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"What Is A Sci-Fi Mini?" Topic

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nothing05 Aug 2011 7:02 p.m. PST

Didn't see this yet so here goes.

Are there certain features on humanoid minis that qualify them as "Sci-Fi"?

Is it enough to ad some armor plates or a laser gun?

Is there a certain esthetic that needs to be followed?

Is it as simple as capturing the spirit of the "science"?

I'm curious to hear opinions.

ordinarybass05 Aug 2011 7:09 p.m. PST

Q.Are there certain features on humanoid minis that qualify them as "Sci-Fi"?
A. If it has a feature that isn't fantasy or modern, it's probably Sci-Fi.

Q.Is it enough to ad some armor plates or a laser gun?
A. Sure, Why not? it worked for 40k, Vor, Void, Warzone, etc, etc…

Q.Is there a certain esthetic that needs to be followed?
A. Nope

Q.Is it as simple as capturing the spirit of the "science"?
A. Science, Shmience. Sci-Fi does not necessarily have anything to do with science.

Battle Works Studios05 Aug 2011 7:16 p.m. PST

Q.Are there certain features on humanoid minis that qualify them as "Sci-Fi"?
A. If it has a feature that isn't fantasy or modern, it's probably Sci-Fi.

There are other historical periods than "moderns" you know. I think most Nappy players would object to their troops being defined as scifi. :)

Other than that, generally agree.

Ambush Alley Games05 Aug 2011 9:34 p.m. PST

Whatever works for a gaming group's vision of their SciFi setting is a SciFi miniature. ;)

I use Peter Pig FFL and Hardened Militia for colonial militia in my SciFi games, for instance. They work great for me for that purpose, but might be totally out of place for some other group's game.


Eli Arndt06 Aug 2011 1:42 a.m. PST


This is a hard one to answer. I would say the answer to almost every question you asked is some form of "no" with the last being a "yes".

To use a few examples -

The contractors from the movie Avatar are really just gun-toting, flak-vest wearing grunts. Their guns are not Earth guns and they wore breather masks. The overall effect made them look scifi.

The marines in Aliens were similarly science fiction. Nothing they carried was foreign to viewers, butthe style was not of this Earth.

Star Wars features characters wearing decidely medieval garb but with a few gizmos (utility belts, comms, weapons) that make it obvious they are science fiction.


Battle Miniatures Emporium06 Aug 2011 1:46 a.m. PST

George Lucas describes Star Wars as a Fantasy, or Science Fantasy.

I feel the same way about my little Tomorrow Black setting…which I describe as : Dark Science Fantasy.

There is no reason to limit the story/setting. Anything that fits and looks good in a given world is fine IMFO.

I do think that you need to set up rules for the world however, and follow them. For example look at The Matrix. Neo and the gang could do incredible things, but only while in The Matrix.

When other films started using the same special effects, it was stupid and did not fit the world, it was just trying to be cool, and was not.

Charlies Angels?
Give me a break…FFSake!

Certain elements are excepted as Sci-Fi too of course. Lasers say. But in my mind there is nothing saying that you can not have a Dragon with a Laser Cannon, if you explain it according to the rules for that world.

It is fun to think these things up…

infojunky06 Aug 2011 3:10 a.m. PST

A Science fiction figure is any figure that evokes the characters portrayed in and of the works classified as Science Fiction.

That being said Science Fiction encompasses a huge swath, and, well it is some times hard to say what is or isn't.

There are some sub-categories, these too tend to be broad.

Cyberpunk, Ultramodern, Gritty, are all used to sometimes to describe the near future, one where some things like space/star ships, conjectural firearms and the like exist as recognizable extensions of today.

Far Future, shiny and a bunch of other names I am forgetting right now, are used to for futures like what one sees in Star Trek and other of that ilk….

Space Opera, Science Fantasy etc.. etc… Star Wars, Buck Rogers and the like.

Just some examples of the discriptors use in conversations…

rvandusen Supporting Member of TMP06 Aug 2011 3:39 a.m. PST

All of my prehistoric miniature collection is potentially Sci-Fi, or Victorian Sci-Fi, or Fantasy, or Natural Historically accurate depending on what kind of game I'm using them in. I like maximum flexibility.

