14 Jan 2012

28mm Miniatures for Castle Ravenloft

One question that is repeatedly asked in the forums has been about which miniature producers make figures suitable for use in the Castle Ravenloft Board Game. Because these queries are usually made in forums for Role Playing Games and Board Games, the replies generally claim that the best miniatures are those that come with the game itself. Some suggest buying pre-painted Dungeons and Dragons miniatures if the original poster wanted nice figures. One video reviewer even referred to these D&D miniatures as "professionally painted".

For miniature enthusiasts, the idea that pre-painted Dungeons and Dragons miniatures are worth buying may seem laughable. The paint jobs on these miniatures are mediocre, typically consisting of just a basecoat, with no wash or decent highlighting.

So I decided to compile a list of "proper" 28mm scale miniatures that could be used to replace the plastic miniatures provided with the game, for those who may want to play with good quality figures.

Three kinds of miniatures are provided with the Castle Ravenloft game - Monsters, Villains and Heroes (Villains are essentially unique Monsters who are harder to defeat).

Most of the Monsters in the game are Undead. Otherworld Miniatures makes an excellent range (designed to capture the imagery of Dungeons and Dragons in the first place) that can be used for these. They produce Skeleton, Zombie, Wraith and Ghoul miniatures, all ideal for use in Castle Ravenloft. Except for the Wraiths, these are all conveniently provided in batches of three, with the added advantage of not all being identical.

A trio of Skeletons from Otherworld Miniatures

Otherworld also make Kobolds, Gargoyles, Wolves and a set of Large Spiders.

A set of wolves from Otherworld Miniatures

Ghouls from Heresy Miniatures
An alternative is offered by Heresy Miniatures, which produces Zombies, Ghouls and a Wraith. The Heresy Ghouls have more character than those from Otherworld, and include a set of running/crawling Ghouls. They are also cheaper, although the quality of their sculpting is superb, and, in my humble opinion, superior to that of the Otherworld Ghouls. However, Heresy does go for an exaggerated, comic-book style in its sculpting, which may not be to everyone's taste.

My recommendation would be to use Heresy figures for the Ghouls and Zombies, and Otherworld for all the others. Also, if you want a third Wraith (since the Otherworld pack only comes with two), there is a Heresy Wraith that can be purchased as a single figure.

Another Monster encountered in Castle Ravenloft is the Rat Swarm. There are a number of manufacturers that produce Rat Swarm miniatures including Games Workshop, Reaper and Freebooter. The cheapest option is Reaper, and this is probably the best one too as you probably would not want to spend too much money on a rat swarm.

Werewolf from Otherworld Miniatures

There are eight Villains in Castle Ravenloft. Two of them can be represented by miniatures from Otherworld. These are Klak, the Kobold Sorceror, for which the Kobold Shaman from their Kobold Command pack can be used, and the Werewolf (from the Wilderness Encounters line). Heresy also make a Werewolf figure, in their unique style.

Werewolf from Fenris Games

Fenris Games also make a Werewolf Berserker miniature, which can be used for the part, although it is 36mm high and possibly a little on the large side. Unfortunately, this werewolf has been named Ollie ("Ollie?? Thats a terrible name for a werewolf").

But somehow, Ollie does not seem as threatening as the werewolf from Otherworld Miniatures, maybe because he just looks a lot more well-fed. The excellent paint job on this miniature is by krysset80 from the Forum of Doom.

Kobold Command Pack from Otherworld Miniatures with a Chieftain, a Shaman and three other Kobolds

Three of the Villains (the Flesh Golem, Zombie Dragon and Dracolich) require larger models.

A number of companies have made Flesh Golems. Heresy and Wyrd Miniatures both produce nice Flesh Golem models that can be used for Castle Ravenloft, but my personal favourite is the one by Reaper, which is closest in conception to the Golem in the game, who relies primarily on brute strength when attacking (with a Slam that does 2 damage and throws the player 'deeper into the dungeon').

The Zombie Dragon and the Dracolich require huge models, so replacing them with metal miniatures can be expensive. However, if you are willing to fork out the cash, Reaper Miniatures make a number of undead dragons that can be used for these. The cheapest (and smallest) is their Skeletal Dragon by Bob Olley, which can serve as the Zombie Dragon. They also have a larger undead dragon, Akar Nakhal, that could stand in as the Dracolich Gravestorm. Reaper also produce an enormous Dire Drake, Kaladrax, but because this model has a wingspan of over 12 inches, it might be too large to fit onto the tiles in Castle Ravenloft.

