OK, having decided to start a new project and done enough research to get me under way, the next step was to get some figures! In theory, that should have been where the problems started, since figures aren’t available in 20mm scale (and only one or two ranges available in 15/18mm and 25/28mm).
But, I’m fortunate in that American Civil War figures look about right, and even more lucky in that I can live with that! Apart from details, ACW infantry in kepis look pretty close to Brazilians, even those wearing full packs, and they’ll also pass as generic Allied infantry for later in the war! So I had a look on the Plastic Soldier Review site to get an idea about the best ACW figures and managed to get all those I wanted – Union infantry by IMEX, Italeri, Accurate and A Call To Arms, and Union artillery by IMEX. The comment on the side of one box was a bit worrying until I realised it was a misprint!
In the end, the figures by A Call To Arms were a lot smaller than the others, so I only allocated a handful of them to be Paraguayans. It seems the latter wore either pullover-type jackets or sack coats, with length and cut varying considerably. The Italeri figures were a lot taller than the others, but included some useful zouaves that would pass for Brazilians or Argentines. The IMEX artillery crews were useful because they wear sack coats and therefore make ideal Allied gunners. The field guns are all useful since, although they are a bit small for ACW guns, they look about right for some of the lighter guns in use during the Paraguayan War.
I also bought some Newline Design and SHQ metal figures to fill out other troop types. The SHQ figures are a bit taller and wear kepis and frock coats and make passable early-war Uruguayans (assuming they’ve removed the cumbersome epaulettes from their coats). SHQ also do a useful range of guns and I bought a Whitworth 3″ rifle and a heavier gun on a garrison carriage. From Newline I bought ACW infantry in kepis and shell jackets to use as Paraguayans, artillery crewmen dressed in a similar manner, infantry in hats and sack coats to use as Brazilian Cazadores, zouaves in kepis to make Argentine Legion Militar troops, cavalry in hats to use as Paraguayans and finally assorted command packs. I also bought some Chasseurs d’Afrique from Early War Miniatures to pass off as Allied cavalry.
Both plastic and metal figures need modifying to pass as Paraguayans, so I did a test batch to see how they looked. Most of the infantry and artillery other ranks wore a shako and the easiest way to represent this was to add a plasticard disc to the top of the kepi and slap on some Games Workshop green stuff. Some pictures show the shakos as quite battered, so I didn’t need to be too careful with the green stuff. In some cases I added an extra, thinner, disc to make taller shakos and trimmed and filed some to tidy them up a bit.
Most of the Newline figures appear to wear their trousers tucked into socks and this is no good for my purposes! For Allied troops (mostly drummers or colour bearers) I’ve filed the legs slightly and added green stuff to hopefully look like normal trousers, so will have to see how these turn out! I started doing the same for the Paraguayans but found it easier (and more representative) to file away the socks to give the appearance of trousers ending some way below the knee.
So I’ve modified some typical figures, I’m happy enough I can represent most of the troops I want and I’ve managed to get enough of the plastic figures via on-line stores or eBay. As far as uniforms are concerned, I reckon I can represent the armies reasonably accurately, but I’ve got to resort to some bending of dress regulations in some cases – I prefer to think of it as using correct uniform items, but maybe not in strictly documented combinations! That’s something else I can live with!