Why Buy 3D Printed Miniatures and Terrain?
Perhaps this situation sounds familiar to you. You are sitting at the table with your friends playing Dungeons and Dragons, having a good time. The DM, with a glint in his eye, starts a sudden battle encounter with the party. He puts out some goblin figures, paper stands to represent what you are fighting.
There is nothing wrong with this, heck people play battles without minis or terrain all the time, relying on their imagination to bring it to life. For others though, they enjoy having that physical presence on the board as they imagine goblins charging, swinging spears, while their heroes valiantly defend and counter attack. Having a grid board and using their speed stats lets them tactically play out the encounter.
Evolution of Miniatures and Terrain
Not too long ago, the only real option for miniatures was pewter. Poses and details were restricted, due to the molding technology available. Plastic and resin were eventually introduced by companies and became more popular as an option.
For terrain, options have included getting aquarium pieces, train terrain, plastic sets offered for various gaming systems, such as Warhammer, but could end up costing a bit. Options you could find were limited to whatever companies produced. As a result, many gamers took to making their own terrain instead. This included using materials like wood or insulation foam board to create buildings and geographical features in order to make their tabletop experience more interesting and enjoyable. For some, they enjoyed the hobby aspect of this, but others felt forced due to the lack of what was easily available and reasonably affordable.
Pink Panther, the building material of champions
3D Printing On the Rise
Starting around the mid 2010's, 3D printers started becoming more mainstream, not just in industry, but in people's homes as well. The technology became more accessible (although you still need to have some technical know how to troubleshoot). What this did however, was to open a door for the gaming community, where anything was possible.
Prusa i3 MK3/S
Just in the last year, many kick-starters and patreons allowed small groups and individual designs to create unique and exciting 3D models for gamers. From village NPCs, to heroes, to an incredibly wide array of monsters and villains to fight. Terrain options also exploded, with an abundance of choice. At this point, you can find environment pieces for just about anything. This is the advantage of hundreds/thousands of designers creating content. Not only that, but the speed of product development is much faster collectively than anything the large gaming companies can produce.
Not having a 3D printer to access these models isn't an issue either. Companies (such as this one) have grown to provide print on demand services to customers that are eager to purchase all the great figures and items that are on the market.
A great example showcasing this upgrade is this recent photo of a Warhammer 40k tournament from CincyCon-2020. Many of the boards had similar terrain..because that's what was available. Usually in the vein of some ruined buildings, scattered plastic trees, and so on. But then the players saw this table with Wintertide terrain and they loved it!
Arctic Board - Kopper Orc 3D
Not only were the 3D printed boards unique and exciting, but they were memorable! There were a couple cases during this particular tournament that players were so excited to play these boards, they had to get the tournament master involved because they couldn't agree which one to play on!
So there you have it. By utilizing the power of many talented designers disseminating their work across the internet to 3D printer owners, fellow gamers, are able to fully realize in their mind's eye what exactly they want. The immense choice and selection available, and the speed in which new content is put out, will allow everyone to find what they are looking for in their tabletop experience. Enjoy your games, and stay safe!