Getting Started with Miniatures
Using miniatures in gaming varies from group to group. Some will use them and some will not. Another consideration is availability, especially with trying to find miniatures that fit Traveller. Unfortunately, there is no current supplier of miniatures specifically designed for Traveller, and the major races of Traveller. If your group needs a Droyne, Hiver, or K’kree, about the only recourse is to watch eBay and see if any of the old Grenadier Miniature models becomes available. It is possible to modify some existing miniatures to create your own Aslan or Vargr. However, there are several options available for human characters and maybe a non-major race or two. The miniature companies listed are generally using the 28mm scale (the old Grenadier miniatures are 25mm scale). Availability in the local gaming store will vary greatly. Most are only available online; shipping and handling will vary. In all cases be aware that figures are sold unpainted and assembly may be required.
Ainsty Castings (http://www.aintsycastings.co.uk) is based in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom. While they do not have a large selection of figures, there are some aliens and a variety of Planet of the Apes figures which could make for an uplifted character. The main items they offer are a assortment of scenes and set pieces. Ainsty casts in resin.
Anvil Industry (http://www.anvilindustry.co.uk) based in London, United Kingdom produces plastic miniatures. Most of their miniatures are military-based figures and they offer a variety of exchangeable parts.
Bronze Age Miniatures, based in Bluffadale, UT, USA (http://www.bronzeagemin.com), uses the 32mm scale for their lines so models will be noticeably larger than 28mm comparison. It would be like a seven foot person standing next to an almost six foot person. They have a fairly large assortment of science fiction miniatures, though they specialize in models from Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter of Mars series. They also offer four different versions of “Sci-Fi Wolfmen” (read, large Vargr).
C-P Models (http://www.cpmodelsminiatures.co.uk) of Leicestershire, England has a small variety of science fiction miniatures. They offer individual figures ranging from combat-suited to wrench-holding crew.
Games Workshop, producer of the Warhammer series of games (http://www.games-workshop.com), is probably the most readily available science fiction miniatures in your local gaming shop. They are also the least favorable to a Traveller theme as they are selling armies for their tabletop war game. Some individual figures may be usable but you are not just purchasing a figure you are purchasing a game piece and will have to pay for the uniqueness of that figure in relation to its power in the Warhammer game.
Heresy Miniatures in Derby, United Kingdom, (http://www.heresyminiatures.com) has a line of science fiction miniatures that are generic but mostly based on some popular television shows (Dr. Who and Firefly). Not every figure will fit with Traveller but a piece or two may appeal to a player, or needed villain.
Hydra Miniatures in Warrn, Michigan, USA (http://www.hydraminiatures.com), uses a 30 mm scale in their products. (Click on the Retro-Raygun.) The figures are based on the old serials of the 1930s and 1940s, like Buck Rodgers, Flash Gordon, Brick Bradford, etc. They offer a variety of stances for the “Galacteers” hero line as well as a variety of Robots, Villainesses, and Aliens.
Pig Iron Productions in Bolton, United Kingdom (http://www.pig-iron-productions.com), is geared toward infantry action. Miniatures are available in a variety of packs with differing poses. They offer generic troops, lower tech “Kolony” troops, and a batch of infected ‘zombie’-type miniatures.
Reaper Miniatures (http://www.reapermini.com) is based in Denton, Texas, USA. Their Chronoscape line offers several possibilities for characters. It is a mishmash of themes either in plastic or metal and may require some assembly. Not every figure will fit the Traveller theme but there is a wide range to look over.
Victory Force Miniatures of Shawnee Mission, KS, USA (http://www.victoryforce.com) has a line of “Spacefarers” that may look familiar. They package their miniatures in either packs of five with different poses, or they can be purchased individually. The miniatures are all cast in metal and are somewhere between 25mm and 28mm scale. There is also a small line of “Victorybots”.
When you get your miniatures you may notice some uneven parts, lines, or even excess globs of material on the miniature. This is because the molds do not always have a tight seal and may sometimes not line up 100%. Invest in a hobby knife or X-Acto to trim the parts. Be careful, sharp things can cut you. Optionally, you can invest in a set of small files, usually found near the painting supplies in your gaming store. Superglue is a good general bonding agent to assemble the figure. Do not throw away the packaging in which the miniature was packed. If the miniature is plastic or resin based, wash it with some water and dish soap and a toothbrush you are no longer personally using. This removes any grease used to keep the figure from sticking to the mold.
Now that you have your miniatures you may want to paint them. There are a variety of sources available for someone to learn how to paint from books and DVDs on Amazon, to numerous videos on YouTube, most dealing with tips and techniques. To get started with painting there are a few necessary items. It is best to get three different brushes. Names may vary depending on the manufacturer but you will need a fine detail, a detail, and a standard brush. The fine detail is for very fine work like painting a belt or highlighting a ridge. The detail brush is for general painting. The standard brush is for the base coat or for covering larger areas (and for dry brushing, but that is a technique and best seen on video). A sharp toothpick is best to paint an eye.
Paints vary but for the most part stick with acrylic paints as they are water soluble and one brand or another should be available in your local gaming store. Paints will range from $3.00 to $4.50 in price depending on manufacturer. There are differences in paint and choosing which to use will eventually come down to personal preference after experimentation. Citadel paint is the most expensive but probably the most available since it is made by Games Workshop and thus available where ever their figures are present. It is a thicker base paint and generally pretty good for a base coating. Reaper paints are thinner but allow you more control on the paintbrush because they are thinner, thus are best for smaller areas or highlighting. You don’t need to spend a small fortune to get started, but you do need black, white, red, blue, yellow, a darker brown, a lighter brown, and some sort of steel or silver. You can mix paints to achieve different colors: red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow make green, etc. You can use, sparingly, white and black to lighten or darken the colors. You can also mix your color with the steel to achieve different metallic colors. Be aware, though, that eventually you probably want to buy additional colors so that you don’t have to keep matching mix to touch-up an area. Know when to say when, though. You will also need an old cup or container of some kind to hold water for cleaning your brush. Store paint inside, where there’s a reasonable expectation of controlled temperature; storing it in the garage or other non-temperature controlled room will result in the paint drying out.
You can use the packaging from the miniature as a disposable palette to mix your paints (and in the case of Reaper paints, to put the paint). Also necessary are toothpicks. I have found that Citadel paints will sometimes require toothpicks to really mix up the paint rather than just shaking the bottle. Put the toothpick with the paint on the makeshift pallet and just use the paint from there.
Using a primer on the miniature is not essential. Using a matte varnish or matte sealer after you are done is essential, however. It will not keep the figure pristine forever, but it will help keep the paint from chipping too soon or wearing off too soon when using the figure in play. Spray sealers or varnishes should be used only in very well ventilated areas; the odor will linger, otherwise. They should also be used only in a narrow temperature range, usually between 70 and 90 degrees. Too much over 90 and the sealer will start to dry in the air before it hits the miniature, causing a white ‘frosting’ effect on the paint job.
Painting can develop into a fun hobby, but does require patience. Sometimes it is best to work on a couple of different projects at a time because you do have to wait for paint to dry between layers. Some hobby stores may have painting workshops. Trial and error can sometimes lead to happy accidents. As stated earlier, there are a variety of options available on learning to paint. Achieving the quality seen on figures online takes a lot of practice, and then if you achieve that level of painting will you want to risk others touching it during game play?