I’m a fan of miniature war games. I love painting and collecting minis. I did the whole GW Warhammer Fantasy/40K in the past. As minis go nowadays, I’m deep into WWII 15 mm stuff and more small unit skirmish games (more on that later). Long ago I used miniatures in my D&D game also. So with 4ED, I latched onto that aspect pretty easily.
Quite honestly, it is pretty difficult to run 4ED combat without some type of miniature system. I’ve heard people that do it. They rely more on the descriptive text of powers, and fudge with the 1 square = 5 foot scale to do a lot of hand-waving during combats. Yet, I think folks are really missing out on the tactical element of the game if they do not use minis.
I can see some trepidation folks have playing D&D with miniatures. One big factor is cost. Another is space (storage and during play). At least pre-painted minis are available on the market, so you can get away from painting the things if needed. There is one sticking point I have with miniatures though, I think you get stuck having to either buy a ton of miniatures, or play with a lot of proxies that look like a Pokemon explosion on the table. It sounds silly when you use miniatures, but it’s easy for players to get into the WYSIWYG* mentality. So much so that they’ll have a hard time remembering those 3 additional orcs on the table are really goblins. * What You See Is What You Get
So while I am a huge fan of miniatures, and I’m a fan of using 1” scale maps for rooms and such. I’m not a big fan of using actual miniatures while playing. I like using tokens and paper minis. Newbiedm.com posted a great tutorial on making your own custom counters. I especially like the dual sided tokens he uses. As for me, I really like using paper miniatures and there are quite a few that are commercially available (I like the line disposable heroes line).
I like using PDFs of paper minis for the following reasons:
Cost – You can get a lot on the cheap, as it is simply a matter of printing out what you need. I place the printed minis between two self-adhesive laminar sheets to add some life to their use, and it gives them some sturdiness.
Flexible – If you really need to make multiple copies of a figure, it’s a simple matter of cutting, pasting, and duplicating with another program. Also, you can scale up (or down) figures. Need a few giants for your game? Not a problem. This works great with an A-frame style for mounting the figures, as the base can be made to take up a few squares. I also work using the base into monster types, where bases of certain colors match with the monster role (minions, lurkers, etc.). If using paper clip binders, you can usually pick up a bunch from office supply stores of various colors.
Replaceable – Anyone that has every played 40K knows what I am talking about. Eventually you get that accident resulting in a broken/chipped figure. Paper miniatures can be whipped up in a flash. No need to retouch any paint jobs. I think the pre-painted figures available from WOTC are a little more durable, but I’m not sure how well it will hold up if your pet takes to making it a chew toy.
So I like miniatures in 4ED, but I’m less of a fan using actual figures. I think paper miniatures and tokens are a great way to go. They offer enough to allow players to envision the action, but at the same time allow enough imagination to make proxies work. Figures look great, but almost too good. I think WYSIWYG tends to creep into their use, so when you are forced to use proxy figs it’s a bit clunky.
So what are other folks using as figures in 4ED, or do people even bother?