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Your Turn: Cool Minis…or Not?

Posted by HaiKulture {Avid Gamer} | 16-Dec-14 | 38 comments

Your Turn - A Discussion

Hi! I’m…umm…Hai! By day, I don Clark Kent glasses as a freelance writer and essayist for the geek niche, leaving puddles of muddy stream o’ consciousness to splash around in on the Interwebs.

But – I was raised around the hobby gaming table. Sugar and Spice and D-20 Dice. The Mechanics. The History. The Psychology. The Philosophy. The Smell of Fresh Cardstock and Cardboard in the Morning.

Your Turn is your chance to discuss what YOU think about a variety of topics related to hobby gaming. I’ll start the conversation, cook up a buffet of food for thought, and then it’s ‘Your Turn…’

So let’s talk gaming! Time to shrink down Willy Wonka style and get out the CGI blue body paint…we’re about to delve into the world of miniatures and avatars…

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Cool Minis…or Not?

image © CoolMiniorNot

Never step barefoot on a rogue zombie…

Words to live by – as it hurts!  A ‘one-footed hop’ dance craze courtesy of the plastic plethora that is Zombicide. While cursing an Abomination – as just that – I was also led to contemplate the tiny plastic invasion that has been amassing at the gates of the Cardboard Kingdom in recent years: Avatars.

Notice I didn’t say – Miniatures

Miniatures in gaming are nothing new under the sun.

A Brief History in Miniature

The Time of ‘Modern Miniatures’ and the birth of Historical Miniature Wargaming can be traced back to the Victorian era when tiny boys and tin soldiers grew up to be armchair warmongers with the publication of Little Wars: A Game for Boys from Twelve Years to One Hundred and Fifty and for that More Intelligent Sort of Girl Who Likes Boy’s Games and Books, authored by none other than H.G. Wells in 1913.

(Thanks for tacking my lot on the end there Wellsy – you were ahead of your time in quasi-gamer-feminism…


…or, at least, wrap around book jackets. :P).

Dungeon Metal

The Golden Age of The RPG in the late 70’s through the 80’s saw metal masterworks en masse by the likes of Ral Partha, Grenadier, and Citadel. From wizard to space rogue to eldritch shambler, 15 pages of stats and 30 feet of rope could be represented in varying scale on grid and hex. Master of all Dungeons, Gary Gygax helped pen Chainmail, a rule set for medieval miniature wargaming, and its High-Fantasy Supplement in 1971 as an early project before repurposing and role-playing the core elements with liberal doses of lizards and labyrinths. The ‘white metal’ of the day was running red hot.

The 80’s saw progressive game developer Games Workshop and their miniature subsidiary, Citadel, merge the tactics and tape measures of Historical Miniature Wargaming with the stat and spell filled source tomes of Roleplaying into the Skirmish Gaming of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K.

But none of this was considered boardgaming…

Historical Miniature Wargamers and the more fantastical, but no less fanatical, Skirmish Gamers fought for both the title of Tabletop Gamer’ and those spongy trees from model train shops. Roleplaying was about imagination, a game of pencils and paperwork, with miniatures as a nifty placeholder bonus. Even Games Workshop drew a line in the sand. Their ‘board games’ were fairly industry standard. Their ‘miniatures’ were skirmish sprawls. The rare merging of the two factions in endeavors such as Space Hulk, Heroquest (Advanced),  and Blood Bowl were few, far between, and in the ‘pricey minority’.

What was deemed ‘board game’ had come a long way since Parcheesi, but seemed to dwell for decades where it was born with Tactics – in the Twilight of the Age of Avalon Hill.  A two-dimensional life in Flatland. Boards, cards, and cardboard chits. Tanks, spacecraft, and mythical behemoths – all crammed in a half inch square punch out. A simpler game might dress up the landscape with a few colored versions and variations of the Staunton or Halma pawn, but complexity was measured in poundage of tiny chits of cardboard.

This was Boardgaming’s First Age. Board games and miniatures lived in a house divided.

No one had really taken heed of the most important lesson Monopoly teaches us: a discarded shoe or a schnauzer can be a real estate mogul.

