Wizkids and the Greatest D&D Miniatures Ever
August 24, 2017

(Disclaimer: The title of this blog post is solely the opinion of the author…but, dang it, it’s still true!)

I love Dungeons & Dragons. Love it.

I first was introduced to the game in 1979 as a Freshman in High School. My school (Branham High School in San Jose, CA) had an afterschool Dungeons & Dragons club, and my group of friends decided to check it out. Well, it only took a single session for all of us to be completely hooked. And while I haven’t played consistently over the intervening 38 years, I did keep playing and play to this day.

It’s probably the toy collector in me, but I prefer to play using miniatures. It’s not necessary to play that way, and others prefer to use the “theater of the mind”. But, that’s one of the beautiful things about the game. It’s flexibility to adapt to however you want to play it.

Back in the dawn of the 1980s there was a game store in Downtown Campbell, CA a suburb of San Jose, called The Game Table. Thinking back, this was well before the rise of dedicated game stores. The Game Table had to be one of the first. We would ride our bikes down there (a 4 mile bike ride) to check out the latest D&D supplements, modules and, of course, the miniatures. We’d also ride down Campbell Avenue a ways further to D&J Hobbies who also had a generous miniatures selection.

In the 80s gaming miniatures were made of lead. When someone figured out lead was toxic, they were switched to pewter. There were already several miniatures manufacturers at this point. Metal miniatures predated Dungeons & Dragons by a long shot. Wargaming with metal soldiers, tanks and naval vessels dates back to the 1950s at least. But, in the 80s with D&D surging in popularity (as it was also surging in controversy, but that’s a tale for another time) we saw the rise of fantasy themed miniatures, and even officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons brand miniatures. Minifigs was the first company to license D&D from publisher TSR and began producing miniatures in 1977.

Grenadier Models obtained the licensed for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in 198o. I wasn’t overly fond of Grenadier’s style. Their miniatures tended to be a bit dumpy and cartoony looking and not posed very dynamically. But, I still owned a ton of them. Ral Partha, however, while not making official D&D minis, was producing their own generic fantasy miniatures and they were absolutely stellar with sculpting that rivals some miniatures today. It was amazing stuff. Ral Partha would later get the license for D&D and it was a match made in heaven.

Well, I wasn’t intending to write the history of D&D miniatures, so let me flash forward. My gaming tastes changed over the years, and the gaming industry changed over the years and some manufacturers began producing plastic miniatures. I found, personally, that I infinitely preferred plastic over metal and even got to the point that I won’t touch metal at all. It’s all plastic for me.

A few years back Wizkids (maker of the ever popular Heroclix game and pre-painted Marvel and DC miniatures) became the licensee for D&D miniatures in conjunction with Wizards of the Coast releasing the 5th Edition of the Worlds Greatest Role Playing Game. They came in blind packaging (just as WOTC’s own D&D line had done for years before) and were prepainted. And, they were fine for what they were. But, I disliked the blind packaging (a practice I dislike in general) and the paint jobs ranged from pretty bad to ok to pretty good. Again, they worked for what they were. They just weren’t my cup of tea.

Then it happened.

Wizkids announced they’d be doing a new line of unpainted plastic miniatures with greater detail and sold in blister packs so you knew exactly what you were getting. And, to top it off they looked amazing. They are sold under the name Nolzur’s Marvelous MiniaturesWizkids also holds a license to Paizo’s Pathfinder (the no. 2 role-playing game) and make unpainted minis for that setting as well. The first assortment for both was released earlier this year, and were very warmly received. My Friendly Local Game Store (shout out to Guardian Games in Portland, OR!) has trouble keeping them in stock. A smaller wave is due to be released any time now, and a larger assortment is scheduled for November.

Why do I feel they’re the greatest D&D miniatures ever? Well, they’re plastic, and not metal. They not blind boxed. I need skeletons? I can buy a pack of skeletons. I need Orcs? I buy a pack of Orcs. My characters an elf bard? That’s what I get. I’m planning on playing a Dragonborn Paladin soon, and there’s a mini coming in the November assortment that’s perfect! The sculpting and detail is top notch. and the poses are dynamic. I just absolutely love them. Oh! I almost forgot! Monsters come 2 or 3 to a pack (different poses!) and they retail around $4. Characters come 2 to a pack with one figure representing a lower level version and the other a high level. Brilliant!

Wizkids will also be producing scenery pieces for the lines, like treasure chests, piles of loot, pillars and deluxe sets like a bar and a adventurer’s campsite with wagon!

The first wave was $3.99 a pack. Looking at preorders for the November releases it looks like we’re seeing a price increase to $4.99 a pack. That’s ok with me. These are still totally worth it. And, at that price they’re the perfect thing to pick up each time I visit the game store.

So, Wizkids, you just keep these minis coming and I promise that I will keep on buy them and singing their praises.


Jeff Cope
Jeff Cope has been collecting toys and action figures since he was a wee lad growing up in the 70s, and is still waiting to grow out of it. He's been involved in the online collecting community since he first started writing for Raving Toy Maniac in the mid-90s, and is proud to call AFi his online home.
Read other articles by Jeff Cope.




1 Comment »

  • Jonny Rocket says:

    Funny that you mentioned Ral Partha minis, because that’s what got me into D&D.
    I was collecting the miniatures in the early 90’s and some kids hanging at the hobby store told me that they could be used with a roll playing game. It was around the time that the new and easy to learn D&D black box came out.

    When I picked up my first set of these new Wizkids miniatures I was thrown back to those good old days of buying Ral Partha blisters with my pocket money.

  • I too was an habitué of The GameTable from the 70s through the mid-80s. I have a lot of fond memories of gaming there with Larry and Phil (the original owners) and the cast of characters that were a part of my late HS and early college years.

    I worked at D&J Hobbies from 1977-78, back when it was in Kirkwood Plaza. I’d been going to the store since it opened as a wee nook next to Dolphin Pet in the early 70s. Sad to see that it’s completely gone now. I always made a point of stopping by when my travels took me to San Jose. I was in the area a few years back when one of Darryl and Jan’s children was running a much smaller reboot version. Now that’s gone, too.


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