Alien miniatures – a reviewOctober 19, 2010
“I want to do Aliens/Xenomorphs vs. Colonial Marines vs. Predators in 28mm, who makes suitable minis?”
I can’t recall how many times I’ve run into a topic like this on various internet forums. I’ve even started a few myself. Trawling through these, the thought has every once in a while crossed my mind, that it’d be nice to have a fairly comprehensive review of different options available. Then it struck me – why not do one myself? I started with the Predators. An easy choice, since there aren’t too many different minis available, and I already had them.
The Aliens were another story altogether. There’s a lot more variety out there. In addition to the licensed stuff, all sorts of Alien-inspired biomechanical beasties can be found in various miniature lines. Getting them simply for a review purpose would cost me if not an arm and a leg, but at least a fair amount of cash better used elsewhere. With some encouragement from fellow hobbyists I did what a real reviewer would do: I contacted the companies directly, asking for samples. To my surprise, the response was very positive with most companies gladly shipping me stuff to review. The companies taking part will get all the praise they deserve later in this post.
I suppose this is enough with the introduction, and it’s time to get on with the review itself. For ease of reading I’ve decided not to split the review into smaller parts, so all will be found in this post. While it’s going to be a pretty heavy read the first time, it should also provide a fairly comprehensive view of what’s available at the time of writing. You have been warned.
Licensed products and 1:1 matches
Fans of Xenomorphs will be happy to hear that there are not only one, but two lines of miniatures modelled right on the creatures of the various films (Aliens and Alien vs. Predator to be exact). They will then be devastated to hear that both lines are discontinued and usually fetch a fairly ridiculous price on eBay and the like.
Leading Edge Aliens
Leading Edge did a whole range based on Aliens sculpted by Bob Ridolfi, and naturally the line included pretty much every iconic thing from the movies. The line is long gone by now, but the kits do come up on eBay every now and then. Stuff of Legends has a very good overview of the line, which I recommend taking a look at. I have only two figures (picked up from a convention for a pittance) so I’ll base my review on those. Both minis are from the Colonist’s last stand pack.
Even today the old sculpts look very nice, if a bit dated. The warrior is a good reproduction of the movie’s creatures, and suitably sized too, being the size of a 28mm miniature even with the knees bent. There is good, crisp detailing. As you can see, the Alien warrior’s head sports the ridged dome from Aliens as opposed to the iconic smooth one. The second miniature I have depicts a hapless colonist getting a hug and a kiss from one of those pesky Alien kids. The miniature nicely shows the “right” size for facehuggers and eggs in 28mm. Both models come on integral metal bases with some detailing.
Considered by many to be THE miniatures for Xenomorph gaming, the Horrorclix Aliens are pre-painted plastic miniatures based on the ones in Alien vs. Predator (and are probably the best thing to come out of that movie, come to think of it). There are seven different variants, with two of them sporting specialties from the movie – the Alien with a Predator’s net-grid in it’s dome and another with its tail spouting acid. Three of the models are attached to different pieces of architecture, two different columns and a piece of wall. There’s one human miniature in the pack as well, unfortunately oversized.
That brings us smoothly to the size of the Horrorclix stuff. They are much bigger than 28mm, the tallest one standing at roughly 45mm. For some this might – and will – be a problem. I don’t mind. In the original Alien film, the guy inside the suit, Boladi Badejo, was 2,18 m – that’s 7’2″ to those not into metric. While this still makes the Aliens oversized, it also gives them a very menacing presence.
The architectural bits may cause some headache, but they’re also quite easily dealt with should one not want to use them. The Aliens can be removed with a little work, and mostly the poses are not too bad on normal bases. If you don’t mind doing some extra work, the scenic elements can be modified, see my example.
They come on plastic clicky bases, but are easily removed by using a sharp craft knife, which can be used to simply pop them off the bases. Even the prepainting is not too bad, comprising of a motley combination of dark blue and black, with a glossy black head dome and some detailing in silver. I’d say these models can definitely be used as-is, if you’re not in the mood for painting.
And here are some of my Horrorclix Aliens rebased and repainted:
Overall verdict: What can I say, these are licensed products. As such, they are a perfect match for Xenomorphs from the movies. Their limited availability and consequent silly prices make them a not-really-valid option for most people. If you can get your hands on them, do so. The Horrorclix Aliens might be too big for some people’s tastes. As mentioned above, not an issue to me but worth noting.
That’s the official miniatures covered. Nice, expensive, out of production. Let’s take a look at alternatives, shall we?
The Xenomorph being such a classic as far as scifi-monsters go, it should come as no surprise that there are quite a few alternatives for the models available. While these are not 1:1 matches, they’re definitely close enough to use as Xenomorphs and bear an obvious resemblance. The one guys missing here are Eureka’s rendition – the Chaos Weasels – which I believe were pulled off the market due to IP concerns.
