Colonial Marine miniatures – a reviewMarch 25, 2011
Update April 1st 2013: Citadel plastics with Mad Robot parts added.
Update February 27th 2013: Sgt. Major Miniatures’ Allied Troopers added.
Update May 15th 2012: Defiance Games’ UAMC marines added.
Mostly known for their bravado and for being mercilessly slaughtered in Aliens, the CM have nonetheless become a fan favourite with scifi enthusiasts, cosplayers and of course wargamers. I’m in the first and third groups (cosplay? heavens, no), and have posted a fair few times about Colonial Marines (from here on referred to as CMs). With lots of people out there looking to do a bit of Aliens-inspired gaming, it’s time to take a look at what’s available in miniature. Just like the Alien miniature review, I’ve split the review into three sections: licensed products, almost matches and DIY stuff. There’s a whole lot of size comparison pictures after that, with other troopers, Aliens and Predators. Let’s go.
There’s only one set of licensed CMs that I know of, and that is of course the Leading Edge set by Bob Ridolfi. I couldn’t get my hands on them, so I turned to the community for help, and this is what I got – thanks TMP users Thieses and Only Warlock!
The Leading Edge Colonial Marines miniatures are the most complete line of figures produced. The figures are true 25mm sculpts, are on the “cartoony” side, and small. However what the figures lack in detail they more than make up for in diversity.
LE has unique sculpts for all 13 marine characters with integral bases. LE also has sculpts for “support” characters such as, Burke, Newt, and Ripley.
Leading Edge Colonial Marines are true 25m figures, matching well with Ral Partha Battletroops and GZG 25mm figs, except tending to slimmer figures with less overall detail.
Additionally I received a few wonderful size comparison pictures from Akula. They can be found further down with the other comparison pictures. The photos below are taken from Stuff of Legends, and show all the Leading Edge CMs.
The set pops up quite often on eBay, and is almost as often massively overpriced. If you, however, for some reason want the licensed stuff, this is your only choice.
The miniatures industry has a tendency to give the public what the public wants. Luckily the public has wanted CMs. There’s a slew of miniatures available that are an almost perfect match for the troopers in the film, and this section is devoted to those.
Denizen Miniatures Mid-tech assault team
When I received the Mid-tech miniatures, I was blown away. These miniatures, sculpted by Chub Pearson, are something like 20 years old. Compared to a lot of stuff from back then, they’re pretty excellent and have stood the test of time very nicely. I pondered for a bit before adding these miniatures to the review, since Denizen advertises their models as 25mm. With the scale creep that’s been going on for years, these days “28mm” can mean anything between 28mm and 35mm, so I wondered whether Denizen’s miniatures would be far too small to include in a 28mm review. After doing some comparison work, however, I decided that they were worth including. It would’ve been a cardinal sin to drop such a range from the review. Do note that the miniatures are indeed slender and realistically proportioned compared to many others in this review, so see the comparison pictures to find the best match for your needs. They go very nicely with the smallish Reviresco Homophages, for example.
There are 14 different Mid-tech troopers, with most armed with ACRs, a real-life assault rifle with a scifi look to it. The poses are varied and a good combination of static and dynamic. There are shotguns, a flamer and smartguns available as well as a bareheaded female smartgunner obviously based on Vasquez in Aliens, so you can easily recreate a CM squad pretty much straight out of the film. The models come on small hexagonal integral bases. The miniatures are amazingly cheap for their quality. Guess how much? No, really. 90p each. That’s 1 EUR or 1.4 USD at the time of writing, which is cheaper per miniature than a lot of plastics out there. Casting quality is great, with no flash and very little mould lining. Some of the minis have a separate arm, and the parts fit together nicely.
You can get the Mid-tech troopers direct from Denizen Miniatures.
East Riding Miniatures Colonial Marines
ERM produces a pack of four CMs sculpted by Tony Yates in their Mythic Worlds line, and there are three more on the way. The models come on small integral bases. They’re very obviously CMs, as shown by their gear with helmet cameras, body armour and weapons: two are armed with pulse rifles, one with a Aliens-style flamer and one with a heavy pistol. Casting quality is fine, with minimal mould lining and no flash to speak of.
