Review: Elmore Mountain Giant by Dark Sword Miniatures

by: Dark Sword Miniatures
by: Dark Sword Miniatures
Miniature: Elmore Mountain Giant
Manufacturer: Dark Sword Miniatures
Price: $59.99
Material: Metal

Even if you don’t recognize his name there’s a very good chance that you’ve seen one of Larry Elmore’s paintings. His work is both prolific and iconic, appearing in many gaming publications, especially during the height of TSR’s reign. His work was a normal sight on the cover of Dragon Magazine as well as D&D sourcebooks.

    Parts List:

  1. Head
  2. Right Arm
  3. Left Arm w/ Club
  4. Torso Front
  5. Torso Rear
  6. Left Leg
  7. Right Leg
  8. Base

The characters he’s created on canvas have had a close relationship with miniatures since the glory days of Ral Partha. Special figure lines and box sets were made to bring his work to the table. Many of his humanoid figures can be purchased today from Iron Wind Metals, who have the reproduction rights. To many they will seem quite small as they are true 25-28mm scale.

After Ral Partha’s demise Dark Sword Miniatures picked up the rights to create their own line of miniatures based on Elmore’s work. It was in 2002 that the Elmore Masterworks line was released, bringing the iconic characters to life in the modern 28mm heroic scale that was popularized by Reaper Miniatures.

by: Larry Elmore

One of Elmore’s more famous paintings is “Avalyne the Lifegiver,” which portrays a woman kneeling before a fallen warrior while a mountain giant glances back at the scene from over his shoulder. In 1993 Ral Partha released a special boxed set of this scene, sculpted by Dave Summers, as a part of their Sterling Collection.

Somewhere in 2005-2006 Dark Sword acquired the rights to the “Avalyne the Lifegiver” set. While they avoided purchasing reproduction rights for any of the 25-28mm humanoids, because they were in a scale they did not want to produce, they felt that the mountain giant was of a large enough scale that it would fit in well with their 28mm heroic scale offerings. Another contributor to their decision to acquire the model was the simple fact that it’s a beautiful sculpt.

Dark Sword cast their new masters from the original Ral Partha master molds which came from the mid 90’s, ensuring that the version they offer today is still Dave Summer’s sculpt. The legacy of this piece is part of the reason I’m proud to own a copy. The other part is that this is a great miniature.

All Dave Summers had to work with was the painting (presumably. I’m making assumptions here to express my adoration for this miniature). The left side is all that can be seen and a lot of work was done to fully realize this character from all directions. The inclusion of the prison barrel gives a lot of imagination to this design. Not only is the pose very dynamic, even by the standards of more modern pieces available today, but the fullness of the design is great. Every part is fully realized and fully fleshed out, meaning that this giant looks good from every viewing angle.

giant-1

The mountain giant is a massive hunk of white metal. The legs, arms, and head are all single pieces, while the torso is separated into front and back sections. This weight seems to be taken into account due to the way the parts fit together, but to err on the side of caution I strongly recommend adding extra pins to ensure solid construction that will last. Also, keep some green stuff handy.

The general construction is divided into 2 main sections- the legs (and base), and everything else. The legs have a nice, large registration point , but I added a pin to each side for extra stability. The legs create a platform that the upper section rests on.

giant-2

I found that it was easy to get the head in a rough position so it looked right, but it just barely sits in place at the collar of the giant’s tunic. Looking at it from the outside, I just had a small gap along the right side of the neck that needed to be filled, but looking at the assembly from the back told a different story. The head was just barely being held in place.

There were no good angles available for pinning. My solution was a large plug of greenstuff pushed in from the back, and then sculpting it around the stump of the neck to provide support. After it all dries I’m then planning on drilling straight through it all into the head and putting in a paperclip that I will bend down so that it acts like a clip against the inside of the torso. It’s not ideal, and probably won’t survive a fall from any great height, but should be enough to keep it together.

The arms can slot in well, but they are best positioned when both halves of the torso are put together. However, this would mean completing the torso assembly and then just letting it slide over the leg plug, which didn’t seem sturdy enough to me.

My solution was to figure out the best position for the arms, and then pin them in place to the front section of the torso. Then I set pins on the front and back of the leg plug with matching holes on the front and back torso sections. Putting everything together was very tricky and required a lot of care, but the miniature feels much sturdier. Once the assembly dried all that was left was filling the torso seams and sculpting the greenstuff to match the tunic textures.

