A Guide to Buying D&D Minis
If you have seen some of the landscapes that professional DMs like Matt Mercer at Critical Role put out, you can understand why people want to use miniatures for TTRPGs. Miniatures, while an added expense, help players and DMs connect with the game by creating three dimensional avatars that represent their characters or the creatures they are fighting.
D&D has taken huge steps over the past couple of years to move towards virtual settings and away from traditional, in-person games. Things like Virtual Tabletops, Battlemap Software, and even voice chat tools like Discord or Zoom, have allowed players that can’t meet up to still get together and play some D&D. At Arcane Eye, we love D&D in any form, but there is nothing like sitting around a table with your party, and NOTHING beats the feeling when the DM rolls out the sheet of paper with a prepared battlemap and starts breaking out miniatures.
What Are Minis?
In tabletop gaming, minis (or miniatures) are scale models that are used to represent player characters (PCs) and non-player characters (NPCs) on a battlemap. Miniatures have been used in gameplay, mainly combat and exploration, since the inception of Dungeons and Dragons back in 1974.
Miniatures can widely vary in height, material, and whether they are painted or unpainted.
While there may be plenty of miniatures available on the market, D&D miniatures typically come with somewhat strict guidelines.
Game mats are usually made with 1 inch squares, so the base of the miniature should be 1 inch (or 25mm) in order to fit in the standard sized grids. Miniatures can come in 25mm – 30mm scale, which simply represents the millimeter conversion to scale the miniatures down from meters. In the case of miniatures, a 28mm scale figure would specify an exact scale of 1:60 for a 1.68 meter person.
In D&D, each grid square represents 5 feet and, typically, medium creatures (AKA most D&D races) fit one to a square. If you are looking for something that is larger than a medium creature, like a dragon, you will want to make sure that the figure scales properly using 1 inch increments for every 5 feet.
The material of your miniature will mean a lot to its finished product. As with anything, the more you pay, the higher levels of detail and quality will be.
Flexible plastic miniatures are typically the least expensive. The most famous flexible plastic miniatures are definitely Reaper Miniature’s Bones line. Miniatures made from this material tend to be able to take the most amount of abuse, but the lack of rigidity will provide less detail to work with.
However, if you are looking to paint these miniatures yourself be warned that flexible plastic miniatures are known for not holding up super well to paint. The natural expansion and contraction of the plastic can cause flaking and cracking, even if you are extremely careful with them.
Rigid plastic miniatures are usually a middle ground between flexible and metal miniatures in terms of price. Rigid plastic minis are a favorite for collectors and painters who will be making high quality, extremely detailed pieces for their games and collections.
Rigid plastic, while easier to paint than flexible plastic, will break much more easily if dropped or otherwise mistreated.
As with most things, if you want it to last go for the metal option. Sure, it will cost you a pretty penny but if you are going to be playing a character for a couple of years and want to make your character’s miniature something special, metal is the way to go.
Metal miniatures can handle a similar level of detail as rigid plastic minis, while also being steadfast enough to enjoy journeys in book bags and backpacks.
As might be obvious, metal miniatures are by far the most expensive, but sometimes the quality is worth it.
This was mentioned last because it is a slightly newer option that isn’t technically a miniature. The best options of paper miniatures can be found via u/PrintableHeroes’ Reddit post where you can find hundreds of free, printable paper miniatures. If you go this route, consider supporting PrintableHeroes on Patreon for their amazing work.
Naturally, paper miniatures will come with the downside of being extremely fragile and likely to wear out over a period of time, but there is certainly no cheaper way to get into the miniature game.
Not everybody has the time to paint minis these days. Those among us who are dedicated to the craft are certainly the unsung heroes of their individual tables, but if you are looking for a quick grab and go solution, there are plenty of painted options out there.
As you might expect, pre-painted miniatures are harder to come by and are usually more expensive upfront.
Do I need miniatures to play D&D?
No. Miniatures are an unnecessary expense as far as D&D is concerned. There are plenty of options to play D&D without miniatures including online play, theatre of the mind, or in-person battlemap play with tokens. Some tokens you can use to substitute for actual miniatures are washers, chess pieces, coins, etc.
Miniatures are used to enhance in-person battlemap play. Groups that play with miniatures find that they enhance immersion and allow players to visualize the environment in three dimensions.
How can I get D&D cheap miniatures?
If you are on a budget and looking to pick up some miniatures for cheap, our two suggestions would be Reaper Miniatures “Bones” Kickstarters and the D&D board games. Reaper’s Kickstarter allow you to pick up bulk, generic, unpainted miniatures for less than $0.80/mini. The D&D board games allow you to pick up D&D specific, unpainted miniatures for around $1.25/mini.
Where Can I Buy Minis?
