Quality of the New D&D Minis?


Miniatures

Liberty's Edge

I have a decent, though not excessive, collection of D&D minis and I certainly like them. I will admit though that the painting quality on them is pretty hit or miss. Usually the paint is ok, but they tend to lack a lot of fine detail, subtle paint control etc.

I recently saw a few of the new 4E minis in the store and they seemed to have a higher painting quality level. Is this a fluke or do they really overall look better and more detailed then the previous lines?

Thanks


Most of what I saw in Deserts of Desolation was pretty good. Dungeons of Dread had more than a few really bad ones, but others were okay to pretty good. Against the Giants has a few bad ones, but the quality seems to be picking up again.


I was looking at the Starter set the other day and the variation in painting quality was huge, so I'm kind of leery. Mind you, I'm a painter so it all smacks of cheating to me anyway! ;)

The Exchange

It is no surprise that the quality varies and that some come out crappy. WotC is mass producing hand painted figures. I am sure the "factory" in China is farming this stuff out to be done as piece work in homes and villages in rural areas. The emphasis is most likely on reducing production costs and keeping production on schedule. If you want good quality it takes more time and more money so it is a difficult balance that they need to strike.


The latest set is painted adequately well. I didn't come across any absolute stinkers like appeared in the Dungeons of Dread set (i.e. Troglodyte Bonecrusher, Orc something-or-another, and Goblin Picador).

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

crosswiredmind wrote:
It is no surprise that the quality varies and that some come out crappy. WotC is mass producing hand painted figures. I am sure the "factory" in China is farming this stuff out to be done as piece work in homes and villages in rural areas. The emphasis is most likely on reducing production costs and keeping production on schedule. If you want good quality it takes more time and more money so it is a difficult balance that they need to strike.

It's done at an actual factory, with a production line and a fair amount of automation. The general process is apply a mask to the figure, apply paint, send the figure down the line. Pre-painted is more accurate than hand-painted, as the amount of hand-painted varies from figure to figure.

The worst problem with the latest sets isn't the paint, although we're starting to see too much unpainted black again, and the huge red dragon is just miserable (compare it to the Giants of Legend huge red). The problem is cartoonish sculpts. One source of this appears to be that the figures are increasingly designed with CAD tools and a fabricator, rather than hand-sculpted.

Sovereign Court

I am experiencing the reverse - I own roughly 1500 miniatures and find the quality of non-4e figures in terms of design detail and paint was better than the new figures (deathjump spider or bonecrusher trog). The new ones appear without as much detail, less refined, and as for the pain - well, the paint is on par for most of the new figures. In summary, paint appears on par but design detail seems lower. Just my 2cp.

The Exchange

Russ Taylor wrote:
It's done at an actual factory, with a production line and a fair amount of automation. The general process is apply a mask to the figure, apply paint, send the figure down the line. Pre-painted is more accurate than hand-painted, as the amount of hand-painted varies from figure to figure.

Russ - I own and operate a toy company.

I have witnessed the production process. Very few toys are produced in automated factories. The norm is to have workers sitting at spray booths using spray molds but those are typically used on larger toys where distortions in the plastic are minimal. I doubt that there are many WotC figures that go through any form of process painting. Typically the factory will do as I described and send a pile of raw toys out for piece work.

Russ Taylor wrote:
The worst problem with the latest sets isn't the paint, although we're starting to see too much unpainted black again, and the huge red dragon is just miserable (compare it to the Giants of Legend huge red). The problem is cartoonish sculpts. One source of this appears to be that the figures are increasingly designed with CAD tools and a fabricator, rather than hand-sculpted.

Fabricators have a very hard time with the level of fine detail in small figures so they may still be hand sculpted - or more likely it could be a blended approach where the base form is fabricated and then detail is added by hand. That being said the cost of sculpting is huge. I would not be surprised if they cut corners as much as possible during the sculpting process.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

The Huge Red Dragon is the only one I did not get in my few cases of miniatures but I saw the pictures and I agree (not going to stop me from buying one on ebay though). I don't get it because the white dragon is awesome. They did a fantastic job on it.

Spoiler:
Just in time for the Runeforge too. Maw ha ha ha

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

CWM - I suggest if you want to learn more about how WotC does minis, you spend some time at Hordelings or Maxminis rather than going with what you think. I do spend time in the minis community, and I consider the information I've picked up there to be more reliable than your speculation about the process.

You're welcome to visit those boards and learn more - I'm certainly not an authority - but don't just assume that you know how the minis are done, unless you've been spending time in the community. The switch to CAD over sculpting is real, for example. The factory process has been semi-confirmed as well.