Stylistically these miniatures resemble the ERM Aliens a lot, and share the same pros and cons. The models are very cartoony, with exaggerated proportions, large heads and big guns. Not to put too fine a point on it, the sculpting leaves much to be desired. Detail is soft and the puttywork sloppy, basically. If you’re willing to look past these points (although they are major to some) you’ll find a nice pack of characterful Marines. As with the Aliens, the ERM CMs somehow capture something of the essence of what they’re depicting – the combination of gung ho and panic, which for me is the iconic aspect of CMs. These miniatures will obviously be a horses for courses thing, but I like ’em and can’t wait for the extra packs. The price for four miniatures is £5.00. It’s competitive, but the price/quality ratio does leave a bit to be desired.
You can get the miniatures direct from ERM.
1st Corps Miniatures Colonial Troopers
The inclusion of these minis in a CM review was something that required a bit of pondering. Why? Well, despite the name these miniatures are obviously based not on the Colonial Marines of Aliens fame, but on the Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers. However, there are enough similarities to justify putting them in, and with a suitable paintjob these little fellow will fit right into an Aliens setting. The range is large and comprehensive, consisting of 17 packs including smart gun -style and heavier support weapons, recon teams, vehicles and even a news theme. Again, they’re very SST, but adaptable. Stylewise the 1st Corps stuff slots somewhere between the previous two entries. The style is a bit cartoony (which, to be honest, most 28mm minis are) but not as over the top as the ERM CMs. The minis come on small integral bases and are sculpted by Rob Baker. The quality of the sculpts is fine. There’s some softness here and there, but all in all they’re clean sculpts and simple in a good way. The models are sold as 25mm, but will fit ok with 28mm. Again, see the comparison pics for yourself.
As with the previous packs, the price is very competitive. 1st Corps’ infantry packs retail at £3.00 for three miniatures, with the support weapon packs a bit more expensive. All are available directly from 1st Corps. And while you’re there, check out their Aliens (see Alien miniature review) as well.
Hasslefree Miniatures Adventurers
Hasslefree miniatures stocks a wide range of individual characters that draw from a variety of pop culture sources. Luckily for us, there are several in their Adventurers line that suit the need for CMs: KJ (HFA053), the two versions of McKenzie (HFA049 & HFA054) and Debra (HFSF001a). As far as kit goes, the models aren’t quite Aliens, nor are they quite SST, but a good mix of the two to create the style we’re looking for. The most obvious CM aspect to the miniatures is the excellent Hasslefree Pulse rifle, which is a 1:1 match for the iconic gun in the original film. With the exception of the first version of McKenzie, the models are armed with that, and the weapon instantly gives them that CM look. It’s worth mentioning that the guns are available separately for your own CM conversions. The poses are nice, with McKenzie the first being a particular favourite. In terms of size the HF stuff is nicely in line with the miniatures reviewed above. The style is realistic, although with a hint of cartoony look thrown in. All models stand on standard slottabases, and are sculpted by Kev White.
As models not intended to be purchased in large quantities (I think), the HF miniatures are more expensive than most ranges in this review with prices between £3.50 and £4.50 per model. While not too steep a price for quality miniatures, these are still at the high end of this review’s price scale. However, if you’re not looking to build a full army out of these four models, they’re well worth the investment as the sculpting is top notch. You can get them all direct from Hasslefree.
Hasslefree also sells other miniatures suitable for Aliens gaming, and I will cover these in a later review. The facehugger-like head crabs can be found in my Alien miniature review.
Update August 30th 2012: After the original writing of this post, Hasslefree has released various new troopers in the vein of those reviewed here.
Fenryll Science Fiction Troopers
French resin miniature manufacturer Fenryll has six more or less obviously not-CMs in their science fiction range. It has to be said right at the start that these miniatures are very big. While the Fenryll site lists them as 28mm, the models actually measure 33-35mm from top of base to top of head. The size is a real shame, since the miniatures are very nice. The sculptor Dominique Seys has done a nice job with the troopers’ faces and gear, and resin produces beutiful, crisp detail. There is one thing about the first pack that bugs me a lot, and it’s the way the troopers hold their pulse rifles. They’re all holding them one-handed (two of them are holding a grenade in the other hand), and the guns look entirely weightless. This gives the troopers of the first pack a very action figure-ish look, which I’m not partial to. The troopers in pack 2 hold their guns much more sensibly with two hands, and I prefer this pack to the first one. The models come with separate guns and backpacks, and they’re all on square integral resin bases, with some sculpted detail and texture. There were some casting flaws, with quite a lot of flash and mould lines/misalignment.
