Tuesday, January 9, 2018

D&D Miniatures: New Plastics from Hero Forge

UPDATE 08/2020: This review is out of date. The most recent review of the primed "Plastic" option is here. You will want to watch it. Gallery also included.

Hero Forge, the miniature 3D printing service, has again updated their plastic offerings. Aside from the somewhat pricey metals, they now offer “Plastic” and “Premium Plastic”. Premium Plastic, which I wrote about previously, used to named Gray Plastic when it was first introduced (replacing the now defunct Ultra Detail). What used to be Strong Plastic (Nylon) is no longer offered. It was not particularly good, as the texture was too rough to take paint well. The newest offering, replacing Strong Plastic is just called Plastic.

Full disclosure: Hero Forge offered me a figure to test out without any expectation that I’d write a review. They were looking for feedback for their new material, but were open to any post I’d like to make about it.

First off, I have to say the figure creator has a lot of new options. There are more two-handed weapon poses, more weapons, more outfits, more headgear and more skin options. Many of the items from my character creation wish list I identified in my last post have been addressed. They could probably add a few more pose variants, but that’s a nit pick. I’m even more impressed with the character rendering options than before. Bravo, Hero Forge.

So how does Plastic compare with Premium Plastic?

The Plastic option costs $19.99 while the Premium option costs $29.99. The new Plastic option appears (I’m assuming here) to use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) while the Premium option uses Stereolithography printing.  Stereolithography allows for a much finer detail as the layers are much thinner.

Halfling Sorceress printed with the Plastic option
Halfling Sorceress printed with the Plastic option
The detail on the Plastic model is better than their prior offerings. The quality is much better than the old “Strong Plastic”, and probably equivalent to the “Ultra Detail” they used to offer. However, you can still see the banding created by the FDM process.

This means there will be a little bit of challenge hiding this texture when the model is painted. This is not generally a major problem if you prime and paint, but can become apparent on broad or flat surfaces like a cape or shield. A slightly thicker layer of paint should help with this, but if you use washes to shade, the wash may follow the contours left by the printing process, rather than the figure detail. Priming is a must.

Secondarily, some fine details will be lost. In the above picture, you see an up-close view of the standard Plastic offering. I added a black wash to allow for better pictures. Keep in mind that the wash over-emphasizes the print layers.

In the model I ordered, the detail of nose and the mouth are passable, but the eyes were largely lost, making a somewhat blank face, but the larger contours were still there. There was also a belt pouch that lost some of the detail (such as the leather flap closure). With a bit of skill, paint can bring back these details, but it is something to consider when creating your model.

Gnome Druid printed with the Premium option
Gnome Druid printed with the Premium option
Unfortunately, I did not choose the armor that had the fine inlay detail, but I’d be willing to bet any really fine details such as those would also be lost. This is something to bear in mind as you outfit your creation. Aside from the fine details, the figure itself came out quite well, and I think I will be pleased with the painted results if I can correct the face.

With the Premium Plastic (pictured left), this is not really a concern at all. Only the very smallest of details (perhaps like the eyebrows, for example) might have some loss of precision, but for the most part, even small details are well handled. Banding on the figure is almost non-existent. If you look with a magnifying glass, you can see the layers, but after even the lightest paint, this disappears. Priming may not be necessary with the Premium Plastic, but I still recommend it to create a chip resistant paint bond.


The new Plastic option is a little bit more flexible than the Premium Plastic, but only by a small margin. Because of the extra flex, an impact on a weapon or other narrow part of the model will be less likely to result in a break. However, neither of these models are as flexible as Reaper Bones or the various D&D and Pathfinder plastic miniatures. You will still want to handle with care and store in a container that won't get crushed in your gaming bag.

The arm of my Premium miniature did break when he got crushed under a book in my dice bag, but that was on me, not the material. It glued back on well, and is barely, if at all, noticeable.

Final Thoughts

If you are going to take the effort to customize a figure anyway, the extra $10 will likely be worth it. I’d prefer if the price point on these miniatures were more like $15 and $25 instead of $20 and $30, but I am not aware of all of the profit and loss factors. At some point, the development costs on the figure modeler will be defrayed and hopefully some of that savings will be passed on.

I do like the ability to download the $10 STL (3D image) file if you want to print your own figures. This only makes sense if you have access to a high quality home device... But they are getting cheaper these days.

For me, I’ll probably keep shopping Reaper Bones or the WizKids unpainted miniatures unless I have a extraordinarily special gift in mind. This is a good option for that very special character that has survived 10 levels or more.

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