Monopoly Moguls

Courtesy AP

Or an Avatar of sorts…

Then came the Cardboard Ice Age.

Enter the Nex-Gen Video Game explosion and the burying of the Cardboard Kingdom under the frost of a pixelated blizzard. Between the mid 90’s and well into the new century, gaming unplugged entered a strange Dark Age. Many bastions of board games, roleplaying, and miniatures fell and the lucky few limped along. Magic: The Gathering power-chorded through the Disc Wars of Playstation and Xbox to take the stage with a rousing rendition of “Booster Packs Killed the Tabletop Stars”. In a bizarre twist of Reverse Black Death,  Eurogames flourished during the Plague of Platformers– being almost literally the only game in town.

OOP became synonymous with RIP.

But cardboard and cardstock are more resilient than one might think and the latter half of Decade One began a slow return to the basement. Large coffin box games began to surface, slyly showing the hobby still lived. Board games were back and more importantly, gamers stood united. Board gamers, card gamers, roleplayers, and the miniature minded all gathered under one banner – Tabletop Gamer – to define the fact that they got their kicks at kitchen tables and not entertainment centers. And while there were still easily labeled niches and factions, lines between had begun to blur. There were dungeon crawl board games with light RPG elements. There were RPG’s with light board game elements. There were skirmish miniature games with…well…they pretty much stayed skirmish miniature games, but Clix made them a little more accessible. 😉

The past few years of the new decade have taken gaming out of the basement and into Barnes and Nobles. Tabletopping has entered a Cardboard Renaissance and Boardgaming has begun its Second Age and even entered a new dimension: The Third One.

It started out slowly. Almost as a running gag, Twilight Creations Inc dropped ‘hordes’ of cheap and thematic undead into their Zombies!!! line. The Double F’s, Flying Frog and Fantasy Flight, slipped figurines into more ‘character’ driven board games to give them exactly that – more character.

And now…

Miniatures seem to be everywhere!

But not as in days of yore.

Gaming is entering the Age of the Avatar.

The Dawn of the New Pawn

More and more boxes proudly herald “Highly Detailed Miniatures Inside!!!!!!” like a throwback to the siren’s call of sugared cereals. Hit up a dark alley or two of Kickstarter and you are bound to see them as a campaign selling point. If you don’t, you are certain to see rallying cries of “Minis!” or “Custom Meeples!” as an almost necessity.


Even the proudly minimalistic Eurogame isn’t immune to avatarism. A quick trip to Meeple Source is a peek at The Industry of Avatar and detailed meeples in all sizes, shapes, and flavors of wood.

Avatarism is creating a niche for the ‘New Miniature’. The ‘New Miniature’ isn’t about position, facing, and line of sight. The ‘New Miniature’ is about prettifying place holding.

Plastic surgery for the nondescript pawn.

For the moment, it seems definitely in demand.

25 years ago, something akin to Zombicide would have been cardboard by the poundage. Sprinkle with plastic and add a dash of ‘gotta catch them all’ psychology and you have an ‘overnight’ Cool Mini Million dollar franchise.

Krosmaster-figures-group21Look over there! It’s Krosmaster: Arena – the game of collectible playing pieces.

Pretty pawnage.

Decorative Meeples.

Even the popular ‘card shower’ that is the Pathfinder: The Adventure Card Game line is getting in on the act with the recent announcement of Iconic Heroes Miniatures for those that feel simple card avatars of the adventuring roster just aren’t enough.

In a way the Tabletop is Nex-Gen-ing itself with this Miniature Revolution. Internet Days are opening the niche wider. Hobbyists are no longer confining themselves to Basements & Bedrooms, but walking into the daylight with the new avatar roleplayer:  Twitter & Tablets. Social Media, Message Boards, Digital and On-Line Gaming, even here at dear old BGdot – we don different faces like cyber Lon Chaneys. Pictures and pixels become ‘us’ to ‘others’. Avatars are almost afterthoughts. We exist through representation. It stands to reason that this would bleed into the escapism psychology of games, creating a need for something more. Something representative, something tangible and tactile – the non-descript pawn and dimensionless cardboard just won’t do anymore.

