Feb 27, 2014

Kre-o Dungeons and Dragons Figure Review #2

If you haven't read the first review of the Kre-o Dungeons and Dragons figures, I highly encourage you to check it out. In the first reveiw, I cover a number of generic elements common to all the Kre-o Army Builder Packs, which I won't be repeating here.

That said, let's look at a few more of figures.

First up, from the "good" faction, the Flag Carrier. Overall, I rather like this figure more than I initially thought I would. The head piece, with the helm and chainmail coif is really well sculpted. The blue tabbard pattern is continued from the chest to part way down the legs, but the best feature in my opinion is the spear the flag is attached to. This is an impressive looking weapon, standing more than two minifigs high, with an equally matching oversized blade at the tip. This is clearly a great example of a weapon with reach. There really isn't anything I don't like about this specific figure (I do have some general issues with the Kreons versus Lego minfigs which I talk about later).

Next up is the Orc Axeman. This is another nice figure with printing on the chest and legs that suggest a studded leather armor. Also, the figure has a menacing helm, a snarly face and two axes, one that I would consider a hand axe and the other a battleaxe. The only have one real problem and one quibble, and both are around the weapons.

The battleaxe is a two piece weapon, a blade and a handle. Now this may just a one-off issue, but only the ends of the handle, the very top and very bottom, are actually thick enough for the blade and the figure's hand to firmly grasp. anywhere else in the middle of the handle piece and it just slides along the shaft loosely. This is really a shame because the blade piece is created in such a way that if you had two, you could put them back to back on a handle and have a really nice looking great axe, but not with the handle piece. If I do get a second one, I'll just have to leverage a comparable Lego piece to do the job.

My quibble is around the second axe. This is a one piece mold, but is the same mold used for the axes the Kre-o fireman use. When I first saw it, I immediately firemen and modern axes. I certainly understand why they reused the mold, so it's just more a quibble than a real issue.

For my third figure review, I want to look at the Cleric. This is another really nice figure, with detailed printing on the torso and legs, and great accessories like the large cape, a decorated shield with a dragon head icon, shoulder pauldrons, and a mace. There really isn't anything specific about this figure that I don't like, so this might be a good time to discuss some of the issues I have with Kreons in general.

My biggest complaint about the Kreons is that they don't feel very well held together. What I mean is that the head feels loose when attached to the torso. In face when you go to remove a hair piece or helmet, you're just as likely to pull off the head as well, conversely Lego minifigs have much better "clutch power" (as Lego calls it) in this regard.

The arms, in general, are another area where I have some issues with the Kreons. First, let me praise how much I like their ball and socket design over the Lego minifig arms, which don't have as much option. With the Kreon figures, not only can you move the arms up and down, but you also move them slight side to side. This is especially good for getting them to grip two handed weapons or for more animated poses. The downside of this ball and socket system is that the arms tend to pop out too easily. In the hands of a young child, I can see plenty of armless Kreons after minimal play. It should be noted the legs also suffer this same issue, but to a lesser degree.

Another issue with the arms is the design of the arm itself. Right out of the package, the arms look like they are already wearing pauldrons and bracers. Now this design is standard across all the Kreons, from D&D to Star Trek, to G.I. Joe, but for these fantasy figures, especially savage looking Orcs, it doesn't seem to fit.

Lastly, I don't like the the way the torso connects to the legs. Lego minifigs use two posts to connect torso and legs, the downside here is that the figure can't turn at the waist. Kreons use only one post, and while they can twist at the waist, the more often tend to just twist apart.

Sadly, as much as I want to like the D&D Kreons, I just can't. The quaity of the figures overall is poor, especially when compared to Lego. It does have some nice elements -- weapons, shields, hair pieces -- but so does Lego. And if you're looking for more D&D elements, Lego is actually far superior, with dwarves, goblins, elves, as well as huge monsters like spiders, trolls, and dragons.

For me, I may pick up a few more Kre-o sets (especially with those $3 off coupons in each figure pack), but I'll probably just cannibalize those sets for pieces for my Lego collection.

Feb 20, 2014

Kre-o Dungeons and Dragons Figure Review #1

This will be the first of several reviews of the new Dungeons and Dragons Kre-o sets. In the this review, I'll look at a few of the new figures available in the "Army Builder Pack".

I discussed my initial thoughts in a previous post based solely on the limited product information and sample images provided. In these actual product follow-ups, I'll touch on some of my assumptions and which have changed, now that I have better information.

For my first review, I'm going to focus on the Army Builder Packs. The packs retail for $2.99, which is the same price as the Lego Collectible Minifigure sets. The bags are "blind" (meaning you don't know what is included in each bag), but that's not really the case. On the back of each bag, is a stamped number, which is partially unique for each figure, so a quick Internet search will link you to several pages (or YouTube videos) showing you how to find the number and which number corresponds to which figure.

Originally the product information said that there would be 36 different figures to collect, which I said in my previous post was too much. It now seems that they are breaking up the 36 figures into 3 waves of 12 figures each, which I think is wonderful. Twelve makes collecting an entire wave much easier to do and less costly.

