hardly started. Joseph McCullough has already written supplement 1 which introduces the Undead into the Oathmark world, and he’s planned to carry on with that. In regard to the figure range, we began 3 years ago on this project and have a release schedule that stretches on years ahead. In essence, there will be a plastic box set supported by metal characters for every troop type in the book. I don’t know if we’ll achieve it, but that is the plan. There are two box sets planned for the Undead, and the other sets on the work bench are Human Cavalry, Dwarf Light Infantry, Elf Cavalry, Orc Infantry and Goblin Light Infantry.

In addition to the fine selection of Frostgrave and Oathmark miniatures North Star Military Figures produces, the company also has a number of other ranges, from ‘Fantasy’ to ‘Horror’‘Africa’ to the ‘Spanish Civil War’.

Nick Eyre: I sold on the 1/48th scale figures many years ago, so I don’t want to dwell on them too much. They are the reason though for the name. It might seem odd for a company making Fantasy figures to be called North Star Military Figures Limited, but it’s because the first ranges were 1/48th scale WW2 metal figures. I wanted to make a range that would appeal to WW2 wargamers, but would also be useful to 1/48th scale model makers. This fell by the wayside as so many of North Star’s other projects grew faster and demanded time and money invested in them.

North Star 18661864The Menagerie and 1672 all have the same genesis. I bought existing ranges and expanded them. The 19th Century figures I bought from Helion Books, and the 1672 range from Copplestone Castings, he marketed it under the name Glory of the Sun.  

North Star Africa came from scratch. When our friend Chris Peers wrote the game Death in the Dark Continent, a wargame set in late 19th Century Africa, we all loved it straight away. We already had the Copplestone Castings Darkest Africa figure range in our catalogue, so the first armies we put together to play test the game were the Ngoni and a German Naval Landing Party. In conversation with Chris, I wanted to make a range of figures for this game we were enjoying, but not just do Zulus and Mahdists again. I chose to make figures of the tribes I was familiar with growing up in Zambia, tribes like the Matabele, the Bemba and the Ila. Chris’ rules were so detailed, these tribes and their opponents were already in the army lists. I wanted to make the warlike Matabele first, Chris lent me some splendid source material, including a particularly great book from Zimbabwe with drawings of the Matabele warriors we used to make the Elite Warriors and Chiefs. Although the range is small, it comprehensibly covers the Matabele armies. At first they were a Zulu off-shoot, their chief Mzilikasi fleeing from a vengeful Shaka Zulu. As they travelled north into modern day Zimbabwe they retained their ‘Zulu’ appearance as it inspired terror in their opponents, but they had to adapt their kit as they didn’t have access to the same sources as the Zulus in the south did. An example being they could no longer make the monkey-tail kilts, so developed their own Matabele kilt. As the 19th Century progressed they acquired more firearms, and used the ceremonial kit in battle less, so by the time of the Matabele Rebellion of 1896 they were in a mix of European and African clothes firing Martini Henry rifles.

Released earlier this year, Oathmark is the latest joint venture between North Star Military Figures and Osprey Games. Dwarfs, Elves, Goblins and Humans already have a selection of North Star box sets and metal blisters. With the games’ first supplement, Battlesworn, lined up for release later this year, there are plenty of new North Star Oathmark models yet to be unleashed.

Nick Eyre: What’s next for Oathmark? I feel like we’ve hardly started. Joseph McCullough has already written supplement 1 which introduces the Undead into the Oathmark world, and he’s planned to carry on with that. In regard to the figure range, we began 3 years ago on this project and have a release schedule that stretches on years ahead. In essence, there will be a plastic box set supported by metal characters for every troop type in the book. I don’t know if we’ll achieve it, but that is the plan. There are two box sets planned for the Undead, and the other sets on the work bench are Human Cavalry, Dwarf Light Infantry, Elf Cavalry, Orc Infantry and Goblin Light Infantry.

In addition to the fine selection of Frostgrave and Oathmark miniatures North Star Military Figures produces, the company also has a number of other ranges, from ‘Fantasy’ to ‘Horror’‘Africa’ to the ‘Spanish Civil War’.

Nick Eyre: I sold on the 1/48th scale figures many years ago, so I don’t want to dwell on them too much. They are the reason though for the name. It might seem odd for a company making Fantasy figures to be called North Star Military Figures Limited, but it’s because the first ranges were 1/48th scale WW2 metal figures. I wanted to make a range that would appeal to WW2 wargamers, but would also be useful to 1/48th scale model makers. This fell by the wayside as so many of North Star’s other projects grew faster and demanded time and money invested in them.

