Let’s Talk About Miniatures, A Tutorial of Sorts… Part One!

Some of our miniatures, models, figures… or minis as I like to say. No, they are not so heavy that they are making the shelves bow under their weight. Those shelves warped due to moisture when they were temporarily stored in our barn. Doh!

We focus on 28mm but we do have some 25mm and 32mm minis. This is apparently about 1/56 scale if you are a scale modeler. In addition we have some 1/72 scale minis, Trolls, where they are a bit smaller than the 28mm Trolls but look the part nonetheless.

From left to right, DarknAlliance (1/72), Eaglemoss, Eaglemoss, Games Workshop, Eaglemoss, Games Workshop, Eaglemoss, Eaglemoss.

In this we accept some differences in scale because humanity, in fact nature itself, is diverse in reality. We can have Warwick Davis next to Andre the Giant for example. A little variation in scale can also help minis look less like clones.

Our minis come from a number of manufacturers. Some are designed and marketed for role playing games, others for tabletop wargames and even a few for board games. Each is selected considering a balance of looking cool, being well made and being cost effective. When I said well made, I mean a combination of quality material, production and sculpt. I find a detailed, crisp sculpt easier to paint well. Other prefer softer sculpts. Or ones with less defined features so that they can more easily add their own via their painting style.

Here you can see a selection of minis, from left to right. Dwarven Forge (Factory painted), Wizkids, Reaper Bones Black, Perry Miniatures, Fireforge, Conquest (with a lot of non-Conquest bits), Northstar Miniatures Frostgrave, and Games Workshop.

One of the things that affects the apparent size is how the overall height is affected by the base choice. Some minis, like many of the older Games Workshop ones, have a tab attached to the bottom of their feet. This then fits into a slotted 25mm base, sometimes called a “slotta base”. This kind of base has quite a tall profile compared to other 25mm round bases.


Yes, 28mm minis on 25mm round bases. The 28mm generally refers to height from soles of feet to eyes but the dreaded “scale creep” and variation of interpretation of scale between manufacturers can confuse things. Games Workshop for example is known for “heroic 28mm”, with heads, hands and weapons out of realistic proportions.

For a much deeper explanation on scale in regards to this, try this link.

https://alkony.enerla.net/english/the-nexus/miniatures-nexus/miniature-hobby/miniature-size-miniature-scale

Some of our minis have small “islands” that their feet are attached to. This can add height to a mini. Because of this, I like to put this kind of mini on as thin a base as I can. Warlord Games makes some very thin bases with a small lip around the edge. This works well for these “islands” as I then put in a mix of sand and very small gravel, which creates a nice texture for the base appearance.


If the “island” is too obvious I sometimes add some greenstuff (a type of modeling putty) to the base to try to make it look more natural.


Minis that end at the soles of their feet I tend to put on Renedra bases at this point, although in the past I have used various other 25mm round bases, including MDF, mostly down to what I could get cheap at the time. The advantage to these compared to Warlord Games bases is that the feet tend to look a little less buried than on Warlord Games bases when the mini has no integral “island” attached to the feet.


I like to paint the bases brown. A simple mid-brown acrylic house paint. After that, bits on the base that look like stones get some grey paint. Then I use either Strong Tone Army Painter wash, GW Citadel Agrax Earthshade wash or my own wash which is a mix of various left over brown washes. Once that dries I dry brush the top with a very light brown or beige. The sides of the base stay washed brown if I am keeping the mini, otherwise I paint it matt black. Then the top gets various bits of foliage and decoration depending on my mood. Grass tufts, flowers, more stones, flock, static grass, green foam bits, lichen, etc.

From left to right, GW Citadel “slotta“ base, Renedra base and Warlord Games “lipped” base. If I was motivated enough, I would try to find a way to put all of minis on the Warlord Games bases but that is just too much work to contemplate given how much I still have unpainted to do. However I do like the idea of more consistency in our basing.

Speaking of consistency, an advantage of doing the bulk of our minis this way, rather than have the base specifically themed to the mini as many other modelers do is that they provide a consistent and coherent look to the minis when seen together in larger numbers. And they suit the temperate outdoor locations most of our current games are located.

And we make our larger unit tray bases in the same consistent manner

Pike armed units look particularly good on the big unit bases. We have chosen to keep each mini on an individual round base and then use sabot unit trays rather than base them together as units, which is commonly done in wargaming circles, as we do so much skirmish style gaming where each mini represents a single individual. And we have done these in our usual temperate outdoor scheme.

This of course does clash with underground, shipboard or indoor locations. A bartender in the tavern with grass and mud around his feet does look a little odd. But we think it would also look odd for him to be standing on a stone or wood circular floor when outside.

We did consider clear bases, like we use for our Core Space minis but we decided that although they look fine in a sci-fi setting, the transparent plastic looked somehow out of place to us on the Medieval fantasy minis.


As I said before, we use a lot of different kinds of minis. People have their own favorite brands, often largely based on manufacturing process, sculpting or material.

