I use minis in my weekly D&D game. I love using them, they add a lot to the game for me and my group. I realise there are pros and cons, as with most things, yet for me the pros easily outweigh the cons. Here’s why I believe that.
Let’s go back to the beginning. The very first RPG I ever played was AD&D in 1979 and to be honest, I don’t think there were any minis on the table for that game. I do remeember that on the next table over (Tunnels & Trolls) there was a motley collection of lead models but they weren’t touched all afternoon. that’s because they were only there to represent ‘marching order’ (just one of many new terms I was to learn that day).
Over the next couple of years I only tentatively picked up the minis bug, as and when I could afford them with my pocket money. They have never been particularly cheap, and as I’ve almost always been the GM I’ve been conscious that I would need loads of them to have a fully rounded collection. Still, I bought the minis I liked the look of, and I tried to do my best with painting them. I think my first model was a classic werewolf and I made sure it was covered in blood like all novice painters do. I also had a rust monster and lovingly rebased it so it was sitting on a dais (again, a new word!) made of polystyrene. I once blew a big chunk of cash on a set called the ‘Up the Wall Crew’. From shaking the pack around I could see it had dwarves in it, and my assumption was that it would be a diorama with climbing kit and ladders and so on. Nope, it was three dwarves taking a piss into some urinals. One was called Armitage Shanks. I was pretty serious about my new hobby back then so this was actually a disappointment. Nowadays I wish I still had them, they’d take pride of place in my collection. Hell, I’m tempted to stat them up and make an encounter out of them.
I think being a Brit helped. We had (and still have) Citadel Miniatures blazing new trails and supporting the new games as they came into the country via Games Workshop. I had the boxed sets of heroes and villains for Golden Heroes. Not every model I had was from Nottingham’s finest, I also snagged a box of official Grenadier AD&D models. There was 8-10 I think and they formed an adventuring party. One of them was a cloaked dwarf in a beret that must have represented half a dozen of my characters back then.
As I slipped away from D&D, so I slipped away from minis generally. Other games just didn’t seem to need them so much, and I wasn’t able to invest in new collections when I was desperately buying up every game system I could. I’ve never used minis in Call Of Cthulhu, nor can I imagine ever doing so. Same for Shadowrun, so it’s nothing to do with the frequency of combat. It just seems to suit D&D more than any other game.
Fast forward to the late nineties and somehow I’ve ended up working for Games Workshop. My lapsed taste for ‘figures’ turned into a career. My collection blossomed into thousands of models nearly overnight, and my painting and building skills came up to pro standard. I spent 10 years at the sharp end with GW, and spent many hours with minis, both in and out of work time. I went to Salute and other wargames shows, and so ended up broadening my tastes beyond the Warhammer universes. Westerns, WW II, Iron Kingdoms stuff, modern, Victorian, all sorts. Terrain too, in fact that turned out to be a bit of a specialty for me. Luckily, I was a fast painter, but even so I still have more raw minis than I’ll ever be able to paint.
I returned to D&D with 3rd edition (not that I ever really left it, but that’s another post). As such I started to look at the mini options, didn’t even think twice, it just seemed a natural part of the game like percentile dice in BRP or cards in Deadlands. WotC had started to do prepainted minis and Heroclix became massive. I became a father, meaning tiny metal things, tools and expensive paints were not an option anymore. I had less time, but more money, you do the maths. I became a fan of minis for roleplaying all over again, and this time, I wanted them to do more than tell me who was in the front line.
To be continued…