Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Do board games need miniatures?

On February 10th, I will probably back Forest of Radgost on Kickstarter. I like cooperative story-telling games, and this one appears to be a bit lighter than the rather complicated games I recently bought. Now I do own Kickstarter games that work perfectly fine with standees as monsters, for example Gloomhaven. And I have other Kickstarter games which are either fully or in part miniatures instead of standees. But Forest of Radgost is the first time where I really need to choose between the two options. The game with standees costs $64, and the game with miniatures costs $99. Is it worth $35 to have miniatures instead of standees?

Right now I am trending towards no, I don't need the miniatures. Part of that answer is due to my utter lack of talent with a paint brush: In spite of years of playing with miniatures, and even 3D printing miniatures, I never even managed the basics of painting miniatures. I have a set of dungeon tiles on which the water is painted blue, and that stretched to the limits of my painting abilities. Which means that if I buy a game with unpainted miniatures, they will remain unpainted and grey. So standees, while being one dimension poorer, are richer in color.

Having said that, for tabletop D&D I prefer 3D printed monsters, mono-color, over tokens or standees. And the injection molded miniatures that come with board games are of bette quality than the D&D monsters I can print myself with a FDM printer. So I do see the other side of the argument as well. What do you think? Would you pay extra for miniatures, or don't they matter that much for a board game?


For me, miniatures are will not drive me away from a game as I have seen some folks say discuss online. Although I certainly would prefer them to be painted, I'm not completely turned off by using unpainted miniatures. Especially if they are really well done sculpts, and if they've been manufactured using a variety of colors, including transparent plastics for cool things like elementals or ghosts.

However, if I have the option to purchase a game with either miniatures or standees, I think I'll nearly always pick standees. Since my painting skills sound quite similar to yours, I love the way that good standees can have such fantastic and expressive art on them while being both less expensive and much easier to deal with when it comes to storage. Just so long as the standees aren't manufactured too cheaply, as overly thin or flexible materials can lead to damaged or even unusable standees.

One option that seems to be not explored as much is the middle ground of meeples. Yes, less expressive and artistic compared to standees, but a well designed meeple can still be very cool looking. And there is just something about the way little wooden meeples and tokens feel when playing that I find quite enjoyable. The Frostpunk boardgame kickstarter will, I hope, be a solid example of this. While the miniatures for that game look fantastic (at least what we can see of them at this early stage) they also look like they would actually impeded the gameplay, and the meeple designs look more than good enough for my tastes.
Nowadays, I prefer the color standees. I used to paint miniatures in detail, but as I've gotten older I no longer can, so I hate looking at the unpainted miniatures as they taunt me. ;)
Cardboard stand-ups and chits used to be pretty normal in the games I played. Battletech, Car Wars, and the early editions of Talisman were all really popular (as hardcore nerd board games went) and didn't come with any miniatures. I am not sure when they became as ubiquitous as they are today. Regardless, as long as whatever I am using is functional I don't care one way or another.

But in the genres of board games I enjoy miniatures have really come to dominate. Talisman is a good example, it switched over to using miniatures in the 3rd edition and has used them ever since. Even though from a playability perspective keeping track of where your character is using a cardboard stand up or even a rock with a number painted on it is just as functional.

I think it's related to boardgames becoming more of a mainstream hobby, but in what direction I couldn't say.
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