Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Some Thoughts on Basing

Last August, I wrote a bit about my grumpy-old-man syndrome regarding changing standards in what's considered "acceptable" basing techniques. Since then, if anything, I've gotten even grumpier about the topic.

This is largely due to me dipping a toe into a couple of the skirmish-scale fantasy games that are currently enjoying a wave of popularity, namely Warmachine/Hordes and Malifaux. Both games seem to exemplify the extremes of "diorama" basing that is so trendy these days.

Now, I certainly don't shy away from tarting up my bases a bit with some static grass and a flowering shrub or two, but some of the stuff I've seen (particularly for Malifaux) has been pretty extreme. I mean, when your base is as big as the figure that stands atop it...I'm just not sure what that's supposed to accomplish.


The thing is that, for me, I look at a wargaming miniature as a smaller component of an overall whole. All the miniatures on the table should, ideally, complement the scenic layout (and vice versa) such that, when you're looking at the whole panoply, it should seem almost like an organic diorama in its own right. I've made no bones in the past about my aesthetic snobbery when it comes to minis gaming, and this is simply part of that overall philosophy: that I play miniatures games as much for the visual appeal as for the tactical challenges it presents.

In fact, I really don't have any objective objections (heh) to overly-elaborate basing in its own right. If these fancy bases were simply being used to further a goal of painting one's miniatures purely as display pieces, then going nuts with the basing makes perfect sense. It's only once those same figures are placed on a gaming table that I cock a Spock-like eyebrow of judgment.

The thing to consider here is that my emphasis on aesthetics does sometimes border on the neurotic. As I wrote about in the above-linked post, I miss the days of simpler basing in part because today's standards add a lot more work per figure, and I'm lazy. But I'm also a bit down on today's more elaborate bases because - and I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit this - there's a part of me that inwardly winces when, say, a miniature with a classic "grassy turf" base moves into an area of the table with a noticeably different type of ground surface, like a watery marsh or cobblestone street.

Enter transparent plastic bases...


I've been particularly arrested by the increasingly frequent use of these guys as a method of basing. This seems to be the polar opposite of the elaborate base, both in terms of work and aesthetics: a base that you literally do nothing to other than affixing the figure, and a base that, by definition, matches whatever terrain the figure is standing on. Looking at those points, transparent bases would seem to be ideal for my tastes. Yet I don't want to abandon scenic bases entirely. They still have their place, aesthetically.

But I'm definitely going to base my Malifaux figures on clear bases as a sort of test case - see how they look in person, and how they look on the game table. Plus, and this is just the contrarian in me, I love the idea of going hyper-minimalist with figures for a game that features so many overwrought bases.

2 comments:

  1. I have these same problems! Playing Daemons wasn't originally a decision based (ha!) around basing, but at least I can tell myself that when they tear free of the Warp they bring a bit of terrain with them. I love painting, assembling, and especially kitbashing models, but I've -yet- to enjoy myself basing them.

    I'm very thankful that there's such a wealth of cheaty paints to get things over with quickly, though, and admit that fiddling with them has taught me a bit about weathering. I'd also thought, at one point, that clear bases would be my salvation--but in my local meta they're expected to be painted, even when it's a flying base (which I have an even harder time with).

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    Replies
    1. I just picked up a couple of those Citadel textured paints--I'm hoping that'll make basing go a little more quickly.

      I've never been a member of a club or anything like that, so it's always just been down to me and my friends and whatever our tastes happen to be. (Which is probably why I'm so neurotic about stuff like this.) I guess in some ways it's nice to have the decision taken out of your hands, although painting a flying base seems a bit...much.

      I really think that if clear bases had been available 40 years ago, they would've become the standard. The only reason people used bases to begin with was to keep their miniatures from falling over if the table got bumped or whatever. Initially, they were just pieces of card or wood painted green. Then it was like, "Well, we should probably pretty this up a little bit--hand me that green-tinted sawdust." And now we're at the place we are today.

      Interestingly, Wyrd Miniatures is actually planning to release a line of clear bases for Malifaux, so I guess I'm not the only one fed up with the over-the-top bases!

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