Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Plastic miniatures on a budget - part 1: introduction

A very hastily painted set of just-about
tabletop standard (if you don't look too
 hard) Northstar Frostgrave cultists, as
acolytes of the cult of Bhelashara in
my campaign - I will be touching them
 up later, but in my defence they arrived
90 minutes before the session started!
I am, as I've mentioned in the past, a wargamer and also something of a railway modeller as well as a roleplayer. I do get a bit of a kick out of noticing the difference between the hobbies in various areas (wargamers' approach to scenery vs. how railway modellers do the same, for example - us wargamers have things to learn there!).

When it comes to figures, I find it fascinating how much people seem to be willing to pay, not just for 'hero' figures (which I can kind of understand, especially if you want something to represent a particular character) but also for the things you need bunches of, like town guards, cultists, orcs, skeletons etc. Now admittedly, some of the attraction for that is that (in the case of the Icons of The Realms and Pathfinder ranges that WizKids do) is that they're prepainted, but trust me when I tell you that you can do as well as the average WizKids paint job for not much effort bar a steady hand. That's another thread for later (my wargaming friends would laugh at me presuming to teach painting, as I freely admit to being rubbish, but): there are a lot of techniques around that side of the hobby that make 'tabletop standard' figures a piece of cake, even for near-sighted me. And as a friend of mine with whom I used to podcast often said, "It's just a token". Yes, people will look at them when you first pop them on the table, but as long as they look the part from 2' away. that's all that will really matter once people get stuck into the combat.

I dunno about you, but I find myself quite often throwing a bunch of various similar mooks at a party, and paying however much to WizKids to guarantee to get (say) five matching guards or picking them up on eBay gets pricey. With that in mind, what we're looking at in this series is ways of sidestepping to the wargames side of things to get a bunch of near identical figures on a budget. There are a considerable number of manufacturers out there who do boxed sets of 20-30 multi-pose/multi-part miniatures for around the £20/US$30 or less mark. Ranges are both historical and fantasy, but don't turn your nose up at the historical - lots of Dark Ages and Arab figures, as well as armoured knights and the like, will make great guards or bandits.

The other great advantage you will get is that not only are they multi-pose, but you can do head/arm swaps within (and sometimes outside of) a manufacturer's range. My Dark Ages British wargames force, for example, has warriors made up with arms and bodies from one box, heads from one of two depending on whether I want them helmeted, and shields from another. There are, actually, only about three ways of attaching a figure's head to its body, and there's quite a bit of commonality of design between manufacturers, especially if they use the same sculptor or duplication service (here in the UK, a lot of companies use Renedra, and that seems to make heads particularly very interchangeable).

One other note - scale. You'll see most wargames figures described as 28mm. This can be very variable, but technically that's from the top of the base to the eye (thus allowing for silly headgear). Now, some manufacturers do have interesting ideas of how big a millimetre is, but in general, 28mm wargames figures will match up to heroic minis: they might look a little small (my Tom Meier-scultped Jon Snow from Dark Sword's George RR Martin Masterworks range does tower 3 or 4 mm above the rest of my (Northstar and Fireforge) Night's Watch army), but they're going to be close enough. And yes, I know, you might not use all the box. But even so....

Next up: plastic humans of all kinds.

1 comment:

  1. My problem is time. I have too many hobbies! One day I WILL finish painting my figures from this lovely range: https://www.cold-war.co.uk/princes-of-the-universe