Repost: Old school figures part two: Minis on the web!

A longer version of this post originally appeared in 2010 but was in need of updating. I’m not completely done but here’s a start. Thanks to Anthony Emmel for bringing just how out of date this was to my attention!

A lot of miniatures people turn their noses up at old Grenadier and Heritage and Minifigs figures. I will grant that many modern figures, which take advantage of sculpting and molding techniques unavailable to the original manufacturers (and an aesthetic sharpened by the intervening years of fantasy illustration, comics, etc.) are often quite impressive. The level of animation, and the overall quality are amazing. The crisp detail, and the fact the pieces fit perfectly make them a joy to assemble and paint. But I still love the old school minis too. They often have a gritty realism modern figures just lack.

Heritage Models has a number of sites and yahoo groups devoted to it. There’s Dungeon Dwellers info, a great site for all things Dungeon Dwellers. If you didn’t know, this line would have been their “Dungeons & Dragons” line, but the license agreement never got signed and instead Grenadier would get the license for AD&D miniatures. There are several Heritage Yahoo groups, devoted to collecting the figures, providing documentation, and so on. Disciples of Heritage and the Heritage Models Reference groups are worth checking out. The collectors Yahoo groups for Ral Partha and Grenadier are great too.

I love and hate Games Workshop/Citadel figures. They are certainly nice looking. The only things not to like are the scale creep and cost. Citadel minis, back in the late 1980s, were the first figures I had that just didn’t quite fit with my Grenadier, Ral Partha, and Heritage stuff. Ral Partha was always a slight bit smaller than the others, but with Citadel I could tell the scale was actually shifting. Of course nowadays, almost all modern figures are a little bigger than before. “28mm”, “30mm”, “heroic 28mm scale”, even “32mm” are bandied about, whereas in the olden days everyone claimed to be making 25mm figures, whether that 25mm was toes-to-eyes, toes-to-tip of head, or just 25mm=6′. Some of my newer Reaper and Kenzer Co. figures absolutely tower over my old figures. And that is too bad, because no-one chooses a Ral Partha figure any more for their PC in the games I’ve been playing. They just look too runty. In fact we’ve been using a Ral Partha mounted fighter as a Dwarf on a pony, and I’m probably the only one who realizes the figure was “meant” to be a human! Still, when Citadel was making RPG minis instead of exclusively Warhammer/Warhammer 40k/other branded IP minis, they made some seriously awesome figures. And they made so many that there is a whole wiki just for Citadel, which rivals the Lost Minis Wiki! But readers of this blog may be more interested in another site that just focuses on Citadel’s old AD&D/D&D lines.

The Lost Minis Wiki was created last year with the explicit intention of covering all the out-of-production lines and models, and I can kill hours there. Update: The wiki is now also awash in newer and current lines. Mission creep, I guess. But you can still find lots of old stuff. The Lost Minis Wiki has vast amounts of unpainted lead, but we really want to see the painted stuff, right?

Stuff of Legends hasn’t been updated much lately, but as far as I know it was the first site devoted to classic minis. Another great site is the Blue Mule, which showcases well-loved and well-painted old figures. Silverblade’s Suitcase has a collection of very nice looking figures too, many of them very old. There is even one site devoted just to dwarves!

Anyway I found a legal copy of the Armory’s Buying Guide to Fantasy Miniatures at the Mega Minis Magazine site. There is a stunning array of old catalogs there to drool over, with images of miniatures that you can only hope to scrounge up at a convention or eBay. But if you love classic minis, the good news is that there are both new lines that are inspired by older lines, and a few companies still casting the classic figures. Update: although Mega Minis is out of business, the first link still works. The second is now a link to the Wayback Machine’s backup.

Center Stage is still getting off the ground but I have high hopes for their Swords & Wizardry line. Update: Center Stage had a disastrous and possibly fraudulent Kick Starter campaign that did the company in, but good news, the minis are being cast be Pacesetter Games.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to know about Otherworld Miniatures, which is creating minis directly inspired by the classic illustrations of Sutherland, Trampier, etc. Update: But they are in 28mm scale, not classic 25mm. 

