Press ‘Print’ for War: the impact of 3D printing on Sci-Fi and Fantasy gaming (video).

3D printing: the futuristic marvel that’s currently staging a quiet coup in the world of fantasy/sci-fi wargaming and model-making. Move over painstaking handcrafting, because the era of “Ctrl+P” for plastic paladins and space cruisers is upon us!

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, assembling a miniature army required the nimble fingers of a surgeon and the patience of a saint. Now? Well, if you can dream it, your 3D printer can probably spit it out in half the time, stirring up a revolution with the subtlety of a troll in a potion shop.

The old-guard hobbyists, armed with their glue and X-Acto knives, might view 3D printers as the unwelcome, flashy upstarts at the party. These machines swagger in with their high-resolution detail and ability to churn out models faster than you can say “epic battle.” Gone are the days of poring over tiny components late into the night. Now, one can simply download a file, tweak a few settings, and voila!—an orc army appears, ready to storm the castle walls. The impact on the wargaming landscape? Monumental. The traditional barriers to entry—cost, time, and the occasional superglue mishap—are crumbling faster than a poorly constructed goblin hut. 3D printing allows gamers to customise units to their heart’s content, ensuring that even the most obscure of elven mages can be brought to life without having to sell a kidney for a rare, out-of-production model.

And let’s talk scale. Ever wanted to recreate the Battle of Helm’s Deep with a full cast of thousands? Before, that would have been a pipe dream unless you were a Hollywood studio or a particularly ambitious (and wealthy) hobbyist. Now, armies, terrains, even entire fantasy cities can be produced with a spool of filament and enough printer time. However, not everyone is ready to ride this wave of technological wizardry. Purists might argue that 3D printing lacks the soul of traditional modelling—the meditative layering of paint, the careful assembly of tiny parts, each model infused with the blood (from those pesky knife slips), sweat, and tears of its creator. To them, clicking ‘print’ feels about as crafty as microwaving a ready meal feels like cooking.

Yet, as the tech advances and the quality of 3D-printed miniatures improves, even these dedicated hands-on hobbyists may find themselves tempted by the dark side of convenience. Why spend hours assembling an army when a machine can print one in your sleep? It’s enough to make the old school model makers toss their magnifying glasses into the forge and declare an armistice.

So, is 3D printing taking over the fantasy/sci-fi wargaming scene? It certainly seems to be plotting a hostile takeover. Whether this will lead to a utopia of unlimited creative expression or a dystopia where handmade models become relics of the past, only time will tell. In the meantime, we might as well enjoy the ride on our newly printed dragon wings.


Colonel Frog is a long time science fiction and fantasy fan. He loves reading novels in the field, and he also enjoys watching movies (as well as reading lots of other genre books).

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