The Elmore Mountain Giant is a kit that has withstood the test of time. It is still an excellently designed figure that was made well when it was first created and stands up against great modern miniatures being currently produced. I highly recommend this kit.

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Review: The Norseman Cometh by Collapse Industries

by: Collapse Industries

Disclaimer: I bought this kit as part of a business deal when I sold Collapse Industries some of my wooden round plinths at CMON Expo 2015.

Miniature: The Norseman Cometh 1/35
Manufacturer: Collapse Industries
Price: $35.00
Material: Resin

When I went to my very first CMON Expo in 2015 I took along theremaining stock of wooden plinths I had unsuccessfully tried to sell for a few years. At first I was just giving them away to some of the event coordinators and class teachers, but then someone from the Collapse booth approached me and asked if they were for sale. The next day I was able to sell off the entire remainder of my stock, which was a relief as I didn’t want to haul those bases back home. Part of the deal was a preorder of their forthcoming Viking themed miniature.

    Parts List:

  1. Body
  2. Right Arm
  3. Left Arm
  4. Head – Viking Helmet
  5. Head – Helmet w/ Gas Mask
  6. Axe
  7. Shield
  8. Longship Prow
  9. Dragon’s Head
  10. Left Hull Section
  11. Right Hull Section
  12. Wooden Seat
  13. Longship Bottom

Concept art was all I had to work with, but it was striking enough that I really wanted that kit. The quality and detail of the other figures they had for sale gave me reason to trust this Norseman would be just as good.

After a couple of months I got the announcement email that the Norseman was being released. When the package arrived I was surprised to discover that he was wearing modern tactical gear and had a head option with an assault gas mask. Apparently I had missed those details from the concept art, but I was not disappointed.

This piece has been in my backlog for quite some time, but I’m glad to finally be able to bring it out for a review.

Overall this is a very high quality resin kit. The details are crisp with very few mold lines, but there are some issues to be aware of.

The ship’s hull sections both had very large sprue on the bottom, which were easy to remove. I just scored the edge and was able to snap the piece away with minimal effort. However, the bottom edge was very ragged. I did a good bit of cleanup, but never reached the point of a fully flush fit between the pieces that make up the boat. Part of this is because I reached a point that seemed good enough and I felt that trying to work the material any more would lead me into more problems.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

You can see that the fit isn’t terrible, but will require some putty work. I’m not worried about this along the bottom edge as I am planning on adding some water effects.

When assembling the boat I recommend starting with the prow. It’s the central point that all the other pieces connect to. After affixing one side of the hull, I had to work down the seat piece to get it to fit well and glued it to the hull section already in place. Then, I added on the other side of the vessel.

The dragon’s head was the first time I encountered any bubbles in the resin. Thankfully they weren’t on any of the major details, but there was one under the chin and another at the back of the head. I love the look of this detail and it fit in place very easily.

The Norseman has his own challenges in assembly. First, the sprue on the feet was incredibly thick and required careful trimming with my sprue cutters. There was also some excess resin where the boots connected to the sprue, so I had to file them back into the proper shape.

The head was easy to attach to the body. I prefer the version with the gas mask, possibly because I’ve been playing a lot of The Division since the Survival patch.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

The arms were the challenging part. The slots on the body where the arms should fit were completely covered with resin. I wasn’t able to salvage them at all. So, I ended up clipping the tabs off of the arms. Then I had to take a lot of material off of the body where the arms should attach just to get rid of the excess resin that was in the way. After about 20 minutes of careful work I was only able to get a rough fit, but it was good enough that I glued the arms in place before filling the gaps with greenstuff and resculpting the sleeves. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

The final pieces: the shield and axe, were simple to prep. The shield slots easily into the back, but there are 2 different orientations where the body’s slot will accept the shield tab. One of them looks better than the other, so make sure you test thoroughly before glueing the shield in place.

I was very happy to see that the boat base has a slot for the hilt of the axe, making it very easy to complete the assembly.

Even though the Norseman is posed statically, the fullness of the figure and the incredible detail keeps this from being a negative thing. My only major complaint with this kit is that the interior of the boat is so empty. I wish there were some pieces of kit on the seat; something to break up the negative space.

The price of this kit is a remarkable deal. The overall quality, combined with the scale of the piece, means a great value at the 1:35 scale. Even though it had some challenges to put together, I love this kit. In fact I like it so much that it’s going to be one of my competition pieces for the CMON Expo next year. The Norseman Cometh is a miniature that I highly recommend.

