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"Paper Minis for the Cash-Strapped?" Topic

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15 May 2010 2:05 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian15 May 2010 2:05 p.m. PST

Writing in Miniature Wargames, Gary Mitchell observes…

…if – like me – you're still cash-strapped, a way forward could be 'paper' games and minis. Need reinforcements? Print some off….

Would you consider paper minis as a way to enter a new period or genre at a low cost?

Custer7thcav15 May 2010 2:24 p.m. PST


richarDISNEY15 May 2010 2:34 p.m. PST


abelp0115 May 2010 2:34 p.m. PST


hurcheon15 May 2010 2:39 p.m. PST


I have used paper minis and top down blocks to try out new rules

I have even reviewed rules with pictures showing the paper miniatures and paper terrain I used while trying out the rules.

Then, if you like the rules/period you can then buy the lead/plastic

Nick Weitnauer15 May 2010 2:41 p.m. PST

I got really into them for a while. I blame the Fallout Tactics wargame for it. It was the first time I built whole forces out of fold-ups. Before that we used the fold-ups from the TSR Marvel game and the Dungeons & Dragons boxed games for Role-playing. But Fallout got me hooked on using them for wargaming.
But now with the "plastics explosion" out there it is not to hard to get into many differant games for rather cheap.
So no, I would probably not use paper figs anymore.

Grizwald15 May 2010 2:50 p.m. PST

I have just printed enough paper ships to do Trafalgar.

Lentulus15 May 2010 2:50 p.m. PST

It's been been so long since I was that cashed-strapped. With 1/72 plastic at 10$ a box going with paper would be pretty extreme.

Which is not to say that I would get uptight about someone else doing it; but not for me.

rusty musket15 May 2010 2:55 p.m. PST

I would tend to go to wood pieces. Buy some bass wood and cut up to base sizes. I got that idea when reading the rules for Napoleons Battles. The game development discussed how the 15mm figs were really too big and the height of the bases compared to the size of the bases was closer to representing the height real figs would be at that scale.

CPBelt15 May 2010 2:58 p.m. PST


Grizwald15 May 2010 2:59 p.m. PST

"The game development discussed how the 15mm figs were really too big and the height of the bases compared to the size of the bases was closer to representing the height real figs would be at that scale."

Now that's a good idea …

DeanMoto15 May 2010 3:36 p.m. PST

I'd go for 1:72nd plastics instead; prefer "ronde-bosse" over flats. Okay, they probably cost a bit more than the paper and ink, but sell the printer and you could buy a lot of plastic. grin

Luckyjoe15 May 2010 3:47 p.m. PST


Hazkal15 May 2010 4:08 p.m. PST

I've considered paper minis for RPGs, but I doubt I'd use them for wargaming. Generally miniatures and aesthetics drive me into a period or setting, rather than a particular fondness for that period.

Personal logo pavelft Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2010 4:23 p.m. PST


Goldwyrm15 May 2010 4:34 p.m. PST

Would you consider paper minis as a way to enter a new period or genre at a low cost?

No. I'll play a game with integrated paper components, like Wings of War with airplane cards. It remains a card game for me. I otherwise wouldn't purchase a paper product as a substitute for miniatures for a purely miniatures game. I play a miniatures game because it has miniatures.

John Leahy Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2010 4:37 p.m. PST

Goldwyrm has it right. I would use plastic figs before paper. When gaming with miniatures I just don't see the point of paper.

hurcheon15 May 2010 4:42 p.m. PST

You have a set of rules, you are not sure you will like them or you have no one who has the figs to take you through them or you are plain skint.

Paper figs can fill a valuable function in these cases.

E.g. when trying out one set for the first time I used cardboard bases, and bits of plastic to hold up yje paper flats, thus making elements for the game.


I was able to tell that ruleset wasn't for me and move on without the expense of having gone the metal route

Dale Hurtt15 May 2010 5:00 p.m. PST

Yes, I did for a long time, but the flat nature bothered me. I tried all of the things I could think of to fix it, but to no avail. Now I make my own figures, cheaply, using wood.


There is a forum for this too:


And my blog of tutorials:

And no, it does not take that much time to make, or to paint.

Wellspring15 May 2010 5:05 p.m. PST

I just buy less. Paper minis are out of the question for me. I'd use proxies of the same scale different setting or not play at all.

Where paper comes into play for me is for buildings that I can make from cardstock. I'm also starting to explore ways of using (don't laugh!) shrinky-dinks. As stained glass and colored stone, but now I'm thinking.

If you're going to do paper minis, why not shell out 15 bucks for a bunch of pages of blank shrink e dink sheets and some colored pencils and do your "minis" that way?

