Thoughts on the “Against the Giants” set of D&D Miniatures

I’ve just bought my first D&D Miniatures since War of the Dragon Queen, two years ago. (Well, almost. I bought the new starter last month). I bought one case of the new Against the Giants set.

For those wondering why I haven’t bought any DDM in the past two years, it’s partly to do with the amount of money I’ve been spending on boardgames – I’ve bought close to 80 boardgames in the past two years – and more to do with the fact that I have a lot of D&D Miniatures already, so that new sets tend to just give me more of what I already have. I don’t play the skirmish game; my DDM usage is for D&D RPG only.

Still, a single case of AtG wasn’t that much, especially preordered. Aus$120, or aus$20 per booster. The average is thus $2.50 per miniature, and some of these minis are BIG. (Huge set, remember!)

I’m pretty happy with the quality of the minis I’ve received. The transparent minis look great and the scale and paintjobs don’t look too bad. Some paint-jobs are quite nice, in fact.

Note for the purchaser of DDM: Always buy by the case, especially when buying huge sets. The latest configurations of rarities gave me…
* two huge rares (of the six available)
* four huge uncommons (of the six available)
* six normal rares (of the 18 available)
* one of each of 18 uncommons – which is all but 3 of the 21 available.
* two of each of the 9 commons.

A few comments on the figures I received:

Commons
The nine commons are a pretty good selection. Kobold, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Cultist of Orcus, Dire Rat and Zombie are all “meat and potatoes” figures that most DMs should be able to find a use for – especially with the way 4e likes distinguishing between different sorts of goblins and the like. Ochre Jelly is very useful given the “split” ability, and the Galeb Duhr is the only figure that makes me wonder why it was included.

Mind you, given the new background for the Galeb Duhr in 4e, I’m warming to it as well.

Uncommons
There’s only one uncommon that screams “I should be a common!” and that’s the Lizardfolk Raider. Otherwise the rest of the uncommons are split between PC-types and slightly unusual monsters.

I really like the Cockatrice, Deathpriest of Orcus and the Blazing Skeleton sculpts and paintjobs. The PC-types are also nicely assorted and are painted quite nicely, considering they’re D&D Minis. The Xorn looks is much better than its first incarnation in the DDM range.

Rares
As usual, a bunch of large monster figures are placed in the “rare” slot. A few will irritiate DMs who would like them, such as the Devils. And there are the special character types that are powerful in the DDM game. The fact that there are two Dragonborn in the set, both which are rare, has already caused a lot of controversy. The six figures I received – Cloaktrick Rogue, Skullcleave Warrior, Efreeti Flamestrider, Fire Giant Raider, Furious Owlbear and Boneclaw Impaler are mostly good quality and should prove useful.

The most disappointing is the Rogue, which suffers from scale problems as well as the general problems raised by DDM faces. The Skullcleave Warrior, despite being a generic fighter type, looks very nice and makes up for that.

Huges
Somewhat of a mixed bag here. The two rares I received – Elder White Dragon and Fire Titan – are both lovely miniatures that I’m happy to have. The uncommon Earth Titan also has a good chance of being the most attractive mini in the set; there’s something about a rocky giant with moss growing on it that just works for me.

Less successful is the Blackroot Treant, which doesn’t look like a tree. I’m also not quite sure what to make of the Armoured Guulvorg (it’s a type of worg, apparently) or the Thunderblast Cyclone (it’s a cyclone with eyes).

The Ugly, Ugly Truth
Although I’m pretty happy with the selection of minis I received, their distribution and the quality of the sculpts and paintjobs, there’s one “feature” of this set that reduces their potential usefulness to a 4e D&D Dungeon Master.

That is the stat cards. One side of the cards gives the DDM stats, the other side the D&D 4e RPG stats. However, all of these RPG stats have at least one flaw with them and possibly several more. This is a dreadful shame, as many of the figures don’t actually have 4e stats yet and this would be a great resource for the 4e Dungeon Master wanting to expand the range of monsters available to them.

The really big flaw is in the hit points. All the cards have fewer HP than they should. In some cases, the gap is really big. Consider

Death Priest of Orcus (L15 elite controller) – has 121 hp, should have 284 hp
Efreeti Flamestrider (L23 skirmisher) – has 135 hp, should have 217 hp
Goblin Runner (L1 skirmisher) – has 21 hp, should have 29 hp

Other values – AC, Defenses, Attack bonuses & damage – are closer to what they should be, although in the case of monsters that exist both on the cards and in the 4e Monster Manual, they’re not identical.

This is a great pity and I’m really disappointed to see that this hasn’t been fixed on the online posting of the cards.

Final Thoughts
As a set of miniatures, I’m happy with my case of Against the Giants and enough so that I am considering getting a second case. The set does have the distribution problems common with the “huge” sets of DDM, although I think it has the best distribution method so far with regard to the number of commons and uncommons.

I’m dreadfully disappointed in the D&D RPG stat cards, however. What could have been a highlight of the set has become a debacle. We didn’t know how bad the stats were for Dungeons of Dread, for 4e hadn’t been released yet. A month after the release of 4e? We know how horrible their QA was when it came to seeing that the DDM cards tracked with the 4e rules.

3 comments

  1. srhall79

    Nice to see a positive review of these. Everywhere I look, I see people bemoaning how much the quality has dropped (these are still looking better than Wardrums) and how goofy these are (well, Carrion Crawler, they do have a point). Then people point toward the pre-painted Reaper minis and I see an elf for $2.50 that doesn’t look any better than D&DM elves I’ve bought 3 for $1.

    I’ve got a case in the mail, after which I should be able to give a better opinion. I’m figuring I have pretty good odds of scoring the Deathpriest of Orcus, which looks spot on for the Keep on the Shadowfell big bad. Going to be too late for the ochre jelly, though; I was going to complain about really needing two ochre minis because of the split, but now I see that it’s common. Good going, WotC!

    After the case, I’m going to fill in my want list from ebay- the last two sets, I got a case, then picked up individual packs and got screwed on the rares. I’d really like to get my hands on the two dragonborn, and the tiefling and the arcanist look pretty neat as well.

    Oh, and that’s really a shame about the stat cards. Not a deal breaker, but it is annoying.

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  2. ptlee

    I’ve had my eyes open for complains on the RPG stat cards, but most of the forums I’ve been reading recently have been for the miniature battle game.

    The stat cards are best described as snapshots of the roleplaying game at the time the cards had to be finalized for production. It’s not something that could be caught by QA — at the time that the cards were written, that is how the roleplaying game worked. The miniature pipeline is LONG — it’s been posted that my first duties upon arriving at wizards in January was to work on the stats for Feywild, due to be published in early 2009. Roleplaying stats don’t need to be written quite that far ahead, but it is still close to 9 or so months ahead of publication so they can be printed and shipped from overseas.

    A question for you — how often did you use the RPG stat cards for 3rd edition?

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    • merricb

      Rarely. (Incredibly, I have used them for such). However, that’s partly because 3e really didn’t work well with the statcards, as the statblocks for 3e were too long. I think 4e will really bring them up in usefulness.

      I’d have appreciated a disclaimer on the insert about the 4e stats, though. I understand fully why the stats are wrong – and I don’t think you could have done anything to get them 100% right. It’s just that a preemptive apology/disclaimer would have been a good idea.

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