Cool Mini or NotUpfront company branding even begs the question: “Cool Mini or Not“? The answer is – there’s a definite coolness about it. There’s something fun about a miniature. There’s something accessible. And there’s something definitely marketable. I’m almost certain that Mansions of Madness and Descent wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with the Munchkins, Unos, and Insert-Something-Here-Opolies at Barnes and Nobles, if a quick flip to the back of the box didn’t give one a glimpse of all the bite-sized plastic goodness inside.

Unfortunately, most of this ‘plastic surgery’ isn’t elective. The Little War of the Miniature Revolution increases manufacturing costs, drives up game prices, and takes a toll on the other plastic necessary for a gaming hobby/addiction: Le Credit Card.

All this ‘coolness’ in the air can leave a things a bit chilly too. Less might not always be more, but it certainly can be meaningful. Miniatures used to be a rarity. They were quested for as one delved deep into niches within niches. The magic of what miniatures stood for is beginning to wane. What was once toted about in a dice bag as near sacrosanct, could be setting forth from the tavern on a slow quest to blase’.

What was once a totem is now becoming merely a token.

The Miniature Invasion is at the Gates of the Cardboard Kingdom.

Miniatures from Myth by Megacon Games

There seems to be quite a bit of plastic underfoot these days – should we be treading carefully? To tweak the vernacular of the ‘Cult of the Entertainment Center‘: Are we just setting ourselves up to be ‘pawn’d’?

Should we be wary that the ‘New Miniature’ is less founded in tactics and more grounded in cosmetics?

Beauty, after all, is in the Eye of the Beholder.

But on the other hand, those highly detailed resin Beholders do look so, so beautiful. 😉


[***End Transmission***]


Avatar Miniatures are definitely big now, but is this a game changer for the better or worse?

Is this ‘Dawn of the New Pawn’ creating a beneficial aesthetic accessibility to boardgaming? Or just pointless price point pushing?

What games are in need of ‘plastic’ surgery? What games are just a pretty face with little else to show for it?

Your Turn…

Comments (38)

Gamer Avatar
I play blue
Book Lover
Intermediate Reviewer
Smash Up: Ninja Faction Fan


I agree with you about King of Tokyo. The charm of that game is being as monster-ry as possibly, and minis would help that, I would think, rather than distracting from it. I was also surprised, then, when I discovered that the meeple elves at Meeple Source had little wooden germ meeples for Pandemic, but no monster minis for KoT. Really!? Ah, well.

Gamer Avatar
I play blue
Book Lover
Intermediate Reviewer
Smash Up: Ninja Faction Fan

I just scrolled through Meeple Source’s character meeples, and WOW! If I hadn’t spent all my stocking stuffer budget already, I would totally have picked up a bunch of these!!! Amazing. I’ll have to hold onto this site for next year.

Great piece, Hai, thanks for your work. Great history, and fun writing voice (as always).

Gamer Avatar
Movie Lover
Comic Book Fan

Excellent article! For most of the games I own that have miniatures, the experience is enhanced. For some, it’s just nice added fluff (Marvel Heroes) and for others, it’s necessary (Star Wars X-Wing). We often see a mix of tokens and miniatures (Battlestar Galactica, Middle-Earth Quest, the upcoming Imperial Assault, etc.). I’m OK with that and I will always prefer a solid game (and reasonable price of course) over “extra bling just for the sake of it”.

Gamer Avatar
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter


C’MoN! (def.) 1)Acronym for Cool Mini or Not 2)What other Kickstarters say when a Cool Mini Million campaign shows up in the middle of theirs – commonly prefaced with ‘AWWWWWW!’

@BGdot Thanks for the nice words 🙂 – but mostly the awesome discussion!

Gamer Avatar
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph Beta 1.0 Tester


” C’mon!!!”

I don’t know why it just occurred to me this is the real acronym for Cool Mini or Not. After all, it is now what I say every time I see a new Kickstarter for Zombicide.

