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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Digging for Gold: Sites for Buying Bitz and Models

So you're looking for something to spice up your army, and you've already looked at Forge World for more minis and Ebay for conversion bitz, but you still aren't satisfied. Maybe you want some fancy-smancy bases to stand your mans on, something that will make them seem proud and impressive rather than like ill-proportioned skinheads shouting at each other. Or maybe you want to add something unique to your army, something more than just arm-swaps and greenstuffing, to differentiate it from others at your store. But, as it turns out, the internet is BIG. There are a lot of stores out there and many of them are actually kind of trashy; while it may not be hard to find mention of the more common places by name, smaller ones often go unremarked on.

What I've done with this article is try to compile a list of places that you can buy things to add to your army to personalize it. This is not a bitz shopping article in the sense of acquiring GW parts or where to get your usual grey plastic cheaper; that varies too much from country to country and whether you want to support your FLGS and how, etc, though I may suggest alternatives to the usual model ranges. No, this article is for finding things you might otherwise have overlooked.

Note: the vast majority of these manufacturers I do not have any experience with and have never ordered from. Where this is not the case, I will specify, but these links are mostly to give you an idea what's out there- how the miniatures actually look in person, how their service is, etc, is largely beyond me.

Antenociti's Workshop: A number of different scenery and vehicle kits, mostly sci-fi, including some very cool-looking vehicles and jetbikes. However, they seem a bit small at a glance, so be forewarned that your hovertank may end up being more of a Land Speeder.

Armorcast: Since split off from Forge World and GW, they now mostly do terrain pieces and effects (muzzle blasts, flamer jets, etc). Several of their alien flora can make excellent Mycetic Spores for smaller squads. Also: steampunk dragon.

Avatars of War: So. Amazingly. Beautiful. If you play Fantasy, you owe it to yourself to take a look at these models for your lords or heroes; they have at least one model for virtually every faction and they are all gorgeous, with amazing levels of detail that, if everything I've heard rings true, hold quite well even in the casts.

Back 2 Base-ix: Don't blame me for the name, that's what their site says. They have a decent range of resin bases, although nothing that blew me away, but they are at least alternatives to some of the others out there. They also sell a variety of other craft supplies, including plasticard, movement trays, basing supplies, and even GW/FW product. Kirby addition: I've ordered from these guys a few times and I've never had a problem with their casts or shipping. A bit pricey but if you find something you like, excellent quality.

Blackcat Bases: Despite the name they sell more than just bases, although they certainly have a good selection of those; they also do heads, conversion bitz, and especially accessories for figures, like weapons, tools, backpacks, etc.

Chapterhouse Studios: The big name in town when it comes to 40K supplemental bits, they have a huge range of Space Marine accessories, from chapter-customized shoulder icons to jump packs to weapons to doors and add-on kits for vehicles. However, they also have lots of other options as well, like Tyranid upgrades (for Boneswords, Ymgarls, and more), alternate heads, and even a superheavy vehicle kit for Tau(!). I am told that their sculpts are sometimes a bit shabby- and, indeed, the pictures in their store imply this is the case for some bitz- by the items I ordered (jump packs, ymgarl heads, Tyrant boneswords) all looked more than fine and arrived quite quickly.

Copplestone: Okay, so their minis aren't exactly expert sculpts, and most every female they do looks like she's dressed...well you know what he means. However, there are a few small gems scattered around and they have a wide selection of different ranges, so if you're looking for something obscure this may be worth a shot. Browsing is a pain, though.

Dark Sword Miniatures: Some very nice sculpts, mostly all of a fantasy or historical bent, but unfortunately a lot of them fall into the "woman with scanty armor and exposed breasts" category. There's plenty of interesting stuff in here, although most of it doesn't quite fit the Warhammer aesthetic.

Dragonforge: Bases! Bases bases BASES! Far and away the largest supplier or resin bases, Dragonforge has an amazing variety and updates their lines seemingly constantly. Their prices are reasonable and they have a huge variety to pick from; if you're looking for something fancy to put under your miniatures, this is probably your go-to.

em4miniatures: Not a huge line of stuff and only tiny, tiny pictures available, but their range of metals seems to have some interesting options.

