I finally got around to trying out the D&D Miniatures game this past Saturday. Verdict: Fun.
Galen came over and we tried out a couple of test battles first. Skipping the Starter Set’s Quick Start Battle, we dove right into the “Evil Wilderness Warband” vs. “Good Civilization Warband” match. (These guys need better names for their teams.) For reference, the bands are as such:
Evil Wilderness Warband
- Young green dragon
- Yuan-ti swiftscale
Good Civilization Warband
- Dwarf battlemaster
- Elf warlock
- Human sellsword
First match, I played the Good Civilization Warband and Galen played the Evil Wilderness Warband on the Crossroads map. It’s literally a crossroads: two roads crossing over, with an old, abandoned rest stop nearby, and pretty much nothing else on the map. The battle went almost exactly not how I expected. I took the dragon down surprisingly quickly, and the yuan-ti lasted much longer on its own, against all three of my guys, than either of us imagined was possible. In the end, though, Good prevailed. Note: Don’t let anyone ever get anywhere near the elf warlock, though. She is worthless in a melee battle.
For the second match, we switched sides. I played the Evil Wilderness Warband and Galen played the Good Civilization Warband, this time on the Monster Lair map. The Monster Lair is much more interesting, with lots of forest cover, a stream, and, of course, a monster lair in a cave. This one was more interesting, and that worthless elf warlock met an awful end at the awful front of a green dragon. The dragon and the yuan-ti dropped at about the same time this match, and Good once again prevailed.
We took the training wheels off next and dove into a real battle. Eh, mostly real. We picked minis from the Dungeons of Dread set, going with a 100-point band each, maximum of five figures, maximum figure cost of 60 points (instead of 200, 10, and 150, respectively, for the standard warband). Since I’ve had these for many months, you’d think I’d have a great band sitting around, pre-made, but that’d mean you have no idea who I am. (This despite the database I’ve got set up for this very purpose.) We just rifled through the cards, looking for themes and interesting combinations, and finally came down to these:
Evil Underdark Monsters
- Grick (2)
- Giant centipede (2)
Good Civilization Humanoids
- Cleric of Pelor
- Halfling paladin
- Tiefling warlock
- Elf archer (2)
Mine was the Good Civilization Humanoids, despite the presence of two elves (hated elves!), and Galen’s was the Evil Underdark Monsters. Again with the names! And yes, that’d be Sir Wellby Greenapple there, albeit sans Shiroi.
We used the Flooded Ruins battlemap, and let’s just get that out of the way right now: That map looks a lot cooler than it really is. The river cutting through the middle is very cool, and it’s a fun tactical challenge, yes. Each team has two starting zones, with team A’s zones on one side of the river and team B’s on the other. Good. Each team has one victory zone, located on the opposite side of the river from its victory zone. Nice. You have to cross the river to get to your victory zone. That’s a reasonable tactical challenge that adds something to the match without overwhelming the players with complexity. Great.
Except that each victory zone is also a teleporter leading to the other zone, and each of the victory zones is located on a straight line about ten squares from one of the two opposing starting zones. That arrangement effectively turns the map into a line: If you can start your team out in a starting zone ten squares directly in an unimpeded line from a teleporter whose opposite end is your own victory zone, what’s the point of the river? What’s the point of the other starting zone?
We made it less silly by ignoring the fact that the victory zones were linked teleporters. Another fix would be to ignore the direct-line starting zones. This adjustment would make full and interesting tactical use of the map. Each team would have two routes to its victory zone: a winding path on one side of the river to the opposing zone/teleporter, or a slightly more direct route across the river. (One could also just ignore the victory zones, but more than a couple minis actually use the victory zones as part of their abilities, so ignoring the victory zones would hinder those particular minis.)
The Good Civilization Humanoids were pretty cool, with the kinds of abilities you’d expect from good guys: cooperative abilities, healing abilities, etc. The cleric’s Aura of Radiance gives all allies within 5 squares a damage bonus on melee attacks. His Combat Healing power heals any ally within 5 squares who makes a melee attack with a natural roll of 16 or more (i.e., 1/4 of the time). These two abilities really help the cleric support nearby allies engaged in melee combat. He’s also got a champion power that gives all of his allies a bonus to attack rolls against an enemy that attacks the cleric and misses.
Meanwhile, the paladin has his Vindicating Blow attack, which he can use to heal himself or an ally whenever the paladin hits an enemy. The paladin is all about melee attacks, and he combines quite nicely with the cleric. Worked correctly, the paladin gets extra damage, heals an ally, possibly gets a bonus to hit, and possibly heals himself every time he attacks when near the cleric.
The tiefling warlock looks better on cardstock than in practice. His Inevitable Blast attack does a lot of damage, but he has to hit… I almost never did, as I recall. His Price of Pride attack is pretty sweet, causing the afflicted enemy to take damage a little more than half the time whenever that enemy attacks, but the Price of Power actually has to land, and it’s only usable once—and no recharge! (I totally blew it on the balhannoth.)
Even the hated elf archers were pretty cool, provided they could keep moving and could stay away from the enemy.
As for the Evil Underdark Monsters… They seemed to work pretty well, too, especially that damned balhannoth. It’s basically a teleporting, tentacled, slaughter tank. We had a little problem understanding its Warp power, but I think I’ve figured it out now. Because we didn’t quite understand it, Galen never invoked it; I would have had an even tougher time defeating the underdark dwellers if there was a chance I could miss before even attacking.
The gricks were especially irritating to me. Their inherent resistance to all types of energy damage affected the cleric the most, since his one and only attack is Radiant damage. It also effectively cancels his Aura of Radiance, since the latter adds exactly the amount of energy damage the grick’s resistance reduces.
The giant centipedes weren’t anything particularly special, although they did well for large chunks of the Flooded Ruins map. They can move twice as fast whenever they spend their whole movement adjacent to a wall, and there are enough walls spaced exactly right that the centipedes can scuttle all over the battlefield quite quickly. The exception is the river, of course—since these are not aquatic centipedes (…), they move half as fast in the water; okay, so that brings them to normal speed when near a wall in the water, but there are chunks of the map where they can’t do that, making them extra slow.
Overall, this last battle was pretty fun, and the game itself is also pretty fun. I’m thinking at this point that I’ll stick with the cleric, paladin, and warlock combination. It seemed to work well. I’ll probably use the elf archers again if I have to fill out some slots in my bands.
Gotta come up with better names for the bands though…