The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

WOW Miniatures Game Initial Thoughts

Upper deck has put enough downloadable content for The World of Warcraft (Collectable) Miniatures game that a friend made a set to playtest.

In the real game, the miniatures are HeroClix (etc) style that have two counters in the base — one for life, and one for time. The core idea (which reminds me of Neuland) is that each action you have costs you a number of phases. So, if you just move (or do nothing), then you’ll go again next phase. If you attack, you’ll have to rest a phase. Mega-attacks may make you rest two phases. If multiple characters go in one phase, you alternate with the player who didn’t move recently going first. (So, alternate as much as possible).

Each miniature has a few stats — melee defense, magic defense, life and ‘hero points’ (basically, a point cost used for army balancing). These are all single digit numbers. Each character also has one (or more?) attacks.

Attacking works as follows — each attack has a number of dice. You roll that many d10s. 1-3s fails, 4-10s succeed (and cause one damage). Any ’10’ is a critical, but an attack either has a critical or doesn’t, multiples don’t matter. Defender then rolls his defense and subtracts one wound for each success.

Pretty simple.

The other cool idea (besides having different actions fatigue for a number of phases) is that each character gets to pick two special ability cards before the battle. They have to match in some way. (So a card may say “Priest” or “Elf” or “This specific character only.” and only Priests/Elves/That Dude can use that ability). These run the gamut. In our game we had a “Charge” (run an extra space, get a better attack), a super-shield, holy-healing, magic-missles, and the like. Fun. Abilities can be used once per turn (10 phases).

In a real game, these abilities aren’t revealed until used. (Since one player had built the teams, we had them opened). That’s intriguing, especially if the cards are all well balanced.

Anyway, what can I say after one game?

  • Lots of chrome, dead-easy rules. I think they could have made them slightly more complicated. Couldn’t some characters/abilities need a 5 to succeed, instead of a 4? Maybe some abilities could allow for multiple criticals? But there’s a lot to be said for the simplicity, especially for a game with this much chrome.
  • It was fast. We played a capture the flag 2 on 2, where you get points for each kill (dead characters respawn), and score points for being on/adjacent to the VP spots (scored at the end of phase 5 or 10). It felt like 20-30 minutes. Maybe a better fight would be 3-on-3, which would take 60-75 minutes (more characters would slow down each phase and also increase the VP requirements).
  • Decisions. Even with a 2 on 2, that meant 8 special abilities and decisions — do we gang up on the paladin (who can heal people) and try to kill him or use the mega-panic attack to force the other team to runaway? Should the tank charge or not? Since most special abilities are once/10 phases, timing is tough.
  • I can’t speak to this personally, but I’m assured that the feel of the videogame is well done.
  • My decision to roll lots of 1s, 2s, and 3s was not strategically sound. The best laid plans of orcs gang aft aglee, you know.

And what can I speculate about … plenty!

  • Collectability — Aye, there’s the rub. You only need a few miniatures, but you’ll want all the cards. Of course, you can probably just print them out (or use proxies), unless you are playing in tournaments or whatever. No rarity (I’m told), so you can probably buy each miniature for $5-6 to just get the few you want. (Boosters are $15 for 3 miniatures and 6-ish cards?)
  • Any collectable game needs opponents. I hear WoW has a few fans, so I’m guessing the intial reaction will be positive. No problems there.
  • Variability — The few characters I played seemed nice, but if the games unbalanced then you’ll play the same battles over and over. On the other hand, if it is balanced, then 3 character teams (with say, 30 characters on each side) gives ~4000 possible teams for each side, and that’s not counting all the special abilities. I don’t think that the game is deep enough to warrant this (see my note about rolling 1-3s), but I do enjoy the customization aspect of CCGs. Look at Agricola, we like variability …. any game that gives an excuse to argue for a few hours about balance of X v Y has a soft spot in my heart.

I can’t speak to the physical production values of the minis, but I could see picking this up. Actually, I plan on being a follower … if it becomes popular I could spend $30-50 (what I normally spend on boardgames) to play. But I don’t feel an urge to lead the charge. Yet, anyway.

Update: According to a reviewer on BGG who talked to a demo’er at GenCon, the miniatures will have rarity (common, rare and epic, which does not inspire confidence). And there are three factions of who knows how many minis each. Each miniature should always have the same two cards, as well, and cards work with the miniature they are packaged with.

That reviewer and my friend made the same point — they’ll go to a second hand reseller and buy the stuff they want. (My friend will try to convince the FLGS to sell ‘singles’).


Written by taogaming

August 10, 2008 at 12:17 am

Posted in Reviews

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3 Responses

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  1. Games like this aren’t ones I have much interest in, but on a personal note, I dislike what seems to be the current trend in combat systems toward “roll X dice, each of which hits on a result of Y or more”. I’m seeing it in wargames, miniatures, RPGs, and Weuros, and I don’t like it in any of them. I want something with more of a guarantee, where the dice results are added together, perhaps, and then the results determined. So, for example, in WOW Mini, if a character has an attack factor of 6, an attack could generate from 0-6 successes; I’m looking for a system where the result would be from 2-4 (less variance). No one else seems too upset, so it may just be a personal quirk. But I’ve disliked the “no guaranteed success” systems in standard Risk and Axis &Allies (and designed variants for each), so I’m a bit dismayed to see the concept be extended into so many other kinds of recent games.

    Larry Levy

    August 10, 2008 at 12:04 pm

  2. Probability distribution for 6 dice in Wow minis:

    0 hits = < 0.1%
    1 hit = 1.0%
    2 hits = 6.0%
    3 hits = 18.5%
    4 hits = 32.4%
    5 hits = 30.3%
    6 hits = 11.8%

    So the result falls outside of your comfort window (average +/- 1) less than one time in five, while complete whiffs are virtually nonexistent. I like this spread — mostly average with a chance of crazy results (and good after-action stories) — but of course it’s all a matter of taste.

    My concern about the game is that it’s too short; our demo ended on phase 1 of turn 2. Adding more figures increases the VP target for victory, but also increases the rate at which VPs are accrued, so I’m not sure that helps. VP targets may need to be house-ruled upwards.

    And I’m saddened to hear about the rarity. I’ll be investing a lot of effort in proxies.


    August 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  3. Sounds like my kids will love it. They are both into WoW, especially Greyson (age 6) and they love playing D&D Miniatures Calvinball. Full D&D miniatures is a little too complex for the 4 year old, but this sounds fine as long as someone else helps him understand the special abilities.

    And boy, anything that delays Pokemon has to be good. Now that I’ve read the rules and seen the cards, I’m not excited. I can’t believe it uses 6 point font!


    August 10, 2008 at 8:56 pm

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