Tabletop wargaming is such a fun and satisfying hobby. Whether its for historical settings or fantasy and sci-fi, the hobby is rich, full of wonderful artistic people, and an excellent way to spend an evening in good company. From working out a particular force or battle to hobby towards, gathering the necessary miniatures, painting them up, and then seeing them in action on a table, there’s enjoyment to be had at every stage of the journey.
Unfortunately, miniatures are expensive, painting is time consuming, and the required space is generally quite extreme. From the relatively doable 4′ by 4′ up through the standard 6′ by 4′ to whatever Black Powder tries to get you to play on (I don’t have a 12′ by 8′ table Warlord, be kind!), Setting up a home gaming space can be daunting.
Alternatives to Buying Miniatures at Retail
There have been some excellent innovations in 3D printing, allowing for relatively inexpensive options for many of the most popular settings, but even that can be out of reach for many.
So I’m here to write about another alternative that I don’t believe gets the same attention as pewter, plastic, and resin do. Paper! There is really no less expensive way to get a fully functioning army on a table than paper miniatures. Now I know that paper miniatures might conjure images of crudely drawn stick figures or a rectangle with the word “Rhino” written on it, but with the right tools, the work of excellent artists, and some spare time, you can have a full tabletop ready to game in an evening or two of listening to your favourite podcast (Ahem! Episode 6: No One Seems To Know What Professional Wargames Are).
Paper Miniatures You Say? Surely You Jest?
When done correctly, paper miniatures can be absolutely stunning, as I hope some of the better done images in this article suggest. The requirements are also dirt cheap. A pair of decent scissors from your local scissor dispensary, some cheap glue, and a colour printer.
My Favourite Historical Paper Miniatures
For historicals, I love the work of Hellion & Company’s Paper Soldiers Line. Most are illustrated by legendary artist Peter Dennis. If you’ve read any Osprey books, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a convention early in 2020. He had brought his paper ancients and they were simply stunning. Stunning to the point that I immediately went to the Hellion & Co. booth and bought one of the books myself.
The miniatures can be scanned and printed or, in the case of the book I purchased, cut directly from the pages. I’d recommend going the printing route so there’s always the potential for backups. Although if you’re a little more forward thinking than I was, there are purchasable PDFs on their site which are obviously easier to print.
My Favourite Fantasy Paper Miniatures
In terms of fantasy miniatures, I’m mostly be exposed to the art of One Page Rule’s Patreon miniatures, but I love them. (Again, full disclosure, I’ve done some comission work for OPR). The art style is fun and cartoony and the optional black border makes for easier cut jobs. The campaign I wrote, Darkness Within, pits humans against vampires and their undead minions. I don’t have any miniatures for either army and so I decided to go the 2D route. It’s been incredibly easy to print off two of each sheet and go to town, creating enough for a small skirmish within a day.
There are plenty of other artists out there and a quick troll through wargamesvault reveals dozens of free and paid paper miniatures. Finding an artist or company whose work you enjoy and want to support is another fun part of this avenue of the hobby.
- Joe Fonseca