Review: D&D’s new unpainted minis are indeed marvelous

A pair of dwarven wizards from WizKids’ line of D&D minis, Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures.

These minis are indeed marvelous.

For years, WizKids has produced pre-painted lines of miniatures for both Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, but if you wanted something custom, you’d have to go find unpainted metal or plastic minis from Reaper or even Games Workshop or Privateer Press.

But that has changed. With the release of Nolzur’s Marvelous Minis, a line of a few dozen miniatures for D&D, and Deep Cuts, nearly 20 minis for Pathfinder, WizKids is in the unpainted game.

Released this week, the minis should be at your friendly local game shop now.

With an inexpensive price point, great detailing and lots of options, it’s a great line of minis. They’re easy to paint, too.

I’m lucky to live in a town with several FLGS nearby, and every one I spoke to had them in stock. I stopped by one and picked up four packs of the minis.

A few things I observed off the bat:

  • The price is really, really good. Each pack at my shop was $3.99. And almost every package contained multiple pieces. Small/medium creatures were generally two to a pack, but some contained three. Large creatures are one to a pack. That equates to about $2 per miniature, which is stupid cheap even for plastic minis.
  • Almost every package came with similar miniatures in different poses. The human male barbarian is wielding an axe in one pose. In the other, he has a bearskin pulled over his head and is wearing a slightly different outfit. Otherwise, his face, weapon and build are the same. I love the option of using the minis as one character in two different outfits or poses or to paint them up to be separate characters.
  • There are no discernible differences between the D&D and Pathfinder minis. That said, each brand contains some of their own intellectual property. The D&D male elf ranger looks a lot like Drizzt Do’Urden and the D&D line also includes mind flayers, for example. The Pathfinder line’s player character miniatures look quite close to their iconic characters.
  • Each mini is on a sculpted base, but the package contains thin black bases to which you can glue the minis after you’ve painted them. 
  • Curiously, the “Pathfinder” minis don’t say “Pathfinder” on the box. They only said “Paizo.” That seemed weird.

I picked up the D&D vampires (for my Curse of Strahd campaign), mind flayers and dwarven wizards as well as the Pathfinder male human clerics. I couldn’t wait to get them home.

Wondering what’s available? We have all the digital renderings in our announcement post from last year.

A pair of vampires from WizKids’ line of D&D miniatures, Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures.

I quickly busted them out of the boxes.

Each miniature is made of a grey plastic, which is harder and less bendy than other plastic miniatures including WizKids’ prepainted and Reaper’s Bones.

And I absolutely love the spell effects, which are molded in clear plastic. They are really cool, and they include lightning, sun bursts, fire and tons more.

Though they’re not as detailed as the 3D renderings on the package or as some resin minis, a close look shows the miniatures generally hold details very well. These look pretty sharp, especially for only a few bucks. That said, one of the mind flayers seemed to have lost a bit of detail in its face, but overall it looked just fine.

They’re certainly of higher quality sculpts than WizKids’ prepainted lines.

I was surprised to find that each piece is pre-primed with a light grey Vallejo primer, so they’re ready to paint straight out of the package.

The primer makes it great for painters (especially amateurs) who don’t want to deal with the extra step of cleaning and priming these for painting.

But perfectionists and pros might not love it.

The primer doesn’t obscure details, but you’ll find there is still plastic flash on some of the pieces. If you really want these to look perfect, you’re going to have to scrape some of that off and possibly re-prime the minis, and I’m sure that’s going to frustrate some.

I didn’t find it to be a huge problem. Some had more flash than others. The mind flayers were perfect, the dwarves had very little. The vampire sculpts had a bit more.

I went ahead and busted out my paints.

They take paint pretty well, though I found some paint brands worked better than others.

I generally like to use Privateer Press’ P3 line, and though those colors went on well, the first coat was a bit streaky. After it dried, I did a second coat, which turned out perfect.

I also pulled some Vallejo paints and tried those on another mini. Both Vallejo Air paint and Vallejo Game Color paint went on better than the P3, but both were still a tad streaky. (They still weren’t as bad as the P3).

Still, a second coat is going to really help you here. They looked excellent with a second coat.

These will be really easy to paint, and the details are sharp enough to help amateur painters stay between the lines, so to speak.

In all, I love these minis. I certainly won’t stop buying from Reaper or other manufacturers, but I’ll definitely be adding these WizKids pieces into my rotation. That’s especially true with D&D-specific creatures such as mind flayers and displacer beasts, which no one else is legally allowed to produce and whose pre-painted pieces tend to be extremely rare and expensive.

I can’t wait to paint the ones I have and then go get some more.

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