Friday, August 20, 2010

Plastic vs. Pewter!

So during an adventure to the keep this afternoon I had an interesting conversation over the differences of Pewter and Plastic (besides the obvious fact that they are indeed different material). While I am a staunch believer that Pewter has a place (i.e. Independent Characters... and nothing more) some believe that the material is better as a whole for the hobby community. So trying to be as objective as I can lets delve into the world of materials!

First off we'll take a look at detail. Pewter being a denser and harder metal it is a great way to get every little detail that makes those beautiful character models shine. Of course it is necessary for the characters amongst the sometimes endless hordes of models to be highly detailed as it adds a nice breath of detail. But even though the pewter models tend to have more detail involved within the model, is it not possible to reach a high level of quality with the use of plastic? I would argue a resounding yes to this question. I have two specific examples of situations in which plastic models have a beautiful level of detail. First being the new Blood Angels models including both the Death Company and Sanguinary Guard boxes. Both have an exquisite level of detail involved. The second being the Space Hulk Terminators. Now I know they are made from a different, softer plastic, however they are still plastic (and the reason for my first more "relevant" example), but I don't think there is a 40k enthusiast out there that can say those models aren't of some of the highest quality models (in the realm of detail mind you) around. Now again Pewter has an incredibly high level of detail to bring to the table, but with the new quality level of models coming from GW being on the level of the new Blood Angels and Space Wolf models, I have high hopes for the future of models to come.

Score out of 10
Pewter: 8
Plastic: 7

Next I'll take a look at cost. This is a hands down win for plastic. The relative cost gap per model between the two is shrinking, but plastic still maintains a better average. Most plastic boxes players need to look into for army building contain about 10 models for around $35. Metal models that are used to make units (such as the Sternguard Veterans or Tank Busta Orks) average at about $35 for 5. Easy math here as that shows pewter going in about double the cost. And as many of us are aware, these metal models offer little options, if any... This is a major down side for those boxes, where the plastic kits are not only jam packed with options, they also allow the modeler an easier time in the conversion side of things. Though metal units hold a high level of detail in most cases, as well as the fact armies generally require less of these units, it is not enough. In my opinion plastic is a hands down winner when it comes to cost.

Score out of 10
Pewter: 4
Plastic: 8

Next lets ponder about the idea of customization. Once again, I find plastic to be a much more user friendly material in this case. The softer and more mailable nature allows us to customize with little effort, where metal models require a bit of concentration and work to make even the slightest of changes. Though people have made some beautiful models from both metal and plastic frames, from my experience the plastic generally works much better as a starting point for making a custom model.

It is possible however, to make a good custom model from a metal frame. Here is one shining and badass example.

In a game that is about 50/50 between hobby and game, I look at plastic as a generally helpful and easy to use material when it comes to making models look like they belong to my army, and with that in mind I find the use of the old metal as something that is really hindering the process of expanding to newer and more beautiful details.

Score out of 10
Pewter: 3
Plastic: 9

Another aspect I want to delve into is the concept of durability. Now before I go on you should put on a helmet and faceplate to help keep a clean room when your mind is blown... or not. Metal models are the extreme definition of fail in this category! Even though the material itself doesn't break nearly as easily, it's ability to be a hardy model is lacking severely. Metal models tend to chip very easily as the hard metal doesn't fuse with the base coat nearly as well as its more porous plastic counterpart. This is rather odd as the game itself demands a large amount of durability when it comes to paint jobs. As a model is used more and more, it may be needed to occasionally refurbish a little detail here and there.

Dropping a model is also very common with some players, and where plastic (much like the base coat) tends to fuse with the glue... metal simply holds on till the pressure becomes to great, and in a horrifying "for f*ck sake!" moment... when you drop a model, the plastic ones tend to bounce a little, have a scratch in the paint, but keep on going. Metal ones hit the ground... and an explosion of bits sprays in every direction.

As shocked as I am saying this... metal has a hard time keeping pace with plastic in this field as well.

Score out of 10
Pewter: 2
Plastic: 7

So I know this seems like a one sided argument coming from me, but from my years of gaming, and research into the topic... I do find a consistent difference between the two with plastic holding up the 1st place ribbon in the end. As a hobby material, and one that is subject to the wear and tear of game play, it holds up as a more valuable asset to have. I enjoy Plastic models both in hobby, and game play form. What are your thoughts and opinions on the matter? And do either hold much of a chance with the rise of resin? Just food for thought.



  1. I agree wholeheartedly with what has been said here. And I'll supply my references on each set of points from a tyranid players perspective.

    1. Detail.. While yes the half plastic/half Metal Hive tyrant is one of the coolest models out their and the detail is great on them, take a look at the new trygon and the carnifex boxes. they have great detail (in the carnifex more detail than its previous incarnation hands down) While yes the detail on a variety of the metal models is still heavily detailed at least from a tyranid perspective Plastic has caught up.

    2. Cost Gargoyles went from $30 for 2 to $30 for 10 need I say more.

    3. Customization, Now many of you who read this blog have seen my winged tyrant and my Spidergon (both started as metal models)So yes you can do some customization with the metal ones. But it takes a lot more work (it took almost 5 minutes of dremel work just to take off my 3rd edition carnifexes lower jaw. Plastic is just easier to work with... Also from a modeling perspective it is much easier to counterbalance a plastic model than a metal one (Those of you who have metal zoanthropes (in my opinion one of the most top heavy models in the game) understand where I'm coming from here.

    4. Durability: As stated above drop a plastic model and a metal model from the same height and see which one takes you longer to repair... I have 5 bucks on the metal one taking longer. not to mention that while many people have their horror stories about assembling models, how many of these stories have been about metal models (in a tyranid players case read as Venomthrope, hive guard, Zoanthrope, Lictor)

  2. A superb account on this Loki. I agree completely. I do however think that the 'Rise of Resin', will ultimatly replace both plastic and pewter as it is more durable, hold detail VERY well, and is cheaper to produce, and as such will pass on another set of savings to the players. Unless you buy forgeworld...then you simply are screwed, there is no money to be saved there.