My hatred for board game miniatures
More and more board games seem to be coming out with large miniatures instead of small plastic game pieces. Miniatures have been seen a lot on Kickstarter since the massive successes of miniature games like Kingdom Death Monster and Blood Rage.
I will admit that I, like many others, love miniatures. I own about 100 Warhammer 40k space marines and nearly 100 of the Dark Swords GOT minis, so you might wonder why I would hate getting minis in a board game.
For me, the primary reason is because I don’t buy board games for the minis; I buy them for the gameplay and all around experience. Yet, I can’t get away from board game minis because they are becoming the in-thing. This might be ok if the minis were beautifully colored, pre-assembled and of the highest quality that stored well in the box, but board game manufacturers are unable to do this due to cost. When they are preassembled, they are typically single molds which tend to be bendy and cheap feeling. When they are unassembled, they are higher quality but require assembly which eats up a ton of your time. Worst of all, however, board game miniatures are very rarely painted. This all leaves me to wonder, why not just produce some really nice full color cardboard tokens for the units that would be cheaper, look nicer, and store better in a box?
In the below photo the blue figure with a bent spear and bent horses legs was how it came in my War of The Ring box, deformed by other minis pressed on it in a plastic bag. The mini barely stands upright any more without falling over.
If publishers really feel the need to include minis then they should include hard plastic minis which are already pre-assembled and painted (like the X-Wing tie, right-most in the photo) or use a simple unpainted small game piece which is easy to store, and is unique in shape to identify the unit like the tiny tie fighter (2 from the left).
If publishers are just looking for a thematic and artistic feel then do what Rebellion did with their characters and use really nice dense cardboard with full color printing for their characters (like Han Solo above) They can also print instructions, stats, icons and other information to reduce the amount of memorization and rule checking needed.
On a final note, let’s talk about how confusing unpainted minis make things. Below are 3 advanced units from War of The Ring from three different nations, can you easily tell the difference? Now imagine dozens of these laid out on a board where some factions are able to move, some aren’t. Some can attack, some can’t.
I have heard the argument “you just have to paint them and they will look great!” This always makes no sense to me, it is like sending someone card stock and saying “Those are my games cards, you just have to print them”. Full blown wargames like warhammer 40k can perhaps get away with the “you do it” logic since 50%+ of the reason people play that game is building, painting, and showing off minis. Typical board game players do not want to paint their minis and independent commissions tend to cost far more since they aren’t part of the mass production of the game.
In the end, I really feel that miniature heavy games are unattractive and unnecessary. I look at them and think “oh boy, I get to pay a premium for an unfinished looking game which is hard to store and box” Whenever I see an unpainted and/or unassembled/unfinished miniatures game I always force myself to ask “Do I really want this that badly?”