Collecting RPG miniatures brings out the child in us all. When I was a kid, there was this toy store in the nearest mall and it had a counter with a huge number of miniature toy soldiers for wargaming. They tended to depict Napoleonic armies and Roman legionnaires. Perhaps because they were always too expensive and delicate for a little kid to buy, these toy soldiers instilled a lifelong fascination for miniatures in me.
That may be one reason I love RPG miniatures so much. Let’s face it: a dungeon crawl is hardly worth running if you don’t have miniatures and a map. Otherwise, you’re stuck drawing crude maps and asking players “left or right” all night. So if you’re a Dungeons & Dragons player, or you play a game like Pathfinder that is based on D&D, you’ll want to collect miniatures. If you’re a collector of miniatures, you’ll want to find the best miniatures and the rarest models to add to your collection.
You can buy Dungeon and Dragons miniatures in lots or in single character packages. Most people new to the hobby will buy a few lots with a mass of characters, to have enough monsters and minions to fight off the player characters. Once you have a small army of these, you’ll get more selective and start to buy singular character types and famous D&D characters to complete your collection.
To Paint or Not To Paint
One decision you’ll have to make up-front is whether you want to buy unpainted miniatures and paint them yourself, or whether you want to buy hand-painted miniatures that have a professional paint job on them. Most collectors are going to choose the second option, which greatly increases the price of the product. Still, if you’re building a large collection, most of these are going to go for a few dollars apiece. Another option for the less serious collector is the painted plastic miniatures, which are often used by gaming groups for regular sessions.
When shopping on a site like eBay, you’ll find specific lots for monsters or wizards, for example, then individual characters placed for sale. This lets you cherry pick the miniatures you need to complete your set, or you simply can’t live without. Whether it’s painted horse-and-riders, black orcs, armored vampires, or uncommon mini dragons, you’ll be able to search and find exactly the miniature you need.
The famous gods and heroes are the expensive ones. A miniature of Tiamat, the five-headed dragon goddess, might cost you $90 or $100. The Dragolich, the Winter Umber Hulk, or Orcus Prince of Undeath might cost you as much or even more. Lots like the Underdark, Savage Encounters, Deathknell, or Dangerous Delves could cost in the hundreds. My favorite, the Lords of Madness Complete Set, cost nearly $400. They’re just so cool, though. These are great-looking miniatures that look great on the mantle, though, so I’ve found it somewhat irresistible to keep from adding to my collection over the years (with my trusty “yearly budget” for miniatures.
Miniature Terrain Scenery
To complete the look, you can find special terrain scenery in which to house your miniatures. These tend to be three-figures even unpainted, but they recreate the scenes you and your gaming group have visited time and time again. The Tower of the Gods, the Fantasy House, and the Great Pyramid are some of my favorites.
Many of the wargames have roleplaying tie-ins, so these need to be included in the rest of our miniature discussion. Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, Iron Kingdoms, and Cadwallon are just some of the war-games you’ll find among or next to the roleplaying section of comic stores and game stores, and most of these games have a companion RPG that lets you carry over the action into a tabletop gaming session.
Warhammer and Warhammer 40000 Miniatures
Warhammer is a war game which pits elven armies, dwarven armies, the Vampire Lords, chaos legions, imperial legions, and even classic knights against one another in a struggle of tactics and buying power.
Warhammer 40,000 is the future version of the game, where elves, dwarves, and orcs fight for control of outer space. Both games have devoted followings and their miniatures are among the best looking in all of gaming. Entire books have been written about the strategies employed in Warhammer.
There is a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game and a Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay game that also lets you employ miniatures. I’ve always enjoyed Warhammer games, which have been both unique and influential in roleplaying history. The damage charts in Warhammer are awesome, and their magic system is still one of my favorite. You get the sense that your life is on the precipice when playing Warhammer roleplaying games.
Warhammer single miniatures, combos, sets, and terrain can be expensive, but they evoke vivid battle scenes when you’re playing, and they look great as collectors items. A vampire aristocrat, a dark elf, a beastman chariot, or a gryphon, but these creatures will rule your battlefield or, at the very least, draw attention to your collection.
The Cadwallon miniatures have their own aesthetic that is at once both exotic, strange, and alluring. Cadwallon is a setting produced by a French publisher, and the miniatures can be used with the famous war game, the less famous roleplaying game (retail: $75), and even a $40 board game–Cadwallon: City of Thieves.
I have a copy of the Cadwallon roleplaying game and, let me warn Americans, you’ll find the writing odd. From what I can tell, Cadwallon was translated from French, but instead of using the double-translation technique that assures a smoother translation, they used a single translator process, so much of the text reads in a crazy fashion. Of course, what drew me to the book was the artwork, which depicts a truly foreign city of corruption and decay. If you want to see how American and European miniatures differ, take a look at the Cadwallon miniatures. Like the Warhammer miniatures, these can get a little pricey, but they’re evocative and just looking at these characters have spurred me to write different characters for my gaming sessions.
Sets of Cadwallon miniatures are going to have odd names like “Confrontation Rackham La Milice de Cadwallon Militia”, “Confrontation Cadwallon: Vladar the Arrogant”, “Sienna, Arcanic Thief”, “Pixie Tricksters”, and “Confrontation Cadwallon: Souffre-Toile” (retail: $200), so you might have to put in a specific search for these characters to find them online. If you have the patience, you’ll end up with exotic miniatures that will be the envy of your collector friends.