I have spent a trying though rewarding few days pondering the question of scale for my late 19th century 'imagi-nation' project but think I have now narrowed it down to two main contenders - each of which has its own set of challenges!
I am not going to use 42mm for definite. The cost is a big factor for sure but also the fact that the only range I would consider - Irregular Miniatures - is quite variable in the quality of the detail. Simply put, I can cope with 'old toy soldier' levels of detail or 'normal' levels of detail but not both at the same time or in the same army! It is a personal thing and is no reflection on the models per se; they look quite splendid when painted but are not for me. Similarly, the 'home cast' option is not one I have any inclination to pursue as it would be fraught with domestic harmony issues!
54mm are still under consideration but are falling away for a number of reasons. The main one is the table footprint as some of the models available are cast in fairly dramatic poses and take up a reasonable amount of space. Visually they would look fine but in a confined gaming space would tend towards the cartoon look. The use of a grid would mitigate this slightly but it would still look odd unless you used larger hexes/squares. My thanks to Ross Mac for pointing this out - I experimented with the cheap 54mm plastic moderns I own on my Hexon terrain and he is absolutely right about the 'look' - the figures looked way too large for the playing area, consisting as it does of 4" hexes.
This leaves the 28mm Perry plastics or 30mm Spencer Smiths. Each range has its own merits for my particular use and so ultimately the choice will come down to which 'look' I am happiest with. Having said that, the decision is by no means a straightforward one.
The Perry plastics have the advantage of being detailed and well supported with additional material not currently available in plastic - artillery, personalities etc. They also lend themselves to conversion very readily and the plastic is a medium I am very happy working with. I would be concerned with the level of detail on the models given my modest painting ability but, and it is a fairly substantial but, if the Army Painter 'dip' lives up to its reputation (and I have no reason to think otherwise) this should not present a major difficulty.
The Spencer Smiths are a different story all together. The plastic versions of yesteryear have long gone but the figures are now available in metal and are very attractively priced. They are crying out for an 'old toy soldier' style paint job and the range available is pretty good. I am referring to the original figures and not some of the later add ons as these tend to be not only more detailed but also more expensive. They would be simple to paint and could be converted as required easily enough (although not as easily as when they were plastic!). Taking the ACW range as the basis for my plan then the kepi wearing types would be ideal for the 'Russian' element of my project. The Turks would be a little more problematic as I would need to fashion lots of fezzes. I reckon that taking a hat wearing Confederate and filing off the brim and squaring the crown should just about do it. I have ordered a few samples to see how this will work out so hopefully will be in a position to make my final decision fairly soon.
The ironies continue though - a Charge! based organisation using Spencer Smith figures only some 35 years later!
Better late than never I suppose….;-)