One of those rare moments where we put on our serious pants and discuss the deeper meaning behind gaming.
We here at Meeple Gamers are a family friendly source for gaming. We like to take a bit of a relaxed stance on the fun and excitement of gaming. However, we occasionally like to take a serious look at the pieces of the hobby that people don’t tend to focus on. We’ve all put our heads together and after a long and fruitful discussion have worked out what the top 10 best player pawns are. Those things you use to represent you, your side, or your workers on the table. This is about them.
Though I will take a moment to explain one thing. As much as we love meeples we felt that it could unfairly skew our findings. For the purpose of this list we did not include meeples in our lengthy debate. To that end you will not see them on our list. I apologize if you were looking forward to us espousing the benefits and strengths of the meeple, but that is how it had to be. Perhaps when the wounds have healed and the meeting room has been repaired and repainted, we might revisit the topic and discuss our top 10 meeples. For now they are absent.
With that said, let’s sit back, get ourselves ready for a bit of careful thought. I’ve got my best smoking jacket on, my favorite pipe is lit, and am gently nursing my snifter of cognac. Let’s get all classy and academic up in here.
I enjoy the Bishop from Chess for this list. The classic design that can be used to acknowledge the pieces utility matched with the slightly carved top that hints at the traditional headwear of the religious leader the piece is named for make a striking image. Thought the look of the piece is not particularly impressive, more hinting at a look, I would have preferred something a bit more representative. There will be a lot of people who claim the Queen is the best piece in chess. I will agree that she is certainly the strongest. However, I feel the piece is a little overpowered and could use a bit more testing to come around to a more nuanced place. I like the Bishop here because he’s got a decent movement distance, being unlimited but has the thoughtful drawback of only being able to use the diagonals. This movement makes the piece easy to miss and can lead to an opponent walking into a trap they just hadn’t noticed. I understand that some would argue that the Knight has a more erratic movement and is a better fit under these constraints. I will acknowledge that point, but I feel that over time the Knight has become so well known that players tend to focus on the Knights movement a little more. This makes the Bishop a stronger piece since your opponent won’t naturally think of it.
Review for this and other PSC games coming shortly
The astronaut figures used in Mission Red Planet are an excellent piece to use. To be fair, for this list I didn’t take into account that I used the purple figure for the photo since all the player colors use the same pose. Keeping the superior purple choice segmented from my decision I still feel the astronaut is an excellent piece here. They’re small enough they don’t crowd the board making it unreadable and yet versatile enough that you can easily see who is winning a particular space on the board. The sense of motion from the flag and the proud stance of the astronaut invokes a sense of motion and adventure. Again the player powers here are nonexistent and yet, that doesn’t make these pieces any less impressive in their design.
I could have picked several Krosmaster figures for this list. In fact, I could have made the list almost exclusively from Krosmaster figures. However, I decided for fairness to limit my choice to 1 out of fairness. Moon is the best of all the Krosmaster figures and a worthy addition to this list. The sense of motion in the figure, the weight given to his hammer, and the cheeky grin on his face showing a bit of that monkey mischief going on behind his eyes. There’s a wonderful artful build to the figure. It’s made of high-quality, sturdy plastics that come pre-assembled and painted. The paint job is quite excellent and feels as if done with love. Beyond that Moon is just a powerhouse on the field. His area effect hammer matched with his ability to place Kokonut’s on the field make him a strong combatant. When those are paired with his massive 12 hit points and ability to stay on the pitch even after being defeated make him a brutal front-line fighter. With Moon, a GG is all but assured.
Wanda, the rolling skating waitress found in Zombicide is yet another fantastic player choice. Not only does the figure touch on a spectacular corner of Americana, it does it with a joyful nod to Romero cinéma vérité. There was a choice to use the brilliant pastel blue that was chosen to let the character stand out against the slowly building hordes of undead. They also gave the miniature a wonderful sense of motion and speed that reflects her rules and play style. The extra movement that the figure comes built with helps to give you a sense of exploration and a chance to play out the delightful, “I don’t have to outrun the zombies, only you,” attitude that plays across the zombie horror genre.
Our final entry in this little guided tour is Nibbles from Arcadia Quest. A wonderful homage to the Rabbit of Caerbannog, a fun little character from a lovely little indy film in the 70s that had been funded by rock musicians. The figure of Nibbles has a deadly menace with clenching hands, gaping maw, and vicious scar over his eye. He’s brutal and harsh; filled with rage. His rules make him equally fantastic. A front-line fighter with wicked cruelty. His 5 health gives him staying power that lets him survive his relatively low 1 armor dice. However, when you consider his devour ability that lets him fully heal every time he kills an enemy, you have a massive beast of a player character. Nibbles stands proudly on the top of the heap as the best player choice.
The Starfish from Poseidon’s Kingdom has a wonderful profile that also fits this list. Honestly, I would love to have put the dolphin on this list for the movement it evokes, but that piece isn’t assigned to a particular player, so I went with my second pick. The Starfish has a bright color that stands out on the mostly blue board. It’s made of a sturdy material that gives the figure a weight and presence that I like. Additionally, it holds it “arms” in a curved arc that intimates a hug that indicates a friendly and loving figure; one that’s always there for a friend. Sadly, the Starfish doesn’t have any special powers in the game that showcase these characteristics. With all the player pieces being the just space holders to mark each player’s progress, it takes away slightly from the characters overall utility. If special abilities are introduced in the future the Starfish could move up on this list.
Nightcrawler from X-Men: Under Siege is a lovely piece. First, Kurt Wagner is objectively the best X-Man. His devil may care about attitude, swashbuckling nature, deep connection to his faith, and enormous heart are enough to make him worth playing. Add his teleportation to the above package and you’ve got a top tier player piece. Sadly, while they did an excellent job of capturing the look of Nightcrawler in the figure, the materials are a subpar plastic and they choose to use the “mug shot” pose of looking straight ahead with arms at the side. If they’d put a little effort into his stance and given him some movement or an environmental reference to the cloud of brimstone that appears when he uses his powers then I feel he would have BAMFed much higher up the list.
Rolling in from the King of Tokyo: Power Up expansion Pandaki is a wonderful entry to both the battle of Kaiju supremacy and this list. The introduction of Power Up cards that came with him certainly brought a uniqueness to the game and I accept that most of the great beasts found in this game are wonderful pieces. I for one have cried, “Unleash the Kraken,” while using the beast to toss an opponent from the confines of the city on more than one occasion. However, there’s something a bit more special about Pandaki. There’s an originality to this character that I can’t recall seeing anywhere else. His battle stance is well thought out and evocative. The length of bamboo held aloft so that it can be deployed for both offense and defense at a moment’s notice. The coordination of his outfit spreading from hat to pants shows excellent taste and refinement that’s missing from the others. While I wish Pandaki were a bit higher on this list by being represented by a figurine, sadly he exists as a cardboard standee. I understand that this was done to keep costs relatively low, and I can applaud that. It’s just I feel strongly that he could stand prouder in three dimensions.
When they announced Disney’s Villainous I was a bit trepidations about its quality. However, upon its release I was pleasantly surprised to find a game that was not just well made, but beautiful as well. There are several pieces that could have clawed their way onto this list. From the elegant duality of Cruella de Vil to the showmanship of Rattigan, there is a beauty to each of these characters. However, for this list I’m going to stand behind Jafar. The Jafar figure builds around his stance and regality in a way that is chef’s kiss perfect. Combined with a player deck that more than any other evokes the feelings and emotion of the character to build a fantastic play experience. I’m going to take a moment to stop the inevitable naysayers who will point out that when I spoke of the previous entry of the Bishop, I was somewhat down on the abstraction that one could argue exists in the Villainous pieces. To those critics, you are woefully incorrect. These pieces are night and day.
When marching through the dark corners of Arkham Horror you’ll need a stout, learned gentlemen, with a flair for danger. This exist in the figure of Harvey Walters. Given a particular bit of public prominence by Rodney Smith of Watch it Played the character of Harvey Walters has never been truly appreciated. A high sanity and excellent set of skills makes him a true necessity in the dark world of HP Lovecraft. Additionally, if you take the time to outfit Harvey with a weapon that could stand in for his cane, say a crowbar, bat, or lead pipe then he goes from being a researcher in need of protecting to an absolute Viking. Harvey Walters is probably the single most important figure found in Arkham Horror and woe be to the party that does not include him.
That’s the list that we here at Meeple Gamers recognize as the 10 best player pawns in gaming. Well I’m out of cognac and my pipe is near its end so I’ll finish here. I do hope you enjoyed our list in the spirit it was written. Thank you for joining us and until next time, be well.