Here we have, from left to right, Wizkids, Reaper Bones Black, Reaper Bones Black, Reaper Bones Black, Reaper (white metal) and a resin mini from a manufacturer that I have forgotten but was usually quite expensive but we got it on sale at a the Crisis gaming convention in Belgium a couple of years ago.

The Wizkids peasant is one of the few Wizkids humans I have. We won more as part of a larger auction but we decided to put them back on eBay. I liked this one. He is a bit on the big side, 32mm, and the sculpting is soft but I like the proportions and there are some nice details.

I have read much debate between the merits of Wizkids and Reaper Bones/Bones Black. Each must decide for themselves which they prefer, if choose they must. I generally prefer the Reaper Bones Black but that does not mean I dislike all Wizkids. And whilst I think the resin sculpt in the picture is the “best“ of the three I am not prepared to pay too end for each of my minis. I am world building on a budget.

Wizkids may not always look the best unpainted and may not be the easiest to paint due to the soft details but this is what I achieved on a Wizkids pack mule. Wizkids and Bones, being somewhat soft can be more difficult to clean flash and mould lines off of. Bones Black is a bit better, like the better PVC board game pieces. Resin can be brittle. My favorite material is hard plastic, as you commonly find in the multi-part plastic kits of Frostgrave, Perry, Fireforge and Wargames Atlantic.

And here is a Wizkids Half-Orc Paladin that I converted into a Medieval fantasy version of Paladin Danse from Fallout 4.

The original Half-Orc head looked too small so I used a larger human head from my bits box. I forgot the make of that head. And I wanted a different sword blade. Again a mushy, soft sculpt but with a bit of effort you can work with it.

Flash and mould lines are one of the real annoyances in modeling for me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_(manufacturing)

And reputable, high quality hard plastic kits are not immune from it. They just tend to be a bit easier to clean off due to the properties of the material used.

Here you can see some unpleasant flash on their multi-part plastic sprue of Victrix Napoleonic French (for our Tarnished Splendor project).

As an aside, as you can see with the Wizkids pack mule (pack animals make great objective markers in many games, you can never have enough) I base many animals on 40mm bases. All of our cavalry models for our Middle Earth gaming is on 40mm round bases. However I have been considering the idea of using oval shaped “pill” bases for our Tarnished Splendor project due to that being a common basing practice in Sharp Practice.


I have worked with Reaper Bones material. It is not a lot of fun. Bones Black is much better. But it is not perfect and not as good as their metal sculpts but it is less expensive. It is in my opinion equal to a number of the better PVC board game minis.

From left to right, Wizkids, Reaper Bones Black, Blacklist Games Fantasy Series 1 and Blacklist Games Fantasy Series 1.

As you can see, some of the minis have more realistic proportions. At first glance you might think this is the best but some times a bit of exaggeration in sculpting or painting can make a better looking mini at arms length, in other words on the table. Think of it like stage makeup in theater. However, too much exaggeration is not good either in my opinion. Getting the balance right is tricky. Perry miniatures for example are often praised for their realistic proportions but this can make the more difficult to paint small details well, look a bit “weedy” and make their weapons fragile.


From right to left, Dwarven Forge, Wizkids, Reaper Bones Black, Perry, Fireforge.


We are open minded about repurposing minis for our own needs so we do use board game minis we like. Scale can often be problematic. I wanted to be able to use minis in the past that at 35mm were just too big. I am concerned for example the Conan and Solomon Kane minis will be too big for us.


From left to right, CMON (Cool Mini or Not) Zombicide, CMON Massive Darkness, CMON Zombicide, CMON Hate, Perry and Games Workshop.

Context of the individual sculpt helps determine what fits size wise as well. Barbarians can look good on the big side. 1/72nd scale, 20mm or even 25mm Orcs can sometimes make fine Goblins.

How minis look unpainted can change quite a bit with paint and finished bases.

Front row from left to right, unknown maker 25mm, Frostgrave, Frostgrave, Perry, Games Workshop (I think), Mithril, Games Workshop. They look diverse but believably so in my opinion. You may or may not agree. Art is subjective.

Speaking of painted, let’s talk about prepainted minis for a minute.

I often win auctions on eBay with minis painted by the previous owner. That the prices I bid, they are rarely painted in a way I would want to game with them. I am not a gifted painter so I do not like to judge the painting of others but I have honest feedback to folks when asked. And I am not afraid to repaint a mini if I am not keen on the look. At first I thought it would save time but in practice it rarely does.

That said, I rarely get factory pre-painted minis as they tend to cost more than I am willing to pay for something I am going to have to probably repaint anyway. This is different from Dwarven Forge terrain which is usually alright outbox the box but can be personalized when I get time.

From left to right, Dwarven Forge (factory painted), Wizkids, Reaper Bones Black, Dwarven Forge (factory painted), Dwarven Forge (unpainted), Northstar Miniatures Frostgrave, Wizkids (converted and repainted).

As an aside, when you think of Dwarven Forge, do you think of miniatures? Do you wish they did more miniatures? Are you aware they do crazy things like monsters with LEDs inside?

