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Metal Minis... Why Go With Metal?

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Back in my good-old-days, the 80’s, Google was called the encyclopedia, Amazon was a combination of the local feed store, Hills, Hecks, the 5 & Dime, and whatever mail-order catalogues you could get your greedy hands on… there was no Google (you resourced an Encyclopedia or the *gasp* library)… there was no Amazon… because there was no online… not where I grew up.

So, my first foray into painting minis came in 1987, when I picked up a Ral Partha thief for a D&D 2e campaign an old high-school buddy of mine was running. I remember very little about it, as it was a little figurine hahaha (a Halfling… I “overtly” wanted to be Bilbo Baggins). Seriously though, I remember it was from a Huntington hobby shop, and a moderately priced figurine for someone who worked as a semi-pro grass cutter. I remember that I painted his cloak a horrible olive green, used Testors flesh color enamel on the skin, and… oh yeah, no primer, what’s primer good for anyway? I also remember that in a bit of true inspiration, I left his thrusting dagger naked (which got the occasional toothbrush-polishing-to-a-shiny-metal-buff treatment… I still do this with metal weapons to this day).

So why do you need to know this? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re into war-gaming, and need 65 Riflemen, 6 Pulse Cannons, 28 Grenadiers, 4 Standard Bearers, a Space-Dragon General (and a Partridge in a Hum-veeeeeeeeee). Maybe you’re a DM and need to populate an always-varying world filled with animals and strange sentient species… or just a simple diverse city/town. The point is plastic has its place in that it is cheap, and you can buy a lot of it at once. Actually, let me rephrase that and say that plastic is SUPER CHEAP, and you can buy a s#!}ton of it all at once (to save on shipping of course). For an individual, this can be the best way to accumulate a large quantity of specialty figurines. Also, if you are an excellent painter, they are a cost-effective way to acquire unique minis for your personal reasons and uses. I, on the other hand, am not either of those people. I am not an excellent painter… and I do not require dozens of figurines for my purposes.

I’m Mavenloft, a single player in a current D&D 5e campaign. My character is a half-elf druid. So, I’ve planned out three ascending stages for him (green cloaked, sky-blue cloaked, white cloaked), and have purchased metal figurines for the first two stages, as well as for my favorite animal shapes.

So again… why metal? Because like I’ve said before, “I, on the other hand, am not an excellent painter…” and that wasn’t just lip-service. I’ve seen paint jobs on this site that make me want to quit putting paint-to-mini. I’m nowhere near the best (in fact, as of this blog I am rated #9457 out of 9457 members), so why go the extra-mile and buy metal? Let me give you FOUR REASONS why to buy metal:

  1. Because it costs more. Yep, you read that right; it costs more. Buy it anyway noob. If you aren’t into ‘accumulation of numbers’ then this strategy will save you a ton of money on the back-end. It’s the simple equation that buying quality saves on repair/replacement costs (same philosophy as buying brushes),
  2. Because buying metal really is going “the extra mile” for a reason. Detail on metal minis is generally of a higher quality than that of plastic. Notice I italicized “generally”, that’s because sometimes you CAN buy a plastic mini that out-lasts/out-details a metal one… nothing is ever certain… geez everybody, ease up.
  3. Because, you can strip a metal figurine down and repaint it at your leisure. *holds hands up in victory pose* That’s right… prime it, paint it, detail it, seal it (no permanent epoxies need apply)… or try any freaky order and technique you want… ultimately, metal is as erasable as a whiteboard. There are even citrus-based stripping gels that make this task as easy as 1-2-3, safely, in an indoor environment. Try this with most plastic figurines on the market and you’re likely to end up with what a friend of mine calls a “fungus monster’ (note: I haven’t tested every company’s plastic, so again…lighten up… geez, some people). Trust me, you don’t want to own a fungus monster.
  4. Because… well… honestly, because of the feel and performance. I know, a highly arguable point, but I fully believe in it. A quick look at my profile will show that I’m a scratch-builder more than painter at heart. As such, I tend to see the potential in materials over the final product. Metal actually gives you a chance to paint a figure until you get it exactly how you want, like you had a delete button that worked in the real world. Hell, you could paint it until you ‘accidentally’ got it right. Too cool. Also, you can re-pose metal figures if you bend them gently enough, so there’s that too.

So there you go folks. I’m not saying that metal is better than plastic in every situation that ever was… plastic is great for a ton of uses. But… for we few… we happy few… metal can bring a joy that plastic can rarely deliver: a cost-effective opportunity to craft in three dimensions without permanent damage. And so I say to “The Few”…
(comments encouraged)

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