Clear Base Technology

Well it looks like clear bases are go for the next stage.

I’ve been playing about with a set of clear acrylic bases I got from those nice folk at Fenris Games. Now they normally sell these as 2mm thicknesses, but as you know I want the bases to do the best job they can of disappearing into the scenery, so I asked for some thinner versions as well, just to see what they looked like and how strong they were. No point in having thin and unobtrusive bases if they snap all the time.

But they don’t.

I’ve tried to snap them and haven’t been able to do so with my bare hands. Didn’t even stay bent. I assume I could with some tools, but that’s not what I’m expecting them to resist so I didn’t bother trying. Why waste bases just to prove something I don’t need to know (and can guess anyway)?

I also assume that larger bases will be more prone to bending or snapping, so we’ll have to see how they hold up when I get some. Currently I have up to 25mm round and square, and that’s fine for most armies including the Orcs. It’s just what happens with big monsters and chariots and the like.

So, after some tinkering I’ve decided to go for 1mm clear acrylic as a baseline and see where we get to. I’ll be ordering some big bases too.

And just for amusement value, here are a few photos I took while I was messing about with them on my desk. They illustrate the point of the clear bases rather nicely.

First, on green.

Clear base on green

As you can see, I’ve deliberately not zoomed in. After all, the impression I’m after is when the army is on the tabletop, not on the end of your nose. Here we have a model with a flocked green base. Looks OK on a flocked bit of scenery. The clear base looks fine too. Even here I’d say it’s less obtrusive than the normal base because of the edge. Whatever colour you paint it it’s unlikely to blend in well (unless your tabletop is a flat colour too).

Clear base on grey

When the fighting moves to the ruined temple, the clear base still looks great! The green base, on the other hand looks rather out of place.

Clear base on board

Even down the dungeon the clear base is doing fine – showing off all the fancy art it’s standing on. Again, no matter how nicely you’ve modelled your green base, it’s going to look wrong here. The same is true for any opaque modelled base: it looks wrong in any but a very specific setting. In fact, the fancier your base the narrower the setting it fits with.

My thinking isn’t that modelling is bad, far from it. Instead, I’d suggest spending the time modelling a really nice set of terrain and then letting every model benefit from standing by it on a clear base.

Well, it’s a theory.

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26 Responses to Clear Base Technology

  1. killaminis says:

    It’s a great compromise and eliminates making the bases look snazzy. In the end, I find myself happier with the bases all jazzed up and match the terrain. It showcases both the model and the terrain. Makes me think of making multiple bases, each modular and schemed to match the given terrain during the game. With the use of magnets this could be accomplished quite easily. The real question is whether someone would want to put that much effort into their Army.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      If you have a set of snazzy bases and terrain that match perfectly then great. However, the more work you put into making the terrain look nice the more unlikely a snazzy base will actually match in every position The advantage of the clear base is that it doesn’t care whether it is on concrete, grass or a mix of the two whereas every snazzy painted base would.

      I’m not saying that this is for everyone – just that I’m finding it all rather exciting 🙂

  2. Carl Woodrow says:

    But, but, but… I like painting bases! Seriously though, it is a nice idea and I have seen some 10mm scale and smaller done on custom ultra-thin clear acrylic which look sensational. At the end of the day, it is down to what pleases the eye of the beholder.
    For me, I still prefer a textured base over clear as it frames and compliments the miniature. One practical question I would ask though; will it still look as good once the bottom surface has started to inherit a few tiny abrasions and scratches, which it surely will over time? Those are going to ruin the effect I suspect.

    In the examples you show, it does create a great effect though. I suspect clear bases would work especially well in miniature board games.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      As ever, you choose whichever approach looks best to you. It’s your army. Personally I no longer want to have to choose between cool looking snow bases or rugged urban ones. By focusing the effort on making the board look better I get to have my fun making the terrain effect and then don’t have to mess with magnets or whatever to have models work everywhere, whether I’m at home, visiting a friend, down at the club or at a distant tourney. If I want to frame a model I can do that by sitting them on a terrain piece, which I can do in game and in display cabinets with equal ease.

      Will they scratch up? Maybe. Will that make the effect not work? Eventually I suppose so. Not sure how long that might be though, and as I am reasonably careful with models I doubt it will be quick. If you assume a careless approach then painted bases will suffer too. Time will tell.

      As for board games, I agree it will work very nicely for them.

  3. edward3h says:

    Superglue tends to make a smoky or foggy effect on clear plastic, so how do you attach the figures and avoid that?

    • James 'Maz' Marsden says:

      Use less glue.

      If you use just a tiny amount it shouldnt do it

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Superglue will fog the acrylic, which is yet another good reason not to use it. I’m a long way from being a fan of the stuff anyway. Two part epoxies give a far better bond and are what I’d normally use, though I have just got another clear glue I’m going to try out too.

        • David Fisher says:

          UHU or UHU:Power are good superglue alternatives that won’t fog acrylic (to my knowledge). They’re both completely transparent – and a lot of modellers already have the original UHU glue as it can be mixed with Tamiya Clear Red for all sorts of wacky ‘stringy blood and gore’ effects. The set up time is quicker than 2-part epoxies (though I doubt the bond is quite as strong).

