It’s that time of year again, when Reaper Miniatures holds Christmas early and runs another Kickstarter for their line of Bones miniatures. In case you live under a rock, Reaper is a company headquartered in Texas that makes miniatures for fantasy and science fiction tabletop gaming.
While Reaper’s been one of the industry’s mainstays, and the producer of some of the finest metal miniatures for a few decades now, the miniatures industry has fallen on hard times. The problem with miniatures these days is the rising costs of tin and pewter, and it’s not uncommon for a single figure to sell for $7-9. Miniatures as a hobby are getting expensive both for the customer and the manufacturer, and that ends up with fewer people buying fewer miniatures. Then there’s the rise of competition who don’t sculpt their figs like Reaper; they digitally design them, and then 3d-print them, which leads to some crazy-low overhead.
Reaper took an interesting gamble by introducing Bones, a line that uses the same sculpts as their metal figures but is molded in white “Bonesium” (PVC plastic polymer). Kickstarter backers would get in on the ground floor and end up with sweet figures, Reaper would use the profits to buy an injection molding machine and develop molds for it, and a product line that would otherwise take half a decade to establish would be in place in about a year. It was a crazy runaway success, enough so that Reaper came back a year later to run another Kickstarter, and now they’re running a third.
Nowadays, you can walk into your FLGS and pick up the average Bones figure for $3-5; some of the large Bones figures sell for $20 or $30 and would cost $80-100 for a metal version. The MSRP is at the right price-point to make miniatures an impulse buy again. The larger dragons and demons that are be outside my interest and price range in metal are now downright affordable in Bones. The Kickstarters have been wild successes because they’re usually a steal of a deal.
I keep expecting to reach the law of diminishing returns here—there’s got to be a lot of people who backed the last two who went, eh, I have more than enough figures to paint in my lifetime. And as the Kickstarter snowballs, Reaper will end up with a higher overhead and costlier logistics, so the last few days of the project may see a lot of pledges and not as many stretch goals hit. Or, not as many figs added to the core pledge…
Already, it’s hit a good number of stretch goals compared to previous projects—36 goals total for Bones I, 26 for Bones 2, and we’re hovering at 20 for Bones 3—and the core pledge is around a hundred figures, down compared to the last two. (That’s not including things like the extra bases and weapons packs—while my stance on dungeon IKEA is changing due to how fun those are to paint, the armory kits don’t thrill me; I can do a passable paintjob but I’m still terrible at kitbashing.) Bones 3 is not the crazy-stupid deal that Bones 1 was, which is probably good since that had to have cost Reaper some money.
I also have to feel bad for fans who enjoy modern/sci-fi gaming; there are tons and tons of fantasy figures, but only a half-dozen Deadlands Noir figs for the modern gamers. I know those figs don’t sell as well, and probably wouldn’t support their own Kickstarter—to be honest, I don’t usually use miniatures outside of certain fantasy RPGs, but I still feel kind of bad for anyone holding out hope for a brace of space pirates or cyberpunks. (Not that Reaper has done much with those; the Reaper modern stuff I’m aware of are either Steampunk/Deadlands or Aliens-style space marines.)
It’s tough to balance popular figures with new sculpts, especially when Reaper has so much variety that has yet to be Bones’d. There never seem to be as many halflings or gnomes, and the first Bones felt weighted more towards players than GMs. I enjoyed Bones 2 most of all, because it seemed loaded with monsters and unique figures, but Bones 3 is giving it a run for its money with loads of lizardfolk, werecreatures, a nice set of yeti, some Eastern monsters, and some cool adventurers in the base pledge. The lovecraftian figures are also a plus.
Most of all, I like these projects because they lead to an entire product line. Too many Kickstarters end up as a single package to the lucky few who had the awareness and spare cash to make a pledge; others, like those for Bones, pay for the production costs to get a company set up for full-scale manufacturing. There are several figures from all three Kickstarters that I wasn’t able to pledge for as add-ons, but I rest assured that if and when I need them, they’ll be somewhat easy to find. Diminishing returns or not, as long as Reaper has them I think people will back them.