As you can see Mrs GG and I love minis. We have a lot of them painted and even more to do yet. Hopefully this information has been of some use to you. I have spent a lot of time experiment with and trying to learn more about minis. That said I have a lot more to learn. If you have any questions or information that you think would be useful please let me know in the comments below.

In Part Two I will talk more about kitbashing and conversions.

Now, in other news, I watched the Season 6 final episode of Fear the Walking Dead.

It was surprising in that whilst it still had the weak writing of the rest of this season it did not kick me in the teeth the same way it has each episode in the second half of this season. With the death of one of my favorite characters in what at time felt an unnecessarily cruel and pointless death a few episodes back at least the finale tried to get some sort of payoff for that death. So much of this season has been rubbish, I felt at times it was going back to how it was in seasons 1 and 2. Some of the worst writing in previous seasons for Morgan, Strand and Daniel made a comeback. But in the final episode most of that had something of a payoff.

But…. mild Spoiler warning… look away…..

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……. I did try to warn you…..

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…….the nukes. Nukes? Really? Ugh.

Talk about jumping the shark. I do not think the show writers understand the implications of that plot twist or how fallout on that scale works.

Oh… and some more Doppelgängers. This time not just mine but Mrs. GG as well, if you are curious about what she looks like.

As always we would love to hear your feedback, questions, suggestions and advice in the comments below. Let us know if the new blog format is working for you or if there is something we can do to make things around here better.

14 comments

  1. I really like how your guide explains things that people within our hobby talk about all the time but you rarely see it explained. Its just kind of assumed that you know some of these manufacturers or what kind of bases to use. I think its always a good idea to think about what bases are going to work best with minis as you want them to be stable and hold up to your gaming needs. I tried to do custom bases for my first real miniatures project, Mansions of Madness, and learned the hard way how basing works and doesn’t work. I’ve never forgotten some of the lessons learned there. I really enjoyed reading this mate and while I enjoy everything you post, I think it was a cool idea to shake things up and share some of your knowledge with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate. The idea for the blog post came from conversations I have been having on both the Dwarven Forge forum as well as the RPG.net forum. It grew much longer than I originally expected. It just shows how easy it can be to take the amount of your accumulated experience for granted. I was intending to talk more about kitbashing but given how long it was getting I decided to save that for another post. As it is I need to go back in and edit in a photo I forgot (clear bases in Core Space) and base size/shape for cavalry/beasts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice blog, I always like comparison pictures. I will add this bookmark to the other ones I have. FYI, here are two others:
    http://therenaissancetroll.blogspot.com/2015/06/frostgrave-soldiers-size-comparison-shot.html
    http://www.miniaturenland.com/en/service.html

    It’s amazing the dialogues that bases can cause; size, round or square, color of rim, figures on the base or on rocks/slate, etc. Since I primarily focus on GW LOTR, it has been relatively simple for me, but I still have gone back and forth on the color of the rim. I was doing tan for desert figures, grey for caves, etc. Finally came to my senses and painted them all the same, a simple reddish brown. Agree with you that while thematic bases are good looking, they can be disconcerting in the wrong setting.

    I appreciate that not only did you compare sizes of different manufacturers, but also the level of detail. I have gotten some WizKids figures for their heads (sounds ghoulish doesn’t it) but get disappointed in the softness of the facial features.

    Looking forward to your kit bashing blog, you’re quite good at it and it should be educational.

    Nothing new on the viewing front, went back and watched “Them” and with my unique filing system, watched the movie next to it, “Panic in the Year Zero”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate! I have often scoured the internet for size comparison photos, so I thought I should provide my own contribution to that endeavor.

      Bases are one of the peripheral things with miniatures that often gets overlooked.

      “Them” was the movie that taught me a good cop needs to be willing to sacrifice himself to save kids. I am not familiar with “Panic in Year Zero” so I will have to go look that up now.

      Like

  3. Regarding the importance of bases, I always remember the saying “Bases, Faces, Flags and Shields”. While more important for historical miniature painting, they are what stands out on a table.
    http://www.paintedwargames.com/basing-miniatures-standard-basing/

    Panic in the Year Zero can work in both the atomic and zombie genres, man trying to survive in a new world while protecting his family and trying to maintain and rebuild society.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent blog Rick! Thought provoking, some very interesting points. Have you changed blog site or just had a spring clean? It looks different somehow

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you like it mate!

      I changed the format of the blog in response to feedback I was getting. Folks wanted something easier to read, especially on phones, and the ability to easily search the blog for their specific interests.

      Hopefully this current format is an improvement. I am still open to more feedback, advice and suggestions.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am glad it was of help to you. It helps me justify the time spent writing the blog when I hear it helped or entertained someone.

        And thank you for the suggestion on bold text. I am not in the habit of using bold text but I can see how it might help so will consider that in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m still in the thick of my first playtests of the spellcasting system for Kabalor (pre-pre-alpha testing?), so my painting desk is neglected right now. I know I’ll be coming back for another look at this post later!

    Liked by 1 person

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