...Are belonging to Cast Resin? Ballast and Static Grass? Rocks and Bark from the backyard, or Cork maybe?
With all the options we have available to us in the modern age of the hobby now, what do you use to base your models? Is it really that important that the base your model sits on look good? Does it warrant the price of the more modern, third-party resin bases or are the tried and true methods of yesteryear still classic, and classy, enough to showcase your hard work?
How do you choose?
Lets answer the important question first. Is it important that what your model sits on look good? Yes, not only because the base plays a part in the game itself, but because it's the stage your figure sits on for all to see. It helps tell the story of where that figure, or army, is at that exact moment in time when you plucked them out of their fantastical world, and brought them to life. The base below (and figure above) was from my Centurions army, my Rune Priest.
So what are our options when it comes to basing our miniatures? I'm fond of categorizing things, so we'll shoehorn them into three. The Basics of Basing, Advanced Basing Techniques, and Resin Bases.
The Basics of Basing
Here's where the tried and true methods of yesteryear I mentioned earlier come into play. Ballast and Static Grass are the main components of the basics and honestly yield satisfactory results if the proper time is taken to achieve them. I don't think I need to go into any real detail on how achieve said results, but if anyone needs to know, just ask and I'll happily answer. I do encourage you to check out Ron's post at FtW here though, about keeping your figures from sinking into the basing ballast. A minute's work makes a big difference there. Also, do me a favor and don't forget to clean up the edges of your base with your chosen solid color too. A sloppy edge doesn't do anything justice.
Advanced Basing Techniques
Advanced Techniques are where the storytelling of basing comes into play. Now you're building a scene for your miniature to live in, a snapshot out of it's life. Is the figure plucked from a dying wasteland, war torn with bones bleached on the surface? Maybe a rugged tundra, barren except for the snow on which their war machines tread. Or perhaps a rubble-strewn, gothic cityscape? Obviously I'm giving these examples because I have pictorial representations of them I can use, but you get my point.
The tundra base is an excellent example of building onto the basics. Patient application and painting of a mix of medium and fine ballast are a great start to a base. Building on that with snow effects is a more interesting technique than just static grass and helps set the model into an environment.
The war-torn wasteland base is again a great continuation of the basics. Starting with my mix of ballast sizes again, I incorporated extra plastic skeletons I had into them to further give some life and story into the base. After that I mixed up a dying grass for the static grass as well as placed some tall, dying prairie grass in select areas. Sure I. Had to buy an extra box of skeletons to be able to do this, but it paid off in the end!
The rubble-strewn, gothic cityscape was actually my first foray into some more advanced basing techniques. Consisting of Evergreen Plasticard, the 1/8" tile texture, I shaped each individually and then gouged out cracks with a dremel tool. After that I cut out individual tiles and placed them in pilesand sections, adding a ballast mix in key places to add to the rubble effect. They turned out nicely for a first time diving into a more advanced basing technique, and weren't hard to do at all.
These three examples didn't take much work to do, and add a story-telling element to your figures. Try not to think of this category as separate from the Basics, this is more of the next building block on which you place on top of the last. You have no limitations when it comes to materials with these techniques, just use your imagination! However, if you can't make Ballast and Static Grass look good, then these techniques will not help your situation. Go get the Basics right, then start these.
Resin Bases are today's sliced bread when it comes to basing your figures. They are easy, convenient and there are so many options and companies to choose from, you could base a dozen armies, and never have to have any of them look the same. The above example is one from my Centurions. I based the entire army with the Ancient Ruins line from Dragon Forge. The look was perfect and buying them saved me a ton of time on top of looking great.
Now if you compare the cost for Resin Bases to Ballast and Static Grass, or even other cheaper methods of Advanced Basing Techniques, then Resin Bases can seem fairly expensive. You typically should expect about $1 for a 25mm base on average. Base a Horde army with those and your wallet might go into shock. However, if you compare the cost versus buying plastic kits to tear apart and use in your basing, the cost margins quickly become much smaller, or even working out to a wash between the two. And that's without taking your time into account for making your own bases in the first place.
Ultimately basing your army well is the most important thing, and how you do it is really up to you. Just take your time with your chosen method and remember that the base is actually a part of the overall model when it's all said and done.