CSW Review: Death Ray Designs, Card and Acrylic Base Inserts.
A nice base can elevate an average miniature and pre-made bases save time. As my painting is decidedly average and time is often in short supply I've come to appreciate the usefulness of pre-made scenic bases. Luckily for the budget-conscious gamer like myself there are quite a few options. In the past I've made extensive use of Champ Industries bases, and other bargain options and now I've found perhaps the most affordable pre-made option yet. This just arrived in the mail!
I paid full price to Death Ray Designs for the Wood Plank and Flag Stone base insert sets. I included a note with my order indicating that I would be reviewing them on the blog and if they wished to include any other samples I would review them as well. When my order arrived the additional set of Metal Plating Base Inserts and the acrylic samples were included.
Death Ray Designs does not make bases per say, but along with a variety of terrain and other items and services they have an extensive line of scenic base inserts and toppers. They recently released a line of Acrylic bases, but we'll get to those later. First let's have a look at their larger line of base toppers made from card. Though formerly looked down at, card has recnetly become more popular in the world of terrain. Companies like Death Ray Designs and LaserCutCard are showing how layered card can produce terrain and accessories that are nearly as sturdy as MDF construction with more detail and with out the telltale hard corners and "puzzle" edges.
Anwho, back to the base toppers. DRD sells these in large quantities for very reasonable sums. The Wood Plank, Flagstone and Metal Plating base sets each come packaged with 4 sheets of Card in a DVD case containing inserts for
48x 30mm base inserts
15x 40mm base inserts
11x 50mm base inserts
DRD has an interesting pricing scheme that charges based on the amount of time required to cut the bases Thus despite all 3 sets having the same size assortment of 73 base inserts the Metal Plate and Flagstone sets cost $15 and the more detailed Wood Planking set is $25.
When you open one of the DVD cases you find this.
It's a clever use of a cheap packing solution. Likely because of the DVD cases my bases all arrived in perfect shape, despite being only packed in a padded mailer. I also found that there's enough room in the DVD case for a small baggie of loose bases so you can continue to store them in the case mid-project.
Now let's breakdown the 3 kits.
I'll say up front that these are my favorite. The material is perfectly suited for this subject and the look is great. Even at the higher price of $25, that's still only about 33 cents per base.
The selection of bases is fairly good too I took out one sheet of the 30mm base inserts and here's the breakdown of shapes on one sheet of 30mm inserts. 4 each of 2 types and 2 each of 8 types on a sheet, double that total since there are two sheets of 30mm inserts.
My second favorite set, the Flagstone kit doesn't have quite the detail of the Wood Plank bases, but the shapes are pleasing.
I didn't break out a full sheet of these, but it looks to be roughly the same distribution and repitition of designs as the Wood Plank bases. It seems that one can add even more variety by cutting out a few stones here and there and gluing a bit of balast in their place to make convincing missing flagstone patterns.
The whole set.
Steel Plate Bases.
Another affordable set, but with a notable shortcoming. The variety of designs is not as great as the other two. As you can see here:
There's 4 each of only 6 designs for the 30mm inserts. Further, this sparse steel plate theme is the design set most likely to make repetition obvious. This is strange, because variety of style is an area where laser cut bases could really shine as it's so much easier and cheaper to create and produce different designs than with materials like metal, resin and plastic. One might even suggest that there's no reason to replicate any designs on a single sheet of bases.
Still, a nice affordable set of bases, though it will take some careful arrangement and variation of orientation and possibly varied paint schemes to keep a larger group of figures with these bases from looking repetitive.
Acrylic Base Inserts
These are a fairly new addition to the DRG games lineup. Pretty cool too. The crisp edges that acrylic gives are going to be great for themes where you want hard edges and the acrylic used is thicker and sturdier than card. Also, I didn't try it yet, but you should be able to bond hard polystyrene (like those from GW) figures directly to the acrylic material using a multi-material plastic solvent glue such as Plastruct Plastic Weld . This will tend be a much stronger and more permanent bond than superglue, especially with small bonding surfaces such as the feet of miniatures.
The price per base is higher, but you can order by size rather than just in a set and when I checked, a pack of twenty 25mm inserts was only $6.99, less than half what one would expect to spend for similar resin inserts.
Here's the first Batch.
- The Cordoba Tile inserts on the top have a really cool pattern and really benefits from the crispness of the acrylic.
-Not sure which series the Sci-fi base is, but it's a really cool hatch and I'll probably put it on a piece of home-built terrain. Maybe Death Ray Designs could make some packs of doors and hatches for us terrain scratch building and kit bashing fanatics? If they were priced like bases, I'd certainly buy a pack.
-The Hardwood Plank Series base is nice enough, but perhaps too crisp. I think this would look more natural with the slightly softer edges of card.