EDIT January 11th 2011:
Blog reader John contacted me with the following information on the Eureka Chaos Weasels:
The Eureka Chaos Weasels are towards the smaller end of the 25-32mm spectrum. They are multipart, and came with metal slottabases. Some of the ones I picked up had them, and some needed plastic bases. They have great grinning smiles that I rather like. The tails in particular are bendy and poseable, if a little fragile. Chaos Weaslings, I believe, were not-facehuggers.
I’ve got some Leading Edge eggs and huggers. They have integral bases with some moulded details- creepy tendrils under the eggs, and metal decking beneath the hugger. I’ve rebased them on 25mm washers and hidden the detail. The eggs are a good size, but the huggers are a little weedy.
John was also kind enough to provide me with a few photos, and there’s one in the size comparison section as well.
Rather nice stuff, as you can see. Alas, out of production. Thanks a lot for the information and photos, John!
East Riding Miniatures – Mythic Worlds Sci-Fi Aliens
ERM’s Mythic Worlds scifi line includes a bunch of aliens, which are obviously Xenomorphs. The important development phases are represented, as the range includes warriors, facehuggers and a queen. And what interesting miniatures they are!
I must admit that when I first received these models, my thoughts were in line with the company’s name: “erm….”. Make no mistake, these models are a rather cartoony take on the Alien theme. The models are oddly proportioned even in regards to each other, the facehuggers are massively oversized, the detail is soft, the sculpting a bit crude…to sum it up, these models really don’t convey the sleek elegance of the biomechanical killing machine we’ve all come to love. And yet the models have grown on me. Why on Earth, you may ask. Let me tell you why.
The ERM Aliens to me manage to perfectly capture the nightmarish quality of the Xenomorph. When I think of Newt in Aliens, I feel that this is how she might have viewed the Aliens. As truly being alien and monstrous, covered with weird tubes, sporting ridges and spines and extending jaws and barbed tails. I might even go as far as to say that these models are a kind of an impressionistic take on the Xenomorph. While they’re not perfect depictions, they manage to capture the feel and the essence of their subject. It’s worth noting that the Alien with the inner jaw extended is pretty huge. See size comparison down the page.
Getting back to everyday stuff, the range includes four different warriors, a queen and three different facehuggers, all designed by Tony Yates. There are also facehuggers with guns available, if you should feel the need for some. The queen comes in four pieces – head, tail, body and arms. Like the pictures show, the facehuggers are oversized (although nicely in scale with the Dark Arts Miniatures birthing pods) being the size of a regular 28mm miniature. The facehuggers are in my view the weakest of the sets, as they’re a bigger departure from their subject matter than the warriors and the queen.
All the sets retail for £5.00 each and are available on East Riding Miniatures’ website. The queen (Alien Mother) especially is an impressively sized model, and at only 5 pounds a real bargain. All models are on integral metal bases. The Alien Mother needs filling with greenstuff and I suggest pinning her together as well. The photo has her on a 40mm round base.
Reviresco – Alien Homophages
Starguard is an ancient (from 1974, which amounts to the same thing) scifi miniatures game, which is still supported today. To my happy surprise, the miniatures line includes some wonderful xenomorphs under the name “Alien Homophages” (homophage translates as man-eater), with extra stuff to go with them.
As with the ERM ones above, these are by no means perfect renditions, but are still appealing – especially to two kinds of gamers:
A) Those on a budget. The homophages are very cheap. The pack with five different warrior poses, eggs and facehuggers (with one hugging a separate head) costs all of $7.50. That’s €5.60 or £4.78 at the time of writing. That’s even cheaper than ERM’s stuff, which in itself is cheap already.
B) Those gaming with 25mm to “true” 28mm miniatures. The homophages stand at exactly 28mm from the base surface to the top of the head. The scale creep that’s gone on for years has seen a lot of miniatures touted as 28mm go up in size to 30-33mm. Compared to most current 28mm ranges, especially those at the heroic end of the spectrum, the homophages are small indeed.
The models themselves? I’ll be blunt: they’re fairly crudely sculpted, and the figure quality matches the price. There are separate spines supplied with the models that are a pain to glue on. The detail’s soft. There’s a bit of flash there, too.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing to recommend, though. These miniatures are by no means rubbish! As with the ERM Aliens, the Reviresco homophages manage to instantly convey that Alien feel. Even if they’re not the best, crispest miniatures, the moment you see them you know you’re looking at Xenomorphs, no mistake. A mass of these guys painted up and gloss varnished will make for a very nice horde of Aliens. Also, I really like the dynamic poses.