North Star 18661864The Menagerie and 1672 all have the same genesis. I bought existing ranges and expanded them. The 19th Century figures I bought from Helion Books, and the 1672 range from Copplestone Castings, he marketed it under the name Glory of the Sun.  

North Star Africa came from scratch. When our friend Chris Peers wrote the game Death in the Dark Continent, a wargame set in late 19th Century Africa, we all loved it straight away. We already had the Copplestone Castings Darkest Africa figure range in our catalogue, so the first armies we put together to play test the game were the Ngoni and a German Naval Landing Party. In conversation with Chris, I wanted to make a range of figures for this game we were enjoying, but not just do Zulus and Mahdists again. I chose to make figures of the tribes I was familiar with growing up in Zambia, tribes like the Matabele, the Bemba and the Ila. Chris’ rules were so detailed, these tribes and their opponents were already in the army lists. I wanted to make the warlike Matabele first, Chris lent me some splendid source material, including a particularly great book from Zimbabwe with drawings of the Matabele warriors we used to make the Elite Warriors and Chiefs. Although the range is small, it comprehensibly covers the Matabele armies. At first they were a Zulu off-shoot, their chief Mzilikasi fleeing from a vengeful Shaka Zulu. As they travelled north into modern day Zimbabwe they retained their ‘Zulu’ appearance as it inspired terror in their opponents, but they had to adapt their kit as they didn’t have access to the same sources as the Zulus in the south did. An example being they could no longer make the monkey-tail kilts, so developed their own Matabele kilt. As the 19th Century progressed they acquired more firearms, and used the ceremonial kit in battle less, so by the time of the Matabele Rebellion of 1896 they were in a mix of European and African clothes firing Martini Henry rifles.

The European opponents of the Matabele were the British South Africa Company, Cecil Rhodes’ private army. They marched into Matabeleland with cannons and maxim machine guns and massacred the Kings Impis, setting up Rhodesia. They didn’t have it all their own way, the attack on the Shangani patrol was Africa’s ‘Little Big Horn’, and three years after the BSAC ended the Matabele kingdom, they had to fight a 2nd war as the Matabele tried to re-establish themselves and remove the Europeans. In this 2nd war, Britain had to send Imperial forces to help, forces commanded by a certain Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout movement. Again with this figure range, it’s not massive but I wanted gamers to be able to field the different units and some of the characters involved. North Star making figure ranges for Osprey games like Frostgrave has diverted resources away from expanding the Africa line, but new figures will be added as time goes on.

Muskets & Tomahawks is a range of figures that we got into in the same way we have with Osprey Games. I’ve known the owner of Studio Tomahawk Alex Buchel for a long time, we are a major distributor of his Dark Age game Saga along with the Gripping Beast figure range. Alex asked if we’d like to make the ‘official’ range of figures for Muskets & Tomahawks and I said yes. Rather than make a full French and Indian War range, with all the different troop types that fought in the war with command groups, artillery etc, we are just making a skirmish range for M&T. So for example our British Regulars are just 8 figures skirmishing led by an officer. We won’t be doing Regulars marching in formation, with drummers and flags bearers, instead we’ll concentrate on doing another skirmishing group. This is an exciting project as Studio Tomahawk plan to make Muskets and Tomahawks a skirmish game for the whole Black Powder period, not just the wars of North America.  There will be a colonial supplement and a Napoleonic supplement to follow.

In part 1 of my blog feature on Nick and North Star, Nick mentioned that one of the eras of wargaming that he has never become too involved with is the Napoleonic period, I asked him why this was.

Nick Eyre:  I’ve avoided Napoleonics for one reason. We just don’t have enough time in our lives to do everything. The Napoleonic Wars are so massive, one could spend a lifetime and never complete the armies and read everything about them. So I’ve never allowed myself to get drawn in. As a boy, my Dad ran a cinema in Zambia (a part time voluntary thing) and he’d run the films on a Sunday afternoon to make sure they worked before the proper showing that night. I’d sneak into the auditorium to watch them sometimes, never knowing what was coming up. One Sunday I snuck in, just at the point the forces sent to arrest Rod Steiger were cheering along the hill sides. ‘Ooo soldiers’ thought I, and I settled in to watch ‘Waterloo’. I staggered out exhausted two hours later, what a big screen feast for a young boy’s eyes, the cavalry charges, the British squares, the field littered with dead at the end, gasp. All I wanted then was the Waterloo play set from Airfix with the La Haye Sainte Farmhouse model. I got it and loved it. But that was the high water mark of my Napoleonic enthusiasm. Since those school days I’ve played Napoleonic wargames with other peoples armies, including a really big campaign organised by Alan Perry recently, but never made it my period.