There are a lot of factors that go into buying miniatures:
With each of our top options, we will explain the different factors that have caused them to make the list. Seeing as most of these miniature makers make figures for more games than just Dungeons & Dragons, this list has been structured by how applicable to D&D they are:
1. Wizards of the Coast Store
Wizards of the Coast (WotC) are the current license holders of Dungeons & Dragons and were the creators of the 5th edition (the most successful edition to date). It’s a blessing and a relief that not only can we rely on WotC for solid D&D Sourcebooks, but we can also rely on them for the products to accompany them.
The WotC Store features a number of miniature booster packs that contain pre-painted miniatures specific to a certain theme or sourcebook. These packs are reasonably priced, coming in at around $4/mini. They are also, annoyingly, completely random so buying multiple packs to get all of the minis you are looking for may be in order.
The miniatures that come in these packs will not be the highest quality or the most detailed, but they will certainly get the job done at a reasonable price.
If you plan on running a published D&D 5e module, these boosters are a great way to increase the immersion for players by using actual figures represented in the story.
One thing to keep in mind, you cannot actually buy these products directly from the WotC site. You will have to either find a game store near you or buy them from a reseller such as Amazon. You can find licensed WotC Miniatures on Amazon here.
2. WoTC Board Games
A great way to get a ton of miniatures for cheap, while also getting D&D specific minis, is to purchase the licensed D&D board games.
So far, Wizards of the Coast has published four board games that are accompanied by miniatures:
Priced at between $50 and $65 each, each board game contains 40 plastic unpainted minis. This clocks each mini in at around $1.25 which is the among the best prices out there.
This, combined with the fact that you get a board game out of the deal, certainly makes this an option worth considering if you are looking for bulk D&D minis.
3. Miniature Market
Miniature Market is a great place to go for D&D specific, prepainted singles. Depending on the specificity of what you are looking for, they also offer the ability to buy pre-painted and unpainted, generic miniatures such as these Goblins.
If you are looking for a specific D&D miniature and don’t want to break the bank on a custom one or paint your own, Miniature Market provides prepainted D&D singles at a reasonable cost.
Miniature Market has two series of D&D minis: Collector’s Series and Premium Figures.
The Collector’s Series minis are pre-painted figures that represent important NPCs in Wizard of the Coast’s published adventures. Some examples of these star NPCs would be Xanathar from Dragon Heist, Acererak from Tomb of Annihilation, and the infamous Froghemoth.
The Premium figures are more for players that want a pre-painted mini to fit their character, whether you’re a Female Dragonborn Sorcerer, a Male Human Ranger, or a Male Tortle Monk, Miniature Market is a great place to start.
Because these minis are being sold as pre-painted singles, they will be much more expensive than what we have looked at so far. The Premium figures fall at $7.49 a piece, while the Collector’s Series can range anywhere from $9-$45 depending on the size and rarity of the miniature.
Miniature Market also has a number of great options for unpainted, D&D specific, and generic miniatures. Their WizKids and Pathfinder Deep Cuts line offer these options at close to $2.25/mini.
4. Reaper Miniatures
Reaper Miniatures are one of the top dogs of the miniature game. They have been around since 1994 and provide a full range of figures, paints, and accessories for anybody wanting to get into miniatures.
Reaper’s claim to fame is their highly successful Bones Kickstarters in which their backers pledge money up front for insanely cheap minis in 12-18 months. There have been 5 Bones Kickstarters, with the latest closing on November 2nd, 2019.
Late backers can still join via the Pledge Manager website, and while the prices are still really good, they aren’t as stellar as if you joined during the Kickstarter. Don’t let the fact that you missed out on the best pricing discourage you though. You can still get 140 plastic, unpainted minis for $175. This evens out to be $1.25/mini, which is hands down the best way to buy bulk D&D minis.
If you are not lucky enough to catch a Kickstarter or are looking for specific figures, Reaper Miniatures still has some of the best quality minis and a great selection. The majority of their unpainted singles run for $4/mini, falling at the higher end of the spectrum. The prices on their site range from $3 for basic figures to upwards of $30 for their dragons and awesome Cthulhu figure.
Keep in mind, you will not be able to purchase D&D specific miniatures (no Beholders or other D&D licensed creatures) from the Reaper site.
5. Hero Forge
Hero Forge is a revolutionary figure design and printing service that allows users to customize their miniature using a sleek interface and have it printed in a variety of materials.
The Hero Forge web software allows you to go through an RPG-esque character creation process and fine tune the details of your character. You can control pretty much anything from the broad details like what race your character is, all the way down to their eyebrows.
Prices range from $20 for a regular sized plastic figure to $220 for XXL figures in bronze. Keep in mind that all of these figures are unpainted, you will either need to either find a painting service or paint them yourselves to truly bring them to life. Hero Forge just raised ~$3,000,000 for their Full-Color Custom Miniatures with Hero Forge 2.0 Kickstarter. They released the beta software to backers on April 20th, 2020, .
Update September 24th, 2020: Hero Forge’s full-color miniatures are live! You can check them out at heroforge.com, we all did a review of the Hero Forge full-color miniatures that covered the detail and durability of the figures.
There are tons of places to buy D&D minis out there but, based on our experience, these are the places that will guarantee the best prices and quality.
