Friday, January 06, 2012

Mini Anger

It's like Hors D'oeuvre Rage

So, we got in our order of Pathfinder Battles miniatures today. We don’t get to sell them until the 11th, but I got to take a look at them and I have to say, I’m not particularly impressed. It seems that the good folks at Paizo haven’t learned much from the mistakes Wizards of the Coast made in their own miniatures lines, and in fact are moving further from a model that would actually be useful to the consumer. 

The product is a single random miniature per box, at $5 a pop, or a larger miniature for $7. The paint job is mediocre, the sculpts are passable, and the price point isn’t terrible. What rankles is that they’re a single random miniature per box.

Game Masters, the people who are known to buy the most role-playing game product, do not want random miniature packs, guys. As a person who stands behind the counter at a game store, I hear this refrain constantly. As a Game Master myself, I understand their lament. Game Masters don’t want random anything, they want a sack full of painted goblins. They want a sack of Generic Evil Dudes. They want a sack of zombies.

That last is great, because it’s a product that actually exists, one that was rather popular. It wasn’t for role-playing games, though, it was (unsurprisingly) for the board game Zombies. And they had their shit figured out, guys. They made a sack of zombies, and they sold a bunch of them. Then they made zombie cheerleaders and zombie dogs and zombie clowns, and all of those sets sold really, really well. They weren’t even painted, and they flew off the shelves. 

And it’s not all that difficult to understand why. A sack of themed dudes is invaluable in a role-playing game. It means you can buy a single product and be ready to sit down and play. It means that you can throw down with a bunch of similar baddies. If you’re going to randomize your miniatures, why not make it like Chessex’ Pound o’ Dice? Throw a bunch of random dudes in a sack and sell it as a separate product.

Players don’t want randomized miniatures, either. A player wants to find that One True Miniature that perfectly captures his or her character, that one miniature that says “Olgreth.” And buying a crapload of randomized boxes is frustrating, expensive and generally futile. He or she ends up with a bunch of miniatures he or she is never going to use. 

So the product we actually need, the product we would actually use, is three different products.
The first is a quarterly-released Sack o’ Dudes, a 100-pc. bag of plastic miniatures around a theme. You only need about 5 different types of monsters to make that worth it. Here’s your list for the first three years: Sack o’ Goblins, Sack o’ Orcs, Sack o’ Elves, Sack o’ Dwarves, Sack o’ Warriors, Sack o’ Mages, Sack o’ Cultists, Sack o’ Victims, Sack o’ Zombies, Sack o’ Kobolds (dragon-type), Sack o’ Oozes, Sack o’ Generic Evil Humans. You’re welcome.

The second is a painted miniature with Pathfinder branding that has a single miniature in it packaged like the pewter miniatures currently produced by Reaper. Those miniatures will be the player character miniatures, the Big Bad miniatures, the I-will-only-need-one-or-two-of-these miniatures. Clear plastic in the front, cardboard in the back, pre-painted plastic miniature in the bubble. Put out two or three of these every month. I already bring in the Reaper Pathfinder miniatures, and I would happily put a pre-painted, plastic alternative right next to them. And people would gladly buy both. Some people like painting, and others want something they can use out of the box. Providing both of those groups with good options is just good business.

Finally, the third product is something akin to the D&D Beholders and Dragons sets. A single-purchase item for a miniature or set of miniatures that is fucking incredible. I want Colossal Red Dragons again. Or a Jabberwock. Or a Bandersnatch.

This isn’t rocket science, and I’m really dismayed that this product went all the way from design through to my storefront without someone pointing out that randomized miniatures for role-playing games had been tried, and failed. And when someone puts out a miniature line that actually makes sense, you can bet that’s where my money will be going.

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