As I mentioned previously, for this project I have decided to have the majority of the units painted for me, so over the last few months I checked out a few painting services, you're probably familiar with all the names so I won't list them all. With the house move in December and other things happening in my life, my gaming budget this year is very, very tight indeed, so more than ever I am looking for the impossible, really cheap and really good!
However, for once I think I have found it in Mabuhay Ministure Painting Service (MMPS), a new Asian painting service that started up in the Phillipines a couple of months back. MMPS make no bones about what they provide, well painted, ready-made wargames units at competitive prices, good quality figures for the wargamer! No not every last button maybe painted but these are designed purely and simply for the tabletop, and their focus is squarely on the new 28mm plastics from Perry and Victrix, which is exactly what I want.
I will admit when I first saw the pics of their figures from their site I was a little concerned about the painting 'style' they used. I had seen similar 'styled' figures at various shows over the years and often they were executed badly, and my main thought when I placed my first order was that they are cheap, which is all I can afford, but how much am I NOT going to like these. I was so very, very wrong.
|This one pic is from MMPS site, for once WYSIWYG|
My grown up daughter is no 'aficionado' but her lack of wargaming knowledge makes her useful at times, as you get an opinion that doesn't have 40 years of wargaming 'baggage', no preconceptions, well she was comparing the MMPS figures to another high quality painting service, I won't name them as this is not about criticizing another service, she commented that when you hold the figures from the other service up to your face you can see the incredible detail, buttons, eyes and the beautiful shading but when you place them both down on the tabletop 'oddly, you can see far more detail' on the MMPS figures. She said for tabletop gaming the MMPS were clearly the better, irrespective of price, I have to agree and so far everyone who has seen these figures says exactly the same thing.
The colors and the detail really pop when you see them on the tabletop, which is exactly what MMPS are aiming for. I must say that this presented a problem when trying to take pics for this post. Normally you expect to see close up pics of a figure taken from a couple of inches away, but that is exactly not what these figures are about, they are for viewing from 3 feet away but we have almost conditioned ourselves to not appreciate long shots of figures on a tabletop. The reality is these figures look vastly better in real life than I can convey in these pics and I simple can't praise them too highly.
One frequent complaint you hear of Asian painting services is about the lack of or difficulty in communicatiing with them. With MMPS this just isn't an issue, MMPS is run by Fons Liebert, a now retired veteran of 30 years in the Belgian Army, who not only cares passionately about the product he sells but also knows his stuff about Napoleonics. When I placed my first order he picked up that I hadn't specified the pompom colors, as I was not ordering a complete 6 company battalion, with other services I have experienced unless you basically give them something to copy you can guarantee it will end up painted incorrectly. A minor detail you might say, but to any Napoleonphile this is very important and proof of MMPS's attention to detail.
I guess with any company you tend to get 'special treatment' for the first order, the best painted, the fastest service, but as you order more you hit the 'production line' and quality and service drops. So far I have placed two orders for 7 battalions and I am just about to place another order for 6 more battalions, enough I think to say without a doubt that the 'production line' quality is no different from the first unit to the last, or put simply, the quality control at MMPS is first class.
MMPS are very flexible on basing, just name the size you want, I wanted 8 figures on a 60mm x 40mm, no problem and very nicely done as well, impressed me enough to ask Fons for the 'recipe' so I can match them. Just in case the eagle eyed spot it, all the bases in these pics are thicker than the standard MMPS bases, the one pic below shows the standard base thickness. I will cover the how and why of 1813-1815 basing in another post but just to say the top surface of the base you see in all the pics is in fact the original MMPS base.
The figures are well packed for shipping using custom made boxes with foamcore inserts, they arrive in perfect shape and as Fons has commented the boxes can be used as storage and to transport the figures to and from the games, you can catch a glimpse of them in some of the shots, it's a neat solution and one I intended to copy for other figures.
Turn around time on the order was fantastic, one advantage of 'ready-made', they tend to have stock when you place the order and after basing they are ready to go in a day or so. Delivery time from the Phillipines wasn't exactly the fastest at around 3-4 weeks considering our proximity but that's hardly under MMPS's control and at least it all arrived in perfect shape, which is all that matters in the end but if you do order, take a deep breath and don't worry if the package hasn't arrived on you door step in the first couple of weeks, they are well worth the wait!
I am often overly critical when writing a review, I tend to focus on the bad simply because I think that's what really matters, that's what can and should be improved, you can skip the platitudes, just tell me whats wrong with them then I can figure out whether they are worth it!
With MMPS there is nothing I can fault, if I was to sit down with a blank piece of paper and write out what I wanted in a painting service and what I would like to pay for the figures, MMPS is it.
If I am really stretching for something that is less than ideal it would be that they don't do any commissions, but when a service is aiming to be cheap by mass producing ready made units can you complain that they don't do time consuming 'one off's', I don't think so. Mind you the first unit I might commission would be the 3eme Swiss, I covered them the other day on this blog, and I see MMPS have them on their upcoming list anyway, so at the moment it's a moot point and the fact I want them to do commission is of itself a recognition of how pleased I am with the results so far.
So kudos to MMPS, I am a more than satisfied and MMPS will be the service I use for the bulk of the armies in Project 1813-1815. I would unquestionably recommend them to anyone, do check them out you won't be disappointed.
If you wan't to know more about Mabuhay Miniature Painting Service then check out their site here.