Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rethinking Standees for ICONS

At the end of last night's post, I alluded to having some thoughts on using standees in ICONS games, and cardboard miniatures, counters and terrain in general. Cardboard standees or miniatures are nothing new to gaming and have been around for quite awhile (even before the PDF revolution), but they have become intimately associated with playing the ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game since its introduction. Not only does Adamant Entertainment provide them with their Hero Pack supplements, but third party ICONS publishers more often than not include a set of standees in their products as well. Cardboard minis are exactly what they say on the tin: inexpensive alternatives to metal miniatures for roleplaying games at the same ~28mm scale useable with a 1" = 5' square (or hex) grid.

Villains & Vigilantes counters in action.
Cardboard counters are another alternative to miniatures or standees, be they paper or metal. These are nothing new either. They are usually 1" flat squares (for medium humanoid size figures) that feature a facial portrait of the humanoid character they represent, although sometimes they can be a full "top down" view of the entire figure. The old Villains and Vigilantes Supers Roleplaying Game used to feature counters like this in their products back in the day, and they gained popularity during the d20 era (i.e. Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition) when a company called Fiery Dragon started producing some very nice Counter Collection sets. Again the scale is 1" = 5' on a square grid. Recently HAZARD Studio included, in addition to the standard ICONS standees, counter versions of the NPC villains in Zenith Comics Presents: Supervillains (ICONS) as well, much like the old Villains and Vigilantes game did.

So here's what I've been thinking: ICONS doesn't have rules for miniatures or grid-based combat but instead uses abstract definitions and descriptions for distance and range. There is no reason the standees (or counters) have to be standard miniature size and tied to a 1" grid in an abstract distance/range system when I could be using something BIGGER...

As a kid, I grew up in the 1970s with actions figures - everything from Hasbro's G.I. JOE (12", not 4"), Mego's Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, DC and Marvel Heroes figures, all the way up to Kenner's Six Million Dollar Man and Star Wars people (first movie only though as by high school I grew out of them), and one other related toy that I will get to shortly. They were a big part of my young life and probably explain why I love playing with and making my own cardboard standees for my ICONS games, even if they don't provide much in the way of game mechanics and just an opportunity for this 40-something-year-old gamer to play with action figures once again.

Ideal Batman Play Set unboxed.
So what do I really want instead of the cardboard standees? Flashback to the 1970s once again. There was a company called Ideal that used to make these vinyl play sets for Batman, Superman and Spider-Man with cardboard cutouts of all the major characters - heroes, villains and supporting cast - as well as vehicles and furnishings that stood about five inches tall in little yellow stands. The storage box also doubled as a play area divided into three sections - the Batman set gave you Wayne Manor, the Batcave and the Joker's hideout, as I recall. I had all three hero sets and recall spending a lot of time playing with them. I would love to make and use something like this for my ICONS games. This recent post at RPGNet got me thinking about taking my cardboard mini projects up a notch, and I recently discovered this blog that features some very impressive cardboard terrain and scenery builds. Now that I no longer live in a small one bedroom apartment in New York City, I have the room to do projects like this. And since I don't really need to be tied to the 1" grid with ICONS, I think I want to Super-size my Supers games.

So that's where I (ahem) stand with standees. I think I'm going to experiment with trying to make some larger figures like the ones found in the old Ideal superhero play sets. If it works out, I'll be sure to share the results here.

Thanks again for reading!


  1. As a lifelong funnybook gamer, I'd love to see what you come up with.

  2. The biggest problem with standees and counters is that, as a person with no discernable artistic ability, none of them match how I envision the characters.

    Unless, y'know, I find the miniature and write the character to the image.