The homophages come on thin integral metal bases. A few have separate heads and arms whichs are easy to attach due to handy pegs that fit corresponding holes in the torsos. They are available directly from Reviresco’s online store.
Pendraken – Facehugger and egg cluster
Pendraken is a manufacturer focusing on 10mm miniatures . What on earth are they doing here?
In their 10mm Sci Fi range they have a beautiful line of Aliens, Colonial Marines and accessories (if you’re into 10mm at all, get them!). The line also includes Facehuggers and eggs, which are way oversized for 10mm. Of these, the Facehugger is a perfect fit for 28mm. The eggs are a bit too small, and unfortunately not a match size-wise for the Facehugger. The ‘hugger itself is a nice, clean and simple sculpt and comes on a small integral base. The sculptor is unknown and they come 10 in a pack for £1.45, making them an excellent choice for those looking for Facehuggers. As mentioned, the eggs are a bit small for 28mm, but could have their uses as well. They are of similar size to the Reviresco ones shown above. These miniatures are available from Pendraken’s website.
Overall verdict: There are some worthy not-Aliens manufacturers for those not willing or able to procure the OOP licensed stuff. They have their little flaws in terms of style and quality, but are definitely a viable option. The Pendraken and Reviresco facehuggers are top notch, and should definitely be on your shopping list if you’re looking for those little babies. These not-Aliens are a cheap and easy way to bulk up a Xenomorph horde for a fraction of the price of the OOP ranges.
That’s all the official miniatures and not-Aliens (as far as I know, of course) covered. Let’s see some size comparison pictures. You can click on any photo for a larger version.
Going a bit further from the franchise, there are ranges of scifi-miniatures that have clearly been influenced by the Alien films. They have a biomechanical thing going on, with an elongated domed head here, a spike-tipped tail there…you get the picture. Or they might just be in some way Aliens-y. While there are several of these lines available, I will present a few that come up often in forum discussions, and review some others that don’t quite qualify as a not-Alien one. Due to the first two being large ranges, I’ve settled on showing some examples of them and leaving you to your own research.
EDIT Februray 19th 2011: 1st Corps and Hasslefree added.
Games Workshop Tyranids
Ah, the Tyranids. They are basically GW’s Warhammer 40,000 universe’s version of Xenomorphs, and have served a similar role with the most obvious example being Space Hulk, a WH40K version of Aliens.
The Tyranid range is very large and offers loads of options for different Xenomorph-style creatures. I present a few examples here, that I could easily get my hands on. They should give you the general idea. I’ll point out that these are old variants and as such not fully representative and so on. As said, general idea. The fact that a lot of the Tyranid range is now available in plastic makes them ideal for Xenomorph conversions. More on that later. The range also sports some very large beasties, so if you want to improvise on your Alien universe, there’s loads to grab here.
Pictured below is an old Lictor next to an old Genestealer. The Lictor has had some spiky appendages removed, hence the greenstuff on the chest. The Genestealer has been photoshopped to bring out the detail.
The Tyranids are available directly from Games Workshop’s online store and from various retailers, naturally including GW’s own stores. The prices vary a lot, so I’m not going to list them here. Knowing GW, the information would be outdated in a month, anyway.
Scotia Grendel Kryomek Aliens
An older range stylistically very similar to the Tyranids mentioned above. The long heads and spiky tails typical of Xenomorphs are present, as well as that biomechanical look. Pictures are taken from the Scotia Grendel website and used without permission. Naturally, they will be taken down on request. I was going to get my hands on some samples for review, but due to problems of my own it was taking too long and I wanted to eventually publish this review.
See here for Matakishi’s effective use of Kryomek Aliens as Xenomorphs.
1st Corps Parasite Adults
The 1st Corps scifi line includes a pack of two Alien-inspired beasties. There’s the bipedal stance, the elongated skull and the prominent ribs. The models lack the biomechanical look, but I believe that with the right paintjob they’d make for passable Aliens. The models come on integral bases and the arms are separate, allowing for some variation in poses. There are two critters in a pack, costing £3.00. They’re available direct from 1st Corps.
Hasslefree Head Crabs
I thought for a long time whether to put these in the not-Aliens or the Aliens-inspired section. In the end they ended up in the latter. The Head Crabs, sculpted by Kev White, are obviously inspired by the Facehuggers in the Alien franchise. They’re however different enough in their anatomy to not quite be not-Aliens (how’s that for a sentence). They’re beautiful nevertheless, and well worth adding to your games. You could always cut off the second tail to make them even more Facehugger-ish. They’re quite pricey at £1.00 each, so the price might be a point for consideration. The Head Crabs are available direct from Hasslefree.
