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Cheap fantasy minis!

1Mac

First Post
Now in attractive BLOG form! Please stop by and comment if you are interested in hearing more about this topic.

New edit for July 2013: This is an old thread, but if you want to see my newest projects, just go to the last page. I always update here whenever I finish painting something. Thanks!

Spurred on by Kris' thread from a couple of years ago on the subject of 1/72 scale fantasy miniatures, I've started a project to build a convincing roster of fantasy miniatures as cheaply as possible. I plan on using plastic minis whenever possible, cheap craft store paints and "magic dip" (i.e. furniture polish mixed with black stain), and keeping everything in the neighborhood of 1/72-20mm scale. The goal here isn't to produce the most fantastic, award-worthy minis, but to get them as cheap as possible while still looking pretty good. My goal is to pay less than $.50 per mini, and while I'm sometimes over my goal, I'm usually well under it.

I more or less completed my first batch a few weeks ago, and I just got around to photographing them. The photos turned out kind of bad, and I may retake and replace them [edit: new photos!], but I wanted to get them up for ENWorld to check out. Everything you see is either an Italeri (Itl) Barbarian miniature, a piece from Eagle Games' Age of Mythology (AoM) game, or an Arcane Legions (AL) booster figure that's been repainted. I had painted figures before, but this was my first time in several years, and my first time painting fantasy minis at all.

First, some monsters (Sven the Viking-guy shown for relative scale):

bugbears.JPG

These are AoM trolls and cyclopses, with some simple reposing. They make pretty good bugbears or similar monstrous folk.

Some giants, dwarves, and a deathknight:

giants-dwarves.JPG

The dwarf with the fur hat is an AL figure; the rest are from the AoM Viking set. The giants aren't particularly gigantic, but they were good for practice. Like the monsters above, they look a little grimy because I was keeping too much of the dip on. By the time I got to the dwarves, I was getting the hang of how much dip to keep on the figures for the best effect.

Amazons and Vikings:

amazons-vikings.JPG

The first figure is an Itl Barbarian, the second and third are AL boosters, and the last two are AoM Viking figures.

Barbarians:

barbarians.JPG

Naturally most of these guys are Itl Barbarians. The two guys yelling and raising their shields on the right are AL figures. Sven is on the right, of course.

Last, magic-users:

magic-users.JPG

From left to right: an Itl Barbarian, an AoM Egyptian priest, and four AL figures, with Sven on the right again. It's hard to tell from the picture, but the third figure is summoning flame, which I thought came out particularly well.

Let me know if you have any questions, or if you'd like to see more. I'm currently working on some Caesar Miniatures orcs and goblins, so I may post those when they're finished.
 
Last edited:

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Kris

Adventurer
Great to see someone else getting into 1:72 scale minis :)

Spurred on by Kris' thread from a couple of years ago on the subject of 1/72 scale fantasy miniatures...

I also posted a couple of pic's of a few other creatures on my blog around the same time ...which can be found HERE if you'd like to check them out:


Oh ...and I'd love to see how the Caesar orcs & goblins turn out.
 


1Mac

First Post
New photos added to the OP. Turns out my wife's camera was simply better at snapping miniatures.

Orcs and goblins coming in just a nonce!
 

1Mac

First Post
I've got photos of my next batch of minis coming up, but this is a good time to give a quick description of my technique. After initial prep work (trimming from the sprue, cleaning flash, and making any modifications I might want), I wash the figures, then -super-glue them to appropriately-sized fender washers (most of these figures are on 3/4" washers). I then glue the mounted figures to 2" framing nails, which not only give me a good handle while I paint, but are also useful for dipping. I prime with white Krylon plastic primer and begin painting with cheap craft paints. I mostly use Delta Ceramcoat, but I use even cheaper paint for black and white. I paint one color at a time over a batch of figures, after which they come out looking something like this:

orcs predip.JPG

Not bad, if I may say so, but they still look a little plastic-y. I could use ink washes like mini-painters of yore to give the figures a little more depth, but I started using the "magic-dip" method. The "dip" is combination furniture polish-stain, in my case Minwax Polyshades Classic Black Satin. I attach the nail the figure is attached to to an electric drill, then dip the figure. I spin the drill inside a cardboard box to loose most of the excess, blow any large globs off that might be stuck between arms or other places, and use a paper towel to soak or dab any excess. I let it dry for a day and spray on some matte finish, after which the figures look like this:
orcs postdip.JPG

I let the matte finish dry, then simply pry the mounted figures off the nail. And that's it!

