War Drums marks the first D&D Miniatures Starter Set since Aberrations. There are some notable differences between the War Drums Starter and the Aberrations Starter. For instance, the War Drums Starter includes double-sided maps instead of terrain tiles. Not only that, but we've made an effort to provide a better "out-of-the-box" experience for brand-new players.
Part of that effort was the inclusion of two "fixed" minis in every Starter Set: the Wood Elf Ranger and the Orc Mauler. In the new Quick Start Battle booklet (also included in the box), the elf and orc square off against each other in a one-on-one skirmish that helps teach the basics of the skirmish game. One of the four maps found in each Starter Set, the Broken Demongate battlemap, has a 5x12-square section outlined in the middle specifically for this first battle. Because each player uses only one mini, and it takes only a few minutes to show the basics and play out the battle, the quick start game can be played a few times in succession to get a new player familiar with the game.
While buying a starter will land you both the elf and the orc, you can still acquire these common minis in a standard booster. Here's a closer look at the two:
Wood Elf Ranger
Lightly armored and brandishing a longsword and a short sword, the Wood Elf Ranger is a peerless hunter of orcs. He prefers to confront one enemy at a time to get the most out of his Hunter ability, which states: Melee damage +5 unless more than 1 enemy is adjacent. As a ranger, he's chosen orcs as his favored enemy, giving him another +5 damage bonus in this matchup.
Between Hunter and Orc Foe, the Wood Elf's two attacks can deal 20 and 15 magic damage to his hated orc rival. That's a good thing, too, because he doesn't have the durability to withstand more than a couple of blows from the orc. In a 200-point game, he's a great choice to counter the orcs from this set and from previous sets, and his potential 25 magic damage per round (35 against orcs) isn't unreasonable even against a non-orc warband.
When I pulled an Orc Mauler out of one of our early copies of the War Drums Starter Set, I quickly declared it to be the best-looking common mini we'd ever produced. The detail of the sculpt is excellent, and the production-level paint job looks just like the paint master photo that you see here. He headlines a number of very well-done common minis in this set. Take a close look at him when you finally get one, and you'll notice that his mace is shaped like a skull. It's those little details that make me smile!
Of the two fixed starter minis, the Orc Mauler is the more straightforward. He's a fairly basic Chaotic Evil beater with one big swing for massive damage (+11 for 15). While much of his beefiness is based on some barbarian levels, this particular orc isn't yet raging, which lends him a reasonable AC of 18 thanks to his chainmail and shield. He has enough hit points to take a hit from the Wood Elf without routing, but even so, the elf (with his two attacks) can work through the orc in about three rounds.
Head to Head
Even though the Orc Mauler costs 3 more points than the Wood Elf Ranger (26 vs. 23), they are very evenly matched. Initiative and morale saves are the key rolls in this matchup. On the second round of combat, it is likely that the initiative winner will land a second blow on his opponent, which will force a morale save. Since there is no commander in this one-on-one combat, each mini has only a 30-35% chance of making the morale save. A failed morale save here means victory for the opponent. On average, the wood elf deals 55 points of damage to the orc over three rounds, and the orc deals 36 points of damage (on average) to the elf in the same time span; so the battle most likely ends after three rounds of combat, though the occasional battle might go a few rounds longer if rolls are particularly low.
Next week: Letting the cats out of the bag!
About the Author
Stephen Schubert is a Developer with RPG/Minis R&D and is the lead developer for D&D Miniatures starting with next July's War of the Dragon Queen. He's also helped develop many exciting upcoming D&D products, including Player's Handbook II, Monster Manual IV, Tome of Magic, and Tome of Battle!