Gamer Avatar
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
Plaid Hat Games fan
Platinum Supporter

I admit I’m on the side of ‘The (Game)Play’s the Thing!’ when it come to minis, but they do beat scraping a cardboard bit off a card or tile in order to move.


Dungeon crawlers are definitely enhanced with minis. There’s something ominous about a couple of cards getting slapped down in a turn of Descent and then the ‘plunk plunk plunk’ of a tile filling with plastic ‘heck’ hounds. Arcadia Quest, Mice & Mystics, and the like – the little totems feel like a natural part of the game.

(On a strange note – while I was dusting off this bit of nonsense from my personal slush pile for a retool, Shadows of Brimstone arrived. And yeah – I screamed. First from excitement and then as I looked at the racks and racks of…arms – I screamed ‘THIS WAS THE EIGHTIES???!?!!?!!’ Gluing on hats????? C’mon!!!)

But on the other hand – games such as Dead of Winter, Darkest Night, and The Captain is Dead which could have figurines but don’t – I’m glad for. I like the minimalistic flatness of it to remind me ‘Things aren’t pretty – this is game time’. My eye should be focused on my cards, my next move, how to get out of a dire situation. And honestly – no mini could do justice to the the grim bleakness of the DoW or the pop art deco zazz of The Captain.

I like my miniatures to have character and a good game where the miniatures feel a natural part of play infuses them with it. The Mice and Mystics cast have a play history. I’ll pick up good ol Sheriff Anderson from Last Night on Earth and remember the time he ran into a horde of six zombies and fired his pistol point blank into that gas can he was holding to save Nurse Becky and ‘Defend the Manor House‘. No matter how much I love my Tally-man and appreciate the miniatures, I’ll never fondly whisper in my trusty Ghoul’s ear ‘Hey – remember that time we ran around the Outer Realm for three hours snacking on people’s life force because we couldn’t find a Talisman?’

I also like how FFG handles their minis since they are one of the first instigators of ‘who got this plastic in my cardboard?’ Since they ‘realm’ their game lines – quite a bit of Descent went into Runebound and then found their way into Talisman and Dungeonquest. All the repurposing made me never really feel I ‘paid’ for cosmetics over necessity. I bought them once because I had to and then when they were cameoing as a bit of fancy they never seemed to up the price point. If I want to toss some 3rd dimension in my dimensional gate sealing of Arkham Horror, I can just pop open Mansions of Madness. If someone really wants to pretty up their game of AH before The King in Yellow rolls round, rips off a bit o the silk and sends you gibbering, you can choose to buy some nifty Investigator packs.

On the same note it is kind of why I like how The Greater than Guys ran the Sentinels Tactics. If you want ‘the game’s the thing’ here’s a nice big box of cardboard. If you want to pretty things up and see the Multiverse in all its glory – here’s some mini packs. We’re not saying you haaaaave to have it (but we know you do ;)). The game and the pretty were never joined at the hip. And it never skyrocketed into the price point stratosphere.

And I get that the pretty figures are the Krosmaster thing. I like how I can take that as far as I want. With the character cards available ‘loose’ – the game can be played with or without all the Smiling Plastic Chibi Crack. Of course, when Niece The Little says ‘You should get this guy. He’s funny’ – that’s hard to resist. 🙂

And I can understand how Meeple Source kind of took off because people thought it would be theme enhancing to have Cleric meeples rather than cubes in Lords of Waterdeep. But then I hear some Backmailer on Kickstarter say ‘I really want to pledge – but – I think your game should have cow meeples. There’s a cow in it right? So get on that and I’ll open the wallet’. *cringe*

And I can understand why – every six months when that two ton box arrives on our doorstep with The Boy’s latest Cool Mini Million plastic bath with a thud – I can also hear a faint and distant ‘Cha-ching’.

I may not paint my minis – but I like to coat them in memories and apply a wash of history. That’s why the game’s the thing. A good game will do that. A good game will turn a tiny plastic Pinocchio into a real boy…or space marine…or socialite facing unspeakable horrors with two more dollars in her pocket than everyone else… for two hours.

