Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures: Dangerous Delves - A Review

I recently got the Dangerous Delves set. This is the second set in the newly revamped D&D miniature line. I actually ended up buying more of these than I wanted to (or needed to) but that was my own mistake.

With the old 60 piece sets (24 rares), I'd order three factory boxes of 12 each and generally get an almost full set with four or five of each uncommon and 8 of each common. But this set has only 40 pieces and there are only 16 rares. So It would make sense to order 3 factory boxes (8 packs per box) to get 24 rares, or 50% more than that total number of different rares, same as with the 60 piece sets. Apparently, though, my brain was elsewhere when I ordered, because I ordered 4 boxes and got 32 of these. So I ended up with a lot. It turned out ok, though. (My brain was really elsewhere because I totally forgot I even had ordered it and almost ordered a second shipment of 3 more factory boxes until I noticed it on my credit card statement).

Notwithstanding the above, it requires buying fewer sets to get a complete set, which may be attractive to some. It is to me. It probably is more expensive per figure now, but they are much more focused, so you get more value for the money. As I mentioned in my previous review, I like that they separated out Player Character minis from the "monster" minis. This is a good model and I look forward to further sets to see what they put out.

First, the good: The Aboleth. I really really like this figure. And not just because I've always wanted an aboleth figure. It is also a really cool-looking figure, with interesting colors, a cool base, and just a general "wow!" to it. I look forward to having an aboleth in my game now. I had one once, and had to use a paper cut-out to show the players what it looked like.

The nice: Visibible figures - there are 8 different "visible" figures, that you see from outside the box. This is also a new feature of the line. I had some worries about this with regard to factory boxes. I mean, if they were randomly packed in the factory boxes, the visible factor would actually count against anyone who would order in bulk, because you wouldn't get to see in advance what it was you were getting. But they solved that issue rather nicely. There are eight packs per factory box, and in every single one, there is exactly one of each "visible" type in the box. So I got exactly four of each visible type from my four factory boxes. You couldn't ask for a better way to do it.

The visible figures themselves are all good. I liked all of them. I think this forced Wizards to make all of them decent figures because otherwise, you might get uneven sales, where certain "visible" boxes don't sell because the visible figures are significantly less desireable than others. I think there is a good balance. While certainly some of the figures might sell more than others for one reason or another, quality or "coolness" isn't likely to be a major factor there.

I liked that there were a few creatures in this set that had never been done before that were otherwise "common" in mythological lore or at least in D&D lore, like the Unicorn and the aforementioned Aboleth. And even better, the rust monster! What an annoying little bugger those are. Little aside: those were apparently a Gygax creation based on inspiration from a small, plastic "monster" figure put out in the 1970s. Even cooler, I have one of those original plastic toys. Even cooler, I think it is one of the originals that the rust monster was based on. I got it when I was a kid as one of the toys out of a box of toys you could pick from at the dentist office, and that was back in the 1970s. Unfortunately, it is not to scale with the regular minis - it is slightly larger than a "large" creature, doesn't have a base, and isn't as nicely painted as the "real" rust monster figures (which are medium sized). Still, it is a little bit of D&D lore.

The overall ratio of really cool, useful figures to figures that are less-so is very good compared to the old 60-piece sets. In many of those sets, each set would seem to have one to four figures that were so "sucky" (in my opinion) that they really were not useful for anything. They weren't of main-line creatures or they were just not all that nice to look at. This set doesn't have any figures I would classify that way, so that is good.

There are some figures in this set for figures that are only in the 4E game with statistics. That is not a problem if you play 4E, but if you don't, to me, that is a waste of a figure. Though since the figures themselves all look pretty good, I could probably find use for those other figures eventually, perahps making up my own 3.5E stats for some of them. Still, that is a minus overall. It would not be if Wizards (or somebody) put out 3.5E stats for them, but given the draconian licensing requirements to put out 4E stuff (you can't put out any 3.5E stuff if you do 4E versions of it, and vice versa), this seems unlikely.

The big sore spot for me on this set is the Beholder. The figure itself looks great. The problem is, the base is soft plastic, and it is curled up, making the figure fall over. I haven't figured out a way to fix this. I can bend it back the other way (the base) and get it to sort of stand up for a little while, but the plastic eventually curls back up and the figure falls over. Which is too bad, since it really is a cool figure of a very cool monster in D&D lore. If there is a permanent solution to fixing the figures, I'd be glad to hear it. I am considering gluing a firmer base to it to see if that will work, but I'll have to find a suitable material to do it with.

The rest of the monsters are a nice mix of common standbys, like orcs, goblins, kobolds, gnolls. There is really only one of each type, but then by now, most people should have plenty of each. It is always nice to get more varieties of those staple races, and if this is a starter pack for someone just starting with minis, it is nice that there is a good mix to get someone started.

For a complete list, you can go to the Wizards site, or my favorite online store for minis, where you can also buy singles.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with the set. See my first post on D&D minis for my general thoughts on them, which still hold true. All of the figures were good (save the problem with the beholder, which may be fixable). I look forward to the next monster set, particularly since it includes "huge" monsters. I really really fervently hope they start to fill in the "dragon" gap, and give us huge green and blue dragons. Techinically we also lack a huge black (solo) but there is a huge black dragon figure with a sorcerer rider that works quite well in that role if you just pretend the rider isn't there. So really, any of those three would be nice. We already have two different reds and a white huge, so there is no reason to go back over that old ground.

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