Advice Solicited: Miniatures

Terrain by Legendary Realms; awesome stuff

And thus do I throw open the gates wide and ask for your advice and opinions, my faithful readers.

With the advent of 5th Edition, I’m going to be starting a new campaign, and I have resolved that I would like to do so with the aid of miniatures. Sounds simple enough on the surface? Ah, but no…

First off, I’m not a particular fan of 28mm “heroic” scale. I prefer 25mm if I can have it.

Secondly, I haven’t bought any figures larger than 15mm since Clinton was President. I’m suffering a bit of sticker shock. I remember when Ral Partha was selling figures for $1.25 each, and you could get a box of 12 Grenadier figures for under $10.

Third, I’m not sure I have a lot of time nowadays to spend painting. I’ve seen some of the newfangled prepainted plastics, and they don’t look half bad. That would be a really nice thing, if I can swing it, but I am certainly capable of slapping paint on a figure if needed.

So this is where you come in, my friends. Recommendations, suggestions, arguments to and fro, please, let me know what you think. Is there a source of true 25mm prepainted plastic figures that are dirt cheap? (I am quite certain the answer to that is “no”.) If not, what are my options? What are your preferences?

Opinions sought.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

17 thoughts on “Advice Solicited: Miniatures

  1. I don't know if anyone does 25mm prepainted minis, but if you could force yourself to deal with 28mm+, there are a ton of minis to be had cheaply in lots on Ebay or singly through resellers such as Miniature Market and Troll & Toad. And of course, you're not limited to D&D or Mage Knight–there are plenty of Heroclix, Horrorclix, Heroscape, and even Star Wars figures that fit right in with your fantasy world denizens. And look in the toy aisle at a hobby/craft store–there are prepainted wild animals and dinosaurs to be found, as well as more fantastic creatures like dragons.

  2. I regularly use minis and a grid mat (no 3E rules shenanigans though!)

    My mix is D&D prepainted plastics for monsters, NPCs and starting PCs, and then PCs if sufficiently long lived can have me paint metal or Reaper Bones for them.

    The D&D minis I buy out of the cheapo bins at GenCon every year, or on Ebay. Pathfinder has a cool selection but some of the models have too cartoony a look, and I've found that they are constructed with glue so don't stand up well to rough handling and casual storage. D&D minis are almost always one piece and rugged as hell.

  3. I don't know of any 25mm figures, but I'd give two pieces of advice:

    1) Paizo's Pathfinder Pawn collections give you the biggest quantity for your money. Even if they're basically just cardboard with artwork, they look decent, and the first bestiary box will give you almost all of the "iconic" monsters that you would want to use.

    2) If you do decide to go with prepainted plastic minis, I would advise against buying the random boxes if you want specific monsters… it is much more cost effective to purchase singles from an online retailer.

    Either way, good luck finding miniatures that you love, and I hope your new campaign is a blast!

  4. I can't think of any true 25mm fantasy ranges. In 15mm you have a few manufacturers such as Splintered Light. For human types, you could also use historical figures (several companies sell as singles, rather than packs)

  5. Well, you can get 'true 25mm' figures, but they are in metal and are unpainted. Try Iron Wind and Ral Partha Europe, for starters, as they have still got a lot of the old Ral Partha lines in production. Michael Thomas of Classic miniatures also has a lot of vintage 25mm figures in his lines, including the very old-school Heritage USA figures.

    I agree with TamsinP – I don't think there are any pre-painted 25s out there, as the standards seems to be 'heroic 28mm' for these. The suggestion about historicals is a great one, too – back in Ye Olden Dayes, I used a lot of 'borrowed' figures from these lines to fill in a lot of what we needed for games. The classic 'City Guards', 'brigands', 'temple guards', and 'bandits' (as well as a host of people like torch-bearers, etc.) all came from the historicals folks.

