Saturday, July 14, 2018

Vanguard Miniatures 3mm Gothic Science Fiction Line: Introduction

Although today I am scornful of Games Workshop and even more so of the company’s fanbois, the plain truth is that GW is responsable for making me a serious miniatures wargamer.

I began collecting and playing with little toy soldiers when I was six and my grandfather bought my uncle and I a couple of boxes of Airfix Napoleonic figures. I collected Airfix and (later) Atlantic 20mm plastic soldiers throughout my childhood. As I moved into adolescence, I began to play simple wargames with these using Brigadier Young’s “Charge!” rules. (In spite of being an American, then, my entry into the hobby was, ironically, very typically British. Perhaps this is why I sympathize more with the British side of the hobby today. But that’s another post.)

By the time I was ten, I had begun collecting small numbers of lead figures, most particularly 28mm fantasy and 6mm science fiction. I only seriously began to look at miniatures gaming, however, when I was finishing up college in the late 1980s.

My first attempt to build “serious” armies was using Games Workshop (Citadel, at the time, really) hard plastic Space Marines: the original “Beakies”. I got sucked into it by Karl Heistermann and Doug Shuler (pre-Wizards of the Coast career), who worked at my FLGS and had developed a simple and fun set of rules to move the boxes of marines they had ordered. (This was pre-Warhammer 40K, actually.)

Enter Adeptus Titanicus
Two years later, Games Workshop launched what was to become their entry game for their 6mm Warhammer 40k line: Adeptus Titanicus.

I can’t recall ever being so excited over a wargame release.

The game seemed to me to be pure genius: a 6mm science fiction game with a unique “look” (gothic science fiction wasn’t a thing back then) and accessible rules, which allowed me to put hordes of figures on the table? It could have been custom-designed for my likes. I bought AT and its follow-up game, Space Marine, as soon as they were launched and I haunted Pegasus Games in Madison Wisconsin, looking for new releases for the system.

I quickly painted Dark Angel, White Scar and Eldar armies. Looking back on all this, I am amazed at how affordable the hobby was back then! I had three Phantom titans in my Eldar force, even though I was a starving university student working for minimum wage. Space Marine/Adeptus Titanicus was my first completed wargame project, where I painted multiple armies and terrain and used them to set up a convention game. And, as I recollect, the game was a hell of a lot of fun.

In 1990, I emigrated to Brazil, but I still followed Space Marine at a distance. Unfortunately, there was no way to get GW products in Brazil, at the time, except through pirates — and didn’t do 6mm. I thus migrated to other manufactures, scales, and periods (DBA figuring large in my scheme of things back in those days). Shortly after the turn of the centutry, pressed for space and money (and with freight prices to Brazil being what they are), I moved decisively into 3mm for all of my periods and have been happily painting and modeling in picoscale ever since.

As GW’s prices skyrocketed and they became the company we all love to hate through market manipulation and relentless production of skub, I turned my back on them. I began to feel nothing but pity and scorn towards the people who were willing to shell out thousands of pounds to play in the increasingly overpriced “Games Workshop hobby”. Furthermore, the aesthetic GW began promoting for the Warhammer 40K universe turned me off. Originally, it was a very “Heavy Metal/2000AD” kind of look: sci-fi, unique, kind of ornate, but still “clean” looking. As the 1990s advanced,however, it became increasingly baroque and cartoonish.

The moment Space Marine “jumped the shark” for me was when Gee Dubs started producing ork vehicles that were essentially 16th century cannon on wheels with little medieval towers atop. They just looked ridiculous to me. The “no gurls allowed” aspect of the Warhammer 40k universe also got worse and worse. The background started out as a sort of tongue-in-cheek heavy metal riff: sexist, sure, but silly sexist. “Spinal Tap”, not Proud Boys. As the years went by, it became more and more of a grimdark heavy metal wet dream universe: the kind of wet dream, more over a particularly spotty and socially inept adolescent boy with a nazi fetish would have. To me, Warhammer 40k just became stupid and disgusting.

I never lost that feeling of enchantment I had with the original Epic series of games, however. Those were cute and silly and just plain fun.

Vanguard Miniatures gives me back my youth
Last July, my webfriend Mathieu posted some photos of a new line of 3mm figures. Now Mat has been attempting for some time to do 3mm Epic Gothic Sci Fi and I’ve been mostly “yeah, whatevs” because his suppliers are all on Shapeways (crap castings at premium prices) and, so far, the castings he’s been getting copied, to me, the worst of GW’s overly roccocco-style of figures.

The new castings Mat had were crisp and clean, however, and followed the aestetic that originally attracted me to gothic sci-fi (loopy enough to be unique and space-opera-ish, but not ridiculous). They were from a company I’d never herd of before: Vanguard Miniatures, out of the U.K.

The more I looked into Vanguard’s press releases, the more I became intrigued. The figures looked to be unbelievably top notch: extremely detailed and well-cast. The more I learned about them, the more that old feeling from thirty years ago began to grow in my breast. Eventually, all I could think, contemplating Vanguard’s new line was “coooooool”.

I orderd a bunch as soon as they came out, but post being what it is to Brasil (still), I had to wait until early June to get my mitts on a bunch.

So how are they?

Absolutely luvverly.

In Part II of this report, we will take a detailed look at what I consider to be the most exciting 3mm release in a decade.


  1. Those figures are rather tempting...

    I did not partake in AT when it first came out - this might just change that. What rules do you plan to use (always my biggest friction point)?


    1. I will be using Net Epic with these at first, EG, but may move towards a version of my own sci-fi rules, “Luftpanzer”.

    2. Thank you. I hope to see your rules someday!

  2. You know, 3mm Epic is super tempting.

    I've been REALLY getting the itch for Epic again lately thugh Epic Armageddon kinda left me cold.

    Deciding between AT/Space Marine (which feels like a "big skirmish" game) Space Marine 2 (well, NetEpic probably) and Epic 40.000 is pretty tough.

    1. It’s cheap, Ivan. 60 pounds gets you two complete armies.

    2. It really is the perfect mix of affordability and quality, which has only recently become possible with casting techniques utilizing micron-scaled 3D printed masters. That plus Vanguard's more consistent and realistic scaling make the line a cinch. And 6mm terrain has routinely been underscaled for so long, the whole thing just "works."

  3. They're really nice models. I've been busy painting them up for a few months now and they even hold detail surprisingly well given the scale (although you want to go thin on coats of course). It's worth noting there's a rules set under development at the moment too, details of which can be found here:

  4. Lovely stuff. I agree, Epic was one of the better sets of rules that GW released. I've been sorely tempted with Onslaught Miniatures 'Sisters' range.

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