D&D Miniatures09/16/2004


What's News?



The D&D Miniatures team usually stays busy designing, developing, and playtesting upcoming sets. Even though we aim to stay in touch via the online forums, we don't always have time to communicate fully about what we're up to. To rectify that, this article touches on a few current and upcoming issues of interest.

Here's the list of topics, in case you want to skip around.

1. Gen Con Championship Results
2. The On-Line Rulebook
3. Terrain Initiative Change In Aberrations
4. Ongoing Web Previews
5. Deathknell
6. Beyond Deathknell: Set 7 TBA
7. Minis You Want: Aspect of Tiamat
8. Minis You Want: Gelatinous Cube
9. Minis You Want: Mounted Minis
10. The New Scenario: Assault
11. A Healthy Game

1. Gen Con Championship Results

Brian Mackey of New Jersey came to Gen Con with the highest D&D Miniatures DCI rating in the nation. He proved the rating wasn't a fluke, losing only one game on his way to winning the first D&D Miniatures national championship.

Brian's prizes included a whole slew of miniatures and a hand painted Huge Red Dragon with inset gem eyes. You can check out the dragon because it's now his avatar in his online alias as Kiddoc.

Best of all, Brian won the opportunity to design a mini for an upcoming D&D Miniatures set. He opted to design a mini based on his wife, Erika! Like six of the other eight semi-finalists, Brian played Chaotic Evil at the championship, but Chaotic Good players can rejoice: Erika is going to be on your side. The art is underway. We won't have the Kiddoc-Loves-Erika mini for sale at next year's Gen Con but we should have early production samples next year to cheer Brian on when he defends his crown.

2. The Online Rulebook

We're now keeping an updated electronic version of the rules on the web. At the moment, it resides on the errata and FAQ pages. We may give it its own page soon -- stay tuned.

3. Terrain Initiative Change In Aberrations

The Aberrations rulebook cleaned up a lot of stuff but if you have followed the errata, most of those changes won't surprise you. One small twist that could escape a speed-reader is that the player who wins terrain initiative is no longer required to set up first. The player who wins terrain initiative now gets treated like a player who wins initiative during the rest of the game; you decide whether you or your opponent will set up first. We made this change so that warbands including creatures with the Scout ability or other interesting setup abilities wouldn't be forced into disadvantageous setup by winning initiative.

4. Ongoing Web Previews

We try to preview about half of an upcoming set. The theory is that revealing half the set entices people who want previews while preserving half the mystery for people who want to be surprised. Opinions about this theory vary, and so do our attempts to keep half of each set more or less secret. Glitches aside, we've been happy with the current system of giving out some information every week.

Mat Smith and I coordinate the selection and timing of our preview articles so that both of us get to premiere a few of the minis. The timing isn't perfect because we both write our articles well ahead of time. Ads, conventions, TV appearances, and paparazzi can reveal minis ahead of the planned schedule, so there may be some weeks when fans pining for novelty won't get as much as they'd hoped for.

In our current marketing scheme, the set poster releases shortly before the set hits shelves. At that moment, the fan web sites all roll initiative and get the complete set on the web as soon as they're able.

5. Deathknell

The sixth set of D&D minis is due out in February 2005. The overall theme is undead, the set icon is a scythe, and cover art includes the Mummy Lord, Death Knight, and (wait for it ...) the Beholder. No, not an undead beholder, a regular eleven-eyed knock-you-dead beholder. Deathknell also contains two large, uncommon minis that will be popular with both skirmishers and RPG players.

6. Beyond Deathknell: Set 7 TBA

Every once in a while we manage to keep a secret. Set 7 has a name; it has a theme; it has a cool new angle we haven't done before; it even has cover art. Somehow we've managed to keep it all as a surprise. The new catalog comes out in December. Maybe the secret will last until then, maybe not.

7. Minis You Want: Aspect of Tiamat

Here's a nod to one of the longest-running petitions on our web site. More than a couple people desperately want us to seize the opportunity we created with the Miniatures Handbook and make an Aspect of Tiamat miniature. Well, we'd like that, too. We've worked on it a couple times, and what we've discovered is that we're not going to do the Aspect as a Large mini. The five-headed dragon queen ends up looking kind of silly when all five of her heads have to fit on a body that fits on a 40mm base.

Guess where this is headed? Don't worry yourself over whether the Aspect of Tiamat is appearing in a future set unless that set has been announced as containing Huge minis. Assuming that we do Huge minis again (and it seems like a safe assumption that we will), we will attempt to make an Aspect of Tiamat "miniature." We can't promise that we'll succeed but we have a plan we think will work. If it doesn't work, we'll tell you as soon as we know that.

8. Minis You Want: Gelatinous Cube

The Gelatinous Cube is another mini we haven't been able to produce ... yet. The problem with the gelatinous cube is a transparent plastic issue. We're working on solving the problem but in the meantime, don't expect the GelCube or any other transparent minis in the D&D Miniatures line any time in the next year.

9. Minis You Want: Mounted Minis

On the other hand, mounted minis are in the works for next year. We would have had mounted minis earlier but the art and sculpts didn't work out. The last thing we want to do is release mediocre versions of eagerly awaited miniatures, so we've canceled some of our earlier efforts to make sure we do it right.

There won't be large numbers of mounted minis right away but in time the numbers should build up. Don't look for any until after Deathknell.

10. The New Scenario: Assault

The scenario we're pushing as our main scenario for Organized Play is Assault, a game that can award each player five (or ten, in a 200-point game) victory points at the end of each round if they have at least one creature on a tile that is entirely on the opponent's half of the battle grid.

One weakness of the Assault scenario is that its dynamics aren't obvious when you read the scenario, or even when you think seriously about it. Its rules are simple but as we've discovered in playtesting, the interactions between terrain setup, faction strengths, warband strategies, and winning tactics are subtle. Slow warbands appear to be at a disadvantage in Assault but not necessarily so.

In hindsight, we could have done more to gently introduce the new floor rules and scenarios to the web community and to the tournament scene. In the long run, we think the Assault scenario is a step toward a healthier tournament scene and more fun casual play.

11. A Healthy Game

I should take a minute to discuss what we see as the healthy play environment for D&D Miniatures. What we want is to have a quick game in which players need to fight to win. The Assault scenario encourages players to act aggressively but it won't award victory to a player solely based on aggressive movement unless the opponent sits back and refuses to fight. Yes, we are aiming to discourage denial tactics: turtling, stalling, and summoned hordes that slow the opponent down without giving them any victory points. It's still possible to use a turtle strategy in an Assault scenario but it's tougher, and you can't simultaneously turtle and prevent the opponent from scoring any victory points.

The new Organized Play scenario makes certain warbands less effective but most of those are warbands that denied the opponent the chance to fight effectively rather than warbands that fought well. We changed the Summoned creatures and Minions rules because we judged that their most effective uses weren't good for the game. You can still summon creatures and go for the win by scoring lots of victory points but summoning clouds of creatures to prevent your opponent from scoring any points is no longer an option.

In the long run, we're excited about setting up Organized Play so that all factions have a chance to win the game with competitive strategies using effective minis. It's a challenge, and it may take a while, so we're working on it.

That's the news for now. See you on the message boards.

About the Author

Rob Heinsoo started playing D&D with the original brown box in 1975. He's now the lead designer of D&D Miniatures.

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