Sam “King of the Hilltop”

Here is the question, should games have miniatures? I know this question is very subjective but there was an interesting Kickstarter a while back done by Awaken Realms called Great Wall. In this campaign, you could opt to have miniatures, or you could opt to have meeples (little wooden pieces) to represent a lot of the soldiers and moving pieces.

So, it begs the question, if people can just use meeples instead of miniatures, why have the miniatures at all? It’s cheaper to use meeples and it makes it feel a lot like a more traditional euro style board game. Plus, the clean up and storage will likely be a lot easier.

Well, to be honest there is no real practical answer. The only one I have heard is that it is easier to recognize and identify pieces when they are miniatures versus when they are meeples. Which is sometimes true but can be mitigated by good planning and design.

So, why do it? For the real reason that it is AWESOME!! I love miniatures, man. They have been a part of my life since I was like 9 years old. Technically even before then but they had moving joints so they were called action figures. I have been looking at Warhammer catalogs since they were printed in black and white and they showed each miniature for sale separately with catalog numbers and letters. I used to go over that catalog again, and again, and again.

Miniatures bring a real sense of aesthetics to a game. Nothing makes it feel more luxurious and amazing then having imposing and beautiful miniatures in a game. It helps with the feel of the game and really draws you in.

This idea of the feel of the game is very important to a lot of gamers. Why do you think people always mention the awesome stones in Century: Golem Edition, the gem chips in Splendor, or the starburst…I mean, tiles in Azul. These physical objects bring a weight and an interesting tactile feel to a game.

To give another example of feel, if Awaken Realms’ Nemesis had meeples instead of miniatures, the whole horror aspect of the game wouldn’t come across as strongly. That game needs miniatures. You can play without it and it would be a fun game. But there is something visceral about seeing those aliens and they are coming for you! Having miniatures in a game is a luxury but one that can really sell the experience of a game.

This experience has also, in my opinion, brought a number of miniature gamers and role-players into the board game market. I happen to play all three but I know quite a few people who only do one. Those games that have awesome miniatures, specifically in the dungeon crawl category, have done an incredible job of making games that appeal to all three groups of people. Which only helps to fuel more investment and time into the board game market.

What do you think about miniatures? Should every game have them? (Yes, they should…just saying.) Or are they best kept to a small subset of the board game world?

If Only I had the Time for Miniatures

Ed “Duke of BAzlandia”

These past couple of weeks, while I have been reading articles or listening to podcasts, one of the things that I continue to think about, and wish I had more time for, is Miniature painting. One of my initial hobbies in the wide world of gaming was in fact miniature wargames. I soon came to the realization after several years that in the end I only sadly have a finite amount of time and well, if it’s choosing between playing a game or painting minis and creating terrain that I would rather play a game. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the other. I enjoy both but sadly life is just hard and tough choices must be made.

So, as time passed, I drifted away from miniature games but they have always held a special place in my heart, probably always will. To this day I cling to some miniature gaming and will occasionally drift over to it even though my miniature war gaming days seem to be done. This can be seen with the time I spent with Blood Bowl (I was a member of NAF at one point, here is an excellent article about the game and community from Joshua King at dicebreaker), my foray into Guild Ball (another great “fantasy” football game) and I even dabbled with Halo fleet command and ground command before its sad demise.

With this drifting I have also noticed a drifting of many board games drifting to a larger table presence specifically with miniatures. This does not apply to all games but there has definitely been a drift. My brother talks about the Great Wall Kickstarter and how it offered two options, one with meeples and the other with miniatures. This option to choose between the two has sparked several interesting discussions from my brother and I.

One of these discussions has been what does a miniature actually add? When I say miniature, it doesn’t have to be a typical wargaming figure, it can be applied to upgraded components such as metal coins instead of tokens, plastic miniature replicas to replace tokens such as Stonemaier games Treasure Chests, and other things beyond a cardboard token. Who hasn’t been to a craft store and eyed the glass gems and been like, “Man, I need those to bling out Splendor“?

Back to the subject at hand, I think what miniatures add to a game is immersion into the theme or atmosphere of the game. I personally believe this is why many boardgames have an upgrade option and why you see players shell out some extra cash. This definitely applies to some of my favorite games. The ways I have dreamed up of upgrading components and adding that 3D realism to it. It’s actually one of the reasons I bought my 3D printer. If you got the time you should see what some people have done for Gloomhaven with 3D components. Talk about some awesomeness.

In the end I think that “awesomeness” is the reason why you see the drift. People buy and play games because it gives them pleasure. If you can spend a little more money and it makes it more pleasurable, why wouldn’t you?

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