Hag Druid from Warlord Games

For the Howling Hag, there are a number of options available at 28mm scale. A good choice would be Zoraida the Hag from Wyrd Miniatures, a slightly overweight hag holding a voodoo doll. Unlike the Howling Hag miniature from Castle Ravenloft, Zoraida is not actually howling, but it is easy to imagine her doing so to good effect.

My own choice for the Howling Hag, however, would be the Hag Druid from Warlord Games. I actually own this figure and it is a lovely sculpt, but the paint job shown here (far superior to anything I could do) is by NathanS on Wamp.

Vampire Lord from Freebooter Miniatures
This brings us to the master of Ravenloft Castle, Count Strahd von Zarovich. There are a number of miniatures that can be used for him, including some of the Vampire Counts from the Warhammer range. My own choice, however, would be the Vampire Lord (Vampir F├╝rst) from Freebooter.

Strahd was originally conceived of in the Ravenloft module not as purely evil, but as a "compassionate vampire", one who was driven to become a vampire as a consequence of his love for a woman who rejected him and married his younger brother Sergei instead. Strahd is therefore quite unlike the original Dracula of the Bram Stoker novel, who is simply a monstrous sexual predator whose sole reason for travelling to London is to feed on its teeming millions and to colonise it for vampirism. Instead, the character of Strahd is closer to the Dracula portrayed by Gary Oldman in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola film, who, although unable to contain his monstrosity or his propensity for violence and evil, is driven primarily by the very human motive of romantic love.

My own image of Strahd is therefore not so much like the traditional Hammer films version of a vampire, as like the stylish contemporary vampire Jerry Dandridge in the 1985 film Fright Night (played by Chris Sarandon), who is reminded of his long-lost love by Charley Brewster's girlfriend Amy. Similarly, Strahd too is reminded in the Ravenloft module of his long-lost love Tatyana  by the girl Ireena Kolyana. The Freebooter figure, which does not portray a grotesque monster, but a human looking character whose vampiric nature is alluded to only by his high-backed cloak, fits the bill perfectly. It measures 32mm from head to toe, which makes it larger than most 'true 28mm' miniatures. However, as I point out here, variation in height is only to be expected in real life. 32mm is only 5' 10½'' at 1:56 scale, which makes the Vampire Lord only slightly taller than the average person. By comparison, Christopher Lee, who stood at 6' 5" in his prime, would have towered over everyone else when playing Dracula. As I have argued in this post, a miniature representing someone who was 6' 5" tall should measure approximately 35mm from head to toe.

Vampire in Man-Bat Form from Heresy Miniatures

Heresy Miniatures too produce a Vampire Lord figure (Lord von Blutgericht) that can be used for Strahd. They also make a  Posing Vampire miniature that has a grotesque head reminiscent of that of Count Orlok, the vampire in the 1922 classic film Nosferatu, and a Vampire in Man-Bat Form. Either of these figures could be used for Strahd.

Vampire from Otherworld Miniatures

Another option that would also be suitable for Strahd is the Vampire from Otherworld Miniatures. The dynamic posing of this figure is more attractive than that of the Vampire Lord from Freebooter, but the excessively ugly facial features make this a less appealing option.


The Young Vampire is played in the game with the same miniature as Strahd. You could do this or, if you prefer, introduce some variety by using two figures - two different Vampire Counts from the Warhammer range, for example, or  two of the Heresy vampires. You could, of course, use miniatures from two different manufacturers.

Lilith from Freebooter Miniatures
Another option would be to use a miniature of a female vampire for the Young Vampire, which would suit the Ravenloft setting very nicely. There were several female vampires in the original Ravenloft module. These included Sasha Ivliskova, an old wife of Strahd, who was found in the Catacombs of Ravenloft, and the maid Helga in the Castle itself. There was also a 'maiden vampire' in  the night-time random encounter table for Barovia, who would attack the player characters while they were outside the Castle.

If you are using the Vampire Lord from Freebooter, you could use their female vampire Lilith for the Young Vampire. Or, if you prefer Heresy's style, they too make a female vampire, Lady von Blutgericht, who is presumably meant to be the bride of Lord von Blutgericht.

And finally, the Heroes. There are five of these in Castle Ravenloft, two female, a Human Ranger and a Human Thief, and three male, a Dwarf Cleric, an Eladrin Wizard and a Dragon-born Fighter. Reaper Miniatures makes a vast array of figures from which it should be possible to get just about any combination. However, I am not fond of Reaper, primarily because their miniatures are not made to a consistent scale, but also because they come with chunky solid bases which make them difficult to modify.

Here, I will just give my personal choices for the five heroes in the game.