I inherited my father’s old white metal mini from his D&D days and he lives on a shelf in my home office. Looking at him I know he’s been around the block. He’s faced down some black puddings and a lich or two with only 30 feet of rope and a ten foot pole in his glory days.

Lily – my mousling archer – she’s got some chops and earned her cheese. Dave the Geek? Hmmm…well…I guess there was the time he made two molotovs while Rick got shot in the face due to broken ranged weapon mechanics….

Gamer Avatar
Thunderstone Fan

nice read. i enjoy miniatures, like mentioned, painting them is really relaxing, but i too have games that i haven’t played due to me wanting the initial play to be with them all done up properly.

the problem i have is with the kickstarter exclusives, and how i will not be able to enjoy the same game that someone else is (without paying big money on ebay) just because i didn’t know something was a thing. I assumed with the cmon logo and mentioning, that that was going to be your core question, but then no mention of them.

i know its an incentive to them to sell more out the door, but at this point, does cmon really need to use kickstarter to fund a new game??

Gamer Avatar
Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph Beta 1.0 Tester

Granny thinks Hai deserves accolades for such a well-written article. Oorah!

When you get to be my age, you realize technology moves much faster than you perceived as a youth. When I was still young and pretty, Captain Kirk flipped open a transmitter and talked to folks wirelessly…ohhhh myyyy! Today, we have cell phones with computers more powerful than a room full of 1970’s tape-turning processors. We still can’t teleport people, but scientists at the University of Geneva recently teleported data. Yeah, you read that right. We can teleport! Now, couple that technology with 3D printers… and the possibilities boggle the mind.

Which brings me to miniatures. Obviously, people love to dream the future, and play God. We want to invent, control, shape and mold our surroundings to propel our endeavors. Miniatures fulfill a primal need to manipulate our world. In essence, a miniature allows us to become avatars ourselves. We are gods and goddesses of the game before us. We control their fate.

I think current miniatures are only a precursor to the technology that is coming to gaming. I both resist and relish the crossover seen in games like Golem Arcana and XCOM. They allude to a future with roll-out game mats and holograms ala Star Wars. Or, maybe tiny robot minis… or even bio-minis with REAL AI! Scary?…or just plain awesome!

Who knows where gaming is going? I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Granny wishes all of you a very Happy Holidays! Game on!

Gamer Avatar
Mage Wars fan

I like it

Gamer Avatar

I, like many of the other people that have commented here, think that miniatures are really only necessary if it adds to the game. I’ve dumped cash and time into games like Warhammer and such, and I’ve LOVED every second of it, but the overall end cost may not be worth it. This is especially true in games like Race for the Galaxy where the game literally doesn’t need anything but the cards (though the expansion does have tokens). I really have to agree with @OB1 in that the miniatures should only be there to make the game better.

What really gets me going (in the good way) is what @Jeff W. is talking about with the Maker Culture and the ‘rise’ of the 3d printer. I am a part of this culture and I have access to a multitude of 3d printers. I have always wanted to make my own miniatures, but I’ve never gone through with it. Not because I can’t do it, but because the games that I’d make them for, don’t really NEED them. Take Arkham Horror for example. I could easily print a metric ton of miniatures for the Monster Cup, but would it enhance the game? Not really. It’s just as daunting to put the cardboard on the plastic stands that are provided as it would be to have a miniature. Nothing is added to the fear and “Oh S***” factor of the game by printing them out in plastic.

I think that the tsunami of miniatures in board games is happening simply just because it can. Especially due to more affordable 3d printing. Gone are the days where someone would actually have to model the miniature by hand and then cast the thing for injection molding. Now all you need is a 3d model and a printer that can handle the level of detail you need. Which is why kickstarter has so many new miniature games in production. If you can afford the printer, the spools to keep it running are cheap, so why not make a miniatures game?

The thing is, miniatures don’t make a game great. Miniatures are, or at least should always be, supplemental to the game experience. It’s great to play a game like Warhammer and see your enemy slam down a two pound tank made out of plastic that looks crazy intimidating and will most likely rip your face off, but games like D&D have shown that the power of the imagination alone can do an even better job, and is entirely free. Without a well written and executed game, the pieces associated with it mean next to nothing. If you wanted to, you could play Warhammer with slips of paper, and with the adequate applied imagination, have the same experience if not a better one.

