Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reaper Bones Review

As I mentioned last week, I had recently purchased a package of Kobolds from the Reaper Bones line to paint and compare them to the metal version I was currently working on.  Well, as promised, here is the review.

First up though, kudos to Reaper for free shipping.  According to the website, any order over $25 qualifies for Free Shipping.  Although it can be argued that the service is just a marketing scheme to get buyers to purchase more, I'm OK with it.  Rarely do I purchase miniatures and supplies as single units so the minimum order is not an issue for me.  I simply wait until I need enough stuff to surpass the minimum order threshold.

The shipping was also quite fast.  Free shipping doesn't necessarily come by the quickest route but in this case I had my Kobolds in just a few days.  Not only was the shipping quick, I was also lucky enough to score some free swag.  Reaper was kind enough to add a paint sample and a cool little ReaperCon pen.  Thanks guys!

Now on to the actual review.  Once the blister was out of the box, I wasted no time tearing into it.  As you can see in the photo below, the miniatures came attached to little sprues.  They were easy to cut off with my clippers however.  And though I did not attempt any conversions with this initial group from the Bones line, after clipping the bases from the sprues, I can understand Reaper's claim that snipping arms, heads, and weapons for swaps would be a breeze.  The plastic snaps cleanly with definitive lines making for easy realignment and gluing. 

Ease of Conversion = Very Good

After clipping, it was time to inspect the models closely.  The casts (can I still call them casts when done in plastic?) seemed clean with only minimal mold lines.  The lines were easy to locate and follow even though white plastics can often hide such flaws. 

Locating was one thing but fixing was quite another.  Perhaps it has to do with the soft bendable polymer used in the casting (as opposed to the hard plastics of other miniatures), but the mold lines are somewhat difficult to remove.  I started with a very sharp hobby knife but the elasticity of the material made this process cumbersome at best.  The excess plastic did not want to detach from the model and tended to roll itself into crevices.  I then switched to small files but the results were worse.  Pieces of the soft plastic ruffled up and remained clearly visible to the naked eye.  I went back to the knife but the going was slow and I was not terribly happy with the models at that point.  You can see some of the material I'm describing by looking at the photo below.

I finally removed most of the mess from the minis but as you can see below, some areas still looked rough.  After spending more time prepping than I usually do even on metal models, I just gave up and hoped for the best.

Ease of Preparation = Poor

Now for the detail.  For plastic miniatures, and soft bendable ones at that, the detail was pretty good.  Below is a photo comparing two copies of the same mini.  The Bones version is obviously on the left while the metal version I had been working on is to the right.  I will ALWAYS prefer metal to plastic but for the price, the comparison was favorable.  The face and belt were the two areas that suffered the most, but for tabletop gaming and/or armies, the difference should not matter.  It should also be noted that the Kobolds are quite small.  It's possible that some of the larger miniatures from the Bones line have even better detail.

Miniature Detail = Good

Although priming probably should go under the miniature prepping section, I decided to keep it separate for two reasons.  First I wanted to point out the frustration I experienced in trying to clean the mold lines.  But mostly I kept priming under its own heading because the lack of the need to prime is one of the selling points for the Bones line.

Even though priming was not needed, I still placed two coats of black Krylon on five of the six Kobolds.  I sprayed them not so much because they needed it, but because I absolutely hate painting on a white background.  With rare exception, I always prime my miniatures black and these guys took the primer quite well.  As I mentioned, I do normally use Krylon but I imagine that any type of spray primer would work equally well on this material.

As you can see below, I did leave one Kobold un-primed for the review.  Though I was skeptical when I started, I was quite surprised at the ease of which the paint adhered to the plastic.  The paint went on smooth and did not run.  With this test model, I used regular Reaper and Citadel paints with all parts except the belt.  Two coats were required to fully cover the white background but that's not to be unexpected.  I did try high density paint on the belt (I forgot if I used Reaper HD or Citadel Foundations) and was satisfied with only a single coat.

