So, this one is actually a surprise: Wizards has partnered up with WizKids to produce a line of pre-painted plastic Dungeons & Dragons miniatures.
Didn’t Wizards spend years trying to sustain their own line of plastic pre-painted D&D minis? I have a pile of them from when I was big into 3.5, though the product line trickled out and died somewhere in the middle-end of 4th Ed’s lifespan. Isn’t WizKids still doing a line of Pathfinder pre-painted miniatures? When I see their boosters at the local gaming store my impulse-buy reflexes, honed by former years of plasti-crack addiction, are only held in check by the fact I’m not really hep into running RPGs with heavy miniatures elements anytime soon.
On the one hand, it’s the final nail in the coffin for Wizards having its own line of miniatures again. I kind of liked the old ones, thick paints and bendy swords, warts and all; the high points of the line had a certain charm, before detail and paint quality deteriorated in later sets. The WizKids’ style of rigid plastic figurine I haven’t liked as much: when dropped, Wizards’ figs will bounce, while the WizKids’ lines can (and will) break. They do, however, have a higher quality paint job and better detail in the rarer figures, though I’ve seen some horror stories with those eerie eyes (and a real herp-derp werewolf or two).
The good news is, people playing one game (D&D or Pathfinder) now have twice as many minis to choose from. Which really can’t be understated; two lines of minis means multiple competing sets being sold at once, so you have plenty of options, all coming from the same source. The D&D line will not affect the Pathfinder Battles license agreement, and according to the Reddit AMA, will be supported by a “D&D: Attack Wing” game. If you follow WizKids at all, you might be able to parse that one out from its name: it’ll be a game about dragon dog-fighting based on the extant Star Trek: Attack Wing line.
And to be honest, WizKids now having a dominant role in the collectible miniatures market is damn good for them, considering the company had some rocky highs and lows with Topps before being handed to NECA in 2009, losing my favorite of their product lines (HorrorClix and MechWarrior) somewhere along the way. The only other big company I can think of who’s still making plastic miniatures is Reaper, and the people buying individual unpainted Bones blisters are generally not the same people buying blind booster packs.
From the rumors I’ve seen they’re still randomized, but like with the Pathfinder line there will be a mix of random blind boosters (with the three-tiered rarity setup of olde) and sets of visible figure sets. The rumored pricing, according to some preorders, is:
Starter Box Heroes: $15 for “six iconic heroic fantasy miniatures.”
Set One Booster Pack: $11 for four figures per pack from a set of “50+” figures.
Compare to the Pathfinder Battles boosters, these are actually a bit cheaper, especially if they include large figures in those boosters… which is not a foregone conclusion, and it pains me that these figure lines need to “warm up” for a few sets before large uncommons appear. It may be that Wizards’ is subsidizing the D&D figures more heavily than Paizo is for their line, or has licensed larger “print runs” for each set to lower the cost per unit.
Pathfinder Battles non-blind packs: these range from four iconics at $12.99; six medium figures for $19.99; or three dragon figures (medium, large, and huge) for $39.99.
Pathfinder Battles Booster Pack: $15.99 for one large and three medium or small figures, from a set of 50-65 figures.
Getting those old Archfiends boosters with 8 figures for $9.99 was a steal; ah, the good old days. I remember finding a cache of Dragoneye at the local Borders and cleaning them out in one fell swoop at $8.99 a pop; if only I’d had the foresight to do the same with the Giants of Legend boosters sitting right next to them.
Most interesting to me is that D&D Next has been moving combat away from the grid and into the “theater of the mind”—that’s right, the playtests no longer considered use of minis and grids as “standard features,” where in 3.x and 4e they were incredibly valuable for visualizing and implementing all those tactical choices characters have. Things are still demarcated in five-foot increments, so it’s incredibly easy to drop miniatures and grids into Next. And given the new minis line, it’s clear that D&D’s wargame heritage is still alive and kicking somewhere in Next.