The size of the Fenryll troopers will probably put a lot of people off. As the comparison pictures below show, they’re very tall, standing head and shoulders above most other miniatures in this review. While this might make them unappealing to a fair few gamers, their large size does mean that they’re a perfect match size-wise for the Horrorclix Aliens or the Heresy Hurn, which tend to be pretty big compared to most 28mm miniatures. In terms of price the troopers are at the higher end in this review, with a pack of three models costing 10 EUR, which amounts to £8.40 at the time of writing, or £2.80 per miniature.
The two packs of troopers are available direct from Fenryll.
Copplestone Castings Troopers
Mark Copplestone has sculpted loads and loads of futuristic not-CMs, and they’re sold through at least three different companies. Copplestone’s own company has a wide range of around ten packs of five miniatures each. All kinds of troopers are available, with different gear options and weapons. There’s a pack of five female troopers for a nice piece of variety, as well as specialists and officer types. The sculpts are clean and paint up nicely, and the casting quality is fine as well. The models stand on small, thin integral bases.
There are some differences between these models and those sold by em4 and Mirliton (see below). One is the bases. Copplestone Castings minis have an integral base, whereas the others have slottabases. The Copplestone Castings minis are also a bit bigger and bulkier. If minis from em4/Mirliton and CC are placed next to eachother, you can tell the size difference. If the models are mixed in a unit, the difference isn’t very noticeable. Check out this post to see what I mean. The other difference is in the weapons. Some of the weapons have been changed from the original ones which are very pulse rifle-ish. Longer barrels have been added, the underslung grenade launchers removed and so on. The smartgun has also been altered to look more like a regular machine gun, which of course is disappointing when you’re looking for CMs. These are fairly minor quibbles, though and can be quite easily fixed.
All the Copplestone Castings packs retail for £8.50, which amounts to £1.70 per miniature. They’re available direct from Copplestone Castings.
em4 Miniatures Troopers
em4 is the second company in this review distributing the troopers sculpted by Mark Copplestone. As far as I know, these are the Future Warrior minis originally sold by Grenadier. Everything that was said above is true with these as well. The CC models are largely the same as these with minor changes, headswaps and so on. As mentioned, these are a bit smaller than the CC ones, and carry more Aliens-y weapons. The range, however, isn’t as large as the one produced by Copplestone Castings. There’s also a pack of sentry guns available. As with Hasslefree and Denizen, you can order single miniatures, which allows you to pick just the ones you want. The em4 troopers are £1.28 apiece, which gives you great value for your money. See em4’s online store for these.
In addition to their Copplestoney goodness, em4 also manufactures some cheap multi-part plastic troopers sculpted by Bob Naismith. While they’re not as similar to CMs as the Copplestone figures, I still thought it would be appropriate to mention them here, as they could easily be used for that. There’s a good example from Germy, who has combined the plastic troopers with Hasslefree’s pulse rifles for very nice almost-CMs. There are five basic bodies, with separate arms, chest and extra kit on the back. There are also metal conversion sets available from em4 that allow you to turn the minis either into a command squad or a heavy weapons squad.
The miniatures themselves are moulded from silver-coloured plastic and come with their own 25mm round slottabases. There are two pairs of arms holding a heavy futuristic pistol, one pair holding a large combat knife and a SMG and two pairs holding something that looks like a cross between an assault rifle, laser gun and heavy combat shotgun. Detail is not bad, although it is softer than newer plastic sets from Games Workshop or Mantic for example. The sculpts themselves are quite nice. My biggest complaint is the heavy mould lining present. There was a lot of cleaning up to do, which is always a chore. Then again, you still get a very good value for your money, since the plastic troopers retail for £2.50 for five miniatures (£0.50 apiece), making them by far the cheapest choice in this review. They’re available direct from em4, you can find the link above. There’s a more detailed review here, in case you’re interested.