Review: Selene la Fleur by Another World

by: Another World
Miniature: Selene la Fleur du Mal
Manufacturer: Another World Miniatures
Price: €7.50
Material: Metal

From Another World we’ve seen a unique figure and a take on a 40k archetype. Selene seems to be another tribute miniature, this time aping the style of the Chaos Marines as her backpack is adorned with impaled heads and a large demonic skull sits on her left pauldron.

She has a nice pose that doesn’t feel rigid. While the production shots show the gun in her left hand resting atop her knee, you could easily reposition the weapon to point at a target. It’s not a choice I would make as it makes the figure look a little unbalanced, but it is something that can be done easily.

    Parts List:

  1. Body
  2. Left arm w/ gun
  3. Backpack

One problem I have with her pose is the position of her right arm. It’s at such a sharp 90 degree angle from her body that it’s very unrealistic. If they could have tweaked the arm forward at least another 15 degrees this sculpt would look a lot better. If they could have managed a 45 degree arc with the arm the overall composition would be quite nice. But, alas.
selene2I am happy they were able to give her left leg a nice, natural angle out from her body. That, combined with all of the natural curves to her body position, are the elements that save Selene from being stamped as static or lifeless. Even with the poor positioning of her right arm she looks good.

She has some nice detail work. The hair is at least as good as that of their Bonnie Steampunk figure. The plates of the torso armor are well defined and contain an interesting pattern that was probably quite complex to sculpt. The boots have a strange wood grain like pattern to them. It’s an interesting idea I’ve never seen done before, but I’m not sure if it works with the overall design of Selene as it’s so very different than any of the other details.

The backpack has its impaled heads and sci-fi style tubes. The only problem with it is that it doesn’t fit well. Even after filing down almost all of the tab that’s supposed to fit into Selene’s back I couldn’t get a flush fit between the parts, so have your greenstuff handy.

The left arm is easy to slot into place and the overhanging pauldron means that the join location is well hidden.

selene1

The gun is a strange looking contraption. Its inner side has some interesting technical details while the outer side has none. It’s also sculpted onto the arm in a way that makes it look like it’s stuck to her gauntlet instead of looking like a separate item that she’s holding. It also doesn’t look like any of the 40k weapons I’m familiar with. Given how so much of Selene’s design is tied to that franchise, I find it odd that the gun is such a departure from the inspirational material. It’s a design that looks more like something you’d see from pulp era sci-fi.

The chainsword has some problems. On my copy there’s a bend in the middle and the edges aren’t true. The dinged edges given the weapon a used feel, but the bend is an obvious problem. There’s also an issue with the blade’s teeth- they have some inconsistencies in shape and detail. On the one hand it could be used looking, but to me it seems like a problem with the quality on that section of the mini. It’s also lacking in any interesting ornamentation or little designs that could have filled the empty space. It does provide a place for some freehand work if you so desire.

Overall, Selene is a marked improvement in both quality and design. In an email I was told by Another World that She was one of their best sellers and a miniature they are quite proud of. I’m happy to say that this miniature surprised me given their previous products I had reviewed.

If you like the look of Selene, then I would suggest you give her a chance. If Another World continues to improve like this, then we can expect some more good miniatures from them.

Review: Jen – Harvester of Souls by Dark Sword Miniatures

Disclaimer: I have worked with Jen Haley as a volunteer for the Paint and Take table for the past 2 CMON Expos.

Photo by Dark Sword Miniatures. Painted by Jen Haley.
Photo by Dark Sword Miniatures. Painted by Jen Haley.
Miniature: Jen – Harvester of Souls
Manufacturer: Dark Sword Miniatures
Price: $14.99
Material: Metal

This is a miniature I like quite a lot. Besides it being another good example of Dark Sword’s excellent sculpting and quality, it is also a good study in what it takes to elevate a miniature into something dynamic and full of character.

In some ways I get tired of writing about the general quality of a Dark Sword miniature because I feel like I’m repeating myself. Their bar for quality and production value is so high that I take it as a matter of course when reviewing their products. However, there may be some people who have never purchased from them or seen their figures personally.

    Parts List:

  1. Body
  2. Left arm w/ scythe
  3. Skeleton Cat

Because of this I have to say upfront that this miniature is extremely easy to prep. There were only a few tags of flash on the points of the scythe and pauldrons. The mold lines are very small and carefully placed so that they don’t obscure any important details, and the details on this figure are all very crisp.

untitled

Even the details on the skeleton cat are exceptionally well defined. I’m no expert on feline skeletons (truth be told I thought it was canine until I read the description on Dark Sword’s page), but this skeleton is impressive. It’s hard to really appreciate how good it is until you see it for yourself.

