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Miniatures in Kickstarter Board Games – Do We Need Them?

Everybody loves minis. Is that true? When you look at Kickstarter’s statistics you’ll notice that the most successful projects are almost exclusively games with dozens if not hundreds of miniatures. Nearly all monthly top sellers are drowning in minis. 

Kingdom Death: Monster. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

On the other hand: starting a discussion on forums or FB board game groups shows a completely different outlook. Most threads about the topic turn into heated discussions and tons of people claim they’ve had enough of miniature-heavy games. Others argue that minis enhance their experiences and wouldn’t be so eager to back a game that lacks them.

Genesis of Minis

Miniatures that we know from modern board games (especially the Kickstarter ones) have their roots in wargames. 3D minis have usually served decorative purposes. Their functions could have easily been replaced with tokens showing their size or the direction that they are facing. Still, adding them to games made them look like realistic, tiny battlefields which was additionally valuable for collectors. Titles like the immortal Warhammer 40K, X-Wing or Infinity are a perfect proof of that.

The Edge: Dawnfall. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Let’s take one of the KS pioneers of miniature heavy board games. According to many interviews with CMON, their idea to incorporate minis into board games came from researching their audience. People who grew up playing wargames and had no time to play them anymore, could still enjoy a board game with similar minis and be done with a single session in 2 hours. The idea caught on and brought other players like Awaken Realms, Mythic or Monolith to the Kickstarter market.

Drowning in Plastic

The tabletop gaming market underwent some colossal changes in the past few years. CMON’s and Kingdom Death’s popularity has motivated other creators to fill their games with miniatures. Many titles of this sort started popping up and met with insane successes. 

After a bunch of years we’re in a situation when it’s difficult to really make it big on Kickstarter without miniatures. The situation has reached a point when games come out not playtested enough, but still boast dozens of minis on their campaign, luring backers to leave their money on the project with their great looks. It worked for a long time, and still does but the competition is now huge and backers are slowly starting to get tired. Getting a $100-250 game each month might hurt your wallet, especially when you back multiple campaigns and get the add-ons. People are also starting to get bored. Minis look cool but after you have a whole wardrobe of them, new ones are no longer so exciting. 

Everrain. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Also: some Kickstarter funded board games have minis that serve little to no point. Well designed standees can also look amazing (check out King of Tokyo or monsters in Gloomhaven) and they cost a fraction of the mini price, not counting the amount of box/shelf space saved. Same with well designed meeples.

And finally: the quality of miniatures in board games is often subpar to what we’re used to in wargames. They’re easier to break and not as detailed.

Why Minis are Awesome

Etherfields. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

Still, minis are an awesome thing for many board game players. We too have a soft spot for sculpted heroes, monsters and tentacled spawns of Cthulhu. Let’s be honest. Many people wouldn’t never get into a certain board game (or board games in general) if not for the visual flair that minis offer. Touching a figurine stimulates your imagination. Feeling and seeing it’s surface and all the details makes the experience deeper and much easier to immerse in.

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Heavier and bigger characters feel important, often more that a standee would. That’s why we like the minis from 7th continent, even though they’re incredibly tiny. That said, having 50-100 of these in one box might be too much for a non-wargame.

Finally: minis bring the possibility to use your game for something other than playing. Since the dawn of wargames people have been painting their minis and the hobby is still as popular as always. That works especially well with high quality miniatures from Awaken Realms or Mythic Games. 

2020 and Onwards

Mythic Battles: Pantheon. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

It’s hard to say which approach makes more sense, but we’re already seeing changes in the miniature board game landscape on Kickstarter. 

1. For starters: backers pledge less and less to multi miniature projects. Apart from Bloodborne’s and Etherfields’ successes last year, many publishers are struggling to top or even reach their pre 2019 campaign high scores. There are also tons of smaller companies trying their luck in the mini heavy game business, with varied success and insane competition.

2. Themes actually play a big role nowadays. Fantasy D&D-like minis sell the best. Same with Cthulhu and other dark, horror stuff. Miniatures of non-living objects like spaceships or machines seem to affect the popularity of their KS campaigns the least.

3. People are also running out of shelf space and are more likely think twice before backing a project. 

4. Creativity still wins though. Huge Cthulhu with platforms for smaller minis from Death May Die and flashlight equipped minis from AVGhost and made tons of backers interested in their campaigns.

Cthulhu: Death May Die. Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners.

With such polarizing opinions the solution used in Mezo’s and Great Wall’s campaigns feels best. In both cases backers were able to choose between minis and standees/meeples. It’s not possible with every single game, but many publishers would benefit from this solution.

Your Opinion on Miniatures

And what do YOU think about the subject matter? Are games with tons of minis fine or are you fed up with them? Share your answer in the survey below! We’ll publish the results for everyone after a week.

SURVEY: MINIATURES IN BOARD GAMES

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