With the addition of miniatures I see them primarily as a push for more money, which leaves open the possibility for the mechanics of the game suffering because of it. They act primarily as a pretty piece of glam for most games. People COULD produce miniatures for every game, but simply because they can, doesn’t mean they should.

Probably got a little off topic there, but, I’ll step down from the soapbox.

Gamer Avatar
I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness

Awesome read @Hai! Thank you!

As for miniatures, I’ll play the contrarian and take the “not” side. Although lightly – overall I like miniatures.

I enjoy painting. I find it relaxing. As a kid, I painted hundreds of small ceramic decorations (mostly holiday-themed – my mother still has them out on display during the appropriate seasons). I got really good at washes and drybrushing. And I loved mixing colors.

But while I still enjoy it, I have NO time for it. With one wee one running around and another alternating between sleep/feed/cry, I can muster about 2 hours a week for painting – if I want to do that instead of playing another game or just, you know, talking to people. And I very rarely will choose to do the isolationist thing when time is so scarce.

So I have around 10 miniature-heavy games purchased in the last year that are barely painted. Most of these games are difficult to play until they are painted, as the figures are all the same color and are hard to distinguish once on the table. They’ll probably take me another decade to paint completely – which is really unfortunate considering how expensive they are.

The only outright disaster is Dreadball. For some reason I backed their Kickstarter thinking “300 28mm miniatures? No problem – they’re in teams, so I’ll just knock them out in batches, and I can play as soon as 2 teams are finished”. 6 months later, I have painted zero. And that’s because I had to ASSEMBLE the 300 28mm miniatures – a task that took around 30 hours to do right. I am almost definitely just selling this thing off when the last rewards from the Kickstarter limp in… I just wish I had made that decision PRIOR to spending 30 hours clipping, filing and gluing.

So why wouldn’t I just play it unpainted? Well, I can’t tell the teams apart if they’re not painted. The same is true for Super Dungeon Explore (which I’ve at least managed to finish around 20 figures for) and Sentinel Tactics (only 3 complete). These games just gather dust until I can finish them.

There are a few solutions I love to this problem. First, as CMoN frequently does, I love it when publishers make the minis different colors. In my collection, Zombicide, Dogs of War and Space Hulk are easily playable unpainted because the “teams” are in different colors. I hope to be able to paint these one day (probably not Zombicide – way too much there), but until I find myself with an abundance of free time (retirement?), I can enjoy these great games.

Another terrific solution – the one utilized by Arcadia Quest – is the plastic discs that snap onto the bottom of miniatures. These discs are in your particular color, so the all-grey miniatures can at least be identified as “mine” and “not mine”.

But when a miniatures game offers neither of these solutions, I won’t buy them anymore. I have too expensive of a backlog waiting to be enjoyed to add to it.

And as the “miniatures depression” has set in for me, I’ve come to appreciate cardboard standees much more. They never bothered me in Arkham Horror (although I did buy the pre-painted monsters) or King of Tokyo, but I would ask myself “why didn’t they just do miniatures?” But just this past weekend, I was thrilled to open Orcs Orcs Orcs and see 100 or so beautifully-illustrated cardboard standees. My first thought was “I’m going to be able to play this game right away! And it doesn’t look any worse!”

I guess overall I need a balance. There are a few “all-grey” miniatures games I’ve been able to play unpainted – Talisman and Mice & Mystics come to mind – and enjoy them (mostly because I can tell the characters apart). But I don’t really want to buy games I know won’t hit the table for years. I just don’t have as much time as I thought I would for it.

Even the very best miniatures are not without their hassle. Krosmaster: Arena contains the best miniatures I’ve seen. They come assembled and painted, they’re huge and adorable. But a light breeze can break them. My son tried to turn the head of one the other day. Out comes the glue. He dropped one on accident from arm-height (about 2 1/2 feet off the ground). Same story. And I don’t let him play with them – he just saw me unboxing the new Krosmaster Junior and asked to hold one.

