It’s August and that can only mean one thing. Cake… wait no that’s not right. The latest edition of the Observer’s Log. This month we are talking about all things miniatures. We will help find the line between board games with miniatures and miniatures games.
The first question we must ask ourselves is what is a miniatures game? There are a wide variety of board games out on the market that have highly detailed miniature game pieces. There are roleplaying games where each player has a miniature and all the enemies are represented by miniatures. These aren’t miniature games. Those are games that are being enhanced by the presence of miniatures.
A miniature game cannot function without the presence of the miniatures. Think back to games of army men as a child. You could play without any rules. You could play without books or paint. If you didn’t have army men however, you had no game, or at least not a game of army men. Now take that childhood game of army men and take it to the next level.
First there is choosing the game for you. Do you like fantasy, historical or sci-fi? Do you prefer full scale army combats or small skirmish style? There are many miniature games out there and while miniature games may not be for everyone, if you give them a chance you might just find the one for you.
Funny story when I first met my husband I told him, I would play any games… except miniature games. I had seen a few too many situations of fisticuffs breaking out over the dispute of an eighth of an inch or less. On one occasion this included a man physically attempting to jump the table to tackle his opponent. I figured I would leave this style of intense gaming to the more hard core players. After a few years of dating my husband approached me with a handful of Warhammer figures and held them up, a mischievous grin spreading across his face and said. “You can paint them.” Now I have more armies than he does.
Most miniature games involve a hobby aspect. By that I mean that picking the game is only part of the process. After picking the game you need to pick the army of your choosing. Then comes assembly and painting. The ins and outs of the hobby aspect are probably best suited to their own article. The debate of priming vs. not, hand paint vs. airbrush could rage for days. There are too many topics to be discussed and we would never discuss the games themselves. So for the sake of getting back to the topic of miniature games let’s assume your army is built. Even unpainted your forces can take the field and win the day… they just might look a little meh while doing so.
For full scale army combat simulation there is one big dog, Games Workshop and their Warhammer lines. The lore they have created for the worlds is breath taking. The sculpts they put out are nothing short of amazing. They have games for the Sci-fi buff with their futuristic 40K line and an immersive fantasy world with their Warhammer line. They even have a full line for those who wish to battle the force of Mordor against the armies of men and elves in their Hobbit line. The primary downside to GW is the cost associated with the games, which can be rather high, once you tally up the rule books, miniatures, dice, and assorted other trappings that are needed to play.
There are a few other options out there for full scale battles such as Flames of War, War Machine & Hordes. The costs of which are marginally lower. Each has its charms, the almost Pacific Rim Jaeger style of Warmachine or the historical nature of Flames of War. New systems pop up every few years as well, though so far none have had the staying power of the goliath that is Games Workshop. For the high price and time dedication that these games involve I would highly recommend checking out a few games at a FLGS or a friends before jumping into this very deep end of the pool.
For the more skirmish minded player. There are options like Mordhiem, which while once supported by GW has now fallen into the realm of obscurity. If you can get your hands on this rule set I highly recommend holding on and never letting go. If you can’t, fear not there are others out there. Malifaux is a new game with fantastic sculpt and wonderful world flavor. Infinity is a sci-fi pulp skirmish game complete with laser pistols and skintight jump suits. Even GW’s Hobbit line is more suited to skirmish scale than full-fledged war reenactments. Battletech still reigns as leader of the battle robot skirmishers. Like the games mentioned in the previous paragraph these all involve a heavy hobby aspect.
There are also a few miniature games out there for those wishing to take their fantasy football to the next level. I highly recommend trying to get your hands on a copy of Blood Bowl or the newly released Dreadball. These games make football look soft and cuddly. Nothing like an orc running out onto the pitch with a spiked steam roller aimed right for the opposing team.
If, however, model building and painting is not your cup of tea, there are some pre-painted miniature games out there. Heroclix comes to mind in one of its many incarnations. From superheroes to elder gods to Hollywood movie monsters, there is a little something for everyone. For the Trekkies there is Star Trek Attack Wing, or for the Wookie wannabes Star Wars X-Wing. Monsterpocalypse for all the kaiju lovers who want to smash buildings and crush cars under their feet.
There are a handful of games that have over time disappeared from the landscape that are world checking out if you can find them. Chainmail from Wizards of the Coast was a great metal miniatures game based off the Dungeons & Dragons world. Star Wars Minis and D&D Minis were both well received by consumers but lacking enough hutzpah to carry on in the market. They featured pre-painted soft plastic miniatures, beautiful full color maps, and rules that were easy to grasp for even younger players.
There are so many out there it is impossible to talk about them all. I do hope that this is enough to convince you to dip your toes into the world of miniatures games. Whether to play out epic scale battles of yesteryear or to fight hordes of alien adversaries over a distant world there is a game out there waiting for you. Grab your dice and join us at the game table.
Remember life’s a game, have fun with it.
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