Stealth100006 Aug 2011 4:15 a.m. PST

I see sci-fi as anything set a few days hence. Having said that we use civis from historical ranges as sci-fi civies.

abdul666lw06 Aug 2011 4:31 a.m. PST

Depends on your definition of Sci-Fi!
So far in this thread 'Sci-Fi' is implicitly 'futuristic', it's 'traditional' but quite reductive. Though the English name Science *Fiction* is more encompassing than the old (now obsolete) '*Anticipation* Scientifique'.

Sci-Fi can perfectly be set in the past, re Mary Gentle's 'Ash' series link or Flint & Drake 'Belisarius' hexalogy link

Better known is Sci-Fi set in a period when Sci-Fi 'as we understand it' was written (Verne, Wells) and illustrated (Robida): 'VSF / Steampunk' (though V. & W. set their stories in their own time, and Robida in the future).
But these 'historical roots' themselves are reductive (re above, and Rosny 'Les Xipehuz' link is set in the Neolithic!) and anyway go deeper in time than generally thought: Cyrano de Bergerac and (somehow) Munchausen wrote 'Sci-Fi', and Restif de la Bretonne's 'La découverte australe par un homme volant, ou le Dédale Français' (1781) link
= and 'L'An 2440, rêve s'il en fut jamais' (1771) link *are* Sci-Fi ('contemporary' to the writer for the 1st, 'futuristic' for the 2nd). (In the same way, Mary Shelley's 'Frankeinstein' is SF, while Bram Stoker's 'Dracula' is Fantasy: the pair is very exemplary to define the border between the two genres). Thus even a literary 'precedent / root' exists for 'Lacepunk' TMP link

So "What makes a Mini Sci-Fi" is basically *the context in which you use it*: perfectly 'historical' late 19th C. minis become 'Sci-Fi' id 'fielded' on Mars. Totally encompassing, but not very informative at the level of the mini itself, I reckon. Thus "The Mini reflects a blatant departure from our 'Historical Reality' implying a scientific / technological 'What-if?'.
The "scientific / technological 'What-if?'" excludes the armies of Imagi-Nations, with 'original' uniforms and flags, but otherwise perfectly 'normal' for their period
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[Actually the difference becomes fuzzy when one considers the 'long term': Imagi-Nations are basically 'what-if?' nations, and *any* 'historical' battle games has the potential to 'start' an 'alternate history' timeline; of no immediate consequence for the campaign, but Keith Roberts' 'Pavane' link is instructive as the possible long-term effects of a single death.]

Since what makes a Mini 'Sci-Fi' is the "scientific & technological 'what-if?" it may be often more a matter of *modelling* than 'converting': perfectly 18th C. 'historical' minis become Sci-Fi if used as the crew of a 'functional' Puckle gun


war balloons

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Symmetrically, a 'Fantasy' race (and corresponding minis) can become 'Sci-Fi', e.g. Elves if instead of quasi-immortal humanoids they become merely an endemic subspecies of Homo sapiens TMP link
The 'what-if?' here is basically historical / paleontological, though it can be 'spiced' TMP link
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and technological 'What)if?' added
(interesting examples in that the minis crewing the rocket launchers remain themselves 'normal', while the users of the flame-throwers are *themselves* converted to Sci-Fi).

nothing06 Aug 2011 7:44 a.m. PST

@abdul666lw: I was looking to define the limits of what I might create and you have made me realize there really are no limits.

Brilliant, mate!

Eli Arndt06 Aug 2011 10:28 a.m. PST

The only real limit is the confines of the context you establish. Be careful of too drastic of a swing from one side of scifi to the other within the same setting. While there is no particular reason to limit yourself, it can throw the audience if they are under the impression it's all supposed to be from the same universe.


abdul666lw06 Aug 2011 1:06 p.m. PST

The limit is that the scientific [in the widest {wildest?} meaning] / technological 'what-if?' looks / sounds 'scientific', not 'magical / supernatural'. And given that advanced enough technology is indistinguishable from magic… It's a matter of 'presentation'. Had Stoker depicted Dracula according to the 'Matheson model' (infectious disease), he would have written Sci-Fi, not Fantasy. Reciprocally, because the 'religious' -and thus 'supernatural'- nature of the struggle, C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy" link is Fantasy, NOT Sci-FI despite its 'interplanetary' setting.

