There’s nothing quite like a tabletop full of detailed miniatures to bring your D&D game to life. Monsters and custom characters are incredible visualizations but the official D&D minis are expensive and some of them come in loot boxes, so you never really know which monsters and characters you’re going to get.
This is a problem for a gamer on a budget but luckily, in a game dedicated to imagination, there are plenty of cheap alternatives if you want to get a little creative. Today, we’re looking at some of the best cheap alternatives for D&D minis, from bare-bones budget to awesome miniatures for a discount price.
The initial cost of a 3D printer is quite high, but you’ll never have to worry about miniatures again. There are thousands of detailed miniature files online for free as well as paid premium versions. A single official D&D mini can be anywhere between $5-$50, depending upon the size and detail.
With 3D printing, the cost of manufacturing your own drops to a few cents per mini. If you plan on using a lot of miniatures, then the initial investment may be worth it—but it can be expensive to start up initially.
Check with your local university and libraries. Sometimes they will have 3D printers available for free or for a nominal fee.
Back in the early 2000s, Mage Knight was the hottest tabletop miniature game. It was the precursor to the Heroclix system. The miniatures came pre-painted and had nice details. They even produced a series specifically designed for dungeon making that included doors, treasure chests, and traps.
Mage Knight stopped production of their miniatures game, but eBay has tons of used miniatures you can buy in bulk. There are still some great deals to be found, and if you want cool-looking miniatures that can instantly spruce up your game it may be worthwhile to track down old boxes of Mage Knight figures. The last I saw was a box of 100+ mixed miniatures for $40.
D&D Adventure Board Games
If you’re looking for iconic D&D monster miniatures like the Beholder 5e or even a dragon, then why not look into the D&D Adventure board game series? Each game is a standalone board game. They all have various D&D themes like Curse of Strahd and they all include incredible official D&D miniatures.
If you can’t justify the cost of buying individual minis, this is a great choice as the D&D Adventure board games pull double duty. They are filled with awesome-looking D&D miniatures and are each full stand-alone board games.
If you’re not familiar with meeples, they’re the little wooden tokens that commonly appear in tabletop board games. They make great tokens for keeping track of where everything is on a board and they’re surprisingly cheap.
Typically, they can be found for around $10-$15 for 100 meeples of various colors. There are also companies that make customized meeples in the shape of wizards or warriors.
Meeples have been a staple of tabletop gaming and they’re a great budget alternative to getting into the game quickly.
Dice may not be the most visually appealing, but chances are, they’re going to be the cheapest. Most gamers have a box of shame (or dice jail) filled with dice that have wronged a player at a crucial moment in a campaign. Using dice as miniatures is a great way to visually keep track of monsters and enemies on a board, especially since most gamers already have a ton of them at hand.
Dice are extremely cheap and can easily be found at any game store, convenience store, or even a junk drawer. If you want a uniform look on the tabletop, you may also consider checking out dice boxes designed for war games like Warhammer. They usually have small boxes that come with a ton of six-sided dice.
Print and Play
If you’re looking for a complete budget option, why not print your own?
There is plenty of awesome D&D artwork out there. All you need to do to turn the artwork into miniatures is print it out on card stock and put it in a stand. Paper miniature stands typically cost $10 for 100 and can easily be used to fill your table with interesting characters.
If you’re feeling particularly artistic you can even draw your own characters and swap them out as they level up or get more equipment.
Print & play paper minis are probably the most cost-effective while still having a great table presence.
Do you have suggestions for cheap D&D miniatures alternatives we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments below!