Overall verdict: Yes, alternative ranges do exist, and there’s quality stuff there. It pretty much depends on how much of a purist you are, or in other words how far you’re willing to stretch your vision of Aliens. If you’re okay with “Alien-ish”, there’s definitely a good supply here for you.
Making your own
All this choice, and still not happy? How about some Do It (Almost) Yourself, then? There are manufacturers producing nice conversion bits to turn other models – such as the Tyranids mentioned above – into something a bit more Xenomorph-y. With a large part of the Tyranid range being plastic, this isn’t really much of a chore. No, you won’t get a perfect match, but as mentioned before, for me at least it’s more important that the model conveys the look and feel of the Alien, even if it’s not a perfect match. As this article shows, converting Tyranids into Xenomorphs isn’t a huge task even without using conversion parts.
Chapterhouse Studios Xenomorph heads
Chapterhouse Studios is a company producing resin conversion parts for GW’s Warhammer and Warhammer 40K lines. There’s one set that’s particularly interesting, that set of course being the Xenomorph heads. They have the long, smooth-canopied head (sometimes lovingly called the death banana) and let’s face it, that’s what makes us immediately think of Aliens. The detailing on the head is a bit more organic than in the original Giger stuff, with little tendrils and things like that. They are a bit big for the smaller creatures, but perfect for the larger ones. There are two different variants, and the detail is nice and crisp. The resin castings are of good quality, and there were no air bubbles or other blemishes. The price of the set is $5.85 for a pack of six, and they’re available directly from Chapterhouse’s online store. There’s a great review of them here, courtesy of the wonderful people of the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, whose blog is well worth reading.
Pictured below are the two Tyranid models shown above, this time with Chapterhouse heads.
Heresy Miniatures spare heads
Heresy is a maker of multi-part miniatures, and that means their range includes some spare heads that are definitely suitable for Xenomorph conversions.
First up is an eyeless/lurker head for the Heresy Hellhounds. I don’t know if the heads are available separately, but I’m sure that if enough people request them, the demand could well be met. Shown below is a shot of the head on the GW Genestealer shown before. As you can see, the head definitely has the smooth Alien look. The full length canopy isn’t there, but it’s still Alien enough to work.
Heresy also sells a separate sprue of Lurker heads, although let’s face it: these are Alien heads. They’re lovely, and I must say I was a bit disappointed when it turned out they were a bit on the small side, especially on a bulky plastic Tyranid.
If only I had something smaller…and then it hit me. I tried putting the head on one of the Reviresco Homophages, and what do you know, the combination produces a very, very authentic looking Xenomorph. Death banana head? Check. Spiky tail? Check. Bipedal? Check. See for yourself, and ignore the blu-tack.
Casting quality on all heads was very good, although there was some mould lining to scrape off. The Lurker heads are available directly from Heresy, and you get three heads for £1.00. Ask Heresy about the Hellhound heads.
Overall verdict: If you’re not afraid to do a bit of easy converting, DIY is definitely a viable route to building your own Alien horde. Quality conversion bits are available for cheap. The Reviresco Homophages + Heresy Lurker heads combination receives a special mention here, as it results in a very authentic looking Alien, albeit a smallish one.
There you go, dear readers. As comprehensive an Alien miniature review as I was able to pull off at the moment. I have to give my sincerest thanks to the companies participating and posting me – a humble blogger – samples for review, often providing me with an abundance of extras. A special tip of the hat goes off to John at Reviresco. Apparently he noted my nationality, and threw in a pack of WW2 Finns. How’s that for customer service! I will also point out that the willingness to participate and amount of samples provided did not affect the review one bit.
Some might view this review as too positive, since I mostly praise the models reviewed. I disagree. People’s tastes vary, so I’ve tried to provide an honest and objective view. Some people value quality, others simply want loads of miniatures for as low a price as possibly. Most probably try to find a suitable balance between the two.
I don’t see the point in labeling something singularly poor – except when talking about casting quality and such. Reviewers and peers (often the same thing in this small hobby) have a lot of influence. If someone tells you that a particular line of miniatures sucks, maybe you won’t see for yourself and end up passing up on miniatures you actually might have liked. I also think that there is an intrinsic value in focusing on the good points in something first, and focusing on the negative second.
I’d also like to appeal to you readers: if you saw something you liked, click on the manufacturer links, show your support and buy stuff. Manufacturers big and (especially) small really need, and more importantly, deserve your patronage. Show this review around to people interested, too. And no, I’m not making any money out of this through ads, clicks or anything like that.
I’ll try to update this review if and when suitable ranges appear and I get my hands on samples to review. I hope to be able to keep this post current, so if there’s something I’ve missed, definitely let me know.
Now get on with infecting the galaxy.