Do you have a place you love to buy D&D minis? Leave us a comment below!
Mike BernierMike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.
Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game
The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game is a collectible miniatures game played with pre-painted, plastic miniature figures based on characters and monsters from the Dungeons & Dragons game. The figures are 30mm in scale. Produced by Wizards of the Coast, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line is composed of 20 loosely themed sets that were released roughly every four months since the line was launched in 2003 until its cancellation in 2011.
The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game, commonly referred to as DDM, served as Wizards of the Coast's official line of miniature figures for the Dungeons & Dragons game beginning in 2003, following the cancellation of the previous Dungeons & Dragons-based miniatures game, Chainmail, in August 2002. The first set, Harbinger, was released on September 26, 2003. This set was available in both Starter Sets, containing 16 random miniatures, a 20-sided die, a rulebook and maps and terrain to play the game on, as well as Booster Packs with 8 random miniatures. Each miniature also came with a card that detailed the statistics of the figure for the miniatures game on one side, and the statistics for use in the role-playing game on the opposite side.
Following that first release, 20 additional expansion sets were released. Five of these sets (Giants of Legend, War of the Dragon Queen, Against the Giants, Legendary Evils, and Lords of Madness) contain figures standing on 3-inch-diameter (76 mm) bases, larger than the 2 inch bases of the largest figures in normal sets. This size is designated “Huge” in the nomenclature of Dungeons & Dragons, and the boosters containing these larger figures are known as “huge packs.”
All figures are one of three rarities, indicated by a marking on the bottom of the miniature:
From Harbinger to the Demonweb expansion, all standard-sized booster packs contained 4 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare. The Starter Set miniatures for Harbinger, Aberrations and War Drums included 1 rare, 5 uncommon and 10 common miniatures. Dangerous Delves and Savage Encounters each contained 2 commons, 1 uncommon, 1 non-random visible uncommon, and 1 rare. The four Huge sets listed above had different distributions of figures. Giants of Legend boosters contained 4 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare, and 1 huge, either rare or uncommon, while War of the Dragon Queen and Against the Giants each contained 3 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare, and 1 rare or uncommon huge. Legendary Evils boosters had 2 commons, 1 medium-sized rare, 1 large-sized rare, and 1 visible huge figure. The summer 2010 set Lords of Madness was the first and only set to contain very rares, a rarity previously used in Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars Miniatures game.
The game has gone through a number of major revisions since its inception. In early 2008 the game was changed significantly to maintain continuity with the Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition rules. This set of rules is known unofficially as D&D Miniatures 2.0. The first set released under this revision was Dungeons of Dread in April 2008. Additionally, over the course of the next year, all existing miniatures received updated stats so they would be playable in the new game.
Less than a year later, in October 2008, Wizards of the Coast announced that the way miniatures would be packaged was changing. The miniatures would be sold in partially random monster packs, with one visible figure, under the Monster Manual name, and a new line of non-random minis called Player's Handbook Heroes featuring player character (PC) races. Shortly after that, another announcement was posted, clarifying these new changes. Following the release of the Demonweb expansion, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures skirmish game would no longer be supported by Wizards of the Coast. Skirmish statistics would no longer be included with the figures, and no further tournaments would be officially sanctioned. Instead, the miniatures line would be marketed solely to RPG users.
Since November, 2008, a group called the DDM Guild, founded and run by members of the fan community, has been granted the exclusive and worldwide right to continue to support and develop the D&D Minis skirmish game. Wizards of the Coast continues to provide DCI support as well as proprietary information on future set lists to the DDM Guild.
Changes were announced at D&D Experience 2010, when it was revealed that the miniatures line would once again revert to entirely random packaging, with both PC and monster minis combined in one set.
On January 12, 2011, Wizards of the Coast announced the immediate end of the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line.
D&D Miniatures was consistently one of the top collectible games in hobby channel sales, with recent rankings from the industry magazine ICv2 placing the game as the 3rd best selling collectible game. In 2010, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line won the ENnies Award for Best Miniatures Product.
Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, which like most role-playing games has players playing the part of a single character, the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game is a miniatures wargame in which two opponents pit armies of creatures against each other. In order to allow rule adjudication without a Dungeon Master, the DDM rules are a streamlined form of the d20 system, with a few additional features unique to the skirmish game. The game has gone through several revisions since the original Harbinger rules set, including revisions after Aberrations and Wardrums. In early 2008, the game was updated to be consistent with the fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons rules.
Each creature has a designated point cost, and players assemble a warband of a certain cost, generally either 100, 200, or 500 points, depending on the tournament format. From Harbinger to Underdark, games were played on tiles arranged on a grid, while from War Drums onward, full-color printed battle maps were used. Players use a 20-sided die to determine if an attack succeeds and also for various other checks throughout the game. Victory goes to the player who first accumulates a given number of points by either destroying the opponent's figures or collecting points by occupying certain areas of the map 
Most D&D Miniatures sets are made up of 60 figures, although exceptions to this are noted below.