For the first release, there are 5 humans (including 1 mage), 5 orcs (one of which has a wolf companion), 1 tiefling, and 1 stone statue. The humans are all considered part of the "good" faction, while the orcs, tiefling, and statue are all part of the "evil" faction.

Each bag contains a few common elements, including a standard 2 (studs) x 4 (studs) brick with the Kre-o logo printed on one side. This brick is common in their other figure packs (G.I. Joe, Star Trek, and Cityville), but is mostly useless here, since each pack also includes a round stand for the figures to be positioned on.

These stands are green in color, and as I previously hoped, are about 1in in diameter, making them great for using on traditional D&D battle mats. The only thing I hope is that future releases have stands in other colors, like grey or black.

Each pack also includes a card that is somehow related to the Kre-o game, but there's no explanation in the builder packs as to what the numbers on the cards are used for. Lastly, the numbers attached to icons that seem to represent attack (sword), defense (shield), movement (boot), and magic (open book) in no way related to any version of the D&D rules. Since the builder packs are supposed to augment the other sets, not having an explanation of the card is okay, as opposed to adding an explanation card with each pack, most, if not all of which I would end up throwing away. A better solution might be to post online information about the game and the usefulness of the cards, that way I can get the details without the extra cost involved in printing.

Lastly, each pack includes two other things. One is a checklist/instruction set that shows how to assemble all the different figures and a $3 off coupon for any Kre-o set costing $15 or more. The checklist is nice to keep track of what you have, but after the first one, all the others went right in the recycle bin. The coupon, on the other hand, is very worthwhile. The $3 off basically covers the cost of the figure and seems to be good on any Kre-o set, not just the D&D line.

Finally, now we get to look at some of the actual figures. For this first post, let's look at two figures, the Tiefling, and the Wizard.

The tiefling is an interesting choice to appear in the first wave of D&D figures, considering the only other figures features are mostly humans and orcs. I would have expected elves (light or dark) to make an appearance before the half-demon.

Parts of the figure are really well done, including the printing on the chest piece, the pauldrons that attach to the shoulders, and the tail piece. Unfortunately, that's not enough to overcome the things I don't like about the figure. First off, the horns don't look like horns. They look more like the mitre hat the Pope wears. If the horns were rounded, or had ridges, it would be more believable for me. Or if they looked like they were coming out of the sides of the head, instead of off the eyebrow ridge, I would be more favorable toward this figure.

Lastly, the figure is holding something, two somethings actually, and I can't figure out what they are. Are they torches in each hand? If so, why. Most of the other figures have weapons, or other easily identifiable accessories. Are they supposed to be swords, with the red part being enchanted blades? If so, then the bottom parts look nothing like a handle and hilt. In the end, I'm just confused and would probably use some actual Lego pieces that look more like handles.

The other figure that I want to look at is the Wizard. First off, I don't like the name Wizard, since the latest version of the D&D rules calls that type of class a Mage. Strike one for not even giving the new rules a glance. That said, this is a really nice looking figure, with great printing on the chest and legs, a cape that is bigger than the standard Lego capes, and a beard piece that is actually better than the one Lego makes.

There are a few things that could be better, like the scroll. It's currently a tile with lines on it to represent the text, but how much harder would it have been to have a few symbols, or gibberish words to make it look more real? Compare this Lego scroll with what the wizard is carrying and let me know which looks better. Or better yet, how about a custom piece like this one instead?

Next time I'll look at 4 to 6 more figures from the Army Builder Packs.

Feb 13, 2014

More Minis!

Not only will 2014 bring us the new addition of Dungeons and Dragons, but it also seems more miniatures are also on the horizon.

Seems WotC has made a license deal with WizKids to create new pre-painted plastic minis for D&D. WizKids first came on the game scene with their game Mage Knight. Mage Knight was a tactical minis game that featured pre-painted minis on a dynamic base that showed the mini's abilities.

More recently WizKids have been creating pre-painted minis for the Pathfinder game system, in addition to their own game, which includes a super hero version of Mage Knight (called Hero Clicks) and a Star Trek ship-to-ship combat game that debuted at last year's GenCon.

While I like the idea of WotC partnering with WizKids, I think the quality of what they are producing is so much better than many of the WotC-produced minis back in the day, it's also sad to see them taking a page from the Paizo page-book. Back in the day, TSR often partnered up with companies to do the things they couldn't do in-house, like the early metal mini lines from Ral Partha. Later TSR thought they could do everything in house, from minis, to magazine publishing, etc. Now hopefully we'll see them return to a "house of ideas" company and partner with the best companies to produce quality support products, like minis, and computer games.

I for one look forward to not only a new version of D&D, but possibly a new company, one that works with the best companies to produce products for this hobby.

To read more about the announcement, here the official press release from WizKids.

Feb 11, 2014

The Blog is Back

Just a quick update since it's been a while since my last post. First, I haven't given up on the blog, just the holidays and other real live things taking up my time.

Secondly, starting this Thur, I'll be once again posting regular updates on all things D&D and Dragonlance.

Lastly, one of my goals this year is to get the game session posts up to date, so if you like those, you'll be seeing a lot more in the coming months. If you don't like them, hopefully the other posts will keep you informed and/or entertained.