Here are some orc specials, with Sven the viking on hand for size comparison:

orcs1.JPG

These are mostly Caesar Miniatures figures. The crone is a modified Arcane Legions figure, and the drummer is a head swap with a Hat Industrie "Jungle Adventure" figure.

Here's the rest of the orc horde:

orcs2.JPG

Apart from removing some weapons and other bits, these figures are as they came in the box.

Finally, some sample goblins, also from Caesar Miniatures:

goblins.JPG

These guys have even fewer modifications than the orcs.

The hordes face off!

hordes.JPG

My next project is centaurs and kobolds. It will probably be a while before they're ready, so let me know if you have any questions in the meantime!
 

1Mac

First Post
Progress on the centaurs and kobolds continues. I'm also slowly building and basing some Warhammer Skinks to be used as lizardmen. Most of these guys are crew from Games Workshop's Stegadon kit that I got from an online bits store. They were above my 50-cent-per-figure limit, but they weren't too pricey, and it's hard to find lizardmen champions and magic-users otherwise. They're a little cartoonishly proportioned, especially the weapons, but they match Sven in height pretty well. Most Warhammer stuff doesn't work with 1/72 scale, but since skinks are supposed to be small critters, they appear to be around normal size in a smaller scale. I've got a Skaven kit that I'm going to use as human-sized ratmen on the same principle.

lizardmen-unpainted.JPG
 


Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
Progress on the centaurs and kobolds continues. I'm also slowly building and basing some Warhammer Skinks to be used as lizardmen. Most of these guys are crew from Games Workshop's Stegadon kit that I got from an online bits store. They were above my 50-cent-per-figure limit, but they weren't too pricey, and it's hard to find lizardmen champions and magic-users otherwise. They're a little cartoonishly proportioned, especially the weapons, but they match Sven in height pretty well. Most Warhammer stuff doesn't work with 1/72 scale, but since skinks are supposed to be small critters, they appear to be around normal size in a smaller scale. I've got a Skaven kit that I'm going to use as human-sized ratmen on the same principle.

View attachment 56405


At the local Games Plus Auction (they do one in Spring and Fall every year for decades), there are always some deals to be had that would keep under the threshold. Too far a drive for you to the NW of Chicago but maybe others reading this thread can take advantage. Collectible minis on Wed, March 6th (can often be easily converted) and regular minis on Sunday, March 10th -

http://www.games-plus.com/auction.htm
 

1Mac

First Post
Busy couple of weeks means less painting. I'm just resuming work on those centaurs I've talked about. Here are some work-in-progress pics I took a few days ago.

WIP-centaurs1.JPG
WIP-centaurs2.JPG
These guys are more Arcane Legions figures. Most were were wearing crested Greek-style helmets (like this), so I swapped heads with some Italeri barbarians and added hair made from Milliput, for a wilder look. The results are a little more, erm, fabulous than I'd like, but I think they'll work once painted, despite their glorious Fabio hair. If you want to use these figures and don't like the Greek look, but don't want to go through the trouble of head swaps, you could probably just cut the crests off the helmets and get something more generically useable.

I might talk about how to do head swaps in a later post, but I thought I'd take the opportunity to talk a little more about Arcane Legions miniatures, and how great they are for cheap 1/72 scale gaming. Arcane Legions was the flagship miniatures game of Wells Expeditions, a company founded by a couple of designers from WizKids (makers of MageKnight, Heroclix, and similar games). Most minis games these days are in "heroic" 28mm scale, and Arcane Legions stood out by using a smaller "true 25mm" (i.e. 1/72) scale. Unfortunately for Wells Expeditions, the game eventually folded. Fortunately for fans of cheap minis, it means that a lot of great minis suitable for fantasy gaming can be had for a bargain. The core game, with 120+ minis, can be found for less than $20, while a booster brick, with all 60-70 prepainted booster figures for one of the game's three factions, can be found for around $25 each.

The game is somewhat less useful for generic fantasy gamers than it might be, since it pits magic-historical forces of Roman, Egyptian, and Chinese armies. So unless you want a lot of quasi-Bronze-Age or East Asian soldiers, the core game may not be useful to your game (the Egyptian core army has some great mummy sculpts, though). The boosters many more useful miniatures for any type of fantasy game. I feature some of my favorites below. These are all prepaints, not my own painting. Sven the viking is on hand for comparison: the height chart is a little off because I use the pegboard-style figure bases to support the Arcane Legions minis.

