The Best Miniatures on a Budget (Take 2)

I’ve talked about this before–the minis I use for my table.

I had the same problems most DMs find themselves having when they want miniature-based (or grid-based) combat… minis themselves. They’re a nexus of three major conflicts:

  1. Reference – we want miniatures that can be used in the place of monsters and players in a way that makes it easy to know what the heck they are. That old box of half-painted Warhammer figures and some random Bones minis, etc. is a disappointment because, end of the day, you end up having to say “that wolf there, that’s the hellhound; yeah, and that blue guy? he’s the Helmed Horror; and that giant is a dragon”.  Proxies (objects used to represent things) are a legit way of doing it all, but even then, random proxies are terrible (“I shoot at the hobgoblin!”…”Which one?”…”the d20 over there by Bill; no that one… no THAT one”).
  2. Quality – Paper miniatures can be alright, but they’re fragile. Cheap minis rip and break and it’s just no fun. Flimsy plastic warps. In the end, we want something with a little table weight, something durable, something consistent, and useful.  Quality.
  3. Cost – Sure… if we had an unlimited budget, then an unlimited inventory of well painted monsters of all kinds could be at hand. But, that’s not practical, it’s not cheap.  We would love to be in and out of the mini market for under $100 (many of us) and under $50 (if we’re lucky).

So, my solution was to take a note or two from other games.

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The Best Budget Minis for Practical Needs

So, we’ve tested out a number of mini solutions. Cardboard stands (too light, too fragile, seem to look nice but feel in the way).  Reaper minis (beautiful but not cheap to field a whole game of NPCs and monsters with).  D&D minis (beautiful and perfect, but definitely expensive) and everything else under the sun, it seems.

What we game with most times are simple to make, materially tough and robust enough to handle drops and sloppy packing and unpacking, clear and clean to see from across the table, useful for tracking actual combats, and even customizable for players.

These are our “everyday clay” minis. Continue reading

Our Second Test of a Low-Cost, Home-Built Projected Table-Top

For those paying attention, we’ve been working on physical resources–not just digital ones–this month.  If you haven’t looked at our first projector build you can click here.  Since then, we decided to take the basic concept and put a little more engineering into it.

But, first principles… we still wanted to keep the build itself in line with our overarching philosophy:

  1. It has to be economical.  Nothing too expensive.  Like, of course a real “projector mount” would be great, but the cost is a little outside where we wanted to be.  A good ceiling mount would be a hundred bucks, and that doesn’t take into account other things like still needing to mount the mirror.
  2. It has to be very configurable.  We wanted to approach this from the standpoint of a normal gaming group.  What if the ceiling is 9 feet instead of 8?  What if the table is an inch or two taller or shorter?  What if I need to be able to put it up and take it down with ease?  Our builds are trying to stay within the bounds of “adjustable and removable”.
  3. It has to work now and in the future.  In the end, it has to meet the needs of my current projector and (ideally) a new one if I get a new one.  It has to put the image down edge to edge.  It has to freaking work.

So, our second build here–what we did differently:

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Our First Test of a Low-Cost, Home-Built Projected Table-Top

It’s all the rage and just started up as a fad… using projectors to cast an image onto a table top for the running of games like D&D (honestly, I’ve not heard of it used anywhere else, but it would be hugely useful for complex combat-oriented games like Dark Heresy as well).  I first saw this a few months ago and my first impression from the most common Google Search and links was “I bet we can do that”.

I felt comfortable putting in the effort to put together the well documented and talked about Projector Table-Top given how agreeable my group is to The Game being more important than any individual story in it.  I wouldn’t waste the effort or expense on a group that is going to fight change.  So if your group embraces change?  I recommend this for you.

Check it out…

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