Using 28mm miniatures for Runequest Plastic or Metal?

Having been back into figures or miniatures for RQ for the last few months, I have come to a few conclusions about what actually works in terms of putting a decent range of miniatures together for my game.

I started off jumping into historic miniatures and was attracted to plastic because of the price. However always held an opinion that a nice metal figure was a better option, and a more desired choice. I can still remember loving the weight of my first citadel miniature in 1983 and convincing myself this was more than toy soldier.

However head has started to overrule heart and I have come to conclusion where possible  plastic figures are far superior in terms of what they offer than metal ones, and it is would be advisable to use them whenever possible.

Ok, I cannot see any time soon when we will have plastic kits for custom made RQ miniatures, the cost of development and production is as far as I know too high. But when we are looking at using historical Figures for our humans I am more and more being convinced about the superiority of plastics for the following reasons;

  • Price – At between £0.50 and £0.70 per miniature compare to figures which can be closer to £5.00 for a decent single metal miniature, the price of plastic is much more appealing. Some things you cannot get in so plastic it’s better to pay a good price to get the right metal figure. That is easier to do if you get sixty to seventy percent of you figures for under a quid a piece.
  • Better Figure Definition – I’m finding the definition and the detail achieved with the plastic kits is generally higher than the definition and sculpt on your average metal figures.
  • Customisation – Plastics are far easier to customise that metal figures, most have to be built so naturally have elements of customisation to them in design, but as soon as you start swapping pieces between sets you can step away from figures which are pure copies of human civilisation and create something which is more uniquely Gloranthan.
  • Poses – This is a delight I have found out, Plastic figures can maintain and survive in poses where a lead figure would destroy itself in no time without very careful care. Figures can be placed in more dynamic positions, have a greater use of spears and be positioned in ways where you don’t have to consider how the figure will survive or hold the glue will hold.

  • Ease of Build – To put it plainly plastics and polystyrene cements is so much faster easier than metal and super glue and pinning if required. I find that I get much better results too because of the skill level required. I’ve managed to glue my finger to the figure and have the require piece drop off too many times to care to mention when attempting to use metal superglue.
  • Durability – Due to velocity when falling , the ability to hold paint and not chip, and the rigidity but durability of the miniatures I find plastic superior to metal in every way in this regard. Plastics can take some misuse without seeing a degradation in the miniature.
  • Storage – due to above reasons storage options are a lot cheaper. I feel secure storing and transporting my miniatures in simple hobby boxes which can be bought from home bargains for under £3.00 and can store 50 to 60 miniatures in them.  Much cheaper than the custom build foam padded boxes which are advisable for metal miniatures.

There are a  number of limitations in using primarily plastic figures for RQ and Glorantha, mainly revolving around what is available on the market.

  • Nothing Runequest Specific – Ok I cannot foresee a time when the demand for Gloranthan miniatures is such that we will get Runequest specific box sets of plastic miniatures.  So for Baboons, Morocanth, Trolls, Praxian Riders, Walkitipi, Jack O’Bears and other RQ specific creatures we will need to look at metal to supplement our collections.
  • No Females – Ok a Big Bugbear of mine there are no decent female plastic miniatures available out on the market, I mean non.  Historic are male dominated because they reflect the time, and most other fantasy sets are either out of proportion, purchases a unit of 20 or so tied into another genre they don’t fit Glorantha. So for female Pc’s and NPC’s metal is the choice at least for the moment.
  • Number of Figures Required – As they are designed for table top gaming plastics tend to come into box sets of 20, 30 or 40. Unless the box sets are very  versatile that is more than you need for role playing.  The way round is either to very selective about boxes you buy or to purchase by the sprue not the box,  I’ve found three good suppliers on ebay; slogger, second city games and nannyogg who allow me to buy plastics by the sprue not box.
  • Figures too Distinctive – One issue with some figures (particularly Romans) is that they are too distinctive and cannot be mistaken for anything else apart from what they are.  I haven’t yet used a roman figure without conversion, and I haven’t found a way to use a roman helmet or shield on any figure at all. However judicious use of parts and interesting paints jobs can make most figures look gloranthan rather than historical.
  • Armour Options – Ok one clear difference between the figures created for the historic bronze age/iron age  is the use of armour. Historic figures of antiquity usually have three armour options none, chainmail or linothorax.RQ characters have a much greater range of armour used, with much being leather, cuirbouilli, plate, scale and what I call composite armour.  These generally aren’t widely available in plastics.My currently work rounds are to actually buy figures in armour that can be painted to create a believable impression these other types of armour(roman lobster armour can be painted to look like leather or composite), buy dark age figures with relevant armour and use alternative heads, shields and paint jobs to move the look and feel of miniatures back into antiquity. or to attempt to paint chain as scale with limited success
  • Boring Stances and Figure Repetition – Some ranges(mainly Victrix) suffer from figures in boring positions and a lack of ability to modify the figures into a more varied and unique variations. That great if you are looking to add small variation to a unit on a war game but rubbish if you want to use plastics in RPG.  The answer here is to check images the figures you get and sprue before buying.
  • Limited Choices – The choices and ranges of figures available in plastic  are more limited and therefore sometimes require more of ingenuity that you would if you used metal figures. Perry’s Woodland Indians can convert  well into praxians or balazarings once you drop the muskets options out.

Also there are very limited choices for healers, mages, scribes, traders, priest as and other less warrior like characters. Conversions on simple sets can work to a degree, but for players characters you probably need to invest in metal figures.

All in all the list of challenges to overcome is not insignificant but I am still convinced that whenever possible I am going to be using plastic miniatures for my Gloranthan games.

2 thoughts on “Using 28mm miniatures for Runequest Plastic or Metal?

  1. The situation for female character figures in plastic has improved a lot since 2018 with Frostgrave Soldiers II, Wizards II, Barbarians II, and coming out this month Cultists II.

    1. I’m preparing a piece that cover this as you type. Not all of the relevant to Glorantha but maybe the best options we have.

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