The expansion sets for Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures, in order of release, are:
|Set Name||Release Date||Gallery||Additional Information|
|Harbinger||September 26, 2003||||80 miniatures in set. Available in starter and booster packs.|
|Dragoneye||December 19, 2003|||
|Archfiends||March 25, 2004|||
|Giants of Legend||June 18, 2004||||72 miniatures in set.|
|Aberrations||October 14, 2004||||Available in starter and booster packs.|
|Deathknell||March 24, 2005|||
|Angelfire||July 21, 2005|||
|Underdark||November 3, 2005|||
|War Drums||March 3, 2006||||Available in starter and booster packs.|
|War of the Dragon Queen||July 7, 2006|||
|Blood War||November 6, 2006|||
|Unhallowed||March 5, 2007|||
|Night Below||July 6, 2007|||
|Desert of Desolation||October 26, 2007|||
|Dungeons of Dread||March 28, 2008||||First set using DDM 2.0 rules. Available in boosters and non-random starter packs.|
|Against the Giants||July 12, 2008|||
|Demonweb||November 7, 2008|||
|Feywild||Cancelled||Cancelled. Some minis printed with the Feywild logo escaped the factory and were sold online.|
|Monster Manual: Dangerous Delves||May 19, 2009||||First set without skirmish rules included and with visible miniatures. 40 miniatures in set.|
|Monster Manual: Legendary Evils||August 18, 2009||||40 miniatures in set.|
|Monster Manual: Savage Encounters||November 17, 2009||||40 miniatures in set.|
|Lords of Madness||September 21, 2010||||Return to 60 miniatures in set and fully random packaging. Final set in the line.|
Four large standalone figures, called Icons, were released. These were the Gargantuan Black Dragon released in August 2006, the Colossal Red Dragon released in September 2006, the Gargantuan Blue Dragon released in January 2007, and the Gargantuan Orcus, released in 2010. There is one Icon Scenario Pack called the Legend of Drizzt Scenario Pack released September 2007. It features 2 miniature figures: Drizzt Do'Urden, and Wulfgar, and one large figure: Icingdeath the Gargantuan White Dragon.
The Icons line of Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures has won two major fantasy gaming awards, with the Colossal Red Dragon winning at the Origins Awards in 2007 for Best Miniature or Miniatures Line of the Year, and the Legend of Drizzt Scenario Pack winning the 2008 ENnies Award for Best Miniature Product.
Player's Handbook Heroes
In 2009, Wizards of the Coast released two series of 18 non-random figures designed to represent player characters in Dungeons & Dragons under the name Player's Handbook Heroes. The sets were sold in packs containing three figures, and were made up of a combination of repaints of older figures, figures taken from the canceled Feywild set, and entirely new figures. A third set was planned for 2010, but was canceled.
On November 16, 2010, Wizards of the Coast released the Beholder's Collector Set, featuring four beholders: Beholder Eye of Frost, a Ghost Beholder, an Eye of Shadow, and a Beholder Eye Tyrant. The Ghost Beholder and the Eye of Shadow were new sculpts.
In November 2011, Wizards of the Coast released a Dragon Collector's set featuring five dragons, one in each of D&D's standard colors for chromatic dragons. The green and white dragon sculpts were new additions to the line, while the red, blue, and black dragon sculpts were reissued from earlier products.
Future of the game
The DDM Guild continues to release new stats and new variations and scenarios of the game, as well as support national championships.
Figures from the D&D Miniatures line have been used in other games from Wizards of the Coast, including the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game, Heroscape and the Dungeons & Dragonsboard gamesCastle Ravenloft,Wrath of Ashardalon and The Legend of Drizzt. Wizards of the Coast discontinued the production of D&D Miniatures in 2011.
In 2012, Wizards of the Coast released Dungeon Command, the successor to the D&D Miniatures skirmish game. Dungeon Command's gameplay bears some similarities to the D&D Miniatures game, but features a diceless combat system and a new component, order cards. Dungeon Command components are sold in "faction packs" that include miniatures, map tiles, and statistics cards for both Dungeon Command and Wizards' Adventure System line of games. As of March 2013, Wizards had released five Dungeon Command faction packs; the majority of miniatures used in these faction packs are reissued models from earlier D&D Miniatures sets, though the fifth featured all new miniatures. Stats for all new sculpts were released by the DDM Guild on their website, and thus all Dungeon Command miniatures are legal for Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures play.
In February 2014, Wizards of the Coast and WizKids announced that the latter would be creating a new line of D&D Miniatures. On July 15, 2014 WizKids released the first set of their new line of D&D Miniatures under the label of D&D Icons of the Realms brand.
What Scale Are D&D Miniatures?
D&D miniatures are a set of collectible miniatures inspired by characters of the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
The original game was based on a single player and did not include the same concepts as that of a tabletop wargame, such as the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game.
Similar to all miniatures used in tabletop wargaming, D&D miniatures are also categorized according to a specific scale.
