Building materials & Sprue reviews

Building materials & Sprue reviews

Mantic Games and many other manufactures of miniatures have gone from being affordable alternatives for large corporations  to producing their own award-winning games with distinct product lines and amazing miniatures.  Over the years various materials have been tried & tested and this guide will provide a brief overview of what they are about and how to work with them.

It’s been a journey of growth and learning, balancing cost and quality whilst listening to community feedback.   Mantic Games, in one case,have reached a good balance of providing amazing quality miniatures at reasonable prices.  Coupled with The Vault, STL repository for 3D printing creates one of the most accessible ways into miniature tabletop games and hobbying.


The classic material used for any minis from 60’s onwards, lead was used, which changed to pewter in the 1980’s to provide more robust minis with less health risks (Pewter: an alloy consisting mostly of tin which has been mixed with small amounts of other metals such as copper, lead or antimony to harden it and make it more durable - The Pewter Society. )

Pewter metal is the material of choice for smaller manufactures as its setup costs are low and it can produce reasonable high-quality miniatures. It was used for individual heroes, even hybrid kits utilising metal accessories with plastic base kits. These metal and plastic pieces, for example Dwarf Bulwarkers.  These will require a lot of patience and skill to build as they require different glues to bond and centre of gravity of minis can be in odd places; minis will fall over easily.
Metal is like Marmite (UK), love it or hate it.   It’s heavy, needs super-glue to build, can be difficult to clean up, but … the minis are often very good quality and spindly parts ie spears and swords) will often bend before they break.

Tips to building metal minis:

  • Wash in warm soapy water to remove chemicals from casting.
  • Remove excess material (flash) with a file, or a sharp knife, or a scraping tool. The back side edges of the knife blade can produce good results.
  • Score areas to be glued before gluing together
  • Use superglue
  • Minis can also be heavy enough to use as paperweights or doorstops (jokes!)
  • Larger joins may require ‘pinning’. Use a length of metal rod inserted into both holes in both sides of a join.
  • Prime before painting


Above: a comparison of metal and resin miniature.  Image from Mantic Games

Pewter meal minis have crisp high-quality results, but global prices went up and manufacturers looked to alternatives: Resin.


PVC & Restic

For many this was the first impression of Mantic from Dreadball 1 and Deadzone 1 and a few other games.  Minis were 1-4 pieces with a moulded base and came in little baggies.  The sculpts were … ooookay, but the issue came with mould lines.   Often mould lines would go in difficult areas, such as straight down the face or inside the crotch. Very difficult areas to tidy up.   Restic also didn’t like being cleaned up, with the best way to use a new, sharp hobby blade to cut the flash off.  Minis were super-affordable, but community wanted something with better quality end products and encouraged Mantic to look at Hard Plastic

Tips for building Restic minis:

  • Any bent minis should be dropped into warm/hot water from a kettle, straightened, and transferred to cool water to set.
  • Wash minis in soapy with to remove chemical from manufacturing
  • Newer minis have minimal mould lines or flash. Older minis should have flash removed with a sharp scalpel blade. 
  • Difficult mould lines - Don’t worry too much, enjoy the minis at arms length!
  • Superglue for building
  • Prime before painting


This material is now used for terrain, such as TerrainCrate line. It’s affordable and the quality is perfect for terrain.  Most scatter terrain pieces are one piece, aside from the Deadzone panels for making buildings.

Above: Restic terrain piece from Mantic Games

Above: Restic terrain piece from Mantic Games

Above: Restic terrain piece from Mantic Games 

Hard Plastic

Modern wargaming plastic miniatures are made from Hard Plastic. Identified by coming in a sprue, they have an expensive setup cost, but once manufacturing is underway, can be very efficient in bulk and a favourite for larger game companies.

Moving towards Hard Plastic and resin allows sculpts to be cast with capturing skin textures and minis can be posed in different ways. Resin is used for some larger pieces or individual heroes. It allows for super-crisp edges and is relatively easy to work with, but it comes at a price…

Tips for building in Hard Plastic

  • Make sure you know what pieces you are cutting off. Sometimes there various options or matching parts.
  • Use side cutters
  • Clean up with a sharp knife.
  • Uses a special glue: polystyrene cement
  • Prime before painting

Above: Ogre Warriors sprue from Mantic Games

Above: Nightstalker Impalers sprue from Mantic Games

Above: Nightstalker Butcher sprue from Mantic Games

As can be seen, Hard Plastic holds detail very well. With well considered design, many options are available on each sprue and the resulting miniatures are easily assembled and look great on the table

Above: A built unit in Hard Plastic ready to be primed and painted. 


Many newer single minis or upgrade pieces are now cast in Resin needs to be handled with care, especially when being filed and sanded – don’t breathe it in! – It is also fragile and small pieces can easily snap, becoming a difficult fix.  This can be a range of different chemicals which harden with time, often a two-part mix. Resin produces a very high-quality product, catching sharp angles and intricate details very well.

Tips for working with Resin

  • Wash the miniature to remove manufacturing residue.
  • Glue with superglue
  • Sand or file in a well-ventilated space, ideally with a mask on.
  • Prime before painting


Hopefully this guide gives a good starting point on building miniatures with the range of materials available (from Mantic Games).  If you are new to building, check your local friendly gaming club or store for direct advice and even work with someone to build your first miniatures. Enjoy the slower time and focussing of building an alien monster, superhuman soldier or crazy cave monster for your latest army.

Happy gaming!

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