Empress Miniatures: Some ranges of historicals and such? Not super-familiar with them.

Eureka Miniatures: They have a line dedicated to Nazis riding dinosaurs. What else do you want? Okay, fine, so apparently they have all kinds of stuff, although the sculpts don't look as good as some others (it's hard to tell with the small pics and I haven't browsed extensively.) But Nazis. Dinosaurs. Come on.

Evergreen Scale Models: Do you need plasticard in odd shapes or sizes, or want something patterned, or otherwise odd? This may be the place for you.

Evil Mushroom games: Not a huge selection, but some pretty okay bases and a number of interesting terrain pieces.

Ex Illis: A new game, looks pretty good, with a nice selection of minis already available, including at least one big kit. Less of a "dark fantasy" feel than most of the other games, with some stronger Judaic overtones which Marine players might find useful in modeling. Can't comment on the game itself, but it has some kind of "level up your registered minis" kinda thing that could be very... dodgy. I dunno, give it a look, it's a nice site.

Forgecraft Games: Perhaps a little smaller than some of the other base manufacturers, but they have a good selection and all of the casts are excellent, both for wargaming and for tabletop minis.

Gamezone: Haven't explored the site extensively, but it's English-language and seems to have all kinds of fantasy-themed stuff. I also noticed some big wolves and other odd stuff, so maybe take a look around.

Grindhouse Games: On the one side, we have a weird-WW2 thing with gas-masked allies fighting German monstrosities. On the other side of the site, we have weird, neat egg-mecha with rockets that I'm pretty sure Ork players could love. Hopefully we see some more cool stuff in the future.

Hasslefree: A pretty good-sized company, they have a wide selection of modern and sci-fi miniatures (especially near-future actiony stuff) and a non-insignificant fantasy range. Tau players might find some of the alien ranges helpful, and the line of female heads are also noticeably superior to many similar options. Also check out their various zombie-related products, including adorable child zombie hunters and a complete line of Scooby-Doo figures.

Hell Dorado: A French game, but available through some US (and potentially other?) retailers. They have an absolutely gonzo line of models, with everything from Chinese hell-demons to abominations of the pit to Arabic summoners to Victorian mercenaries. No idea how they're scaled, but some very pretty stuff.

Hobbylink Japan: So obviously this is pretty different than most of the things on the list; it's largely a scale modeling site, with a heavy dose of anime figurines (read: cute girls in costume or stages of undress). However, there are a lot of mecha and tank parts that are of use to a creative IG or Ork player, so maybe search around a bit.

Hobby Search: Similar to the above, but less semi-naked anime girls and better sorting tools.

Heresy: Somewhere between Ultraforge and Avatars of War, they make a number of different fantasy minis aimed towards WFB. Quality is definitely a step below the Ultra and AoW, but on the other hand so is price. It looks like they have some ambitious projects in the works (include a large, multipart dragon kit), but I haven't ever seen any of their minis outside of the shop pics.

Infinity: A standalone futuristic game akin to Necromunda, the models are pretty nice looking but not much cheaper than their 40K equivalents, which has kept me out of the game so far.

Ironhalo: Another resin base retailer, they do some interesting lines and actually have a quite large selection of stuff. They have a lot of more unusual base sizes including those for Fantasy, War Machine, cavalry, etc.

Kerr and King: A nice-looking site in a lot of ways, but awkward to browse through. Still, it's not completely awful and the bases all look rather nice, including a few more unusual types.

Kingdom Death: A very good sculptor, from the looks of things, who does limited run miniatures by request. About half of them are specifically labeled "pinups," so take from that what you will. There is some pretty crazy stuff here, all of it very well made, but not always something you'd want to plunk down in a game with a stranger.

Mantic Games: An excellent manufacturer who is not only creeping in on GW's territory but also putting out a game of their own, heavily modeled on WFB. Their undead, elf, and dwarf kits are all very strong and have a decent variety of pieces, poses, etc, not to mention worlds cheaper than GW's kits.

