A couple of recent posts at Chgowiz Old Guy's RPG Blog have got me really thinking about using minis in my game. I haven't yet used minis in our sessions and in fact, I rarely used minis back in the day once I figured out how to play the game correctly. In a practical sense, they always seemed to get in the way of playing, I felt that they became a focal point and distracted one away from the imagination of the game. But, on the other hand, they do look good on the table! But is this a rabbit hole that I really want to go down?
Miniatures in the RPGs that we played disappeared quickly. Some of the players who moved on to wargames continued with miniatures but only in their wargames games, be it fantasy or historical and not the RPGs. It sort of came down to really not needing them to play. Dealing with minis always put a pause in the game action while they needed to be manipulated and placed. This was all before battle mats so even using miniatures, the game was still abstract enough, but a distraction nonetheless. In many instances the original rules mentioned that miniatures were just an optional game aid but for some reason, they have always stuck around.
From Men & Magic (pages 3 & 5)In our current game sessions, we've had some pretty small combats that we were able to just talk through without much of a problem. Our final combat in session 5 was a bit different. It took place in a very large cavern, and PCs and NPCs were scattered all over the place. Once combat began, I think it was a bit hard keeping everything in everybody's heads; what characters were heading in what direction, how far everyone was from what target, speed and distance, etc. I had sketched a map of where everyone was at first, but it was still pretty abstract. Don't get me wrong, the battle moved along nicely and there wasn't much complaint or anything. I think that this would have been an instance where miniatures would have enhanced that portion of the game.
It is relatively simple to set up a fantasy campaign, and better still, it will cost almost nothing. In fact you will not even need miniature figures, although their occasional employment is recommended for real spectacle when battles are fought.
The use of paper, pencil and map boards are standard. Miniature figures can be added if the players have them available and so desire, but miniatures are not required, only esthetically pleasing; similarly, unit counters can be employed ― with or without figures ― although by themselves the bits of cardboard lack the eye-appeal of the varied and brightly painted miniature figures.
Now if I go that route, I don't want the game to devolve into battle-mats and constant manipulation of the figures. I guess I'm seeing it as just a gaming aid to be used only when needed. But if that's the case, is it worth the effort? The money? The time to paint them? I mean, I do love minis. I love the way they look when they are painted. I love them standing there on the table ready for action but how will this affect the gameplay which I feel has been going pretty well?
I'm still going to mull this over in my head. I've already picked out a handful to purchase and paint but I haven't yet made up my mind. Though I might add that my wife is a bit wary of me going down that path even though she would enjoy painting them as well. Who knows, it may even get her into a game or two?