Nobody else in the entire world has these miniatures: I made them myself using the online miniature customising tool DesktopHero. It’s a lot of fun, I recommend giving it a go!

Gangers

I’m getting tooled up to play Joe “Frostgrave” McCullough’s new sci-fi spin-off Stargrave. The man recently posted a teaser on his blog where he talked about the need for some NPC minis including pirates, gang members and cops. So I’ve taken a stab at predicting what kind of gangers might be suitable. To hedge my bets I’ve made them quite varied, but random small arms are probably a safe bet. The biker might not be usable, but I was playing around with DesktopHero and wanted to see how the mounts worked. It’s actually my favourite out of this little batch.

The sci-fi gun models in DesktopHero aren’t brilliant, so a couple of these have very modern-looking Mac10-style guns. So at a pinch some of these could work for Black Ops or other modern skirmish games. I’ve tagged a lot of cooler sci-fi gun models on Thingiverse and will be digitally swapping those in for some of my next gangers. I figure I’m going to need a good dozen or so each gang members and pirates for Stargrave,

DesktopHero

Similar to the better-known Heroforge, DesktopHero is a site which allows you to pose and customise digital miniatures, which you can then download and print yourself (or pay an arm and a leg to have them printed for you)

Regular visitors to Tiny Hordes will have noted that I’ve been doing a lot of 3D printing lately, but using models designed by other people. I wanted to have a go at making some unique miniatures of my own, and sites like these offer a pretty low-friction way of doing it. Learning digital sculpting from scratch is a big learning curve, and I’m not keen to go there yet.

How does it work?

You’re given a generic body type including humans and a number of fantasy and sci-fi races. To that you can add clothes, weapons and equipment, and you can pose them however you like.

I’ve had a play with Heroforge before, and to be honest it has much better controls. DesktopHero uses a slightly clunky system where you select a body part and can then rotate, transform and scale that part. It takes a little bit of getting used to.

So if Heroforge is easier to use, why bother with DesktopHero?

They use a different pricing model. Heroforge will charge you US $8 for every STL file you download. So you’re looking at $8 per miniature before you’ve even printed anything. Sure, it’ll be unique but you’re paying a premium for that.

DesktopHero starts completely free, but to do so you’re limited to a small generic set of parts. All the good clothes, equipment, etc cost extra. However, you can pay up front to unlock a whole bundle of parts matching a theme (fantasy warriors, fantasy magic users, and sci-fi). I bought the sci-fi pack for $35 and now I can use those parts in as many different miniatures as I like.  So for that $35 I’ve got the five sci-fi gangers seen above, and I’ve got another dozen or so miniatures designed and ready to download and print. The more you use it, the better value it gets.

You can also buy single parts on a one-off basis. If you build a miniature and then go to download it, it’ll tell you if you’ve used any parts you don’t own and gives you the option to buy them. Once you’ve done that for one mini you could re-use that part as many times as you like on other minis for free.

The verdict

If you want to print out a dozen or more fantasy, sci-fi or modern miniatures then I recommend giving it a go.

Pros:

  • Cheap, especially if you’re after lots of minis
  • You pay once for access to the parts you want, after that it’s free. So you can indulge whatever silly ideas you have, and download the models as much as you like.
  • The digital models work well, clothes deform nicely to match the poses

Cons:

  • Fiddly interface
  • Some of the equipment and weapons aren’t the best, but hey, you can always edit the STL to do a weapon swap
  • Includes parts for modern, sci-fi and fantasy, but that’s about it. I can’t help thinking adding some WW2 uniforms would be pretty easy and incredibly useful.

Designing your own miniatures like this is actually really addictive, I keep having new ideas for characters and poses. Which I guess is where these sites come into their own, you can get creative and customise your figures to your heart’s content

So is this the death of professional sculpts?

In my opinion: no. Not everyone is going to want to get into 3D printing miniatures in resin. It’s always just going to be a niche in the hobby. Probably quite a popular one, and it’s already well on the way. But the pros are just plain better at it than us amateurs, and a lot of people will appreciate the convenience of being able to buy either pre-modelled STLs to print themselves or pre-made plastic or metal figures. There’s a lot to be said for just handing over £7.50 to the Perrys and getting six beautifully sculpted metal minis that are ready to paint.

Online tools like these are an extra string to the hobbyist’s bow, and a very cool one at that.