Thus self-consistency is essential, incl. to convince the audience. But, paradoxically, logical self-consistency may work against 'likeliness' for the non-specialist.

It's true of biology -aliens looking like 'men in rubber suits' will be more readily 'accepted' by the general audience (and not only by Creationists) than really 'weird', but more likely, bodyplans.

It's also true for technology and the 'look' of technological artifacts, weapons for instance. Aficionados of 'hard SF' wargaming deride 40K or Barsoomian miniatures, favoring soldiers, weapons, tanks that look 'serious', i.e. are mere short-range extrapolations of current ones (typically, Aliens 'Colonial Marines' fashion). Indeed they look more 'serious' for the man next door, but are totally illogical / inconsistent.
If a civilization routinely uses FTL travel and anti-gravity, *all* technologies are totally different from ours: and thus any technological device, including vehicles, weapons, clothes… are totally different from what we know to-day. Thus, we cannot know what a soldier of the future will look like, the only certain point is that he will NOT look like a short-term extrapolation of current ones.

Meaning that Barsoomian miniatures are more 'realistic', more likely, or at least *less unlikely* than 'serious, hard SF' ones. People can fight dressed only with a thong / G-string, or penis shaft for the males (if their cultural taboos require such): they are protected by a 'field', not only from any harm but also from any unpleasant environmental features. And they can sport flamboyant colors (or a 'flashy' decorative armor), since they benefit of an invisibility field (thus to be 'realistic' one should use clear plastic ships, not minis at all). And what looks like a silly hand hair-dryer -or even an exotic dagger- may be a weapon more powerful than a planetary defense laser…

Of course I am not suggesting that 'serious' SF military miniatures and models are intrinsically silly: but they are logically incompatible with inter-stellar capacity.

Ambush Alley Games07 Aug 2011 12:38 p.m. PST

But by your logic, an interstellar Earth society might choose to dress its soldiers any way they chose – which might even be something similar to the way soldiers are dressed now, or in the 19th century, whatever.

They may also use weapons that are similar to ours, but function differently or more efficiently – this seems somewhat likely as the basic shape of the sword, pistol, and carbine/rifle haven't changed all that much since the first ones were made – they're still certainly recognizable for what they are, at least.

So, I'd say that since a humanity so advanced it could send its soldiers to battle wearing a thong and wielding a hair-dryer of mass destruction might be just as likely to send them to battle in a blouse and trousers of some sort armed with something that is recognizable as a small arm.

I agree that we can't guess what the future will look like based on extrapolation any more than the futurists of the 19th century could imagine what our current technology might look like, though, which to my mind makes any guess equally plausible. ;)


Eli Arndt07 Aug 2011 12:41 p.m. PST

I think the real answer is, "anything you want".

I would temper this answer with my above comments regarding consistency and accessibility to the market.

As much as I want innovation in miniatures I do recognize that some concepts will maintain a limited marketability.


28mmMan07 Aug 2011 12:57 p.m. PST


Lots of good answers above.

I would consider the basics of the genre with it's various step children.

Science Fiction…that which is possible and explainable with time and reasonable advancements in science; the work of futurists

Science Fantasy…this is where the bulk of sci-fi fits into in; a toe in to test the water or a cannonball off the high dive with abandon…Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.

Space Opera…a cousin-sibling to Science Fantasy, this allows for no restrictions due to logic…insert thousands of humanoid aliens, no problem…insert terra forming by dropping a handwavium life bomb, no problem; yes Star Wars and Star Trek step down this road quite often


I would look at the Science Fiction label being measured, say in 01-100%.

01% nearly everything is how we could manage within a few years without any magic or alien super technology falling into our hands

100% anything is possible…travel across the galaxy, through black holes, or into other dimensions…science is at the level of high magic


If you are looking for a starting point to inspire a miniature line then I would consider how much fantasy or magic science you want to allow in your designs, give this a percentage to provide a measure bar.

Best of luck.

28mmMan07 Aug 2011 12:58 p.m. PST

By the way, we all collectively expect a Mad Robot miniature line…the madder the better :)

nothing07 Aug 2011 2:27 p.m. PST

Did someone say mad robots….?

Eli Arndt07 Aug 2011 2:42 p.m. PST

To be honest, there is another niche that demands discussion and exploration.

Science fiction miniatures seems almost devoid of non-Terminator combat robots.

