A Review 2-for-1: Secret Weapon Miniatures Acrylics & Asian Garden Bases

really like basing. That’s probably easy to tell from the previous post I wrote…all about basing. For my Talons of the Emperor force for 30K (and 40K if I can cajole the unit choices into something that makes sense…) I wanted something really special. A base that would stand out and make narrative sense, while also setting them apart from my other forces. This is especially true for my Heresy forces, as my Imperial Fists are on deck plate bases, and my Space Wolves are on…snow-y deck plate bases. The idea of having metallic gold or silver units standing on metallic silver bases…no. Just no.

Enter Secret Weapon’s Asian Garden set.

I rely on Secret Weapon for…honestly, most of my bases. Their prices (for resin bases) are reasonable, and Justin and his crew are really responsive to inquiries and the like. The swamp bases I use for my Eldar, which are sculpted within a hollow blank to allow for water effects to be poured over them, draw pretty consistent praise and are easy (albeit time consuming) to work with.

So they’re who I turn to first when looking for new bases.

For the new bases, I had three requirements:

  • They had to look cool
  • They had to be non-metallic
  • They had to evoke the Siege of Terra

That narrowed things down a lot, but the one I fell in love with was the Asian Garden bases.

I loved the idea of portraying the battle for the Imperial Palace not just as ramparts and urban rubble, but also the inner palace, which had been a place of refined, curated beauty before Dorn was given the task of turning it into a fortress. Of Custodes holding some courtyard against the Traitors, turning a once-serene space into a killing field.

I was in love with the concept, and that’s pretty much enough to make me pull the trigger. Plus, as you can see from the image above, some of the bases feature smallish water-effect features, and that, my friends, is my jam.

So I ordered some. And a set of Secret Weapon’s acrylic paints to go with them. I set myself the challenge to use as many of them as possible before turning to my typical paint brands. That does, admittedly, mean much of this review is not going to focus on the paints in their chosen wheelhouse – weathering and environmental effects – but rather as general paints.

The Bases

The bases themselves came nicely cast, with no defects in the casting and no extra flash or casting material beyond what I could deal with with a fingernail – let alone a hobby knife. The resin itself was also nicely cured, with none of the somewhat upsetting flexibility of poorly cured resin, nor the slickness of excess mould release agent. They also took well to my usual grey Krylon rattle-can primer, as I had not yet become a devotee of Stynlrez.

The design on the bases have a nice mix of variety, feeling like they come from a unified setting, but are different enough that they don’t end up feeling same-y, and give you a variety of surfaces to paint on and with.

The one issue I do have with them is that some of the surfaces on the bases – smoothed rocks, bamboo, etc. are not amazing surfaces for superglue to adhere to, and there’s often very little contact between the figure’s foot and the base itself. This is especially a problem for the Sisters of Silence, who have relatively small feet to begin with, or for anyone where you’re intending them to have a particularly dynamic pose (running, leaping, etc.) where again, the contact points are small. This is solved by pinning, and in those circumstances I recommend either the rocks, or the spaces between two pieces of bamboo as the places where I found drilling more successful. The bases are also built into hollows, so even if you drill into the base you have a relatively thin anchor point. Trying to secure heavy metal models will require some serious thought to placement.

Or two-part epoxy.

If there’s one thing I learned from my grandfather, it’s that rare is the problem that cannot be solved with the proper application of epoxy.

The Paint

The paint set from Secret Weapon is an array of 30 colors with very obvious names that were clearly meant, as mentioned, as weathering and environmental effect paints. The names usually betray what they’re going for: Fresh OilPurple HeatVerdigris Light Green. Mostly a “does what it says on the tin” naming scheme, which is admittedly refreshing when normally dealing with colors like “Hexed Lichen” or “XV-88” (I picked two entirely opaquely named colors which I also happen to love…).

That’s all well and good, but I decided to just try using them as colors. What I needed was a deep, rich blue, a light bamboo-ish wood, a pale light grey, and a rock color that meant interesting contrasts with the other colors.

That meant using Verdigris Blue (which is an amazing color), Handle WoodWeathered Wood and Rubber. I also grabbed Blue Heat as a highlight color for the water.

Secret Weapon’s acrylics come in nice dropper bottles, and generally I found them to be well-mixed and ready to go for brush work. I haven’t tried them in an airbrush, but I’m looking forward to it. One note is that the consistency of these paints is…inconsistent. While all of them were fine, there were definitely some that were thinner. These mostly seemed to be detail and weathering paints, so my assumption is this is fully intentional, as the needed opacity of weathering acrylics will change based on what they’re trying to accomplish. Even for the thinner paints though, I had no issues with coverage.

Generally, the paints were a joy to work with. The blues and Rubber especially are very likely to end up in my general use pile. Weathered Wood, which was one of the thinner paints used, took awhile to dry, but was otherwise fine, and was being applied to a tough surface – very find sand often needs several coats to get into all the little cracks and crevices.

From that point, because Secret Weapon isn’t trying to make a fully functional paint range, I had to turn to other brands for highlights, shades, etc., but given this was a somewhat contrived use to take the paints out for a spin, I can’t really hold that against them. I’m looking forward to using these paints in the future, and getting a chance to play around with weathering more than I have.

The End Result

As a final touch, once everything had at least a highlight, I sprayed the bases with my usual Krylon matte sealer, applied Realistic Water (small bottles can be bought from Secret Weapon, or larger bottles from Woodland Scenics – see tips here) to the small stream on one of the bases, and blew some air from my airbrush through a brush loaded with Blood for the Blood God to get some blood spatter effects – marring the otherwise pristine bases with the blood of traitors rightly put to the sword.

After that, the Custodians got mounted (I didn’t drill the holes until after the bases were painted because I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit to the idea until I had finished the bases.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I’d give the bases themselves a solid 9/10. They’re pretty flawless, save for some difficulty actually attaching miniatures to the bases, but that can be solved with some strategic pinning and pose selection, and didn’t prove any more challenging than any other scenic resin base that’s not just a flat plane of lava or deck plating or whatever.

There is one huge flaw with the Asian Garden line right now: They’re not available in 32mm.

That’s a risk with any scenic base producer – that they don’t have a base in “your” size. 80mm bases for Leviathan and Daredeo Dreadnoughts are, for example, always something of a crisis. But 32mm has got to be the most popular base size now that basically all Space Marines are 32mm. I’ve chatted with Mr. Justin at Secret Weapon for a bit about it, and word is that they’re in development. I honestly think if this is a theme you’re interested in (and I’d check out Secret Weapon’s Facebook page for some more realistic schemes for the same bases) that they’re worth the wait, but if you’re trying to rush something for an event, know that for the moment your SOL for most powered armor heavy armies.

The paints I’d give an 8/10. They’re fun to use, the color and pigmentation is strong, and coverage is good. I’m not holding that they’re not a complete line against them – they are, after all, a specialist range. What I would like to see though is some guidance on how to use that specialist range. Some are obvious, of course – Tire BlackRubber and Rubber Highlight are pretty obvious. But some short videos or even a series of photos on how to use these paints to their fullest effect would go a long way. At this point most unusual paint sets I buy – Scale75 sets, the Nocturna/Vallejo flesh sets, etc. come with something like that, and it would be a helpful starting point.

But overall? Couldn’t be happier with the bases, and the acrylic paint set presents a world of opportunity that has me going “Maybe that tank’s engine could be leaking oil…”

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