Debasing Old Miniatures

My current pipe dream project is one that requires a lot more time, money, and effort than I’m willing to put into it, so I’m shelving “dicking around with computers” until I can upgrade my schrodinger’s box, having got both my laptop and an ancient desktop hulk in working order.

So, it’s been a dog’s age since we’ve seen a DDM release, with Wizards canceling the line in 2010. Pathfinder Battles should see a release in January, unless there’s yet another delay, but I’m on the fence here: I don’t need more basics like wolves and goblins, I stocked up on those back in 2006, and I always liked the soft plastic DDM figs better than the hard plastic and shittily dull computerized paintjobs of Wizkids. But I have a dearth of big figures, missing all the trolls and ogres in the later packs, and the black dragon doesn’t have those asinine handlebars like in 3.5, so I’ll probably pick up as many larger figures as possible.

Besides, who else but WizKids is making prepainted plastic figs these days? Reaper’s about the only other contender for 1″ tactical RPG figures.

Anyways, Tenandys was cleaning house and thrust a box of random crap at me for cut-rate prices. In this case, a veritable crate of Mage Knight figures. With the assumption I could rebase these, repaint them, and use them for RPGs. I already have several dozen Dreamblade figures I’d bought, meaning to cut them down for D&D use, so this isn’t as random as it could be.

There’s a lot going for repainting and rebasing these old figures: there’s a number of awesome sculpts, there’s plenty of basics that DDM took forever to supply, and most of all, they’re cheap. Cheaper than a case of DDM at this point (at the end of 2011, most go in the hundreds of dollars), and a case of Pathfinder Battles goes for $250-275. Reaper’s prepainted plastics cost $5-8 each, which might give you one huge dinosaur or a handful of kobolds. Plus, it’s something to do, and if you like painting that’s a natural add-on.

If you’re not in the loop, rebasing useless old figs has turned into its own cottage industry in the past few years.

So, needing a time sink, I thought I’d do a set of how-to guides on them while I’m at it.

Tools You’ll Need

  • An Exacto knife. Any type will do, but the best is one with a removable blade that you can attach a chisel blade, to debase Mage Knight figs, and then a cutting edge for Dreamblade or whatever. Also, slipping a razor blade under the feet and pressing from there works, and people have done this all the time, but if you’re not careful that’s just an accident waiting to happen.
  • A towel. To put between the figure and your hand so you don’t cut yourself, and when you inevitably cut yourself anyways, something to mop up all the blood. Go for the kind of nice, thick, wide hand towel you use in the bathroom or kitchen; you want something bigger than a washcloth in both size and thickness (trust me) but something more manageable than a beach towel.
  • Old Obsolete Miniatures Games Figures. Mage Knight are a prime contender, since they were mass manufactured, but there’s also Dreamblade, World of Warcraft miniatures, and if you want to get ambitious in searching for use, HeroClix. You can get a lot of a hundred or so figs for ~$40-70 on eBay, or can run around hunting for boosters of these if’n you want. Or you might have some on hand, or know someone who wants to get rid of them. Who knows.
  • Bases. Something to stick all these figures on once they’ve been popped off their crappy bases. You’ll need a bunch of 1″ (25mm) bases for Medium figures, and 2″ (50mm) ones for Large figs. Some people use washers, others opt for round or square wooden bases. A few crazy people take cheap and worthless DDM/Star Wars Minis and cut them off their bases, but those minis are only going to go up in price. Gale Force 9 sells magnetic ones, if that interests you. Normal plastic ones can be found in the Games Workshop bitz bins at sites like The War Store and Spikey Bits in lots of 20 for ~$3. Or you can get 30 for $5 at Wargames Factory.
  • A Chair and A Table of Decent Height, to sit in and do this work on respectively. Should be a no-brainer. I’d also say to lay down some newspaper to catch all the little plastic bits that might break off/get cut off, especially if it’s at a table you eat at frequently.
  • Band-Aids for when you cut yourself. Not fucking around, if you haven’t worked with miniatures before—as in, anything more complicated than “take them out of the box”—take it slow and careful. Even if you’re used to assembling Warhammer figures, don’t forget, here you’re prying things off their bases, not assembling them; the knife’s natural inclination is to keep going after it’s cut through or otherwise found an open space, and that direction most likely will involve fingers—the things holding the miniature unless you’re paranoid and used a vise grip.
  • Other Supplies depending on how far you want to take this. If you want to paint them, pick up a few basic brushes—say, a 0 and a 1 for most of your work, a 2 for doing broad drybrushing and washes, and a .5 or smaller for doing eyes. And some paint pots, namely the basic ROYGBIV rainbow, a shit-ton of more earth tones and flesh colors, and at the least some silver, if not more metallics. (Actually, a learn-to-paint starter kit will have most of this, plus instructions.) Sealant, and  primer if you’re hardcore about painting for scratch. And you can get a variety of flocking from your local Train Store.

Next time I’ll actually get into the grit of the project, and move on through choosing, acquiring, debasing, mounting, and the basics of painting.

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