What scale are D&D miniatures? D&D miniatures are typically measured in relative or absolute scale and usually run between 25mm and 28mm in scale. Their scales are said to align with a larger scale of about 30mm. However, exact measurements tend to vary.
D&D miniatures are based on characters and monsters portrayed in Dungeons and Dragons (get your D&D Essentials Kit here).
The scale they follow is in accordance with how they measure compared to the human form in the metric scale.
Granted, monsters and other unworldly creatures are not exactly humans, but they are closest to human form as far as their height goes.
At some point, you’re bound to want to paint your miniatures to use in gameplay. I’ve been there and done that, and I never looked back. Painting your own miniatures is awesome!
But, you’ll need the basic supplies and some pointers to get started on the right foot.
To save you the time and frustration of figuring out what you’ll need to begin, I’ve crammed all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years into one comprehensive, easy-to-read book, The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide.
Inside, I walk you through every step and show you exactly what you need to get started. Here’s what you learn:
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What Is Scale?
Miniatures used in tabletop wargaming are categorized by scale. Scale is used to measure a miniature either by how it compares to the real-life object it represents or to human form.
Scales can be divided into fractional and metric, commonly known as relative and absolute scale.
Scale also refers to the proportion of a miniature and whether it compares accurately to the object it is modeled after.
Overall, scales vary from designer to designer, as do miniatures. As a result, no two miniatures are alike, and some miniatures belonging to specific wargames adhere to a certain scale.
(Looking for the perfect miniatures to add to your gaming collection? Learn where to find the best here.)
What Is Relative Scale in Miniatures?
The fractional or relative scale of miniatures refers to how they measure in comparison to the real objects they represent in the game.
These objects can include cannons, weapons, ships, tanks, and other real-world objects.
The range of scale can also be used accordingly with the historical time period or genre the wargame at hand depicts.
For example, some objects used in time-specific wars have certain scales for miniatures.
It is sometimes required that length measurement of the real-world object is used in order to determine its scale.
Relative scale ranges from 1/72 to 1/6,000, and different ranges are used in reference to land, aviation, and naval (aquatic) objects.
Relative Scales and the Objects They Represent:
- Land objects — measured on a scale of about 1/72 to 1/300 and can include buildings, cars, trains, and other appropriate land objects and equipment.
- Aviation objects — measured on a scale of about 1/287 to 1/1,250 and can include planes, helicopters, and other forms of aircraft.
- Naval (Marine or aquatic) objects — measured on a scale of about 1/700 to 1/6,000 and can include ships, tanks, submarines, and other marine equipment.
The relative scale is representative of the ratio of the miniature’s size to that of the real-world object.
For example, a miniature with a scale of 1/48 means that it is 48 times smaller than the real-world object it represents.
Looking to join a D&D group to immerse yourself in hours of RPG fun? Find out where to find D&D groups here.
What is Absolute Scale in Miniatures?
The absolute or metric scale of a miniature refers to how it measures in comparison to human form.
Human form does not always refer to the size of an actual human, but rather an already established absolute scale size used for comparison in measurement.
Absolute scale typically ranges from as little as 6mm to a larger 30mm.
Given that the established absolute scale size can vary, the absolute scale of a miniature is dependent upon the model that was used to measure it.
Check out the various sizes of the minis included in this booster packbelow to see how scale affects size.
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Differences in absolute scale can also be attributed to the fact that designers may use different measuring scales when creating miniature models.
Some designers chose to measure their models at different starting points and heights while others may or may not take into consideration the height of the base their miniature model occupies.
The point that the designer chooses as the top height at which to start measuring the miniature is commonly referred to as the “reference point.” The reference point may be:
- The absolute top of the miniature including hats, helmets, etc.
- The top of the head, not including head gear.
- The eyes.
Absolute “Relative” Scale
Absolute relative scale is used to determine how a miniature measures in comparison to human form, actual human form this time!
This scale uses the size of an average human as a model for determining the measurement of a miniature.
Absolute relative scale ranges from 160cm to 180cm in absolute height and 1/32 to 1/61 in relative scale.
According to Alkony:
“Some manufacturers use absolute scale references that refer to an average size of an average human, instead of calculating the exact relative scale. However these miniatures differ in size, lower models have smaller miniatures, while larger ones are higher.”
“Most of the “28mm scale” or “32mm scale” models out there are actually 1:56 scale ones. 28mm scale in this case refers to the eyeline of the miniature, while 32mm refers to the top of their heads.”
Side note: Differing scales can affect how your game setup appears on the table. Having some really cool D&D dice and an awesome tray to corral them (these are my favorites) can detract from any scale variances in your figures!
What Scale Are Warhammer Miniatures?
According to Games Workshop, a leading designer and producer of miniatures, Warhammer miniatures are estimated to have a scale of about 28mm in heroic proportion.
This means that the miniature appears larger in proportion in comparison to the model it represents.
It is important to take note that Warhammer miniatures tend to vary in scale as they are measured using a heroic scale and have exaggerated features.