Classic Miniatures is recasting many Heritage models, and also has a number of interesting things in the pipeline, including “Unreleased figures by Dave Sutherland III.” Update: Link broken; some classic Heritage and Archive recasts are available; check out the Disciples of Heritage yahoo group for info.

Games Figures Inc. is producing some Minifigs, some Heritage Models not owned by Classic Miniatures, and a few other ranges. Update: link broken; GFI apparently out of business. 😦

Ironwind Metals, which rose from the ashes of Ral Partha, is producing some of the old RP lines. Update: Ral Partha is more or less resurrected here.

Thunderbolt Mountain, Tom Meier’s company, is producing figures similar to his Ral Partha classics, but in a more “modern” 28mm scale. Update: also 30mm scale Arthurian stuff, and some true 25mm.

Mirliton, an Italian company, is producing some of the latest Grenadier lines, but sadly not the old Wizzards & Warriors/AD&D lines. Update: Some older Fantasy Lords and earlier models are in fact available.

Mega Minis produces original figures as well as an extensive array of older lines. They are providing a great service but I wish they didn’t cancel lines after short runs. Update: Mega Minis, sadly, is out of business. Their molds may have been picked up by other companies. Their original stuff is now at Johnnyborg Castings. These seem to be Kick Starters so caveat emptor.

Viking Forge is producing classic Asgard minis … the ones illustrated in the Armory ads in old Dragon Magazines!

Next time, maybe some more revived  or old-school style lines? I wanted to add Barony Miniatures, Max Carr’s company which republished the Warlord rules and had a new line of medievals similar to his Heritage sculpts but the site is offline since the spring of 2016. 😦

Published in: on January 4, 2017 at 9:23 am  Comments (3)  
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For the birds

For no particular reason, I decided to clear a few bird monsters off the painting table — in this case, three cockatrices.

cockatrices

They are two versions of the Grenadier cockatrice (the earlier one, I think, is the single-piece casting; it was later reworked to have one separate wing, which I guess enhances the three-dimensionality a little but it never fit quite right on the model.  In between them is a casting of the Metal Magic sculpt, produced by MegaMinis.

The cockatrice is one of the many mythical creatures attested to in the Bible, so I guess some sizable percentage of the US population is committed to believing in them, like unicorns, dragons, and so on. Cockatrices are often confused with basilisks, since in folkore the terms are equivalent but in D&D they are very distinct monsters. Apart from the Book of the Dun Cow, my favorite cockatrice story is probably the cockatrice of Warsaw, since it is presented as true account.

The other bird-monsters are a pair of TSR Broobies, and a cheap plastic pelican which I painted to look like them.  The shape of the head and body are pretty off, and I made a rather poor effort to reshape the bill, but for as often as I’ll use them I guess it’s good enough.  One of the Broobies I bought back when it was in production (I liked the firbolg that was packaged with it, probably) and since his legs broke repeatedly, he’s got a piece of paper clip holding him upright (you can see it pretty well in the first pic). I always think of them as axebeaks, rather than broobies, for some reason.

axe-beaks-2

ax-beaks-1

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Demonomania!

Crazy busy days this weekend ameliorated by some fun craft time!  I finished up most of the unpainted demons and devils I have — several from the MegaMinis monster pack, as well as a really old Efreet and a crazy-looking boar that seemed like it must be demonic.

First up is a bat-demon thing — MegaMinis, a recast of a Metal Magic sculpt.  He’s got a long segmented tail (as do most of the other Metal Magic demons from this set) but is otherwise very bat-like.

bat-demon1

He just got a couple of layers of brown drybrushing and a pink wash on the nose and tail, with my usual white talons and teeth job.  All these demons were super fast to paint since it was mostly a matter of a few layers of drybrushing, a wash, and a few details.