The Exchange

Pax Veritas wrote:
I am experiencing the reverse - I own roughly 1500 miniatures and find the quality of non-4e figures in terms of design detail and paint was better than the new figures (deathjump spider or bonecrusher trog). The new ones appear without as much detail, less refined, and as for the pain - well, the paint is on par for most of the new figures. In summary, paint appears on par but design detail seems lower. Just my 2cp.

{sarcasm}

Yes. I am sure the quality of the figures dropped because they are 4e figures as opposed to 3.5 figures.

{/sarcasm}

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

I'd like to think that the reference to 4E vs. 3E figures was more pointing at the DDM-2.0 break in sets than an accusation that 4E made the minis worse. There's a marked difference between Dungeons of Dread/Against the Giants (DDM 2.0) and the earlier sets, with Desert of Desolation being transitional and showing both sorts of sculpts.

The art approach of the game has definitely changed going into 4E, with what seems like a shift to less realistic illustrations and miniatures.

The Exchange

Russ Taylor wrote:

CWM - I suggest if you want to learn more about how WotC does minis, you spend some time at Hordelings or Maxminis rather than going with what you think. I do spend time in the minis community, and I consider the information I've picked up there to be more reliable than your speculation about the process.

You're welcome to visit those boards and learn more - I'm certainly not an authority - but don't just assume that you know how the minis are done, unless you've been spending time in the community. The switch to CAD over sculpting is real, for example. The factory process has been semi-confirmed as well.

I work with factories in China - some of the same factories that handle WotC miniature production. I can also look at the minis and I can see where spray molds have been used and where hand painting is used. I am telling you that they use far less cover and spray than they do hand brushing and dipping.

I know that CAD is taking over from hand sculpting. I also know its limitations. I know this because I work directly with fabricators for prototyping. I know how the sculpting process works because I work with both hand and computer sculptors.

I do not need to spend time in the minis "community" because I work in it.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

CWM & Russ: before the discussion gets too contentious, I thought I'd throw this in here for your consideration:

WotC Web Article wrote:
D&D miniatures aren't painted the way you'd paint a miniature at home. Many of the same principles apply (layering, washes, drybrushing), but the process is broken down into numerous steps for assembly-line style production by many painters.

Link.

Hope that helps.

-Skeld

The Exchange

Skeld wrote:

CWM & Russ: before the discussion gets too contentious, I thought I'd throw this in here for your consideration:

WotC Web Article wrote:
D&D miniatures aren't painted the way you'd paint a miniature at home. Many of the same principles apply (layering, washes, drybrushing), but the process is broken down into numerous steps for assembly-line style production by many painters.

Link.

Hope that helps.

-Skeld

Yep. That jives with my understanding.

The Exchange

crosswiredmind wrote:
Pax Veritas wrote:
I am experiencing the reverse - I own roughly 1500 miniatures and find the quality of non-4e figures in terms of design detail and paint was better than the new figures (deathjump spider or bonecrusher trog). The new ones appear without as much detail, less refined, and as for the pain - well, the paint is on par for most of the new figures. In summary, paint appears on par but design detail seems lower. Just my 2cp.

{sarcasm}

Yes. I am sure the quality of the figures dropped because they are 4e figures as opposed to 3.5 figures.

{/sarcasm}

Actually I got a set of the 'Giants' and I liked the minis overall, whereas 'Desert' were by and large a pile of crap. Both sets are 4e and both sets, to me, represent two totally different levels of quality. I agree with CWM's sarcasm. 3.5E vs. 4E figures are the same. 3.5 had some really awful stuff and some really nice stuff.

Out of 'Giants' I particularly like the Earth Titan, Boneclaw Impaler, Captain of the Watch, and Eladrin Pyromancer. Good detail, nice paint and very useful minis.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

Again, I'll take knowledge from talking to the people who run the minis department over what you think you know, Crosswired. Thank you for your opinion, and please consider dialing back your hostility several notches.

The Exchange

Russ Taylor wrote:
Again, I'll take knowledge from talking to the people who run the minis department over what you think you know, Crosswired. Thank you for your opinion, and please consider dialing back your hostility several notches.

Russ,

I do need to apologize. I should not have dumped on you. One of my "buttons" is the questioning of my first hand experience. I gets me quite worked up when anyone (not just you) says to me "that's not how it works" when I am actually doing it.

I am sorry it came out in a very antagonistic manner. You did not deserve the tone of those posts and i appreciate the passion of a fellow enthusiast.

