Hero Forge is a website where you can design and fully customize a miniature to create exactly what you want. They’ll 3D print it and ship it to you! Perfect for when you can’t find a mini that reflects the tabletop game character that you want to create! But is a Hero Forge mini worth it?
I recently ordered a custom Hero Forge mini for my D&D character. I wanted to play a female Witch Doctor and I couldn’t find a mini that reflected the character I had in mind. This article covers what the Hero Forge experience was like from design to delivery so you can make up your mind on whether a Hero Forge mini is worth it for you!
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What design options are there on Hero Forge?
Oh, so many! And they are being added to all the time! The Hero Forge library just keeps on growing! They add new options every week on ‘Treasure Tuesdays’!
Since I ordered my mini a couple of months ago, they have added an entirely new race called the Giggle-Dog, a humanoid with a hyena head and legs.
When you start designing your mini, it’s probably easiest to start with your character’s race because you’ll be able to see what gear looks best with their proportions.
You get total control over the stuff you’d expect like race, height, armour and gear.
But you also get to choose their facial features, hair, stance, proportions of body parts right down to the angle of their hands, feet etc!
You can even customize your character’s base and add objects to make it fit perfectly with your character.
It’s truly amazing. You really can create whatever you can imagine.
As you dive into the customization options you’ll find that you can create a mini for whatever world your RPG is set in. Everything from medieval, to sci-fi, to western.
Be prepared to spend a good hour or more on your design. Not because the tool is difficult to use, but because you’re enjoying trying things out and you want to make it perfect!
What is the design process like?
The designer is really easy to use and you can save your design whenever you want so you can come back to it later. I like that you can come back and tweak your character later on in your campaign to reflect your character’s development.
There are so many options to choose from that as I was designing my mini, I kept discovering new options that I want to try out. When I tried a new option, it undid some of my earlier decisions.
I recommend having a browse through all the different menus and options and having a play before you dive straight into the design. Then you know the kind of things you can choose!
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Tip: Choose your character’s proportions and pose before deciding on their gear. It can change which outfits look good on them!
One of the options I discovered quite late into my design was tweaking the angles and heights of different aspects of different parts of my character. It was a good job too because some of it looked weird based on my selections.
See how the cape is going into the shoulder pad? At first, I thought I might have to change my selections. But then I found the advanced tab in the Pose section which let me adjust the shoulder tilt and height to fix it.
During the design process, you can spin your mini around 360 degrees to see what it looks like from all angles and even underneath. It’s so helpful to check that everything is absolutely perfect!
What scale are Hero Forge minis?
Hero Forge minis are in 30mm scale using the eyeline of a human male as the guideline. But often the scale given by a mini manufacturer is just a guide. So what does the size actually look like?
Here you can see my Hero Forge mini in the middle, a Freebooter Time Witch on the left, and a WizKids Druid (Amazon link) on the right. You can see that the bases make a bit of a difference to the overall height of the mini but that the Hero Forge one is comparable, maybe just slightly smaller than the druid.
On the Hero Forge site, the default size for my human female mini looked a little smaller than I wanted her to be so I nudged her height up a little bit to make her taller. So the fact that she’s still a little shorter than the WizKids druid is interesting.
How much does a Hero Forge mini cost?
How much your Hero Forge mini costs depends on the material you choose to get it printed on. At the time of writing, there are five different options.
- Plastic – $19.99 – Printed with 100 micron layer resolution. Primed with grey and have some layer lines and rough spots where support sprues have been removed.
- Premium plastic – $29.99 – Printed with 50 micron layer resolution (double the resolution of plastic). Have some faint layer lines and rough spots where support sprues have been removed.
- Steel – $34.99 – Rough texture like cast iron, less detailed than plastic but more durable.
- Bronze – $99.99 – Rich gold colour and smooth finish. Highly detailed and made using a 3D printed mold that the bronze is poured into.
- Download – $7.99 – Download the 3D print file and print yourself.
I opted for the Premium plastic. It felt like a happy medium of cost to quality.
In the near future, two additional services will be added.
- Colour plastic – $49.99 – Printed using a 3D printer that mixes colours as it goes. Faint layer lines may be visible in strong light.
- Painted plastic – $149.99 – Printed in high-quality plastic similar to Premium Plastic and then professional hand-painted. May have faint layer lines and rough spots.
