Here are the articles I wrote around the launch of the first wave of Citadel Finecast miniatures. I want it noted that I am by no means a Games Workshop hater. I have bought their products for many years now and I continue to do so, however, I feel that Finecast was a rushed job and that they have made many bad decisions regarding the implementation of it.
Monday 23rd May 2011
Personally, I’m all for it as long as it’s as good as they say. I think “the highest quality miniatures the world has ever seen” is a statement they’ll find hard to back up as there are many companies making equally good metal and resin miniatures as GW now, (some of them run by ex GW designers). However, “There are no other miniatures that exist of this quality and manufactured on this scale in the world” is a cleverer statement as the bit about the production scale might be true due to a lot of resin productions being limited to a few hundred as the moulds wear out quickly.
“The Citadel Finecast miniatures are all made from a unique resin formula” makes it sound like it’s a different resin to Forge World but “The resin is easy to work with and quick to cut off the sprue, making assembling a miniature easier than it has ever been. Not only that, but it’s incredibly light too, which means pinning wings and other heavy components will be a thing of the past” makes it sound like it’s the same as Forge World’s resin. I suspect it’s exactly the same as Forge World and may even be produced in the same factory, however, the resin I’ve experienced from other companies seems to be a lot harder and denser than the Forge World resin and therefore more durable. In fact, I’ve heard a few people say that they want to still get metals because they like to feel the weight when they pick a miniature up.
Another point is that we don’t pin things because they’re heavy but because super glue/epoxy on it’s own isn’t that strong against shear stresses so it’s to strengthen the joint against knocks, therefore, I shall continue to pin joints.
One last thing, for now, “I’m sure a lot of you are thinking the same thing that I am: what one do you get first?” Actually, I was thinking, how much are they going to cost?
Saturday 28th May 2011
I went to Games Workshop today, as did many people, and had a good look at the new Finecast range. A lot of people seem to have been worried that the pictures made it look like everything now comes in boxes but thankfully everything that used to be in blisters is now in new clam packs so you can still see the miniature through the back. In general, they look like they are nicely moulded but a few things gave me cause for concern. I looked at all five Queek Headtakers in the shop and every one had a bent gouger (the weapon in his right hand). Bent resin can be softened and subsequently straightened by heating it up with hot water or a hair dryer but they were very contorted and so might take a bit of work to straighten and as all of them were bent in the same way, it suggests a fault in the mould which, had the moulding process been tested properly for that miniature, should have been looked at and rectified. Not only that, to compare it to the metal castings, any bent part of a metal figure is a lot less effort to straighten. I happen to have a metal Queek knocking around half finished on my painting table and I didn’t see that there was that great an improvement between the two versions as Games Workshop’s recent metals have, on the whole, been pretty good. However, we’re told that resin opens up possibilities for future sculpts so we’ll have to wait and see.
My next worry comes from a Dwarf Lord with Hammer & Shield. I was slightly annoyed to see a broken horn which looked like it had been caused by an air bubble. I’ve seen this on metals occasionally too and you can either leave it and make the broken part a feature, re-sculpt it yourself or take it back and get a replacement (or not buy it in the first place if you look at what you’re buying, although some of the Finecast range are in boxes if they are too large or too numerous to fit into the blisters). Games Workshop admitted on their blog yesterday, using Skulltaker as a case study, that air bubbles were common (despite their resin apparently flowing better than molten metal) and then suggesting that you fill them with super glue (please don’t do this; buy an appropriate filler like Milliput or Vallejo Plastic Putty), I also looked at a couple of Skulltakers and they had the same air bubbles in the same place suggesting another design flaw in their moulds.
The model I eventually bought, as I have a metal in a blister already, is an Emperor’s Champion with which I shall produce an article this week (building work permitting and as soon as I clean all the dust off of my equipment) comparing the old and new castings and also exploring sky and earth non-metallic metal. I shall paint the two figures as identically as possible throughout the article and then auction them both.
To sum up for now; I think that there is some improvement in the casting, but we all knew there would be as that was the whole point, however, I have some reservations as I’m not yet sure that, for me at least, this will outweigh the extra hassle of correcting misshapen components. The only other thing I haven’t yet touched on is the price, and this seems to be most people’s biggest concern but that is something personal to each customer. Some people will be able to afford a lot of resin figures and some only one or two but it is a concern that the price for a character has gone up by another £1.30. When I started, a metal Eldar Avatar cost around £10 (I can’t remember precisely but some people probably remember it being even cheaper!) but yesterday it cost £18.50. The new resin casting is £22.50. It’s the same sculpt.
I was also told by the staff that they are discontinuing the metal figures as they are replaced. This suggests Games Workshop aren’t interested in letting their customers vote with their wallets and are deciding for us that resin is the way forward. If this is their decision then I think they still need to put some effort into improving their production methods and quality control.
