Two members of the team behind the new miniatures release Archfiends discuss 200-point warbands, improved paint quality, and why bigger is most certainly better...
Wizards of the Coast: So, what's new and exciting in the Archfiends expansion set?
Rob Heinsoo(designer): First, it's the first set designed specifically to be played at the 200-point warband level. It's chock full of divine aspects, demons, and devils straight out of the Monster Manual, high-level heroes and villains from Forgotten Realms, and other familiar D&D creatures that were too powerful to fit into sets designed for 100-point play. Skirmish players get to play in an exciting new environment. D&D players get monsters they've been waiting for.
Second, new commanders in each faction fit into both 100-point and 200-point games. We're particularly excited about some of the Chaotic Good commanders -- good-looking miniatures that play as well as they look and seem likely to lead Chaotic Good to victories against tough opposition.
Finally, it puts some new wrinkles in warband construction, including powerful spellcasters with summoning spells, a ranger who fights with a wolf companion, and a new type of warband based on Drizzt, Drow Ranger.
Stacy Longstreet (art director): Exactly. This set will have the most powerful miniatures that we've done yet.
Wizards of the Coast: How does AF vary from previous sets? What was the design or artistic or brand plan behind this expansion?
Stacy: We are trying to offer the consumers something new and different with each set. Archfiends is not only more powerful, but we believe its visual appeal is even better than the first two sets.
Rob: We wanted to tap into some of the explosive magical effects in higher-level D&D play. The Large Red Dragon in Dragoneye was a preview of the type of power to expect in Archfiends. It's not unbalanced power: for instance, the new Bone Devil, like the Large Red Dragon, costs too much to fit into 100-point games, but it's right at home in 200-point games. We're excited to see what players make of the new environment.
Artistically, as Stacy said, we wanted to continue Dragoneye's move toward improved paints. Players who enjoyed Dragoneye's increased paint quality, compared to Harbinger, should notice that Archfiends' paints are either equal or superior.
Wizards of the Coast: I'm sure each of you has favorite figs from Archfiends. What are you especially fond of?
Stacy: My favorites are the Champion of Eilistraee because the sculpt is quite graceful and different from the poses we have done thus far, and the Medium Fire Elemental because of its shape.
Rob: I love the Aspect of Orcus miniature. It's powerful, it's beautiful, and it's sitting on the upper left of my monitor.
For play value and a wonderful sculpt, I agree with Stacy -- I love the Champion of Eilistraee. She's a sword-dancing commander from Forgotten Realms. Many roleplayers are going to use her as their PC, and many skirmish players are going to use her to command their warbands.
I also love the Human Cleric of Bane because of certain details of her paint job, her interesting summoning spells, and her commander effect, which has huge tactical consequences for every game she's part of.
Two uncommon minis I'm extremely fond of are the Graycloak Ranger and the Xill. Both have wonderful sculpts and wonky abilities that are fun to play.
Wizards of the Coast: Does this set introduce any new rules or creature abilities?
Rob:Archfiends supports the Expanded Psionics Handbook with several cool new minis, including a Githyanki and a Githzerai. A couple of the new creatures use psionics rules that appear for the first time on the insert included in every expansion pack.
Other cool new abilities that will turn heads appear on the Aspect of Demogorgon (it has an ability that allows it to activate twice in each round!) and the Xill (it can start the skirmish off the battle grid and phase into play later at a spot of its choosing!). Both abilities force interesting tactical decisions on your opponents.
Archfiends also includes many abilities that showed up as rules in the Miniatures Handbook but that appear now on cards for the first time.
Wizards of the Coast: What was the biggest challenge in doing this set? Was it easier to create than previous sets?
Rob: No, not easier. We did a lot of work getting to know the new 200-point environment. We worked hard to select the right game-changing abilities for our most powerful creatures. We couldn't give them everything they get in core D&D; that would have overloaded our simpler minis skirmish format. Instead, we evoked their awesome powers by selecting key abilities and making sure that each of the heavy-hitters was still playable and fun to play against.
Stacy: From the perspective of this art director, the challenge is always in getting the most dynamic poses that we can while still making sure that each figure fits on the base. Additionally, there is a balancing act that goes on between the number of paint steps and the quality of the appearance of each mini.
Wizards of the Coast: Where do you expect future sets to go? Are there already additional sets on the horizon, and is there anything you can say about them to whet the appetite of players who just can't get enough?
Rob: We have things mapped out for a while. Giants of Legend, the set after Archfiends, adds Huge creatures to the game. That's going to make a splash.
The trend toward biggerBiggerBIGGER won't go on forever, but this isn't the moment I can say more about future plans. Suffice to say that as I'm typing this, we're done with the 5th set and working on the 6th, so Archfiends, big as it is, doesn't come close to tapping into all the themes we'll eventually be working with.
Rob Heinsoo is the lead game designer of the D&D Miniatures line. His other Wizards of the Coast job is as lead designer of the Football Champions TCG for Europe. Before Wizards, he worked at Daedalus Entertainment, Chaosium, and A-Sharp.
With over 10 years of experience, Stacy Longstreet became an art director at Wizards of the Coast in the fall of 2003. Currently she serves as art director for the miniatures line. Her passion for the genre is reflected in her noteworthy collection of dragons.