A word of warning:  To bring out details on a model primed in white, or in this case, the unprimed white model itself, many painters use a guide coat.  Basically a guide coat is a light wash that runs into the crevices of all the little details on the miniature and makes them easier for the painter to see and identify.  On the rare occasion I do use white, I do the same but the technique does not work with Bones.  The wash simply ran all over the place and refused to settle in the proper places.  I should have taken a photo of the resulting mess but you'll just have to take my word on this one.

Reaper's No Priming Claim = Excellent

Below is a photo of my mostly completed Reaper Kobolds.  Half are from the metal blister I had been working on and the other half are the newly painted Bones version.  Can you tell the difference?

Hopefully the answer to the question is "no", or at least it took some time to discern any differences.  Even with the huge hassle of prepping the Kobolds, I think the end result is very promising for the Bones line.  The plastics painted up very similar to the metals and for about half the price.  From a distance it would be hard to differentiate the two unless the model were picked up or moved.

For the record, the center model on the back row is the Bones Kobold while the outside two on the front row are plastic as well.  The guy with the spear on the short dowel is also non-metal.

Below are two more to compare side to side.

Here is another comparison between metal and plastic.  Can you tell which is which?

Although not a selling point for most gamers, I was quite pleased when I read the back of the package and noticed that the line is partially made from recycled material.  I'm not a eco-terrorist by any means but I have to admit that it's refreshing to see a miniature company being a little more environmentally conscious. 

So all in all, I'm quite pleased with the miniatures.  Though the prepping was way more than I had intended, the rest of my experience with Reaper Bones was rather pleasant.  I think I will try a few more minis from the line and hope that maybe the small size of the Kobolds contributed to the difficulties I encountered.  And even if the results are the same, for the price, the prepping issues may be justified.

So in review, Reaper gets high marks for:
  * Price
  * Ease of Conversion
  * Miniature Detail
  * No Priming
  * Equal Comparison/Compatibility to Existing Lines

However, low marks are received due to:
  * Difficulty of Miniature Preparation (mold line removal)
  * The Elastic Nature of the Polymer (swords bent on two models)

If any readers have had additional experience with the Reaper Bones miniatures, you're comments are more than welcome.


  1. In your first photo, the Bones miniature is on the right. In the second, it's on the left.
    How can I tell? You picked up on it in your review: the flexibility of the models shows up in the weapons and frequently leaves curved weapons. It shows up the worst in spears; thankfully the kobold models are holding their spears at the top, as well as the mold attaching their spears to the bottom of the miniature, so they won't be nearly as bad as the skeletons in the line will be.
    This appears to go away in the larger models.
    I've been recommending smaller models in the line to new painters and larger models in the line to everyone, personally.

  2. You are correct sir. If you know what to look for, as you suggest, then the differences are noticeable. However, from a distance on the table, I think it would be quite difficult to tell the difference, beyond the issue with the weapons. No matter, I think Reaper has a hit on their hands. Apparently they think so as well judging by their comments on their Bones Kickstarter site.

    I have not purchased any of the large Bones miniatures but I'm glad to hear that you have not found the issue throughout the entire range. That bodes well for the future.

    I had not thought to recommend these miniatures to beginning painters. What a perfect entry into the hobby! They are quite inexpensive and would make a great start for any beginning hobbyist.

    Thanks for the comments and thanks for reading.

  3. Thanks for the review. A question regarding prep: usually with metal miniatures, I wash them with dilute dish soap, rinse and dry before priming to remove residual oil from the molds. Did you wash the bones before applying paint/primer?


  4. Great review. Nice to see direct comparisons between the metal and plastic versions of the figures. Thanks for posting!

  5. There is a trick to fixing bent Bones.

    1. Heat a pan of boiling water
    2. Put your bone miniature in a colander
    3. Hold the colander in the boiling water for two minutes
    4. Take the Bones miniature out.
    4a. Some Bones return to the correct shape from the mold in the water.
    4b. Some Bones need to be pushed into shape.
    5. Dip colander in ice water for one minute.
    6. Huzzar! Bones mini is set correctly.

    Secret 7. I've not tried this but you may be able to bend limbs like this for customisation.

    Good review!