As Games Workshop’s Warhammer game had played such a big part in Nick’s wargaming hobby previously, I was interested to know why he had moved away from playing the game system by 1990, not to return to it. I questioned also if Oathmark shared any similarities with Warhammer.

Nick Eyre: The answer is woven into the life I chose. I left Games Workshop to work for a little Nottingham company called Table-Top Games. They were older than Citadel Miniatures, and offered a wider selection of periods than just Fantasy, though they at that time had ownership of the famous Asgard Miniatures. When I started working there, I fell in with the now sadly departed Chris Robinson, a chap who had cupboards full of 15mm Ancient Armies and a 24 foot wargames table. Every Wednesday was Ancients night, and it started with Shock of Impact, then WRG 7th Edition but when DBM came out we all embraced it enthusiastically.

Oddly during this same period I was doing a lot of RPG’s. When you combine regular gaming nights of Ancients, RPG’s and a new relationship with the future Mrs Eyre, you just don’t have enough time for everything. Although Chris had hundreds of beautifully painted armies, I still wanted my own, so I painted in this period a 15mm Pict army, a HYW English Army and an Arab Conquest army. I didn’t stay with Table-Top Games too long (though I stayed gaming with Chris for years after), as I was invited to join a new company called Alternative Armies. Although this was a Fantasy/ Sci-Fi miniature manufacturer, it still veered away from Warhammer gaming, one example being I was very interested in Celtic Mythology at this time, especially Irish Mythology, and there was a drive to getting them to make a Celtic Myth range, so that was much more interesting to me than the Warhammer World. I’ve not gone back to it since.

I have tried lots of other Fantasy Battle games over the years, nothing has grabbed my long term enthusiasm though I enjoyed them all. I’m super keen to get into Oathmark once this Virus is over and can start meeting up to game again. I’ve got all the figures painted up (not by me), so it’s just not having an opponent that is stopping me.

Oathmark isn’t Warhammer. The only connection I can see is that in the original  meetings with Osprey, I said one of the things I loved about my early Warhammer gaming days was I started with a few figures (5 Orcs, 20 Goblins, a couple of monsters) but 6 years later I was playing the same system with armies a couple of hundred figures a side, all ranked in regiments of 20-30. We should aim for Oathmark to do the same. A gamer can buy one box of our plastic figures and get a game playing an opponent with their 30 figures, but the system can still cope with games where players have 150-200 figures each. That’s it really, and the fact it’s a game of Fantasy regiments, all based individually moving in blocks of course. The Oathmark ‘world’ owes nothing to Games Workshop’s worlds at all.

Stepping away from the direct gaming side of things, I asked Nick whether or not he had any current painting projects under way, miniatures, scenery or otherwise.

Nick Eyre: Right now, nothing. I’m all or nothing unfortunately. Last year, I was spending 2-3 hours a night (longer at weekend) painting American Civil War figures, mostly Rebs. Loved every minute, surrounded by Don Troiani illustrations, Blue Grass playing on the Laptop, but when I got to having more figures a side than I could use in an evening’s game, the drive to keep painting died off. Everyone at North Star really got into Gaslands, the car combat game, earlier this year. I re-modelled a couple of Hotwheels cars, and painted Mad Max and a V8 ‘Last of the Interceptors’ car. But then nothing. I’ve stuck two flags on a couple of American Civil War figures during the lock-down, that’s all.

North Star Military Figures & More! A Talk With Nick Eyre… Part 3.

Following on from part 2 of the blog in which Nick described some of his enthusiasm for the American Civil War period and respective Rebel models, I asked Nick to tell me a little more about his model painting and if he had any tips or tricks he was happy to share.

Nick Eyre: Painting tips. If you’d asked me 2 years ago, I’d have told you I’ve not picked a paint brush up in years. It’s a big part of North Star to get miniatures painted, and painted as well as we can, so I’ve paid some talented people over the years to get our miniatures painted up. And in fact Kevin Dallimore is part of the North Star staff, so he’s our main figure painter.