Photo by Dark Sword Miniatures.

Another excellent showing from a company with a very good history for quality.

Now I can move onto the original thrust of this review- what makes this figure so good.

At first glance it’s a person-standing-with-a-weapon archetype. One of the aspects that sets it apart is how natural the figure’s stance is. Every aspect has a realistic curve to it. Her weight is shifted more to one side, compensating for the scythe, and the arm holding the scythe is curved in such a way that it evokes the tension in the muscles to compensate for its weight. It’s a very subtle thing, but goes far beyond the stiffness I criticize in so many sculpts.

Another great aspect is the bit of characterization put into this piece. The right hand sweeping back her hair is a great touch, but when combined with the bemused expression on her face you can begin to see something about the piece, a sense of who is depicted.

Photo by Dark Sword Miniatures.

All of the excellent figure work is enhanced by the subtle folds and sweeps of the skirt. You don’t have to look that carefully to see that there isn’t a single unnaturally straight line anywhere. All of the organic shapes working in concert are a big part of what adds that elusive dynamic quality to a miniature and makes it stand out.

While the Harvester of Souls may not fit the archetype some think of when it comes to female necromancers, it is a miniature that deserves serious consideration. High quality at a good price. Plus skele-cat. Who doesn’t want a skele-cat?

Kicksmart: Devil’s Dungeon by Dark-Art Studios

Kicksmart:
Devil’s Dungeon by Dark-Art Studios

Dark-Art Studios is one of those miniature companies I’ve known about for a long time, but have never purchased from. Back in the young years of WAMP when Dark-Art was relatively new, I always looked at their basing kits with some longing, but never got around to pulling the trigger.

Then they started making miniatures…

There are a lot of their older figures, like their Ghouls or Killdor the Barbarian, where it looks like they diligently studied every single ultra-flat miniature from Grenadier and Ral Partha, and reproduced that style in the most lifeless way possible.

Credit where it’s due, Dark-Art has improved with time. Their quality, posing, and design is getting better… but even this improvement sometimes comes with a trade-off.

A look through their catalog shows that some kits that are parts swaps based on a stock body. All 4 of the Cloven Hoofed Beasts use the same body. It can be easy to miss with a cursory glance as all of these products are positioned differently with unique composite layouts, but a lingering eye reveals that between the Taurus, Diablo , the Minotaur, and the Cyclops only the heads and hands are different.

The same thing is true between their different variants of fat monster sitting on a throne. On their store I could only find 2 of them: Nirgal Gut-Rot and the Ogre Chieftain. While there are more differences between these products, there is a third, the Goblin Chieftain. I remembered this one because I assigned it to another reviewer back when I was the Review Editor for WAMP.

For the Devil’s Dungeon quality has been bumped up significantly over Dark-Art’s past efforts, which is quite impressive. The sculpts in general are showing a lot more creativity, detail, and dynamism.

My favorite designs are the Demon Rassp and both of the Gremlins. The Rassp is a decently unique design that works well and has some great teeth and plenty of nasty spikes. The Gremlins are the real stars of this project, though. The faces and horns work well together with the stretched out bodies to create a strange and menacing creature.

The Baphomet is a decent goat-man. However, for the price I much prefer any of the Beastmen options from Reaper, mainly because I never need a single goat-man. When running an RPG I’d need a few of these guys to throw at my players and I get a lot more value from the Bones versions. Plus they seem to have sharper details than this one.

The Female Warrior pledge is by far the weakest option available. They are bog standard scantily-clad warrior chicks. They are extremely static and frankly uninteresting.

Out of the undead figures I like the Banshee most of all. It’s not at all what comes to mind when I think about a banshee, but it is a unique piece. Unfortunately the other members of this pledge level are mostly bland. The Longdead Thrall has a great pose and an interesting weapon, the Cauteric Searer makes me think fondly of Doom and Diablo 2, and the zombie is an uninteresting disappointment.

Value is a real issue with this Kickstarter. In past articles I have mention both the Bones and the Dwarven Forge kickstarters because they did a lot of things right. They both offered incredible value on the product with steep discounts compared to retail pricing. To my mind that’s what a Kickstarter should provide, since backers are helping to fund the production effort.