You can find info on all the Hero Forge material options on their website.
Shipping and packaging
How long did delivery take?
I ordered my Hero Forge mini on 15th March and it arrived on Friday 27th March to the UK. It was shipped using UPS Standard tracked delivery.
I thought the time from order to delivery was really quick from the US! But then I noticed that the sender address was in The Netherlands.
Underneath the box it says, ‘Manufactured by ShapeWays.com’. That’s when I did a little research into ShapeWays and Hero Forge.
Hero Forge is the design application and Safeways are the printers. They have printing facilities in Long Island City and The Netherlands so will likely ship from the closest one. If you want to learn more about how Hero Forge and Safeways work together, see this blog post by Joshua Bennet, a Co-Founder of Hero Forge.
How secure is the packaging?
I was really impressed with the packaging for my mini!
The cardboard box it arrived in was made of really thick card to withstand tough handling. Inside were a couple of layers of thick bubble wrap to line the box and cradle my mini. My mini was then inside its own bubble wrapped bag!
If there are any issues with your mini on arrival, you can contact Hero Forge within 10 days to get it sorted.
Does Hero Forge paint the minis?
Hero Forge will be adding a professional hand-painted service soon for $149.99 which includes your custom mini. They work with tabletop miniature painting studios like Den of Imagination and Mixed Dimensions for the painting.
A 3D colour printed option will also be available soon for $44.99.
They launched both of these services through their Hero Forge 2.0 Kickstarter campaign.
Do Hero Forge minis need to be primed?
The Premium Plastic, Bronze and Steel options need to be primed before painting. The Plastic option arrives primed in grey primer.
I’ve yet to see what it’s like to paint the Premium Plastic. Feel like I need to brush up on my painting skills before I attempt it! After investing in a custom mini, I want to do a great job with the painting!
Quality and durability
How close is the design to the printed mini?
It’s spot on. You can see from the front and back design and printed mini comparisons that what you design, is what you get!
What is the quality of a Hero Forge custom miniature?
My Premium Plastic mini is good quality and has a really good amount of detail. I’m very impressed. I can see the wrappings on her staff, the folds in her jacket and cape and her collarbone.
You can see the nubs and rough patches where the support sprues have been removed. There are a fair few of these, mostly on her cloak. But I don’t think they will be noticable when I’ve painted her.
In terms of layer lines, I can only see layer lines if she’s close up and in really bright light. They aren’t noticeable from the tabletop that’s for sure.
My brother and friend also got Hero Forge custom minis so I’ve included photos of their minis as more examples.
How durable are Hero Forge minis?
My mini feels robust enough to withstand several years of tabletop game play by with point she’ll likely be retired to a shelf anyway!
The only thing I need to be careful with is her staff which does bend if I apply a little pressure. But at least it bends, rather then being rigid and more prone to snapping.
Of course, only time will tell how durable my mini is!
From my research before buying my mini, it looks as though the plastics used in the past were less durable but have improved in recent years as 3D printing technology and materials have gotten better.
Hero Forge alternatives
One option is to buy the downloadable design version of your mini and use a different printing service to print it for you. Etsy has a fair few sellers who will print your Hero Forge mini for you.
You could also try an alternative custom 3D mini design and print service like Eldritch Foundry. Their miniatures are printed in Premium Resin. They have fewer options than Hero Forge at the moment, but do races that you’ll recognise like orc, elf, human, goblin etc. They do give them different names like eath (elf) and somon (human).
Conclusion – Is a Hero Forge mini worth it?
Yes! I love my Hero Forge mini. The quality is great, it feels durable and I got exactly what I wanted thanks to the huge amount of options!
The only criticism I have of Hero Forge is that on the creation tool when you choose a plastic option, it doesn’t mention anywhere that your mini might have nubs or rough patches where sprues have been supporting it. You can only find this information on their materials page on their website. The creation tool only mentions the potential for faint layer lines. This meant I was a little disappointed to see these nubs and marks on my mini.
I still love having a custom mini that I designed, though!
I’d say only get one if your character will be sticking around for a long time. It’s quite a lot of money to spend on a mini that you’ll only use in a short campaign!
Speaking of campaigns, if you’re a D&D player, you might want to check out my favourite Epic Gaming Accessories for D&D.