I first discovered miniatures when I was around ten years old. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I think I remember the order of events. I bought a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons box set from a yard sale, but I couldn’t understand it. My father saw this and, for reasons known only to him, went out and bought the original Middle-Earth Role-Playing box set. (I was already a fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by this point).
Dad became my first Games Master, and in one of those early games, he brought a couple of painted miniatures! These were some of the old Ral Partha D&D minis. My character was represented by a fully armoured knight (a bad representation of a Beorning, but seriously cool to ten-year-old me). I also remember a neat troll.
Soon after that, I began buying my own figures. In the US in those days, there weren’t many choices available. You could get Ral Partha and some imported Citadel miniatures, but by far the best were the Mithril Miniatures from Prince August. While, I was certainly attracted to these minis because they were Lord of the Rings, I also believe they were the best miniatures available at the time.
As the years passed, I dabbled in all kind of different role-playing games and wargames. I had several different miniature painting teachers, both official and unofficial, and I worked in two different gaming stores.
Then I moved to the United Kingdom, and a whole new world of miniatures opened up. UK miniature companies outnumber those in the US by about ten (or more) to one. I was like a kid in a country-sized candy store, and I sampled a bit of everything. But, taking the metaphor one step further, I ate too much and got a bit sick.
I still love painting and playing with miniatures and spend a large amount of my free time engaged in the hobby, but I long for a simpler time. I long to go back to when my hobby was focused. I long to go back to Middle-Earth.
Mithril Miniatures still exists, albeit in a very changed form. It is now more of an expensive collectors club. Some of their figures are fantastic, and I would like to pick them up at some point, but in general the style no longer suits how I find enjoyment in painting. Lucky for me, Games Workshop picked up The Lord of the Rings license when the movies came out and has produced some seriously good miniatures.
So, for me, The Lord of the Rings is a homecoming in miniatures. It is also my all-time favourite fantasy world.
There are a few drawbacks to the miniatures as pertains to Games Workshop. They are expensive. Some of them are now produced in ‘Finecast’ resin, of which I’m not a huge fan, and it isn’t really clear what GW is planning to do with the license for the next two movies or if the will keep it afterwards. Still, these are all minor concerns from my hobby perspective. I’ve already proved that I can buy more figures than I can paint. I can deal with a finecast model or two, but there is still plenty of metal and plastic ones out there as well, and GW has already produced enough different models to keep me painting for the next twenty years or more
Well, that’s the current state of affairs anyway.