AC-asia.JPG
East Asian fantasy figures, with Sven the viking on the right for comparison.

AC-beasts.JPG
Some beasties. The quality of the prepainting in Arcane Legions is mixed (why did they try to paint eyespots!), but some critters, like the Foo Lion, look pretty good as is.

AC-ogres.JPG
A couple of ogres.

AC-bigguys.JPG
Some more big guys: A large undead, a cyclops, and a couple minotaurs. I love the guy dressed like a Greek aristocrat.

AC-constructs-ghosts.JPG
Some constructs and ghosts. The ghosts, including the woman in blue, are molded in clear plastic, so I'm wondering if I can strip the paint off of these for a more spectral effect.

AC-egypt-heroes.JPG
Egyptian heroes. The guy on the left is an Age of Mythology pharoah, on hand for comparison. The Arcane Legions pharoah to his right is painted to look undead, but I might repaint him with a more vital, human complexion.

AC-egypt-monsters.JPG
Egyptian monsters. The unpainted guys are more Age of Mythology figures, on hand for comparison. I don't know what I think of the giant Anubis figure, though it certainly looks good.

AC-nuwa-driders.JPG
Nuwa and a couple of "jorogumo" figures, with an Age of Mythology medusa archer and a cheap Halloween toy spider for comparison. The jorogumo will make great conversions for driders. The toy spider looks bigger in this shot, but that's just because its legs are spread out. It's actually about the same size as the jorogumo.

Finally, some comparisons between original and repainted Arcane Legions figures, to show what a good paintjob can do for these miniatures.
AC-paint-compare1.JPG
AC-paint-compare2.JPG

And one last group shot, showing all the Arcane Legions painting I've done so far.
AC-painted.JPG
 

1Mac

First Post
Quick question: would anyone be interested if I started blogging on the topic of cheap fantasy minis? I'd like to, but I want to make sure I'm not whistling in the dark.

I messed around a bit with body swapping this weekend. Below are an Arcane Legions lion rider and jorogumo, a Caesar Miniatures knight and elf, and the resulting body swaps. For now I've crudely filled in the gaps with wood glue; I'll later use some Milliput to better sculpt the new figures. The result is a more drow-like drider, and another female warrior PC/NPC.
bodyswap1.JPG

A quick bit about how to do figure modding, for those who are interested: For some reason, I'm intimidated by advanced painting techniques like blending and highlighting, but not by cutting my little plastic people up and rearranging them how I please. It's not as difficult as you might imagine, and since one of the drawbacks of minis in 1/72 scale is a relative lack of variety of creature types, fearless miniature-bashing is a great way to make up for that deficiency.

The simplest mod is probably just using a hobby knife to chop off weapons, headgear, or other extraneous bits. Often figure sets contain multiple models of a limited number of poses, so this is an easy way to get more poses for your money. If a pose has two weapons, for example, you can chop off one or the other, and effectively get three poses for one (weapons in the left-hand, right-hand, or both hands). Some of the orcs and goblins in an earlier post underwent this treatment.

Another easy mod is to bend limbs and appendages into a new position. Sometimes you can simply bend the figure into a new pose. Other times, try dunking the figure in hot water for a minute, bend the softened limb, and dunk in cold water to set the new position. Usually you need to bend the limb a little past where you'd like it, as it will want to reset to its original position. I recommend spreading a little woodglue with a toothpick over the bend joint to strengthen it and give it better shape. The bugbears in the first post of this thread were reposed copies of the same two figure models.

The more advanced modding trick is actually swapping heads, arms, and torsos between figures, but even this isn't too difficult. Read this tutorial to see how it's done: I do everything Paul does, except I never had much luck just shoving a pin through a figure part without preparation. Instead, I use a pin vise, which is like a tiny handdrill, with a very small bit to make pinholes. For head swaps, I brace the head in a needle-nose pliers and drill from the neck through to the top of the head--this way I can better control where the neck of the head joins its new body. I then drill a hole a few millimeters deep into the new body. I impale the head with a pin, put a little superglue in the hole in the body, and push the pin a little further into the body so it grips. I then glue the head in place, trim as much of the exposed pin as I can, and use the side of the pliers to push the rest of the pin into the figure so it's flush. A drop more superglue in the top of the hole makes the whole thing solid. Some forum poster somewhere said that this procedure is like rebar, where the pin is the iron bar and the glue is concrete. That's a useful way to think about the construction of a modded figure.