Pictors Studio15 May 2010 5:22 p.m. PST

At this point I can't imagine gaming with paper figs for any reasonable length of time or spending the time to do them. I have a ton of figures unpainted, I'd rather paint them than spend the time cutting paper figs out. If it came down to it you could always do a smaller scale and get the figs that way. The idea of doing paper minis doesn't do anything for me.

Would I try rules out with bases with unit names written on them? Maybe, I'd probably just use proxy figs to try them instead though.

Cosmic Reset15 May 2010 5:29 p.m. PST

No, unfortunately no matter how nice the artwork, engineering, etc, I just don't get "captured" by them the same way I do 3-D miniatures.

ComradeCommissar15 May 2010 6:36 p.m. PST

Nope. That's cheating!

Beowulf Fezian15 May 2010 7:03 p.m. PST

No way. It defeats the porpouse!

Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut15 May 2010 7:46 p.m. PST

I keep meaning to, but I keep getting distracted by real minis…

nebeltex15 May 2010 8:35 p.m. PST

we produce some paper figures because we feel we have to. there have been a LOT of requests for them, but it is expensive and time consuming to develop the masters. it can be fun though…
for visual purposes, i still like plastic figures.

for vehicles and other elements of a game, paper can't be beat. you just have to have some modeling skills.

SpuriousMilius15 May 2010 8:56 p.m. PST

To answer your question, yes; while not "cash-strapped" I got the complete set of Steve Jackson "Cardboard Heroes" to use for D&D games since they were fairly comprehensive for characters, NPCs, monsters, etc. & were very easy to cart around. When I play D&D with my kids now we still use these same aged paper figures. Even if I won the state lottery I wouln't want to buy & paint (or pay for painting) all the figures needed for this. I'd certainly be willing to print & mount a paper army to try out a new ruleset or to participate in a friend's campaign.

Personal logo Gungnir Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2010 11:08 p.m. PST

I'ld prefer plastic 1:72, even as stand-ins, but I have no problems with paper.

Frothers Did It Anyway16 May 2010 2:56 a.m. PST

How can anyone be that cash-strapped, really? Until recently I was for a while as dirt poor as I've ever been but paper figures never even entered the equation. Printer ink isn't free remember!

I've nothing against people using paper tokens instead of figures if they like but 15mm, 10mm and 1/72 plastics are pretty darn cheap as it is so i don't really see the need.

nebeltex16 May 2010 9:55 a.m. PST

"Printer ink isn't free remember"

neither is paint.

TimHerr16 May 2010 10:34 a.m. PST

I do it all the time to try new stuff.

But I just like to have fun.


John Leahy Supporting Member of TMP16 May 2010 11:19 a.m. PST

True paint isn't free. However, you can find craft paints on sale for 50 cents or so a bottle. Pick up 20 bottles which will last virtually forever, you have a solid selection. Can't do that with printer ink.

Soft plastic figs run as cheaply as 5-7 dollars for 48+ figs. Spend around 20-25 bucks and you have a decent sized force. Can't get much cheaper than that. Plus the aesthetics of a 3d fig far surpasses a flat one.



nebeltex16 May 2010 2:55 p.m. PST

i guess it would depend on the value of your time and your experience with one medium vs. the other. some people create/finish quickly and do a good job. others take longer. some just don't have it.

DeanMoto17 May 2010 9:02 a.m. PST

To tell you the truth when I mentioned 1:72nd plastics, I wasn't even thinking of painting them just played as is from the box. When you strike it rich, you could go ahead and add paint to 'em. I remember back in the Great Stock Market Crash of '07, some of us would carve up toy soldiers out of soap now I'm not telling the truth grin

Top Gun Ace17 May 2010 1:01 p.m. PST

Possibly, and/or cardboard counters.

Although most likely, I would go skirmish, and use a handful of small scale minis instead.

Martin Rapier18 May 2010 6:36 a.m. PST

I've used paper figures from time to time, but frankly I find them to be a bigger PITA to print, cut out and base than to actually paint some proper figures.

I have a card model Schneider CA-1, that was a pig to put together as well, but it was preferable to shelling out 20+ for a metal one. The first time it saw action the machineguns fell off! Oh well.

Scorpio19 May 2010 11:37 a.m. PST

No, never. I don't like the look-and-feel at all.

Dicko7803 Jun 2010 5:47 a.m. PST

Love my paper flats :-) I Have a "Travel pack" with 'minis' of a half a dozen periods, enough minis for a decent skirmish game, dice, bases – all in a container about 20 x 15 x 8cm, weighing under a kilo. Great for folks regularly flying.