Sorry about that.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

Coming briefly back to the topic of "how it's made" - which may not be news to some of you, but bear with me.

The heavy use of masks has been confirmed by WotC. I couldn't tell you if that is only when paint is applied with a sprayer, or uses in dipping/hand brushing as well. I'm certainly not saying that the minis are made by spraying alone or even mostly - the use of "spray" was actually introduced by another poster.

The minis sets are designed with something of a paint step budget, grouped by rarity. This is why you'll see a fairly wide range of paint steps even within given rarities, as figures that use up a lot steps in a given bracket will necessitate a reduction in steps on some other figures.

In terms of what's done most as a technique, keep in mind that the human instinct is to look at the steps in the set as a whole. In a typical set*, there are more rares (24) and uncommons (24) than commons (12), but in terms of production, the breakdown is this:

Of 192 figures in the production run:
24 rares (1 of each)
72 uncommons (3 of each)
96 commons (8 of each)

In a nutshell, the paint steps used for the commons account for half of the production run (though not half of the effort). Not surprisingly, the commons also have the simplest paint jobs as a whole (exceptions exist), and to my eye the least use of actual brush strokes as a paint step. By and large the commons are large areas of solid color, some even lacking proper flesh tones as a cost-saver. Washing and drybrushing seem nearly absent.

What may appear to be the most common techniques in the set views as whle may not actually be the most common, due to the the majority of the minis produced being commons. Nearly half of a set (40%) consists of rares, where the best paint jobs are usually seen, but they make up only 12% of the production run, so the actual steps happen much less.

One of the reason repaints (technically alternate paint jobs, but we call them repaints) are desired in the community, besides the collectability factor, is that oftentimes you'll see a much better paint job on a repainted common than on the figures in the actual set.

* Against the Giants had a different ratio - 18 normal rares, 6 huge rares, 21 normal uncommons, 6 huge uncommons, 9 commons. The distribution per booster was also different - 1 huge (1R per 3 U), 1 rare, 3 uncommon, 3 common.


Does anyone know how easy it is to strip D&D Minis down to the bare plastic?

Sovereign Court

Does anyone know if they make whizzing noises when burned and dripped into little pans of water?

...er, no I never did that with army guys when I was young!


:D

I found a couple of sites that discuss the fact that Simple Green (paragon of mini stripping) does nae work, cap'n, on these fellas.

CWM - any advice?

Scarab Sages

FabesMinis wrote:
Does anyone know how easy it is to strip D&D Minis down to the bare plastic?

I'm not sure if it would work for the DnD minis, but I use Brake fluid to strip my warhammer minis. I'm not sure about type of plastic, type of paint, etc, but if you have a bunch of one common, then try submerging it in brake fluid for 24 hours, then applying a toothbrush under warm water. Bear in mind that it may end up melting the mini or having no effect, but it did wonders for the 60-someodd gaunts I had to do. I did notice that it tended to erode the cheaper plastic of the ones that came with the starter set but had no effect on the ones that didn't. The erosion was fairly minimal though.

Incidently, I tried Simply Green, or whatever it's called, and it had no effect on my warhammer minis. Not to contradict everyone who claims it works, but it didn't for me for some reaosn, which led to my discovering the aforementioned method.


I suspect that this will be the case for brake fluid. I may try with Dettol (my preferred choice).

Scarab Sages

I have noticed an improvement in the painting, in that the really good figures (often even uncommons or commons) are much better than the best figures of earlier sets. However, agreeing with several other posters in that the worst paint jobs are much worse than before, and the sculpting is much more cartoonish than earlier (possibly due to some 4th Edition artwork, but 4th Edition has some pretty neat artwork too, so that can't explain everything).

Ah, well. The overall decrease in interest in the set has led me to just but the ones I want. Upside is I save about $120 per set (and that is for a set with big juicy Huge minis).

The Exchange

FabesMinis wrote:

:D

I found a couple of sites that discuss the fact that Simple Green (paragon of mini stripping) does nae work, cap'n, on these fellas.

CWM - any advice?

I have repainted a few D&D minis and in each case I mad no attempt to remove the existing paint. I did use a Tamiya cleaner designed to clean up plastic parts to get rid of any residual mold release agents. Then I gave the mini a light coating of a clear matte finish or very thin primer (armoury or rail road colors). I was worried that the existing paint would kill the details but it did not.

They turned out pretty good.


crosswiredmind wrote:
Yes. I am sure the quality of the figures dropped because they are 4e figures as opposed to 3.5 figures.

