by Wizards of the Coast
More than a Little Character
Gamer Bling remembers a time back in The Day™ when… well, when several things. Gen Con was still in Milwaukee. WotC was a garage publisher. The Academy of Game Critics was functioning. Gamer Bling had a trim waistline. Chaosium was a major force. “Graft” was an acceptable term on the exhibit floor (the most notable practitioners being FASA, who traded graft by the amount of shelf space the products occupied). And trading card games had not been invented. A day not quite so long ago that gamers wore animal hides and had to rub two sticks together if they wanted to warm up their nachos, but close.
But at the particular time over which Gamer Bling was at the moment reminiscing—which was not when we packed 16 people into a hotel room—Gamer Bling was walking the dealer’s room at Gen Con and came upon Chaosium’s booth, which had a sign that touted the newly released line of Pendragon miniatures.
“Look!” the sign said. “Men without armor! Women with clothes!”
Gamer Bling was moved to buy some just for the sheer novelty of it.
He didn’t, but he was moved. Deeply moved.
If he’d been moved much deeper, he’d have been in the Underdark.
It was certainly a bold and innovative marketing ploy in a time when most other fantasy miniatures looked like a fantasy battle tank with sword or the babe from the cover of Eldritch Wizardry.
Things have both improved and exproved in the intervening years. But mostly improved.
Miniatures come prepainted so you don’t have a bunch of heroes looking like medievally armed renditions of the Silver Surfer. They’re made of plastic so you don’t have to worry about dropping them. And Gamer Bling’s no-longer-svelte waistline is of a size that drinking a milkshake won’t have any discernible effect on his sex appeal. Neither would drawing arcane symbols on his face with a Sharpie, but that’s another matter.
In any event, one of the relatively new developments in gaming is that collectible plastic miniatures have created a whole new way for the gaming industry to pick your pocket.
Just kidding. It’s really Warhammer that picks your pocket… like the legendary ogre rogue who grabs his mark by the ankles and shakes him upside down.
Gamer Bling is a big fan of plastic minis from a bling-for-the-buck standpoint. They add a third dimension to the map, they add a splash of color to the game, and the “Gamer Bling has to do it himself” factor approaches zero.
But of course that whole collectability thing is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, you have to fork out a wad of bucks to get a batch of miniatures hoping that you get ones that you want (instead of a pile of plastic trash). On the other hand, you can occasionally score that hot figure and sell it for enough money to buy yourself even more packs.
For people not playing D&D Minis competitively, the singles market is often easier, because at least you know what you’re getting.
But that’s part of the beauty of WotC’s new line of PHB Heroes miniatures: you can see what you’re getting! These are non-randomized booster packs of three themed sculpts based on their 4e source of power: Martial, arcane, divine, and primal. Er, apologies: PRIMAAALLLL!
That’s right. Look at three miniatures, decide if you like them, and buy them. Or not.
Not to say there is nothing secret… because inside each booster of [Adjective] Heroes you will also find three power cards for 4e D&D! (That’s 11 power cards for 100e D&D for those of you still using binary.) One of these cards is spoiled on the back of the box, but the other two are secrets… secrets of such power that they are called power cards… secrets of such mystery that they are hidden… secrets of such values that they are hermetically sealed against the humid Charlotte air by an impenetrable barrier to—well, okay, they’re in a clear plastic polybag. But the bag was sealed, and to unveil the secrets contained within, Gamer Bling was forced to apply his +2 scissors of not being run around with in your mouth.
The miniatures run all over the PHB and PHB2 for concepts. Many sculpts are original to the set, although a few are repaints of miniatures that have been released in previous D&D Minis expansions. Gamer Bling gets this info secondhand, because he never had the funds to invest in D&D Minis. When he was at WotC all his product points were spent on L5R and Magic and D&D core books.
But these are your standard collectable plastic miniatures. Lightweight, adequately painted, and mounted on convenient 1-inch bases that fit nicely inside 1-inch map squares.
The cards? Well, they’re unique to the set. Better yet, they are solid additions to class options, and include all-new at-will attack powers!
So you can either look at these packs as buying three minis and getting free power cards, or buying three power cards and getting free minis.
Well, you do have to buy all three miniatures at once. And you don’t get to know what all the power cards are before you buy. And, on a per-piece basis, the miniatures are a little more expensive than the ones in booster packs.
And Gamer Bling supposes that for hardcore completists who want all the power cards, having to buy three miniatures just to get three cards is a pain. But you’re sure to find a use for them, perhaps as villains in an encounter or as recurrent NPCs.
Because they are mass-produced soft-plastic miniatures, they do not have the same fine detail as carefully sculpted metal miniatures.
The only other weakness that Gamer Bling can think of is that if the power card(s) do not fit your character concept, then technically the power card is useless. Until you die or start another character for a different campaign or what have you.
Oh, and you might want to repaint them if they really fit your character image.
That’s a set of lame weak points, Gamer Bling knows, but really, he thinks these packs are a brilliant concept. The sculpts are solid, the power cards are solid, and the price is not unreasonable. So there.
The Bottom Line
You get cool minis for your characters, you get cool power cards to make them stronger, and you only have to do it once. How awesome is that?
Bling Factor: 7
Utility: 7–10, depending on your character concept
Price: $10.99 per pack.
You need: One per character, more or less.
Well, Gamer Bling is in a bit of a bind here. RPGShop’s affiliate program isn’t working, and fixing it is low on their priority list, so Gamer Bling has no incentive to send them traffic. Last he checked, which was a few hours ago, Paizo had no affiliate program. And being as Gamer Bling lives in North Carolina, Amazon.com is not an option. Amazon has ceased all affiliate programs with NC residents because the state government wants to tax that revenue. Thanks, state government tax twards.
