The Alphastream Game Design Blog
I love minis, and normally I enjoy doing in-depth reviews of the latest minis set with many pictures. This time is different for two reasons: 1) This is a set I found to be disappointing. 2) I have a major project and my time is limited.
My Miniatures page has a minis tracking spreadsheet, updated for the latest set. I also update my trade sheet so you can trade minis with me!
I called the last set “perhaps the best WizKids D&D miniatures set to date!” This set is the opposite. I find the quality and even the overall set design to be one of the weakest in a long time. There are some amazing exceptions, fortunately. However, because of how the set is created, I find it really hard to recommend this set for collectors or for new DMs (or new players). The only exception is a DM that is running Storm King’s Thunder (yes, the previous storyline adventure) and needs even more giant minis than the ones found in the Storm King Thunder minis. This is a set to avoid, or maybe to buy a few select minis online.
Monster Menagerie III consists of 60 unique miniatures (plus 6 ultra-rares), sold in booster boxes of 4 randomized minis. You can purchase a “brick” of 8 booster boxes, or a “case” of 4 bricks (32 boosters). The booster’s $15.99 list makes it a relatively good purchase at your FLGS and I always like to support my FLGS when I can. You save a few bucks on Amazon. However, case purchasers should look into sites such as Miniature Market, which has a case for $370, bricks for $95, and boosters for $12.50. The case incentive can be purchased for $60 or your FLGS may have a copy.
The set consists of 16 Common, 27 Uncommon, 17 Rare, and 6 Ultra-Rare minis. Compared to the last set: -3 C, +2 U, +5 R (but, wait!), and -4 UR. On the surface, not a big change, though I like last set better… again, on the surface. However, let’s did deeper, because they added… Rare Variants!
Here is how this horrible change works. When you normally buy a case, you get one of each rare. This gives you a full set of minis, plus extra commons and uncommons. Not this time! This time, many of the rares have a variant and you only get one of them! This set has 7 normal rares: anyone gets them in a case. Then there are 5 Rares with Rare-Variants. For example, take a look at these images from the Minisgallery.com site:
I’m not sure this should be a rare at all… bad paint job, bad sculpt definition… but one of them has a black cloak and the other blue, and I think a slightly different weapon. Why? No idea, but if you want to collect them all, now you have to buy not only the $370 case but also a rare variant on a reseller site, for about $17 – for just that mini! And WizKids/WotC want you to do that 5 times! Here is another one, the Ulitharid mind flayer:
That one sets you back around $20. Infuriating!
The set also has common and uncommon variants, but in those cases you end up with plenty of each, as with previous sets.
The set list is extremely disappointing. In the past, a “Monster Menagerie” has been one of two things: cool selection of random monsters, or a stealth set to secretly provide us with minis we needed for an upcoming adventure (as with the first Monster Menagerie, which provided minis for the Curse of Strahd adventure). Here we get two themes: Storm King’s Thunder and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Unfortunately this fails as a set.
Each box includes one Huge monster. We had a few sets in previous years that had a large in every box, or even a huge in every box, but that worked because the variety still met any DM’s needs. Here, every single huge monster is a giant. Every single one. If you aren’t running Storm King, that’s way too many giants… especially if you own the actual Storm King’s Thunder set of minis! The giants are also from Volo’s, which while adding diversity also limits appeal. I really don’t want three “Mouth of Grolantor” hill giants eating pumpkins. I don’t think anyone does!
When it rocks: If you are buying just a box or two, this might be an advantage. Every box has a huge giant. Want a huge giant? Not a bad price point. Just hope you don’t get a pumpkin giant!
The more you buy, the more the set loses value. There are a few really fantastic rare giants, such as the Storm Giant Quintessent and the Storm Giant. The Goblin Hucker is just awesome too.
Poor Variety: Beyond the giants, the variety is still lacking. The set is all over the place, but not in a cool way. There are a few useful additions (magma and mud mephits, death dog, gray slaad) and a few very awesome ones (quadrone, gibbering mouther), but the sculpts are seldom comparable in quality to old DDM sets.
Quality: As before, there are painting issues (poor paint jobs, over-painting that robs detail on a mini, but another of the same sculpt is done better) and the plastic is brittle. I had one broken giant. You can get a replacement, but you have to pay for shipping and send off your mini… not worth it, just disappointing to have to glue your mini. Even sorting my minis, I broke a really nice older giant, just putting a new one on top!
Errors: There is a mini of the Kraken Priest, an NPC monster found in Volo’s… and it appears with a base calling it a Tridrone. Maybe it was a last minute switch? Sometimes minis are glued to bases, and I received a Gnoll Flesh Gnawer where the base reads “Mezzodemon.”
I reviewed the Kraken case incentive last time. It is superb and well worth the $60 price.
It would be to:
You can read a brief history of D&D minis in my Monster Menagerie review. The partnership with Wizkids began in 2014 and the following sets have been released:
You can track your collection or look up all of the minis in the DnD Miniature Collection Tracker I maintain. You can also trade minis with me by downloading my trade list!
I’m exhausted from that review! However, here is something you don’t want to miss: