I first encountered them in Klaus Teuber’s Carcassonne well after the term “meeple” was coined. These iconic pawn figures have been a mainstay in the board gaming world since their classic design in that equally classic game.
There have been some great histories of the meeple written around the net, including my favorite from Game Inquirer: History: Rise of the Meeple, so I won’t go into detail on the actual story behind the name and creation but it is worth the read. Instead I’ll focus more on my use of meeples and some of my favorite variations.
I don’t play a lot of games with meeples as I prefer miniatures games a lot more but on the games that got me back to playing meeple games was Wizard of the Coast’s Lords of Waterdeep. A nice entry to the worker-placement game genre mainly due to it’s tight rules and quick gameplay. The game features lords of the city of Waterdeep vying for control as they hire different adventurers to complete critical quests.
These adventurers are represented by regular cubes but that wasn’t very thematic so Boardgamegeek user Danny Perello crafted a simple variation on the regular meeples to create iconic adventurer “DnDeeples.”
These variant pawns help to drive home the unique RPG theme Wizards of the Coast put on the game.
I’m a big fan of dexterity games and when Rampage (AKA Terror in Meeple City) came out from Repos Production, I found it a very novel take on what to do with the classic meeple. In this game of monsters rampaging a city and eating the inhabitants, meeples are used to support the building structures and act as collateral damage as you use dexterity mechanics to destroy everything.
The game even pimps out the meeples by offering art stickers to put on them, helping to define their role and match the stickered monster pawns. In my version, I didn’t like the “naked” wood monster pawns so I painted them to match closer to the meeples.
Staying with dexterity games, a new game came out in 2015 by Pretzel Games hit the scene: Flick ’em Up. Flick ’em Up is a cowboy-themed dexterity game that plays a lot like a simplified miniatures game. In the game, you have teams of cowboys or outlaws that flick around the play area and shoot discs (bullets) at each other to deal damage.
They even expand these pawns to include horse pawns in the expansion Stallion Canyon. The physical nature of the pawns combined with abstracted cowboy shape makes for a very fun, light flicking game.
In a juxtaposition of form, I’ve been working on what I call a “travel” version of Cool Mini or Not’s crazy blinged out game Rum & Bones. In Rum & Bones, CMON has introduced the board game industry to MOBA-style video game mechanics in which hordes of minion characters race toward the enemy in a simple AI-fashion while major heroes try to turn the tide of battle in your favor. Typical of CMON productions, this game features a ton of highly detailed miniatures, great art, and quality card, token, and gameboard components. Playing the game can take up a ton of room and I almost find myself overwhelmed by all the over-the-top production.
With that in mind, I was looking at simplifying the production down a bit and went with some nice pirate meeples I found from Minion Games’ Dead Men Tell No Tales board game. I contacted Minion Games and they were great, selling me a set of their meeples for this pimp project of mine.
There are a few other iconic components that Rum & Bones needed: the Kraken and Sea Monster. I didn’t want to stick with just the card versions that the game offered so I made my own meeple-esque pawns. The first one is based on the sea monster in Survive: Escape from Atlantis.
The last one, the mighty Kraken, I drew using Adobe Illustrator and based it off the great Games Workshop Dwarf mechanical Kraken miniature from Dreadfleet. I printed out both images of the Sea Monster (also made in Illustrator) and the Kraken, cut them out and traced them on the wood block I’d cut them from. I set up my scroll saw and cut the outlines out, sanded them smooth, and painted them up.
I’d like to make more of these types of stylized meeples but hand-cutting them on a scroll saw isn’t really efficient. A laser cutter would be the best option but I’ll have to wait until they come down in price a bit more.