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? Find out in this Hero Forge review!
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!
I’ve also ordered a color print mini from Hero Forge and have added that experience to this article too!
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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!
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!
In October 2020, Hero Forge launched their new print option – Color Plastic, along with an update to the design interface, including epic backgrounds for when you’re designing your mini!
Full disclosure, Hero Forge offered a $50 gift card to create my own color custom mini using the new color tools but with no obligation to create a review.
At the time, I wasn’t playing any RPG campaigns that I needed a mini for so I decided to create a miniature me!
Because Hero Forge has so many clothing options. I was able to create a mini that wore what I usually do on a typical day home!
Ok, so I don’t usually have a penguin hanging out with me at home! But if I could, I totally would!
I was really impressed with all the different color options in the color tool. Across the top, you can see different materials such as cloth, metal and hair. I thought these options meant that the mini would have different plastic types for the different textures. However, that isn’t the case at the moment.
You aren’t just limited to the colors in the color tool, you can mix your own paint colors using the Mix tool. This was really helpful for me to get the perfect shade for my hair and my favourite mug!
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 color and smooth finish. Highly detailed and made using a 3D printed mold that the bronze is poured into.
- Nylon Plastic – $59.99 – 2 x the size of the regular 30mm scale minis, in white plastic.
- STL file – $7.99 – Save the 3D print file and print yourself.
I opted for the Premium plastic. It felt like a happy medium of cost to quality.
Two new print options were added in October 2020 as a result of the Hero Forge 2.0 Kickstarter campaign.
- Color Printed Plastic – $44.99 – Printed using a 3D printer that mixes colors as it goes. Faint layer lines may be visible in strong light.
- Painted Plastic – $149.99 – Hand painted was currently only available to Kickstarter backers. 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 ShapeWays 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 ShapeWays 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 had a limited professional hand-painted service for $149.99 which included your custom mini. This was only available to Kickstarter backers for their Hero Forge 2.0 Kickstarter campaign. They worked with tabletop miniature painting studios like Den of Imagination and Mixed Dimensions for the painting.
You can of course, opt for the 3D color printed option instead for $44.99.
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 are the Color Print minis like?
Here you can see how my printed color mini looks when compared to the designer.
There are two key differences. The level of detail and the saturation of the colors.
The main area of detail which is lacking in my mini print is in the face. In the designer, you can see the pupils, the whites of the eyes and the teeth. In the printed mini, the face is too small to show all these details.
The colors themselves are a little bit different on the designer preview too. So when you’re designing a color print mini for yourself, I suggest making the colors more saturated than you actually want them to be so they look really cool when printed.
I was also lucky enough to be sent a color-printed mini sample from Hero Forge – a celestial winged paladin. This sample mini really shows off what’s possible with their color printing for a more conventional RPG character.
First of all, the wings look amazing! The blending of the blue and green and yellow is way better than anything I could achieve with a paintbrush!
The detail on the face of the mini is much better than on my mini too. I think it’s because it has bolder shading on the face.
The only thing I’d really like to see on the color prints, is a metallic plastic. It’s the only thing that I feel looks better hand-painted. I think this will come in the future as 3D printing technology advances.
I recently ordered another Hero Forge color print mini for a new female wizard character, Molly Rivertree using some store credit HeroForge gifted me. (Thanks!)
Taking what I learned from my first 3d color print mini – namely, use high-saturated bright colors in the designer and use high contrast colors next to each other to make them pop – I’m really happy with how Molly turned out. I think she looks much more impressive than my mini me.
Below, you can see what she looked like in the designer after I selected ‘Color Plastic’ from the ‘Buy’ menu, and what her actual 3d color printed mini looks like. The color preview puts a d20 next to your mini.
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 noticeable 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.
For the color minis, I can’t see a single sprue nub! They are the same as the Premium Plastic minis with the layer lines. You can only see them when in bright light and looking close up. On the tabletop you can’t see these lines at all.
My brother and a 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 Premium Plastic mini feels robust enough to withstand several years of tabletop gameplay, by which 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 than 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.
Both color print minis feel very sturdy. They have slightly more flex than the Premium Plastic, but not so much that I’m worried they will break if I drop them.
Conclusion – Is a Hero Forge mini worth it?
Yes! I love my Hero Forge minis. The quality is great, they feel 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 the Premium 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 custom minis that I designed, though! My overall review of Hero Forge is that it’s an awesome company that’s always bringing out new designs and improving its materials.
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 favorite Epic Gaming Accessories for D&D.
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