Many different board games use tokens to distinguish the players from one another. These tokens are often a certain color so that, when you look at the game board, you are easily able to identify who is who and where they stand in the context of the game. Some games, however, go beyond the use of simple colored tokens. These games actually craft tokens of little images to use while playing the board. The number of games which use these miniatures as well as the number of uses they have are many.
Games such as Dungeons and Dragons will use miniatures for use on their boards, being able to determine the relative locations of the different players on any certain quest. These miniatures often are painstakingly detailed and, depending on the edition that they belong to, can be considered to be quite valuable. Some of the miniatures are Collectors Edition Items and there are a number of fans of Dungeons and Dragons who make a large hobby out of simply collecting these miniatures. Board games themselves can make a great item for collectors but miniatures are nearly a market entirely on their own. Different artists can be contracted to design and sculpt a miniature and, depending on the prestige of that artist, the value of that miniature will rise.
Other games allow players to have more freedom with their miniatures. A number of kits are often made available, providing the miniature in a flat color, often gray. Paints are then able to be purchased, allowing the collector to paint the miniature themselves. This is often a very popular form of miniature collecting, because it allows the player to personalize the miniature that they are working with. It becomes more unique and allows the player a special feeling in regard to the piece. These are especially popular when it comes to role playing games, where players will often adopt a certain personality and develop that character for quite a long time. When the player has a character which they feel close to, making their own image of that character in a way that they feel represents themselves well is a great way to boost interest and even loyalty to the game itself.
Some miniatures are sold in separately marked packages and you end up buying them at random. These are marketed much like baseball cards, encouraging you to collect the entire set. These are often games which are built around enterprises where a number of characters are known and popular to fans before the game is developed. Comic book characters are the most frequent form of this type of miniature.
Different games can be played with these miniatures, with special editions having certain powers and benefits which might influence the game. These miniatures often have a large number of pieces, often coming close to 100 different pieces to collect. Just like collector cards, these pieces can be traded with other fans and building a complete collection can often be as rewarding as playing the game itself. These are just another way that miniatures can affect the world of gaming.