By Wizards of the Coast
Open Wide and Say “Aaiiigh!”
Gamer Bling has a rule about what he reviews. Well, several rules, actually, including “Gamer Bling always gives positive product reviews if doing so saves his kneecaps.” With a rule like that, you can perhaps understand why Gamer Bling cowers hides behind a veil of anonymity; he doesn’t want Guido the Marketing Representative coming over for a visit with a crowbar and a free sample of their “Bucket o’ Crap” gaming accessory.
Which leads to a second discursion, which regards the lack of negative reviews on this site. Gamer Bling will be very candid about this: He does not want to give a product a bad review. As Gamer Bling’s mother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, club them on the head until they leave your house.” Gamer Bling has experience with being a small entrepreneur–among other things, Gamer Bling and his genetically-linked older brother ran a software company specializing in fractals and cellular automata back in the 90s–thus he wishes only the best for young, vibrant companies, even if their current offerings are not fully up to snuff. Therefore, on those rare occasions where Gamer Bling receives a pathetic product that he could not recommend in good conscience, or that just doesn’t have the bling factor to make the grade for a blingtastic treasure trove like this site, he opts to remain silent on the matter, and politely decline to review said item.
This has happened a couple of times. And, while some might prefer Gamer Bling to publicly euthanize these products on his site, he’d rather not discourage creativity, especially with RPG bling.
As a third discursion, Gamer Bling’s aforementioned older brother is a mutant, having three upper incisors. Darwinians take note: the next step in human evolution is among you! Of course, Gamer Bling’s older brother has yet to speciate as a result of this mutation, but Darwinians assure us that this random mutation is the first step in the process of speciation. Probably to orcs. Stay tuned for the next hundred thousand years while the theory of evolution is put to its first actual field test. And when orcs finally exterminate the last homo sapiens in the Third War of Natural Selection Expedited with Advanced Weaponry, remember you read it here first.
Gamer Bling supposes that this would be a bad time to point out that his brother’s anomalous chromosome seems not to have been inherited, as both of said brother’s kids are more or less normal. Genetically, at least. But we can all hope that this is due to three-toothedness being a recessive gene, lurking silently in his kids’ reproductive chromosomes, and the process of speciation can inexorably continue next generation.
To get back to the original brief of this article, Gamer Bling has a rule several rules about what he reviews. One of these rules, and the only one pertinent to this page, despite the fact that it is the last one being mentioned, is that he only reviews products that he receives for free.
The reasoning behind this rule is simple: Gamer Bling couldn’t afford to do this otherwise. And it protects Gamer Bling from charges of favoritism. It would be a bad PR move to demand free stuff from a small cash-strapped company, yet buy review materials from a large, unresponsive company wallowing in its own filthy lucre. It also prevents the Gamer Bling Official Companion from beating Gamer Bling soundly about the head and pocketbook.
But this review does walk that fine line of distinction, because while Gamer Bling did get the dragons reviewed here for free, they were not given by WotC for review purposes, but by friends in the industry because they’re good great shizzlin’ tubular hep-cat friends.
So there you are. Over 500 words into the review, and not a single one relevant to the subject at hand.
Which is the D&D Icons series of dragon maxiatures. Seriously, the word “miniature” just can’t be reasonably applied to these beasts, so Gamer Bling won’t even try.
The dragons come with lots of packaging of the sort that fathers become acutely familiar with on Christmas mornings: a box, inside of which a cardboard display stand is placed, inside of which a plastic form is taped, inside of which a dragon maxiature is held, and the whole lot secured into one piece by tightly twisted pieces of plastic-coasted wire threaded through flat plastic brackets. Gamer Bling has become very familiar with the impatience of Gamer Bling Expansion #1 and Gamer Bling Expansion #2 on Christmas morning as Gamer Bling himself, fingertips numbed from twisting small wires, tries to undo the myriads of packaging that encase, say, the latest Littlest Pet Shop figure in a prison of bondage that would delight the Marquis de Sade.
Each D&D Icon package comes with the dragon itself (duh), a stat card that features the creature’s abilities in both 3.5e and the D&D Miniatures game (said stat card being oversized, much like the maxiature itself), a scenario booklet that gives some miniatures excitement, and a poster/map of the creature’s lair that, while it is the size of a poster at 24″x36″, nonetheless lacks that certain je ne sais quoi… or perhaps has one too many 1-inch gridlines to actually do service as wall decoration. But it’s a good map.
