Today we’re going to talk about some tips for buying D&D miniatures. While the edition wars continue to rage on, one battle front always appears to be on the use of miniatures. For the purposes of today’s discussion I will assume you use and enjoy miniatures at your D&D games and seek ways to improve your collection and their uses at the table. I will also assume you seek the pre-painted plastic D&D Miniatures sold by Wizards of the Coast. So now lets look at some things that might get you a better collection for less money.
Buy on the Secondary Market
While Wizards recently re-branded how they sell miniatures, providing visible figures in semi-random monster packs and fully visible player character miniatures in the D&D Players Handbook Heroes sets, the most cost effective way to get the exact miniatures you want is to buy them on the secondary market. Many excellent and reputable online vendors sell individual minis at good prices. At the end of the article, I have my own personal recommendations for these vendors.
Even when you’re able to see all three miniatures in the Players Handbook Heroes sets, you still may end up buying one mini you don’t like for the two minis you do. Buying individually may up the price a small amount per miniature, but you get exactly what you want and save money overall.
Shop around on the secondary market and get exactly what you want.
Buy Only What You Will Use
I made this mistake early on and my 14 shoe boxes full of miniatures shows the mistake to me every day. Instead of buying the miniatures you THINK will be useful, or the ones you think represent your coolest and favorite monsters, only buy the miniatures you actually plan to use at the table.
Having recently gone through the D&D published modules Shadowfell, Thunderspire, Pyramid of Shadows, and Trollhaunt, I could have saved considerable money if I had only purchased the miniatures called for in these modules. If you’re not using the mini at the table, you don’t really need it.
I recommend buying miniatures four times a year as you plan out your D&D games. Look through the modules you plan to run or the adventures you plan to write and make a shopping list of the exact minis you will need. Then buy only those minis in a larger order to save on shipping. The better you can plan ahead, the more money you will save.
Focus on Common and Uncommon Re-Usable Miniatures
The more re-usable a miniature is, the better value you’ll get for your dollar. Focus your purchases on common and uncommon miniatures that you can use in a wide variety of situations. Goblins, Kobolds, Orcs, Gnolls, and Human miniatures can be used over and over again. PC-style miniatures can fill in for main villains more than once and the selected undead minions can fill in at all levels of play.
As an example, consider the Infernal Armor from the Demonweb set. This 25 cent mini can fill in as a Helmed Horror, a suit of haunted armor, a knight guardian of some bad boss, a trapped statue; the options are endless. This mini is cheap and fits in dozens of possible roles.
When looking at miniatures, seek out the common and uncommon minis that can fill many possible roles.
Miniature Storage Tip
I have a few hundred miniatures at this point, maybe closing in on a thousand. The best way to store these miniatures that I have found are in flat, wide, plastic boxes. The flatter the box, the easier it is to sort through the miniatures within the box to find the one you want. The taxonomy I use to sort them between boxes is developed completely by the number of miniatures I have of any set. For example, Gnolls and Orcs go into one box and Goblinoids go into another simply because it spreads them out evenly between the two boxes. I don’t bother to divide them out since sorting through a single shoebox full of minis doesn’t really take that much time.
In Summary, the most cost effective way I’ve found to buy miniatures is to follow the following guides:
Below are the best online web-sites I’ve seen for buying miniatures online. Note, I am not endorsed by any of these sites, I simply used them to buy miniatures or noted their good prices:
Cool Stuff Inc: http://www.coolstuffinc.com/
Altereality Games: http://www.alterealitygames.com/
Troll and Toad: http://www.trollandtoad.com/
Not yet ready for prime time, but definitely getting there fast. I like what I see.
Update: Chromium is the open source browser on which Google Chrome is based, but theyre not synonymous.