Miniatures games have a long and rich history. They started out as battlefield simulations for military officers, which then became wargames. I like to imagine that during the exercises, people started to realize, “Hey this is pretty fun!”. From there, they slowly evolved into the massive collectible hobby that we know and love today.
I like to break them down into 2 categories: hobbyist miniature games and miniature board games.
Miniature board games are a complete board gaming experience in a box. If that’s what you’re looking for, I’m sorry to say that’s not what we’re covering in this article. Lucky for you, I just wrote an article about the best tabletop miniature board games here.
Hobbyist miniature games are a different breed.
The focus of the game is usually solely on the miniatures. Additionally, there’s the hobbyist aspect of painting, building, and customizing miniatures which is separate from the actual game. Usually, in these types of games, players have to build and paint the models themselves. This leads to some incredibly-customized miniatures, with hobbyists becoming true artisans in their own right.
It’s much easier to get into a miniatures board game because everything is already there. The hobbyist, however, will have a much longer gaming experience, not to mention a much more personal one.
The game doesn’t start or end around the table. It starts when you carefully glue each tiny arm and weapon to the model and continues throughout paint scheme selection and backstory creation. Even during actual gameplay, a model that you’ve spent hours painting can have a huge emotional impact on how you play the game.
1. Warhammer 40K
It’s hard to talk about miniature games without mentioning Games Workshop. Love them or hate them, Games Workshop has dominated the market in miniature games for years. They have eons of experience in the industry and have created an incredibly rich world for their games, with lore that covers millennia.
I personally really like the 40k universe. The mythology is fascinating to me. It’s not the most original thing in the world, but it’s all very well done.
Throughout the years, the models have drastically improved. The only real complaint I have is the long wait times for updates to my favorite factions.
40K remains one of the most popular collections and the newest update looks to add even more units to fan-favorite factions as they continue the story into its next chapter.
- Ideal for those new to the Warhammer 40,000 hobby
- Includes 2 sets of miniatures, gaming mat, book of rules & more
- Includes 6 Primaris Space Marines & 9 Deathguard
2. Warhammer 40K: Dark Imperium
If you’re completely new to Warhammer but are looking for a place to jump in, the Dark Imperium Boxed set is probably the best place to start. It comes with 53 miniatures split between the new Primaris Space Marines and the revamped Death Guard models. It’s enough to field a decent force of either side and it’s enough to get started and start playing a 2-player game.
The boxed set also comes with a massive hardcover rulebook. Rulebooks are usually sold separately and relatively expensive for a rulebook. It contains all of the base rules to play the game and a ton of the lore of the Warhammer 40k universe. Usually, in the starter set, they’ll add an abridged printout of the rules that’s more of a teaser and quick-start guide. This boxed set, however, gives you everything you need.
This set is probably the easiest way to get into the hobby. All of the models are the easy-build variants so you don’t have to be an expert model builder to hop into the game.
- Dark imperium boxed set warhammer 40,000 miniature game games...
- Packaged set of 53 detailed citadel miniatures.
- Complete and unabridged hardback warhammer 40,000 book.
3. Warhammer 40K: Kill Team
Warhammer 40K: Kill Team is a relatively new game in the 40K universe. Instead of focusing on massive battlefield arenas, Kill Team shrinks down the fighting to a much more intimate squad level.
The models are the same from regular 40K, so if you have a bunch of spares lying around, chances are you’ll be able to form a Kill Team from what you already have. Kill Team uses a completely different ruleset, though, so you’ll have to pick up a rulebook to play.
I really like the individual focus on specific units in Kill Team. Regular 40K has you painting complete squads but each individual mini in Kill Team is a named figure with their own personal backstory.
If you’re interested in getting started in Kill Team, check out our beginner’s guide to getting into the game as cheaply as possible.
4. Warhammer: Age of Sigmar
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar is the reboot of Warhammer Fantasy. Games Workshop revamped and simplified the entire system. The factions are all but wiped out as well. With Age of Sigmar, you have the option of playing the good guys, the bad guys, or the wild card guys. It’s not as interesting as it used to be but the transition into Age of Sigmar has made it easier for newer players to get into the game.