The maxiatures are well-sculpted, well-molded, well-painted solid pieces of plastic. They also have extra-thick bases (1/4″ thick as compared to 3mm for the standard miniatures). At first blush this thick base may seem unnecessary, kind of like putting platform shoes on King Kong, but really it’s to conceal the tabs that help secure the dragon into its packaging. And anything that keeps these beauties from getting damaged during shipping is all right with Gamer Bling. Even if you do need a multi-axis, computer-controlled, pulsed-laser system to cut through all the tape and wire and plastic and cardboard to set your dragon free.
The dragons are sculpted very nicely, and are quite recognizably pulled straight from the pages of the Monster Manual. The WotC legal beagles allowed no creative license here, and Gamer Bling doesn’t blame them. They have all the horns, crests, and spikes you’ve grown to know and love fear. They’re well posed, and, being comprised of multiple different pieces, do not suffer from Flat Sculpt Syndrome. (For those not in the know, FSS is what causes many 25mm miniatures to look like armed and armored versions of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man or a figure in an ancient Egyptian mural.)
So first let’s do some side-by-side comparisons of these iconic beauties:
|Type||Black Dragon||White Dragon||Blue Dragon||Red Dragon|
22 (stat card);
21 (stat card);
25 (stat card);
26 (stat card);
|Base||4×4 with two squares of air cover (see below)||4×4 with six squares of air cover (see below)||4×4 with nine squares of air cover (see below)||6×6 with nine squares of air cover (see below)|
|Size||10.5″w x 8″h x 7″d||10″w x 5.75″h x 7.325″d||6.75″w x 6.875″h x 8.5″d||13″w x 13″h x 7.5″d|
|Breath Weapon||Helps you digest that jumbo-sized order of extra-crispy deep-fried cheese sticks that are sitting like rocks at the bottom of your stomach. Unfortunately, it does so from the outside.||Keeps your ice cream from melting, even in summer. In other words, colder than a mother-in-law’s kiss.||Works better than a taser for keeping the neighbor’s dog off your lawn. Can also jump-start cars and non-beating hearts. Conversely, it stops beating hearts.||Much faster than a propane grill for cooking burgers. Much much faster than a tanning bed when cooking burgermeisters.|
|Weak Points||It’s black and brown. Well, very very dark gray and kind of a dirty beige. Hardly the most vibrant combination of colors. Rumors says it was a pink and purple before moving into the swamp.||When you buy it, people might think you’re some kind of R. A. Salvatore groupie or Drizzt LARPer.||Its tongue lolls out of its mouth like a dead snake. Like maybe it just got out of the dentist and its jaw is still numb. Or else it happens to be chewing on a red fork-tailed snake while killing PCs.||You need a wheelbarrow to carry it around. This is partially ameliorated by the fact that you won’t use it until the very end of your PCs campaign.|
|Good Points||It’s standing up with its wings spread wide, looking down on the puny little PCs it’s about to eat. Almost as kinetic as Gleek.||Translucent wings! And it comes with two free self-portable meals (Drizzt and Wulfgar minis).||It has a very in-your-PCs’-face pose, hunched like a cat ready to pounce. Or maybe hawk up a dragon-sized hairball on them.||It’s freakin’ huge colossal! It can swallow PCs whole. And their little animal companion, too!|
|Best Point||Gamer Bling owns one.||Gamer Bling owns one.||Gamer Bling owns one.||Gamer Bling owns two. (Just kidding. Gamer Bling only owns one.)|
Of course, with dragons being iconic to the D&D property, one of the cool uses of a dragon would be to have it reappear thoughout the adventure arc as a recurring villain. To do this properly, you need not only a good set of miniatures that illustrate the creature’s growth (perhaps magically accelerated, or else encounters with ever larger family members), but you also need a good finale. Something with “oomph” like the cannons at the end of the 1812 Overture.
These maxiatures are that oomph.
