A few weeks ago I reached out to two of LEGO customizers regarding how one might incorporate pieces from the Warhammer line of gaming figures into their minifig customs. Life being what it is, I hadn't been able to write up this article until now. Although 'Warhammer fever' has since cooled, I thought it would still be worthwhile to share these tips.
Warhammer and Warhammer 40K are table-top gaming systems that utilize small figurines. The painting and customization of figures via 'bitz' is as much of the experience as the role-playing game. Warhammer largely takes place in a fantasy setting much like Dungeons & Dragons, while Warhammer 40K is set in a dystopian science fiction universe. The scale of the Warhammer figures are not quite aligned to minifigures, but if you know where to look, you can find some great pieces.
In order to find answers to my questions I sought the help of two experts in both Warhammer and LEGO customization, JasBrick and Geoshift.
JasBrick offers up that the plastic parts (versus metal) are going to be your best bet. In fact those parts associated with the Tau Empire or Space Marines from 40K work quite well.
JasBrick: "The scale is not quite right, however GW uses a heroic scale which means that some of the pieces are exagerated in size. The best kits to use are space marine and Tau kits, with the former having lots of nice details and bits like ammo packs and heraldic symbols, and the latter being good for sci-fi weaponry (from the battlesuit kits)."
A quick perusal of the Games Workshop site shows lots potential across the board, but what's difficult to discern is which parts are the right scale for minifigures. Geoshift had similar issues when he started to incorporate these 'bitz' into his work...
Geoshift: "I wish I had a good answer for this, but the truth is that it's very difficult. In fact, MOST of the parts I've purchased can't be used at all because they are simply too small and I don't have a good alternate use for them. Unfortunately it is often impossible to determine size from the photos [online]..."
So it's definitely 'buyer beware' when exploring parts for usage where you aren't certain of the scale. Looking around at Jas' and Geoshift's Flickr streams may give you an idea if a part you're considering has been used in their work previously.
So you've scoped out some parts and decided on which you want to buy. Do you start purchasing kits? JasBrick has some advice here...
JasBrick: "Would I recommend buying the kits for those that don't play WH40K.... NO.... these are expensive and the amount of usable parts in most cases do not warrant the expense. What I would recommend is to use eBay for bits as a lot of people break down the kits. Alternatively is try and find out if anyone you know is a GW player and ask for access to their 'Bitz Box' which any modeller worth the name will have. You may find parts that they will have no use for that you can use to create a new custom."
Geoshift has purchased all of his parts off of eBay...
Geoshift: "I've found a few good sellers for these parts, including 'hoard_*_bits', 'window-box', and 'krazy_marine'. The best search terms are 'Warhammer bits' or '40K bits'. You will then find these guys and others selling just parts."
Geoshift: "Because of the scale issues, the challenge is to find useful parts, then bring them together on a particular build in a way that flows and seems to make sense. So, I'm using parts in ways they were never intended in most cases (a jet pack becomes part of the armor chest-piece, or the top of a banner staff becomes a decorative shoulder guard). Of course, this is part of the fun as well!"
I want to thank Jas and Geoshift for sharing their wisdom on this topic. Hopefully this has been helpful for readers who may have considered using Warhammer in their customs but didn't know where to begin.
A quick review would suggest the following:
- Choose plastic over metal for minifigures
- Tau Warriors and Space Marines are a good place to start, but opportunities are everywhere
- Buying full kits may be pricey - raid the 'bitz box' or shop on eBay
- There's not a good way to check scale in advance - look for parts used by others previously, otherwise 'buyer beware'