Gamer Avatar
Professional Reviewer
I play black
Silver Supporter

What a great article, well written, HaiKulture!

My involvement with minis goes all the way back to ,b>D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder. At one point I invested a ton into minis, but ultimately got rid of them because it was quite an expensive undertaking that frequently did not make it to the table. I’m happy to say that at this point miniatures are absolutely not necessary for me to enjoy a game.

At the same time I do appreciate good minis in small quantities – Dreadfleet maintains a spot on my shelf for no reasons than minis of the ships (that are actually proudly displayed on another shelf).

In most of the games I am absolutely content with well-illustrated cardboard standees – Eldritch Horror being a great example. I do not enjoy Middle Earth Quest for the minis and I certainly don’t think that Dead of Winter would suffer from use of cardboard.

Ultimately I understand and respect those who prefer to have the plastic in their games, especially as I am amazed at the quality of work that a dedicated painter can produce. But for me – I’d rather have a more accessible/affordable/compact game featuring good illustrations that do not have to be 3d.

Thanks again for a great read!

Gamer Avatar
Veteran Grader

Great article, Hai!

I confess I love miniatures in games. That being said, I would not buy a game for miniatures alone. As others have stated, miniatures don’t make the game, the rules do. Miniatures help to enhance the theme and immersion we have when playing a game, but they aren’t the core components.

I do find myself wishing a few of my games came with miniatures instead of cardboard disappointments. The chief example of this is Betrayal at House on the Hill. It has minis for the heroes and heroines, but not for the monsters, which I feel is a travesty. In such a game that is already dripping with them, miniatures would take this game to the next level of creepiness.

I also find minis fun to paint, though I am a novice when it comes to that skill and I find myself wishing I had more time to devote to that hobby.

Creating games that rely solely upon the glamour of the minis as a selling point without great mechanics and theme to back them is certainly a pitfall. That being said, I feel any decent game that could utilize minis for character tracking should do so, as it often enhances the game play, at least for the “visual” people like myself. I like to SEE and be able to move the good guys and the baddies. “Eye candy” indeed.

Gamer Avatar
Video Game Fan
Explorer - Level 3
Book Lover

I love the idea of miniatures. Having spent a good part of my youth painting and sculpting there is something about holding a character in my hand that really makes it come to life in a game for me. However, I also see these awesome games with these bright and colorful miniatures and avatars and all I can think is, “where will I find space in my tiny little european apartment to fit all of this?”

Games like Mice and Mystics are I think enhanced by this use but other games like Krosmaster Arena, despite totally loving those cute little plastic characters, I find myself feeling like its just a collection of plastic and not really seeing added value to the game from these space suckers. I haven’t really thought too much about the difference and why I feel so differently for these two games but I guess I will have to ponder this a bit over dinner now.

Gamer Avatar
El Dorado
Professional Advisor


I true that Dead of Winter doesn’t need miniatures but my first reflex was where are the minis?…actually for that game I prefer colorful cardboard character than grey plastic miniatures. The advantage of cardboard is you can see the ****** expression, thing that you can’t get with minis.

Another example is Eldritch Horror, I really like the cardboard character but for the monsters I would buy miniatures.

Gamer Avatar
Legend of the Five Rings Fan
Advanced Reviewer
Guardian Angel

Some of it is definitely a “bling” factor for the gamer. Tiny Epic Kingdoms side-linked to a MeepleSource campaign where you could get custom meeples for each of the races, and I admit I was briefly tempted — but the price point was an insane raise over the $24 I’d pledged for the Deluxe Game in the original campaign. For a game I’m already spending $70 on? Maybe I don’t mind so much. Run, Fight, or Die is mini-heavy, and I couldn’t see sticking with the large cardboard disc to represent the Mutant Boss — the big bad mini (over 3 inches tall) is impressive on the table, and more than one gamer has been known to cringe when he turns their way.