So, in order to facilitate the quick decision to create a recurring and growing dragon menace, Gamer Bling presents this table, which shows, between the Icons and the figures in the D&D Miniatures line, that the following color/size combinations are covered. Each miniature’s set abbreviation is shown. If this turns out to be inaccurate, let Gamer Bling know so he can find someone to blame.
|Red||GoL||Eye, DuD||AtG, GoL||Icons||X*|
*This would be the medium red dragon that hung over the foyer of the WotC Game Center in Seattle, and which now hangs somewhere in the WotC corporate office. Probably in the CEO’s chair. And you thought WotC was a non-smoking environment.
Anyway, you can see that the black dragon has the best selection of sizes available, and the red dragon has the two largest sizes available. The others… well, make do.
Enough tables. Let’s talk. Figuratively speaking.
These things are just awesome. They hit the table with authority. They’re big. They’re nasty. No matter how large and imposing your oversized 29mm barbarian with upraised greatsword miniature is when compared to the orcs and ogres you fight day to day, these are bigger, much bigger! Ain’t nobody’s mini gonna look all intimidating when face to face with one of these maxiatures! This is what D&D is all about; fighting big honkin’ dragons in a furious bloodfest of steel, fire, and pants-wetting danger!
And there’s nothing like the silent moment of dread when you pull one of these maxiatures out from its secret hiding place and you can hear the players all thinking a collective, “Oh, no…”
First and foremost, use of these maxiatures is fairly restricted in breadth. You can’t reasonably use one until your players are level 17, and the fact is that if you’re going to use a dragon maxiature, you want to use the one of the right color. Using a stand-in dragon penalizes you at least half your bling factor.
Second, let’s be blunt: they cost a chunk, which hurts when combined with the restricted utility. Okay, the black dragon only costs $30, but the Big Red One is a whole lotta scratch. Especially for a pathetic penny-pinching prude like Gamer Bling.
Portability will always be an issue if you’re playing at someone else’s house. Gamer Bling thought these things could fly…
In places, you can see the seams where the dragon was put together. As near as Gamer Bling can determine, for example, the blue dragon maxiature is fashioned from twelve different pieces (skull, jaw, 2 ears, body, 2 wings, 4 legs, and a tail). The seams are, for the most part, only noticeable when you’re inspecting the maxiature closely, although Gamer Bling must point out that the blue paint used for his dragon’s tail is clearly from a different batch than was used for very other part of the body. It’s a lighter shade and not quite as vibrant.
Speaking of which, in places the painters missed the mark, but that is a problem inherent with all pre-painted figures, miniature and maxiature alike. But with a maxiature, there’s more room for error, and more surface for stray dribbles of paint to hit. Like the circular dot on his black dragon’s wing. Which dot is, thankfully, also black, so it looks like a scar. Or a wart.
Calling the scenario booklet a “scenario booklet” is a reach, even to Gamer Bling’s marketing-oriented mind. It’s a single 8.5″x11″ page folded over to make a four-page booklet (zero pages if you don’t count the covers). Gamer Bling would call this a pamphlet at best; calling it a booklet while calling the dragon a miniature is a serious case of mixed messaging.
So not only is the booklet a pamphlet, but the scenarios are more like suggestions. In the Black Dragon pamphlet, the scenarios are (1) low bid builds a warband and tries to beat the dragon, (2) two players build warbands, and each can also activate the dragon to kill each other.
Gamer Bling thinks they could’ve come up with a cool multiplayer small-band-tries-to-steal-the-treasure-without-waking-the-beast-or-at-least-escape-if-it-does scenario for their suggestion pamphlet. Although it must be said that the Blue Dragon pamphlet contains a solid treasure-snatching king-of-the-hill sort of scenario.
And he must admit that the white dragon box contains an actual booklet of 16 pages.
But really, in Gamer Bling’s opinion, the weakest point from a game-mechanical consideration is that the maxiature acts like a Soviet MiG jet: it intrudes on air space. In other words, the sculpt covers more gaming area than just what is occupied by the base. For example, the blue dragon is reaching one paw forward, and it extends over the edge of the 4×4 base. It effectively blocks anything taller than a rot scarab swarm or Conflict Chip from occupying the square the paw overshadows. Similarly, miniatures may have trouble getting up close and personal to the left side of the dragon’s rear where its tail curls around. The black dragon is better contained, but difficulties will be encountered with the dragon’s wings if you are using an elevation indicator… although Gamer Bling supposes that’s kind of realistic.