Mirliton Future Warriors
The Italian company Mirliton picked up the old Grenadier moulds for the Future Warriors line. As far as I can tell, these are exactly the same models that are sold by em4, so the above reviews apply. They’re marginally more expensive (+£0.15 per model at the time of writing) than em4, and come in pre-selected packs of five miniatures each. They’re available direct from Mirliton.
Scotia Grendel Nexus Colonial Marines
Part of Scotia Grendel’s old Kryomek range, the CMs are a nice varied bunch consisting of three packs of three troopers, plus one pack of casualties. The funny thing is that I could detect no damage in one of the casualties, so he would pass for an intact marine easily. The Nexus Marines bear some resemblance to the original CMs, although it’s mainly due to their bare arms and their weapons. Some of them also sport a familiar helmet design. They’re armed mostly with very pulse rifle-ish weapons, although there are three sporting pistols or submachine guns. Two models have pretty neat shields strapped to their arms. All in all, it’s debatable how much the Nexus Colonial Marines resemble the Aliens ones, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The models are pretty nice sculpts, although some of them suffer from overly long arms. A few also succumb to the action figure syndrome by firing their rifles with one hand. As with the Fenryll troopers above, I find this more than a bit silly. The sculptor Chaz Elliott has managed to pose the troopers in good, dynamic poses, so they really look like they’re in a combat situation. They’re quite bulky and heroic in style, resembling the Copplestone Castings range for example. There are some multipart models, and the pieces fit together okay. All the models stand on fairly thick integral metal bases and due to the wide stances some of them have, basing them on standard 25mm bases will require some cutting and filing of the bases.
The casualties are a nice addition to the range. While I’ve never really understood the function of casualty miniatures, I guess they could be used as markers or tokens. The sculpts are great and characterful with gruesome wounds. If you’re looking to do some scifi zombie action, the casualties could easily be painted as zombies.
The Nexus Colonial Marines can be ordered directly from Scotia Grendel’s webstore. They retail for £5.00 for a pack of three models.
Woodbine Design / Gripping Beast SciFi Marines
These CMs, sculpted by Rob Baker who also did the 1st Corps stuff mentioned above, have steadily grown on me. I was first put off by their cartoony look, which I’ve begun to like more and more. For me the selling point of these miniatures is their kit, however. With the exception of their pulse rifles (which are the same guns carried by the 1st Corps troopers) their gear is an exact match for that worn by the marines in Aliens. There are pulse rifles, flamers, smartguns, a shotgun, motion trackers and even an automated sentry gun. All the main characters from the movie are depicted in the range, including Burke, Gorman, Ripley and Bishop – all of who will be discussed in detail in the upcoming Aliens gaming review.
As said, the models are quite cartoony as well as bulky. While the sculpting style will not be to everyone’s liking, I find that the cartoony features give the models a lot of personality. There’s a variety of expressions ranging from panic to intense concentration to anger. Again, the spirit of the CMs has been nicely captured. There are six packs in the range, with one being the aforementioned characters from Aliens and one a pack of support weapons – a marine with an RPG and one operating a sentry gun. All models come on thin integral bases. There is one irksome thing, though. Some of the models have a mould line running right through their face, and this can potentially cause the whole face to get wrecked by a casting flaw. On my copies of the minis there was some flash in the middle of the face which required very delicate cleaning so as not to disfigure the face. This becomes doubly important because of the great facial features mentioned above.
With the exception of the support weapons, all packs consist of four miniatures. Each pack retails for £5.50, and is available through Gripping Beast’s webstore.
Defiance Games UAMC Infantry
Defiance Games offers a set of 24 multi-part plastic futuristic US (or rather United Americas) marines, digitally sculpted by Tim Barry. They are very CM in style, so they’re well worth including in this review. The box includes 12 identical sprues, each with the same components: five right arms with weapons (two identical assault rifles with two different arm poses, a shortened version of said rifle, a version with an underslung grenade launcher and a leafblower/smartgun style support weapon. There are three pairs of legs in different poses, four left arms, two torsoes, six heads (five different), some ammo pouches and a backpack. While the sprue offers a nice variety, I can’t help thinking that a third torso to go with the legs instead of a backpack would’ve been a smart move on DG’s part. As it is, after assembling your 24 marines you’ll have 12 extra sets of legs – not the most useful thing to own for conversion purposes. The box includes 24 separate 25mm round plastic bases.