To me, wargaming is about GAMING, and I really don't care what I'm gaming with, as long as I'm enjoying the game. :-)

gregoryk04 Jun 2010 10:47 a.m. PST

I routinely try out rules solo with paper minis, but never use anything but real miniatures for a game. Paper terrain is another matter, and there are several places on the web where you can find very good models in all scales, even 3mm.

Auggie04 Jun 2010 1:13 p.m. PST

Yup, bought some of Billy Bones wonderful ECW paper figs for my nephews. They love 'em and it doesn't matter if they get knocked around.

Ben Ten04 Jun 2010 4:35 p.m. PST

Yes, I would. In fact I do, all my paper miniatures were drawn by myself so I can have any figure I want at any time, I don't have to wait for someone else to finish a range.

In fact I was exasperated at the lack of inspiring Franco-Prussian War figures and that's where it began for me. I have that impossible to find Achille Bazaine figure! I have a dejected looking Napoleon III wincing in pain! I have civilians, scenery, houses in intact and destroyed states!

I did my degree in art so they look okay (without any trumpet blowing) I even did some period style Bayeux tapestry figs and scenery taking the lead from Billy Bones ECW papers.
Check out Edward Ryan's Paper Soldiers book for inspiration. Alsace/Lorraine seemed to be the centre of the paper soldier world in the past and that's where my family are from. Maybe it's in my genes!

I still use conventional figures and enjoy painting and gaming with 3D miniatures. I just want to be able to game in a large scale without it costing a vast amount of my time and money.

vojvoda06 Jun 2010 12:50 p.m. PST

YES! Having nothing left with me I have downloaded tons of images for ACW, Ancients, Napoleonics and WWII. I have not started printing or assembly yet but I figure I will do an ancients army and then ACW then WWII somewhere down the road when I start back into wargaming this or next year. Just not sure what the future holds so no plans on anything metal or plastic (due to lack of paint and tools) for the near term.

I just wish I could find some good terrain in Paper.
James Mattes

PzGeneral06 Jun 2010 4:34 p.m. PST

Yup. Like maybe for Flames of War

nebeltex17 Jun 2010 9:15 a.m. PST

there is a whole market of people that want things quickly, live remotely, and desire to game. sometimes the key is "accessability", or to put it another way, make do or do without! sales figures don't lie and paper figures (and models), done well, do sell.

from time to time, i get mail from customers that relate tales of inexpensive forces (paper) beating the pants off of expensive opponents. the frustration of the gaming "purist" opponent that loses only helps to reinforce our overall mission statement.

SaintGermaine12 Oct 2012 6:23 a.m. PST


great free source and Dean is adding new stuff all the time

Lesack23 Oct 2012 1:42 p.m. PST

As a general rule, I have no problem with paper terrain but I do prefer metal/plastic miniatures. There are exceptions, though. If I had better origami skills, I would be using things like Joseph Wu's origami:


(note, this is just a frame from his website)

Of course, I will never develop the dedication to be that good, so it's metal figs and paper buildings for me.

More apropos, the Future Noir threads in the SF forum demonstrate how good flats can look in an appropriate setting, and I would certainly use those.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP27 Jan 2020 10:34 p.m. PST

Interesting in just 8 years time, 3-D printing has overtaken 2-paper figures as the home made option. Not cheap to get started, but with a club purchase, they could turn out many different kinds of figures.

chironex28 Jan 2020 2:20 a.m. PST

Vehicles ok, but I usually only use paper figures for role-playing, due to the incredibly varied nature of current speculative fiction settings. Some settings there just ain't no minis for and I am not spending more than a minute converting or scratching a custom mini I'm only going to use once.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Jan 2020 5:14 a.m. PST

My PaperTerrain business offers both ACW and Napoleonic figures. I can't say that I sell a huge amount of them, but enough to indicate that people are using paper figures out there.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP28 Jan 2020 10:07 a.m. PST

I use paper terrain products, but not paper mini's. I've tried using some paper Trolls, for my RPG, and my mass battles wargames. The other players poo-poo'ed them. I replaced them with pre-painted plastic Troll figures, and we're all happier.

I don't mind them, one bit. But I do prefer full 3D mini's. My paper terrain is basically 2.75D, and I love these! It is the only way I could afford a lengthy city wall, for a 9-foot long table, for a really fun siege game: Link1, Link2, Link3, Link4. I printed the designs on full-sheet label paper, which I applied to 3mm cardboard. Used the same method on the Siege Towers. Inexpensive, relatively easy, and decent looking enough for me and my group of gamers. Cheers!

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