D&D Miniatures08/12/2003

Rules Preview

In anticipation of the D&D Miniatures release, let's take a look at the skirmish game rules for all you tabletop gamers. We aren't going to delve into the nitty-gritty here, but we will give you enough of a sampling so that those of you who didn't catch the demo at Gen Con can see how much fun this game is.

In the Entry Pack and the Expansion Packs, a stat card accompanies each figure. Looking at what's on the card gives you a quick handle on the game. Each card lists the following information: name, commander rating, commander effect (if any), faction (LG, CG, LE, CE), cost, statistics, special abilities, spells, and set IDs. The statistics are the real heart of the game. They tell you the figure's level (a general indicator of its power), speed (in squares, or inches if you prefer), armor class, hit points, melee bonus, ranged attack bonus, and type. (The flip side of the card has D&D stats for quick reference during a role-playing session.)

The first thing you'll do is build a warband, unless you're playing a straight-from-the-box battle. In a standard game you get 100 points to purchase up to 12 figures. The Harbinger figures range in cost from a low of 3 points to a high of 62 (for the medusa!), with half the figures costing less than 14 points (and half costing more, obviously). Common figures range from 3 to 21 points with an average of 6.5; uncommons range from 3 to 24 with an average of 12; and rares range from 11 to 62 with an average of 30.5. The points alone allow for huge variation in the structure of warbands.

Your choices are restricted a bit by the factions -- all the creatures in your warband must bear the same faction symbol. Some figures fit into more than one faction. The number of figures that can join into any particular warband is shown below. (Remember, there are 80 figures in the set, but nine of them can join two different warbands while four of them can join any warband.)

  • Lawful Good 20
  • Chaotic Good 23
  • Lawful Evil 26
  • Chaotic Evil 32

Setup is simplicity itself because the game is played on a battle grid. You don't need to set out 3D terrain -- it's printed on the terrain tiles that come with the Entry Pack. The tiles that are initially available show terrain in five flavors: blood rock, difficult terrain, sacred circle, statues, and walls. These are often mixed together on the tiles. A single tile representing a ruined building, for example, might contain walls and difficult terrain (rubble).

During a single round of play, players alternate activating two figures at a time until all the figures have had a chance to take actions. When a figure is activated, it can: move its speed and then attack, or attack and then move; move twice; stand still and attack multiple times, if allowed to do so by its stat card; or charge and attack.

Commanders and their command effects are crucial to building a successful warband. A creature is in command if it has a clear line of sight to its commander from anywhere on the battlefield or if it's within six spaces of its commander. Commanders, of course, are always in command. A creature that is out of command fights normally, but it can move only two spaces -- unless it's rushing maniacally toward the nearest enemy figure, which might not be what you want it to do. A commander's bonus might give a figure a boost when attacking or defending, raise its morale, improve its armor class, or one of many other bonuses.

Attacking is handled much the same as in D&D. Roll a d20, add the attacker's melee bonus, and compare the total to the opponent's or target's armor class. If the result is a hit, the unlucky victim subtracts the attacker's damage rating from its hit point total. There's no damage roll; all damage is fixed in multiples of five points.

When a figure is reduced to one-half its original hit points or less, it makes a morale check, which is much like a saving throw. Success means it can keep fighting; failure means it runs away unless its commander brings it back under control.

Ranged attacks and attacks of opportunity are important when working out tactics, especially when coupled with clever use of battlefield terrain. A few carefully positioned figures can seal off crucial attack routes with their threatened squares.

There's much more, particularly when spell-casting figures are involved, but all of the additional material flows smoothly from the basic structure described above.

Rounding out the package are five head-to-head scenarios plus an out-of-the-box scenario, an enlarged scenario for three, four, five, or more players, and some fast-playing campaign rules. That's enough play options to keep people busy for many months.

See photos of the upcoming miniatures in our special preview gallery!
Be sure to check regularly for updates.

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