I’m seeing it more and more that tabletop games – as differentiated from wargames, tabletop miniatures games, tactical games and so forth – are including miniatures in their components.
By this, I’m not referring to games like, say, Risk or Axis & Allies or the original board game version of RuneWars and their ilk, which include little miniatures on a 6mm or 10mm scale that are used to mark where units are on the board, etc.
I’m referring to tabletop games that include miniatures 25mm and larger which are suitable for – and actually meant for – hobby purposes. In other words, they’re miniatures that you can prime and paint and also use in the game they came from.
I’ve seen commentators kind of miffed by this development – in the context of Kickstarters especially, the miniatures are often included, they argue, as a sort of “premium” to make people back a project, that don’t add anything to the actual game.
And, a lot of times, it’s hard to argue with that attitude. I’ve seen plenty of board games – whether on Kickstarter or not – that have miniatures included for various purposes (to mark a terrain feature, represent a player character, etc.) that are really extraneous and could easily have been replaced by a much cheaper cardboard token or a meeple (Imagine, if you will, a game like Small World using a ton of plastic minis instead of their cardboard tiles. It’d be pandemonium! …But also really fun…). Though, admittedly, I really dislike meeples, but that’s a story for another time.
However, whether they’re “warranted” for a particular game or not, whether they’re a gimmick or not, minis definitely add a wonderful visual element to any game, even a board game.
The big question is – do you end up painting them? Is it even necessary? And do you count board game miniatures in the tally of your Pile of Hobby Shame?
It’s a question I’ve struggled with off and on. The miniatures for some games truly lend themselves to painting, because the sculpts or the characters themselves just cry out for more attention than they’d get as a simple piece of colored plastic.
I’ve got plenty of board games that include hobby-grade minis – Zombicide, Conan, Fire Team Zero (one of my favorites), Rising Sun, to name but a sampling – but I’ve sadly only gotten around to painting some of them.
For many of these games, where there can literally be hundreds of minis to paint, it can be daunting. A project like that could consume an entire hobby year. Now, I’ve seen some folks go minimalist with projects like this – primer, base coat and then either a wash, drybrush or both, and then back in the box. That’s a great way to do it, especially for the legions of enemy creature/minion miniatures that are often included in these boxed games, but when a game includes a lot of characters or has particularly nice sculpts (like Fire Team Zero or Zombicide) that’s not going to cut it.
In the end, it really boils down to how much you like the game, how often you get it down off the shelf, and how much you like the minis. Painting the minis from a tabletop game isn’t much different than painting up the minis for a wargame.
It’s really just a roll of the dice.
About the author;
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube