For our new fantasy RPing game (now using the 13th Age ruleset and starting any day now), I have a huge armada of D&D minis loaned to me (thanks Mik) but I also couldnt help myself and grabbed two boxes of the Pathfinder Pawns (Bestiary and NPCs). So I thought a quick post looking at both might be cool.
The party was looking something like (High Elf Wizard, Dwarf Ranger (pet), Halfling Rogue, Human Ranger (bow) and Human Bard). Though our Dwarf might actually be a fighter now to lend a little brawn to the group, the exercise below looked at crafting a party using what I had.

The mini’s certainly lend a nice 3D feel to things and do a better job of making the battlefield into a scale version of the action. That said the minis vary greatly in quality with some being much more interesting than others. There is something wonderfully tactile about them still and with the D&D minis they all come painted and ready to dive onto the table. Creating your own custom mini (as I last did with Thrail) is fun and I really enjoy that little side-hobby.

The pawns on the other hand have beautiful illustrations with much more detail than the minis and the quality for what they are is very high. The effect feels more like the pawns are representative, that the battlefield is more of an aid or a guide to what is going on. With a simpler and faster combat system like 13th Age with far less reliance on the tabletop boardgame aspect than D&D 4E perhaps this is more appropriate.

Comparing the two, the pawns are supremely easier to get and afford compared to minis. If Wizards unleash a whole new swath of minis for 5E, maybe that will improve (or get worse). It is also much easier to create custom pawns than minis using found of created art (need to test this actually).
Both sets actually did a pretty good job of representing the party with what I had. You can see the character of the individual heroes comes through differently from both approaches. I think given a vast collection of minis at your disposal – this is still the most engaging solution for bringing a roleplaying game onto the table for the combat representation. Failing that, the pawns are actually superb – full of character and little details that could find their way into the storytelling as well. I was worried I would regret the purchase of the pawns and didnt open the boxes for a while. I couldnt resist the other night though…

These last pics show some more of the choices I was looking at for the heroes – the NPC box has so so many pawns that could have been used to rep people. To be truthful, both options didnt do so well with the halfling rogue. I will grab some more images of both sets showing the various monsters and mock battle scenes later in the week. The last pic shows the two sets together, you can see how much bigger the pawns are…

Maybe in summary I would say the pawns are prettier, easier, cheaper and more characterful – but they arent 3D!