Yes, I’m going to review this. Not figure by figure, because… Well, I’ll get to that.
Anyway, those of you who’ve read my blog before know that I have NOT been a fan of Wizards of the Coast’s miniature line; which they simultaneously require for proper play and make hard to get good figures for. I OUGHT to do a review on, say, Desert of Desolation (their disastrous “4e Preview” set) or Against the Giants, just so you can see how pissed off I get for these things.
In fact… Covering Against the Giants is related to Lords of Madness, so I will cover it in brief. See, it was their return to including Huge figures in every booster pack, as they once did with War of the Dragon Queen. The really big problem here was, well… Their randomization stank to high Heaven. Yes, you got a Huge figure in every box. What they didn’t tell you is, the majority of the Huge figures were Uncommon. I have my minis organized into broad categories. One of these boxes is called the “God Dammit, Wizards” box. It has nothing but Huge figures in it, regardless of what they actually are. Most of them are from Against the Giants. They include the Enormous Carrion Crawler, Armored Gurvorg, Thunderblast Cyclone, Yuan-Ti bomination, Shadow Hulk, Elder Red Dragon, TWO Chain Golems and TWO Earth Titans. All of these, except for the dragon, Shadow Hulk, and Abomination are all Uncommon, and they have another thing in common:
They’re all nearly useless to me, and to most Dungeon Masters. This is even with the fact that the Elder Red Dragon is one of the prides of my collection, and one I HAVE gotten some use out of.
This was a huge problem (no pun intended) with the sets prior to the DDM# series; Wizards was trying to do both, support their minis game and their RPG, and it just wasn’t happening. Most of the minis people wanted or needed, Wizards decided to make rares, meaning you couldn’t get them. Uncommons were only arguably useful, Commons, even less so.
DDM was their attempt at a compromise: No more minis game, one visible figure (Large for two sets, Huge for one), and a handful of randomized minis. This was a vast improvement, I felt: Yes, the randomization still kind of sucked. but the visible mini helped, and the assortment was A LOT better. However, it didn’t do what Wizards apparently wanted it to do, and thus, DDM went away for almost a year.
It has returned, with Lords of Madness… And it is hands down, the best set I have put any money into since I started 4th Edition.
We’re back to full randomization, no visible mini, six figures per box, one Huge, 60 figures in the set total. Similar setup to Against the Giants, yes, and with the added scowl-worthy decision of a new rarity type, Very Rare… But, none of this actually detracts from the set in any real fashion.
There are a number of reasons for this fact, primary among them is all of the minis being extremely useful this time around. See for yourself. If you look at this list and say “Huh, I could use that in my game…” chances are, it’s Common or Uncommon. If any of them make you go “Oh, cool!”, then it’s probably Rare or Very Rare, with a few notable exceptions, most of which being the Iron Golem Juggernaut (Whom I have already nicknamed #23) and the Rime Hound. Highly useful figures, like the Efreet Fireblade, Oni Night Stalker and the Zhent troops are either Uncommon, or Common. As the Blue Dragon and Copper Dragon are Very Rare, you’ll have a hard time getting them, but I kind of expect THAT of Wizards at this point…
That’s what I’m talking about; I bought twelve boosters and got very few figures that made me go “Okay, why…?” The few I can think of that did include the Swordwing and Crownwing (was anyone actually clamoring for these guys?), the Draegloth Abomination (but I’ve always hated the Draagloth), the Trebuchet (again, why…?) and more frigging Kobolds (the one thing we DON’T lack between the last five sets…). Also, it STILL does not have enough figures that are useful as characters, but that’s a fairly minor gripe.
The set has winners in almost every box. In addition to the ones I mention above, there are awesome figures like the Roc, Heroslayer Hydra, Fettered Dracolich and the Young Volcanic Dragon, which is pretty much the highlight of the set.
But that’s not all: The sculpts have improved, making the figures look more distinct and outstanding, the style is much closer to their illustrations in the books, and perhaps best of all, the paint jobs can be described as damn fine, which puts it miles above any of the other sets I collected, the best of which would probably be DDM2, where I would describe it as “adequate”… At best.
Rather than continue to rant about it, I figure I’ll show you some images I took, wherein I demonstrate the one other problem I have with these sets: Lack of a foldout map. Not even Orcus came with a map, and I spent sixty damn bucks on his fat, no-elbows-having ass. The one you see is Fields of Ruin, which, along with Shattered Demongate, Teleport Temple and Shrine of Tiamat, all come from the War Drums Starter, and are all awesome. It’s the one with the mace-wielding Orc and Elf with two swords on the front. Apparently, despite its age, there’s still a ton of unsold copies floating around. They’re worth it for the maps, really, and you have a decent chance of getting a good mini on top of that. I picked up two boxes, and got some nice finds, like Apsect of Hextor and Warduke. Also woth it for the maps is a minis starter set from 4e, which is a plastic blister pack with the Green Dragon in it.
But enough about that, here’s some pictures!
… man, I wish they’d include new maps. Ah well, at least the Essentials Dungeon Tiles sets are looking hopeful. More on that next time, perhaps… Until then, happy gaming!