I’m not seeing much of a discount here.

At the Nightmare Group level you’re looking at an approximate value of $4.50 per miniature. For a single zombie that’s a terrible price, especially when you compare it to the 3-pack and 5-pack options from Reaper. They are of similar quality for a better value.

There’s also nothing I find appealing in the stretch goals. I find the Yeti’s design to be quite bizarre and unappealing. The Lashwip is a decent looking demon-thing. Salorus is just unappealing.

It’s important to note that all of the add-ons are discounted items from Dark-Art’s current store. I have no problem with this, just want to make sure everyone is aware. Personally the best add-ons are the scenery options. Some of these options, like the treasure chest set, is a pretty great deal given the number of pieces and their general quality. Others however, like the boxes, bone piles, and coffin sets, have a price that seems more fitting for retail.

Overall I think the miniatures available here are a step forward for Dark-Arts as a company. Their quality is better, but the price is too high for me considering it is a Kickstarter. There are also cases where comparable figures can be found from different manufacturers at a better price.

I do wish them well and hope to see them continue to improve, but I won’t be backing this one.

Review: Hero Forge Part 2: The Miniature

Before we begin looking at the miniature I ordered from Hero Forge, I have to announce a retraction from the last article. I stated that there was no way to choose individual options for shoulder, hand, or boot items. A number of readers, and Hero Forge themselves, pointed out that for the category header of these options there is a small chain link icon. Clicking this breaks the chain, allowing you to choose individual options for each slot.

While I am very happy that this option exists, I have to point out that I spent nearly 10 hours playing with the character creator and didn’t discover this on my own, which points to a usability issue with this option: it’s very easy to miss.

Hero Forge did tell me that they are planning to make adjustments to the site, one of which should make this option more evident.

Hero Forge Custom Miniatures
Price: $29.99 & up
Material: BETA Gray Plastic

After spending a number of hours trying to come up with a complex character to order, I finally decided to just order something I really wanted. I’ve always had a thing for half-dragon characters, my very first Neverwinter Nights playthrough was with a Dragon Disciple monk, and I’ve always liked the gish playstyle. With these options I created a miniature for Aurix, a character I played in a campaign long ago.

Click on the render of Aurix below to open him in the character creator if you want a first hand look at the items I reference in this review.

Click for this model in Hero Forge
Click for this model in Hero Forge

The first question has to be does the miniature I received look like what I created? As the photo below shows the physical print is remarkably close to what was designed on the Hero Forge website. In fact the only difference I have found is that the wings in the miniature are much, much better looking than those from the render.

aurix-wings

In the render the wings are very flat and close to the back. However those on the miniature are swept back to a high degree. This makes them look much more impressive in person, but it is a huge deviation from what was shown. In this case it’s a deviation I absolutely love because they make my character look cooler, but this is a problem. Hero Forge is supposed to be a WYSIWYG product, where you get exactly what you create, so there is a possibility for unhappy customers.

heroforgescreenshot-8

A good friend of mine has a couple miniatures from the original Kickstarter run in the Ultra Detail Plastic. While they looked good, each had suffered breaks at the wrist from minor handling. This material had good detail, but terrible durability.

The “beta” gray plastic is a much better material. It has some bend to it, which means it survived some intentional manhandling I put it through without any ill effects. However that same flexibility can have a downside. In Aurix’s case it’s a drooping sword. No, that’s not a euphemism. The sword is only bent a few degrees; it’s not terrible, but it is noticeable.

This new plastic holds detail very well. All of the ornamental lines in the breastplate, scales, and facial details are just as sharp in person as they are on the character creation. Even the teeth are very well defined, which is an impressive level of detail for 3D printing.

Speaking of 3D printing, the production process left a large number of little dots on the wings and cloak, as well as on a few other spots. There were also some bits of flash around the flame.

aurix

A few issues worth mentioning are problems caused by the interplay of different pieces added to the miniature. The wings are directly applied to the back of the miniature. In this case they sprout directly from the cloak, but removing shows that the same would happen with the armor, or with any item of clothing. There is no logical interplay between these elements. The same holds true for his tail.

In the same way, there is no collision detection between the tail and the crystals added onto the base. Poor Aurix’ tail is just entrapped by them. These crystals do change position based on the pose selected for a character, but there is no consideration for the tail or even for a long skirt.

Both of these issues could be solved, but would require substantial effort from Hero Forge.

