Best value for one's time and money ... in terms of gaming for the past decade I've vehemently and vociferously argued that the right kind of mini gaming took the cake when it came to that question. RPGs ... ya ya ... if you have the right kind of group they are great. But the barrier of entry is low on RPGs and to be blunt you get alot of odd ducks that aren't fun to game with in the ranks of RPG players. Store trolls ... jerk power gamers ... criminals ... lol. Board gaming ... well ... its a bit better ... but it suffers from many of the same problems that the RPGs do. You get a mixed bag of fans ... some people only care about winning and don't really like to socialize much during play. Then the new paradigm (thanks Fantasy Flight Games!) in board games verges on the collectible ... its turning into an expensive hobby if one doesn't already have a massive collection. If you have a good group of board game fans you can spread the costs ... but in my case (and in many game groups) I'm the host and I tend to have most of the games we play.
So for me personally mini games ... mostly GWs Warhammer 40,000 with some dabbling in WHFB, Necromunda, Warmachine ... has been what I've done. For six or seven years I had miniature gaming utopia ... I found a huge group of amazingly like minded mini gamers who loved the modeling, painting and backstory of the game as much as they did playing. There were few power gamers in our midst and we as a group kept them in check ... we ran balanced lists with alot of fun fluff lists. We had a traveling 40K RTT team where we'd go to other towns and play competitively. We went to every So. Cal GT and Gamesday as a big group. It was really an amazingly fun time ... I really miss it ... it was a golden age of gaming for me.
Over the past few years I've had a massive upheaval in my gaming life ... I've had to relocate to a new area. Had to search for new gaming comrades, etc. etc. However, even before that miniature gaming began to decline. I had always chalked it up to several key members of our old mini gaming club moving away (back around 2007-2008 our 40 person game club lost five of eight founding members in a one year period to relocation/corporate transfers/etc.). So our gaming group morphed into more of a "pan" gaming group ... we did more RPG, more board gaming, even some Xbox-LAN party stuff. It was just as fun honestly ... but it was different ... not really in a bad or a good way.
Since that time I've had to start from scratch in rebuilding a home gaming group and a gaming club. It was easiest to find people looking for a D&D group ... so I did that first. Then gradually we branched out into other RPG systems and then to board game nights. I have several members of the home game group and game club who are mini gamers ... yet I have really struggled to get that off the ground.
We have a really nice store here locally ... with a pretty big 40K group playing down there. But its all competitive players and an absentee owner who pays not attention to what is going on in the store. So its very cliquish and there is not one bit of anything that interests me about hanging out down there or playing that type of over competitive game. Its really not an environment conducive to recruiting club members/home gaming group members. But also every time I go in there ... and every time I read comments on BoLS, etc. etc. I realize just how much the GW hobby has changed since 2000. It really has me strongly questioning whether or not mini gaming is even viable for me at this point. I have no anger about it ... I'm just staring cold hard facts in the face ... and more and more asking myself the question ... is this a hobby that has anything to offer me anymore?
I've been looking to historicals, etc. as possible alternative ... but even there ... unless you have a group that will get into those systems along side you ... whats the point.
Yet getting RPG groups together, getting board game groups together ... couldn't seem to be easier. I've found 30 people in a year who are cool to hang out with, laid back fun people who are interesting to talk to and idle away a Friday or Saturday evening over a board game or RPG with. So I'm seriously considering deep mothballing for all mini game related stuff ... a Stalin-esq purge of my mini collection via the ebay gulag to just convert those to board games and RPGs. Am I being to quick to judgment? Anyone out there having similar thoughts, or had experiences like mine and figured out a way past the great mini purge??
I'm just questioning the return on investment anymore ... not money ... there I think minis are king. I mean I'm playing with 15 and 20 year old models. When it comes to historicals ... I've seen people playing with minis from the 1960s ... just as useful today as when they were freshly painted for the first time. But time ... getting high quality mini gaming together is huge work. It just doesn't exist at stores anymore, I don't care what anyone out there says. For your preference perhaps you can find good mini gaming at stores ... but I do not like the randomness of players ... dealing with having to watch your minis as random people come by and pick them up ... kids ... etc. having to endure crappy terrain and either complete competitive players who cheat and could care less about whether or not your having fun ... or having to basically do what the store should be doing and demo the game to new players. I don't mind demoing honestly ... I've done my share of that and would happily at one of our club meetings or at my house for a friend. But the overall picture of mini gaming has really declined for me. I've come to realize that my experience in Las Vegas was very rare, we had the stars align for a brief time ... a really cool group of mini gamers came together and formed an amazing club ... but all good things come to an end.
I have tried for a year to re-ignite the flames of good mini gaming ... but I'm still standing over a wet patch of tinder ... no closer than I was a year ago.