Why is this a problem? First, because if you’re using cool 3-d terrain, it can cause placement problems. And second, and filled with much more importantliness, because it breaks the game rules! And we all know that RPG rules can NEVER be broken!
And suddenly Gamer Bling is reminded of the time that the R. Talsorian Games voice mail contained a message left at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Long distance. From a gamemaster. Who wanted RTG to call him back and support his ruling. Because the players didn’t agree. And apparently he didn’t have the cojones to exert his fiat. So whole group put their game on hold until they got the return call. When no one was going to be back in the offices for another 31 hours.
And Gamer Bling thinks he should never ever joke about the rules being the rules, because the gamemaster is always right.
Except when he calls the game manufacturer at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday for moral support.
The Bottom Line
It’s a big freakin’ dragon!
It’s a big freakin’ dragon that you can kill your PCs with! It’s big, it’s scary, and it is, in case you couldn’t guess from the name, iconic to the D&D property! Who cares about the suggestion pamphlet? We’re talking about the Imperial Star Cruiser of the fantasy world! The Dropship of D&D! How can you not want it?
Bling Factor: 10 (it would ordinarily merit a 9, but it’s such a vanity purchase. Plus it looks great in your cubicle at work.)
The other option is to try online. As of this writing, RPGShop has the Blue Dragon available.
Nominally, the future of the line would be to create a green dragon to round out the big five, then maybe start in on the metallic dragons, followed by the psionic gemstone dragons from MM2 (made from real gemstones for extra bling power!).
But Gamer Bling actually fears for the future of this line. WotC went from two maxiatures in back-to-back releases in late 2006, to two maxiatures in toto in 2007… and the latter one of those was packed with the inclusion of new Drizzt and Wulfgar minis plus an R. A. Salvatore novel preview excerpt, which to Gamer Bling sound like WotC is either cleverly trying to grow sales by appealing to new customers, or else desperately prop up flagging sales by adding extra perks in the box.
And since no Gargantuan Green Dragon Icon has yet been announced for 2008, Gamer Bling must place his wager on the latter. This makes Gamer Bling very sad, and he sincerely hopes he is very wrong. Perhaps the delay in announcements is due to 4e, and each of us can hope someday to have all the nassssty dragonses in our collections.
Thus far, WotC has been working its way through the classic chromatic dragons. These venerable beasts have been around since the beginning of D&D. Or, in the case of the red dragon, long even before that.
Gargantuan Black Dragon – $29.99
Gamer Bling received this from a friend, who had two. Because his friend’s wife also worked at WotC. Whatta guy!
Comes with an underground grotto map with dragon pools.
Colossal Red Dragon – $74.99
The biggest problem encountered in getting Gamer Bling this dragon: finding a box large enough to ship it in.
It also has a removeable breath weapon, which would ordinarily mean it had extra air space intrusion, but bad things happen to PCs at ground zero of a colossal red dragon’s fiery breath.
Gargantuan Blue Dragon – $39.95
Technically, Gamer Bling traded for this, but since he traded for it using WotC materials he got for free, the transmissive property of gaming swag grants this maxiature review-ability under Gamer Bling guidelines.
The map is of a desert lair in Ozymandean ruins with sphynx statue and everything.
Gargantuan White Dragon – $49.99
There’s some other stuff in this box, like miniatures of some dark elf LARPer and a barbarian dude, but who cares? There’s a big white dragon! Who apparently has named himself Icingdeath, which to Gamer Bling sounds like a killer of cakes, but… well, no buts, it sounds like someone who ravages wedding receptions and spoils bakery items.
Even though this dragon has cool translucent wings, it gets no respect. The first two words in the sales text on the back of the box are “Drizzt Do’Urden.” Come on, who do they think sells this package? Wait… I think we have an answer.
It comes with a keen two-sided map for double the fun. One side has the small, snowbound fishing village of Evermelt; the other side fetaures Icingdeath’s Lair, a frosty cave with slippery ice, pits, walls, and, um, a dragon.
And it has that larger scenario pamphlet.
Gargantuan Green Dragon – $39.95
Gamer Bling does not have this yet. Because, tragically, it doesn’t exist. All readers: set Wheedle Guns on kill!