MaxMini: A nice little company with a quickly expanding line of conversion bitz as well as a few useful figures; their Thunderwolf is not completely awful, but there's probably better options. They do have a nice IG-scaled bike, though. Their conversion parts are the real treasure, though- they have an extensive line of awesome Ork parts (heads, bodies, bionics, etc) as well as a variety of other weapons, shields, and various upgrade parts.

Micro Art Studio: Combination of bases, bitz, and miniatures- a sort of grab bag of stuff, in short. Their bases seem decent and they have a neat series of hive bases that could be great for representing Tyranids on an infected planet or Hive Ship. Their conversion bitz are a bit more unique, including Krieg-style Boyz in uniform and a variety of heads (Ork, human, and otherwise.) Their miniatures section also has a couple different Thunderwolves and a great-looking set of mechanized humans that would make ideal Mechanicus troops.

Mr. Dandy Sculptures: An independent sculpter doing some interesting work for 40K. He has a rather large and impressive-looking Mycetic Spore model, although it is similarly pricey. However, if you're looking for something that looks like a monstrous creature and is big enough to hold a 'Fex or twenty other models, this is definitely it. He also has a set of Thunderwolves, but they are unfortunately a bit squat-looking and not very dynamic sculpts, in my opinion. However, they're fairly reasonably-priced and have harnesses and Marine legs included, so you pretty much just need an ASM/Tactical box to finish them off and you're good to go. He also has some scenery available, including a nice little explosion marker and a creature burrowing out of the ground.

Old Crow Models: Manufacturer of near-future/sci-fi models, with a strong emphasis on vehicles, spacecraft, and field works (turrets, walls, scenery, etc). Though their biggest models are only 25mm scale (and hence a bit smaller than 40K), they are kind enough to provide dimensions on them so to make comparison to more standard models much easier. Most of their tanks are 3"-5" in length and they even have some aircraft that could make for interesting Valkyrie/Vulture/Vendetta stand-ins or the bases for a Stormraven.

Paulson Games: Another small manufacturer, but does a nice little line of conversion bits. The Tyranid boneswords and whips seem a little plain-looking but are perfectly-sized, the Thunderwolves are a bit more active-looking than some of the others but hard to get a good idea of scale, etc, on. The Tau railguns are a nice addition for those looking to make some Broadsides or make an experimental model, and the jump pack and Dread talons are a boon to BA players.

Perry Minatures: A nice historical wargaming company that produces large boxes of figures for fairly cheap; they're mostly useful to Guard players as stand-ins, but be aware of the usual differences in scale between 28mm and heroic.

Pig Iron Miniatures: Ah, Pig Iron, beloved of Guard players everywhere. Not only do they have their own line of figures, the heads (and much of the other gear) are perfectly fitted for IG models, in particular the gas mask-equipped heads that many use to make Krieg or Steel Legion at a fraction of the normal cost. Don't ignore their other stuff, though, they have some interesting possibilities for Stormtroopers/Marines.

Plasstruct: A very nice plasticard company that apparently supplies a rather large percentage of the US, as well as one of the companies I've dealt with personally. They have a PDF catalog with approximately one million different types of plastic in it; if you're willing to dig, chances are you can find what you want. Of note is their fluorescent acrylic rods, which are perfect for Necrons should you, for some reason, decide to hate yourself.

Pulp City Superheroes: Pulp superheroes miniatures. Either you'll be super-excited that these exist and you can buy them or you won't care because they aren't what you need.

Pulp Figures: Just what it says. Nefarious Chinamen! Doofish henchmen! Dashing adventurers! Probably not appropriate for 40K or Fantasy! But still cool!

Privateer Press: Obviously also their own game, but several of the Cryx (Warmachine) miniatures could make good stand-ins for Dark Eldar units and Legion of Everblight (Hordes) provides some interesting possibilities for Tyranid players.

Quantum Gothic: Scenery manufacturer with a strong leaning towards the dark futuristic style that 40K embraces. If you're looking to build a defensive line (or want a neat turret/weapon array for a tank or as a centerpiece), look no further.

Rackham: Makers of several miniatures games including AT-43, a prepainted future game with military gorillas. Let me repeat that: armed gorillas in space are a real thing in this game. If that isn't enough reason for you to be curious, I hate you. Some of their mecha have been converted with reasonable success into Killa Kanz by a number of folks.