The base is very short and quite thin. There is some noticeable warping; it’s not extreme, but it is present and makes him a tad wobbly. I would love to see the base be at least 1mm taller with a thicker wall. That might not sound like much, but would bring it closer to the height of standard bases from most manufacturers. It would also, presumably, prevent the issue of warping.

Aurix was a $30 miniature. Well, any non-mounted character using the gray plastic would be that price (I think). This is a substantial price for a single 32mm scale figure. Is it worth it?

The answer to that question comes down to personal choice. You are paying for customization. If you are able to find a miniature that is “close enough,” then you could have an excellent quality miniature from Dark Sword or Reaper for a quarter of the cost or less.

One of my good friends does not like Hero Forge because of its price. When discussing it he mentioned a custom miniature he has. I converted this miniature for him. While the raw materials were around the same price (~$30) he would have been looking at a much higher price if I had charged him for the work. Putting together Darius, the miniature in question, was 2-3 hours worth of work. I think he looks tremendously better than what Hero Forge can create for the same basic design. The wingspan alone is superior, but the price is much higher.

Hero Forge seems to lay comfortably between manufactured miniatures and hiring someone for conversion work. It allows for a high degree of customization at a reasonable price. It also comes with the hidden benefit of satisfaction at seeing something you designed come to life.

While I am genuinely happy with the way Aurix turned out, price is still a major factor for me. I admit that I’m probably at the extreme end of the customer spectrum for Hero Forge- I have the skills to convert an existing miniature and really enjoy doing that sort of thing. Personally I will always check the catalogue of my favorite miniature companies to see if they have something that’s good enough for my purposes before coming here to drop considerably more money.

For those who are dissatisfied with the selection elsewhere, or want a really special miniature, this is the perfect platform to bring those creations to life. Hero Forge has impressed me with their presentation, technical prowess, and the final product. I’m very satisfied with Aurix and am looking forward to painting him.

I’m also greatly looking forward to seeing what Hero Forge does in the future. If they find a way to sell the render for home printing, then they could have a huge impact on the entire miniatures market. Only time will tell.

Review: Hero Forge Part 1: Character Creator

Hero Forge Custom Miniatures
Price: $29.99 & up
Material: BETA Gray Plastic

I’ve wanted to do a review of Hero Forge ever since a friend sent me a link for their Kickstarter back in 2014. There’s no doubt that 3D printing will hold some place in future of this hobby. The exact nature of this place is still very much in the air, but the continuing progression of home printers with increasing quality and companys like this bring that future a little more into focus.

Another step toward that future is the grey plastic option that Hero Forge has recently re-released. It boasts high fidelity with increased durability, which is excellent news as their original high detail plastic could be quite brittle, especially where it was thin. To coincide with the 2nd release of the “beta” run of their grey plastic, Hero Forge provided me with a voucher to create my own character.

Click for this model in Hero Forge
Click for this model in Hero Forge

Because this company provides a service, customizable miniatures, as well as a product, this review will be spread over 2 parts. In this, the first part, I will go over my thoughts and findings from using their website’s character creator.

The character creator, reached by visiting their main website, is an interactive tool that allows you to customize many aspects of a 3D miniature, which you can then order. An excellent feature is that registered users, which is free to anyone, can save their creations. This is a fantastic option since there are so many options that crafting your character can take as long as you want. You can also take screenshots of the miniature and share a copy of the interactive model.

Visiting the Hero Forge website directly always opens it with a basic figure, which has a random chance of being male or female. The first option, Genres, toggles which items are available in all of the following categories. There are some categories that never change. Mostly this controls which clothing and items are available, but it also controls something impressive.

Selecting a different genre changes the background of the character creator to a setting that matches. It’s a full 3D environment that, while out of focus, can be explored slightly by panning around the figure. This is some surprising attention to detail and it’s the kind of thing that gives the impression that the company is committed to quality. Personally, I like the Sci-Fi background the best.

Click
Click for this model in Hero Forge

Currently there are 4 main body options- Male and Female versions of a humanoid body and a robotic-humanoid body. An item of interest to some is that none of the clothing options are dependent on these choices. The female-focused clothing (for chest items they’re the ones with breasts) are always available regardless of this choise. The primary purpose of selecting Male or Female is to set the body measurement parameters to a beginning state.

The Gender/Race selection is the main entry point. Depending on the genre selected, there are multiple options available. They range from human to elf, halfling to dragonkin, and anthropomorphic variants for canine and feline.