        • Or just use the good ol’ white wood glue. That´s what I use for the windows on my FW flyers and never had a problem with fogging.

      • tornquistd says:

        The bases look great. What holds me back is the strength of the bond between the figure and the base. I don’t like having things fall apart after they are finished. If I thought I could get a real solid bond like plastic figures on plastic bases this option would be moving up my list fast.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I agree entirely. I don’t want to have models falling apart on me.

          Two part epoxies are slow to fully cure. However, they tend to produce extremely resilient bonds. This is at least partly because they retain a slight elasticity which absorbs shock, whereas superglue forms a much more brittle bond.

          If you are impatient then a 12-14 hour cure time will be off-putting. Personally I’d rather wait overnight for something to dry and never have to revisit it than have a quick bond that needs repair and repainting.

          The only real issue with epoxy glues I have is how small a surface you can glue. I think feet of 28mm models will be OK though. The ones I’ve done seem pretty sturdy. I’ve got some more to test out along with a different glue and I’ll let you know how that goes.

  4. Been doing this a while with Blood Bowl teams and it works really really well – also got mine from Fenris 🙂

  5. carcharodon carcharias says:

    I’d like to see the clear bases mirror the standard “GW” or round lipped ones, that way your mins are the same height as your opponents. This should also negate the scratched surface issue as there is less on the ground to be scratched in the first place. It’s the Dreadball hex bases that have turned my head, the black disc between the feet is a killer for the final look, so a flat surface to attach the min to would be the perfect solution for me.

    Incidentally, my Black Templars were/are all based on snow bases. Nice but so time consuming that I hardly finished 20%. Let’s see if Fenris take this up as I’d be up for a couple of hundred.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      The issue here is one of production methods. The clear acrylic ones that I’ve used and that Fenris produce are laser cut from acrylic sheets. What you’re talking about is hard plastic bases which would cost a great deal (£1,000s) to tool and I wouldn’t expect anyone to pay for specifically to make clear ones.

      For the companies that already have a tool to make such bases it’s actually only an exercise in changing the colour of plastic you load into the machine. So anyone who currently makes the kind of base you are after could cast them in clear plastic instead of black if they wanted to. You just have to persuade them it’s worth their while 🙂

    • recrispi says:

      EM4 miniatures has some clear round bases (GW style). maybe you would like to check with them.

  6. I guess my main concern is that because the underside of the base is hard shiney plastic with little friction, that the models will just end up sliding all over the place when on a sloped surface.

    At least the GW lipped bases have that lip which can sometimes anchor the mini to a slope on a handy grain of sand or something…

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ll have to experiment some more. Most of the time models have to be on relatively flat surfaces to stay put anyway. Whilst I agree with your argument logically, I’m not sure how much difference it will make on a normal gaming table. An equally true point is that the GW style bases are higher and therefore less stable as they have a higher centre of gravity. Logically it must make some difference, but not much in reality.

  7. Rémy Tremblay says:

    I’m using some acrylic resin (like the MIG Prod. one) to remove the tiny scratches from acrylic bases. I really thinks that those bases are perfect for any boardgame. And for wargame since the minis are commonly made from plastic or resin I would probably be Ok about sliding. Something could be done with movement tray too and or latex base glue??

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Using the acrylic resin to remove scratches is a great idea!

      I’m not sure how much the sliding is a problem in reality. I need to test some more different models with a wider selection of terrain. Having said that, most models on most bases don’t like slopes much anyway, so this is hardly a new issue and most terrain is fairly flat. At least the usable bit are.

  8. Sandy says:

    If you have a fogged looking base from apply superglue, I know how to fix the problem. So simple really, wipe it off with WD-40. Great to clean stainless steel as well.

  9. scarletsquig says:

    I’ve been using clear acrylics on all my deadzone stuff and have found that gel superglue doesn’t fog at all… the extra viscosity keeps it in place underneath the models feet and it doesn’t spread or evaporate/fog outwards as it dries. Bostike glu&fix non-drip gel is the type I’ve been using, but I’ll try others. Just need to just a light touch, small blob of glue in the middle of the feet and let gravity do the rest.

    The hardest part is carving off the integral base and platform boots on the DZ minis, but I’d have had to do that anyway, even using the Mantic bases (at least with the platform boot guys).

  10. C says:

    Not sure why, but maybe clear bases seem too modern, I preferred pics of them for modern miniatures, such as Zombicide.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Clear bases look modern if you think of them as a clear perspex object in that world. However, their real job is to be absent rather than to be feature (which is the opposite of what people normally try to do on bases). I found that this sea change on concept took a moment or two to adjust the way I looked at them, then once it clicked I stopped paying them any attention and they worked brilliantly 🙂

  11. Sam says:

    I do love these resin bases, but how would this effect gameplay where true line of sight is relevant? For instance, in Deadzone or Mars Attacks I can see a few issues. If a model is lower down, doe sit give a player an advantage of being easier to hide behind objects, or even a disadvantage of not being able to see above scenery (such as the goblins)? And would you still count the base when aiming at a model? It’s a bit harder to see a transparent base. If both sides are on transparent bases then it’s even, but if not there could be a sight advantage to one side. It’s probably me just being pedantic! I actually really like the idea of all models being on resin bases and bases not counting for LOS.

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