D&D Miniatures02/02/2006

War Drums Preview 8
Battlefields & Dragons

Crack open a Wardrums starter and you'll find four beautiful, new maps on which to fight D&D Miniatures skirmishes. Today we'll take a sneak peek at two of the four, Field of Ruin and Dragon Shrine.

Field of Ruin

Field of Ruin fits the martial theme of the set perfectly, depicting the devastating aftermath of war. Broken and abandoned siege engines litter the map, and giant boulders tossed from some massive trebuchet have carved deep divots in the plain. But the most notable features of the Field are the shattered chunks of a fallen airship that lie scattered across the map. It is in and around these pieces of broken hull that your warbands will do battle.

Field of Ruin

As an Epic-legal map, Field of Ruin can accommodate Huge-sized creatures without forcing them to squeeze through narrow passages. There is, however, a lot of difficult terrain spread about the map, representing debris, chunks of wood, and fallen soldiers. Non-flying Huge creatures will have a hard time maneuvering as they spend many movement points circumventing obstacles and slogging through difficult terrain. In fact, a huge creature starting on side B cannot reach the center of the board without crossing difficult terrain at some point. Huges on side A have similar difficulty, because the only path they can take to the center without crossing difficult terrain is an indirect route with several turns. To avoid this handicap, when building Epic warbands for use on this map, it's a good idea to include only flying huges -- or none at all.

Victory areas on Field of Ruin are evenly distributed. Both side A and B have three places to score assault points, and both sides can reach the central, shared victory area fairly easily. Side A requires a speed 8 creature to score first-round assault points, while side B can manage it with a speed 7 creature. Both sides have some well-sheltered squares on which to score assault points, meaning that it should be somewhat difficult to pick off an enemy tile-grabber with ranged attacks or spells.

The exit squares are located on opposite sides of the map along the centerline. This symmetry ensures that neither side gets any special advantage from forcing the battle toward the top or bottom of the map. Of course, each side still benefits from engaging closer to the opponent's start areas, because this means fewer rally attempts for enemy creatures that rout.

Starting areas for both sides are well protected against early radius-4 effects such as fireballs, and the large amount of blocking terrain creates relatively short sightlines throughout the map. The extensive cover should allow melee-oriented bands to close with opposing ranged bands with only a minimum of exposure. One advantage that ranged bands do enjoy on this map is the ability to manipulate which unit counts as "nearest enemy" by using the many terrain features to block line of sight to units they do not wish to target.

As a straightforward map with no real "tricky" terrain effects (no sacred circles, smoke, spike stones, risky terrain or the like,) Field of Ruin is a solid choice to use with simple melee-oriented beatdown bands, whether in Epic play or 200-point.

Dragon Shrine

Dragon Shrine is another gorgeous map, illustrating a shrine to Tiamat, goddess of evil dragons. The middle third of the map displays a great hall with a black-marbled floor and rows of pillars leading to a massive statue of the Dragon Queen. From this main room, twisting passageways lead to the corners of the map, where lesser statues of the five chromatic dragons sit proudly.

Dragon Shrine

Occupying a square near any of the five chromatic dragon statues provides your entire warband with a special benefit: Resist 5 Fire, Cold, Acid, or Electricity, depending upon which dragon statue(s) you are near. The start area for side A is inside the influence of the red dragon statue, providing an immediate resistance to fire for player A. Player B, whose start area encompasses the white dragon statue, gains immediate resistance to cold. Electricity resistance is 10 steps away from player A's start area, and Acid resistance a mere three squares from player B's start area.

Such easy-to-achieve energy resistance has significant implications for players running popular tier-1 units that rely on energy damage, including Helmed Horrors, Red Samurais, and Chraals. If a player running units like these loses terrain initiative, he may be in for a rough game, because the effectiveness of his primary hitters will be greatly reduced. On the other hand, if that player wins terrain initiative, he can set up in the corner that blocks his opponent from reaching the proper shrine. In these matchups, having a high commander rating to assist with terrain initiative will be crucial.

Scoring first-round assault points on Dragon Shrine requires a speed 8 creature for player A or a speed 7 creature for player B. Each player has three choices for where to score assault points, one of which is the shared victory area in the sacred circle near the bottom of the map. This, however, can be a risky place for any non-fearless unit to loiter -- the exit is only three steps away from the bottom circle. Because both players share the same exit, any unit failing a morale save in this area is almost surely going to rout off the board without getting a rally attempt.

In fact, because much of the central great hall is within 12 squares of the exit, the majority of units fighting in this hall will not have a second chance at their morale saves. This again makes high commander ratings valuable, and the same goes for fearless units.

Dragon Shrine will be a good choice for players who expect a metagame heavy in elemental damage, yet who are not themselves bringing units with elemental damage. Ranged bands should enjoy the wide-open central room and the many long, straight corridors connecting the side rooms.

Next week -- We return to our regularly scheduled programming.

About the Author

Los Angeles resident Jason Lioi has enjoyed playing D&D for over twenty years and has recently branched out into d20 Apocalypse and Axis & Allies Miniatures. After winning the 2005 D&D Miniatures Constructed Championship, Jason was invited to design his own mini, which will be released in an upcoming set. Jason writes for Wizards of the Coast on a freelance basis.

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