Using Miniatures in Games

Joseph Erwin - Freelance Dungeon Master

Maybe it’s been because of all the starships I’ve been painting, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the role of miniatures in tabletop games. When are they useful? When are they not? Are they even necessary for RPGs?

After all, RPGs grew out of Wargaming, when Gygax and others developed the framework for Dungeons and Dragons 1e out of Chainmail.

Well, let’s examine what miniatures are meant to be in order to determine their purpose.

  • Firstly, miniatures are playing pieces. They are a physical representation of something imaginary, and as such can be quite necessary (especially in Wargames). Sometimes it becomes very important to know a miniature’s facing, their numbers, allegiance, and general capabilities at a glance.

  • Secondly, and more abstractly, miniatures are a visual reference for characters and objects. This sounds very similar to the previous point, but where the previous point is more about literal positioning…

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