In some ways, torso-swapping is even easier. Just drill a hole into each body part, put glue and a pin in one hole, trim the pin, put glue in the other hole, and shove the two parts together. The tricky bit is making sure the two body parts match, but some wood glue and Milliput or Kneadatite ought to blend the seams between the two halves.

Not quite as quick a guide as I thought, but I hope it's useful. Let me know if you have any questions.
 

Kris

Adventurer
Quick question: would anyone be interested if I started blogging on the topic of cheap fantasy minis? I'd like to, but I want to make sure I'm not whistling in the dark.

I'd certainly be interested!

Oh and nice mini's by the way. I haven't really got into painting much myself this year, but it's posts like this that make me want to dig out a few minis and splash some paint on them again :)
 




jhunton

First Post
1mak where did you get the minis some look like magknight .but others I am not shoure of. they look good better then some others I have seen.
 

1Mac

First Post
1mak where did you get the minis some look like magknight .but others I am not shoure of. they look good better then some others I have seen.

Thanks! Your question dovetails with Kris and Mark's discussion about various resources for cheap fantasy minis. The quick answer: You can read more about who makes these minis in my other posts, but basically, none of these are MageKnight, or indeed any other sort of collectible mini as the term is normally understood. I tend to look at one of two sorts of sources for miniatures: figure sets for military/history hobbyists, and pieces for boardgames, war games, and similar tabletop games. I'm also looking at figures that are either built in or work with 1/72 scale, which are a good deal smaller than most RPG/CMG miniatures (a human-sized miniature in this scale is about 1 inch tall), which is part of why they are cheaper than most collectible minis.

The long answer:

For military hobby figures, there are two companies making plastic fantasy figure sets in 1/72: Caesar Miniatures and Red Box (under the Dark/Light Alliance imprints). There are also dozens of companies making hundreds of historic figures which are easily adaptable to typical medieval RPGs. Plastic Soldier Review is a great resource for checking out these miniatures. You probably have to buy these sets online: Hobby Bunker and Michigan Toy Company are the two big American sellers with the best selection, though you can find individual sets cheaper elsewhere.

For tabletop minis, I've used two games which are in 1/72 scale: Age of Mythology and Arcane Legions. Arcane Legions I talk about in great detail in a recent post. The Age of Mythology figures can actually be purchased from Eagle Games on their own and are ridiculously cheap. Some of the monsters are a little undersized but are still quite usable. A few other board games have minis in 1/72 scale: War of the Ring is an example I've been tempted to buy, but there isn't enough variety in the sculpts for me to want to purchase the whole game, and you can't buy the figures individually from anywhere I can find. Other games use slightly larger pieces, often in 28mm scale, but often small figures in this scale look human-sized in 1/72, and large figures simply look convincingly larger and are quite usable. These figures are often sold individually on eBay or through other sources. The same goes for minis made for RPGs: the plastic Bones minis from Reaper Miniatures have some great large figures, plus their gnomes and halflings are apparently about an inch tall, so many work perfectly as humans and elves in 1/72 (it seems the same is true for DDM minis). I'm painting up some Reaper kobolds right now, and they are actually about the size of my Caesar Miniatures goblins, so they work great in 1/72 also.

Lastly, there are a lot of companies making fantasy minis in metal, much more so than plastic, but they are often more expensive than plastic figures. This is because metal molds are cheaper to make, but metal figures are more expensive to cast. Still, you might be able to find figures in metal that you can't find in plastic, so they are worth looking into. For 1/72 figures (metal mini companies tend to call it 20mm scale), check out Splintered Light Miniatures, Elhiem Figures, or CP Models. Lots of other companies make 15/18mm miniatures that are easily adapted or converted to the slightly larger 20mm scale or used for smaller creatures: Magister Militum, Splintered Light Miniatures, Black Raven Foundry and Lone Gunman Games are promising sources for such adaption and conversion.
 

Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
BTW, I had the chance to pop in the American Science and Surplus warehouse to day, the place i got all of those cheap Dragon Strike spues (teal and grey only) and found out that some folks had taken my advice since picking them up a few years ago. They have sold them out at this point.

For those in the Chicagoland area, the auction at Games Plus for non-collectible minis is this Sunday -

http://www.games-plus.com/auction.htm
 

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