Next up a devil with a strange spade-like weapon.  It’s a lot like a Chinese ‘monk’s spade,’ except they have a blade on both ends.  I know Grenadier did a devil with the same weapon which maybe this was a knock-off of?  I like the cresent moon shape of his head too.

devil1Then there are two blue demons.  They might actually be any of a number of things — the one with the raised arm might equally well be a troll or some sort of creeper in the dark like a grue; the reptillian one could also be some sort of saurian.  They both illustrate the strangely two-dimensional quality most of the monsters from the MegaMinis set have.  I wonder if Metal Magic was limited by their mold-maker, or it was just an aesthetic choice to go so flat.  They all look pretty good in profile but coming head-on they look pretty goofy.

blue-demon1The huge hands on this one remind me of blue demon minoins of Tzeench in the Games Workshop line from the early 90s or very late 80s.

blue-demon2This guy has so much animation from the profile and looks so flat from the front it is just heart-breaking.

Next up some boar-demons — one is humanoid (a starving Type II demon?) and the other is of an unknown (to me) make — he might be a dire boar?

boardemon1The three-pronged tail is odd; otherwise he might be a giant wereboar.

boardemon2

If anyone recognizes this boar monster, I’d love to know it’s make.  The cratered base suggests it could be a sci-fi mini.  It is lead so it must me pretty old.  I think it was among the old lead someone sent me couple years back, but it might also be from a used minis bin at Origins or something.

Now lastly, my favorite of the pack and the one I put the most effort into — a Grenadier Efreet.  I really wanted to make the flames throw some light on the bottoms of his arms and cast shadows over his shoulders and face.  The glossy finish hides this a little; I also wimped out on depicting the reversed shadowing — I really ought to have dry-brushed black over the topmost areas.  Still, he looks pretty good.

efreet1It’s a classy sculpt and based directly on Trampier’s Monster Manual illustration:

tramp-efreetNot a perfect match but darn close!  For some reason Grenadier gave him some bling.  I have one other Grenadier efreet, which is a re-sculpt, that looks terrible and will be getting repainted now that I have some practice.  The other guy has a more Neanderthal look to him and his arms are not crossed, but he’s still emerging from a pillar of fire.  I have no idea why Grenadier would discontinue the Trampier version (the resculpt was put out before they lost the AD&D license so it’s not that!).

Published in: on February 18, 2013 at 8:27 pm  Comments (6)  
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Gremlins

Well, snotlings technically but I’m not running Warhammer.

41 snotlings and one werewolf

So that’s what I painted this weekend.  I had started them all some time ago, and had the base coats on them.  This weekend was just all the detailing (clothes, eyes, teeth, weapons, mushrooms, etc.).  I also decided to make  all the double snotlings use two different colors, so I had more to do on them.  They are about 15mm tall, though many stoop, and mostly based on pennies.  A few are on plastic 1″ bases.

For my Telengard campaigns, I added ‘gremlins’ to the monster list.  Basically ripped off the Ultima games, except that I also decided that they will be ‘color coded’ so that, say, Green gremlins steal food, water, and potions; Red gremlins steal torches and flint and oil; Yellow gremlins steal random equipment from your inventory; Blue gremlins steal anything magical.  The Blue gremlins appear innocuous though. They happy songs sing quietly, speak a babyish dialect of Common with a weird shibboleth that stands in for almost anything, and imitate the adventurers, and ask for food or water.  Let them get too close, or catch you sleeping, and they will grab anything not nailed down.  They all also enjoy netting and clubbing unconscious any demihumans they find.    They tend to fear humans.

I love the Citadel snotling minis.  I think these are among the first designs for snotlings that were available in the USA, or at least the first I saw at a time when I was pretty into Citadel minis and frequently going to hobby shops like the King’s Crown in eastern Kansas (about 1985 or 1986). This one looks like he’s right out of Labyrinth:

The green gremlins:

Fairly militant — spears and a bow among them, as well as a net and whatever that mushroom does.