Speaking of all things Warhammer, let’s talk about Mordheim. Mordheim was a smaller offshoot of Warhammer Fantasy back in the day. Mordheim was a city in the old Warhammer Fantasy setting before the transition to Age of Sigmar. The Mordheim game uses a modified ruleset and tells the story of the downfall of the once-great city of Mordheim.
A great comet smashed into the city, killing and corrupting everything within. Small warbands enter the destroyed city looking for wyrdstone, pieces of the comet, and to loot the city’s lost treasures.
The Mordheim system is long out-of-print but its popularity hasn’t waned. The rules can still be found online and many of the Warhammer models can be repurposed for use in a Mordheim game. It’s one of the few systems that got me into Warhammer fantasy and you can still find a pretty solid cult following of players who keep it alive.
There are also some interesting iOS and Google Play store games dedicated to the old Mordheim ruleset.
5. Necromunda: Underhive
No surprises here. Games Workshop makes another appearance on this list. The scope is a little bit smaller than a galaxy-wide apocalypse. Necromunda takes a look at one of the Hive Cities in the 40k universe. Apparently not all humans are content with becoming imperial guardsmen.
In Necromunda, players control different gang factions looking to dominate the underworld of one of the massive hive cities. It’s a skirmish game in which players create their gang and murder each other to become the top dogs of the hive.
Necromunda is noticeably more colorful than the other Games Workshop games and offers a more cyberpunk kind of flair.
- Bringing Future Design To The Kids Of Todays World!!
- Wide Non Slip Plastic Deck
- Unique Pivot Steering Design, Lean Into The Corners & Carve!
6. Blood Bowl
Blood Bowl takes fantasy football a little too literally. It’s a league for fantasy creatures/races to play football… or Blood Bowl, I guess.
Blood Bowl takes all of the fantasy races from Warhammer: Age of Sigmar (the fantasy Warhammer, not the roided-out space marines), and places them in an American football-style game.
The difference is that in American football, you usually don’t have a horde of orcs running you down and murdering you for the ball.
Blood Bowl is a game that really offers customization of players. Each miniature becomes an integral member of your franchise. That’s not just a defender, that’s Wiggly Bob #17, your star Nurgle Plague Rotter that’s led in tackles and decapitations the last 3 seasons.
You get attached to your team, and let’s be honest, this is way better than fantasy football.
- Blood Bowl 2016 Warhammer Miniature Game Games Workshop
- Miniatures are supplied unpainted and assembly is required.
- Additional miniatures and rule books are required to play Blood...
7. Guild Ball
Guild Ball is another fantasy football type of game but instead of American football, it’s regular football (or soccer).
Guild Ball takes place in Steamforged Games’ world of The Empire of the Free Cities. In the game, players control the coach and team of a miniatures game of soccer. It, of course, is a little more intricate than that. Each faction has a different skillset and specialty. Some teams are offensive-oriented and basically be a field full of strikers, whereas other teams can be really offensive and actually strike other players.
The system is designed to be quick and easy to get into. Players can jump in and start playing without too much hassle as the rules are very simple to learn.
8. A Song of Ice & Fire: Tabletop Miniatures Game
You can’t talk about miniatures games without an appearance from CMON (Cool Mini or Not). This time they have their own Game of Thrones system. I can’t think of a better pairing than CMON and a mini wargaming table.
Super-detailed minis are a staple with CMON. A Song of Ice and Fire focuses on small-scale battles between the various factions of Westeros. The art in the game is from the book and comic artwork (as opposed to the show), which I really enjoy. Players can field the various factions in battle, capitalizing on the unique abilities of each faction leader.
I personally like the Boltons minis simply because they look horrifying. You can definitely see that CMON comes from a board game background instead of a miniature wargaming background, but it actually does translate pretty well.
The ruleset is much simpler than a lot of other systems and it’s very easy to understand. I think they did a fantastic job here and I’m looking forward to seeing them branch out into other games and genres as well.
- King Robert bar a the on is dead, and those in control of the...
