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.
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.
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.
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.
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.