Despite having my own reservations, I am perfectly happy to accept commissions for Finecast miniatures and I shall relish the experience.
One last thought, as I also purchased my Games Day ticket today and received my Games Day miniature (which I’m not that impressed with compared to previous figures); why didn’t Games Workshop either bring out Finecast earlier in the year so that the Games Day figure would be resin or alternatively make it resin as a sneak preview of Finecast for White Dwarf subscribers, which might have made people want to subscribe to have a look sooner? I wonder if Finecast has been a hasty decision due to the increase in the price of metal and the current financial situation.
Sunday 29th May 2011
I decided to buy the Emperor’s Champion to make a comparison and review the differences between the old metal and the new Finecast resin Citadel miniatures. I chose this miniature partly because I’ve always liked it and wouldn’t mind the chance to paint it again and partly because I already had a metal one waiting for me to explore sky and earth non-metallic metal, which will be the follow up to this article. To give Finecast the best chance possible, I chose the only one of the three Emperor’s Champions in the shop which wasn’t surrounded by a halo of flash and which had the straightest looking sword.
The first difference, we can clearly see, is the price. This has been everyone’s biggest concern (expecially in Australia!) but for someone like me who mostly paints rather than needing hundreds of miniatures to play with, I’m not overly worried as long as the extra money is going somewhere. However, if you collect an army which was, until recently, mostly metal, I can see that any price increase is going to put you off.
The next point to notice is that our new figure comes on a sprue comparable to hard polystyrene miniatures and like the metal figure, it still comes with a polystyrene backpack. I don’t see why either of these things should bother anyone and the Finecast comes off of the sprue very easily, in fact some of the body had either broken away by itself or someone had already clipped it. From this photo the Finecast’s detail seems far superior and in fact the detail is crisper on the resin casting but not as much as it appears, it’s just the reflections on the metal which make it look so much better. It is also worth noting that the feeder points on the metal and the resin moulds are the same but the resin appears to need bigger ones. This is pure supposition but it suggests to me that the Finecast doesn’t flow as well as they’ve said. Not only that but the new enemy of the miniaturist suggests the same thing…
… Air bubbles!
This miniature had large air bubbles on the inside of the left elbow, the bottom of the cloth on the back, the outside of the right foot and smaller ones on the top of the helmet and the bottom of the front cloth. These are definitely too large to fill with super glue and even small ones should be filled with a filler which can be smoothed as super glue will leave a rough edge which will show through the paint. The large bubbles I filled with Duro and the small ones I painted with watered down Vallejo Plastic Putty (an alternative would be watered down Milliput). You will also notice three striations on the back cloth. These cause me even deeper concern as they are not mould lines and it’s not obvious where they came from. Speaking of mould lines, the mould lines were a lot worse on the resin miniature but generally easier to clean. Games workshop have advised not to use files or papers on Finecast resin but I had to in some of the hard to reach areas like the folds of the cloth and I had no problems with burring. The striations were also filed off.
Moving on to the sword, one of the quillons was slightly bent but a little heat from a lamp bulb allowed me to straighten this relatively easily. However, the blade of the sword itself was wobbly on one side (the left side in this photo) and straight on the other, there was nothing I could do about this but the metal one was perfectly straight on both sides. To be fair though, I have seen similar things on metal castings in the past but I fear that this is going to be a lot more common with resin. This is only just visible in the photo but it is noticeable and due to the writing sculpted onto the sword blade, it cannot be filed or sanded flat or built up with putty.
Another worrying thing was that I found a piece of light beige material in the resin figure’s armpit. This, I can only assume, must be part of the mould and adds weight to the idea that the resin moulds wear out faster. I can only hope for other people buying figures cast after this one that this mould was retired after this casting, otherwise people are going to be getting some odd lumps in their armpits (Emporer’s Champions with bubonic plague?)
The joints of the metal figure required more filling than the resin figure and I used a little Duro with my trusty home made needle brush and Colour Shapers to do this. With all the holes filled, and the parts assembled (and yes, I did pin the arms on both miniatures) I then got on with the next problem. Both the metal and the resin figures had a bit of roughness to the armour which I wanted to smooth out so I painted most of the armour with the watered down Plastic Putty and then, when dry, rubbed them lightly with a fine glass paper.
I mixed some Milliput with the left over Duro and inserted some small pieces of cork and slate to make some bases. I imprinted the putty mix with some bigger pieces of cork bark to give it a rough texture. I then cooked these under a lamp to speed up the curing.
