Why I Don’t Use Minis

Posted on March 20th, by firstoni in Blog. 3 comments

It takes certain kind of gamer to play with minis. Nothing wrong with minis, though. They are awesome for adding a more strategic element to the game for positioning and movement. Many games like D&D and Savage Worlds thrive under this kind of gameplay, making combat a really great experience. There is one problem with minis in general, however… they turn a roleplaying game into a board game.

Let me reiterate that there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s your kind of game, but picture this:

You wander are travel along a trail, scouring for traps but not finding any. The group argues about the motivations of the big bad guy they are looking for and what he may want with the item they are carrying/person he has captive/etc. You lay down camp for the night, each of you settling your differences and even sharing stories about your lives. You wake in the morning to find you’re not that far from the gates, but then you are attacked.

What happens now is you grab a mini from the box of mini holding and place it on the most strategic spot possible. Then you check to make sure how many squares your enemy is away from you. You work with your group to make sure that they are within a number of squares of area effects. Then you move your piece, roll some dice and the turn passes to the next person.

While there’s not that much different between this game and other RPGs where combat plays a larger role, there is one thing that differs when using minis… the game is no longer in your head. The idea of your character, all their wants and dreams, all their motivations, are replaced with a little plastic (or metal if you’re made of money) figure. All the jumping and flipping and twirling of weapons, blood flying and visual elements leave your imagination and transfer to moving pieces on a board. It’s kind of like how cool Battle Chess was to me as a kid. Sure, we understand your knight took my rook, but then I saw it happen it’s different than just pieces on a board.

What do you guys think?

3 responses to “Why I Don’t Use Minis”

  1. TheEduhater says:

    I can only use minis in certain groups. It help everyone visualize the same thing, but it has to be a group that can turn off the tactical side or who isn’t married to the idea of five foot steps and attacks of opportunity.

  2. I can certainly see what you’re saying about minis, Eloy. But some could say the same thing about dice: Your character’s actions, her success or failure, life or death hinge on dice rolls. The game isn’t entirely in your head anymore, the narrative is in great part dictated by what shows up on the dice — you can describe your attempt however you like,.but your success or failure is ultimately determined by a polyhedral piece of plastic. Hell, if you want to get pedantic enough, what place does a piece of paper with numbers on it have in an imaginary narrative?

    I don’t necessarily agree with this perspective (though I think it’s important to not let too much lie on dice rolls), but minis needn’t limit imagination any more than dice do. While I don’t often use minis, as I’m usually not really big on the tactical side of things, there are times and uses for them. Primarily, they’re useful for representing character positions, where the PCs are relative to one another, NPCs (bandits/monsters/etc.) and terrain. A scene involving multiple PCs and opponents that takes minutes of careful explanation can be boiled down to glance at the table, with the minis aiding the GM’s narration and saving time. Just like having a die roll can resolve a situation where success or failure is in dispute, a mini can resolve situations where positioning should be defined. Using minis can be as abstract or detailed as you like — some people like hexes and squares and inches, especially for Savage Worlds and the like, but for a lot of games I don’t see that as necessary.

    As anything, minis are tools. They don’t limit imagination. In fact, they can have the opposite effect. You search for and find that one mini that looks like your character, and then you spend hours lovingly painting it so the colors and details are just right. That little bit of pewter or cardboard standup or whatever is no less descriptive than a blurb on a character sheet. You may not need minis very often, and I rarely need them myself, but forsaking their use removes a potential tool.from your GM box.

  3. Jacob Wood says:

    I like minis. Maybe it goes back to my days as an action figure collector, but I just like to haev hordes and hordes of them laying around. Even though I have trouble seeing them, and don’t really get any personal use out of them on the battlefield (I still have to have people describe where things are at to me) I like the extra tactile approach they offer.

    They’re not for every game though. I think they have their place in D&D, which is designed with them in mind. They work in Savage Worlds, too. But not every game needs them, and I find they’re especially out-of-place in modern games where things like cars and other vehicles make the narrow scope of a battlefield feel cramped.

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