Hello good Madams and Sirs, today I would like to chat about my experiences with Hasslefree Miniatures by the example of my first order with the company.
Many of you will know the company already because they have been around and pretty much established for many years but if you’re not familiar with them, here’s the gist of it: Hasslefree Miniatures, located in Derbshire in the UK, was established in 2004 and basically consists of Kev White who worked at GW, Privateer Press, Harlequin and many more as a sculptor and painter and his wife Sally who does the organizational stuff as well as PR and communications.
The company is in several ways remarkable and I’ve been following their exploits for many years now. First, are very approachable, very communicative and take suggestions, ideas and requests for new sculpts. Even their tagline states that they are doing their best at customer service and communication and it shows. Hasslefree surely is one of the most down-to-earth, approachable and simply one of the most human of the “established” companies I’m aware of. The way in which they don’t succumb to the prevalent ethos of “everything is really great, we are looking forward to a future brighter than ever and for now are really excited and enthusiastic about these AWESOME and INCREDIBLE new releases” is inspiring to me and it’s good to know that there are companies out there which operate like this.
Due to the fact that communication and customer care are indeed one of the pillars Hasslefree Miniatures rest on all this had to be mentioned.
Now let’s get to the meat of things – the miniatures ranges (which are all 28mm scale along with a handful of 40mm and 54mm scale models). When browsing the well maintained online store the first thing you will notice is that, despite best efforts, it’s not too easy to find what you’re looking for exactly. The reason for this is mostly because the range is so completely diverse with just some actual “figure ranges” or sets (probably most infamous are the Grymn who are basically Sci-Fi Space Dwarves) and lots and lots of partly loosely connected character models.
It is evident that the models are mainly directed at collectors, painters, role players and so on rather than people who want to field an army of miniatures. However, most of the models are perfectly suited to be used to bolster units, act as character models or for skirmish systems of all kinds. To me, Hasslefree are most notable for their female miniatures. Those make up a relatively large proportion of the general number of models they have in their store and they are for the most part really pretty. Kev White, as opposed to MANY other commercial sculptors in 28mm, is able to sculpt female miniatures that are characterful, diverse and sexy. We all know these kinds of female miniatures that look like male figures with two volleyballs stapled to their chest. Hasslefree have none of those. Due to the huge number of female miniatures they offer there are a few that look similar but still each of them is their very own entity and many have a distinct and memorable look to them. This notion of course is even increased by the way the sculpts are named instead of being called “Female Barbarian with Axe”. Each miniature has a name and even a tiny bit of made-up-on-the-spot background fluff. Some miniatures which either proved to be really popular with the customers or with the good Hasslefree folks themselves got several incarnations in different outfits, giving yet another indication of the general idea behind these models and who they’re made for mainly – collectors, painters and so on.
That said, the male miniatures (and monsters) are excellent sculpts as well. Especially with dwarves and barbarians, Kev White does a great job. It’s just such a vast range of miniatures. Each time I browse their online store I find something new and entertaining.
All that said, it took me until now to find enough excuses to order miniatures from them. I went for the newly released resin “Hayden C” (the cyberpunk/sci-fi version of a female Dwarven Slayer), female rogue Alicia, both of which you see in this review article, as well as two armoured Space Dwarf weapons specialists Astrid and Sahmi who will go with my 40k Squats at some point.
After a week or so the parcel from the UK arrived (which is pretty fast).
All the models were there, all one-piece casts. The resin miniature came in a blister while the metal ones come in small baggys and with round slotta bases. Interestingly, one of the Space Dwarves came with a 20mm round base while the other one came with a 25mm one although both models are the same size. No biggie because I have no shortage of bases and would put them on my own homemade resin bases anyway but still worth noting.
I’ve heard stories before of Hasslefree sending candy along with the orders which, as silly as it may sound, is a really nice thing. Along with all of this there was a newsletter leaflet (pictures, full colour) with a bunch of latest releases and a hand written “thank you” note which, again possibly sounding silly, but it was really nice to see. As a customer I felt appreciated (and candy-fed).
After cleaning the models of any release agent or other residues I immediately went on to priming them black. I admit that I possibly should have taken the close-ups to illustrate the mould lines or the lack thereof before that. :p
Hayden would become part of my Infinity “army” (more like “crew” or “team”) and act as TAG (Mecha robot) pilot. I really liked the look of the model and due to the fact that she’s meant to be a walker pilot anyway and her having these cyber enhancements and connectors on her temple she’d make a fine pilot for my own mech. I also noticed that for being the faction which embraces outcasts and diversity, Infinity’s Nomads range severely lacks short people.
Alicia, the girl in the dress drawing a short sword, will act as a counterpart for this review, being more of a classic fantasy female rogue. I really like the pose on her.
