I spent a couple of hours at a local Barnes and Noble last night waiting for Jade to finish up with some business she had in the area. As always I ended up browsing over their selection of board games and RPG books. Two products in particular caught my eye and since I had some time to burn I examined them a bit more closely.

One of the products happened to be the latest version of the Dungeon board game released by Wizards of the Coast some time ago. When I was a kid I bought the original version of this game during a family vacation in Ocean City, and I spent that trip holed up in my aunt’s beach house playing it over and over again. I love that game and I played it hundreds of time, I still have it on my shelf of games. The new edition seems like a nice reproduction at a glance and I was tempted to buy it just to see what changes if any had been made. For twenty dollars it would have been a minor investment.

The Pathfinder Beginner Box also called out to be purchased, and I’ve been curious about Pathfinder for some time so I had to remind myself that the price tag still put it outside of my reach as usual.

Both products, although radically different in many ways, did have one thing in common. Rather than offering plastic miniatures both feature the cardboard cutouts that are beginning a more and more common sight in tabletop games. I loathe those things. The miniatures in the original Dungeon were simple plastic figures cast in the shapes of some of the classic Dungeons and Dragons classes, they all stared up at the players from their sprawling Dungeon urging them onward to new adventures. A nice piece of art printed on durable card stock just doesn’t have the same effect. The fact that the Pathfinder Beginner box didn’t include miniatures really aggravates me, because they should assume it will be the first time many of the people who purchase that product are playing any RPG at all, and they should act accordingly. For nearly forty dollars I think they should include for minis for the basic classes that the product offers.

I have always loved miniatures, ever since the first time I played Dungeon and traced D&D maps onto sheets of graph paper to today. There’s something wonderful about having the right figure to represent the character you’ve painstakingly crafted story around. Digging through bins of used and discarded miniatures in search of the perfect one always gives me a rush of excitement. When I started taking on the role of the parties Dungeons Master my love of miniatures became all consuming. I loved watching players reactions when I set down a towering cyclops or parties of foul little goblins.

I’m not saying I’ve never used a cardboard figure to represent a member of a mob. I have, as I’m sure many other Game Masters have been forced. Sometimes you just don’t have enough goblins and you can’t manage to get your hands on any more in time for that week’s game. However I don’t like this trend that suggests that these are an acceptable replacement for minis because in my book they aren’t. Their a temporary solution, or a placeholder until you can find something better.