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.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Double Duty Innkeeper

Just finished up a barkeep from Reaper.  He is available in several different blisters, but I purchased him as part of a set with two serving wenches (65086).  I love it when miniatures are able to serve double gaming duty.  In this case he will be the innkeeper in both my Legends of the High Seas campaign and old school D&D world.

For those of you old enough to remember the sitcom Alice, I based the painting off Mel, the grumpy cook and owner of the diner.  Although I was quite young, I could still see Mel's chubby face in my mind and this sculpt just screamed his name to me.  I also suspect that Otik Sandeth, owner and proprietor of the Inn of the Last Home in the Dragonlance books had something to do with the color choices.

I am increasingly using my iPhone 4s for miniature photos due to the ease of editing and obvious convenience.  Most of the time the camera on the phone does a pretty good job of capturing the mini but in this case, the whites and reds are completely overpowered.  I guess that's why all the great miniature painters go to great lengths to use the best camera and lighting available.  For my mediocre painting skills however, my iPhone or little Canon 1400 Power Shot do just fine.  In fact, they probably help me hide many of my mistakes and blemishes.  I've got a serving wench almost finished as well so I'll post real photos (with the better camera) of the "Mel" when she goes live.

Now I'm off to find me some of Otik's spiced potatoes....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reaper Dark Haven Bones

In case you have not heard the news, Reaper Miniatures is releasing a new line of low cost plastic miniatures entitled Bones.  Here is the promo video.

According to the website, the miniatures are ready to paint right out of the primer is needed.  What?  No primer?  Blasphemy!  Another apparent benefit of the new line is the ease of conversions.  Reaper says conversions take about as long as it takes the glue to dry.  Head and weapon swaps should be a piece of cake.  It all sounds very interesting and intriguing.  But possibly the most newsworthy aspect of the announcement is the price.

Reaper's new endeavor certainly seems cost effective.  A blister of six Kobolds from the Bones line will put a buyer back $3.49.  It just so happens that I recently purchased the Kobold Raiders blister (02470) which contains five metal miniatures (three of which are the exact same pose as the Bones blister) for $9.99.  A bit of simple math seems to agree with Reaper's advertising claim.

Although the miniatures are less expensive, the money saved means nothing if the quality is not present.  I've collected and painted many Reaper miniatures over the years and until recently, all have been of superior quality as far as the casting goes.  If the new plastic minis are unable to compare favorably with the metal versions, then Reaper's new line may be doomed to fail.

I just ordered the Bones Kobold blister (77010) from Reaper and will paint them up to match the metal Kobolds I have been working on the last few nights.  Once I have both batches complete, I'll compare them, take a few photos, and post a review to discuss the question of quality.

For character models for roleplaying, or heroes for wargaming, I'll stick with the metal version.  But for monsters, NPC's, and rank and file, Reaper may be on to something with the Bones line if the quality of the miniatures lives up to the claim.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Game of Thrones on Blu-ray

I got my copy of Game of Thrones, Season 1 today.  I plan to settle down for the evening soon, drink a glass of wine or two, and watch a few episodes in glorious high definition.  Though I enjoyed the series on HBO last year when it aired (and on HBO GO in the interim), I'm looking forward to this round of viewing.  I'll be paying close attention to all the little details and nuances of the garb and armor to help with my Game of Thrones painting project.

Anyone else get their copy today?

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Old School Squats and Space Marines

After reading some of these posts about Warhammer's 25th Anniversary and old school Citadel miniatures over at Bleaseworld, I could not help but want to play along.  It took me a good while to locate the box containing some of my old minis but the effort was worth the reward....well....kinda.  Though I did find what I was looking for, in some respects I wish I had not.  Wow!  I was a really bad painter back then.  Not only that, I had a terrible knack for picking out horrid color combos.  If you can keep from laughing long enough, scroll down and read the rest. 

Space Dwarves!  Um, I mean Squats.  One has to be politically correct these days or risk offending someone and possibly inviting a law suit.  I've always liked the Squats.  They reminded me of short stunted biker dudes.  The photo above shows a handful that were either finished, or close to it.  I can't remember what my mindset was way back then and if I thought flock was even important for finalizing a miniature.

What the photo also shows is what I considered highlighting back then.  Compared to the very flat tones that marked my earliest miniatures, drybrushing a bit of white over, well...just about everything, was a huge improvement for me.  Had I continued painting I might have discovered proper highlighting techniques but it was not to be.  The year was 1988 and I was a junior in High School.  Suddenly gaming and painting were no longer important to me and I completely dropped the hobby for nearly 15 years until the release of Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring reignited my love of fantasy and everything associated with it. 

I believe the Space Marines in the photo above were painted in early 1988.  They represent my first foray out of the fantasy world (mainly Dungeons and Dragons and Middle-earth) and into a whole new realm.  Not only were the Space Marines an entirely new genre as far as miniatures were concerned, they also introduced me to wargaming in general.  Before painting these fellows, every game I played was pen and paper.  Though I had painted hundreds of miniatures in the years before (though not very well), they were only used as an accessory in our D&D or MERP sessions.  Now the miniatures were at the very heart of the game.

At the time of their painting, I was very much inspired by the Colonial Space Marines from the movie Aliens and decided to add graffiti all over their uniforms.  Unfortunately, as a teenage boy, I went by the adage that "if a little is good, then a lot must be better" and proceeded to write all over these poor miniatures.  I had to turn some of the Space Marines a certain way, strategically place them behind others, or simply leave them out of the photo because some of the things I wrote on their armor would not be appropriate to show on this blog.  Ha!  The mind of a teenage boy at work again.

These guys saw quite a bit of action against Orks and other evil entities back in the day.  I have such fond memories of playing Rogue Trader over at my friends house.  His Dad was into wargaming long before I really knew what it meant and allowed us to use his custom game table in the spare room to play out our battles.  I'm sure we really didn't follow the rules back then but we sure had a good time.  Unfortunately my memories of 40K seem to be more intact that my poor old rulebook.  The cover still looks amazingly good for its age but the insides have all detached from the binding.  It has definitely seen better days.

If looking at old Citadel miniatures brings happiness and a flood of nostalgia, you may want to check out this great site I found.  The Stuff of Legends compiles miniatures, catalogs, and info from the early days of many miniature companies into a wonderful walk down memory lane.  Here is the link to the Citadel section.