Small Can Be Beautiful
I first seriously entered the world of the miniatures hobby through wargaming, specifically via Games Workshop’s perennial favorite, Warhammer 40k. I had dabbled with painting a few figs in my younger days, but just in a casual fashion as an adjunct to my role-playing games campaigns. Wargaming got me into painting as serious business, since having a well-painted army was a mark of prestige in the wargaming world.
So I painted hundreds of figs for multiple armies for 40k, and later for Privateer Press’ Warmachine when I had an ugly breakup with GW’s games and started looking for an alternative. I really enjoyed my time as an army painter, and I may well feel the need to get back into that part of the hobby one of these days.
When I finally grew weary of the massive investments of money and time necessary to play miniature wargames, I shifted my attention back to my first love, RPGs. I quickly discovered that in the fifteen or more years I had been away from it, the RPG mini sector had grown by leaps and bounds in quality, and that some of the very best work out there was coming out of tiny “boutique” companies often staffed and run by one or two insanely talented people. Thanks to the magic internet revolution, it’s now possible for these small operations to sell direct to consumers all over the globe, thus opening up a literal whole new world for the mini painter and hobbyist.The sheer variety of minis available positively staggers the imagination. There are companies producing (for example) teddy bear cowboys, a playboy bunny football team, and a book golem. No matter how strange or specialized your needs, odds are somebody produces a miniature to suit you.
Favorite tv and movie characters are also wisely available, albeit usually in the form of figs “inspired by” various iconic characters. Perhaps you’re a fan of a certain famous doctor? Or maybe a vampire busting teenager is more your speed? How about a little “ghost” busting with the Mystery Machine gang? Again, it’s all out there for the ordering.
What’s great is that all the figs in these examples are available for order direct from their manufacturers. You can pay with the same credit card you use for regular e-commerce, your bank or credit card company will handle the currency conversion for companies that don’t have US dollar prices. You might want to consult an exchange rate website before ordering to avoid a potential nasty shock later.
International shipping rates are actually much less than you might think, especially since packages of miniatures are (understandably) usually quite small themselves. Shipping times can vary wildly depending on the vagaries of the various national postal services. I’ve had very good luck with the Royal Mail from the UK, and some real problems with Canada Post. Nothing I’ve ordered has ever taken more than a couple of weeks to arrive in good order.
In addition to the vast selection offered by smaller companies, many of the “boutique” casters produce minis of positively exquisite detail. Many of the truly small-press operations are outlets for remarkably talented sculptors who want an outlet to do the work that suits them artistically. The quality of the sculpts you’ll see from Kev White’s Hasslefree or Andy Foster’s Heresy is simply stunning, far better than what’s coming out of GW or even Reaper.
I would encourage every miniatures hobbyist out there to take a broader look around and see the wondrous variety of goods on offer from the world’s smaller companies. You may soon find that having a treasure trove of unique minis on your workbench will get you painting more often and your masterworks will get more attention when they stand out from the rest of the pack. It’s a big world out there. Go play.
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