Those of you who have followed my blog posts may know I've been a part of the miniature wargaming community for 20 years. I bring this up not to grandstand as a Grognard, but to lend weight to the following:
All plastics are not equal, but all plastics are useful.
I have noticed a trend over the last 3 to 4 years where gamers of different stripes will forgo certain varieties of Miniatures because they are of a different quality of plastic than they are used to. I'm specifically wanting to focus on the slightly bendable, usually colorful, "board game plastic."
This moniker is a misnomer, as while many many years made with this plastic are used in board games, some of these are specifically made to be used in larger scale games. Cool Mini or Nots A song of ice and fire plastics come to mind.
The term board game plastic is usually used in a slightly derogatory manner, most likely due to the perceived poor quality of these miniatures.
This includes the aforementioned bendiness, which in some cases is perceived as a negative because it could damage carefully applied paint jobs after manhandling during gaming. It also does not react to plastic cement, a preferred glue type.
This is why most people will tell you that high impact polystyrene or HIPS is the plastic most suitable for miniatures (and used by firms like Games workshop, wargames Atlantic and Mantic, to great fanfare.) More on this in a moment.
So what actually is board game plastic? In short, if you are dealing with one of these Miniatures it is most likely made in a derivative of PVC. Yes, the same type of plastic some pipe fittings are made of.
PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride, and is a high strength thermoplastic. It is also one of the more widely produced plastics due to its wide range of applications. In short, Miniatures made of PVC are vinyl, like the cheap flooring in your kitchen, just in a thicker form.
Yes, PVC models do not react to plastic cement. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I would submit that this allows a Wargamer a chance to learn how to properly work with a different material type. In a similar way to the learning process for working with resin miniatures.
PVC models provide a chance to learn about using super glue when working with miniatures, as well as learning about alternative sealers once you are done with your paint job. For example, because of the flexibility aspect of PVC a good paint sealer would be something that also has a little bit of flexibility. Such as plasti-dip clear.
Learning about the materials our Miniatures are made from and the various solvents and finishes used on those different types of models really allows you to broaden your horizons as a gamer. It allows you to tackle conversions and models that otherwise would seem less useful.
Yes they are not the easiest models to work with, but PVC models can still be extremely gratifying to finish and enjoyable to play around with. In my opinion the only major issue is the bendiness, and all that takes is hot water and some trial and error to resolve.
And PVC models have a long history in wargaming. 1/72nd scale models have been produced in PVC or a variant thereof for decades. Indeed, companies like Italeri and airfix have vast historical 1:72nd scale ranges producing this type of plastic.
Board games have also had PVC models, some of which crafty gamers have co-opted for wargaming uses, for much the same time frame.
As a pictographic case in point, I would like to bring up the em4 American civil War plastics. There are two sets that em4 produces, one for the Confederates and one for the Union.
Both are colored PVC, with blue for the union and gray for the Confederates. Both are mildly flexible, which mostly shows up in the weapons. These are billed as 28mm, and I would definitely call them true scale 28mm, as they are somewhat thin.
In the following photographs, I have shown off both regular models that you would get right in the bag in terms of these ACW plastics, but also conversions with heads from the wargames Atlantic dark age Irish.
Other than my poor knife work, the heads fit perfectly on the bodies. The scaling isn't too far off from each other that I'd hazard you could convert these models with any of the WarGames Atlantic historical plastic heads. Especially considering the war games Atlantic historical plastics all share in the same scaling proportions and usually the same head join.
Which opens up quite a lot of possibilities for conversion and possible uses other than the American civil War. For example you could convert them with world War I gas mask helmets to make troops for sludge or turnip 28. Or you could throw late Roman heads on them and paint them up as your own unique imagi-nation.
Although limited imposing, these miniatures look great clumped together in a massed unit, and the price is right at $6 per 20 men. If you're at all willing to take on the challenge of the hobby aspect in regards to these miniatures, you can make an army for a wide variety of systems for a very inexpensive price.
The detail is also nice. Uniforms have accurate folding patterns and facial detail while light is prevalent. I especially like some of the beards that these models have. I also like the true scale thinness of these models, as many plastic models these days tend to be quite thick. I am of the opinion that there were a wide variety of body types in the field during conflict so variation is good.
PVC plastic takes flat colored primer just the same as any other model, however you will need to make sure that you are priming in the correct conditions, as a humid environment will give issues with the primer sticking and drying correctly to PVC models
I will edit this blog post and review once I have some of these models painted up. I can certainly see converting some of these for sludge or another massed combat game in the future.
If you would like to get a hold of either set of miniatures, I have some in stock now and I will be ordering more soon. If you are interested in Mass quantities, the next special order date at time of writing is August 9th at 11:59 a.m. . Any requests for a commitment free quote should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org