Gamer Bling will investigate using Barnes & Noble, but in the meantime if anyone has recommendations for an online game store that (a) has an affiliate program that works, and (b) is ethical and responsible, please let Gamer Bling know.
You, however, the loyal reader, need have to fear at this point, inasmuch as the [Adjective] Heroes are a WotC product, and are therefore available at any halfway decent hobby store. And Gamer Bling has been to many, many halfway decent hobby stores.
Considering only PHB and PHB2, there are 2 sexes, 13 races, and 16 classes. Even if we drop half of the race/class combos as unviable (who can really believe a goliath rogue?), that still leaves 208 combos to be tried, enough for eleven full series of releases. That’s assuming we never see a new class or a new race, both of which already exist. And then there are the weapon variants… Gamer Bling hopes that a male eladrin warlord with longspear will be sculpted soon.
All that to say, expect these to keep rolling out as long as they keep selling out.
The first series of [Adjective] Heroes releases includes two boosters of martial characters, two of arcane, and one each of divine and primal characters, for a total of 18 heroes. Of this set, Gamer Bling was pleased to receive Arcane Heroes 1 and Primal Heroes 1. So no help for his eladrin warlord, nor for his nonviolent cleric concept… at least no help until he can wheedle his way into a few more packs for which to write detailed reviews.
In each review he’ll go over the miniatures first, then the power cards.
Arcane figures can be very tricky to create. While it’s easy to sculpt swords and spikes, auras and fire and hovering arcanely above the ground and such make things a little more tricky. Gamer Bling gives props to these sculptors for doing their best in a tough situation.
Female Eladrin Wizard – Conservatively dressed in boots, leggings, and knee-length jersey, she nonetheless is showing a fair amount of cleavage. Add the fact that her thick, white hair cascades down to her knees, and you’re getting pretty darned close to Gamer Bling ideal female archetype. She’s wielding a metallic blue wand that’s sparking… well, sparks.
Male Tiefling Warlock – You heavy metal Pulp Fiction bondage fans will love this one. All decked out in red and black leather with horns and tail, this tiefling oozes “infernal pact at a Kiss concert” as he raises a wide, serrated, pact blade above his head. Either that or his fist is trailing arcane fire.
Male Half-Elf Bard – Strikng a perfect trifecta of being the only sex/race/class match to a character being played in Gamer Bling’s campaign, this guy is holding a scroll in one his right hand while his left aims his arcane powers at your face (this is based on the relative height of the character’s eye and fingers). He has a very interestingly cut cloak, which at once is intriguing, as well as reinforces his position as the party fop leader.
Eldritch Strike – This is an at-will melee attack for warlocks. As such, it fills a sorely needed gap in the PHB! Seriously, the tiefling warlock sculpts looks like the dude is six and a half feet tall, and this without this power, he’d be pretty timid in melee combat! This power damages and slides, plus counts as a basic melee attack. Yay!
Cutting Words – Now the bard can taunt you a second time! This at-will attack does psychic damage plus pulls the target into the waiting arms of your frontline fighters.
Repelling Shield – A level 10 utility, this immediate interrupt protects the wizard’s comparatively fragile frame against melee attacks by giving a boost to AC and also pushing those club-swinging Neanderthals a square away after the attack so you can run away strategically redeploy yourself.
This set has minimal armor and maximal grunt factor. If you are min-maxer who is serious about your barbarian-as-wrecking-ball approach, you must buy this set.
Gamer Bling was surprised to see two barbarian sculpts/cards and nothing labeled warden or shaman. Yes, when the miniatures are on the mat, no one can see the writing on the base (unless you’re knocked down), but still…
Male Human Barbarian – This big-chested shirtless guy would doubtless be in the Chippendales, except for three things: he’s got red hair, he’d use his thong to sling stones with lethal force, and he looks like he’d kill the audience members once he got his groove on. He has a modicum of armor, and he is wearing either a wolf pelt or else the corpse of a hellhound that he pounded flat as a pancake. His ready stance is not terribly kinetic, but the battle axe and the fur and the way he’s howling all present the, um, primality of his chosen class well. If you want a mini that screams “barbarian,” this is a good choice. Especially since, with his mouth open, he may in fact be screaming “Barbarian!”
Female Elf Druid – The least kinetic of the three primal sculpts, this elf babe has long, flowing, golden locks and (fitting in with the Chaosium vision) more clothes than the two barbarians put together. With her sweeping ears and leafy leather tunic, the way she cradles her staff somehow gives the disconcerting idea that she is contentedly watching her Bigby’s pimp-slapping hand take care of business on your face. A nice (if static) sculpt of quiescent babe-alicious power.
Male Goliath Barbarian – This is an awesome and kinetic pose, with a big honkin’ goliath swinging the biggest honkin’est rune-carvedinest black greatsword you ever seen. Seriously, the thing has a blade that looks like it’s seven scale feet long. And it’s not really a two-handed sword; judging by the pommel this is more of a three-handed sword. Maybe the dude is compensating for something, but no one’s going to tell him to his face.
Foe to Foe – This barbarian at-will attack is a serious consideration in the second half of a large battle. It can turn a barbarian into a serious wrecking machine. An at-will that can do 1[W] + Strength + 1d10? Sign Gamer Bling up!
Laugh It Off – This level 6 barbarian utility (encounter interrupt) has kind of an aikido effect: it reduces the damage you take and lets you dish it back at the triggering enemy. Improves with higher constitution scores. Now your barbarian can laugh someone else’s head off! Ha ha ha!
Grasping Tide – A druidic at-will attack, this AOE strike does damage and helps contain the enemy for a turn. Honestly, Gamer Bling considers this a must-have for druids. He is a big fan of opportunity knockdowns. They can really cramp the enemy’s style.