- Players build their armies, select leaders, construct their...
- The War of five Kings is on!
9. Star Wars: Legion
The Star Wars franchise is everywhere. It’s kind of surprising that it took so long for them to get into miniatures games. There have been previous Star Wars-themed games and minis, but Legion is their newest line. It was released in 2018 and there was a bit of a mixed response at first.
Personally, I think it was just growing pains. New sets come out all the time and they all look fantastic. Players of Legion only need to field a low number of units to jump into the game and there are packs from all over the Star Wars fandom. There are even packs full of Ewoks if you’re one of those weirdos that’s into that sort of thing.
I think as time goes on, Star Wars: Legion will become a bigger contender on the miniature wargaming scene.
- A miniatures game of thrilling Infantry battles for two players
- Enter the Star Wars universe with iconic characters like Darth...
- Innovative mechanics for ordering your troops simulate the fog of...
10. Fallout: Wasteland Warfare
Fallout is a game that perfectly lends itself to a miniatures game. With super mutants, ghouls, power armor, and a trusty dog, the wasteland never looked so good.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is a skirmish-based combat system in which players fight in familiar wasteland territory. One of the more interesting aspects of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare is the fact that the game can be played in a bunch of different modes, including solo. Not only that, but the solo mode is actually really fun.
There are not that many miniature games out there in which you can recreate your own stories in a solo setting. Ideally, you’ll always have players, but on those days where you can’t get a group together, a solo game scratches the itch just as well.
- For 1-8 players. Ages 14+
- 30-240 minute playing time
- Players build their own crew from a wide range of factions,...
Malifaux has always fascinated me and for whatever reason, always reminded me of a creepy haunted carnival. It has nothing to do with carnivals, though, other than the aesthetic.
In Malifaux, players control a crew and a master. The master’s minions fight to complete objectives in skirmish-style and each crew can be built up with unique models.
Instead of dice, Malifaux uses a card-based system to perform actions. It’s a unique system that has withstood the test of time and is one of the more mainstream games on this list, making it much easier to find models and players locally.
Who doesn’t like a good wizard battle?
Frostgrave puts players in control of a wizard and his troupe as they loot an ancient, frozen city.
Asa wizard, you’ll have access to different schools of magic and your own apprentice. Players form raiding parties to clash with each other using magic and various minions to do their bidding.
I really like these models and some of my favorites are the gnolls. The various schools of magic and ways that a player can customize their forces make Frostgrave an excellent choice for collectors and hobbyists alike.
13. Infinity: The Game
The Infinity series is a gorgeous and relatively new contender to the miniature games’ scene. It’s developed by a Spanish company and the minis are really cool-looking. The system is designed to be a close-quarters skirmish system in which teams of various factions are sent out with variable objective missions.
I love the minis for this system. They also make easy-to-use 3D cardboard arenas that remind me of a much more colorful Shadowrun world. I’m interested in seeing how they expand their universe as it’s one of the newer and more unique systems I’ve seen in quite a while.
- Infinity Operation Icestorm Box Set Miniatures Corvus Belli
Warmachine combines fantasy and steampunk elements in its theme. Players control soldiers and mercenaries, along with warcasters who can use devastating magic spells. The real stars of Warmachine are the awesome-looking Warjacks.
The Warjacks are giant steam-powered mechs that definitely steal the show in Warmachine. Each Warjack mini is unique and offers a host of different customization options. I honestly think the game itself is a little lacking in flair, but the Warjacks save the day.
Each faction has different-themed minis that make the game really pop. It’s one of the few games that has been around since the early 2000s and still has a very large following, which makes it easier to get into the game as well.
- Two Player Battle Box Warmachine Miniature Game Privateer Press
- Miniatures are supplied unpainted and assembly is required.
- Additional miniatures and rule books are required to Expand...
15. Dust Tactics
Dust is one of the big contenders in the miniature wargaming sphere.
It takes an alternative history view of WWII and reimagines the war if giant mechanized spider tanks, bipedal robots, and (even) Cthulhu joined the fray.