CWM, as you have admonished others here; this does nothing to advance the conversation. Stop poking other posters for your own pleasure/out of your own frustration with the issues.

Please, for your own sake, take a break from these boards for a while. It will do us who wish to chat without malice towards one another some good, and I suspect it might also do your own peace of mind much good.


The quality of the figures are all good.

From what I see, I think the base coat is probably applied in a factory.
Then they are sent out for detail painting.
Look at them closely. What should be identical figures often have differences of some tiny fraction of an inch.

Some flaws are because of 4th edition. The Spinx looks terrible because of changes in the basic monster. It does look like the monster in the new Monster Manual. It is not the fault of the artists.
Also, the new cards are useless if you are still playing 3.5. You have to use the listing in the correct Monster Manual. Another open book while you are trying to roll dice.

The Exchange

Bear wrote:
Please, for your own sake, take a break from these boards for a while.

I appreciate the concern but frankly Pax was making a completely ludicrous statement. The notion that 4e could be blamed for perceived drop in quality of WotC miniatures ... sorry but I simply could not let that slip by without comment.

Scarab Sages

crosswiredmind wrote:
Bear wrote:
Please, for your own sake, take a break from these boards for a while.
I appreciate the concern but frankly Pax was making a completely ludicrous statement. The notion that 4e could be blamed for perceived drop in quality of WotC miniatures ... sorry but I simply could not let that slip by without comment.

I didn't get that impression at all. I read that he was connecting the rerelease of D&D Minis to conincide with the 4th Edition rules (and possibly the previous sets which included 4th Edition rules previews) were not as good as those beforehand.

He was equating 4th Edition as an era for the minis, which is a perfectly valid statement. He in no way said "the existence of 4th Edition makes my minis look stupid."


Well 4th edition has of course caused minis of monsters I dont want to be made (Large Storm Giant, Fire Titan, Lamia woman made of bugs). But that has NOTHING to do with quality.

I think its hit-or-miss. Some minis in the newer sets look fantastic. And others are obvious dropps in quality or paint.

Look at the Lizardfolk in the new Against the Giants set. The paint job is terrible. If you compare him to the previous 3 lizardfold minis you will see that the sculpt and paint job has gotten WORSE as time wore on. The one in the 1st set Harbinger still looks hands-down the best.

Yet the lizardfolk is just one example. Other minis are the opposite and got much better.

Its weird.

The Exchange

FabesMinis wrote:
Does anyone know how easy it is to strip D&D Minis down to the bare plastic?

I personally just paint over them without worrying about it, although a bit of primer couldn't hurt.

Here is a stonechild figure and a Bluespawn Stormlizard that I altered and painted. Goliath druid and rhino.
druid without base. and finally druid mounted.
I did use some modeling materials but I didn't treat the painted surfaces before adding green stuff to the painted mini or new paint over the old. I usually seal with a matte sealer after painting to seal and protect but that's it.

The Exchange

Oh and here is a rework of the Fiendish T-rex in the old Giants of Legend packs.

The Exchange

Jason Grubiak wrote:

The one in the 1st set Harbinger still looks hands-down the best.

Yet the lizardfolk is just one example. Other minis are the opposite and got much better.

Its weird.

Yep. That is the part of the D&D minis thing that really bugs me. You take the same critter and it can vary so much from set to set. The hobgoblins never had a consistent size or shape. Put them together on the table and they look like a motley bunch.

The Exchange Contributor, RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6

crosswiredmind wrote:
Yep. That is the part of the D&D minis thing that really bugs me. You take the same critter and it can vary so much from set to set. The hobgoblins never had a consistent size or shape. Put them together on the table and they look like a motley bunch.

Size creep. At the moment, I want to scream "Pick a size, and stick with it!" because after set after set set of size creep, AtG started to shrink the figures. Can we please get consistent? :)

The Exchange

Russ Taylor wrote:
crosswiredmind wrote:
Yep. That is the part of the D&D minis thing that really bugs me. You take the same critter and it can vary so much from set to set. The hobgoblins never had a consistent size or shape. Put them together on the table and they look like a motley bunch.
Size creep. At the moment, I want to scream "Pick a size, and stick with it!" because after set after set set of size creep, AtG started to shrink the figures. Can we please get consistent? :)

Oh heck yeah. The new big head kobolds drive me nuts!


Russ Taylor wrote:
Size creep. At the moment, I want to scream "Pick a size, and stick with it!" because after set after set set of size creep, AtG started to shrink the figures. Can we please get consistent? :)

Think D&D minis has it bad, try playing 'Axis and Allies'. The same basic Panzer tank is available in four different sizes. And that game isn't really 'scale-specific' in the first place...

