I recently acquired a handful of Crystal Elf Empire models from Alternative Armies and thought they deserved a little review. I remember these models being released in 1991 and being advertised and reviewed in Games Master International. Here’s ye olde full page ad in GMI issue 15 from October 1991, the last issue of the magazine sadly.
These models stood out at the time because they had a Napoleonic influence to their design, not to be confused with AA’s Flintloque range though which are fantasy Nappys. The Crystal Elves certainly stood out next to the competition and I rather liked them although I never bought any given my limited pocket money. Too many toys, not enough money. Completely forgot about them as time went by until a couple of years ago when I re-collected all the old issues of GMI and saw the ads again. Thankfully Alternative Armies still have them in production and the range features more models than I was aware of.
Moving onto the models I’ve actually got here it’s just a small selection that I’m going to make into a Frostgrave inspired warband. First up is a set of Garde Infantry.
Two spearmen (spearelves?) and an officer. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the size of them and how much heft they have. From the pictures I thought they might be quite slender and with older figure ranges there’s always the possibility that they might be on the smaller side of 28mm. They’re very much 28mm from foot to eye and are actually a bit bigger than some of the competition at the time. All very satisfying. Lovely clean sculpts, nice clear detail and the officer is just a fantastic looking figure. My only criticism is that his sword is a little short so I might try and rectify that before painting him. The faces are quite caricatured but I love that and it gives them a pompous arrogance that sits so well with the finery of their uniforms.
Next is a set of dismounted Dragoons.
Being dragoons they have mounted versions but I was keen to get the foot versions. Slightly more practical uniforms here than on the Garde Infantry, much more suited to skirmishing. Their helmets are a nice touch of finery though and the officer with sword and shield certainly looks the part. I really like the poses of these models. I’d be tempted to extend the length of their quivers a little though. I think casting limitations may have lead to the rather short length.
Finally there’s an elf warrior and a sorceress.
I really like the elf warrior, the pose and clothing look great. He’s a little less Napoleonic inspired I’d say but fits in really well. The face makes it for me though. There’s a hint of cruelty there along with the arrogance which just screams Melnibonean. The sorceress also has that similar look to her face and is one of the models from the range that is a more traditional fantasy looking elf. There are some subtle patterns on her robes that will need careful painting to make the most of. She comes with a staff that I’d say is optional as she looks great as is. If fitting the staff though the hands aren’t quite designed for it so I’d be inclined to cut the thumb off and add a new one with putty to make the hand actually grasp it properly.
And a few pics to show them alongside a few other models from the day to see how they size up.
Here’s a 1980’s Citadel elf and an early 90’s Bretonnian foot knight.
A Citadel Empire hero from around 1992 and a Grenadier foot knight from the early 90’s.
The whole Crystal Elf Empire range has 20 odd packs of models, just under half are the Napoleonic inspired types and the rest are more traditional fantasy elves which look like they mix together pretty well to be honest. What’s rather useful is that you can also buy all the models individually so you can build up full units of identical models quite easily. Prices are pretty good in this day and age working out at £2 a figure for most infantry (the sorceress is £3) and cavalry are £3 or £4 each depending on the model. There are also discounts for multiple pack purchases. Well worth checking out.