To begin, there is Thorgrim, the Dwarf priest. This is perhaps the easiest Hero to find a miniature for, as there is an abundance of dwarf miniatures to choose from. My own recommendation would be to use one of the dwarves from Hasslefree Miniatures. There are two of these that would be suitable for a cleric, as they are armed with blunt weapons - Kain (HF D001) and Benn (HF D006). My preference is for Kain, who is in a static position, very appropriate for a cleric who is in the middle of casting a spell, and therefore perfect for Thorgrimm, who is usually "calling forth a holy blessing", or "blasting foes with a brilliant ray of golden radiance" in the game.

An alternative might be to use one of the dwarves from Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings range. Most of these are armed with an axe, but there is one, the Lore-Master of Moria, seen holding a staff and with an open book in his hand, who is suitable for a cleric character. However, it is the Hasslefree dwarf, in armour and with a warhammer, who would most suitably fit the role of a Cleric in Dungeons and Dragons.

Arjhan, the Dragonblood Fighter, had me worried at first, because Dragonbloods are specific to Dungeons and Dragons, but he proved easy to replace. A line of Draconid miniatures (originally made by Dragonblood Miniatures, but which has since been taken over by another company) is available for purchase here. Their Draconid Heavy Warrior is 35mm high and cast in white metal, and ideal for Arjhan. There is also a Draconid Shaman in the same line, who could be substituted for a Draconid Spellcaster if you want to play with heroes from the Wrath of Ashardalon game. Dark Sword Miniatures have also acquired the rights to another figure from this line, who could also be used for Arjhan.

My own choice, however, would be the Dragonman Warrior from Reaper Miniatures. Although I tend not to use their human figures because of their inconsistent scaling, Reaper do produce quality miniatures. Since scale is less important for this figure (as I am not concerned about whether or not he will look odd lined up next to my human figures) I would go for him as Arjhan, simply because he is readily available in the UK from Miniature Heroes.

Aurelius from Red Box Games
The Eladrin Wizard, Immeril, is also easily replaced. In the latest edition of the D&D Rules, the Eladrin are no longer considered to be celestial beings. Instead, they are identical to the High Elves, as opposed to the more robust Sylvan Elves. Immeril is therefore easily represented by any Elven Mage or Wizard miniature, of which there are many. The best 28mm scale miniatures to use for Eladrin would probably be the High Elves from Mantic Games, which have been criticised as being too thin and 'wasp-waisted'. Unfortunately, Mantic seem to have abandoned their High Fantasy line of figures, with no new products appearing for some time, which has left their High Elf Armies Mage-less.

An excellent alternative is present, however, in the Aelfar range by Red Box Games. These miniatures stand at about 30mm high (about 5' 6" tall at 1:56 scale), which would be perfect for Eladrin. My choice for Immeril would be one of the two male Aelfar wizards, either Svajonostroir the Seeker or Aurelius the Adept. Of the two, I prefer Aurelius , who is slimmer and therefore makes a better Eladrin. Red Box Games miniatures were for a long time not easily available in Britain, but Maelstrom Games have now started stocking these beautifully sculpted figures.

The two female player characters are both humans, a Ranger and a Rogue. There are quite a lot of female Rogues and Rangers in the Reaper range, but, as I am not a big fan of their humans, my preferred figures for representing these two come from the Amazon range by Freebooter Miniatures.

The Human Ranger Alissa can be represented by a new sculpt, Totol. This is a figure of a hunter, armed with a bow and a blade (like Alissa), and in a crouching position. The figure is approximately 29 mm from head to toe, which makes her about 5' 4" tall at 1:56 scale, just right for Alissa.

Matqueh from Freebooter Miniatures
The Amazon range also includes a set of two figures, Chicomeh and Matqueh, one armed with two blades and the other with a blade and a blowpipe. Either can be used for the Human Rogue Kat, although they are both somewhat scantily clad. Their exact sizes are not given on the Freebooter site, but they are also shown in a group picture with another Amazon, Pehua, which clearly shows that they are a bit smaller than her. As the Pehua miniature stands at 33mm from head to toe, it is clear that Chicomeh and Matqueh must be from 29 to 31 mm high, which makes them between 5' 4" to 5' 9" tall at 1:56 scale. Again, this would fit Kat perfectly. Unfortunately, the two figures can only be purchsed together, which means that you must buy two miniatures, even if you only want one for Castle Ravenloft. Still, they are beautifully sculpted and well worth their price.

So there you are. The only miniature from the game that I could not find a corresponding 28mm miniature for is the Blazing Skeleton, which seems to exist only in Dungeons and Dragons. Any feedback on this, or on any of the other choices made in this post, would be more than welcome.