Wizards getting back into the miniatures game – sort of

While this may already be common knowledge across cyberspace, I hadn’t heard about this product release yet, so I’ll mention it here in case any readers live under rocks adjacent to mine.

Contained in this summary of events planned for the upcoming Origins Game Fair is an entry for a demonstration of Dungeon Command, a new miniatures skirmish game Wizards of the Coast will release in a few months.

A brief search on the product title yielded this page, which gives more detail about the product. Apparently, WotC will be selling miniatures in groups of 12 called factions; these minis will be packaged with dungeon tiles, stat cards and game rules, and will retail for $39.99. While a quick start version of the game will enable two people to play from the same box, each player will need his or her own box to play the full game.

The miniatures will be compatible with other WotC products, including D&D and WotC’s Adventure System Board Games.

A bit more digging around the WotC site led to a product release schedule. Two faction sets are slated for release July 17: Heart of Cormyr and Sting of Lloth. Amazon.com is offering pre sale copies of a third faction set, Tyranny of Goblins, although I didn’t see this product listed on the WotC release schedule page.

The folks over at Board Game Geek were kind enough to provide a link to this video from Pax East, in which Chris Dupuis describes it as a combination board game/skirmish game. The miniatures depicted in the video look very similar to previous D&D Miniatures releases. The Board Game Geeks also posted several product images here.

Geeks Playing Games was present for the play test, and drafted a pretty thorough review of play, which is posted here.

While it seems that this product will contain far fewer sculpts than prior DDM releases – and therefore be of reduced use for a dungeon master – it is better than nothing. And at least a DM will know which figures are in which box, a welcome change from the random packaging of yesteryear.


Own any D&D Minis? Now might be a good time to review their value

All kobolds are not created equal - the figure on the left (Kobold Archer #41 from the Dungeons of Dread set) is valued at about $3.50 U.S.; the one on the right (a World Game Day promotional figure of the same sculpt) is valued at about $22.

The now-defunct D&D Miniatures (DDM) line was useful in many ways: the figures from the line were pre-painted, saving the dungeon master valuable preparation time; they were made from a nigh-indestructible, rubberized plastic; the figures depicted actual game monsters, having either been taken directly from the books or introduced into the D&D roleplaying game by virtue of a stat card; and the cost per figure was competitive, even if the randomized packaging sometimes made it difficult to get enough of a certain monster type for an encounter.

In preparation for a game I plan to run in a couple of weeks (the first in months, and likely the only one for the next few months – how disappointing), I visited Miniature Market to check availability for a few figures I needed. While I could always use TokenTool or a graphics program to make tokens for the session, it would make for a better game if I could obtain the required miniatures at reasonable cost.

Even though I knew the minis have been discontinued for quite some time, I was astonished at the prices at which some of the figures I own were marked.

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What the tokens vs. minis issue bodes for D&D

This recent post over at Critical Hits, an eloquent eulogy for the soon-to-be-defunct Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures line, echoed the sentiments of many gamers who have found the minis to be useful gaming aids, and speculates (with some merit, in my opinion) that the product’s end was related to low profitability. The secondary market for these minis has always been brisk, with rare pieces – like dragons – being sold for three times the retail price of the box they were packaged in, and Wizards of the Coast (WotC) sees none of that money.

The post drew an impressive number of comments, but I stopped reading them when I found one containing an observation that led me to consider how the switch to tokens may impact future editions of D&D. The comment was made by Rick Anderson, who wrote about WotC’s apparent lack of understanding of the miniatures market. Continue reading

Need miniatures for your D&D game? Explore these options


Almost anything can be used to represent monsters on the battle mat. Here, the Dungeon Divas have put Lego bricks to good use.

Almost anything can be used to represent monsters on the battle mat. Here, the Dungeon Divas have put Lego bricks to good use.

It is theoretically possible for the fourth edition (4e) Dungeons & Dragons game to be played without a battle map and miniatures, but the vast majority of 4e games employ miniatures as playing aids. There are numerous sources for miniatures – or objects that can effectively serve as miniatures – but their cost effectiveness and availability vary widely, so penny-wise Dungeon Masters (DMs) must carefully compare the needs of their games against the limitations of their budgets.

The list of options for obtaining miniatures presented below is by no means all-inclusive, but it does highlight some of the most common sources for these playing aids, along with this writer’s subjective comparisons of relative cost, durability and utility. 

Wizards of the Coast D&D Miniatures

Wizards of the Coast has been kind enough to release pre-painted, appropriately-scaled figures representing official 4e D&D monsters and heroes. These carry significant benefits: the monsters are representations of monsters from the rule books or modules, or are new “official” monsters; cards, printed with game statistics, are provided with all miniatures; the miniatures are pre-painted, so no time or material investment is required before play; and the rubberized plastic used to make the minis is nigh indestructible.

Unfortunately, the drawbacks of the D&D Miniatures line are almost as significant. The detail on these soft plastic figures isn’t particularly high, and the factory paint work, while improving over the earliest sets, is still far below the ability of a painter just beginning the mini-painting hobby.

Apart from “teaser” figures visible through the packaging, these figures are randomly packaged, making it difficult to easily amass a group of similar creatures for an encounter. For example, the current set, Dangerous Delves, offers five miniatures (including one large-sized mini) for $14.99 U.S., for an average of $3 per randomly selected miniature. Continue reading