Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Basing Instinct

When I first started painting miniatures in the 1990s I didn’t think about bases. At best, they were neutral space. The model needed a base in order to remain upright and usable on the table. In general my approach, and the approach of many others at the time, was to paint in a fairly flat colour, add a minimum of detail, and leave it alone. Why take eyeballs off the model? The end result was typically something like this GW troll I painted around 1995:


It would be hard to put less effort into the base than I did here. Leaving the base black would have been less effort, but the base would have stood out more. Instead, what effort I put in was dedicated to making that base disappear into the tabletop, leaving only the troll to catch the eye. The rim of the base is painted to blend in with the minimal flock I used. The flock itself has a minor colour variance, but is otherwise designed to look no different from a basic tabletop.

In later years I began to look anew at bases. The first step I took was to stop painting the base sides in green. Instead I used black to frame the model. Later on I varied this colour between armies or even wihtin armies, allowing the base rim to work as a shorthand guide to the unit.

Base materials were also changed up. These days the base isn’t done unless there are three or more different elements present.


These are four examples of miniature I’ve painted over the last 12 months. Sorry about the flash. Basing material tends to have three elements for me now. The base, usually a brown colour. This is stained with a wash then brought out with two different dry brushes. Honestly that 1995 troll received less attention than I gave to the bases in this image. After that I either add or pick out stones in grey and highlight those up. Finally I use tufts to break up the space on the base and add a further element. I came across these tufts five or so years ago and was an instant fan.

The camera flash shows a slight difference between the base rim of the anglo-dane on the right, and the chaos warrior next to him. The warrior’s base rim is black. The anglo-dane’s is a dark green. This complements the colour of the anglo-dane dice in SAGA. A subtle touch, but an example of how base rims can be used in an active way as part of your army’s look and feel. On the left Gorman di Wulfe’s base has functionality. In War Machine a models forward line of sight arc is important to note. This is done by having a two-tone base rim, so the front and rear arcs can always be distinguished, which is a functional necessity. Black plus one colour is the minimum you can do with this; other players have been far more creative with their base rims.

Once I had become comfortable with spending time and effort on bases, this naturally led to more ambitious approaches. I’d say this base signifies the apex of this approach:


For the game these models were used in, only the rectangular base size was important. The models didn’t need to be removable, and so I really went to town on the base. These warriors inhabit the wilds of Middle Earth and are expert ambushers, so having them emerging from overgrown ruins was too good an opportunity to miss.

This kind of approach isn’t for everyone, and so it’s not surprising that many companies have risen up in the past few years, offering pre-moulded bases. These can have a greater or lesser amount of detail, but  as wargaming has expanded over the past few years along with tabletop gaming in general, the number of these companies has grown. base03

Above are two examples I’ve used recently. On the left is a Malifaux figure on a generic base, but with a basing addition from Scibor – the fallen statue head. This adds something to the base and also positions the figure. She looks poised, ready to leap from the statue and wreak havoc with those twin swords. The base rim is painted in a colour that matches the faction card colour in Malifaux. This is an outlaw figure.

The Imbrian Arts goblin is on a pre-moulded forest base from Back 2 Base-ix, one of many companies making this kind of product. Some of the larger and more detailed bases can cost as much or more than a miniature.

These images track my evolution in painting bases over the years, they also follow some of the new products available to wargamers these days. What have some of your changes been over the years?


This entry was posted on June 22, 2014 by in Miniatures, Painting & Modelling, Tabletop and tagged , , , , .
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