I’d give the models a 7 or an 8 out of 10 on casting quality. The detailing on the guns and the torso armour is pretty nice and crisp, but there are some bad softness and mould line issues on the legs. While the quality is better than on the em4 plastics (which are what, 20 years old?), it’s definitely not as good as with Games Workshop or Mantic. This is basically my main complaint about the set, as crisper casting would’ve made this set wonderful instead of “just” very nice.
The marines are nice and businesslike. They look suitably gruff and bad-ass, and their gear with body and leg armour, helmet cameras and rolled-up sleeves give them a good Colonial Marine vibe. The gun designs don’t resemble the CM guns, but to me this isn’t a major issue. The style of the support weapon immediately says “smartgun” to me, which is always nice.
With 24 models to a pack that retails for $29.95, the price for a single model is roughly $1.25, or £0.78 at the time of writing. This makes the DG marines pretty cheap, although somewhat more expensive than the em4 ones. With the DG models you do get a lot more variety, though.
You can get the UAMC box directly from Defiance Games.
Sgt. Major Miniatures Allied Troopers
Sgt. Major Miniatures produces two packs of five Allied Troopers in their Get Some! 28mm SF line. Sculpted by Adam Gayford, these troopers look like a nice amalgamation of various lines in this review which means they can be used with a lot of other lines without much trouble. They are quite chunky and their proportions are on the cartoony side, and they’re all on fairly thin integral bases. The Allied Troopers wear helmets somewhat similar in design to those worn by the Hasslefree troopers, and they bring to my mind the UNSC Marines from the Halo franchise. They carry the Hasslefree pulse rifle (which Hasslefree have allowed to be used commercially) which instantly gives them a lot of Colonial Marine points. The Allied Troopers wear fairly bulky body armour and have no kneepads or shin guards.
There’s nice variety in the poses supplied, with moving, firing and at ready poses. Of the ten miniatures nine are troopers and one is an officer with a long trenchcoat and a pistol. The officer is sadly the weakest of the lot by far, and the only one in this set that I wouldn’t recommend as he looks like he’s been given a good going-over with the proverbial ugly stick. In fact I left him out of the photo as he really isn’t representative of the overall quality of the miniatures in the sets. The troopers have characterful expressions on their faces, and a decent painter will definitely make them look great.
Variable casting quality is my main gripe with the Sgt. Major Troopers. Approximately half of the models had an excessive amount of flash and mould lines on them, as well as some pitting in the metal that will need filling in. Then again, the other half of the Troopers are nice, clean casts with no defects, so I’m willing to chalk this one down to sheer bad luck on my part.
A pack of five troopers will set you back $12.50, which translates to $2.50 or £1.65 per miniature (as of 24th February 2013). You can buy them from Sgt. Major Miniatures’ webstore.
Games Workshop plastics with Mad Robot Miniatures’ conversion parts
Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K range of miniatures includes the Imperial Guard, who are basically the footsloggers of a very dark future. This range includes two styles of plastic regiment: the Catachans, who are Rambo-esque jungle fighters and Cadians, who are a more generic type of soldier. Neither of these regiments as such looks like Colonial Marines, although due to their wide availability they have often been used for conversion work (see here for one example). However, there’s a large after market selling resin conversion parts for GW’s plastic sets. One of the companies doing this is Mad Robot Miniatures, who just happen to sell some CM style Colonial Defense heads and pulse rifles.
The heads come in a sprue of five different heads, although with some heads the expression differences are quite slight. The resin castings are very very crisp, with nothing to clean up. They’re instantly recognizable as Colonial Marines due to their distinct helmets with helmet cameras, mics and even the protective neck flaps. The pulse rifles are an amalgam of the Aliens design and a GW lasgun. Just like the heads, they are nice clean castings with no cleaning required. Everything is sculpted by Mr. Mad Robot himself, Steve Stodden.
