As you know, Paizo has teamed up with WizKids to get into the prepainted plastic miniatures business. Wizards of the Coast met with mixed success during the run of Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures. WotC opted for a random-packaging model, which seemed to work relatively well as long they were linked to a miniatures skirmish game. Once the skirmish game went away, WotC fumbled through a series of alternate packaging schemes until they eventually reduced the line to occasional Collector’s Sets. Although WotC is set to launch a new skirmish game, Dungeon Command, in mid-2012, they’ll be using a completely different packaging scheme, selling preconfigured “faction packs” at a $40 price point. Paizo’s new Pathfinder Battles line thus fits into a market niche that Wizards of the Coasts more or less invented and then abandons. How well Pathfinder Battles fit into that niche depends on the individual consumer’s preferences and existing collection of miniatures.
Pathfinder Battles miniatures come in two types of packages: a $2.99 “standard booster” that includes one medium-sized miniature or two small-sized miniatures and a $5.99 “large booster” that contains one large-sized miniature. Paizo will also sell you a brick consisting of sixteen standard boosters and three large boosters for $74.99 or a case consisting of four bricks for $274.99. By way of comparison, WotC’s Savage Encounters set—the last non-huge set in the D&D Miniatures line—was packaged in boosters that featured one large miniature visible in a blister pack plus four randomly-packaged, blindly-purchased small, medium, and/or large miniatures and sold at an MSRP of $14.99. For $14.96 MRSP spent on three Pathfinder Battles standard boosters and one large booster, you’ll get one large miniature and three to six small or medium miniatures, all randomly packaged and blindly purchased. I wasn’t a big fan of WotC’s random packaging and I’m not a big fan of Paizo’s random packaging, but the per-miniature prices come out pretty close to each other.
I already have loads of miniatures, since I started collecting WotC’s D&D Miniatures about the time that Dragoneye released. Paizo’s Heroes and Monsters set contains 40 miniatures, many of which duplicate creatures of which I already have plenty. I don’t need any more goblins, skeletons, orcs, and so on, unless they’re very distinctive. Therefore, I decided to pick up just a few selected minis on the secondary market. I was surprised and, frankly, a bit annoyed to discover that Paizo itself is in the market for secondary sales of Pathfinder Battles miniatures, and at starkly inflated prices. Paizo will gladly sell you a large box with an unknown figure in it for $7, but if you want to be sure you get an ettin, they’ll gladly take your $20 and sell you an ettin. For $3 you can blindly buy a standard booster, but if you want to make sure you get a gargoyle, just send Paizo $12. By contrast, Auggie’s Games (tell them that the Icosahedrophilia podcast sent you) will sell you an ettin for $4.99 and a gargoyle for $2.29. I can hardly imagine a more crassly cynical move than to sell randomly-packaged miniatures and sell singles at inflated prices at the same time. If Paizo makes a sufficient profit when you buy an ettin blind for $7, why do they feel the need to sell it to you for $20 if you get to pick?
In the end, I chose to purchase only five of the 40 miniatures available in the Heroes & Monsters set (from Auggie’s, not at Paizo’s ridiculous singles prices). As I mentioned before, I’ve been collecting preprinted plastic miniatures for a long time, so I get a much better return on my investment by buying selectively. The minis imitate the typical Pathfinder art style (and therefore generally seem to me more cartoonish than most of the WotC D&D Minis), so if you don’t like that style, you’ll probably want to purchase selectively, too. If you’re just starting to build a minis collection, you might find that buying by the brick suits your needs better. Some of the minis (ettin, gargoyle, troll) look pretty cheesy to me in the online photos—comparable to the worst in the D&D Minis line. Others (gnome fighter, elf wizard, dwarf fighter, human ranger, human rogue) just aren’t very distinctive and add nothing unique to my large collection; DMs with fewer minis, or players who need to supply their own minis for new characters, may have an understandably more positive reaction. I chose to pick up the human druid and Seelah, human paladin primarily because dark-skinned females are sorely lacking in the D&D Miniatures line. I bought the purple-gray spectre and the exceedingly tall lich because they are very distinctive. Finally, I bought the medusa figure, my favorite of the 40 figures in the set. D&D 4e turned medusas into snake-skinned humanoids somewhat reminiscent of yuan-ti. In Heroes & Monsters, Paizo has given us a classical medusa; she looks like she stepped right out of a Greek myth and into the box. I may yet pick up an elf wizard or two with a view toward repainting them; I’m also considering picking up one more copies of the caveweaver spider, giant spider, and venomous snake, all of which have a look reasonably different from any of WotC’s spiders and snakes.
I also purchased the Beginner Box Heroes set, which includes miniatures to represent the four iconic heroes in the Pathfinder Beginner Box. I like them well enough, though I would be more enthusiastic about them if I didn’t already have a bunch of similar minis from my years collecting D&D Minis, or if I played Pathfinder and specifically wanted to represent the iconic characters. Ezren and Valeros, the wizard and the fighter, are fine pieces of work, but they don’t add much to an already-large collection. The “fan” sticking up from Merisiel’s back confused me at first, until I realized that she’s a rogue and those are the handles of (oversized) throwing daggers poking up where she can easily reach them. After that, they went from “confusing” to “cool.” The best of the four, for my purposes, is Kyra. Her dark skin and desert-dweller’s garb make her quite distinctive, even when compared with my tackle box full of D&D Miniatures clerics. On the down side, all four of these characters seem to be in basically the same pose: both hands are raised into the air, clutching a bladed weapon or implement (except for Ezren’s empty right hand). This raises such questions as: Do Pathfinder characters always walk around like that? Are all Pathfinder fighters and rogues dual-wielders? Does the Pathfinder world feature a thriving trade in magical deodorant? But aside from this slightly comical sameness, I’m pleased to add these four minis to my collection.
Paizo has announced two additional Pathfinder Battles miniatures products thus far: a Rise of the Runelords set comparable to Heroes & Monsters, and a Champions of Evil encounter pack. The first few previews for Rise of the Runelords have appeared on Paizo’s blog, and the paint masters photographed there look pretty good (especially the treachery demon). I’ll definitely be watching the secondary market for him, and probably for some of the other figures in that set. The five figures in Champions of Evil—packaged in a blister pack like the four-PC set—are repaints from Heroes & Monsters. Yes, that’s right: repackaged repaints after just one set, but it does make for an easy way to pick up five minis at once. Champions of Evil includes the Heroes & Monsters half-elf cleric, but in darker clothes; gargoyle, with its monotonous gray replaced by a monotonous red-orange to make it a “scarlet gargoyle”; a succubus, with the colors of its wings and its bikini more or less reversed; and two zombies, with blue shorts instead of brown. I can’t say that I’m terribly excited about this set, even though I’m usually a sucker for repaints.