Converting miniatures (an opinion)

This is something that I’ve had bubbling around in the back of my brain for quite a few years now, and seeing as how I’m churning out all manner of blog posts right now, I thought I might as well try to get this idea on the virtual paper, as well.

The hobby of building, collecting, painting and playing with miniatures is diverse, and we’re all in it for our own reasons. There may be many overlapping reasons, but ultimately, what you do with your money and your time is entirely your own business (so long as it’s not illegal). In more broad terms, everybody has a right to be happy, so long as what makes you happy doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s right to be happy.

Hopefully you’re still with me, so far…

Something that I see and hear a lot, especially around new releases of miniatures, is “I would get one of those to convert up”, or words to that effect. That’s fine, converting models to make them more personal to you is a big part of the hobby, and for a fair number of folks, it’s almost the whole reason they’re in the hobby. I have no problem with people who convert miniatures, indeed some of that stuff is incredible to see. We see conversion guides in the pages of White Dwarf quite regularly as well, where alums of the Warhammer studio show off their efforts (always using 100% Citadel parts, naturally).

I think what bothers me is when people adopt a sort of hipster attitude to it, though, and try to make out that they would improve the original model because they have a better design vision than professional miniatures designers working in the studio. I remember it being a big thing particularly with Lauka Vai, Mother of Nightmares, above. She’s a very weird model, for sure, but that’s kind of the point. When it was shown off, I loved the fact that it’s literal nightmare fuel, but was told off by a fair few people because it needed converting up.

It’s the sort of attitude that is prevalent to a wide degree, with the half-joking “is this an Archon?” and “every new model is a Necromunda model”, which are both somewhat jokingly meant. I don’t watch his stuff much anymore, but I remember Kirioth would enthuse a great deal over new model releases with an immediate “I’d convert that”.

And I would always think, why?

What’s wrong with getting a model because you like how it looks? Well, apparently it means I’ve drunk the GW kool aid, or something, but I happen to like the look of a lot of the models that I own. It’s actually the reason why I bought them

I think it really bothers me when people make the announcement in that way, like they’re expecting praise for seeing the possibility for making it into something else. Sure, if you’re wanting to build a model to represent something, and then GW produce something else that would get you maybe 30% of the way there, then I get it. But the knee-jerk attitude of “I will get this and make something better from it” really bothers me.

Now, there’s I think a legitimate argument to be made about the lack of poseability in a lot of the new miniatures, which I do find rather baffling. I used to love the fact that Tactical Marines could be posed, and that they came with a variety of extra bits and bobs that you can you to further customise your force. But this is more about customisation, not conversion. At its most basic, a different paint job is customising your minis, but whether it’s adding bits and pieces, or hacking a model apart to make it look like it’s running, that’s all fine. When people complain that monopose miniatures make it harder to convert them, I just tune all that nonsense out. There are some great looking monopose miniatures out there – why would you want to convert the Master of Possession? Are you saying you’re better than Jes Goodwin?!

You might retort, but I don’t want my Master of Possession to look like all the rest. Well, that’s a very valid point, and I don’t really have a rebuttal for you. But then, this rambling post isn’t really aimed at that aspect of it. Wanting a miniature to look different in the scheme of your army is one thing – and if you want to include two of a miniature, but don’t want clones, then I get that too – but if you’re going to tell me that you have a fully-converted 2000-point Guard army that uses parts from 6-billion other kits to make something that doesn’t look like a Guard army, I’m not going to be impressed. Cue RDJ rolling his eyes so damn hard it hurts.

I think I resent the fact that I’m apparently not supposed to enjoy a model for its own sake, and can only like it for the opportunity it presents to make something completely different. That’s really what bothers me, and I think I’d the crux of this whole post. It’s like you’re being told off for having a lack of imagination, or something. I don’t buy a car because I think it would make a great spice rack.

You’re allowed to like what you like!

I would actually go one step further, and say that people are allowed to paint their Space Marines as Ultramarines, but I know that might be a step too far for many! (Ultramarines are great, remember!)

Of course, I’m not trying to tell people off if they also want to buy a model to make it into something else – as I said, conversion is a great part of the hobby. I just dislike that snobby tone where people seem to think they’re Truly Special (TM) for doing it, and the rest of us plebs can build our models according to the instructions, and presumably eat mud for dinner as well. I bought that Keeper of Secrets because I loved its pose, its insinuated deadliness, and not because I thought I could make it look better by using an Onager Dunecrawler for its legs, and a Treeman’s sword, and parts from a pewter model that was initially released at Game Day in 1995 (because I’m that cool).

Yeah, I know, I’m kinda ranting, but it’s all tongue in cheek. The main point that I want to make is that converting a miniature isn’t always some kind of brilliant move that ought to result in everybody bowing down before you.

If you start talking about “looting”, though, I’m going to have to walk away entirely…