Lastly, I pinned them to their bases and primed them making sure to let each thin coat of primer dry before applying the next to keep a slightly grainy texture which will stop my thinned layers of paint from flowing everywhere. It’s worth noting that, like polystyrene, less primer is required to cover the resin than the metal, However, once primed I have to look very hard to see the difference. Games Workshop clearly don’t think there’s much difference either as they are still using the same photos to advertise the new miniatures.
To summarise, Finecast’s detail is slightly sharper and I have seen a few models with bare heads where this is certainly noticeable but it’s a lot more work to repair all the casting problems and I’m not sure that’s fair when we’re paying more for the miniature too. Saying that, it is easier to cut and I was able to improve the cast by cutting away the forearm where it merged with the sword hilt (I was able to do this a bit on the metal but not as easily) and I could easily cut away the section which filled the gap between the head and left shoulder pad which I wasn’t able to do on the metal figure at all so conversions will definitely be easier.
*The one on the left is Finecast.
Response to “An Open (Video) Letter to Games Workshop”
Sunday 5th June 2011
I agree with some of what he’s said but I think Games Workshop have ended up in an unfortunate position. They have their own online store and they’re competing with other online stores who’re managing to sell their stuff a lot cheaper. A lot of manufacturing companies have a similar issue but don’t bother too much about it and rely on the traders rather than their own sales but Games Workshop sprang up as an importer for TSR (the orginal publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) and then opened their own shops and then started Citadel Miniatures so it’s ironic that it’s small companies mirroring Games Workshop’s own beginnings who are causing them all these problems and who have the ear of the people and it’s the internet that’s the biggest problem because it gives everyone access to the world and gives every little winger a voice (me included). My articles on Finecast were written for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to provide balanced information for potential clients and secondly, I knew people were going to be searching for information and reviews on Finecast so might find my site. I think that the video message is good publicity for MiniWarGaming but Games Workshop don’t have to listen, won’t listen and I don’t really see why they should listen. If they do, it will be no bad thing for them and their online retailers but I think, as with a lot of companies everywhere, they can see their accounts and are trying to make the best decisions to protect their company in these trying financial conditions so it’s really up to them to survive in the best way they see fit and MiniWarGaming, and all of the rest of us, are freeloading and wouldn’t be here without Games Workshop so I think they should be grateful for that. However, I do agree that MiniWarGaming’s sales, and other retailer’s sales, are good for Games Workshop and that if they’re not careful, Privateer Press will have a good go at usurping them, even though Games Workshop helped them out at the start with some manufacturing setup and pretty much created the market, because they can learn from Games Workshop’s mistakes.
I don’t really know that much about the embargo but I think ‘Tenzing’ makes a good point that a lot of people, if they still want Games Workshop products, will just make a private deal with someone in Europe on a forum to buy the stuff and then send it out to them, however, they’ll still have to pay import duty on it, which, I am told, is why the prices are higher in Australia. Personally, I’m not a voice for the community so I’m not too bothered by what doesn’t affect me. I will paint miniatures from whichever manufacturer people are buying from or paying me to paint and, for myself, I will buy any miniature I like the look of. I have my eye on a few Scibor Dwarves and some miniatures from Reaper, Dark Sword, Romeo Models, Andrea and Figone when I get time to paint them, which will probably be after Golden Demon now, but I also have a lot of Games Workshop miniatures which I’d like to paint to complete my ‘nostalgia collection’. As for Finecast, I think it was a good idea but they’ve clearly rushed it and not communicated very well with their customers (once again). If they sort the problems out with it then it will be a good thing but right now, there are better polyurethane resin castings out their which are also harder (though probably more brittle as well). Most people are going to buy Finecast though because Warhammer 40k is currently the most popular wargame and, as Matt in the video said, people want someone to play.
I did see the video the same guy posted on the Finecast release day and he swore blind that out of all the miniatures he’d received, only one or two had miscasts and bubbles but when I looked through the miniatures in the Games Workshop in Swansea, nearly every miniature I looked at had something wrong with it and there were a lot of consistent problems within each mould which suggests to me, as a Materials Science and Engineering graduate, that there is a problem with their processes and their mould designs rather than the bubbles cropping up randomly so offering replacements isn’t really any help and most importantly, there may be weaknesses inside the miniature that you won’t know about until you’ve bought it, painted it, dropped it and the miniature breaks. I suspect that they need to look at more vents to let the air escape from those points or change the orientation of the moulds or the point at which the resin enters but as I’ve said previously, Finecast looks like it was a rushed decision and they didn’t allow time for testing (or painting new studio miniatures!) which would also explain why it happened at the same time as the price increases. It’s important to note that even though he says the price increase would have happened anyway, the increase from £8.20 to £9.50 has not been applied to miniatures which are still metal. I also think that the quality on existing casts won’t improve as they are no doubt busy preparing the next releases but maybe those might have less problems if they have learnt from the first lot. We shall have to wait and see.