Wargaming Tradecraft: [Review] Reaper Bones Miniatures

[Review] Reaper Bones Miniatures

 So about a month ago, my FLGS talked me into trying out one of the plastic Reaper Bones miniatures. I'm glad I did. The following is my review on the quality of the miniatures and what they're like to paint - they're not bad. Certainly not high quality miniatures; I wouldn't recommend them as replacements for Wargaming. The price is perfect, as is the quality, if you're looking for miniatures to use in your various tabletop roleplaying games. Another selling point - no primer required... buuuut, I'll touch on how accurate that is later.

If you got in on the original Bones Kickstarter, then you're well aware of what kind of a deal they offer. If you're interested, there's a Bones II Kickstarter on at the moment, which wraps up at the end of the week.

The other thing I'll be doing, is when I get to painting, I'm going to show more simple and quick steps that anyone can follow to create nice looking models.

Welp, I guess that explains why they're so cheap. But seriously, I think I payed $3 for this guy. Look at a comparable GW product and you're paying $20, even $14 from a comparable PP model. For those prices, you can get a large Bones dragon. Again, these don't seem to have the level of detail studios like that offer, but you can't argue with that price.

To start, I'm going to address my initial reactions and experiences with these models, then I'll cover painting.

Mold Lines

There are a lot of them. Not just on edges, but slight shifts on bodies and parts that put things a little out of alignment. I've circled some of them, but you'll see as I paint the model that there are a lot more.

I've touched on Cleaning Mold Lines before and spoken about how I prefer to scrape them off. This plastic is soft and flexible and I found the cutting method worked better.
Flexible Plastic

Speaking of, this plastic is bendy. I'll refer you to the photo on the right so you can see just HOW bendable it is. Doesn't end up causing any issues with the paint though, so, that's cool.

It's soft enough that it basically goes back to normal afterward, but his staff was a little warped out of the package, so I ran it under some hot water and held it in place while it cooled down.

What impressed me was that after all's said and done, I could bend the staff AND his whole body without the paint chipping.
Smooth Plastic

One of my big concerns with these models is that the plastic is very smooth. This affects painters because paint doesn't like to adhere to smooth.

I found that Games Workshop Foundation paints worked really well, but even then a thick coat was required. Other paints from GW and P3 paints had trouble. To make them work, I had to go thick. Layering techniques I'm used to weren't easy to apply.

Below are some examples depicting how non-foundation paints don't stick to surfaces so well. You'll notice the paint pools in crevices stronger.
Prep and Priming

First off, you'll want to wash the mini. Sounds weird, but it will clean off any powder and residue from the molds. Just use some dish soap and be sure to rinse.

There are reports that the chemicals in some primers may damage the plastic or leave it tacky. For the cost of their minis, buy an extra to test your spray on if you want to go that route. Acrylic primers would also be an option, either paint on or airbrush. Gesso is a paint on primer that is typically chemical free, allowing it to be safely painted on. I use Gesso all the time for touch ups. (Gesso would probably clog an airbrush though.)

Another concern with primers (and varnish for that matter) is anything that creates a firm coat might not flex as well with the mini and could lead to cracked paint.
Now, keep in mind, as a test I'm not doing a ton of detail. Mainly, I want to create a presentable model and find out how painting goes without priming.

I'm also going to use basic painting steps from my Back to Basics - Striking Scorpion model. If you're not a huge painter, these are easy steps to follow to create a decent model and lend to a white base quite well.

To the right is a single coat of purple GW foundation paint. I've varied the thickness, which actually looks pretty nice as a method for shading. (Think adding water to foundation paints to wash and darken with them.) If I weren't testing this model out, I might leave it shaded like this. Unfortunately, the areas left thin are still awfully smooth and don't create a nice undercoat for thinner paints.
Below you'll see the first step I've done. Reds and yellows took a few coats because of how thin the paints are. Poor paint adhesion made the ram skulls look nice and naturally shaded. You'll notice that things look kinda shiny, especially evident in his beard. The shine is due to painting on such a smooth surface.

Basically, just paint on all the basic colours.

In the next step, all I've done is shaded everything with washes. Easy.

As a final step, highlighting. On my Striking Scorpion I highlighted using the same colours I based with. Wanting a little more contrast than that, I've used a few different colours, still focusing on simple highlights of raised areas.

To sum it up - these are great models for their price and work well for roleplaying games. As players change characters or GMs create new encounters, $3 is easily justifiable. If the GM wants an epic battle with a large monster, $7-15 is a great price.

The sculpts avoid adding detail that's too fine, meaning they don't add tiny details that could get ruined in the molding process. Looking at the models I'll be getting in Bones II, I love the artistry that goes into designing Reaper minis. My only real complaints on detail are the amount of mold lines / shifts and some of their larger minis don't look like they fit together too well.

Painting is a little tricky and you'll have to rely on foundation paints or multiple layers. Personally, I'll probably use Black Gesso in the future for two reasons: First, as a primed base and second because I realized painting him, I really prefer a black base. That, or I'd experiment with just shading him and allowing the white to show through as natural highlighting. For the average gamer, priming is probably unnecessary.


  1. Just read this and, having been working with some of the Bones minis, I completely agree with the Gesso. Painting these after priming with Gesso makes a huge difference and will be a more 'familiar' experience.

    Well done!

    1. Thanks. Good to hear my suspicions about gesso may prove the way to go. I use Liquitex brand, curious if you've tried bending the models and how your brand holds up.

  2. I picked up some skeleton archers the other week from Bones. I wanted something cheap to use as decorative elements on my Heldrake's base.I treated it like any other model and spray primed it and had no issues at all; it was like painting anything else. As you said, the soft plastic makes mold line removal a bit difficult but for $5 to get 3 of the archers, I can't complain.


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