The Yellow:

Couple of dudes throwing puff balls (in Warhammer, snotlings use mushrooms and puff balls for poison).  I’d have them make an area cloud, while in it you have to hold your breath or make saves.  The clouds of spores disperse on a roll of 1 on a d6 (roll every round).  Fail one save you’re stunned from coughing.  Fail two you pass out (like sleep, but affecting any level). Fail three and you begin to die from fungal infection (1 hp per turn until cured or dead).  Humanoids slain by spores become shroommen.

Red:

Lots of spores and nets.

Blue:

These are some of my favorites.  The slingshot.  The archer on his back to stretch a short bow with arms and legs. Two mini-fanatics, looking like tiny goblin fanatics.  The witchdoctor, the sneak, the complacent mushroom farmer in suspenders.

Gremlins of different sorts can cooperate.

The ‘chickenfighters’ were both poorly cast and missing the bottom guy’s right foot and calf.  I had to make new ones.

But there is some animosity among clans.

The left foot of one wrestler is missing from both of these models.  Need to replace them some time, but sculpting feet for 15mm figures sounds pretty awful.  Maybe I can dig up a donor among my 1/72 plastic ancients.

Bonus mini, a werewolf.  The MegaMinis recast of a German figure (Metal Magic?).  Looks somewhere between Nosferatu and the werewolves from a film from the 1980s.

These guys are on a 20mm base.  Note the crudely reconstructed right foot.  And the snot dripping onto the bottom guy’s head.

Published in: on September 10, 2012 at 6:08 am  Comments (1)  
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Finally painted some more minis

This weekend we got some “craft time” in, and I finally finished a few figures on my painting desk.  I am noticing that my eyesight is significantly worse than it used to be, and my ability to paint small details, especially eyes, is plummeting, although my ability to whip out a mini in about half an hour remains strong.  I think I spent four hours total painting this weekend, which accounts for the above five minis and work progressing on about a dozen others.  Of course some of the work on these guys was already done (the fighter had been started last August to give you an idea of how rarely I’ve been painting lately).

Anyway the first two are a satyr produced by Mega Minis from an older Metal Magic mold, and a TSR “korred” that I picked up at Origins about five years ago.

Black hair speeds things up immensely since I get to skip shading.  I sometimes highlight black hair but not on these two.  For a TSR mini, the korred is not bad.  He actually has a lot of character that was not evident before I painted him.

The next two are lamias.  Again there is a Mega Minis recast of a Metal Magic figure (on the right), and an older original — a Grenadier lamia that was very graciously sent to me by Scottsz.

Lamias are another monster from Greek myth, like the satyrs, but interestingly the Greek version was half woamn, half snake, while the D&D version is half woman, half mammal (I think the Grenadier one is supposed to have the lower half of a deer or elk, while the Mega Minis one is clearly half cat).

Lastly there is one of the Citadel “Fantasy Tribe Fighters” guys that was sent to me by Mike at Specter Studios.

I am not terribly satisfied by this one, but I know he’ll never be anyone’s first choice for a PC so I just did a ‘wargame’ standard paint job on him — he’s only ever going to be a NPC.  I like his pose but he’s not very inspiring for a ‘hero’.

Don’t ask me what that little maggot-looking thing on the ground next to him is.  I didn’t see it when I was photographing them.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Been on a monster tear lately

That makes 1819!

So there’s the scorpion men I already covered; a black pudding made from Sculpy:

Just Sculpy that had a couple of pens pressed against it, baked, glued to a washer, and painted.

A MegaMinis harpy (originally Metal Magic?)

And a flesh golem — a repainted MageKnight mini:

As much as I love some of the henchmen and men-at-arms I’ve started, I’ve been motivated to paint monster lately, under the assumption that I could conceivably finish them all this year.  Monsters are A LOT easier to paint than people & humanoids, IMO, since they have less stuff.  Also, I find that about 5% of the adventurer minis ever get used; everyone always likes the same bitchin’ elf or fighter.  I should post my favorite “benchwarmers” some time — the minis I love but who always sit out on game night. 🙂

But monsters pretty much always get a chance to shine, at least once.

Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Ghouls and ghasts and an undead troll

The first ghoul figure I ever owned came in the old Grenadier dungeon monster set. (All images embiggenable by clicking)

The eyebrows are a little over the top, but old Grenadier like this always reminds of the Trampier and Sutherland illustrations in the Monster Manual.  Here he is again with a later Grenadier ghoul (Dragon Lords monsters of folklore set) and the Metal Magic ghoul recast by Megaminis:

The bestial ghoul on the left and the bone-wielding ghoul seem like ancestors of the later Reaper figures.  Here is a set of ghouls generously donated to the Galloway Memorial Home for Convalescent and Wayward Minis.  They were made by Reaper:

I think the big guy on the left is a ghast, or at least a boss ghoul!

Reaper made a second set (different sculptor, probably) that is more bestial and naked, again armed with bones:

Again there is an obvious boss and two lesser ghouls.

Ghouls are great monsters because in D&D they really are very scary for lower level characters, since they make three attacks and their touch paralyzes.  A large number of ghouls poses a threat even to mid and high level characters, especially if they are fortified with ghasts or thouls.

Nom nom nom nom…

Lastly, an undead troll which I think was made was Rafm?

The bone paw on the ground there is an actual rodent skeleton part from an owl pellet I found in my parent’s back yard a long time ago.  I’m thinking it was a mole’s, based on the claws.  If you don’t have any owls puking up bones and fur in your area, you can always go mail order for those authentic parts.

Why red hair?  Contrast.  I painted this guy when I was spending WAY more time per figure than I do now.  Painting stripes on clothing? Textured bases?  Who has time for that?!?

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (4)  
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Another score, but at what cost?!?

So I stopped by a FLGS (Kenmore Komics) to spend my gaming allowance this weekend and found a great deal on several MegaMinis packs that had been clearanced.  The “Monsters” pack normally sells for $24.99, but they had an older item with the old $20 retail price, and 1/2 off for ten bucks!!!  For 20 minis! That was a good deal in the 1980s!This is the image on the back of the blister pack, and although the paint jobs are mostly fine the really odd thing is that all the figures look the same size in this picture but in reality several are quite big.  All the demons and the shambling mound in the two right-most columns are about twice as large as they look here.   The blue demon in the second column is bigger too.   Because the blister is jam-packed with all the minis, it is not obvious and until I took them home & opened it I had no idea.  So that’s odd…I guess they decided it was important to show all the minis than to give  a sense of scale.  Anyway these figures (and most of the MegaMinis line) are recasts of the Metal Magic (in this case the HP/Hobby Products line).  I have to admit I was never that familiar with Metal Magic figures (I bought one nice thief in the 1990s, but it is lost now), but they are growing on me.  Only the fact that I already have a huge assortment of PCs, townsfolk, etc. keeps me from buying more MegaMinis fantasy sets.  And kudos to MegaMinis for making all those old catalogs and articles and even rules available for free at MiniMag.

Granted, I have plenty of monsters but I do like the idea of having an extra cockatrice to go with the two Grenadier models, and a harpy to go with my Heritage harpy, and so on.  It’s just nice to be able to pull out correct models for every encounter.

Still, while I was poking around I overheard the owner telling a customer that no-one buys comic books any more…at least not younger people.  The college age and under crowd just download digital copies of the comics.  His comic books customers are the same demographic as the older beardos that buy the minis, I guess (whenever I’m at Kenmore the other customers in the minis area are my age or older).

And it hit me that I’m part of the problem.  The store probably does not sell a lot of RPG stuff to begin with and to have all those Reaper pirates a couple of months ago and now these MegaMinis figures, all going at 1/2 price, which means no profit, and really a loss when overhead is taken into account…how is this FLGS going to stay in business?  So I picked up a couple of Reaper henchmen (the grave robbers) for $13 too.  At least he’s making a little on that.

Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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