The Big Wargaming Toy Debate

Greetings Wargamers and Hobbyists, and welcome. I was going to make this a review of a set of recently purchased models. After various discussions about the models I bought, it has become a ramble on a debate ongoing amongst wargamers…

The Big Toy Debate

Here is a question for you reader. What is the difference between a gaming miniature and a toy? My answer to this question is ‘your point of view’.

I put it to you that we are living in a golden age for miniatures gaming. For me, gaming started way back in the early 90s. Since then, we have seen the arrival of dozens, if not hundreds, of new miniatures companies, and as many new games.

The choice of miniatures to buy and use is ever increasing, and the style and quality is broad and variable. The cost of gaming miniatures surely is always going to be a consideration for us as well.

As we browse shops, sometimes we come across a toy of some description that, as miniatures gamers, catches our eye. A dragon, a giant, a chimera or other beast perhaps. It could be a war engine, or vehicle of some kind.

If we find a toy we fancy the look of, and we feel it fits the aesthetic we’re aiming for with a project, why shouldn’t we use it? I have found that in the main, a ‘toy equivalent’ can not only be larger than a purpose built miniature gaming piece, but also substantially cheaper. There is nothing to stop us, right? Gamers in general seem to be accepting of both conversions of models, proxies using models from alternative manufacturers, and even scratch builds. Why would anyone have an issue with the use of a ‘toy’ in place of a purpose designed gaming miniature?

The Eye of the Beholder

Perception my friends, it is all about perception. Well, it’s mainly about perception. Perception about both the suitability of an item, and the amount of effort that goes into presenting it. A gamer may find it cheap(er) and quicker to simply put a toy on the table. If it looks like a child’s plaything, fresh out of the packaging, it may not be well received.

I recall a few years ago my first experience of a toy being used on a wargaming table was not a positive one. I was playing Warhammer Fantasy 7th Edition I think, against Skaven. My opponent (an otherwise upstanding guy) decided to use a plastic toy brachiosaurus sitting on a rectangular piece of card in lieu of a Hellpit Abomination. My recollection is that he wanted to use one in his army, but hadn’t yet committed to purchasing the model. It looked pants to be honest, and that it then went on to trash large parts of my army just added insult to injury. They didn’t nick name them the A-Bomb for nothing.

We are, or have the potential to be skilled modellers. It’s what we do, and regardless of the length of time we have been miniature gaming hobbyists, we can get a result we are happy with out of most projects and kits. We also have the unbound and limitless potential of the internet community to call upon for critique or guidance.

Time and Effort

If a gamer does spy a ‘toy’ they feel would be suitable for gaming purposes, from the discussions I’ve had, it’s a question of effort. A toy should perhaps be repainted, and based in line with the rest of the army, so that it is made to look like it belongs on the table. It should look like a gaming piece and not like a conventional toy. It should also be reasonably representative of the unit it is being used as.

As an example, a brachiosaurus was not in my view a sound choice for use as a Hellpit Abomination. Some kind of large mutant monster would have been far more suitable.

It’s worth spending extra time on selecting the right toy for use. We should also spend time to paint and present it. This kind of effort will show it was a deliberate and conscious decision. If we want to encourage acceptance, It is important to show that care has been taken to make the toy look its best.

Where insufficient time has been taken, and it’s clear from the appearance of the toy, this is far more likely to elicit a negative response. You want an opponent to ask about the project, and to agree that it looks good. What you don’t want is an opponent to take the view that you’re a lazy hobbyist, or that you’re not showing appropriate respect for the gaming experience of both players at the table.

The Trigger

I stated earlier that this was originally going to be a review of a set of models I recently picked up. This was after seeing them used by another gamer posting on the Kings of War Fanatics Facebook Page. The set in question is pictured here.

War Trolls

They are from a range branded as ‘Dark Alliance’, and are manufactured in the Ukraine. They set me back a jaw-droppingly expensive £10.99 for the set. Including postage. For eight models.

Visually, the manufacturing method reminds me of traditional plastic toy soldiers. The plastic is dense, but fairly soft (to cut into at least) and flexible. You can bend the weapons on these the same way you can on a pack of toy warriors you might find in the toy aisle in the supermarket. The models also have a built in base, reminiscent of that type of one piece plastic soldier or warrior.

