So why are Games Workshop miniatures so popular, and so in demand (certainly in demand enough to command stupid prices for badly-painted second hand examples of their work on eBay) when there are plenty of cheaper alternatives?
A little while back, we got hold of some Mantic miniatures - when I was trying to explain to everyone what a great idea for a game Dreadball was. To be frank, they are awful. Then we got hold of some metal soldiers (can't remember where from, nor how much they were). These are the miniatures I've been painting to try out the Army Painter Mega Set and QuickShade.
On first sight, these are some pretty nice miniatures. But as I've been painting them, I've been a little disappointed by the finishing on some of the details. Where the fingers wrap around the gun handle, for example, the fingers just stop against a blob of some rough filler shape between the arm and the body of the miniature.
It's difficult to photograph, because you need to view the miniature from different angles to spot the problem - but here's another example of poor finishing on these miniatures:
See how the bottom of the equipment hanging off the belt hasn't been finished off - you can even see marks on the base of the packs where the modeller has been shaping his clay!
These aren't major issues - they're not going to stop me using these soliders for the promotional material for our Starship Raiders game - but just examples of the difference in quality of different miniature manufacturers.
The Games Workshop miniatures, on the other hand, are excellent, from every angle. Even in hard-to-reach-places, and areas that are almost never going to be seen, the quality of the sculpting is as good as anywhere else on the model
Even under the body, where it would never been seen without really close inspection, the level of detail on the GW Tyranid is consistently good across the whole of the miniature.
When I started looking into restarting my old miniature painting hobby, after a 20+ year hiatus, I read a lot about how plastic was the default material, and how the miniatures today are not as good as the lead/pewter ones of times past.
As much as I begrudge paying GW prices (of £3-£4 per miniature in a boxed set of multiple models) for a few bits of injection moulded plastic, I can't help but think that there is some justification in their prices - cheaper miniatures - whether made from plastic or metal - can be of much lesser quality.
I can't believe that I've gone from a know-nothing to an uber-miniatures geek in a few short days. And many of my opinions may be discredited in a few months from now, as I learn more about the hobby in general. But from now on, I'm sticking with GW/Citadel until someone can demonstrate a better range of miniatures - in both quality and price.