Here's a Greg Costikyan quote to start things off, from here, pages 26-27:http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/05164.51146.pdf
As an example of the difference that mere sensation can make, consider
the boardgame Axis & Allies. I first bought it when it was published by Nova
Games, an obscure publisher of hobby games. It had an extremely garish
board, and ugly cardboard counters to represent the military units. I played
it once, thought it was pretty dumb, and put it away. Some years later, it
was bought and republished by Milton Bradley, with an elegant new board,
and with hundreds of plastic pieces in the shapes of aircraft, ships, tanks, and infantrymen.I’ve played it many times since. It’s the sheer tactile joy of pushing around little military figures on the board that makes the game fun to play.
Mostly there he's talking about tactile joy in game design, but it starts to get into some things regarding the use of miniatures in gaming, something I'm personally into.
I had a moment of clarity, due to an exchange I had with another board member recently, which came out of a thread I'd started about techniques for designing Braunsteins. We'd been having a private side discussion, and he'd shown me one of his designs for a LARP that he thought might help me with my design difficulties. In the course of the convo, he mentioned that miniatures simply left him cold (paraphrasing).
Now, as a big minis fan I was a bit sad. But I also realized that in practical terms, it's often easier to not use minis than to use minis.
That wasn't my moment of clarity. I already knew that.My moment of clarity was realizing that I fundamentally think of miniatures as toys.
Which also helped me figure out one of the basic problems I've had communicating with other posters in the past, especially when I've tried to work out ideas for games using miniatures that go outside of the typical tactical war game paradigm.My dirty little secret: I'd buy these things as toys anyway.
Many times, when thinking in terms of a scenario or even a broader type of game, I'm thinking about the toys as a jump off point.
Thought #1:Hey, here are these great toys. What can I do with them?
This tends to be a whole lot different from other folks and their approach, where the miniatures are an afterthought. Heck, I have a whole long rant about why D&D 4e, the most miniatures-centric version of that game yet created, is a horrible game for miniatures use in practical terms, because miniatures use was an afterthought for them.
Also, I think of them as toys first. Which means, even constraining things to using them as little stand-in people in a tiny chunk of some imaginary world, that I'm not restricted to only
(or even just primarily
) thinking in terms of war game
Oh, don't get me wrong. I was fascinated as a kid to learn that there was something like proper games people were out there playing with a bit nicer version of plastic army men! How cool was that?!?
Wargames are pretty much the mainstream of play with miniatures. Effectively, it's the only
thing people use miniatures for in gaming, in one form or another. No shock then that upon mentioning miniatures, the conversation immediately drifts to war game type rules mechanics and so on. And, with the afterthought nature of miniatures in game design thinking, the conversation also tends to spin towards how and why substitutions for miniatures can/should be made.
Miniatures for war gaming/ war game-like play is the mainstream way of thinking about this stuff. It's the default setting.
But toy soldiers aren't the only kind of little toy people, and toy soldiers fighting little wars isn't the only kinds of play activity children have with little toy people. Even with action figures as a kid, we were doing more than just fighting and fighting competitively.
It's in that "other stuff" play where I see possibilities for other approaches to minis use.