My main complaint here is that all of the anthro options only change the head. The hands and feet are still very much human. There are glove options to change the hands, but they override the ability to choose bracers or forearm options. As far as I can tell there is no way to give your dragon hybrid warrior scaly hands and cool gauntlets. It seems that these should be moved into a body option and that they should be compatible with other glove options.

The options for customizing the head are surprisingly extensive. Anyone who has lost considerable playtime using the face customization options in a Bethesda game will get a distinct feeling of familiarity here. Face dimensions, expression, and head options are quite prolific. All of the heads seen in the Race section can be recreated here and customized further, allowing for some unique compositions.

The expressions section contains not only generic options, but a full range of sliders that can be mixed to varying degrees, allowing you to get closer to what you envision for your character.

Click for this model in Hero Forge
Click for this model in Hero Forge

Here the Horns category stands out as there are quite a number of options available, including a loop that allows the miniature to be strung as an ornament of some kind. While the description says they could be earrings, I can’t imagine anyone doing that… but really want to see some pictures of anyone who has actually done it.

It’s surprising how much adding a horns option can change the entire look of a character. While playing around I threw some antlers on a feline basic figure and found myself looking at a very different creature.

The Body sliders are just as extensive as those for the head and again bring a sense of deja vu from a Bethesda title. None of the sliders here are limited, meaning that you can come up with some pretty crazy looking creations if you’re not careful.

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by Dark Sword Miniatures
by Dark Sword Miniatures

The wing options are disappointing to me. There are plenty of different types of wings, all in spread or closed variants, but they are all too small proportionally. While they do look good, they always look too small for the character wearing them. When I think of wings on a humanoid I want a more realistic wingspan.

by Reaper Miniatures
by Reaper Miniatures

When it comes to clothes, there is a very large selection to play with. You can start with a pre-built outfit and customize from there, or start from scratch to build what you want. With such a wide variety of items from different themes and genres, it’s easy to find options that don’t work well together… and that’s a really good thing. It speaks to the wide variety at your disposal.

Selecting All genres is the easiest way to see the sheer volume of costume pieces you have to work with. Have a plan or an idea of what you want you character to look like, otherwise it’s very easy to get lost here. The ability to save your character builds and take screenshots also lets this website function as a really great character creator and a good place to get a picture you want to use to represent your character in a tabletop RPG.

One limit I’d love to see removed is that any of the options that use 2 slots (shoulders, arms, shoes) always put the same option on each space. It would be great for some characters to mix gauntlets, shoes, or even have just a single shoulder pauldron instead of being forced to use them both.

When it comes to clothing, however, there is a glaring option that is missing: superhero costumes. This was pointed out by a good friend of mine. While they do have a cape that would work well, there isn’t a spandex bodysuit option. There also aren’t any of the archetypical face masks that a superhero would use. As he said:

“I don’t expect them to be able to model anything a Super Hero might put on a costume. But I was honestly surprised that there was no “full body spandex” and then 3-4 standard superhero masks “full face mask / half face mask / domino eye mask / full face with mouth-nose cutout”. Those four options are more than enough to get you a nice solid array of Supers…. if you’ve got ‘no detail’ spandex as a costume option. (because let’s face it, no two supers are the same)… you paint your costume onto a ‘no detail’ bodysuit.”

Organization of the available options on this website is generally quite good, but for the Items section Hero Forge is missing a great opportunity for improved organization. All of the weapon options, and there are a lot of them, are lumped into the “Handheld Items” category. There are so many options here that it can become a chore to find what you want. There is also no easy way to go back and find what you want, so if you want to go back to an item you had previously equipped, you will have to go find it and click on it again.

Click for this model in Hero Forge
Click for this model in Hero Forge

I’m a Software Engineer with a focus on UI, so this will get a bit technical.

Grouping the items into sub-categories would go a long way here to improve usability. It would also be tremendously useful if they added a new UI element that would either: a) track the last X options chosen by a user, or b) a user could right click on an item and chose to ‘save’ it into one of these new elements.

By implementing either of these solutions the user would be able to keep favorite options handy while they make their choice. It would cut down on time spent scrolling through the options and the annoyance of having to find every option they want to look at. Yes, it is possible to equip a different weapon in each hand, but that limits the user to a maximum of 2 options to compare at any time. It also doesn’t take into account the choice of the user wanting to add a shield or familiar, which could further complicate their selection and the time it takes to make it.