But as I mentioned in the last part of the interview, in the summer of 2018 I got a real enthusiasm for the American Civil War following a trip to American and visiting the battlefields. Part of that enthusiasm was to have a Confederate army to game with (I’d not a single ACW figure up to this point). I wanted them to be the raggedy Rebs of Antietam, and rather than explain to one of our figure painters what I wanted, I thought I’d just do it myself. 

So, if I was to give any painting tips, it wouldn’t be a master class, it’d be on how to get an army done in a quick, clean fashion. I have already written an article on this, you put a link to my ‘Painting Cobbs Legion’ (HERE) in the last interview that explains it. But in a nutshell, I painted the Rebs up with just one highlight and liberal use of Army Painter brown ink. By painting highlights over the inked area, you remove that ‘muddy’ look inking can sometimes leave. Then painting on some details gives the models character and catches peoples eye, overlooking the simple nature of the paint job. These details can be 5 o’clock shadow on faces, tears on the clothes, civilian cloth patterns. It’s some credit to me that our Kev Dallimore went “hmm, might try some of these myself”.

In addition to the question of model painting, I wondered if Nick was drawn to the sculpting/ converting side of the hobby.

Nick Eyre: I’ve never been drawn to sculpting. I don’t have the natural talent, and I don’t have the patience to learn it. One figure takes a talented designer days to make. I am also in that position, which my modesty makes me embarrassed to admit to, that if I really want a figure made, I just pay someone to do it.

Converting is a different matter. As a young hobbyist, the work of John Blanche was an inspiration to me, and there are all manner of models in my collection that have been chopped about to emulate the stuff he was showing off. I don’t have anything to show of that really early stuff, but this is a Celtic Elf spearman I turned into a standard bearer back in the early ’90s.

But it is odd you should ask me about converting, because as part of this ACW obsession I recently had, converting figures did feature strongly. I spent hours and hours on the internet researching the Confederate army I wanted to paint. “Surely you just paint them grey” would be a good retort to that confession of spending hours researching. A grey Reb army wasn’t what had inspired me to do that project, it was the image of the bare-foot Ragged Reb at Antietam that fired my imagination. So I chose a time and a place, the Bloody Lane, Antietam 1862, and researched the regiments that manned the Sunken Road. I looked into the uniforms, but didn’t get too hung up on that, if a regiment had a reputation for being ‘well off’ then they’d be more uniform than those from less prestigious background. The two things I really dug into was the correct flag they carried, and the regimental officer. I’d search for a photo of the officer, and try to convert the figure to look as close to him as possible. And although I didn’t paint the Union opponents of the Confederates at Bloody Lane, I did the same flag and officer research and sent the right flag and converted officer to the figure painter (mostly Artmaster Studio). The conversion was very simple, using knives, files and greenstuff and either reduced or increased the facial hair on the model figure to represent the historical character, one character I added a cigar. Here’s some examples. (This whole mad project was documented on The Lead Adventure Forum HERE).

Nick explained that while the current global health crisis has caused understandable disruptions to plans, North Star Military Figures still have new games lined up for the not too distant future.

Nick Eyre: The Covid-19 situation has disrupted any big plans I had beyond current projects. The one game that has long been planned and I’ve spoken with a new writer to get started again in August is the Steam Punk version of our African Game, Death in the Dark Continent. Here are some pictures and artwork that are waiting in the background. 

While Osprey’s Gaslands is a game system that Nick mentioned in part 2 of the blog, it was not a game I was familiar with. I have since researched the game a little and found myself thinking of Games Workshop’s late-1980’s game Dark Future.

Nick Eyre: We had a strange relationship with Gaslands at North Star. We stock lots of games, and we just don’t have time to play them all. Gaslands was one of those. The thing that made it stand out was it’s space on the shelf was often empty. “Where’s Gaslands?” “Sold out” “What do you mean sold out, we got 30 last week”, etc, etc. When Osprey announced they were reprinting Gaslands as Gaslands Refuelled I said to the team “we should give this game a go”. We tried it out, and loved it. 

It isn’t a rerun of Games Workshop’s old Dark Future game. The scenario is different, it’s a televised Death Race game rather than Mad Max road war game. The old DF game was played on a board, Gaslands is played on the tabletop using movement templates, similar to X-Wing I’m told by other North Starians (not played that myself). So you customise your cars, add skills available from your team sponsor and set off careering around a race track. It’s loads of fun, and played in the correct spirit, hilarious. Plus you get to have hours of amusement on your own buying toy cars, pulling them apart to remodel them as Gaslands playing pieces.

