Yarr, matey! After reading about the Legends of the High Seas (LotHS) skirmish game from Warhammer Historical I was hooked immediately and wanted to start collecting a pirate crew. Soon I was surprised to find that there are so many suppliers of pirate figures. As it seems many people are overwhelmed by the many ranges just like I was, so I figured I'd write a little article where I present what I consider the best manufacturers. You may recognize a lot of the minis from the LotHS rulebook and I will try to point to those miniatures when I get to them. The list is not meant to be exhaustive by all means, but I do think that it includes the best pirate ranges on the market. Manufacturers that do not offer proper photos for their figures are not included.
After the initial presentation of the various companies there is a miniatures reference with links to the company websites of the sample miniatures used for the crew lists, Hired Hands and Legends in the LotHS book. If you find any errors or want to make additions (especially for the Royal Navy crew), don't hesitate to leave a comment! Many thanks to Steve Burt, Tim Kulinski, Chris Payne and Robert from the LotHS Yahoo Group for helping with the references! The Pirates & Sea Dogs - Alternative Pirate Miniatures website has also been very useful to me.
A word on historical accuracy
When you start collecting pirate miniatures it is a good idea to think about historical accuracy for a moment and what you want for your crew. There is the often cited "Hollywood style", whose aim is to be fun in favour of authenticity (as if it weren't possible to have both!). Even most wargames figure producers give in to cliché-ridden iconography. Regarding the dressing style during the Golden Age of Piracy author Angus Konstam writes:
During this period there was little or no difference between the dress of pirates or Royal Naval sailors. Both wore whatever they wanted. It is worth noting that many of the features we now associate with pirate dress, such as headscarves and sashes, were late 19th-century inventions. Instead, the men wore the same garb as other seamen of the period.
Angus Konstam: Blackbeard's Last Fight (Osprey Publishing, 2013), p. 59
If historical accuracy is important to you then you should do some research about authentic pirate clothing (e.g. at re-enactment sources such as Gentlemen of Fortune).
Manufacturers of Pirate Miniatures
There is a pirate set consisting of 4 models. Definitely worth a look if you are looking for some characterful swashbucklers.
|Pirate Set from Antediluvian Miniatures|
With only three different packs of three figures each, the Pirates range of Artizan Designs is quite small. Nevertheless the miniatures are well sculpted and come for a fair price of 5.00 £ per pack. The fact that you can thus purchase the entire range easily can also be an advantage for the collector in you. :)
Have a look at Tom Weiss' website to see his take on these pirate models - simply gorgeous!
|Artizan pirates painted by Tom Weiss|
For more painted samples of the Artizan pirates range have a look at Alex Bews' website witchhunter.net (a website I stronly suggest - not only to pirates!).
Black Cat Bases
Black Cat Bases' Pirates of the Skeleton Seas range contains some great miniatures. They have six subcategories: Civillians, Towns folk & Mercenaries for hire, Human Pirates, Royal Navy 1700-1730, Specialist crew, Tavern Staff, Tribal People & Island Natives - enough to form whatever crew you like. Noteworthy are the Specialist crew which contain many of the sample models for Hired Hands from the LotHS rulebook. The miniatures cost between 1.50 and 2.50 £.
Black Scorpion Miniatures
I have always found Black Scorpion's Pirates range by Adam Clarke to be amongst the most beautiful. The models can be seen throughout the LotHS rulebook. Note that Black Scorpion miniatures are 30mm scale (or "heroic 28mm") rather than the common 28mm so they are slightly taller than most other miniatures presented here.
The range started out as an explicit support for the LotHS game, providing figures for the three factions - pirates, privateers and the British Royal Navy. Then, fantasy pirate figures came out for the classic fantasy races of Dwarfs, Elves and Orcs & Goblins. Similar to Freebooter (see below) Black Scorpion now has its own gaming system Cutlass!. If you want to learn more about this game, check out the videos at wargaming news site Beasts of War.
|The pirate crew of Captain Redbeard, painted by Tom List|
Be sure to check out Black Scorpion Miniatures on Facebook where they have a gallery of the figures' original greens.
Brigade Games offers a range of Buccaneers, Pirates and Privateers. I'm not sure whether the paint jobs on their site simply doesn't do the figures justice or if the really are not that great sculpts.
Crusader Miniatures' Pirates range contains eight different packs of three figures each. Four miniatures from the range are used as sample models for the Pirate and Privateer Crew lists in the LotHS book. While the painted sample miniatures are looking really excellent, the photos of the other unpainted minis appear rather simple and not so detailed, but that might depend on the paint job in the end. There may not be enough models to form an entire crew, but they sure make for nice additions to your other figures.