Dust miniatures look amazing. Mixing weird sci-fi tech into a WWII setting is nothing new but the aesthetic really works.
Dust Tactics is visually one of my favorite war games. The spider tanks on the field with conscripts soldiers running interference on the board is just too cool not to play.
- A brand new core set for dust tactics
- Features the new point system
- Includes all new, never-before-released miniatures exclusive to...
16. Flames of War: The World War II Miniatures Game
The Flames of War system is a conventional WWII miniature wargaming system. It uses 15mm scale models and doesn’t require you to use Flames of War miniatures. As long as they’re the right size, you’re completely allowed to swap out any models you have. Since it’s historical and not Cthulhu or zombie-inspired, you actually a lot of leeway in model choice.
As far as standard settings go, Flames of War performs beautifully as a miniature wargame. Its development company, New Zealand-based Battlefront Miniatures Ltd, seems to actually care about its player base and actively listens to its players for updates.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the system and I really like the philosophy and approach of the company.
- Officially Licensed
- 1:100 Scale
- Models Supplied Unpainted & Require Assembly
BattleTech is one of those game franchises that never truly goes away. It was one of the original giant mech battle games that spawned numerous variations. There’s a tabletop RPG, computer games, board games, and of course, miniatures games.
Every few years or so, there seems to be a reboot of the franchise and there’s a good reason for that. Giant battling robots are freaking cool. The BattleTech miniatures game is no exception.
You can create your mercenary company of giant robots to blast away other giant robots on a miniature scale. There’s something about giant robots fighting that is just so satisfying. You can customize loadouts on your mech and custom design paint schemes to really make them your own, all of which make for an awesome minis game.
- DEPLOYMENT IN THREE…TWO…ONE…
- The commline abuzz with pre-battle orders.
- The pounding rhythm of a metal titan on the prowl.
18. Axis & Allies Miniatures
Axis & Allies isn’t necessarily known for its miniatures. It is, however, known as a quintessential wargame that is often the first real wargame players experience.
In 2005, Avalon Hill decided to introduce Axis & Allies into the miniatures market. The miniatures come in blister packs and are all prepainted.
There are no weird alternate history “what if” units like spider tanks or rail guns. This is just old school historical wargaming. It’s a pretty easy setup to learn and hearkens back to wargaming’s roots when these games were used as an exercise for military officers.
HeroClix is the successor to Mage Knight. It’s one of the few mini-games that come completely prepainted. HeroClix minis are all based on comic book heroes and villains. If they’re in a comic book, chances are there’s a HeroClix mini for it.
The defining feature of the HeroClix system is its ease-of-use and easy-to-learn rules. There are not a whole lot of rules allowing new players to pick up a pack and start playing right away. This is, in part, due to the adjustable bases on the minis. Each mini has its own stats that are instantly visible without any intensive bookkeeping. The bases of each mini rotate and “click” to show different stats and abilities depending upon the health points of the mini. It’s an ingenious system that is very easy to pick up.
HeroClix also uses a collectible booster pack system. When you buy a pack, you’ll get a random set of units. The only downside to this is when you happen to get a ton of duplicates. Some of the starter packs will have set units, though, so you’re guaranteed a playable set without getting unlucky with a bad set of booster packs.
20. Pirates of the Spanish Main
I love the concept of Pirates of the Spanish Main. As an actual sailor in the US Navy, I always had a soft spot for shipboard combat games. This one uses a really fun system, especially for collecting.
Pirates of the Spanish Main uses a similar system to old school collectible trading card packs. Instead of cards in the pack, however, there are flattened cardboard cutouts that can be popped out and assembled to make a ship.
It’s a really neat idea that I haven’t seen since my basketball trading card days.
Miniatures games fascinate me, especially the hobbyist aspects of the games. I first started playing Warhammer 40k when I was in the Navy. I had a few friends who bought me my first miniatures to get another person to play with and it quickly led down a rabbit hole. We would sit around and paint miniatures together, drink, barbecue and basically turn the whole day into a gaming event.
How many of these have you tried? Do you prefer miniatures board games or collectible mini wargaming? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think!