North Texas Daily

Miniature figures kickstart local game shop

Miniature figures kickstart local game shop

Miniature figures kickstart local game shop
February 02
23:37 2015

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

Denton game shop company Reaper Miniatures launched two Kickstarter campaigns with a goal of $30,000 in funding for each project, but what creators got was more than they could have expected.

More than 17,000 participants – or backers as they are called on the crowdfunding platform – pledged $3.4 million in August 2012 for Bones: An Evolution of Gaming Miniatures, a project aimed at helping Reaper Miniatures increase the production of its Bones game models, scaled down figurines used for tabletop games.

A year later, they created another Kickstarter campaign for the second installment of Bones, which would continue the development of Bones’ plastic gaming miniatures. Almost 15,000 backers showed their support by funding $3.1 million for the project, making both campaigns among the top 10 largest funded Kickstarters of all time.

“It was a surprise,” president and CEO Ed Pugh said. “[But we have] a lot of fans. Our website is in the top 1 percent of world traffic, so we cast a wide net.”

Reaper Miniatures originated in Fort Worth in July 1992, but reports of consistent growth and need for a warehouse to host operations triggered its move to Lewisville and eventually to Denton nine years ago. Al Pare, Pugh and his brother, Dave, started the company after noticing they all shared the same hobby of casting miniature figures.

The company then expanded from its initial two lines of miniatures, World War II aircraft collection “Distinguished Flying Collectibles” and fantasy jewelry collection “Renaissance Dreams,” to six major lines including fan-favorites “Warlord” and “Pathfinder” that are shipped all over the world. They also manufacture two Master Series paint lines designed for painting their miniatures.

Inside the warehouse

All Reaper pewter miniatures begin their journey at a production facility in Denton.

The process starts when Reaper receives sculpts in epoxy figures from various sculptors around the world. Casters then produce rubber molds from the original sculpt and spin cast the miniatures in the factory. After the figures finish cooling and are checked for flaws, they are packaged in blister cards and shipped out to distributors and game stores.

Another product created in the factory is the paint line. Reaper formulates and mixes every drop of paint, which number to the hundreds, then bottles and labels the items on-site.

One of Reaper’s vendors is event venue More Fun Game Center in Denton, where locals meet to play games. Sam Bruce, co-manager and associate of More Fun Comics and Games shop, the company that set up the game center, said it mainly sells Reaper Miniatures’ paint, which is one of the more popular paint items in the store, despite being slightly more expensive.

“They have a wider variety of color schemes,” Bruce said. “To my knowledge, they’re also easier to mix with each other, so if you’re looking for a blend of color, they’re easier to do that with.”

Bruce also said they have had customers who come in specifically requesting some of Reaper Miniatures’ products because they have a good supply and wide variety of figures.

“Some of the companies that actually make these other miniatures make paints as well, but many people seem to prefer the Reaper paint even if it’s not for a Reaper miniature,” he said.

The company also fulfills contract casting through large commercial outlets, usually for a one-time purchase; casting for another miniatures company, which is more common and requested multiple times in one week; and vanity pieces that a client wants in order to create a miniature of his or her personal player character for a game.

Matt Clark, who is responsible for contract casting services, said Reaper Miniatures temporarily stopped contract casting, aside from vanity pieces, because their large workload would likely interfere with the quality of service.

“We are just too busy to take care of these customers in the manner they deserve,” he said.

More than just games

Although Reaper primarily fulfills production requests at the Denton facility, its home on Teasley Lane doubles as a retail store that sells its miniatures, hundreds of which are discontinued every year to make room for new releases.

Reaper Game Store manager Gus Landt said there are no added expenses because they own the building, yet sales are typically low at the store.

“We don’t have a large local market,” Landt said. “The game store is pretty far out of the way to get any foot traffic, and we can be difficult to find for those who actually know we are here.”

However, when Landt took over the store five years ago, he expanded Reaper’s offerings to include a wide range of role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons and the collectible card game Magic the Gathering, which accounts for 75 percent of Reaper Game Store’s business.

Over the past two years, the company has also expanded its offerings of board and card games.

On top of its products, Reaper Miniatures celebrates the annual ReaperCon, a four-day convention for miniatures hobbyists. The event typically brings in world-renowned sculptors, painters and illustrators who are present for sculpting and painting classes, industry seminars, game tournaments and other activities that are open to the public.

This year’s ReaperCon will be the company’s twelfth and held from April 30 to May 3 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Lewisville.

“Because we have plenty of space, we can host events most other stores cannot,” Landt said. “Also due to our very low overhead, we can offer products at very competitive prices. This has gained us a loyal local following from many of the local colleges.”

3_reaperminis_web2 One of the many miniature cast figurines available from Reaper Miniatures sits on a shelf in the Denton warehouse. The company had two Kickstarter campaign, each reaching over $3 million in pledges. Photo by Byron Thompson – Senior Staff Photographer

Featured Image: Kinny Fain organizes Magic: the Gathering cards at the counter of Reaper Miniatures, a gaming store on the outskirts of Denton. While the store specializes in hand-painted mini figurines for fantasy games, Fain prefers card and board games like those dominating the storefront. Photos by Byron Thompson – Senior Staff Photographer

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