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.