Sometimes I just wonder if the sculptors get bored.

Scarab Sages

vance wrote:
Russ Taylor wrote:
Size creep. At the moment, I want to scream "Pick a size, and stick with it!" because after set after set set of size creep, AtG started to shrink the figures. Can we please get consistent? :)

Think D&D minis has it bad, try playing 'Axis and Allies'. The same basic Panzer tank is available in four different sizes. And that game isn't really 'scale-specific' in the first place...

Sometimes I just wonder if the sculptors get bored.

Nah, they're just trying to make your battle-grid feel 3D by giving an impression of scale.

The large panzers go closest to the frontline, the small ones in the back.

Same thing with the hobgoblins.

Oh, and check out the difference in bugbears! They often look like different species - the early ones look like the current hobgoblins, and the newer ones look like bigfoot.

Liberty's Edge

Russ Taylor wrote:
crosswiredmind wrote:
Yep. That is the part of the D&D minis thing that really bugs me. You take the same critter and it can vary so much from set to set. The hobgoblins never had a consistent size or shape. Put them together on the table and they look like a motley bunch.
Size creep. At the moment, I want to scream "Pick a size, and stick with it!" because after set after set set of size creep, AtG started to shrink the figures. Can we please get consistent? :)

I agree. This drives me up a wall.

Liberty's Edge

Fake Healer wrote:


Here is a stonechild figure and a Bluespawn Stormlizard that I altered and painted. Goliath druid and rhino.
druid without base. and finally druid mounted.
I did use some modeling materials but I didn't treat the painted surfaces before adding green stuff to the painted mini or new paint over the old. I usually seal with a matte sealer after painting to seal and protect but that's it.

Very nice. I had been thinking about altering my minis as well. You make me want to run down the basement and start painting.

If you have any more pics lying around I would love to see them.


Fake Healer wrote:

Oh and here is a rework of the Fiendish T-rex in the old Giants of Legend packs.

Thats some beautiful work you have there, but I'm confused as to why you don't just paint metal miniatures? WotCs cheap plastic miniatures mostly strike as, well cheap plastic miniatures. There are some truly awesome metal sculpts out there. I'm surprised you don't concentrate on such quality considering the obvious effort you put into it.


Metal has its own problems over plastic. At least with D&D minis you don't have to pin, glue, greenstuff, pray, glue some more :D

I love metal but at the moment I want ease.


FabesMinis wrote:

Metal has its own problems over plastic. At least with D&D minis you don't have to pin, glue, greenstuff, pray, glue some more :D

I love metal but at the moment I want ease.

I cut my modeling teeth on metal (back when they had lead in the minis. Kids, lead + teeth/mouth = a bad thing) and never thought I would change.

Oh foolish mortal!

I can do much more with plastic these days, and as you say it is much easier to work with. I just wish Hasbro would sell packs of unpainted/green D&D minis at a steep discount. I could build an army and conquer . . . wherever.


MORE PICTURES PLEASE!!! :)

Dark Archive

I've been collecting since Harbinger, and in my experience some of the sets just aren't up to snuff - but there's always at least five really good minis with great sculpts/paint jobs in there. And, conversely, there are always at least five really horrible minis.

I thought the paint jobs on Dungeons of Dread looked pretty crappy when I saw them on Wizards.com, but up close and personal I thought they actually weren't as bad as I'd been led to believe.

Except the Lamia, who looks like she applied her lipstick with a giant crayon.

The Exchange

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Fake Healer wrote:

Oh and here is a rework of the Fiendish T-rex in the old Giants of Legend packs.

Thats some beautiful work you have there, but I'm confused as to why you don't just paint metal miniatures? WotCs cheap plastic miniatures mostly strike as, well cheap plastic miniatures. There are some truly awesome metal sculpts out there. I'm surprised you don't concentrate on such quality considering the obvious effort you put into it.

I work with metal also and I like it, but the plastic is cheap and if I screw it up it doesn't really matter. Also for something that may see play only a handful of times I try to use something quick and easy.

I spend a lot more time doing terrain pieces and such than I do minis. I am working on a ruined keep currently and some other minor projects, mostly using Castlemolds from Hirst Arts.
I'll post some pics when the wifey gets back from Vacation with the camera. Maybe I'll start a new thread with it also so as not to monopolize this thread.


I quite fancy buying a box set of Khorne Bloodletters and using them as Evistros for my 4E game. The new plastic set is awesome.

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