Cheapskate Gaming: $1 Harry Potter and Superhero Nano Metalfigs.
How good is good enough?
This is one of the questions faced by the budget gamer. There are many bargains to be had, but they often have shortcomings. How much detail is necessary for a figure to be suitable for gaming?How close in scale should it be to the rest of one's collection?
This week I discovered a charming line of $1 miniatures that just might be good enough. Jada toys have introduced a line of figures called "Nano Metalfigs". These figures are available for just under a dollar each, singly or in packs of 5. From what I've been able to learn previous "Metalfigs" were a bit bigger but these "Nano" figures are smaller, being about 38 or 39mm from sole-t0-eye.
They are currently exclusive to Walmart but should be available more widely soon.
These are the most exciting figures to me. There is currently a dearth of miniatures available for those who would with to game in the HP universe. There are a small a smattering of "Not" Harry Potter miniatures from various makers, but it's very limited. Also, Knight Models is on the verge of releasing an official Harry Potter game and miniatures line. The figures will likely be around 35mm scale and though they will certainly be of the highest quality and finest detail, they will probably retail from 15-$20 each, making forming a collection a rather expensive proposition.
Jada's "Harry Potter Nano Metalfigs" line could be a decent substitute. These are pre-painted die-cast metal (probably zinc based) figures. The detail on the figs and the paint job is rudimentary. Also, the 38/39mm (sole to eye) "scale" is larger than most miniature lines. However, that's almost precisely 1/43 (the scale of most medium sized die-cast cars) and not too terribly far from the 35mm scale of many new gaming miniature lines. It's also close enough to likely be compatible with most terrain that gamers will have acquired for 28/30mm gaming. Here's a scale picture of how Newt Scamander (38mm) compares to Heroclix Emma Frost (34mm) and a pair of Reaper Chronoscope figures (about 31mm). It's not too far off from the Heroclix.
Currently the Harry Potter line consists of two 5 packs of figures and single packs coming to a total of 25 miniatures. This is the figure listing on the back of one of the Harry Potter Single miniatures.
4 of the miniatures are exclusive to the 5-packs as pictured below and do not appear on the list above.
From what I've found at the two Walmart's I've visited, the figures of Hagrid, Ginny, Moody, Neville, Snape and alternate version of a couple of the main characters appear to be less common. I have purchased 14 unique Harry Potter figs so far but was unfortunately unable to find those characters.
There is also a 3-figure line of miniatures from the "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" film. Newt and Tina seem to be common and are pictured directly above, but I've not seen the Jacob Kowalski miniature yet.
I rather like these miniatures. The heft of metal is nice and in almost all cases they are clearly identifiable as the characters they represent. Percy is a notable exception. He does not look much like his source material and could be virtually any guy in a suit. One other disappointing feature for me is the fairly smooth hair area on most figs, meaning you can't just drybrush them as easily.
The glossy metallic paint jobs are clearly designed to catch the light and hide the fact that there are only about 5 colors on each figure. A give-away to their toy origins is the way that Jada has limited the range of colors used for most figures. There's an awful lot of gunmetal grey on these figs. Still, there's enough color present for a basic paint job and I wonder what the figures would look like if a matte finish and some highlights and/or a wash were applied.
On balance, I think these would be more than suitable for gaming and if the large bases were trimmed, the figures set on more traditional wargaming bases and the paint jobs touched up a bit they'd look quite convincing.
Under the Paint...
I was curious about what the miniatures would look like without paint. Most paint strippers used by wargamers will not remove the thick enamel used on die-cast figures but a soak in Methyl-Ethyl-Keytone (MEK) -available at most home improvement stores- and a light scrubbing with a wire brush took the paint right off of the Harry Potter Year 1 figure.
Much like what happens when you strip a die-cast car, the result of removing the thick paint is a figure with a bit more detail and definition. However it's not a lot more and it's up to the individual to determine whether it's worth stripping the paint or working with what's there.
As for myself I'll probably matte varnish and touch-up the stock paint for most figures, but if I were going to do a campaign or play the Harry Potter universe more often I'd definitely strip the figures down and start from scratch.
Superhero figs: Guardians of the Galaxy
Cheapskate gamers have long had access to a huge range of heroclix miniatures for their gaming needs. The many series' that have been released over the past decade have resulted in several versions of most major (and many minor) heroes so that older, less versions are often available for a buck or even considerably less. That will likely temper the interest that gamers will have in the Metalfigs line.
I don't have full list but Entertainment Earth's listings (no endorsement intended) offer a good overview of the multipacks we will be seeing soon. Currently there are figures pictured from DC Heroes and Streetfighter and Marvel lines include packs from Spider Man, Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers. Also, WWE and Disney lines appear to be planned but no pictures yet.
I'm not generally a superhero gamer, but I grabbed the 5 pack of the Guardians of the Galaxy figures for fun and comparison. Like the Harry Potter figures, these appear to be abaout 39mm scale (sole to eye), aka 1/43 for adult human figures and are painted in a limited range of glossy, mostly-metalic colors. Quality and detail is basic but effective and seems to be about on-par with Heroclix in detail and not too far off in scale as the Heroclix Emma Frost demonstrates below. The perspective in the pic below is a bit janky, but there's about 4-5mm in height difference between the metalfigs and the Heroclix.
Let's be up front that these are toys. The scale is a bit big and the hard die-cast metal would be tough to do much conversion work with beyond clipping down the base a bit. (Don't use your hobby clippers for that!)
However, that should not dissuade gamers from at least taking a closer look at these. The detail and paint are pretty close to Heroclix standards and the price and pre-painted nature massively lower the barrier-of-entry for jumping into gaming of the Harry Potter setting. They are extremely durable so one could allow one's children or non-gamers to handle them without fear. Also, since these are sold in retail blister packs and not concealed in random blind-packaging means that there's no need to depend on extensive chance purchases or the secondary market to get the figures one needs.
I'll probably not be acquiring any more superhero figures but I'll definitely be chasing down the current Harry Potter line and any others HP figs that are produced going forward.