Be sure to have a look at Tom Weiss' website to see close ups of the Crusader pirates (yes, these are the very ones from Crusader itself).
You can also find some nicely painted Crusader pirates by "Highlander" on the Lead Adventure Forum.
Dixon has a decent range of Pirates. Unfortunately they lack pictures for many of their models, which is a real pity since the depicted samples look quite good. It is worth mentioning that their personalities section features six specific characters all of which appear as Legends of the High Seas in the rulebook. Lastly, with a price of 0.95 £ for a single miniature Dixon's range is the second cheapest in this list.
Eureka Miniatures also has some pirate miniatures. They do not look so well-sculpted to me and I list them here for convenience/reference only.
Foundry's Swashbucklers & High Renaissance range offers a near endless number of pirate miniatures. You can form crews of pretty much any combination of pirates.
On October 11th, 2013 the following information about the Captain Gibbons' Flotsam pack (CUT3/8) was posted on the Foundry website:
It recently occurred to us that the contents of one of our Pirate packs are in fact old Citadel models! The model on the left is Steve Jackson who visited the factory with an injured leg. There was a also a model of Ian Livingstone CBE with a baseball bat, but we're not sure where it is at the moment. Apparently it isn't with our current pirates range because at the time my Grandfather didn't think he looked much like a pirate. On the same occasion a model of my Father as a Hill Giant was sculpted and made available for a while. It may still be available through the people who currently sell Ral Partha. You can find the Citadel pirates that we do have HERE.
They go on writing:
All the other pirates were sculpted by Will Hannah. We think they are the nicest 28mm pirate models ever made. Many of them are useful as general tough-looking 18th Century blokes. Perhaps we should fish the tough guys, gentries and duelist looking types out and put them in desperate packs. He also did another range of Oriental Pirates/bandits/fantasy models that was never released for some reason.
|Foundry pirates painted by Kevin Dallimore|
For some excellently painted Foundry pirates check out Alex Bews pirates gallery at witchhunter.net. You can also see the Cabin Boy sample model and the Master Gunner Hired Hand sample model from the LotHS rulebook on his website.
Again, Tom Weiss has some incredible figures in his Foundry pirates gallery.
There are also some Royal Navy miniatures in the Foundry ranges. Have a look at this thread on the Lead Adventure Forum for photos of Dominic's awesome Royal Navy crew. You might recognize some of his models from the LotHS rulebook.
Firelock Games (Facebook) ran a successful kickstarter campaign for their pirate game "Blood & Plunder" in 2016 and produce a large range of piratical figures to accompany it. They offer models for different nations (British, French, Spanish) and many more. They put a special emphasis on historical accuracy. The figures come on 20mm bases as part of the models.
|Pirates from Firelock Games|
Werner Klocke's range of miniatures for the fantasy pirate skirmish game Freebooter's Fate has a very distinct style and feel which may not be appealing to the typical historical wargamer. Factions such as Amazons and Goblins aside there are some not-so-over-the-top figures in the Pirates and Imperial Armada factions, which can be very nice additions to even a historical crew. Note that with 30mm they are a littler taler than most other ranges, though this makes them a good fit for Black Scorpion and Black Cat Bases.
Hasslefree Miniatures does not really have a suitable range of historical pirates. However, their Fantasy Pirates range includes one noteworthy figure: a beautiful Pirate Captain, sculpted by Tom Meier, available in metal and as a resin version. Hasslefree bought this sculpt at an open auction, saying "It cost us an arm and a leg (well a mortgage payment actually!)".
Note that the resin version is slightly different from the metal version: "Whereas the resin version is in one piece, Kev had to alter this one [the metal version] slightly to make it castable in white metal. Changes include thickening areas of the cloak, removing the scabbard which was chewing up the moulds and putting a leather bag in its place ...oh yes and he also cut off his arms and put them on a separate sprue!"
This is one of my personal favourite pirate miniatures, if not the favourite. Just from looking at the pictures it is impossible to imagine the incredibly fine detail of this sculpt. The figure looks like it was 48mm or so in scale and then magically shrinked. Thomas List painted the metal version for me as part of Redbeard's Sea Dogs pirate crew and it is one of my dearest miniatures.
Hasslefree's Pirate Captain painted by Tom List
The Hazels Heroes range includes three miniatures that are great for a pirate crew (HH1, HH2, HH3). You can see them in the LotHS rulebook too.