Considered Reality

I am not going to try to argue that this is a set of gaming miniatures and not a set of toy warriors. When I look at them and handle them, toy warriors is what they say to me. High quality and very cool looking toy warriors, but toys nonetheless. What I needed to do was focus on what needed to be done to push them over the line that separates toys and gaming pieces.

War Trolls #2

When I first saw photos of these Trolls online, I had seen what some effort on the part of the modeller could produce. I had seen multiple versions of these Trolls prepared for wargaming use, and at least one was for Kings of War. I primarily had Kings of War in mind when looking at these models, so this helped.

Carving Skills

War Trolls #3

The version I saw on a base for Kings of War showed that the thick built-in bases hadn’t been removed. This was something I wanted to do, as I feltthey looked much better without the base. Due to the thickness of the base it was not only obvious, but would also be tricky to remove. Thankfully because the plastic is soft, it can be carved into fairly easily, but you do need to take care. I managed to cut my finger minorly once.

There is a small amount of flashing to be removed, some mould lines, but the major task is cutting away the bases. It is worth it. The amount of preparation required for these is comparable to the average set of resin miniatures I would say, so not something that a modeller is unused to. In some ways the ease with which the plastic can be ‘shaved’ with a sharp hobby knife makes these easier to work with than resin, because this plastic will bend rather than snap like resin might.

I decided to mount the Trolls on 40mm round mdf bases. This would allow me to place them onto a Kings of War Regiment or Horde base for use in that game. I could also use them on their round bases in Age of Sigmar as Chaos Trolls, which are a unit I have never got round to purchasing in the past. This is probably because I also have an army of Ogres, so it is an easy thing to just draft some of those into my Chaos army from time to time. I do so love a multipurpose set of models though.

Feet on the Ground

I spent far more time cutting away the bases than anything else. First I used a set of clippers to cut the majority of the plastic away from the feet. Once I had finished doing this, I used a modelling knife to slice the thick piece of base that was left from the bottom of each foot. I finally used a file to try and get the bottoms of both feet level with one another.

I think that filing the smooth surface of the plastic also helped the glue adhere to them when I attached them to their mdf bases. For this I used superglue. But then I use superglue for pretty much everything.

Rewind

I apologise readers, there was one final defining reason I decided to purchase these Trolls. They are marketed as 1/72 scale, and the scale we play the majority of our battle games at is 1/56 scale, also known as 28mm scale, or thereabouts. The good thing about Trolls is that they are not people. This means that their ‘applied scale’ is relative to the models they are placed alongside when in use. It’s easy to see if a human figure looks the right size or not, but monsters and other ‘inhuman’ models are more flexible.

War Trolls #4

The good news is that although these are sold as 1/72 scale, they match up nicely against the Ogres and Trolls we see that are produced by companies like Games Workshop and Mantic. If you want to know what that looks like, here is a pic:

Scale comparison with a Chaos Marauder and Chaos Warrior, both from Games Workshop

 

Finishing

Although there is about a millimetre thickness of the old base left on the feet, I was careful not to cut into the feet themselves. This should mean that by the time I have added basing material this will not be noticeable. In fact, it may even help to make them look like they are standing on the ground rather than in it.

Other than basing, it’s just the paint job. Due to the nature of the manufacturing process of these miniatures, I gave them a wash in soapy water before gluing them to their bases, just like with a resin miniature. This would help avoid issues with paint adhering to the models.

I am looking forward to painting these Trolls, but I think I will save them as a treat to be painted after completing a unit of rank and file miniatures. Heaven knows I have an insane number of those to work on. At the moment I have both Chaos models for my Kings of War Varangur army, and Germans for Bolt Action on the table. And that’s just a sample.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, all we want it is to enjoy our hobby. Both the gaming element, and the modelling and painting side. If someone buys a toy, and then makes a good job of repurposing it for wargaming use, that’s cool. I also expect the majority of other gamers to be ok with it as well. If a person doesn’t take any time or care with preparing a toy, they should perhaps take a moment to think about how they would feel seeing it on the other side of the table.

After all, whether metal, resin, or soft plastic, we are in the hobby of playing with toy solders. We get out of the hobby what we put into it. Have a wonderful New Year. May your 2018 be safe, fun and bring joy to you and your family. And of course more hobby!

Thanks for reading,
Eternal Wargamer.

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