    – chirine

  6. This guy is really crafty with the 15mm aka 1/72 minis:

    And this site reviews all the 1/72 minis that come out, with pictures of each figure:

    I have gotten great use out of Caesar Miniature's fantasy range. They have adventurers and all your basic races. And you get 30-40 figures per $8 box! Caesar also makes historical minis.

    As for historical 1/72 figs, I think Zvezda is top of the line. Very nice sculpts. I got a box of their Vikings and Medieval Peasant Army, very useful for D&D. They have all kinds of ancient/medieval/Renaissance figures, from different cultures, that you could use.

    Another great source is the discontinued Arcane Legions board game, you can get boxes at clearance prices. It had fantasy tropes mashed up with an ancient Roman/Egyptian/Chinese theme, in 1/72 scale. Some boxes come pre-painted! You can find "weirder" monsters there. I would go with the better-sculpted Caesar/Zvezda figs over the AL basic troops, but again, AL has some good monsters and flashy characters.

    Get Arcane Legions stuff here:

    And get Caesar/Zvezda here, best price:,fantasy

    All this stuff is dirt-cheap! And the smaller figs do paint up so much faster than 28mm, there's so much less detail. I base my PCs on a penny, these figs are very lightweight.

    One thing if you do paint—prime them with Valspar plastic primer (has a red plastic lawn chair on the can) from Lowe's, or a similar primer for soft plastic. These figures are polyethylene, not polystyrene, so regular primers will flake off. I use the Valspar plastic primer and paint them with GW paints, no problems. Also, polystyrene cement (Testor's model airplane glue) does not bond them. I use Sobo white PVA glue, it's a little thicker than Elmers, to stick them to the pennies. Works fine.

  7. A great compromise that I see in use regularly is the token solution. Rather than using minis for all those monsters – and really, who wants a thousand skeleton minis and try to keep track of them all? – use token sheets which are either preprinted or files on your PC that you can print on demand and then cut them out and paste them onto little metal or even magnetic washers. They work great for the rank and file monsters most of the time and you can save the minis for the PC's and for the special creatures. Like Vert.

    Fiery Dragon makes some on heavy cardstock, but they're not too cheap.

    You can also find a fair selection of them for free online if you're willing to comb through the interwebs for them.

    With a bit of initial labor outlay and some inexpensive hardware store parts, you can have a huge army of monsters at your disposal for little cash.

  8. Thanks to Mike Loew to the callout for my blog. One clarification: 15mm is actually quite a bit smaller than 1/72. 1/72 is either "20mm" if you go from toe to eye, or "true 25mm" if you go from toe to crown, and they aren't "heroically" proportioned (i.e. large heads and stocky builds).

    Here's a good discussion about contemporary true-25mm fantasy mini makers.

  9. Get lots (ie. cases) of random plastic, pre-painted minis. Starter sets have a lot of common (though boring) figs, like PCS and orcs. But these tend to be what you need the most of.. Plus PC-like figures can be NPCs. I have a ton from 3e & 4e days.

  10. I've become a big fan of card stock minis. Dryw the Harper has a bunch of free sets. Do a search for "dryw the harper cardboard warriors" and you should find his posts. Printed out on photo paper, and they work very well. Lighter to transport, too.

  11. I have also become a fan of cardstock printed minis. I particularly like that if I want to build armies I just need to crank up the printer.

    Okumarts has a good selection on DrivethruRPG and his .pdf files usually offer some customization via layers. I think most of the old Steve Jackson Cardboard Heroes are now available on e23.

  12. Gotta say the cardstock mini thing just doesn't do it for me. I know they're certainly inexpensive, but if I'm going to go that route I might as well use tokens on a whiteboard.

  13. I prefer the 25mm as well, and have not been pleased with the trend towards 28mm+. Having said that, however, I've been known to get monsters that are technically larger than 25mm, reasoning that its on the upper end of size for that species. This opens up choices such as Otherworld, Fractured Dimensions, etc. And for 28mm figures that I like, I might do tricks such as put on a very thin and flat base to reduce somewhat the height.

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