The War Drums set has more large-sized, rare minis than any previous set, and only Underdark boasts more distinct large models. I've already shown you some of the big boys, such as the Fiendish Girallon and Snig, and some of the others have popped up in Mat Smith's monthly previews as well as within the pages of Dragon magazine and other industry publications. With so many Large creatures, it's inevitable that we'd include at least one giant. In War Drums, however, no fewer than four giant type creatures make an appearance (it should have been five, but for some reason the War Troll was classed as a monstrous humanoid). This week, we'll look at two of those giants, an uncommon and a rare, from two opposing factions.
Hill Giant Barbarian
This uncommon miniature is simply massive. Take a bit of hill giant, add a couple levels of rage and a tree trunk, and you end up with a miniature that is much more threatening than our previous Hill Giant from the Archfiends set.
The Archfiends Hill Giant was designed to dish out tremendous damage (40 points) with judicious use of Power Attack but with a fairly pathetic +8 attack bonus. To discourage overuse of such massive damage, the otherwise reasonable 55-point mini was given the Difficult ability, which hampers its utility if it's out of command or if it's not supervised by Chaotic Evil's single commander with a commander rating of 5 (the now hard-to-find Drow Cleric of Lolth from Harbinger). Because of the complexity of the pre-War Drums Difficult ability, the Hill Giant was a challenge to field in a warband. (With the War Drums rules update, difficult creatures still can't be put under command easily, but the rush requirement has been eliminated.)
Enter the Hill Giant Barbarian. For twice the cost of an Orc Champion (a standout Archfiends unit for Chaotic Evil), you get two attacks at +12/+7 for a whopping 35 damage. The HGB is the second mini previewed with Overwhelming Size, giving him another +2 to attack and +5 to damage when he smacks a smaller foe. With Speed 10 and Melee Reach 2, he can threaten a lot of board. Even if he gets only one swing after moving, chances are it will hit and hurt badly enough to force a morale save. The HGB isn't Difficult, but he does take 5 points of damage each round for the first two or three rounds because of his Furious Spirit -- not that you'll miss 10 or 15 hit points out of 155!
This big guy is a very close representation of the giant found on page 58 of Monster Manual III. He's also Lawful Good's answer to the other giants in the set. While the Hill Giant Barbarian might be more barrel-chested and brawnier, the Sand Giant actually stands a bit taller.
The Sand Giant compares favorably to the similarly-priced Hill Giant Barbarian. While many Chaotic minis like the Hill Giant are built around large damage and low attack bonuses, we also create some Lawful minis that are more consistent in their dealing of damage, with higher attack bonuses melded to more typical damage output. In theory, these factors should balance out, providing similar amounts of average damage per round. That is borne out somewhat here.
Consider a head-to-head match between the HGB and Sand Giant. Over the first four rounds of a toe-to-toe fight, the Hill Giant Barbarian should hit the Sand Giant's AC of 23 an average of 3 times (50% chance for primary attack, 25% for secondary). Conversely, the Sand Giant's +19/+14 attacks over those four rounds are nearly all successful hits (95% primary, 90% secondary). The result is that, after three rounds, the Sand Giant is down to 35 hp, while the Hill Giant is at 25 or so (assuming eight hits and two rounds of Furious Spirit). The winner of initiative in round 5 has a good shot at winning the duel -- darn near dead even.
Of course, we don't base the cost of a figure on its performance against just one other foe. The Hill Giant Barbarian has additional value because it can move and still cause significant damage with its one hit. Against a low-AC foe, the HGB dominates. The Sand Giant makes up for his lack of up-front damage with significant durability (AC and hp) and special abilities: Cleave and Sand Blaster. Cleave is always a good thing -- it lets the Sand Giant swipe at (and eliminate) a fodder unit while still accumulating damage against a primary target. Sand blaster is a cone effect that strips 4 points from the targets' AC with a hefty DC of 22.
Overall, then, the Hill Giant Barbarian is classic CE -- it hits hard and fast, so that you'll either overwhelm your opponent quickly or fall to cagey placement and tactics (or disobliging dice). The Sand Giant, in contrast, will stand like a rock for most, if not all, of the skirmish, and wear the enemy down with consistent damage round after round. Two different anchors for two different play styles.
Next week, I'll be tunneling through the snow at Winter Fantasy in Arlington, Virginia. Neither snow nor distance, however, shall prevent another preview -- possibly the most important preview yet for War Drums. With impending Prerelease events, it's important to review changes to the game rules that are introduced in the War Drums rulebook. I'm sure those of you who hunger for more pictures will have plenty to ogle following the War Drums prerelease at Winter Fantasy the following Saturday.
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!
©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.