This is one of the cars I knocked up on an afternoon for some of our first games. Because converting toy cars is part of the fun of the game, I never thought making cars in metal, resin or plastic for Gaslands would be a good idea. But suitable drivers and passengers are next to impossible to get. I spoke to Mark Copplestone, and said what about doing some 20mm figures to complement people’s car building. He was onboard straight away with it. He made the Interceptor Driver as a test piece, to see what we thought about the project. I loved it, and so gave the green light to do more teams. Although there’s no place for pedestrians in the Gaslands game, I still wanted one set of foot figures and one set of vehicle mounted figures per team. So far Mark has made three teams, Wasteland Warriors, Highway Patrol and Corporate Team. There’s more planned. They have been very well received by gamers. 

As way of a thank you to their mail order customers who have supported the company during the Covid situation, North Star Military Figures are giving away a special Elf Hunt Master model to all customers spending £25 or more on Oathmark products during June 2020.

Nick Eyre: Mark Copplestone has made the Elf Hunt Master as a free giveaway to our mail order customers as a thank you for supporting North Star with orders during the Covid-19 lockdown period. It was his idea, and he made the figure for free. At the same time, Mike Owen of Artizan Design also offered to do the same, which was a wonderful gesture by both designers. We don’t have Mike’s figures yet though, but Mark’s is ready to go this week.

Designed by Bob NaismithThe Wingless Dragon is North Star Military Figures first Oathmark monster model. A true Tolkien aficionado, Nick described that the inspiration for the dragon was Glaurung.

Nick Eyre: The Wingless Dragon was something commissioned by me personally. It’s Glaurung. My plan is to have an Oathmark army based around Morgoths army that sacked Nargathrond led by Glaurung. I always knew Dragons would be in Oathmark, so my conversation with Osprey was “Do you want this model in the range?” They love it too, so it is officially the Oathmark Dragon and the name Glaurung  shall only be mentioned in whispers. Actually, it won’t be the only Oathmark Dragon. There will be a winged Dragon, hopefully in plastic. In terms of other monsters, you just need to open the book to see what we’ll be making. All going well, if the monster is in the army lists, we’ll be making it. 

North Star Military Figures already provide a number of Oathmark models (plastic, metal and resin), covering HumansElvesDwarves and Goblins. Following the release of The Wingless Dragon, I asked Nick what else Oathmark collectors and gamers can expect to see.

Nick Eyre: The Oathmark range is ongoing. We have finished the plastic Human Cavalry and the Dwarf Light Infantry box sets, they are in the queue to be moulded in plastic. Michael Anderson is putting the final touches to the skeleton infantry box set, and that is off to the plastic manufacturer next week. That set is actually going to leap-frog the Cavalry and Dwarves so they can be released at the same time as the Undead supplement in November. Next in line are the Revenants, another Undead type, then Elf Cavalry then the Orc Infantry. Loads and loads to come.

I concluded my interview with Nick by asking what is next for North Star Military Figures. Nick explained that Oathmark is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of future model releases.

Nick Eyre: TBH, Oathmark is enough for just one company, but not us. We’ve got Frostgrave II in August, that will bring two new sets of plastic figures along with new metal miniatures. There is the Science-Fiction version of Frostgrave coming in 2021, we’ve actually started work on the miniatures now. There’s a top secret Osprey project in the pipeline we’ll be making the figure range for, but that is SO under wraps I’m not even going to hint at it. We have a new release of Muskets & Tomahawks figures, the War of 1812, to release, then we’ll be looking at what to launch officially with the 2nd supplement for M&T II, the Napoleonic Wars.

I mentioned the Steampunk version of our African game, that will gather steam in August. We are continuing with the figures for Gaslands over this year, and I’m planning Implements of Carnage II, a second plastic frame of accessories for Gaslands, to be released ASAP. In the short term, we’ve new metal figures for the War of 1866, new Crimean War figures, new African Animals, WW2 Romanian infantry and Mark Sims’ new Fantasy range to launch. It never stops.

This is the third and final part in my feature on Nick Eyre and North Star Military Figures. I would like to thank Nick for his time, efforts and generous contributions given over the course of the blog. Thank you, Nick!

Painting Cobb’s Legion by Nick Eyre HERE.

Follow Nick Eyre on Facebook HERE.

Official North Star Military Figures Facebook page HERE.

Official North Star Military Figures website HERE.

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