April 2022 Monthly Mini Encounters

Monthly Mini Encounters — Quality 3D-Printed Minis for the Rest of Us

Products Reviews Tabletop Games

I’m the first to admit that 3D printers have been a total game-changer for tabletop gaming. From custom meeples to replacement parts to box organizers, seemingly any component you could want can be yours through the magic of 3D printing. The only question is whether said part is available at retail, via the secondary market, or crafted with pride with your very own hands (and, of course, your modeling software of choice).

Tabletop RPGs have arguably made the biggest strides since the advent of the 3D printing revolution, with thousands of words devoted to custom-printed figures, terrain, and accessories available for your perusal at GeekDad alone. But what about those of us who don’t have access to the latest high-resolution printers?

There are a number of services that will allow you to design and print a custom mini through a simple web interface, but those tend to be on the pricier side. Consequently, if you’re more interested in building your army of gaming miniatures, you can bulk buy from various web stores, but what you gain in variety and convenience is often lost in overall quality.

At long last, there’s a third option.

Archer Print and Paint’s Monthly Mini Encounters box takes the old concept of the mystery subscription box, cuts the unnecessary fat, and offers tabletop role-players a cohesive collection of 10 (or more) high-quality fantasy miniatures a month for less than $5 apiece—with free shipping.

Monthly Mini Encounters boxes
Three mysterious Monthly Mini Encounters boxes.

AP&P was kind enough to send me a trio of boxes to try out their products, and suffice it to say I was instantly impressed. The shipping boxes themselves are small (approximately 7×3.5×4-inches) and non-descript—as Archer has wisely forgone a lot of flashy branded packaging—but inside you’ll find ten minis safely tucked between two generous layers of bubble wrap and each swaddled in an individual bubble bag of its own.

My samples included the current April 2022 Monthly Mini Encounters box, the throwback April 2021 box (which is also available as a free bonus for new subscribers of the 6-month plan), and a third sneak preview box curated by Dustan Archer himself containing some ghoulish undead cannon fodder to help flesh out my current Curse of Strahd campaign—this one being a super early look at a potential box for later this summer.

New April 2022 Box

As I alluded to earlier, Monthly Mini Encounter boxes each include a selection of miniatures bound together by a vague theme—nothing so constrained as to force a DM’s carefully crafted narrative off the proverbial cliff, but more of a writing prompt that can help inspire some dungeon-delving creativity.

April’s box promises “kobolds, demonic skulls, their half-ogre leader, and more,” and it certainly delivers. The two flaming skull minis have nice definition and arrive as simple all-in-one prints. The knight, barbarian, and half-elf magic-user each have enough character to be protagonists (but not so much that they can’t be repurposed as other classes) and just require a little glue to attach them to their bases. The same goes for dragonling and the hulking half-ogre—my favorite of this box.

The kobolds, on the other hand, are a bit fiddlier. The sculpts are fantastic, with two of the smaller three (the swordsman and pikeman) coming together without too much trouble… or Gorilla Glue. The smaller archer and the largest kobold need a lot of TLC to get their weapon and weapon hands situated, and they did make me wish the box (or the corresponding site) had some rough assembly instructions for these bad boys.

Throwback April 2021 Box

The April 2021 bonus box boasts “earth elementals, scouts, satyrs, and more,” and again it does not disappoint. The three earth elementals are super easy builds, and their woody, leafy textures led me to immediately conscript them into my CoS campaign as my go-to twig blights. The same fate befell the trio of included scouts/druids—each more expressive and rustic than the last.

The satyrs require a bit more construction. The archer and warrior need to have weapons attached as well as their bases, and while gluing them was a cakewalk compared to those kobolds, I could never quite get the leaping satyr properly situated.

The tenth and final miniature of this box is my all-around favorite. It’s sort of a massive grung samurai or, failing that, a spectacular warforged juggernaut.

Summer 2022 Sneak Preview Box

Obviously, this last box isn’t currently available, though the Archer team is playing around with it for a summer 2022 release. It includes a cool dozen monstrous minis that have already been swallowed up into my army of the undead.

The first half of these are reanimated skeletons in various states of decay. They breakdown thusly: two pikemen, two swordsmen, an archer, and one poor fellow who has yet to actually claw his way up from the cursed earth. I’ve named the latter Daryl, and, of course, he’s late to the war party. Classic Daryl!

Monthly Mini Encounters summer 2022 assembled
Ghoul gang represent!

Two are particularly grisly zombies. One is just, y’know, shambling while the other is brandishing a blade. These are the only miniatures in this box that require any gluing at all, and that’s just to attach their bare feet to the cold tile of some dank and damnable dungeon.

The remaining four are exquisitely crafted wights, each skulking over tombstones and brandishing their accursed arms. While not as whimsical as the ogre or grung, these are by far the best looking of all the miniatures I reviewed. While they’ll certainly put in a lot of time in Ravenloft, I can also see myself reusing these fellows in many other campaigns to come.

Durability

One thing to remember about resin miniatures is that they are, by nature, somewhat delicate. And while my Monthly Mini Encounters minis all arrived in immaculate condition, they are obviously more fragile once their fiddlier bits and bobs have been glued on.

In fact, I was also given a few extras for the purposes of stress testing. Overall, they faired as expected. A four-or-so-foot drop onto carpet was no problem, but that same fall onto tile predictably resulted in broken hands and splintered weapons.

Monthly Mini Encounters satyr and samurai
A reglued satyr after drop testing. The amphibious samurai, on the other hand, survived unscathed.

While Gorilla Glue is a liquid miracle, even it can only do so much after a break, so be cautious. For traveling with more than a couple of 3D-printed minis, I suggest using a padded, sectioned storage container. The Enhance brand Dungeon Master bag I use includes a special compartment for this, though there are ample other (likely more affordable) options for the DM on a budget.

Pricing and Value

And speaking of affordable, we arrive, as we always do, at the issue of price. Gaming miniatures can get expensive fast, so I always urge comparison-shopping when you’re looking for a single particular mini.

If, instead, you’re looking to build up your collection fast, Archer’s Monthly Mini Encounters boasts some pretty compelling numbers.

A one-month subscription comes in at $49.99. That’s 50 bucks for at least 10 minis, but new subscribers are guaranteed a bonus miniature (as well as a coupon code for 10% off any future non-subscription order from Archer Print and Paint). That comes out to about $4.55 per miniature.

Monthly Mini Encounters April 2021 samurai solo
If we’re being honest, can you even put a price on this little guy?!

At $142.47, a three-month subscription guarantees you at least 31 minis (including that free new-subscriber figure and coupon). That’s actually closer to $4.60 per miniature, which likely makes it the least appealing option for first-time subscribers.

The real value comes at the six-month subscription level. Now, this will set you back $269.94, which is nothing to sneeze at, but if you subscribe by April 15, you’ll get both that bonus mini (and store coupon) in your first box and the same August 2021 Monthly Mini Encounters box I reviewed above. That comes in at at least 71 figs for about $3.80 each.

The Bottom Line

As someone who is pretty staunchly anti-subscription box, I really have to give it up for the Monthly Mini Encounters for rightly focusing on quality over quantity. (Although, if I’m being honest, their quantity ain’t bad either!)

Archer Print and Paint prides itself on delivering models from a wide range of artists. These include movers and shakers from popular Patreons and Kickstarters and renowned 3D modelers from the Artisan Guild and RN EStudio, but they take great care to also seek out lesser-known artists as well. You can even check out the Archer Studio site for a list of their merchant licenses.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about the quality of the prints, the care with which the items are packaged, and simply the service in general. A one-month Monthly Mini Encounters subscription is the perfect gift for the role-player in your life, and, if you’re a DM really interested in beefing up your collection of gaming miniatures, their six-month subscription is an ideal way to bolster the ranks with high-quality, evocative minis.

Review materials provided by Archer Print and Paint Studio. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. All hail grung samurai!

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