The Basing (R)evolution
I’ve been thinking about bases lately, as you do, and it got me casting my mind back to when I first started in the hobby – a scarily long time ago now.
I recall happily skipping into the little town model shop on the way home from school and handing over some pocket money for my first ever blister pack miniature. I think it was was some sort of halfling, by Citadel Miniatures. Or maybe it was by Ral Partha.
Anyway, it must have been back around 1982-3 and it cost me something like 60 pence.
I’m sure I must have rushed home to open it up, pausing briefly to ponder at the light blue foam it was packed with, and then proceed lay out some newspaper on the desk before clumsily daubing that mini messily with glossy Humbrol enamel paints.
This was before water-based acrylics of course. What a godsend they were!
It was also before slotta-bases.
The slotta years
The slotta-base – a separate plastic base with pre-cut* slots – was a revolutionary innovation by Citadel, some time around 1985. Prior to that, miniatures had a sort of oval blob of metal moulded under their feet. I think some manufacturers still use that old method to this day.
But in the main, as most manufacturers saw how popular the slotta-base was with hobbyists, and probably realising there were cost reductions, they soon followed suit. Now miniatures came with a metal tab moulded to their feet, which would be glued in to the slot of the base.
The original slottas were mostly hexagonal bases I think. The very first “Imperial Space Marine” – a limited edition miniature – came with a hexagonal base. And I had a load of old Judge Dredd minis on hexagonals too.
Hexagons – tessellatable though they were – didn’t hang around for long and Citadel soon opted for the convention of round 25mm bases for sci-fi, and square 20-25mm bases for fantasy miniatures.
I think strictly it was round bases for skirmish games – ie Rogue Trader, which of course went on to be Warhammer 40,000 – and square for formation-based games such as Warhammer.
And that was that. From 1985 onward, the slotta has reigned supreme.
Getting a bit lippy
In 2003 a company came around with the affront to challenge the might of Games Workshop – namely Privateer Press.
They had a new game, Warmachine, an ex-GW miniatures director in Mike McVey, and a new sexy take on the slotta base: The 30mm round lipped base.
(EDIT: I’ve been reminded that it was actually Dark Age – with their miniatures game based on the fantastic artwork of Brom – who got there first with the lipped base. Also Privateer Press had been around as a company for a few years making roleplaying supplements, but their miniatures game Warmachine appeared around 2003. Oops. – Max)
Not that dissimilar to the plastic bases GW had been using for decades, they were a little larger, and had a rather nice chamfered edge to them.
There was a certain class to the lipped base. Like basing your miniature on a McVities Hob Nob rather than a Chocolate Homewheat, if you will. I knew that from that moment on I would have to base all my miniatures on them (lipped bases, not hob nobs).
My first Infinity miniatures rebelliously went on lipped 30mm bases (officially Infinity uses the 40K standard 25mm round ones).
But then when 40K drew me back in I did have to back down and go official. And my recent Infinity Haqqislam have reverted to the standard 25mm too. Thankfully Malifaux – arguably my miniature wargame of choice – uses the lipped 30mm.
And that brings us pretty much up to date.
Here’s one they prepared earlier
Actually there has been a slight evolution in recent years.
Sure, any miniature you buy today will come with a little plastic disk with a slot cut out of it, but you’re left to your own devices (and sculpting skills) when it comes to decorating the base itself.
With smaller scale casting/moulding processes and materials becoming more cost-effective, manufacturers have identified the opportunity of pre-cast bases. For a few extra quid, one can now buy a pack of pre-sculpted and detailed bases cast in resin.
With minimal effort your squad of minis can sit proudly atop nicely sculpted and visually interesting bases.
Seems to be quite the growth area, actually, and companies are offering more and more themed sets by the month.
I’ve always felt a little bit guilty or ashamed to admit using pre-cast bases. For some reason I feel like the painting elite will sneer at me for my laziness.
But, thinking about it, I’m painting a pre-sculpted miniature – so why not have a pre-sculpted base also? It makes sense. Particularly if I am putting together a squad for tabletop gaming.
So there’s my confession, I like pre-cast bases. All of my Malifaux miniatures are on them. The Incursion minis I’m working on are based on them (oh, had I not mentioned my return to Incursion? Silly me).
There are many manufacturers now offering them, but here are the suppliers I’ve been using for my bases lately:
- Kerr & King – many of my Malifaux minis are based on their Dockside and Celtic Fantasy ranges
- Micro Art Studio – they have a massive range and I’ve just dabbled with the Temple range
- Fenris Games – Fenris bases have furnished my Incursion miniatures and half of the Pandora crew
Now why do I have the urge to sit down with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, I wonder.
* actually I think they originally came un-cut and you had to do that youself, following the scored lines underneath whilst trying not to slice off your fingers with a hobby knife.