-The last one in the lower right is "MezoTech" I particularly like this one. It is made from two layers of Acrylic. Though also available in 2-layer card, it really shines with the thicker Acrylic material. It's a neat design that could just as easily be Fantasy or Sci-fi. Here's a close up.
Now for the second batch.
These all appear to be from the "Alien Technology" and "High Tech Sigma" series. Again it's clear that sci-fi designs especially benefit from the crispness and thickness of acryilc.
Lastly, here's a few biggies.
The pic doesn't show it as well, but there's some real fine bits and stringer details on these that would be quite fragile in card, but are plenty sturdy in acrylic.
Inserts, Toppers and What About Sizes?
These issues are both important and a little bit confusing when figuring out which to buy. DRD calls all their base accessories "Inserts" but fans of 40k and other games with flat topped bases tend to call such things "toppers". Here's the size bases DRD is trying to accommodate.
-DRD has a relatively small selection of base "inserts" designed for 40k. These are actually toppers and come in a variety of sizes designed for common 40k bases They are almost all nearly the same size as the bases they are meant to go on top of, usually being around 2 mm smaller to accomodate the beveled edge of that GW bases have.
-A small range exists designed for "Corvus Belli" whose game Infinity uses some of the same size bases as 40k, but not as many different sizes.
-A large selection is dedicated to the "Deep Well" bases used by CoolMiniOrNot. I have no experience with CoolMiniOrNot so I will not address them.
-Then there's a very large section of bases dedicated to the round lipped bases used by Privateer Press, Wyrd, Reaper and many other companies. Both the sets I purchased were from this line which is mostly comprised of sets for 30, 40 and 50mm round lipped bases.
Here's the thing though, these Round lipped kits are fairly compatible with the 40k style round that are used by a huge number of miniature companies. Here's how:
1) Some folks don't know this, but in most cases the top of a beveled-edge 25mm slottabase and the recess of a 30mm round lipped base are EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE! Wierd eh? That means that if you buy a Round lipped set of DRD basses you have 48 base toppers that are suggested for 30mm bases but will fit perfectly on top of a 25mm slotta. There's enough value there alone to make some of these packs a worthwhile purchase.
Below you can see a picture of the same size insert (labeled for 30mm) on top of a 25mm Proxie Models base, 25mm GW-style bevel edged slotta base and a 30mm Privateer Press styled round lipped base.
2) The 11 toppers intended for round lipped 50mm bases will also fit rather well on top of flat topped, beveled, 40mm bases Here's the same topper on top of a 50mm Round lipped, a 40mm Proxie Models base (slight lip) and a half-beveled 40mm flat top base (very similar to GW style). There is a bit of overhang on the 40mm bases, but they aren't wider than the bottom of the bases and it's a good look overall.
3) If using for 40k style bases this will leave you with 15 inserts inteded for 40mm Round lipped bases that don't correspond to any 40k sizes. However they can easily be cut to size or cut apart and used to customize other bases. As an idea of size, here's one of those inserts underneath a proxie models base that is exacctly 30mm in diameter.
Though I will definitely use them elsewhere too, the first impetus for buying these bases was to base up the miniatures from the Mice and Mystics boardgame using some of the huge stock of 25mm slotta bases I have. Here's how they look with the bases superglued on top of old slottas and the mice superglued on top of them.
And here's the really surprising thing, with the natural brown card color and the recesses already darkened by the laser cutting I'm not convined that these bases even need a full coat of paint! DRD recommends not using heavy washes on these bases, but I think a light wash of dark brown for color, a touch of drybrushing and then sealing would be all these bases would need to look quite good.
I'm so convinced of this, I may remove the mice, paint them separately and then glue them back down afterwards.
Final overview of Death Ray Designs bases.
-Even when figuring in the price of plastic bases (very cheap if you know where to buy) these may be the least expensive scenic bases currently available.
-Available in a very wide variety of styles
-Easily modifiable with an x-acto knife or just a pair of scissors.
-None of the potentially harmful dust that can be created when dealing with resin bases.
-Nice protective packing and storage solution with the DVD cases.
-Some sets suffer from repetition of designs. Almost unforgivable when one considers the ease of variation in the production of card products.
-Some designs look better than others in the very thin card material, though this is in some ways alleviated by the new thicker acrylic material options.
All in all, I'm extremely pleased with these bases. They're very cheap, simple to use and easy to modify and customize. I've got a lot of bases to use up now, but when I need more I may even pay the higher cost-per-base for some of the double layer kits like the very interesting MezoTech series.
I think that DRD has a real winner here, though it seems like there isn't a whole lot of talk about these online. Hopefully more folks will be able to look past the fact that these are made of "card" and try them out. In a few weeks I should be able to do a brief followup showing painted bases and minis.
Addendum: Austin Thompson of Death Ray Designs would like readers to know that they "Frequently take custom requests for different ratios of bases in sets and resizing designs to fit other base types."