My first-blush idea would be to add 4 or 6 quick save item slots to the left-hand portion of the UI, beneath the Hero Forge logo. This area is pretty much dead space, since the character is always centered on the screen. Only on certain designs, mostly mounted, would this screen space ever be needed, and the user always has the option to zoom out.

Clicking on any of these quick save item slots would perform the same action as clicking on the item from the item list. However, these slots should have a context option to switch between the right and left handed options at will.

Getting back to item groupings for a moment: this is simple. There should be categories of items based on size (1 handed, 2 handed, etc.), type (blade, blunt, sword, mace, gun, shield, familiar, etc.).

Speaking of familiars, it would be fantastic if the familiar could have an on-the-base option, like the cat, as well as an on-the-shoulder option. I know this adds complexity, but doesn’t everyone want a wizard with staff, spellbook, and a pseudodragon on his shoulder?

It would also be nice if it was possible to take some of the Handheld Items and place them on your back. There is no Back item option for any of the energy rifles or anything outside a generic sword (longsword or katana). Being able to choose a specific weapon, or even an empty weapon scabbard, would be desirable.

I think I’m done with these suggestions… Hero Forge can feel free to shoot me a check for my consulting fee.

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What’s a miniature without a base, besides a very wobbly sculpture? There are 3 different base styles available: round, square, and hexagonal; with different textures.

I feel that there are far better options for fantasy or similar genres, but only a single mediocre one for modern or sci-fi. The stamped steel texture is nice, but very limited. A quick look at the textured bases from the Sedition Wars line, or those available from Dragon Forge, show that there are many ways to create a nice sci-fi themed base. It would be very nice to see Hero Forge develop some more designs here.

While I like the idea behind the base labels, I would love to know what happens if you don’t choose any of these options. This isn’t explained anywhere.

I like the idea behind the base items, but most of them don’t mesh well with the available base textures. They’re just bolted on options. There are also cases where, depending on the pose, a character’s tail can conflict with these options. The cat is probably the best option, as it can fit in easily without context, but I would love to see other animal options available as well.

Jump Shot pose with cat
Jump Shot pose with cat

Also, it isn’t explained that your choice of pose will determine the pose of the cat. In most cases the cat’s automatic pose matches that of your character without issue, but for some of them, like the Jump Shot pose, the cat’s actions don’t look good to me. It would be much better to give the user control of the cat’s pose. Dynamically add a pose menu item if the user selects the cat which contains all of the cat’s options.

Speaking of poses, there are some great options available. Some of them even get near the level of dynamism that I absolutely love, which is pretty impressive for a customizable system like this. You would be hard pressed to not find a pose you like.

However, the poses can change how you hold items, sometimes in unpredictable ways. Be sure to pick some handled options before you play with poses to get a feel with how the character reacts.

Companion is a very misleading option for me. In RPG terms a companion animal can be pretty much anything, but here what we have are options for mounts. Mount is the name I would use here. Currently you can choose between a pony, horse, and warg. Something that isn’t communicated until after choosing a mount is that your pose options are dramatically limited. In fact, there are only 3 poses available for mounted characters… and they are very limiting. Some of these poses change in a big way based on the items your character is holding. Some item choices make the pose look good, while others look terrible.

heroforgescreenshot-3

Mounted characters need many more options. In most cases simple adjustments to the arm positions and how items are held would go a very long way.

It isn’t until you get to the final option, Material/Scale, that the price of your miniature is revealed. Choosing a material is what causes the price to show. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but mounted characters cost more than those on foot.

Another small complaint about the character creator is that switching between a standing pose and a mounted one will override past choices. The system does not remember what pose you had previously selected. So if you’re uncertain about a mount you may have a lot more clicking in your future to reset that option.

The sheer breadth of options available in the Hero Forge character creator is, quite frankly, breathtaking. The general level of fidelity in the interactive model, combined with the well modeled assets and plethora of poses means that it’s easily within the realm of possibility that you can create a reasonable facsimile of your own personal character.

The ease of use is acceptable, and with some improvements it could become extraordinary. The entire process speaks to a high level of quality and a commitment to this brand. If you’ve never played with the character creator, then I highly recommend that you take the time to do so. Even if you don’t order a miniature it’s worth your time to experiment and see what this system can do. If nothing else you might have the best character portrait in your group!

In the next part I will take a close look at the character I ordered to see how it compares to the 3D model portrayed on the character creator, its quality, and an in-depth analysis of cost between using Hero Forge and customizing your own miniature.