Something I’m always fascinated by is when the “pre-orders” are posted online for upcoming gaming products.
The word travels fast.
SO fast, indeed, that I really don’t need to subscribe to any of the emails or tweets or anything to find out what new stuff will shortly be up for order. By the time I’ve found out about it, it’s already been posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various blogs, it’s been dissected and commented on, run through the meat-grinder that is modern gaming culture, and finally left for end-used consumption.
However, 99 times out of a hundred, these new-product feeding frenzies only involve larger companies and their particular offerings.
But there are hundreds of smaller – what I tend to describe as “mom and pop” – miniatures and wargaming companies out there that don’t have alerts, don’t have preorders, but absolutely DO have products worthy of your time and attention.
Oh, you don’t know about them? Not surprising. Again, these are small enterprises, often without an advertising budget to speak of, selling their wares via a webstore. But they offer something that is incredibly vital to our wargaming community, and that is variety.
Now, I’m still a big fan of products from Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Fantasy Flight Games, Warlord Games, Cool Mini or Not, and other juggernauts of the industry – and rightly so. They, almost without fail, continue to come up with stellar products that are worthy of your gaming dollar. And they have the coin to make people aware of these products and get them excited about them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But these smaller companies, so frequently out of the eye of the mainstream wargaming public, also without fail are producing miniatures, rules, terrain and other related products that will knock you out. I find that more and more of my gaming budget is going towards these companies, and less to the big boys.
Why is this?
Because, for whatever reason, these companies tap into different areas of the wargaming aesthetic.
Maybe they see a void in the market, and decide to make a product to fill it. Maybe they realize they can make a similar mini to what’s already out there, but make one that’s cooler. Or maybe they decide to produce something that, for them, is a labor of love, and it ends up being something that resonates with others.
And I’ll be honest – these companies are often run by just a few people. When you place an order, it’s likely that the same person who packs it up and ships it is the self-same person who actually made the mini you’re buying. There’s a certain sense of pride that seems to be taken when they ship off to you something that they made themselves.
Some of the companies in this market produce “counts as” models – in other words, models that could be used in popular wargames as one that “counts as” another model. This is really pretty common, and there are a number of miniature lines from small companies that seem to be based on this idea. Again, they see a demand, and they’re filling that void.
I often utilize smaller companies when I’m looking for a particular type of model, and what I’m trying to find just isn’t carried by the big boys, for whatever reason. No mainstream miniatures company produces a 28mm-scale Ark of the Covenant. But a small company in Australia does. Frequently, with the smaller companies, I’ll find a number of options for what I’m looking for that fit the bill exactly.
So it’s worthwhile sometimes to take a vacation from the big companies and try out something new. Check out a smaller company. They’re out there. You’ll likely be happy you did.
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
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