What’s So Freaking Bad about Cardboard Standees?!

It seems like I’ve heard a lot of discussions about game components lately.  Everybody has their preferences one way or other other, of course, but there is one particular component that seems to be universally reviled, and, in my opinion, hasn’t really been given a fair shake.

No, I’m not talking about paper money.  Paper money truly is reprehensible and should be banned from all civilized cultures on the planet.  All right-thinking gamers will agree. 

The mistreated and much-maligned component I’m talking about here is actually the cardboard standee.  You know, a little cardboard punch-out thingy that has a picture on it and fits into a little plastic stand.    

Now, I can see a few reasonable arguments about why they might suck.  Using standees is already a cost-saving measure, and if you skimp even more and make really crappy standees that are floppy or fall out of their bases or separate and fray when you put them in, then they’re pretty terrible.  But those standees are crappy because they’re of a crappy quality; the crappiness is not inherently because they’re standees!  

And I just don’t know what the heck they were thinking when they put standees into Level 7 [Escape].  I don’t really know anything about the game or the actual quality of its standees, but it’s produced by a freaking miniatures game company, so anything short of detailed minis would be a huge disappointment to any potential fans.       

But anyway, let’s get back to the actual freaking rant!

Why might standees be better than other alternatives (like pawns or minis or whatever else)?  Read and conform to my will…

1) They’re cheap.  It costs a crap ton less money to produce them than miniatures, which means that the game can cost less.  And unless you’re a rich snob or something, that’s a good thing.

2) They can be pretty!  No matter how detailed minis may be, if you don’t paint them, they’re still just gray hunks of plastic.  So sure, I could paint them, but while I sort of have this idea that I’d like to be the kind of person who paints the minis in his boardgames, I also realize that’s a total fantasy not achievable at any point in the forseeable future, and it still leaves me with lots of ugly, unpainted minis in my games.  But with a standee, you can have gorgeous art that looks good on the table with the minimal effort of punching it out and standing it up.  And especially if you’re using an existing IP, it seems much cooler to have actual images or pictures from the thing you’re interested in rather than a sculptor’s interpretation of it molded into, once again, gray plastic.

No question that standees were the way to go for the characters in Battlestar Galactica!
Image by AndrĂ© Nordstrand on BoardGameGeek

3) They can tell you stuff!  Unlike miniatures, you can actually print information on the standee that relates to gameplay.  Identifiers, stats, ranks, symbology… whatever might make play easier.

4) No guilt!  Going back to #2, a game with lots of unpainted gray plastic minis sort of feels unfinished.  So when I pull them out and play, I sometimes get this feeling that if I were a real gamer, I’d get busy painting them all up and making them look pretty.  But you know, I have enough shortcomings and failures in my life; I don’t need unpainted plastic minis mocking me and eroding my self-worth, too.

5) ‘Cause I said so!  I wanted to have 5 points, but couldn’t think of anything else, so I’ll just go with the tried-and-true parental answer here…

Ashcan Pete says, “I don’t need no stinkin’ minis!”

I don’t inherently have anything against miniatures, but at the same time, I also don’t quite understand their irrational and overwhelming popularity.  I mean, all you have to do is look at the Kickstarter results from mini-related campaigns to see that it’s true.  But I have a feeling that a good portion of those millions of dollars have paid for hordes of nicely-crafted gray plastic minis that will sit, lonely and naked, in barely-used game boxes all over the world.

And really, which of these would you prefer?

Cool, thematic standees, or…

some sort of equialent plastic mini?

Okay, maybe that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped it would.  But then again, what if King of Tokyo cost $60 or $70 for the same exact game except with minis? 

There certainly is a time and a place for cool plastic minis, but the real point I’m trying to make here is that standees also have a role to play.  So don’t summarily dismiss them and their contribution just because you’ve been brainwashed into believing they are inherently a sign of poor quality.  


  1. Keith

    You are right: Look how well Cardboard Heroes did for Steve Jackson Games and those were low end standees.

    You are wrong. Star Wars: X-Wing Minatures Games. What a hit that game would take if it had standees with pictures of ships.

  2. Cheap miniatures are just as bad as cheap standees. The soft/bendy plastic minis with lots of flash are just as horrid as standees that are loose in their stands and where the stand base isn’t wide enough to support the standee properly.

    Although minis >>can<< look great, at times I prefer standees since they are so much easier to store and I don't have to worry about them.

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