Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Miniatures on the Cheap

I may sound like a broken record at times, but there's a lot to be said for stretching your miniatures budget as far as possible. Myself, before being a mini I ask myself "how much bang am I getting for my buck?" Or, in other words, how much use can I get out of this one little miniature?

There are miniature manufacturers out there than produce amazing figures, but you're paying for that quality. Moreover, the really great manufacturers (or at least, those who produce excellent quality items AND happen to be a large company) tend to produce miniatures dedicated to a specific game world or game system. Privateer Press is probably the best two example. The company makes magnificent figures, but unless you regularly play a Steampunk game (in the case of Privateer Press) you're not going to get much use out of most of them for anything but playing Warmachine or Hordes. Games Workshop's Warhammer and Warhammer 40K miniatures have the same problem, but not to the same extent. In fact, it's the much-maligned (By British RP gamers at least) Games Workshop that I want to discuss today.

Here's a fact: I refuse to buy miniatures I can only every use for one gaming purpose. Hence, I no longer collect such things as GW Space Marines, Elder or Warhammer Empire figures. Each range is either too iconic, or else to themed to use in any other game system. Warhammer Empire figures for example, are humans. You would think then that they would provide a lot of replay value but, in fact, Empire miniatures have certain thematic elements (such as their style of dress) that makes them all but unsuitable for use in anything outside of a very narrow range of games.

However, this doesn't mean I've written off Games Workshop entirely. Many of it's ranges have much to offer the Gamer on a budget. Off the top of my head, I can think of several dozen boxed sets of GW plastic miniatures which I either own and use regularly as roleplaying miniatures or have on my "wish-list".

Here's a sample listing:

Warhammer Saurus Warriors and Skink Regiment(Plastic Box sets): Used as Troglydytes and Lizardmen respectively in all the fantasy RPG's I play. I used science fiction weapons from by bits box to kit-bash some "reptile" aliens for sci-fi RPGs as well.
Warhammer Skaven (Plastic Box): For were-rats (my favorite lycanthrope), rat-men and (again with a few sci-fi weapons) my home-brew sci-fi Ratmen (technically weasel-men, but the models are close enough).
Warhammer Skeletons (Plastic Box): A box each of the Tomb King's and Vampire Counts varieties gives me more skeletons than I'll ever need (even in the Caves of Chaos). I use the remaining parts (and whole skeletons) to create scenery elements and basing features. Alas, the warhammer zombies are too-period specific for my tastes.
Warhammer Wood Elfs and Dwarfs (Plastic Box): Nice enough but a "off" in proportions. Go for the Lord of the Rings plastic boxed sets instead.
Warhammer Brettonians (Plastic Box): The mounted figures are nice, but how often would you use them, really? On the other hand, the infantry box set provides a nice batch of generic medieval footmen and/or archers to represent typical human guards. The figures themselves aren't as nice as other GW plastics and the poses are rather static. However, your still making a considerable saving compared to buying a like number of metal miniatures.
Warhammer Norse (Plastic Box): Good for generic unarmoured savage barbarians (though the muscle tissue is a little too cartoonish). Give a few of them modern guns from your bit box and you've got the beginnings of a Post Apocalypse road-warrior gang as well.
Lord of the Rings Plastic Box Sets: I can't recommend these enough. 24 excellent plastic miniatures (no assembly required) at a dirt-cheap price. I use the Moria goblins as goblins, Mordor Orcs as Hobgoblins, Uruk-Hai as orcs. The Gondorans work as elite guards, the Rohirrim make excellent medium troops and the Rangers work well for light infantry, militia and townsfolk. Easterlings see lots of use as "evil" elites in my games while the Haradrim see use as dervishes, nomads and the like. Finally, the elves and dwarfs are used for exactly what you would think while the Corsair miniatures make for excellent brigands, pirates, slavers and common thugs. If you want to expand your gaming collection quickly and cheaply, I can't recommend Lord of the Ring's figures enough.

Finally, some GW plastic boxed sets to avoid:

Any of the Warhammer Orc and Goblin plastic miniature ranges: Far far too muscular. These are cartoonish parodies of just about any other orc concept you will ever come across. Which is a pity, because back in the eighties and early nineties, GW produced some of the greatest orc and goblin metals (and plastics) around.
Any of the Warhammer Chaos boxes other than the Norse: Unless, that is, your looking for suitably Elric-esque foes.
Any of the Warhammer Empire range box sets: Very nice miniatures, but unless you play a lot of WFRP or intend to buy an Empire Army for Warhammer, I can't see you getting much use out them.


Unknown said...

Brian- Nicely stated about how certain minis are only usable for one game. For my uses I primarily look for minis that can be used in a Modern Day setting (for zombie games) and that care also usable in a Post Apocalyptic setting (again zombie games). You mentioned GW figures that can be used outside of their respective game setting, I have notices for the WH40K figures you can use the Space Marines as power suit armored soldiers in most Sci-Fi games that allow for the use of Power Armor (you can also use them as Brotherhood of Steel figures in a Fallout game if you wanted to), the same goes with the Imperial Guard figures, they could pass as either a Para-Militay, security force or say a SWAT unit with some modifications (such as filing off the Aquila and doing some modifications to the weaponry). The same goes for some of the vehicles such as the Rhino or the Baneblade, there are many different tank designs in existance today. Now the SM Dreadnoughts yes I can see having limited replay value, though it could pass for a large security robot if you wanted it to.

Dangerous Brian said...

Your perfectly right in what you say about some other Workshops other ranges. There's nothing to stop anyone using Space Marines (for example) in other games. But for me, the models are "too iconic", too closely associated with one world or one game. Any time I see folks using space marines, I assume I'm seeing a game of 40K. If I was using space marine models for something else, I'd still be playing as if they were space marines. Does that make any sense? I know, I know, I'm a bit of a prude about these things.