Undoubtedly, the most (and probably only) really annoying thing about modelling with the new fantastic ranges of plastic 28mm figures available these days, is the difficulty you have holding on to all the fiddly little bits!
I'm not in the first flush of youth anymore and I tend to drop even the largest of objects; plates, keys, mobile phone etc., so those tiny little heads, swords and shields frequently end up slipping from my aged grasp and disappearing onto the garage floor, never to be seen again. Getting older really can be a bit of a bugger when you participate in a hobby like ours; not only do you drop stuff with increasing regularity, but then your eyesight is so bad that you can't find what you've dropped either.
On my last visit to Kelham Hall for the 'Other Partizan', I finally capitulated and purchased a box of Victrix Athenian hoplites. I'd got as far as hovering over the 'purchase' button on several different web sites before, but seeing the box in the flesh, as it were, proved way too much and I succumbed to the temptation, although only after comparing them with a box of Warlord Games hoplites.
Once I had arrived back at my workbench in the back of the garage, I started cleaning up a few of the hoplites, even though I just don't have time to fit any great number of them in, between painting up my Anglo-Danes for Saga and my Lancastrians for 'A Coat of Steel'. As usual, I immediately went for a musician and a command figure; I like to think that the others will arrive to join the commander to form a new regiment! I love the musician and I was really excited as the bits for the officer came off the sprue (yes... I'm 53!). I chose a nice head with its helmet tipped back for the officer, imagining him contemplating his next move before issuing some tactically brilliant order which would swing the battle finally in my favour. As the craft knife deftly removed the mould line from across the top of the helmet, the head pinged out of my fingers and, despite several frantically desperate grabs, fell into the murky abyss somewhere by my feet.
Two other things about being a 53 year old wargamer could be mentioned at this point:
a) there is a certain lack of dignity involved in crawling around on a garage floor, amongst the dust and cobwebs. Indeed, I'm pretty certain there are mice in there somewhere and they are not renowned for their ability to control their bladders!
b) you don't give up because loosing that head means that you can only make 47 hoplites instead of 48 and the wife is not going to sanction the purchase of a second box just to replace one lost head.
The search wasn't entirely fruitless; I did discover two previously lost Warlord Games Roman legionary heads, a Redoubt Enterprises English Civil War head (haven't done any of those since 1994!) and a random undercoated right arm with a javelin attached, but not even a glimpse of my hoplite officer's head.
I spent quite a long time being completely gutted at the prospect of not having enough heads to complete the two 24 figure regiments I was planning for some point in the future and even sent an e-mail to Victrix to vent my spleen vis-a-vis the fact that the lost head meant that a complete figure could not be made. To be fair, I received a very nice reply from Steve at Victrix offering me replacement heads, which was far more than I deserved. He also pointed out that their subsequent hoplite sets do indeed have spare heads, so don't be put off buying them if you also suffer from aged wargamer's inoperable gripping finger syndrome.
I often wish that I wasn't one of those people who just has to have several different projects on the go at the same time, but, on this occasion, it proved to be the factor which offset the loss of the hoplite head! Sitting on the shelf in front of me was a sprue from the Gripping Beast Dark Age Warriors set, including a spare head of my favourite baldy guy.
On closer inspection, the Dark Age warrior head had nothing about it which made it period specific and there seemed to be no reason why I couldn't put it on the body of my Athenian commander. The Victrix sprue has a left arm holding a crested helmet, which would fit nicely with the Gripping Beast head which was... just a head! Gosh! I was beginning to feel pretty darn daring at this point and cleaned up the Beastie head and attached it to the Athenian body. It looked a little odd to begin with, but I think that was because I was used to seeing it attached to several of my Anglo-Danish Saga troops. Once painted, I reckon he actually looks just the part; the beard makes him look like an experienced warrior, while the bald pate gives him that wise philosophical look, as though he has just leaped out of the bath shouting, "Eureka!"
These two warriors may have lived some 1300 years apart, but the common head seems to work quite nicely. In future, perhaps I'll not be quite so gutted when that plastic head shoots across the garage floor to join the growing gang of dust gathering domes.