Many converters will come across this problem: "there just isn't a suitable part for me". Even though a company's range of parts and products is far and wide, it still has limitations which hinder your imagination. What if you want to make a convincing ad-mech army? What if you want to make something that doesn't have a kit? What if you want something cool, and current stuff just doesn't cut it? Well, for many, the answer is to find third party companies, such as Maxmini, Puppetswar and Kromlech.
So, what are the pros (and cons) of utilising these parts developers in your 40k armies. Well, I've decided to create a handy list to help you decide:
+ Wider Variety
Many companies who specialise in parts, as opposed to full kits, often have a wide range to choose from, and at least one will have something to your tastes. There's dozens of companies which offer different products, and some often specialise, which can be useful for you.
+It's easier than making parts
Lets be honest, not everyone will be great at making their own parts. Some people might not feel ready to make their own parts, and, in the case of needing multiple parts, will be less likely to be able to get them all consistent and identical. At least this way, the parts you're buying have been designed by professional sculptors, and replicated in the same moulds.
+Kits exist for armies which GW doesn't do
A number of people love the concept of owning Cult Mechanicus armies, WW2 Orks and Squat battalions. But, to be honest, GW doesn't really supply anything suitable to make a whole army of the more unique forces. Plus, they did ret-con Squats. There are a number of models out there which have been designed to fill these gaps in the market, and provide an opportunity to create a force designed around the more secretive armies from the deep fiction.
+The quality is often just as good
Nay-sayers tend to claim that products from third party developers are of inferior quality: meaning they're made of poor materials and badly cast. However, this is not the case, mostly. Sure, you will get some places offering inferior products, but the main ones I've seen, both on-line and in person, have great quality, occasionally even better than GW them self. As with the big names, companies are willing to replace faulty packaging, so don't worry too much.
-You can't take them into GW
Games Workshop has a very strict policy on third party parts: they don't allow it. So if you did get any parts, make sure not to take them into a GW store. That, or use the more subtle parts which wont raise suspicion
-They can be expensive
A number of parts providers, whilst good looking, often charge quite a bit. They cannot always afford the economies of scale on materials, and a number of companies are in other countries, meaning postage can add a fair bit to your order. This also has the added effect of increasing delivery times, often extending into weeks.
-They still may look 'off'
Whilst parts maybe designed for existing models, and have the right themes in place, there is the risk that it'll still look "not quite right". Partly this is to do intellectual property, which GW is excessively protective of. Therefore, companies are often inclined to alter the usual designs in order to avoid lawsuits. this results in parts which don't always fit in the the natural aesthetic of the army, and can create unwanted clashes.
Overall, I feel that third party parts companies are a great area worth looking into, an area which fills in important gaps in the market, and often create a number of great products, sometimes even exceeding standards or GW's offerings. However, it is important to research the parts, to get exactly what you want. Also, remember where you game. Sadly, they wont be a suitable option if you go into GW stores, but for those who attend outside clubs or stores, go for it.
(images taken (in order) from SouthmsGamers, Kromlech, everystoreneedsone, and Maxmini)