Thus, they appear larger than that of a “normal” 28mm scale.
(You can learn more about Warhammer and how to get started here.)
What Are Realistic and Heroic Proportion in Miniatures?
Proportion in miniatures refers to how much they compare in proportion to the original model they represent.
Proportions in miniatures are separated into realistic and heroic. Both determine how closely the appearance and size of the miniature compare to the figure it was modeled after.
Realistic proportion refers to how similar the miniature appears in comparison to the model it represents.
In simpler terms, it refers to how realistically alike the miniature and its model are in appearance. A realistic miniature basically appears to be a smaller version of the model it represents.
Heroic proportion refers to how closely the appearance of the miniature compares to the model it represents; however, the appearance is embellished.
For example, the miniature may be quite similar to the model it represents in appearance, but it may not compare in size.
The proportion of certain body parts may appear larger than those of its original model.
Where to Find the Scale of Miniatures
Most scales of miniaturesrange from 15mm to 28mm, but it’s important to take into consideration that certain miniature scales vary depending on their designer and the absolute scale used to measure them.
Depending on the D&D character miniature you purchase, it can range in scale between 25mm and 28mm.
Scales of D&D and other wargame miniatures can be found in store or on the website from which they are purchased.
(Not sure exactly what is involved with wargaming? I explain all about tabletop wargaming in this articleand recommend the best wargaming tabletops here.)
Most miniature manufacturers, like Games Workshop and Reaper Miniatures, provide the scale of the miniatures on their website.
For example, the Reaper Bones collection is clearly identified on the Reaper Miniature’s website as being 25mm heroic scale.
Popular D&D Miniatures
One of my favorite pre-painted starter packs is by WizKids. These miniatures are 28 mm scale, ready for play straight out of the box, and come with fantastic reviews.
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For those of you who prefer to custom paint your own miniatures and are looking for a bigger boost to kick-start your epic campaign at an affordable price, try Newcombie’s 28 mm miniatures pack of 18.
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Path Gaming offers an even larger option with their 28 mm pack of 38, but if you’re really looking to go all-out, this pack of 56 by Monster is hard to beat.
Hungry for more? You’ll find a ton of useful information, product recommendations, and practical advice about D&D, other RPGs, and miniature painting right here.
Last update on 2021-10-20 at 19:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Fielding miniatures in your D&D campaign sure is fun. Imagining your dragonborn monk bobbing about the battle map, swinging open a door, and bounding through its frame, only to discover a pair of bodaks waiting on the other side might be thrilling. But it’s all the more gratifying when you can see the sadistic glee with which your DM slams the miniatures of these undead monstrosities in front of your isolated monk mini.
But where to get such fear-inducing miniatures, that are as detailed and vicious as their imaginary counterparts demand? There’s a lot of options, and even veterans of miniature wargames might not know where to start when venturing into the expansive world of RPGs. But fret no more. We’re here to give a brief rundown of the best miniatures you can buy for your tabletop adventuring.
We’ll be touching on player character, monster, and NPC miniatures, while considering the cost value and quality of the scores of minis available. You’ll be revelling in your painted beholders, and lovingly protecting your party of miniaturised adventurers before you know it.
So, let’s get rolling…
Do I need to use miniatures?
Let’s clear up one thing straight away: you don’t need miniatures to play D&D. If you’re comfortable roleplaying in the Theatre of the Mind, accustomed to using character counters on a battle map, or used to whipping out a whiteboard for every encounter, miniatures can appear little more than an unnecessary expense.
Miniatures provide a fitting way of recreating combat
But if you’re keen to field more complex encounters, in which the relational position of characters and monsters is essential to player actions, and the movement of battle needs to be quickly and clearly visualised, miniatures provide a fitting way of recreating combat, without breaking the immersion of roleplay. See that rabid owlbear standing five feet away from your scrawny halfling rogue; watch in terror as the tentacular mind flayer appears on the field.
When you do decide to jump aboard the miniatures train, some of these suggestions might prove handy.
Nolzur’s Marvellous Miniatures
If you’ve spent any time surfing the internet for D&D miniatures, chances are you very quickly came across Nolzur’s Marvelous Miniatures. Designed by Wizkids, and licensed by Wizards of the Coast, it’s the official line of D&D miniatures, and, for the most part, perfectly serviceable.
Sold as singles, they’re intended to allow Dungeon Masters to pick up the player character, NPC, or monster miniatures relevant to their adventure. Whether that’s a Male Dwarf Fighter or a Female Tiefling Warlock, you’re likely to find all the right sculpts for your party. And there’s plenty of monster options, to boot.
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If you’re certain that a marilith or beholder will make an appearance during your party’s campaign, you can grab the relevant miniature in preparation. The whole bestiary might not be covered, but Nolzur’s makes for a useful means of lending some gravitas to the biggest battles of your campaign – by miniaturising your foes into tiny plastic sculpts.