I tried the extra parts on both Cadian and Catachan models. I found that they work with both, but the Catachan with their vests, tank tops and bare arms make for a more CM look. The main fault with the Cadians is their long jacket that doesn’t mesh with the CM look. The Cadians do have the body armour that the Catachans lack, though. As the long hem of the Cadian jacket is attached to the legs, a good alternative is to combine Cadian torsos with Catachan legs for the best of both worlds. Mad Robot is also releasing armoured torsos for their Colonial Defense line, so that will definitely fix things. The Cadian torso features a high collar, which requires some trimming to make the new head fit.
There’s not much to criticize here, apart from one very obvious thing: the parts are intended to be compatible with GW’s plastics, which makes them the wrong size for most other ranges. The pulse rifles and heads are in line with GW’s “big heads and bigger guns” aesthetic, and will look odd on other minis. This is pretty mild critique though, as the parts are very good for what they’re intended to do.
The pack of five heads costs $3.50 while the pack of five pulse rifles will set you back $4.00. They’re available in the Mad Robot online store. You can find the Games Workshop plastic sets in the GW online store.
Overall verdict: Oh boy. That’s a lot of miniatures. The great variety means there’s something here for everyone, and what I recommend depends a lot on what you’re looking for. Authentic CM gear? Go with Woodbine. Not cartoony enough? Turn to ERM. Too cartoony? Try Denizen. Too small? Check out em4. Still too small? Copplestone. STILL too small? Fenryll. Want to do Starship Troopers as well? 1st Corps. Need more generic scifi types? Scotia Grendel or Sgt. Major might just be your uncle. Want to do it on the cheap? em4 or Defiance Games plastics. Looking for premium sculpts? Hasslefree. Want to build a CM force for Warhammer 40K? Try Mad Robot. And so on.
The size comparison pictures should give you a pretty good idea of the miniatures’ size differences. As you can see, they’re not too bad. Note that some height differences depend on the models’ integral bases, which I’ve simply slapped on top of a 25mm slottabase. The pictures should function as guidelines, but keep in mind they’re not The Truth. They weren’t taken in laboratory conditions, after all. It would’ve been too much work to photograph every single combination of different manufacturers, so I figured you can simply compare different images. There are some Aliens for size reference in some of the pics. You can click on any picture for a larger version.
These next two comparison photos are by Akula, so much thanks to him. They show the OOP Leading Edge CM size.
Like in my Alien miniatures review, I’m not going to stuff my own choices down my readers’ throats. Besides, I like all the models in this review, and will be using most of them. It’s very much a horses for courses thing, like I mentioned above. If you can’t decide, just buy a bit of everything. A matching paintjob will bring it all together regardless.
Again I must thank all the companies in this review for taking part. All of them deserve your support for what they’re doing for the hobby. My part is making their products easier for you to find. Your part? Buying them, painting them, gaming with them. Being miniature gamers, that should come naturally.
How do you see your Colonial Marines? Are they strictly the guys and gals from Aliens? What about the rest of the franchise? The comics and the books? The way I see it, it doesn’t really pay to be too much of a purist in some cases. Maybe you like your CMs with experimental laser rifles, railguns, tanks and whatnot, regardless of what’s in the movie. Definitely don’t let that stop you. These are toys, depicting fictional people in a fictional future. When you find yourself thinking “oh, but this isn’t accurate, this isn’t right!” it might be time to take a step back and think again.
Why do I say that? I used to be a real nitpicker. I couldn’t combine miniature ranges if one was 28mm and another 30mm. Different style weapons and gear made me weep. After a while I found this all a bit stressful. Now as I’m writing this, I have most of the miniatures mentioned above sitting on my desk. They’re going to be made into units, with their various weapons and gear. They’ll be painted using a consistent colour scheme. When they’re on the table – all those ranges – will people be going “how can you combine those? The horror! Different weapons! Inconsistent gear! Have you even seen Aliens?“? No. If they’re worth spending time with, they’ll be going “ooh, Colonial Marines! Awesome, I love them!”
I suggest you do that, too.