Khurasan has some good killer robots and Rebel has some big bots/drones in their WildCATS and TomCATS minis.

Really what we could use is a good line of alien-looking mechanioids or some good ol' Star War like battle and assassin droids.


28mmMan07 Aug 2011 3:30 p.m. PST

"Did someone say mad robots…?"

Indeed…so many options




Eli Arndt07 Aug 2011 3:49 p.m. PST

Robot talk continues here TMP link


abdul666lw08 Aug 2011 5:13 a.m. PST

Would not most 6 – 15 mm 'mechas' make good anthropoid *combat* robots?
Of course, for elderlies such as me, Robby is *the* robot



Space Opera…a cousin-sibling to Science Fantasy, this allows for no restrictions due to logic

Yes and no: 'Space Opera' was initially coined for 'poor SF', but nowadays is traditionally associated with a grandiose setting of more than galactic scale. Edward Elmer Smith's 'Lensman' series is often quoted as example, other often named authors are Edmond Hamilton, John W. Campbell, and Jack Williamson. 'Star Wars' fits the bill, as do some of its unacknowledged pastiches: 'Battlestar Galactica' (original), 'Battle beyond the Stars'… I don't know ST enough to assess if it qualifies by the huge size of the space battles (a la David Weber ('Harrington' series, 'Path of the Fury').

'Science Fantasy' is generally associated (because of the Fantasy-like importance of swordplay / swashbuckling) with Barsoom and the like; SW partly qualifies because of the emphasis on hand-to-hand combat. Less 'Science Fiction' according to your scale than Space Opera, on the average (skyships without even a pseudo-scientific source of power, radium rifles with a range limited only by the roundness of the planet…).


I agree that we can't guess what the future will look like based on extrapolation any more than the futurists of the 19th century could imagine what our current technology might look like<snip>.



link =


Lampyridae08 Aug 2011 10:54 a.m. PST

The last image is surprisingly prescient.

Since the 1900s, we've gotten better at understanding how "the future" changes everything. Images from the 1940s and 50s show incredibly advanced technology washing the dishes… just so that the housewife can laze around in Delphic langour. Yet the biggest change of the 20th century was totally missed by most futurists – women's lib. Simply because it was assumed to be a fact that women were biologically suited to raising babies and minding the house, and nothing else.

I'd expect to see all sorts of social changes made possible by new technologies, or just cultural drifts. Memetically bonded groupminds engaging in clan warfare. Shared consciousness to varying degrees – human evolving into something like a hivemind. Stubborn individualists opposing them. Other changes we can't yet imagine… and just lots of regular people in the middle. Outdated technologies alongside ultra-advanced ones, like China still burning coal while it sens interstellar colony ships to Alpha Centauri. A rich infusion of cyberpunk and "business as usual."

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART08 Aug 2011 8:42 p.m. PST

For me, even near future technology would preclude the existence of battlefields at all. If they would exist, they would be populated by machines, both on the ground and in the (way up there) air.
Microchip on microchip violence doesn't paint up very well and nanotech is to hard to depict, (even at 'heroic' 28mm).
The question is one of aesthetics and bias in the minds of the gamers. A cyber attack on Wall Street doesn't give the button counters much traction in the Osprey book sense. A 1950's era gamer, in trying to extrapolate modern warfare in the early 21st century would never decorate the helmets of his miniatures with 'goofy stuff' such as mounts for low level light gear. In fact, the concept of a 'useful' helmet could be thought to be 'retro'.
So in the end, I'd take the poison of choice and run with it. If powered armor works for you, go for it. Battlemechs holding giant assault rifle, who's it going to hurt?

abdul666lw09 Aug 2011 2:54 a.m. PST

For me, even near future technology would preclude the existence of battlefields at all. If they would exist, they would be populated by machines, both on the ground and in the (way up there) air.
Likely, but to have human miniatures on the table-top one can suppose a cultural requirement. Thus 'warriors' would be physically present on the battlefield through 'avatars' -yes, just like in the movie but having cloned their own body. They would be spared mutilation and death, but NOT fatigue, stress and *pain*: the least one could expect from people legally allowed to inflict the same to other people and be glorified for that…
Less unlikely (less cheater-beneficial) than the Barsoomian 'honor code', since it's not a matter of life or death: war is just a form of knightly tournament of the melee type .

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