At an average of $7.00 / £5.00 to $14.00 £10 per miniature, these aren’t dirt cheap minis, but nor are they expensive. Expect prominent mould lines and a lack of detail in some areas, as they’re designed for beginner painters, who might love D&D but are only taking their first steps into the world of minis. Especially useful if you know you’ll only be picking up a few.
Another staple of the D&D miniatures space, Reaper Miniatures offer a massive variety of fantasy miniatures. It’s likely to have anything you’re planning to dump into your campaign. Want a giant crab to ambush your party? You’ve got it. How about a collection of abyssal devils? Oh yep. A skeletal manticore? That as well. And if you’re on the search for player characters, Reaper Miniatures also do a host of race- and class-specific miniatures.
Although it also produces metal sculpts, Reaper Miniatures is most popular for its line of plastic minis (or Bones). Flexible plastic, with the standard detail you’d expect from a D&D sculpts, and costing only a few dollars / pounds per miniature, it’s an affordable option praised by many.
Best monster miniatures
If you’re looking for a large batch of monster miniatures to field on your tabletop battle map, you might consider Pathfinder Pawns. These aren’t sculpted miniatures, but flat, double-sided cardboard tokens. They might not have the same detailed allure as true, three-dimensional minis, but their artwork is gorgeous.
The range covers everything from grippli to golems
Plus, there’s plenty of them. The Bestiary 2 pawn box includes over 300 pawns of 250 creatures, coming in varying sizes, from small to huge. The range is vast, covering everything from grippli to golems, and while some pawns might be too niche to find a spot on your table, isn’t it nice to have the option of writing a hippocampus into your campaign?
If you’re a Pathfinder player, you can grab whichever pawn box that matches the bestiary you own. But even if you’re a strict D&D fanatic, given the two games’ significant monstrozoological crossover, you’re sure to find the vast majority of pawns useful – or, at the very least, of sufficient visual similarity to use as a stand-in for an absent beasty.
BEST BULK D&D MINIATURES
An easy way to grab a whole bunch of miniatures on the cheap isn’t through buying bundles of miniatures at all, but by picking up the officially licensed D&D board games: Castle Ravenloft (2010), Wrath of Ashardalon (2011), The Legend of Drizzt (2011), Temple of Elemental Evil (2015), Tomb of Annihilation (2017), and Dungeon of the Mad Mage (2019). Collectively forming the Adventure System board game series, they’re a veritable treasure trove of tabletop resources for dungeon masters.
Each comes packaged with around 40 unpainted, single-colour miniatures (ranging across small, medium, and large sizes), for both monsters and player characters. The sets are vaguely thematic – Castle Ravenloft, for instance, includes lots of undead to fit in with its horror theme, while Wrath of Ashardalon features orcs and kobolds for a more typical fantasy fare – and the range of monsters in a single set will provide you with lots of choice for whatever beasties you field in your roleplaying.
Class act: Check out our D&D classes guide
The price point shouldn’t be dismissed, either. Arshadalon will net you 35 figures for $46.71 / £49.95, coming to the not-at-all-bad $1.30 / £1.40 per mini. Plus, the games include a whole slew of additional tokens and accessories that you might find handy in your dungeon mastering, including modular dungeon tiles, and counters useful for tracking stats.
Best of all, the board games themselves are great fun, too. Cooperative dungeon crawlers that span multiple scenarios, they use streamlined rules systems, and integrate light RPG elements. The double whammy of great miniatures and a good board game shouldn’t be overlooked.
Best pre-painted miniatures
Miniature painting isn’t everybody’s thing, and if the words ‘dry brushing’ and ‘base coasting’ have you wince with hesitation, fear not, for there are easy means of buying pre-painted miniatures.
If you’re looking for a cheap-ish option, officially licensed Icons of the Realms packs – like this one, made for use with the D&D starter set – will see you through. The miniatures are of average detail, but useful for new players intent on fielding minis for a specific adventure.
If you’re a little more carefree with your purse, and ready to embrace the inner collector within you, you could have a peek at Icons of the Realms booster packs. Again, themed with Wizard’s D&D sourcebooks, the blind boosters include four random miniatures for around $20 / £20 a pack. Not exactly a bargain, and certainly not the most cost-effective way of building a collection. Don’t be swayed by the branding, but have a go if you long to recreate the thrill of opening up a pack of Pokémon, and being gradually disappointed as the rush of opportunity recedes.
Best custom miniatures
When you’re after a miniature that perfectly encapsulates your character – one that translates all their threads, slick hair, snarling expression, and accessories into an exact facsimile – look no further than Hero Forge. Design a custom miniature from the website’s range of modular body parts and accessories, and a 3D print of your character will be served up before your eyes.
The breadth of choice shouldn’t be dismissed
You can pick between a broad selection of clothing, gear, mounts, bodies, heads, and indeed races. Although the breadth of customisability is limited to Hero Forge’s available options, the breadth of choice shouldn’t be dismissed. The number of helmets alone will have you pondering your character’s fashion – ‘Do they look better with a wizard’s hat, or an ornate renaissance headpiece?’ Decisions, decisions. Choice might not be limitless, but there’s enough range to meet the needs of anyone desperate to get their hands on a mini that stands out from the rest.