North Star Military Figures
|Anne Bonney (North Star)|
Note that as part of a so called "Nickstarter" pre-order program there are five exclusive miniatures available: Marcel the Monkey; Harry Bennett's hoard; Captain Kidd; Jack Cubbin, The Cabin boy and the High Seas Drifter.
|Captain Blackbeard and his crew (North Star)|
Old Glory MiniaturesOld Glory certainly does not produce for skirmish gamers: their pirate packs come with 30 miniatures in 10 different poses (i.e. 3 models of each pose). However, for a price of 23.00 £ this is quite affordable. They have some extremely characterful figures like the treasure party, the looters with victims, the captured civilians and the gambling pirates, all of which make for excellent dioramas. It may be well worth keeping an eye out for local (online) stores as they may have special offers like Miniaturicum in Germany, that also sells the Old Glory packs in smaller sets, that contain only the different poses (10 different miniatures for 11.95 €, i.e. roughly 9.44 £).
Unfortunately Old Glory provides only very few samples of their pirate miniatures. You can see some painted Old Glory pirates (and many more!) on witchhunter.net.
Redoubt Enterprises' pirate miniatures range consists of Guncrew and Swashbucklers and Civilians. You can't really tell their quality from the small photos but they do look okay - especially considering the price of 1.05 £ per model, which makes them very attractive to players, who do not want to spend a fortune on their crew and Redoubt's range is large enough to support a whole pirate crew.
Resina Planet's 32mm Pirate range has some nice sculpts on offer. Like the Freebooter miniatures they have a somewhat cartoony Fantasy feel to them and their size doesn't make them compatible with many other ranges.
Manufacturers of Sea Monsters
The huge Kraken model by Canadian company Immortal-Realms - appropriately categorized under "Terrain" - is the ideal antagonist for your pirate ship. For a more in-depth look at suitable sea monsters to go along with your pirates have a look at the article Terrors of the High Seas.
Legends of the High Seas Miniatures Reference
This list shows the figures used in the Legends of the High Seas rulebook.
Royal Navy Crews
Royal Navy Captain - Front Rank: Officer of Artillery (AWAB4)
Midshipman - Foundry: Royal Navy Boarding Party (B141)
Lieutenants - Foundry: British Centre Company Command (AWI3/6)
Marines - Foundry: British Centre Company Firing (AWI3/5)
Able Seamen - Foundry: Royal Navy Boarding Party (B141)
Pirate Captain - Crusader Miniatures: Buccaneers
Mates - Artizan Designs: Bill Tracey (Scurvy Dogs)
Quartermaster - Crusader Miniatures: Seaman Staines
Cutthroats - Artizan Designs: Barney McGee (Scurvy Dogs)
Rogue - Crusader Miniatures: Sea Scum
Privateer Captain - Artizan Designs: Juan Corso (Juan Corso's Buccaneers)
Proctor - Artizan Designs: Mr. Smee (Scurvy Dogs)
First Mate - Crusader Miniatures: Sea Scum
Cabin Boy - Foundry: Little Tommy Hislop (CUT 1/2)
Mercenaries - Artizan Designs: Slugger O'Toole (Scurvy Dogs II)
Mariner - Artizan Designs: Mick McGann (Scurvy Dogs II)
Navigator - Black Cat Bases: Pirate Navigator
Master Gunner - Foundry: Snotty La Farge (CUT 4/7)/Gun Crew (CUT 23A)Carpenter - Black Cat Bases: Pirate Carpenter
Cook - Black Cat Bases: Cook
Surgeon - Black Cat Bases: Pirate Surgeon
Island native - Black Cat Bases: Tribal Warrior with a bow
Bounty Hunter - Black Cat Bases: Bounty Hunter
Wanton Wench - Black Cat Bases: Wench
Buccaneer - Black Scorpion: Rogues
Swashbuckler - Black Cat Bases: Swashbuckler
Missionary - Front Rank: Civilians (GP4)
Young Nobleman - Foundry: Henry Every (CUT 1/4)
Legends of the High Seas
Edward Teach (Blackbeard) - Black Scorpion: Black Jack Davey
Lieutenant Robert Maynard - Black Cat Bases: Swashbuckler
Jack Rackam (Calico Jack) - Artizan Designs: Bill Tracey (Scurvy Dogs)
Anne Bonny - Black Cat Bases: Female Pirate Captain
Mary Read - Foundry: Mary Read (CUT 1/1)
Charles Vane - Black Cat Bases: Noblemen
Stede Bonnet (The Gentleman Pirate) - Foundry: Treasure Island Characters (CUT2/1)
Colonel William Rhett - Black Cat Bases: Royal Navy Captain
William Kidd - missing
Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart) - Foundry: Oswald Haughtry (CUT 1/3)
I hope this little guide serves you as a great source of inspiration when collecting your own crews of scurvy dogs! In the end it all comes down to personal taste anyways. Maybe you like to drop by again for the follow-up article when I talk about ships & cannons.
Copyright of the various miniatures by the respective companies. All rights reserved.
Last updated on September 22nd, 2016. Numerous links fixed and additional information added.