Are miniatures an important tool for roleplaying? I enjoy miniature games such as Warhammer Fantasy and 40K, but have rarely used minis with my OD&D, White Wolf, or Palladium games in the past. No one in my old group was much of a mini player and it never felt right.
My new group however, is run by a creative and talented GM who has an impressive collection that he has painted in detail himself. Furthermore, the minis, themselves, are often endorsed by Fantasy Flight. When I asked my GM why he used minis in a roleplaying game, his answer, aside from the general pleasure of painting them, was that miniatures add objectivity and clarity to combat and generally enhance the experience. Interestingly, when he started gaming with the original D&D booklets, he used washers, nuts, etc.
I haven't played or read 4e D&D, but I see their miniatures filling the shelves at my local Borders book store. With that, and the success of Dark Heresy, ongoing growth of Warhammer, and newer mini game systems such as Clix, it is clear that miniatures are growing in popularity. It also seems that many board games have adopted both a CCG and miniature element. For some reason, I still seek the simplicity of OD&D sans minis. Why is that?