Ramshackle Games: Post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland in the style of Mad Max or Necromunda. No real comment on the models, since I haven't seen them anywhere outside the site, but they have some vehicle kits that could be interesting to an Ork or Guard player as well as some really odd walkers, etc.

Reaper Miniatures: If you have ever wanted a figure for your D&D character or fancy monster the PCs are facing, this is the site for you. They have an absolutely enormous range of tagged, searchable models of all manner of heroes and horrors. Their modern and sci-fi lines are much more limited, but there are still possibilities in here. (The Darkspawn in particular could easily be some kind of alien or Tyranid beasties.)

Resin.fx: Very detailed resin bases of various kinds, many of them fairly unique. Lots of "scenery" bases that aren't just some bumps on a standard 25mm/40mm circle, so if you're looking for something damn fancy, this may be the place. A little more pricey than most as a consequence, though.

Scibor's Monstrous Miniatures: Can't say for sure, but the pics of the sculpts look amazing. Various minis and parts, very obviously 40K/Fantasy-themed ("celtic space warrior," hrmmmm?) including lots of alternate heads, shields, and breastplates. Also squats.

Secret Weapon: Mostly just bases, but a few conversion bitz mixed in (backpacks, helmets, Extra Armor). None of them are ground-breaking surprises, but if you have a specific look in mind for your army you'll probably appreciate another option.

Shadowforge: So yeah, this site loves itself some breasteses, as is pretty obvious from the title page. But female minis can be difficult to find for modern/future settings, so there's some useful stuff here.

Smog 1888: SOOOOOOOOOO COOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!! You know how some other games do pseudo-Victorian fantastic worlds? Smog does it better. You know how some games have crazy character models? Smog has a flying doctor with robo-arms and a smoke-belching stove-top hat, oh year. I know absolutely nothing of the game, but the models are perhaps the best thing in the whole world; unfortunately, they are scaled rather large (40mm? bigger?) and thus not really compatible with any other games, damnit. However, one of these days I am going to break down and buy one just to paint it.

Studio McVey: A small selection of extremely well-sculpted minis, although they're generally just a bit too large to use in 40K. Pretty, though.

Taban Miniatures: Another of the shops I haven't really browsed in extensive depth, they produce a stand-alone game with a vague gladiatorial combat theme, I think? Minis are good sculpts but seem a bit hit-or-miss to me, but others may find something interesting inside.

Trollforged: Another company I can personally vouch for being pretty excellent. Resin casts of several useful styles of models- Daemons, beasts, definitely-not-Tyranids, and best of all, Guardsmen with greatcoats! Not a huge selection, but what's here is all quality work at entirely reasonable prices, and I can say for a fact that the sculpts look just as sharp in person as they do on the page. The cadre of folks working for the site is growing and, with any luck, they'll keep putting out excellent stuff in the future.

Ultraforge: If you aren't going to Avatars of War for your Fantasy needs, you damn well better be going here. Ultraforge specializes in huge, detailed models of monsters like dragons, greater daemons, and the like, and their work is second to none. They also enjoy cult popularity as the makers of an excellent set of wings that can be added to models that are in need of flight, not the least of the Hive Tyrants and Harpies.

Urban Mammoth: Another independent game-maker, their models have a much more sleek and future-y look than 40K usually goes with, but there are still some interesting things here, especially if you're looking for alternatives for an IG army or looking to make some Tau auxillaries.

Wargames Factory: Makers of a variety of plastic kits, all of them competitively-priced compared to the alternatives. Foremost on the list would probably be their zombie and shock trooper kits, but they also have a variety of historical minis that could be integrated into a thematic force of some kind.

Wyrd Miniatures: Makers of Malifaux, a very cool-looking game that I unfortunately can't really afford to get into right now. But, like Hell Dorado, they have an awesome line of minis with a style all their own, slightly steampunk with a fantastic twist and some of the dark sensibilities that infuse GW's games.

Zuzzy Miniatures: Scenery pieces and tabletops almost exclusively- and pretty nice ones, at that. If green felt isn't your thing, give this a look and see if you can't go for something more exotic; I'm told they are rather durable and quite worth the price.

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