Bear in mind the price, though. The cheapest choice – a 30mm plastic miniature – will set you back $19.99 / £14.50. You could also purchase your creation as a unity3d digital format, to use in Tabletop Simulator and other virtual battle maps, if you do your roleplaying online.
Use spare miniatures
Of course, you don’t need to buy new miniatures if you already have some kicking around from your other tabletop exploits. Got some scaly Lizardmen from that Seraphon army you promised yourself you’d build? Use them as kobolds. Have a beefy Kings of War Orc army lying in a box? Stick them in your next D&D encounter.
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Miniatures can work wonderfully as stand-ins. So long as it can provide a fitting visual accompaniment to the encounter, and clearly conveys the correct sense of scale and action, virtually any miniature will do in a pinch. Just make sure you keep track of which mini is standing in for what monster. You’d hate your DM to forget that the terrifying worg on the table was actually a puny boar.
When I started playing Dungeons & Dragons battles on a map, I used tokens and Cardboard Heroes instead of miniatures. Today’s gamers have similar inexpensive options ranging from tokens, to cardboard pawns on plastic bases, to printable paper minis, to flat-plastic miniatures.
When pre-painted plastic miniatures reached stores, I figured I would augment my cardboard with a few common monsters: orcs and skeletons and the lot. But the appeal of miniatures proved irresistible and my collection grew unchecked.
If you’re cheaper or more sensible than I am, you can still follow my original plan and collect a small group of broadly useful miniatures—the sort of figures I use so often that I never bother to file them away. Such common figures tend to come cheap too. This post features the most useful figures to buy on a budget. As of posting, I found all the pre-painted selections for sale at between $2 and $5 each. Unpainted picks often come a bit cheaper. To find these figures yourself, paste the figure caption into search and browse the listings that appear.
Typically, pre-painted figures come randomized in boxes, so if you buy a box, the you never know what you get. For maximum value on useful figures, buy singles from online vendors. For bargain hunters I recommend going the web site of a miniatures vendor, selecting all the D&D, Pathfinder, or D&D Miniatures and sorting by lowest cost first. Pages of bargains appear, many for broadly useful figures.
Unpainted figures bring the new hobby of painting miniatures. But the hobby of painting welcomes dabblers more than you may think. Even a beginner can paint figures with more appeal then some slapdash factory job. Just buy a painting starter set, put on headphones, and enjoy the almost meditative flow that comes from painting.
Bandits and thugs
The Bandit Knocker’s club and hodgepodge of armor makes the figure my favorite back-alley brawler.
Reaper Bones: Bandit Knocker 77510 (sold unpainted)
Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Minis: Bandits
Storm Kings Thunder #14: Bandit Captain
Guards and soldiers
Heroes & Monsters #08: Watch Guard
Heroes & Monsters #9: Watch Officer
Deep Cuts Unpainted Miniatures: Town Guards
Night Below #13: Greyhawk City Militia Sergeant
Zombies and corporeal undead
The Terror Wight figure serves as a wight, ghoul, or any other corporeal undead, making it one of the most versatile figures.
Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Minis: Zombies
War Drums #34: Terror Wight
Reaper Bones: Zombies 77342
Translucent undead figures stand in for ghosts, wraiths, and more.
Rage of Demons #21: Banshee
Not pictured:Boneyard #05: Ghost
Reaper makes a variety of skeletons for their Bones line.
Reaper bones: Skeletons (various, come unpainted)
Desert of Desolation #39: Boneshard Skeleton
Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Minis: Skeletons
The giant spider is large, while the other spiders are medium sized.
Elemental Evil #08: Wolf Spider
Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Minis: Spiders
Reaper Bones: Giant Spider (sold unpainted)
Reaper Bones: Barrow rats 77198
The wolf pack has medium figures, while the winter wolf is large.
Reaper Bones: Wolf pack 02830
Reaper Bones: Winter wolf 77437
Figures with full helms work best because they double as animated armor, helmed horrors, and the like.
Underdark #11: Royal Guard
Waterdeep Dungeon of the Mad Mage #36: Dezmyr Shadowdusk
Reaper Bones: Knight Heroes 77676
Baldur’s Gate Descent Into Avernus #08: Falaster Fisk
Deathknell #36: Grim Necromancer
Reaper Bones: Cultists and Circle 77351
Waterdeep Dungeon of the Mad Mage #17: Berserker
Not pictured:Monster Menagerie 2 #19: Half-Orc Barbarian
Orcs see the table almost as often as goblins, but the smaller humanoids make better low-level foes, so their figures prove more useful.
Monster Menagerie 2 #03: Goblin
Savage Encounters #16: Goblin Skullcleaver
Nolzur’s Marvelous Unpainted Minis: Goblins
Assassins and rogues
Reaper Bones: Romag Davl, Thief 30004
Not pictured:Kingmaker #10: Shadow Rogue
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