On occasion I'll talk about miniatures gaming here on the blog. As one might gather, miniatures gaming makes use of miniature figures of some sort. Examples might be soldiers, aircraft, or spaceships. Usually these figures are moved around a board designed to look like some sort of terrain. In the above examples you might have a board depicting a field in Spain, the sky, and an area of space with asteroids and planets. For more examples turn to Historicon, a large convention dedicated to miniatures gaming. One drawback to miniatures gaming is that the miniatures in question are traditionally made with lead. This of course makes their use by children a little questionable at best. Recently we've seen the appearance of high quality plastic miniatures. Let's talk about one brand today.
Victrix is a new company operating out of the United Kingdom. They manufacture a line of miniatures depicting soldiers from the Napoleonic wars. The figures are sold in boxed sets, each box delivering a set of troops appropriate to a certain country and location. For example, I'm working on a box of French Napoleonic Infantry 1807-1812. When I'm finished I'll have sixty plastic soldiers, ready to use in table top battles.
Victrix sells their plastic soldiers as components which need to be assembled. You get a collection of arms, heads, rifles and backpacks along with instructions as to how to glue them together. This, of course, leads to one of the downsides of the plastic soldier. Assembling these figures takes a good amount of concentration and careful work. In addition the instructions are not absolutely the best. Once you get into a groove the soldiers come together nicely but this is not an activity for someone who is unmotivated.
Once the soldier is assembled it's ready to be painted. This is the second potentially tricky issue. Painting detailed miniatures can be a lot of fun or a real ordeal. Parents should think ahead and decide whether their child will find the job fun or frustrating. I recommend praising the teens for any work they do and then noting improvements in their technique over time.
The end result is a gang of soldiers ready to be pushed around the table and fight with other gangs of soldiers. Victrix includes a simple set of rules for Napoleonic battles in each box to get people started. I think the Victrix line has a lot going for it. It's relatively inexpensive. I'm very, very happy about the lack of lead. The miniatures are nicely detailed and proportioned. I have about a dozen done so far and with my mediocre painting skills they still look terrific.
On a down side they require some concentration to construct them correctly. I don't see these as being an introduction to hobby painting. Rather, they're a great next step for someone who knows that they want to play with miniatures and would like to avoid to lead. For interested teens and their parents the Victrix line is an awesome value.
The Hobby Bunker stocks Victrix products and the staff can give you tips on how to construct and paint them. They also have painting guides to help you pick colors for the troop's uniforms. Playtime in Arlington also stocks inexpensive acrylic paint and supplies for assembling and painting plastic figures.
Pros: Awesome figures, inexpensive, no lead, a great stepping stone towards a terrific hobby
Cons: tricky to put together, mediocre instructions, potentially intimidating
Beyond the Basics: for the interested teen this is the gateway to geekery. Also the gateway to a fun hobby filled with history that can last a lifetime.
Note- painted miniature the work of Andrew Taylor.