Another big part of it is almost certainly the rise of Maker Culture. Enterprising gaming enthusiasts with five to ten large to burn can set up shop as a custom-piece creator with a laser cutter or a better-than-dirt-cheap 3D printer. You can see it in some of the small-shop gaming Kickstarters: custom tokens, avatars, even fancy dice. The ability to create some of this stuff at home (for those with the dough) has increased people’s interest in it.

The key is, as Ob1 notes, that plastic filler cannot substitute for gameplay and content, and it certainly isn’t required in the realm of avatarism. Look at Dead of Winter, which has cardboard standees as avatars and still manages to be a thoroughly engaging and challenging game. Yet I have no doubt they could raise a ******* of money by doing a (completely unnecessary) custom miniatures line.

(Side note: zombies seem to lend themselves especially well to the Plastic Plague, just because who doesn’t want to physically represent the shambling or galloping horde of ravenous undead intent on devouring you and your’n?)

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Miniature Painter
Rosetta Stone
Advanced Reviewer Beta 1.0 Tester

That was well done. Thanks for writing the article Hai!

I love my miniatures. I have dumped money into both Reaper Bones Kickstarters, and Heroquest, Necromunda and Warhammer Quest are among my favorite games of all times, all stuffed with and played with minis. I use my Reaper minis to replace cardboard avatars and markers in games like Dungeon! and Chutes and Ladders. Krosmaster is quickly becoming a favorite of mine as well. I doubt I would own Zombicide without the gads of zombies. Game art often leaves me flat, but I appreciate the aesthetic of a good looking hunk of plastic or metal. The tactile feel of moving a mini around feels more immersive to me than just moving a cardboard token.

So, I may be a sucker for my minis. I would like to believe, however, that it takes more than a fistful of plastic critters to encourage me to purchase a game. I never had any real interest in the war games like Warhammer 40K, Lord of the Rings, Space Hulk and the like. I also don’t feel any need to purchase more minis just because the rules say I need them to play. For example, I am happy to use any old 28mm minis to represent my gang in Necromunda. If I am playing Warhammer Quest with the expanded rules and run into a whirling dervish, a skaven mini will serve just fine in its place. If I don’t have a mini for survivor I want to use in Zombicide, anyone will do.

If the entire point of miniatures in a game is to pimp more miniatures at me to purchase, I have a problem with that. If I am going to buy something miniature-related, I want to know exactly what I am getting. Any kind of “sealed” package scheme where I could be getting anything holds no value to me whatsoever. CCG is one thing, but keep my plastic out of it.

For me, the miniatures add to the atmosphere of many games, but not necessarily the specific sculpts. I like to have a three dimensional representation for the character I am using in these games (where appropriate) or what I am fighting, but I can imprint the personality of the character or baddie rabble onto pretty much anything as necessary.

I have plenty of games in my collections that have no minis whatsoever. I don’t need minis, but in the right game, they really add a sense of immersion for me.

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El Dorado
Professional Advisor

Good article, I think it is very appropriate to have this reflection with all the miniatures games poping around.

We should not forget that Chess, one of the oldest game, is also a miniature game and that some of them are just amazing.

I must confess, I love miniatures, I really do. It give me a better feeling of the game and theme. I really enjoy moving around “real character”. I don’t think I would have bought Zombicide or Descent if it was not because of the minis. To me, even meeples (animals,characters,resources) are better than cardboard tokens.

If I have to pay a litle more for a game because of the miniatures I will if it add something to the game. I even bought D&D meeples for Lords of Waterdeep because the colored cubes did not give me the feeling of controlling characters.

The miniatures should exist only to make a good game better, not just for the flashy.

However, it is obvious that with this trend for miniature, several bad game will appear (if it is not already happened) by capitalizing on the attractiveness of miniatures.

But without a good game miniatures are just a bunch of useless plastic. When miniatures are the main selling point of a game we should wonder about the depth of that game.

What may also happen is that games will be released with cardboard tokens and the miniatures will be released only as expansion set. That would be a doubled-edge knife. You could get a cheaper base game and only invest in miniatures if you want to. On the other hand, it will end up to be so more costly. This is not a trend that I would like the industry to take.

So yes for miniatures only if it add something to the game.

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