Looking at the models themselves, the details on the metal models are sharply cast and there is hardly any flash or mould lines at all. I like to think of myself as having a keen eye for such things but I had to specifically look for them to finally find tiny mould lines. Same with the resin miniature. Very little flash or mould lines, just one casting canal to remove. The detail on the resin miniature is very, very good, no air bubbles what so ever. The resin used is dyed blue (corporate design reasons?).
And here are some pictures of the finished minis:
I did have a blast painting both of them. Hayden turned out about 5000% cuter and neater than I had planned but I’m really happy with the results. For some reason the Alicia model immediately made me think of a more badass version of princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride so I painted her as a blonde with a red dress like the one the princess wears for most of that film. And quite contrary to Hayden, Alicia turned out much more sourly-looking than I had planned! Don’t be put off though, she’s got a very pretty face, she’s just not very friendly looking in the way I painted her. 😉
It’s also always nice to do woodland-like bases in which the model, due to the red dress would really stand out. The base Hayden is standing on is one from my own Street Wars range of bases.
The following shots are size comparison pictures (because I find those always helpful in reviews). The first one shows the overall sizes compared to some other 28mm figures:
The second one is a bit more special. As mentioned before, Hasslefree Miniatures have a rather extensive range of Sci-Fi Space Dwarves. They are a little more Sci-Fi and less Dwarf-like (the males aren’t bearded for the most part for instance). Here’s a comparison shot of some of Hasslefree’s Grymns, GW Squats and one of Bob Olley’s Scrunties:
As you can see, the Grymns are slightly taller than Squats but only by a millimeter or two. Their proportions are more human life-like compared to the Dwarves in that the limbs are more in proportion, the heads are a bit smaller and they are a bit more delicate in general. For this reason and resons of overall style, I don’t think that the Grymn are very good stand-ins or add-ons to your Squats collection. They are very pretty miniatures and I’m sure that you’ll be able to have some of them amongst your other Space Dwarves but when it comes to Squats I’m kind of a purist so I’ll take the Bob Olley Scrunts and Scrunties as first choice for Squats over the Hasslefree Grymn. But then, Grymn aren’t meant to look like Squats, they are meant to be their own thing where as the Scrunts Bob Olley, who did large parts of the original Squats range back in the day, does are basically meant to be used in Squats armies (although they got their own unique background and units as well).
I’ll probably do a review of this range some time in the future as well because I think that they are a very interesting choice for people who decide to do Squats in 40k and don’t want to stray from the “golden path” too much.
The Grymn just are their own thing and that’s great of course, just not very Squat-like in the traditional sense. Some of you might even prefer that style over the original one.
Now that the review is going into the final lap, let’s talk prices. The 28mm metal models vary in price a little but the main part of them is priced at around three British Pounds to three-fifty (plus 20% VAT). Again, you probably won’t buy large units of those figures which of course doesn’t mean that you can’t. Some look really great as units together. The resin miniatures are a bit more expensive, going for about nine to ten British Pounds (again, plus VAT) for 28mm figures and for about twelve to thirteen for 40mm ones. Shipping is calculated based on the weight of the models. For the four miniatures from the UK to Austria I paid 4.84 Pounds. Not supercheap but that’s what you gotta pay for shipping nowadays. I would say that the prices are very reasonable overall and while the resins get a bit more expensive all products are of very high quality and the metals definately are very good value for money. Honestly, I don’t have much of a problem giving money to Hasslefree either. These people make a living off making and selling really nice miniatures, they got to feed their kids, have their expenses and so on. What you pay them goes directly to the people who run the operation. To me it’s a much more reassuring feeling to spend money with a small-time business and as I said, the product you get in return is first rate in terms of technical quality, uniqueness and character.
Conclusion: Looking at how many companies exist soley by redoing GW models and concepts it’s always good to have miniatures sculptors do their own thing. Hasslefree Miniatures basically do that but often with subtle or not-so subtle references. The range of their models is vast and full of humour, a tiny bit of sleaze at times and lots of humanity or heart if you will. I think that this pretty much describes for the company as a whole. My experiences were all positive so far and I appreciate the openness, friendliness and honesty about the communication. The company seems to have created this niche not many miniatures manufacturers do nowadays but there seems to be a market and I have to admit that I’m probably a part of it.
Maybe this whole article reads like a fan-boy’s love letter and I am fully aware that being a fan of a company is one of the most silly concepts in the world. I do however very much appreciate the fact that a company like Hasslefree Miniatures exists and seems to do well enough to continue doing so. Oh, and their toy figures are really, really good. 🙂
You can find Hasslefree Miniatures at http://www.hfminis.co.uk/ and on Facebook. They also share the very lively Forum of Doom with Heresy Miniatures, Black Scorpion Miniatures and Fenris Games.
Thanks for reading and I hope that you enjoyed the review and the pictures of the miniatures painted by me. Feel free to share your thoughts on this review, your experiences with Hasslefree Miniatures or anything else here in he comments section or on Facebook via Battle Brush Studio’s Facebook page. See you soon!